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

Attorney General Jeff Sessions yet again decried the consent decrees favored by the Obama-era Justice Department on Monday, vowing to free local police forces from what he characterized as federal handcuffs.

“We will not sign consent decrees for political expediency that will cost more lives by handcuffing the police instead of the criminals,” Sessions wrote in an op-ed in USA Today.

Sessions ordered a review of all such decrees between the Justice Department and local law enforcement earlier this month. By the end of Obama’s second term, the Justice Department was enforcing agreements reached with more than a dozen police departments nationwide and had investigated the practices of many more.

Consent decrees seek to prioritize police-community relations and de-escalation tactics rather than excessive use of force, and are court-enforceable.

Sessions has depicted the agreements, which often came in the wake of high-profile cases of people being killed by police, as part of a larger wave of unjustified scrutiny of law enforcement.

In prepared remarks to the National Association of Attorneys General during his first month on the job, Sessions described an “age of viral videos and targeted killings of police.”

“[M]any of our men and women in law enforcement are becoming more cautious” as a result, he said. “They’re more reluctant to get out of their squad cars and do the hard but necessary work of up-close policing that builds trust and prevents violent crime.”

In his op-ed Monday, Sessions hammered home the same themes.

“[T]oo much focus has been placed on a small number of police who are bad actors rather than on criminals,” he wrote. “And too many people believe the solution is to impose consent decrees that discourage the proactive policing that keeps our cities safe.”

Though he acknowledged the need for “common-sense reforms” like de-escalation training and “punish[ing] police conduct that violates civil rights,” Sessions suggested that the federal government wouldn’t play a prominent role in implementing those reforms.

“[S]uch reforms must promote public safety and avoid harmful federal intrusion in the daily work of local police,” he wrote.

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Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) said Tuesday that Americans would continue to demand to see President Donald Trump’s tax returns.

In an interview on NBC’s “Today,” host Savannah Guthrie asked Warren if the issue was “over” after Trump won the presidency without releasing any of his tax returns, becoming the first president since Richard Nixon not to do so.

“No, the issue is not over,” Warren said. “He promised during the campaign that he would reveal his taxes. In fact, how many clips have you got here? He would reveal them after this, he would reveal them after that, oh, then he put it off.”

Trump repeatedly promised, before and during his run for the presidency, that he would release his tax returns as a candidate.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer claimed Monday that Trump’s taxes were still under audit, which would not technically preclude them from being released.

Warren said she didn’t know if Trump would ever release the returns.

“But I’ll tell you this,” she continued, “I think that people are going to keep demanding it, and they’re going to keep demanding it and making their voices heard on this. Look, why is it the case that people at the very top should get a bunch of tax breaks, should be able to hide their business dealing, when everybody else pays? Everybody else gets out there and makes our roads and bridges work, makes our schools work. Lets see what Donald Trump is up to.”

After thousands of people took to the streets nationwide Saturday to demand the President release his tax records, Trump said the protestors had been paid, and that “the election is over.”

Watch below via NBC:

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President Donald Trump wouldn’t say whether he had ruled out a military strike against North Korea on Monday, saying only “we’ll see what happens.”

“I don’t want to telegraph what I’m doing or what I’m thinking,” Trump told Fox News’ Ainsley Earhardt. “I’m not like other administrations where they say, ‘We’re going to do this in four weeks.’ It doesn’t work that way. We’ll see what happens. I hope things work out well. I hope there’s going to be peace.”

Vice President Mike Pence, visiting South Korea on Sunday, called North Korea’s failed missile test earlier the same day a “provocation.” On Friday, the Trump administration characterized its strategy toward the country as “maximum pressure and engagement.” A strike group led by the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier made its way last week toward the Korean Peninsula.

Trump also made two references in the interview to “this gentleman” in North Korea, who he said had “outplayed” both Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. The late North Korean ruler Kim Jong Il died in 2011. His son, Kim Jong Un, is the country’s current ruler.

“But, you know, they’ve been talking with this gentleman for a long time,” Trump said. “You read Clinton’s book, he said, ‘Oh, we made such a great peace deal,’ and it was a joke. You look at different things over the years with President Obama. Everybody has been outplayed, they’ve all been outplayed by this gentleman. And we’ll see what happens. But I just don’t telegraph my moves.”

Watch the exchange below:

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Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said Monday that it would require a “highly aggressive to not realistic” schedule for President Donald Trump to sign a tax bill before Congress breaks for recess in August.

In February, Mnuchin told CNBC that he wanted to see “very significant” tax reform “done by the August recess.”

“It started as [an] aggressive timeline,” Mnuchin said in an interview with the Financial Times published Monday, referring to the August deadline. “It is fair to say it is probably delayed a bit because of the health care.” 

The Trump administration and congressional leadership originally planned to repeal and replace Obamacare before approaching a tax bill, as the health care effort would fundamentally change the tax landscape. The party will face an existential crisis of sorts if it fails to achieve either policy priority.

On March 24, the same day the GOP’s American Health Care Act failed to garner sufficient Republican support for a vote, Mnuchin told Axios’ Mike Allen that tax reform was “much simpler” than health care reform, and that Republicans would propose a tax bill in one comprehensive piece, rather than in incremental measures.

Mnuchin also told FT that Trump’s recent comments that the U.S. dollar was too strong didn’t mean the President supports devaluing American currency. Last week, Trump told the Wall Street Journal that it’s “very, very hard to compete when you have a strong dollar and other countries are devaluing their currency.” In the same interview, Trump reversed his pledge to declare China a currency manipulator.

“The President was making a factual comment about the strength of the dollar in the short term,” Mnuchin told FT. “There’s a big difference between talk and action.” 

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White House press secretary Sean Spicer on Monday defended President Donald Trump’s decision not to release White House visitor logs during his time in office.

During Spicer’s daily press briefing, the Daily Caller’s Kaitlan Collins asked the press secretary why the Trump administration hadn’t opted to match former President Barack Obama’s policy of voluntarily releasing White House visitor logs, with some exceptions.

“We’re following the law as both the Presidential Records Act and the Federal Records Act prescribe it,” Spicer said, referring to laws that mandate the preservation of government records, but not the release of White House visitor logs during a president’s term in office. “So it’s the same policy that every administration had up until the Obama administration.”

Spicer referred to the voluntary release of visitor logs by the Obama administration as a “faux attempt” at transparency, given that the public logs carried exemptions for personal visits, national security matters and other sensitive meetings.

“When you go through and you scrub everyone’s name out that you don’t want everyone to know, that really is not an honest attempt to doing it,” he said of the Obama-era policy.

He also said that the Trump administration acknowledged “there’s a privacy aspect to allowing citizens to come express their views.”

A handful of members of Congress have sought to force the White House’s hand with the Making Access Records Available to Lead American Government Openness (MAR-A-LAGO) Act, which would require that visitor logs be released, with similar exceptions as the Obama policy, from anywhere the President “regularly conducts official business.”

The comings and goings of the Trump White House have come under intense scrutiny in recent weeks, after House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA) admitted on March 27 that he met with unnamed sources on White House grounds before claiming the following day that Trump affiliates’ information may have been included incidentally in the surveillance of foreign actors. Nunes subsequently stepped aside from the committee’s investigations of possible connections between Russian officials and Trump affiliates.

And on March 21, Brigitte Gabriel, the founder of the anti-Muslim group ACT for America, published pictures of herself meeting with a White House legislative staffer at the White House. A White House official confirmed the meeting to TPM only after the pictures were made public.

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President Donald Trump’s campaign has directed nearly $500,000 to Trump-owned properties, according to a Wall Street Journal tally of Federal Election Commission reports published Saturday.

Trump, who filed paperwork for his 2020 re-election campaign on Inauguration Day, has shifted management of his businesses to his sons via a revocable trust. He maintains ownership of the businesses, and a clause in the trust allows him to receive income from them without disclosing the transactions.

The Journal reported that Trump’s re-election campaign, and its affiliated joint party committees, have paid nearly $500,000 to Trump hotels, golf clubs and restaurants, more than 6 percent of the campaign’s $6.3 million in spending from January through March.

The expenses included rent in Trump Tower and lodging, facilities rentals and catering at hotels and golf resorts.

By December 31, according to a tally by Politico, Trump’s 2016 campaign had paid $12.8 million to his own businesses, including to TAG Air for Trump’s use of his own airplane, and to Trump Tower to for rent on his campaign headquarters.

Politico reported Saturday that a trio of Trump committees — Donald J. Trump for President, Trump Victory and Trump Make America Great Again Committee, the latter two of which are joint committees with the Republican National Committee — had collectively raised $13.2 million for the campaign from January through March. The groups reportedly paid $4.7 for Trump-branded merchandise, including the now-iconic “Make America Great Again” hat, which was a large source of Trump’s fundraising muscle.

The President is regularly seen wearing the merchandise, including at his Mar-a-Lago property, dubbed the Southern White House by his staff. The club reportedly doubled its initial membership fee to $200,000 in January.

Eric Trump, who now manages the Trump Organization with his brother, spoke with Fox News about foreign policy at the White House Monday. And he told Forbes in late March that, despite promises to the contrary, he would brief his father on the businesses “probably quarterly.”

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Fewer than half of Americans believe President Donald Trump will keep his promises, according to a new Gallup poll — a significant drop since the question was polled in February.

Just 45 percent of adults surveyed from April 5-9 think Trump will keep his promises, according to Gallup. That’s down from 62 percent who believed he would when polled from Feb. 1-5, two weeks after Trump’s inauguration.

Trump flip-flopped on a stunning array of campaign promises over the past two weeks. He hinted to the Wall Street Journal Wednesday that he could re-appoint Federal Reserve chairwoman Janet Yellen to a second term in that position. The same day, he claimed that NATO is “no longer obsolete” in a joint press conference with the alliance’s secretary general. And, despite urging President Obama not to get militarily involved against the Syrian regime, Trump did just that with his April 6 missile strike against a Syrian air field.

He also told the Journal, referring to China: “They’re not currency manipulators.” The list goes on.

Gallup polled a random sample of 1,019 adults nationwide, at least 70 percent of whom used cell phones versus 30 percent landlines. The margin of error is 4 percentage points.

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The Trump-favored conspiracist and founder of InfoWars Alex Jones has claimed, in a custody battle, that his on-air persona is just that.

“He’s playing a character,” Jones’ attorney Randall Wilhite said at a recent pre-trial hearing, according to the Austin American-Statesman. “He is a performance artist.”

Wilhite reportedly said using Jones’ performances on Infowars to judge his capacity as a father would be like judging Jack Nicholson on his depiction of the Joker in “Batman.”

Jones ex-wife, Kelly Jones, reportedly said Jones’ infamously unstable Infowars behavior — he recently told House Oversight Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) to “fill your hand,” a reference to a gun duel — had affected their three kids’ lives.

“He’s not a stable person,” she said, according to the American-Statesman. “He says he wants to break Alec Baldwin’s neck. He wants J-Lo to get raped.”

Both accusations were references to recent tirades from Jones against the celebrities.

Jones issued a rare apology in late March for his role in furthering the conspiracy theory that Comet Ping Pong, a pizza parlor in Washington, D.C., was the center of a child sex ring frequented by Hillary Clinton, John Podesta and others.

In his apology, Jones described InfoWars’ coverage as “theories about Pizzagate that were being written about in many media outlets and which we commented upon.”

And he acknowledged the threat against Schiff a few days after it first aired, calling it “clearly tongue-in-cheek and basically art performance, as I do in my rants, which I admit I do, as a form of art.”

“When I say, ‘I’m going to kick your ass,’ it’s the Infowar,” Jones said. “I say every day we’re going to destroy you with the truth.”

Jones interviewed Donald Trump when he was a candidate for president, in December 2015. Jones has since claimed to have heard from Trump since his inauguration, including with invitations to the White House press pool and Mar-a-Lago, though neither Jones nor his InfoWars staff have yet been spotted at either.

After Jones’ claims that the Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting was a hoax, families who lost loved ones in the attack have pressured the President to disavow Jones.

Read the full American-Statesman story here.

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The governor of West Virginia vetoed a budget bill next to a silver platter of bull feces on Thursday, signifying his distaste for the cuts it required.

“We don’t have a nothing burger today,” Gov. Jim Justice (D) said, unveiling silver platters as he went. “And we don’t have a mayonnaise sandwich today. We all should take ownership for this, but what we have is nothing more than a bunch of political bull-you-know-what.”

He lifted a third platter, revealing a pile of feces on top of the legislature’s budget bill.

The crowd in attendance cheered. It seemed an odd choice to leave out an expletive while presenting the excrement itself. The governor continued.

“And for that very reason, I’m signing my veto on the budget bill,” he said, to more applause.

The vetoed budget would have cut funding for universities in the state and Medicaid, and did not contain tax increases advocated by Justice, including a hike on the state’s consumer sales and B&O taxes, and additional taxes on the wealthy. The veto will require a legislative special session to come up with a new bill before the new fiscal year in July.

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