Mshuham2

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 mshuham@talkingpointsmemo.com and on Twitter @mattshuham.

Articles by Matt

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt began feeling the heat from disgruntled allies of his deregulatory agenda this week: Laura Ingraham called for his resignation; Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), the Senate dean of climate-change denial, wants a word; and the Koch-affiliated American Future Fund says he’s “embarrassing President Trump.” 

The denunciations mostly followed a report that Pruitt had an EPA staffer reach out to Republican donors in search of a job for his wife, Marlyn. Days before that, Democrats called for a criminal probe of the administrator, and House Oversight Committee Ranking Member Elijah Cummings (D-MD) accused him of using a “first in, first out” FOIA policy in order to delay document requests related to his leadership.

Deregulators may be somewhat bullish on Pruitt’s departure due to the April confirmation of his deputy, Andrew Wheeler. The former coal lobbyist, Inhofe told Ingraham in an interview, is “really qualified, too” so “that might be a good swap.”

Meanwhile, the New York Times reported late last week on the EPA’s decision to focus solely on the potential harm caused by direct contact with certain chemicals when assessing their compliance with a 2016 law, ignoring the effects of humans’ second-hand exposure to the chemicals (say, in drinking water).

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission — the same body that rejected Rick Perry’s proposal months ago to subsidize failing coal and nuclear energy plants — voiced their opposition again to a proposal, this time from the President, to prop up the plants. Such an effort would, a commission Republican told the Senate on Tuesday, result in “significant rate increases without any corresponding reliability, resilience or cybersecurity benefits.”

Personnel is policy, the saying goes: A former wine blogger has reportedly been vetting career officials at the State Department for their loyalty to the President, leading to resignations. And a “second-tier political appointee” at the Interior Department, Pacific Standard reported, pursued the cancellation of a study on the health effects of mountaintop-removal coal mining after several meetings with industry insiders.

At the Department of Education, Secretary Betsy DeVos has reinstated a deeply discredited accrediting body.” The Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools is known for looking the other way when it comes to shady for-profit colleges, and a lawsuit against the DOE makes clear that DeVos pointedly ignored her staff’s damning assessment of the institution.

White House budget director and interim director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Mick Mulvaney has succeeded in a surprisingly persistent effort of his: changing the sign at the building entrance from “CFPB” to “BCFP,”  just in time for the June 22 deadline for Trump to nominate a permanent director. “CFPB doesn’t exist,” he recently told some bankers.

Finally, the Trump family: White House officials Jared and Ivanka continue to make millions, according to newly released financial disclosures. And Ivanka was named — along with her two brothers and father — in a lawsuit from the New York Attorney General alleging widespread criminal activity at the Trump Foundation, including self-dealing and in-kind contributions to Trump’s presidential campaign.

Read More →

Hillary Clinton responded to the news that former FBI Director James Comey used a personal email address for official business by re-phrasing a classic meme of the Trump administration: But her emails!

In a report released Thursday, the Department of Justice inspector general found that Comey and other FBI officials used personal email addresses for official business. The IG probe, ironically, examined the FBI’s handling of the probe into Clinton’s own use of a private email server.

Especially bad news during the Trump administration has often been met with the sarcastic phrase “But her emails!” to emphasize, in Clinton supporters’ minds, the extreme cost to the republic of reporters’ and Republicans’ focus on Clinton’s emails.

Read More →

The Trump administration says it’s downright biblical to separate undocumented immigrant children from their families.

That’s what Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Thursday during a speech in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

I thought I’d take a little bit of a digression here to discuss some concerns raised by our church friends about separation of families,” Sessions said. “Many of the criticisms raised in recent days are not fair or logical, and some are contrary to law.”

“First, illegal entry into the United States is a crime: It should be, it must be, if you’re going to have a system of any limits whatsoever! Persons who violate the law of our nation are subject to prosecution. If you violate the law, you subject yourself to prosecution. I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13, to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained the government for his purposes.”

He added later, according to his prepared remarks: “I have given the idea of immigration much thought and have considered the arguments of our church leaders. I do not believe scripture or church history or reason condemns a secular nation state for having reasonable immigration laws.”

Asked about Sessions’ references to the Bible later on Thursday, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders defended the attorney general.

“I can say that it is very biblical to enforce the law,” she said. “That is actually repeated a number of times throughout the Bible.”

Later, she mischaracterized the child separation issue, attempting to make it seem as though the Trump administration had not changed its policy last month.

Family separations have spiked since Sessions announced the administration’s new policy of criminally prosecuting all illegal border crossers.

That is a change. Though it has always been a misdemeanor to illegally cross the border, it was policy before Sessions’ “zero tolerance” announcement to handle border crossers in civil immigration courts, rather than in criminal courts. Because children cannot be held in criminal detention, the new policy has resulted in the spike of family separations.

“There is no law that requires families be separated at the border. This was the administration’s choice, to move from civil matters in immigration, to criminal, to criminally prosecute people who come across the border illegally, and therefore you have to separate families,” a reporter told Sanders Thursday.

“So why did the administration find that this was necessary, and if it continues to not have much of a deterrent effect, will you continue this policy?”

Sanders repeatedly refused to engage with the question’s premise, that there had been a change in policy.

“Again, the laws are the ones that have been on the books for over a decade, and the President is enforcing them,” she said. 

Read More →

FBI Director Christopher Wray announced Thursday, following the release of a Department of Justice inspector general’s report on DOJ and FBI actions before the 2016 election, that everyone in the FBI will undergo a training based on the report.

The Daily Beast’s Spencer Ackerman published the contents of an internal FBI memo detailing the news: “Because change starts at the top — including right here with me — we’re going to start by requiring all of our senior executives, from around the world, to convene for in-depth training on the lessons we should learn from this report,” Wray wrote.

“Then, we’re going to train every single employee — new hires and veterans alike — on what went wrong, so those mistakes will never be repeated.”

Ackerman reported that Wray added: “We’ve been under attack on a number of fronts, the rumor mill has been swirling around us, and there’s been a lot of upheaval. It’s not easy. Trust me: I get it.”

Read More →

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Thursday that President Donald Trump was simply displaying “common courtesy” when he saluted a North Korean general earlier this week.

“It’s a common courtesy when a military official from another government salutes that you return that,” she said.

Video from North Korean state television showed Trump saluting the North Korean general.

Read More →

An attorney for Peter Strzok hit back at a Department of Justice inspector general’s report Thursday, calling it “critically flawed” in some respects.

The attorney, Aitan Goelman, acknowledged that the report, in its own words, “did not find documentary or testimonial evidence that improper considerations, including political bias, directly affected the specific investigative actions we reviewed,” but he took issue with another section.

“[T]he report is critically flawed in its bizarre conclusion that the IG cannot rule out ‘with confidence’ the possibility that Special Agent Strzok’s political ‘bias’ may have been a cause of the FBI’s failure, between September 29 and October 25, 2016, to seek a second search warrant for the Anthony Weiner laptop.”

That’s a reference to a delay in the FBI’s seeking emails potentially relevant to the Clinton email server investigation on Weiner’s computer. “[W]e did not have confidence that Strzok’s decision to prioritize the Russia investigation over following up on the Midyear-related investigative lead discovered on the Weiner laptop was free from bias,” the IG report read. 

That delay, Goelman asserts, was caused by other “factors and miscommunications that had nothing to do with Special Agent Strzok’s political views.” (Emphasis his).

Read the full response below via ABC:

Read More →

House Oversight Committee Chair Trey Gowdy (R-SC) on Thursday criticized the FBI and its former director, James Comey, after receiving an Department of Justice inspector general’s report on the FBI and DOJ’s actions during the 2016 election.

This is not the FBI I know,” Gowdy said. “This is not the FBI our country needs. This is not the FBI citizens and suspects alike deserve.”

The rest of Gowdy’s statement (read it in full below) addresses the major headlines out of the IG report so far, criticizing Comey’s handling of the Clinton email investigation, as the IG did.

“The investigation was mishandled,” Gowdy said. “The investigatory conclusions were reached before the end of the witness interviews. The July 5th press conference marked a serious violation of policy and process. And the letters to Congress in the fall of 2016 were both delayed in substance and unnecessary in form.”

He additionally criticized the FBI for the “[v]oluntariness and consent” it showed Clinton and other “potential subjects and targets” in the investigation of Clinton’s private email server, contrasting them to the “search warrants, subpoenas, and other compulsory processes” in the investigation of the Trump campaign.

Read Gowdy’s full statement below:

“I am alarmed, angered, and deeply disappointed by the Inspector General’s finding of numerous failures by DOJ and FBI in investigating potential Espionage Act violations by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

This report confirms investigative decisions made by the FBI during the pendency of this investigation were unprecedented and deviated from traditional investigative procedures in favor of a much more permissive and voluntary approach. This is not the way normal investigations are run. 

The investigation was mishandled. The investigatory conclusions were reached before the end of the witness interviews. The July 5th press conference marked a serious violation of policy and process. And the letters to Congress in the fall of 2016 were both delayed in substance and unnecessary in form. 

Moreover, the treatment afforded to former Secretary Clinton and other potential subjects and targets was starkly different from the FBI’s investigation into Trump campaign officials. Voluntariness and consent in the former were replaced with search warrants, subpoenas, and other compulsory processes in the latter. Many of the investigators and supervisors were the same in both investigations but the investigatory tactics were not. 

Former Director Comey violated Department policy in several significant ways. The FBI’s actions and those of former Director Comey severely damaged the credibility of the investigation, the public’s ability to rely on the results of the investigation, and the very institutions he claims to revere. 

The report also conclusively shows an alarming and destructive level of animus displayed by top officials at the FBI. Peter Strzok’s manifest bias trending toward animus casts a pall on this investigation. Bias is so pernicious and malignant as to both taint the process, the result, and the ability to have confidence in either. His bias was so pervasive and toxic as to call into question any other investigations he was part of including his role in the investigation of what Russia did in 2016. His bias impacted his decision making and he assigned to himself the role of stopping the Trump campaign or ending a Trump Presidency. 

The law enforcement community has no greater ally in Congress than me. But continued revelations of questionable decision making by FBI and DOJ leadership destroys confidence in the impartiality of the institutions I have long served, respected, and believed in. 

This is not the FBI I know. This is not the FBI our country needs. This is not the FBI citizens and suspects alike deserve. 

It is now urgently incumbent on Attorney General Sessions and Director Wray to take decisive action to restore Americans’ confidence in our justice system.”

Read More →

President Donald Trump took to Twitter Thursday to attack New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood after she sued him, his children, and the Trump Foundation.

Underwood asserted in the suit, among other things, that the foundation “was little more than a checkbook for payments from Mr. Trump or his businesses to nonprofits, regardless of their purpose or legality.”

The suit centers on a “pattern of illegal conduct by the Foundation and its board members includ[ing] improper and extensive political activity, repeated and willful self-dealing transactions, and failure to follow basic fiduciary obligations or to implement even elementary corporate formalities required by law.”

Read More →

Former FBI Director James Comey “deviated” “clearly and dramatically” from FBI and Department of Justice norms during his probe of Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server, the Justice Department inspector general found according to an excerpt published by Bloomberg.

Bloomberg obtained a copy of Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s highly anticipated report on DOJ and FBI activity before the 2016 election.

One passage published by the outlet reads:

“While we did not find that these decisions were the result of political bias on Comey’s part, we nevertheless concluded that by departing so clearly and dramatically from FBI and department norms, the decisions negatively impacted the perception of the FBI and the department as fair administrators of justice.”

Read More →

An undocumented Honduran woman says her children was taken from her in the middle of breastfeeding, an attorney who’d spoken to the woman told CNN.

The woman, whom CNN did not name, told attorney Natalia Cornelio of the Texas Civil Rights Project that she was subsequently handcuffed after resisting. The Honduran woman had been detained and placed into criminal proceedings as part of the Trump administration’s new policy of criminally prosecuting anyone caught illegally crossing the border.

Because children cannot be held in criminal detention, the new policy necessitates the separation of children from their parents.

A public defender for the Southern District of Texas in McAllen told CNN that, according to an unofficial count in his office, roughly 500 children have been separated from their parents since Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the new policy last month.

Read More →

LiveWire