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

White House aide Sebastian Gorka said Thursday that President Donald Trump had announced his intention to ban all transgender individuals from the U.S. military because the military is “not there to reflect America” or “be socially engineered.”

And, despite the fact that the U.S. military is an all-volunteer force, Gorka said Trump’s decision — made “out of the warmth of his consideration of this population” — was a response to what he characterized as an attempt “to try and force them into the hierarchical military environment where they are under the utmost pressure to kill or be killed.”

In an interview with BBC Radio 4 Today, Gorka was asked, in reference to Trump: “How can it be the case that he is speaking for the whole military if he is speaking out against one section of the military?”

“The military is not a microcosm of civilian society,” Gorka responded. “They are not there to reflect America. They are there to kill people and blow stuff up, they are not there to be social engineered.”

“We want people who are transgender to live happy lives,” he continued. “But we want unit cohesion and we want combat effectiveness. There are leading studies from the medical establishment, for example, that state that the transgender community has a 40 percent suicide attempt rate. That is a tragedy. We need to help those people, we don’t need to try and force them into the hierarchical military environment where they are under the utmost pressure to kill or be killed, and that is why the President is doing this — out of the warmth of his consideration of this population.

“It probably doesn’t feel like warmth from the transgender perspective,” a BBC presenter asked.

“Well, we’re not here to represent one part of America,” Gorka said. “We are here to represent all of America and protect Americans.” (Listen at 6:32 here.)

Gorka elaborated on Twitter, calling the acknowledgement of transgender servicemembers “Obama-era social engineering.”

Gorka’s reasoning adds to multiple justifications provided by the White House for Trump’s abrupt announcement of the ban — for which the Pentagon was apparently not at all prepared to comment, and which earned the bipartisan criticism from Congress.

In announcing the ban on Twitter Wednesday, Trump said that the military “cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail.”

Later that day, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said at a press briefing that the ban was “about military readiness, this was about unit cohesion, this was about resources within the military.”

Gorka’s comments drew criticism from, among many others, Retired U.S. Navy Rear Adm. and CNN analyst John Kirby. In a series of tweets, he said Gorka, who served at one point in the British army reserves, had mischaracterized the U.S. military.

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President Donald Trump has instructed aides to find a rationale for declaring Iran in violation of the Obama-era nuclear deal, the New York Times reported Thursday.

Citing several unnamed foreign officials, the Times reported that the United States has raised the possibility of international inspectors demanding access to various military sites in Iran in search of nuclear activity — a suggestion that would be met with Iranian opposition.

Trump has reluctantly signed off on Iran’s compliance with the deal twice since taking office. Such affirmations are required every 90 days. Before his July 17 signature, a slew of top diplomatic and national security adviser urged Trump to stay in the deal, according to the Times, including Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who has been sidelined from many major decisions in recent months.

It seems Trump’s patience is running thin.

On July 21, Foreign Policy reported that Trump had entrusted a group of White House staffers to make the case for withdrawing from the deal. As it’s not a formal treaty but rather an executive agreement initiated during the Obama administration, Trump’s latitude to re-impose sanctions on Iran is broad.

“This is the President telling the White House that he wants to be in a place to decertify 90 days from now and it’s their job to put him there,” an unnamed source close to the White House told the magazine.

The White House’s Iran group, according to three unnamed sources cited by Foreign Policy, is chock full of foreign policy novices and Iran hawks, among them chief White House strategist Steve Bannon, the controversial self-proclaimed counterterrorism export Sebastian Gorka and Michael Anton, whose infamous and anonymously written “The Flight 93 Election” compared the Washington, D.C. political establishment to the 9/11 hijackers.

Trump voters, Anton argued in the piece, needed to storm the metaphorical cockpit to guard against, among other things, “Iran sycophancy.”

According to Foreign Policy, the White House group also included Michael Flynn ally Derek Harvey, who has since been fired.

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House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) said Friday morning that he was “disappointed and frustrated” at the Senate’s failure to repeal Obamacare after the House passed its own version of a repeal in May.

“We were sent to Washington to fulfill the pledges we made to our constituents,” Ryan said in a statement. “While the House delivered a bill to repeal and replace Obamacare, unfortunately the Senate was unable to reach a consensus.”

“I am disappointed and frustrated, but we should not give up,” he continued. “I encourage the Senate to continue working toward a real solution that keeps our promise. We have so much work still to do, and the House will continue to focus on issues that are important to the American people. At the top of that list is cutting taxes for middle class families and fixing our broken tax code. I’m glad that members will now take time to hear directly from those they represent and make the case for historic tax reform that we intend to pursue in the fall.”

Senate Republicans attempted on Thursday night to gather enough votes to pass a measure that they themselves did not want to become law. Rather, they planned on using the bill as a vehicle to get to a conference with the House, where the real legislation would be penned.

Ryan, however, made no guarantee to Senate Republicans that House Republicans wouldn’t simply pass the Senate’s bill as-is.

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), whose “no” vote doomed the Senate’s bill, had earlier on Thursday appeared at a press conference with Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Ron Johnson (R-WI) and Bill Cassidy (R-LA), in which he said he would withhold his support for the bill unless Ryan assured him the House would send it to a conference.

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Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said early Friday morning that Democrats were “relieved,” not celebratory, at the failure of Senate Republicans’ latest attempt to repeal Obamacare.

“It’s time to turn the page,” Schumer said on the Senate floor. “I would say to my dear friend, the majority leader, we are not celebrating. We are relieved that millions and millions of people who would have been so drastically hurt by the three proposals put forward will at least retain their health care, be able to deal with preexisting conditions, deal with nursing homes and opioids that Medicaid paid for.”

“We are relieved, not for ourselves but for the American people,” he said.

Schumer urged the Senate to return to “regular order” — a loose shorthand for following the Senate’s standard legislative procedure, and which the Republicans’ Obamacare repeal efforts have not followed — and said Democrats were prepared to work across the aisle on certain issues.

Schumer specifically referenced the speech delivered Tuesday by Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) urging as much before the senior Republican supported a motion to proceed with debate on the Obamacare repeal effort. Early Friday morning, McCain’s “no” vote brought the repeal effort to a dramatic end, for now.

“If we can take this moment, a solemn moment, and start working this body the way it had always worked until the last decade or so, with both sides to blame for the deterioration, we will do a better job for our country, a better job for this body, a better job for ourselves,” Schumer said.

Schumer emphasized that Democrats were eager to pass the National Defense Authorization Act, a mammoth military bill that usually receives strong bipartisan support.

“As I mentioned to the majority leader, there are some other things we can do rather quickly, including moving a whole lot of nominations,” he added. “So we can work together.”

“Every place in every corner of the country where we go, the number one thing we are asked — and I know this because I’ve talked to my colleagues on the other side of the aisle — is can’t you guys work together?” Schumer concluded. “Let’s give it a shot. Let’s give it a shot.”

Watch below via NBC News:

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Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) said early Friday morning that senators who had promised to repeal Obamacare yet voted against the failed Obamacare repeal effort had betrayed their constituents.

“There are going to be a great many Americans who tonight feel a sense of betrayal,” Cruz said in an interview aired on “Fox & Friends.” “If you stand up and campaign and say we are going to repeal Obamacare, and you vote for Obamacare, those are not consistent. And the American people are entirely justified in saying any politician who told me that, who voted the other way, didn’t tell me the truth.”

Three Republican senators voted against the latest repeal effort, which was written hours before its vote in an shocking show of haste: Susan Collins (R-ME), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and John McCain (R-AZ).

While Collins has been a consistent “no” vote on Republicans’ Obamacare repeal effort, Murkowski supported a 2015 “clean repeal” bill (which failed earlier this week, she voted against it this time) and McCain was largely supportive of past Obamacare repeal efforts.

On Tuesday, McCain voted to proceed with debate on Obamacare repeal, despite decrying the process by which the effort had reached the Senate floor. His “no” vote early Friday morning brought the repeal effort to a dramatic end — at least for now.

Watch below via “Fox & Friends”:

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The acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement said Thursday that the agency’s deportations of non-criminal undocumented immigrants has gone from “zero to 100” in the first six months of the Trump administration.

Thomas Homan made the comment during a White House briefing when asked if the administration was highlighting the activity of violent transnational gangs like MS13 to characterize a much larger deportation effort that includes largely law-abiding undocumented people. A reporter referenced reports that the largest spike in deportations under the Trump administration has come from undocumented immigrants without any criminal record.

Remaining in the country without authorization, while still punishable with deportation, is a civil offense — as opposed to criminal offenses like jumping a border fence or forging an identification document.

“Under the prior administration, noncriminals were not a priority,” Homan said. “So when you go from zero to 100, of course you’re going to see the biggest rise in that.”

“The executive orders are clear,” he said. “Anybody who reads the executive orders — no population is off the table. So noncriminals, yeah, those that have got a court order from a judge who refuse to leave, we’re looking for them. Those who enter the country illegally, I’ve said it a hundred times, that is a crime, to enter this country illegally.”

The executive order Homan cited came days after President Trump’s inauguration. It specified that, unlike during the Obama administration, undocumented immigrants even charged with a crime were able to be deported.

Homan said earlier that ICE was prioritizing deportations “based on criminal threats, national security, those who violate immigration law,” casting an broad net.

“Point blank, you’re not going to take advantage of the immigrant communities who are victims [of gang violence], right? They’re not going to be deported?” a reporter asked. Undocumented immigrants are often hesitant to share information about violent crime with local law enforcement for fear that they will be targeted for deportation.

“We’re not looking to arrest a victim of crime,” Homan said. “We’re looking to arrest the bad guy. Right? Now, let me make this clear. Is there a population of illegal aliens that are off the table? I’m not saying that.”

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A top executive at Boy Scouts of America apologized Thursday for “the political rhetoric that was inserted into the jamboree” days after President Donald Trump turned an address to the Scouts’ annual gathering on Monday into an aggressive political rally of sorts.

In a statement, Chief Scout Executive Michael Surbaugh said it “was never our intent” to inject political rhetoric into the event. He avoided pinning blame on the President specifically.

“The invitation for the sitting U.S. President to visit the National Jamboree is a long-standing tradition that has been extended to the leader of our nation that has had a Jamboree during his term since 1937,” Surbaugh wrote. “It is in no way an endorsement of any person, party or policies. For years, people have called upon us to take a position on political issues, and we have steadfastly remained non-partisan and refused to comment on political matters. We sincerely regret that politics were inserted into the Scouting program.”

The apology followed a much briefer statement from the organization, the day after Trump’s speech, which emphasized that the Boy Scouts “is wholly non-partisan and does not promote any one position, product, service, political candidate or philosophy.”

Apparently, no one told the President. The speech he delivered, with members of his Cabinet standing on stage behind him, drew outrage from scouting parents nationwide.

Trump mused about changing his nickname for Washington, D.C. “from the word ‘swamp’ to the word ‘cesspool,’” joked about firing his secretary of health and human services, drew boos from the children in attendance by asking if former President Obama had ever addressed their event and said of the night he was elected President: “Do we remember that date? Was that a beautiful date? What a date.” (That was followed by a detailed, state-by-state recap of the election.)

Trump also reminded the Scouts that, “by the way, under the Trump administration, you’ll be saying ‘Merry Christmas’ again when you go shopping. Believe me. ‘Merry Christmas.'”

“They’ve been downplaying that little, beautiful phrase. You’re going to be saying ‘Merry Christmas’ again, folks,” he said.

Surbaugh ended his letter on Thursday: “In a time when differences seem to separate our country, we hope the true spirit of Scouting will empower our next generation of leaders to bring people together to do good in the world.”

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Rep. Dave Brat (R-VA) blamed the media on Thursday for forcing, in a “bank-shot” fashion, President Donald Trump’s relentless attacks on his own attorney general.

Brat said the media had fueled the attacks — everything short of typing Trump’s tweets for him.

In a statement Wednesday on the matter, Brat said Trump’s anger at Sessions — whose recusal from campaign- and Russian meddling-related matters paved the way for the appointment of special counsel Robert Mueller — was partially the media’s fault.

“One thing is for sure: when AG Sessions erred on the side of caution by recusing himself, he never could have foreseen the 24/7 full-throated obsession over Russia by the mainstream media,” he wrote. “The media’s attacks have only escalated since Trump’s inauguration. Fake news dominates.”

“Who is at fault for the uncomfortable position Jeff Sessions is in?” CNN’s Kate Bolduan asked Brat Thursday, after referencing the statement.

Among other things, Brat said, “No one anticipated the 24/7 coverage on the Russia piece.”

“But is the President at fault for being the one who made the ‘beleaguered’ Sessions beleaguered?” Bolduan asked.

“No, no, I don’t think — the mainstream press has been relentless,” Brat said.

“There’s no way the media is powerful enough” to force Trump to tell the New York Times that he regretted appointing Sessions attorney general, an exasperated Bolduan said. “The media is not forcing the President to tweet his attacks.”

“I think you did,” Brat said. “If you’ve got 24/7 coverage and he doesn’t have an AG in place to cover the most important issue that the media covers with 90 percent of your coverage, the anchors across the mainstream…” he said, before changing topics.

“Are you kidding me?” Bolduan said. “The media did not force the President to attack Jeff Sessions.

“I’m using force in like a bank shot metaphor,” Brat said. “You didn’t coerce him. You made him frustrated.”

“He is frustrated because he does not have an AG at the highest level who can respond to the key issue that the media is grilling him on all day,” he continued.

“Do you agree that the President chose to push the keys on his phone to tweet an attack on his attorney general, under his own control?” Bolduan asked.

“I will concede that the President did touch his keypad,” Brat said.

Asked why he was so hesitant to criticize the President, Brat spoke only in generalities.

“There’s too much negativity up here,” he said.

Watch below via CNN:

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Anthony Scaramucci, the millionaire-hedge-fund-manager-turned-White-House-communications-director, argued Wednesday that President Donald Trump, despite being part of the global economic elite, could identify with middle and working class Americans.

“What’s happening right now, which I love, is that the elites and the media establishment that want to hit the President on Russia every day, they’re recognizing there’s nothing to the Russian story,” Scaramucci began in an interview with the BBC’s Emily Maitlis.

Maitlis stopped him: “What part of Donald Trump is not elite? The business side or the politics side or the inheritance side? What part of Donald Trump — many people in the UK don’t understand that.”

“Oh my God, there’s so many things about the President,” Scaramucci began.

“He’s a celebrity, he’s a billionaire,” Maitlis continued.

“How about the cheeseburgers, how about the pizza that we’re eating?” Scaramucci said.

“Everyone eats cheeseburgers and pizzas, what are you talking about?” Maitlis responded.

“No, no, no, no. See, you’re coming across a little bit elitist, so let me just say something to you, OK?” Scaramucci said. “I grew up in a middle-class family, OK? We had virtually — a tight budget and little to no money. I spent 30 years of my life trying to get into the global elites so I could stand here and serve the President. And I missed the movement.”

Scaramucci said the insular culture of global elites — he himself is still finalizing the sale of Skybridge Capital to a Chinese conglomerate — had initially ignored the populist political style Trump represented in the 2016 campaign.

“Donald Trump is not elite, then? He’s not an elite?” Maitlis asked again.

“Very much so, he’s both,” Scaramucci said. “He knows how to operate in an elitist world, and he has unbelievable empathy for the common struggle that’s going on with the middle class people and the lower middle class people.”

Notably, after running a presidential campaign that leaned heavily on economic populism, Trump named what is collectively the wealthiest Cabinet in American history. In June, the President said “I just don’t want a poor person” in an economic policy role.

And, despite Trump’s use of the investment bank as a punching bag during the campaign, Scaramucci is yet another Goldman Sachs alumnus to join the highest ranks of the executive branch.

Watch below via BBC:


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