Matt Shuham

Matt Shuham is a news writer for TPM. He was previously associate editor of The National Memo and managing editor of the Harvard Political Review. He is available by email at and on Twitter @mattshuham.

Articles by Matt

New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood on Thursday repeated her office’s call on lawmakers to change state law in order to ensure individuals pardoned by President Donald Trump could still face legal consequences.

Trump announced earlier Thursday that he would pardon conservative troll Dinesh D’Souza, who in 2014 pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations.

“President Trump’s latest pardon makes crystal clear his willingness to use his pardon power to thwart the cause of justice, rather than advance it,” Underwood wrote. “By pardoning Dinesh D’Souza, President Trump is undermining the rule of law by pardoning a political supporter who is an unapologetic convicted felon.”

At issue is Article 40 of the state’s Criminal Procedure Law, which, aside from certain exceptions, prevents state prosecution of crimes for which an individual has pleaded guilty or faced jury trial in any other jurisdiction, including federal court. Slate’s Jed Shugerman explained the law in more depth last month. 

“First it was Sheriff Joe Arpaio,” Underwood wrote. “Then it was Scooter Libby. Now it’s Dinesh D’Souza. We can’t afford to wait to see who will be next. Lawmakers must act now to close New York’s double jeopardy loophole and ensure that anyone who evades federal justice by virtue of a politically expedient pardon can be held accountable if they violate New York law.”

Eric Schniederman, who resigned as New York attorney general earlier this month after the New Yorker published detailed allegations of abuse by him, called for the same change in state law last month.

“[R]ecent reports indicate that the President may be considering issuing pardons that may impede criminal investigations,” he wrote. “This is disturbing news, not only because it would undermine public confidence in the rule of law, but also because—due to a little-known feature of New York law that appears to be unique in its reach—a strategically-timed pardon could prevent individuals who may have violated our State’s laws from standing trial in our courts as well.”

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President Donald Trump on Thursday said he was considering commuting former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s prison sentence and pardoning celebrity chef Martha Stewart, according to a pool report (read it below).

He announced earlier in the day that he would pardon Dinesh D’Souza, the conservative troll who pleaded guilty in 2014 to a felony campaign finance violation.

Blagojevich was sentenced to serve 14 years in prison in 2011 after being convicted of corruption charges, including trying to sell the Senate seat made vacant by former President Barack Obama’s election.

“I’ve got this thing and it’s fucking golden,” Blagojevich said at one point in a wiretapped conversation used as evidence by prosecutors. “And I’m just not giving it up for fucking nothing.”

In a Wall Street Journal op-ed Monday, Blagojevich argued that “[s]ome in the Justice Department and Federal Bureau of Investigation are abusing their power to criminalize the routine practices of politics and government.”

Stewart (and her stockbroker, Peter Bacanovic) served a five-month sentence in 2004 for lying to investigators about a stock sale.

Read the pool report below:

Air Force One touched down in Houston at Ellington Field Joint Reserve Bass at 10:47 a.m. local time.

Toward the end of the flight, President Trump did a 34-minute off the record, the last portion of which was on the record regarding pardons. Full transcript of that part to come, but Trump said he is strongly considering a commutation of the rest of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s sentence. Bragging about getting something back for a Senate appointment, Trump said, was “a stupid thing to say—but 18 years?”

He also said the case of Martha Stewart has crossed his mind. Hogan Gidley also told the pool after the OTR that Trump said the pardon of Jack Johnson has been the most important to him of those given so far.

Pool is now deplaning and will be motorcading to Coast Guard Air Station Houston, where he is schedule to meet with Santa Fe members and community leaders. According to today’s schedule, the meeting is closed to all press but we will ask for a readout and pass along any information that is provided.

Pooler Eli Stokols sent the following email with a partial transcript:

As we wait, here is, courtesy of co-pooler Maggie Haberman, a transcript of the on the record portion of Trump’s conversation with reporters on Air Force One related to pardons. Trump made the comments as the plane was descending into Houston. He sat behind his desk inside a front cabin where he had a television on Fox News (muted) and a glass of Diet Coke in front of him. Kellyanne Conway, Johnny DiStefano and Hogan Gidley were also in the cabin, as was Jordan Karem for part of the time.


Q: You pardoned someone? (Dinesh D’Souza)

Trump: “Only because, only because of I felt from I don’t know him, I never met him, I called him last night first time I’ve ever spoken to him I said I’m pardoning you. Nobody asked me to do it.”

“I’ve always felt he was very unfairly treated. And a lot of people did, a lot of people did. What should have been a quick minor fine, like everybody else with the election stuff….what they did to him was horrible.”

“I always felt that he was … I didn’t know him

“I read the papers – I see him on television.”

“I’ll tell you another one … there’s another one that I’m thinking about. Rod Blagojevich. 18 years in jail for being stupid and saying things that every other politician, you know that many other politicians say.

“And If you look at what he said he said something to the effect like what do I get … stupid thing to say. But he’s sort of saying .. he’s gonna make a US senator which is a very big deal. And it was foolish … 18 years now. I don’t know him other than that he was on The Apprentice for a short period of time.”

“18 years is I think really unfair. It’s a Democrat. You know D’Souza’s a Republican. And I’m seriously thinking about it.

“I am seriously thinking about – not pardoning – but I am seriously thinking of a curtailment of Blagojevich”

Reporter provides the word commutation.

“Because what he did does not justify 18 years in a jail. If you read his statement it was a foolish statement there was a lot of bravado … but it does not .. plenty of other politicians have said a lot worse. And it doesn’t, he shouldn’t have been put in jail.

And he’s a Democrat. He’s not my party. But I thought that he was treated unfairly.”

Trump said he spoke to D’Souza “for three minutes last night…he almost had a heart attack.”

“And there are others. I think to a certain extent Martha Stewart was harshly and unfairly treated. And she used to be my biggest fan in the world … before I became a politician. But that’s ok I don’t view it that way.”

End transcript.

Correction: This post initially referred to the former Illinois governor as Rob Blagojevich. His name is Rod. TPM regrets the error. 

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EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has a novel proposal for improving global air quality: burn more American coal.

In an interview with Pruitt published Wednesday, the Washington Free Beacon’s Elizabeth Harrington noted President Donald Trump’s affinity for the term “clean coal” and asked “How is coal doing?”

Pruitt pointed to “the demand for Powder River Basin coal,” referring to the basin straddling Wyoming and Montana that accounts for a large chunk of American coal production, as an example of exported American coal.

“I was in Wyoming recently,” he continued. “And if we really care about clean air, we would allow Indonesia to buy our coal from Wyoming, because it’s far cleaner than what they’re using now.”

Indonesia’s air quality has certainly suffered as a result of coal-fired powered plants. So has America’s.

Pruitt, meanwhile, has prioritized eliminating or weakening a number of air and water quality regulations despite the protests of public health advocates. And he’s developed close relationships with the coal industry over the years.

A former coal lobbyist, Andrew Wheeler, currently serves as the EPA’s second-in-command.

“So we need to be exporting LNG [Liquid Natural Gas], and we need to be exporting coal to the rest of the world,” Pruitt continued. “We need to be sharing with them our technology to access natural gas through hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling. Those are things that will help air quality across the globe.”

“What most people don’t realize,” he added, “is that the challenges we have domestically with respect to air quality, a lot of it is because of what happens internationally. And if those countries would simply adopt what we’re doing here, air quality in the United States would be better, and it would be better in those areas as well.”

“So we should share that information. We should partner in that regard, not be about agreements in Paris that put us at a disadvantage and penalize certain sectors of our economy.”

The EPA did not respond to TPM’s questions about Pruitt’s remarks.

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On Wednesday morning, at 500 Pearl Street in Lower Manhattan, I traded my cell phone for a legal pad to cover a hearing in the developing Michael Cohen case. (Meanwhile, TPM’s Allegra Kirkland, who normally covers all things Cohen, swapped her professional responsibilities for much-deserved vacation days.)

It was my first time reporting from federal court, and the stakes made even a fairly minor procedural date feel important, worthy of the rows of media that filled the courtroom. “Avenatti is going crazy on Twitter,” one reporter said over my shoulder as we waited for the hearing to begin, referring to Stormy Daniels’ lawyer, Michael Avenatti. “If only I had my phone I could pre-write this.” Cell phones and laptops are barred from the federal courtroom. 

Next to me sat a grizzled defense attorney who’d decided to stop by the hearing. He’d long known some of the lawyers in the case, he said.

“I’ve represented bad guys, like doctors and lawyers, and good guys like murderers,” he joked, before pivoting. “You remember Serpico?”

Such was the atmosphere: Absurd, on some level, despite the weight of the proceedings before us.

Avenatti, alone, and Cohen, flanked by lawyers, appeared within a few minutes of each other. I never saw them make eye contact; Cohen, for the most part, stared straight ahead with his head tilted slightly back, elbows resting on the table in front of him. He seemed tired, or pissed. Probably both. 

Avenatti, forehead a perpetual wrinkle, occasionally donned sleek, black-framed reading glasses, over which he glared at the lawyers representing Trump and the Trump Organization, to his right, and those representing Cohen, in the row ahead of them. 

Rather than standing to address the court from his seat as most other lawyers did, Avenatti asked permission several times to use a podium at the other side of the courtroom. 

Judge Kimba Wood, while quashing Cohen’s team’s eager requests for more time to review seized documents, was no friend of Avenatti’s, either.

“That was quite the tale,” Avenatti said at one point, in response to Cohen lawyer Stephen Ryan’s impassioned argument against Avenatti’s pro hac vice motion to admit him to a court where he doesn’t practice.

“Let’s not comment on it,” Wood said, silencing him.

Avenatti appeared to recognize fairly quickly that Wood was lukewarm on his schtick. (The defense lawyer seated next to me commented before the hearing, with some foresight, that Avenatti didn’t really have any business being a part of the case. A few hours later, Avenatti would announce the same, withdrawing his pro hac vice motion.)

At one point, Joanna Hendon, representing Donald Trump at the hearing, noted that she’d walked by a camera bank and eight microphones in front of the court house on her way in. The reporters, she indicated, were there for the Avenatti show.

Avenatti countered a few minutes later: “If anyone believes those mics are going away” if he withdraws his motion to join the case, he said, “they’re fooling themselves.”

And he was right: The reporters in the room cared, for the most part, about the potential criminal charges hanging over the head of the President’s personal fixer.

Avenatti was simply a bonus. But a significant one. As I hurried from the courtroom and into a Chinatown cafe to write this report, I found myself dodging a shuffling mass of cameras, each tussling for a better view of the celebrity litigator.

Avenatti was back in his natural habitat, beamed into homes worldwide. “Hey, it’s Stormy’s lawyer!” a passing New Yorker shouted.

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After a contentious federal court hearing, Michael Avenatti, the lawyer for Stormy Daniels, on Wednesday withdrew his motion to be allowed to intervene in the case arising out of an ongoing criminal probe into Michael Cohen’s business dealings.

Avenatti argued in court filings and in a court hearing earlier Wednesday that he wanted to be able to protect Daniels’ privileged communications with Keith Davidson, the attorney who represented her when she made her October 2016 hush money agreement with Cohen, President Trump’s longtime fixer. 

But at the hearing, U.S. Judge Kimba Wood expressed concern about Avenatti’s outsized media presence and frequent public criticisms of Cohen. And lawyers for Cohen argued strongly against allowing Avenatti to intervene.

Daniels says she had an affair with Trump, which Trump denies. She wants to be released from the agreement, allowing her to speak publicly about the alleged affair.

Ahead of the hearing, Avenatti had accused Cohen’s team of selectively leaking to the media a recorded conversation that may have pertained to his client. Avenatti elaborated Wednesday that he’d received calls from journalists about a taped conversation between Davidson and Cohen regarding information that ought to have been privileged between Davidson and Clifford.

“Why would Davidson be having these discussions” with Cohen? Avenatti wondered aloud. Daniels, he assured the court, had never waived her attorney-client privilege with Davidson.

The recording, Avenatti posited, “had to have come from Michael Cohen, or someone associated with Michael Cohen.”

Later, Cohen lawyer Stephen Ryan said any such recordings would be under “lock and key” at his office. The leak Avenatti alleged “had not occurred,” Ryan said, and he was “unaware of the release of any audio at this time.”

Avenatti claimed victory after the hearing Wednesday, asserting that Cohen’s lawyers had confirmed the existence of the privileged audio recordings. But it was unclear whether Ryan had confirmed the tapes’ existence or merely confirmed that his team was being careful to protect the files seized in the the April raids, whatever those files may be. 

Raising his voice at times, Ryan said that in 27 years, he hadn’t opposed a lawyer’s motion to intervene, but that Avenatti had turned the case “on its head” with his outsized media presence and the release recently of an unsourced document detailing much of Cohen’s post-election consulting deals with huge corporations like AT&T and Novartis. Ryan said it was “inevitable” that the document was based on an illegally leaked Suspicious Activity Reports, the highly sensitive documents banks use to flag fishy behavior.

The same document, Ryan said, had constituted a “drive-by shooting of anyone named ‘Michael Cohen”. The document mistakenly listed the financial data of other people named Michael Cohen. The move, Ryan said, was “entirely reckless and improper.”

Ryan also brought up the recent $10 million judgement against Avenatti’s firm, Eagan Avenatti, which he said showed Avenatti “cannot keep his agreements.”

Avenatti argued in response — after calling Ryan’s remarks “quite the tale,” earning a quick rebuke from Wood — that Eagan Avenatti was irrelevant to the hearing at hand, because it was not involved in Daniels’ representation.

In response, Trump lawyer Joanna Hendon accused Avenatti of obscuring the fact that lawyers from the firm were in fact involved in Daniels’ representation. She presented emails to Wood that she said showed as much.

“I have no idea what this is,” Avenatti objected as Hendon passed on the documents.

“You don’t need to speak yet,” Wood responded quickly. 

That exchange typified Wood’s tone toward Avenatti Wednesday.

Acknowledging that she had no say over Avenatti’s media presence, Wood said she didn’t want Avenatti to be in a “limbo” in which he could “denigrate” Cohen and therefore “potentially deprive him of a fair trial, if there is one,” by tainting the jury pool.

She emphasized at one point that Avenatti would need to play by the rules were he admitted to argue in the case, including those against potentially prejudicial comments outside of court — a reference to Avenatti’s frequent cable news appearances. On that point, Wood said Avenatti would need to stop his “publicity tour” were he to involve himself in the case at hand.

“I say publicity tour not in a derogatory sense,” she said. “You’re entitled to publicity. I can’t stop you, unless you’re participating in a matter before me.” 

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U.S. Judge Kimba Wood on Wednesday rejected Michael Cohen’s attempts to slow the schedule of the attorney-client privilege review process for the millions of items seized from his home, office and hotel room last month. 

At a court hearing in Lower Manhattan, Wood sided with prosecutors in announcing a June 15 deadline for Cohen, President Trump’s long-time fixer, to make all remaining claims of attorney-client privilege. Cohen’s lawyers argued for mid July. Prosecutors called that an “unreasonable delay.”

Wood said Cohen’s wish to methodologically sort through potentially privileged documents needed to be balanced with “the need for the investigation to go forward.”

Cohen looked tired Wednesday, elbows resting on the table in front of him and head cocked slightly back. He sat in the middle seat in the middle of three rows of tables and stared straight ahead, moving very little throughout the hearing.

At one point, Cohen whispered something to his lawyer in response to a question from Wood. Todd Harrison then told the court that two Blackberrys now in the government’s possession were eight years old, at least. Harrison added that the phones may have belonged to Cohen’s wife, and that they were unsure what material, if any, was on them.

Harrison, sitting to his client’s right, told the court Cohen’s team had received 3.7 million files from the government to review, and had processed 1.3 million of them.

Harrison said Cohen’s legal team included 15 lawyers and two data specialists working “all night” and through the Memorial Day weekend. One associate even “developed a tremor in his hand,” Harrison said.

At times, lawyers for Trump and the Trump Organization acknowledged the document review work of Cohen’s team, and of special master Barbara Jones, appointed by the court to review Cohen, Trump and the Trump Organization’s privilege claims.

“When you get into it, you realize how much time it takes,” said Alan Futerfas, who represents the Trump Organization, referring to Cohen’s team’s work.

But prosecutors pushed for the privilege claims to conclude by mid-June, and Wood agreed, setting the June 15 deadline with the balance of material left unprocessed by Cohen’s lawyers going to a taint team within the prosecutors’ office at that time.

Investigators raided Cohen’s home, office and hotel room on April 9 as part of a months-long criminal probe into Cohen’s business practices. The probe of Trump’s fixer reportedly includes potential campaign finance violations and bank fraud connected to the $130,000 hush money payment he made to porn star Stormy Daniels in October 2016.

There has been widespread speculation that any charges against Cohen could induce him to cooperate with the investigation into Russian election meddling and possible collusion by the Trump campaign.

This post has been updated. 

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The special master assigned in the criminal case against Michael Cohen announced Tuesday that Cohen, President Donald Trump and the Trump Organization had made 252 claims of privileged or “highly personal” material out of the initial items reviewed.

Investigators seized the materials during raids on Cohen’s home, office and hotel room on April 9.

“The 292,006 items from the first two productions that have not been designated privileged or highly personal by the parties were released to the Government on May 23rd,” wrote Special Master Barbara Jones, a former federal judge, in a court filing Tuesday.

“On or before June 4th, the Special Master will provide the Court with a Report and Recommendation with respect to the privilege determinations as to these first two productions.”

That covers material collected from Cohen on May 4, 8 and 9, Jones said, but not material collected on May 11, 17, 21 and 22, which has yet to be processed. “[A]pproximately 1,025,363 items from these phones have not been designated privileged or highly personal by the parties,” Jones noted of the May 11 production.

The May 11 materials without privilege claims will be released to the government on Wednesday, Jones said, the same day Judge Kimba Wood will hold a hearing on the document review process. 

“The Special Master’s review of the remaining items contained in the May 11th, 17th, 21st and 22nd productions is ongoing,” Jones concluded.

In a separate filing, Jones billed $47,390.00 in total legal fees for her first week, charging $700 per hour except for her preparation of background materials, for which she charged $670 per hour. Politico noted that the government is paying half that amount — Cohen, Trump and the Trump Organization are covering the rest.

Read the filing below:

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Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens (R) announced his resignation Tuesday amid a political firestorm in his state.

“Today, I am announcing that I will resign as governor of Missouri effective Friday, June 1st, at 5 p.m.,” Greitens said from his office during a hastily-arranged news conference. He took no questions.

“This ordeal has been designed to cause an incredible amount of strain on my family,” he added. “Millions of dollars of mounting legal bills; endless personal attacks designed to cause maximum damage to family and friends; legal harassment of colleagues, friends, and campaign workers; and it’s clear for the forces that oppose us, there’s no end in sight.”

Greitens maintained that he had “not broken any laws, nor committed any offense worthy of this treatment.”

“The time has come, though, to tend to those who have been wounded, and to care for those who need us most,” he said, his voice breaking. “So for the moment, let us walk off the battlefield with our heads held high.”

St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner, whose office is handling one of two felony charges against the governor, said in a statement shortly after Greitens’ announcement that her office and his defense team “have reached a fair and just resolution of the pending charges,” and that she would “provide more information tomorrow.”

Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker said of her investigation into the other charge, which Gardner dropped last month and which Baker is now reviewing as a special prosecutor: “In the interest of pursing justice to its fullest lengths, we will continue until our work on the case is completed.”

“Specifically regarding any deals we made with Governor Greitens’ attorneys, no deals were made by my office,” Baker added. “Our review of this case, as I have stated before, will be pursued without fear or favor.”

In February, a grand jury indicted the governor for invasion of privacy over accusations that he’d taken a nude photo of a woman with whom he was having an affair and used it to blackmail her.

A Missouri House committee reported in April that Greitens held the woman down in a “bear hug” during the March 2015 encounter before pulling out his penis, among other allegations. The woman testified anonymously that she performed oral sex on him because she thought “that would allow me to leave” and she feared for her “physical self.”

Greitens faced his second felony charge in April for allegedly obtaining a donor list from a charity he founded to use for political fundraising.

Earlier this month, Gardner suddenly dropped the invasion of privacy charge and asked that a special prosecutor be appointed in the case, given that the governor’s legal team planned to call Gardner herself as a witness.

Baker was named special prosecutor last week. She said she would review the case and decide whether or not to refile the invasion of privacy charge.

Greitens also faced possible impeachment: the Missouri legislature opened an historic special session to consider the question on May 18.

Watch below:

This post has been updated.

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Former Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett responded Tuesday to the the racist comment Roseanne Barr made about her, and which led to the cancellation of Barr’s sitcom reboot on ABC.

“I think we have to turn it into a teaching moment,” Jarrett said during an appearance on the MSNBC special “Everyday Racism In America,” a clip of which the network aired Tuesday.

“I’m fine,” Jarrett continued. “I’m worried about all the people out there who don’t have a circle of friends and followers who come right to their defense: the person who’s walking down the street minding their own business and they see somebody cling to their purse or want to cross the street, or every black parent I know who has a boy who has to sit down and have a conversation, ‘the talk’ as we call it.”

“As you say, those ordinary examples of racism that happen every single day. And I think that’s why I’m so glad to be here this evening talking with all of you.”

Barr on Tuesday tweeted of Jarrett: “Muslim brotherhood & planet of the apes had a baby=vj.”

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The Trump administration has a response to the recent revelation that the government lost track of nearly 1,500 undocumented minors: more detention centers, quicker deportations, and more intrusive vetting for sponsors who sign up to act as fosters for the so-called “undocumented alien children,” or UACs.

Officials on a press call Tuesday — representing the Department of Justice, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Health and Human Services, a subagency of which is responsible for finding temporary homes for unaccompanied migrant kids — mostly dismissed concerns about the fallout from such a hardline approach.

For example, the officials referenced an upcoming agreement between DHS and HHS requiring sponsors for the children to submit to a fingerprint-based background check.

NBC News’ Julia Ainsley noted that the move could discourage undocumented parents from applying to take custody of their children, given their reasonable fear of potentially handing information over to the agency that also houses Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Parents who balk at giving their fingerprints to the government could be forced to leave their children in long-term foster care.

“If somebody is unwilling to claim their child from custody because they’re concerned about their own immigration status, I think that, de facto, calls into question whether they’re an adequate sponsor and whether we should be releasing a child to that person,” said Steven Wagner, the acting assistant secretary for the Administration for Children and Families at HHS.

The same agreement would make it easier to prevent unaccompanied minors from entering the “general population,” in Wagner’s words, if they had a known gang affiliation. Pinning down such affiliations, though, has proven difficult and prone to abuse by government officials.

“We’re really looking forward to the implementation of this MOA so DHS helps us to our job even more effectively,” Wagner said.

He also criticized much of the reporting on 1,475 “missing” undocumented immigrant kids residing with American sponsors, saying that the term was “inaccurate” and that the number reflected those whose sponsors didn’t answer HHS’ check-up phone calls. The story arose out of Wagner’s own testimony to Congress last month.

“If you call a friend and they don’t answer the phone, you don’t assume that they’ve been kidnapped,” he said Tuesday.

Separately, senior Trump adviser Stephen Miller expressed the administration’s desire to eliminate a slew of regulations, some implemented by courts, that apply to undocumented immigrant children.

The Flores Settlement, for example, prevents the long-term detention of undocumented immigrant children. It’s the reason that the new Trump administration policy of criminally prosecuting illegal border crossers will result in children being separated from their parents, even if they are arrested together.

Rather than returning to the status quo of trying such cases in civil courts, Miller argued that children should be put in long-term detention, as well. He also advocated for increased construction of detention facilities, to accommodate the existing shortage of beds for undocumented people in the government’s custody.

“The [Flores] settlement prevents a family unit from being detained together past a certain period of time,” he said. “The point is, the administration has said, we would like to terminate or modify the Flores settlement agreement, and also to fund detention space sufficient to maintain the entire the entire family unit together in continuous custody until their removal,” unless they qualify for certain immigration relief like asylum, he said.

Miller also argued that the government should be allowed to treat migrants from Central America just as it does those from Mexico and Canada — that is, able to be deported quickly rather than after waiting for a formal hearing, as required by a 2008 law.

“We need to change the law so families arriving illegally can be sent home swiftly, and so there can be an actual border protecting the country, and protecting American communities,” he said.

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