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

Donald Trump Jr. on Monday downplayed a blockbuster New York Times report that he met with a Russian lawyer who promised damaging information about Hillary Clinton during the 2016 presidential campaign.

On Saturday, Trump told the Times he had primarily discussed the adoption of Russian orphans by Americans when he — along with Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort, at his invitation — met with Natalia Veselnitskaya, a Russian lawyer with close ties to the Kremlin, in June 2016.

Trump’s story changed on Sunday, after the Times cited three unnamed advisers to the White House briefed on the meeting, “and two others with knowledge of it,” who claimed Trump had been promised damaging information on Clinton before attending the meeting.

Veselnitskaya’s claims at the meeting were “vague, ambiguous and made no sense,” Trump said, reflecting on the promised Clinton dirt in a statement to the Times Sunday. He added separately that “the claims of potentially helpful information were a pretext for the meeting.”

Trump tweeted a column by the New York Post’s Michael Walsh, who acknowledged the reporting that Trump met with Veselnitskaya for opposition research on Clinton and asked: “[W]ho wouldn’t? And also: So what?”

Trump also denied that his statements about the meeting were contradictory.

This post has been updated.

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The Twittersphere’s collective ears perked up Friday at a tweet from former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin.

Promoting a Young Conservatives analysis of President Donald Trump’s pro-Western and nativist speech Thursday in Poland, Palin tweeted the article and posted it to Facebook. The social posts contained the phrase “14 words.”

It appeared on its face to be a nod to the well-known white supremacist slogan, commonly referred to only by its word count: “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children.”

The specific language of Palin’s social posts appeared to reflect the default social-media language of the article itself. The headline below automatically appears when posted to Facebook:












Twitter user @johnkirrane noticed the same, the Daily Beast reported.

However, in an email to the Daily Beast that he later forwarded to TPM, the co-founder of Young Conservatives, Joshua Riddle, disputed that “14 Words” was a reference to white supremacy.

He said it referred to Trump’s closing line in the speech, buried in the middle of the article: “Let us all fight like the Poles. For family, freedom, for country, for God.”

Riddle threatened the Daily Beast with legal action if the site did not delete the article. (Read Riddle’s full response below.) And Young Conservatives added an extra section to the bottom of the article noting various number-centric headlines the site has published.

Asked about the headline in an email, Todd Gutnick of the Anti-Defamation League seemed to agree that it wasn’t a reference to white supremacy. “We don’t believe she meant those 14 words,” he said, referring to Palin. “Not a story here.”

Read Riddle’s email to the Daily Beast, which Riddle forwarded to TPM, below:

Hi Andrew,

Your article about Young Conservatives recently came to our attention.
It contains malicious and false claims. For this reason, please immediately remove the article and publish a written apology on Daily Beast.
This is the 14-word quote the social media post is referencing: “Let us all fight like the Poles. For family, freedom, for country, for God.”
About 2 minutes of research would have revealed how there is a long history of our site (and countless others) using word counts in social media headlines. To jump to the conclusion in your article is slanderous, dishonest, lazy, and very unprofessional and harmful to our business.
If you intend not to fully redact the article, can you please provide us the mailing address for you and DailyBeast. Our lawyers will contact you individually in regards to our intent to sue. If the article is unpublished and an apology issued, we will not demand compensation for damages.
Josh Riddle
CEO Young Conservatives, LLC

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From the very start of his young presidency, Donald Trump made it clear that the media spectacle surrounding the staffing of his administration was almost as important as the staff themselves.

“If you come tomorrow, you’ll be all over television, because I have about 350 press outside,” he told members of his private club in Bedminster, New Jersey just days after his November election, according to an audio recording obtained by Politico. “So we’re doing a lot of interviews tomorrow — generals, dictators, we have everything.”

Since then, many potential Trump hires have borne the brunt of that tendency to posture for the press. A pattern emerged: Residents of America’s political fringe claimed to have been offered a job by Trump, only to be left empty-handed after the news trucks moved on.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

The 35th President’s nephew was well-known before the 2016 election for his embrace of pseudoscience when it came to the non-existent link between vaccination and autism. Trump, too, had floated suspicions of the debunked claim.

So when Kennedy emerged from a meeting on Jan. 10 with the then-President-elect in Trump Tower claiming to have accepted the chairmanship of “a commission on vaccine safety and scientific integrity,” the public was outraged. Hundreds of scientific and medical groups wrote to Trump emphasizing the safety of vaccines.

The same day, transition team spokesperson Hope Hicks told the Washington Post that while “[t]he President-elect is exploring the possibility of forming a commission on autism, which affects so many families […] no decisions have been made at this time.”

A month later, Kennedy said he had been in contact with administration officials “three times” since his meeting with Trump. He noted that Trump had told him in January that “he knew the pharmaceutical industry was going to cause an uproar about this” but that Trump wasn’t “going to back down.”

However, Politico reported a notable change in tone from Kennedy, who was speaking at the National Press Club: “Kennedy said Trump staffers, following his high-profile meeting with Trump, originally urged him to talk about the commission, but they called that evening to say they had ‘gotten out over our skis’ and had to give a more ambiguous statement about Trump’s plans. However, Kennedy said he has been contacted twice since that meeting and ‘they say they are still going forward with it.’

On April 20, Kennedy spoke on-air with Fox news’ Tucker Carlson. The presidential commission didn’t come up.

Jerry Falwell Jr.

As with Kennedy, conservative evangelical leader Jerry Falwell Jr. was always more publicly bullish than the Trump administration in claiming he had been asked to lead an anti-regulatory higher education task force. Falwell, who said he would vote for Trump even if he had sexually assaulted women in the past, told the Chronicle of Higher Education and other publications that Trump initially told him he could be education secretary, in November, but that he had hesitated because he wanted to stay on as president of Liberty University.

Falwell kept the offer to lead a deregulatory task force private until Jan. 31, he said, because that’s when top White House aide Steve Bannon gave him permission to talk about it. Falwell told the Lynchburg News & Advance that he would be leading two education-related panels on Trump’s behalf.

“It’s all very preliminary,” Falwell told the Associated Press later, after admitting the commission was Bannon’s idea. “It’s all something that the administration will formally announce when they are ready.”

Senate Democrats pushed for details, voicing concern at Falwell’s obvious conflicts of interest. The White House, perhaps predictably, was tight-lipped on any potential commission, not admitting even to its future existence.

Trump gave the commencement address at Liberty University in May. He didn’t mention any task force.

By June, Falwell seemed out of options. After Politico reported that his claimed deregulatory task force wasn’t happening, Falwell pivoted, saying he would lead another panel.

“The White House contacted me last week and asked me to be a part of a group of 15 college presidents to address education issues,” he told the publication. “This is a White House task force and not a Department of Education task force.”

The White House, again, did not confirm his comments.

Sheriff David Clarke

The uber aggressive Milwaukee Sheriff David Clarke presents perhaps the clearest example of a supposed job offer gone wrong. In January, an editorial in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel charged, “His only interests seem to be in pining for a job in the Trump administration and in denigrating via social media anyone who criticizes him (sound familiar?).”

Months later, Clarke’s wish seemed to have been granted: On May 17, he told a local radio host he was planning to leave his position as sheriff for an assistant secretaryship at the Department of Homeland Security. He said it was in a department that didn’t exist — the “Office of Partnership and Programs.”

The same day, the Department of Homeland Security — without naming Clarke specifically — batted down the story on its Twitter account.

The media turned its attention, reporting extensively on the deaths that had occurred in Clarke’s prison, and his alleged order to deputies to harass a man who looked at the sheriff the wrong way. Former DHS officials lambasted him in national newspapers and on social media, calling him wholly unfit for work in the department.

CNN’s KFILE team pointed out that Clarke lifted sections of his master’s thesis word-for-word from other works without quotation marks. The sheriff persisted.

Finally, in June, Clarke said he had rescinded his acceptance of the position, whatever that position had been, saying through a spokesperson that “his skills could be better utilized to promote the President’s agenda in a more aggressive role.”

The Washington Post reported that, “according to one person close to the administration who is familiar with the situation, his appointment had been subject to significant delays that contributed to his withdrawal.”

An unnamed spokesperson for DHS seemed to deny Clarke even the dignity of withdrawing his own name. “Sheriff Clarke is no longer being considered for a position within DHS,” they told the Post. “We wish him well.”

The Post’s Abby Phillip published what appeared to be a legitimate letter from DHS to Clarke from May, congratulating him on his “tentative selection” for an administrative post, “subject to the approval of the Office of Personnel Management.”

Presumably, such approval fell by the wayside in the weeks following the offer.

So it goes, with so many controversial names floated for so many powerful positions in the federal government.

Trump booster Rudy Giuliani was named an informal adviser on cybersecurity to the President in January, despite apparently not knowing very much about cybersecurity — and not making much public news on the subject since.

And top White House spokesman Sean Spicer told the Daily Beast in March that he offered frequent Trump surrogate Katrina Pierson a job on his press team, but that “she ultimately decided to pursue another role on the Trump Team.” That role never materialized. Pierson said she made a “personal decision to remain on the outside for now.”

 “I have plenty of time to serve,” she added.

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A West Hartford, Connecticut man admitted last month that he only scribbled seemingly anti-Trump, left-wing graffiti on an elementary school playground to make it appear as though someone on the left had written it, not him.

Steven Marks, 32, is seen on surveillance video writing what was later found to have said “Kill Trump,” “Bernie Sanders 2020,” “Death to Trump,” and “Left is the Best.”

According to a warrant for his arrest, the Hartford Courant reported, Marks scribbled the graffiti “out of ‘anger towards liberals and they are breaking major laws everyday and being disrespectful towards our government.’”

He told police, the Courant reported, that after finding a marker nearby he “‘had the dumb idea to vandalize the school with what would seem to be liberal hate speech.'”

A Hartford Community Court judge told Marks on Wednesday to stay away from the school, the Courant reported. A prosecutor asked the judge to continue the case so Marks had time to discuss restitution with the town of West Hartford.

In a separate interview with the Courant on June 30, Marks said he had written apologies to the school’s principal and students’ parents, and called his actions “stupid, stupid, stupid.” The paper reported Marks turned himself in after seeing surveillance video released by police.

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Fox Business Network’s Charles Payne was suspended Thursday while the network’s parent company, 21st Century Fox, investigates sexual harassment allegations against him, the network confirmed Friday.

The Los Angeles Times first reported the news Thursday. That paper and others reported a statement from an unnamed spokesperson from Fox Business Network: “We take issues of this nature extremely seriously and have a zero-tolerance policy for any professional misconduct,” the spokesperson said. “This matter is being thoroughly investigated and we are taking all of the appropriate steps to reach a resolution in a timely manner.”

Payne seemed to refer to the allegations on his Twitter account Friday morning, denying them “to my core” and saying a reporter who had contacted him about the story had not printed his denial.

The Los Angles Times reported that Payne’s suspension followed his admission to the National Enquirer that he had a three-year “romantic relationship” with a political analyst who appeared as a guest on Fox Business.

The Times reported that the political analyst told Fox’s law firm that she believed she had been blacklisted from the network in 2015 after reporting Payne to network executives, two unnamed sources familiar with the complaint told the paper.

Payne’s attorney told the Times he “categorically denies” sexually harassing the analyst.

Allegations of sexual harassment have roiled Fox for years, resulting in recent months in the resignation of top leadership including late CEO Roger Ailes and co-president Bill Shine, the firing of star host Bill O’Reilly, and on Monday, the abrupt firing of Jamie Horowitz, the head of sports programming for Fox Sports.

This post has been updated.

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Two men were arrested outside the Tucson, Arizona office of Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) on Thursday for third degree criminal trespassing during a protest. One of the men was also charged with misdemeanor threats and intimidation.

In a statement, Pima County Sheriff’s Department spokesman Cody Gress told TPM that police had been called to Flake’s office with reports of threats.

Staffers working at the office indicated one of the protesters had made comments referencing the shooting of Rep. Scalise which prompted them to call the Sheriff’s Department as well as lock the office doors prohibiting access to the office from the protestors,” the statement said.

House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) was seriously wounded when a gunman opened fire on a Republican congressional baseball practice in June. Sen. Flake was at the practice and described the incident at length to reporters afterward.

In an email to TPM, a spokesperson for Flake described the exchange in which Prichard made the alleged threat.

You know how liberals are going to solve the Republican problem?” Prichard allegedly asked.

“No,” a Flake staffer responded.

“They are going to get better aim,” Prichard allegedly said. “That last guy tried, but he needed better aim.  We will get better aim.”

The spokesperson said the matter had been referred to Capitol Police.

According to the PCSD statement, protester Mark Prichard (pictured above left), 59, “made it a point to step back onto the property after being told not to do so and was immediately arrested.”

When a staffer for Flake opened the office’s door to hand information to the protesters, according to the police statement, another protester, Patrick Diehl (pictured above right), 70, “tried to force his way into the office and passed the staffer.” He was also arrested.

“Upon further review of the evidence and statements made by Mark Prichard to the staff at Sen Flake’s office, he has also been charged with Threats and Intimidation (Class 1 Misdemeanor) on top of the 3rd Degree Criminal Trespass charge,” the statement said.

It added: “No force was used in apprehending either of the two men, and no violence occurred from the protest itself.”

Responding to TPM’s questions, Gress said Prichard and Diehl were scheduled to appear in front of a judge at 8:00 p.m. local time to decide bail and future trial dates.

Read Gress’ full statement below:

This morning just before 9:00 a.m. local time, Pima County Sheriff’s deputies responded to the office of Senator Jeff Flake at 6840 North Oracle Road for reports of threats. Deputies arrived and encountered some protestors outside of Sen. Flake’s office. Staffers working at the office indicated one of the protestors had made comments referencing the shooting of Rep. Scalise which prompted them to call the Sheriff’s Department as well as lock the office doors prohibiting access to the office from the protestors. The office is a rented space on privately owned property, and the property management company as well as the staff at Sen. Flake’s office indicated they wanted the protestor who made the comments to be trespassed. Deputies made contact with the protestor who was on an easement off property grounds and informed him he was not allowed back on the property. The protestor made it a point to step back onto the property after being told not to do so and was immediately arrested forCriminal Trespass in the 3rd Degree (Class 1 Misdemeanor). This person was identified as 59-year-old Mark Prichard.

The office was still not allowing protestors into the office at this point, when a staffer opened the door to pass out informational packets which the protestors could submit to the office with their concerns. When the staffer opened the door to hand these out, a protestor tried to force his way into the office and passed the staffer. He was immediately arrested for Criminal Trespass in the 3rdDegree as well. He was identified as 70-year-old Patrick Diehl. Both men were transported to the Pima County Adult Detention Complex for their charges. The remaining protestors were allowed to be on the property 5 at a time from that point forward, and the remaining protest time was peaceful.

Upon further review of the evidence and statements made by Mark Prichard to the staff at Sen Flake’s office, he has also been charged with Threats and Intimidation (Class 1 Misdemeanor) on top of the 3rd Degree Criminal Trespass charge.

Please call Sen. Flake’s office for information on whether or not those comments will be forwarded to Capitol Police. No force was used in apprehending either of the two men, and no violence occurred from the protest itself. The Pima County Sheriff’s Department would like to remind everyone that Sen. Flake’s office is not public property, but is rented space in a privately owned business area.

H/t Tucson News Now.

This post has been updated.

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The director of the Office of Government Ethics, for months a vocal and active critic of the Trump administration’s various financial entanglements, announced his resignation Thursday, six months before the scheduled end of his term.

Walter Shaub Jr. announced his resignation in a short letter posted to his Twitter account:

In an interview with the Washington Post published at the same time, Shaub said he hadn’t been pressured out of the position, but that he felt he had done as much as he could within the limitations of the office.

“It’s clear that there isn’t more I could accomplish,” he said.

The Campaign Legal Center, an advocacy group that focuses primarily on government ethics, campaign finance and election law, announced that Shaub would join the group’s staff. CLC was founded by Trevor Potter, once a Republican appointee to the Federal Election Commission who became somewhat of a household name as legal counsel to Stephen Colbert’s conservative, Comedy Central-era persona.

CLC said Shaub would work with Larry Noble, its chief counsel and himself an outspoken critic of the Trump administration for its plethora of conflicts of interest and brushes with the law.

“In working with the current administration, it has become clear to me that we need improvements to the existing ethics program,” Shaub was quoted as saying in a statement on CLC’s website. “I look forward to working toward that aim at Campaign Legal Center, as well as working on ethics reforms at all levels of government.”

Beginning with Trump’s announcement in January that he would not divest from his massive web of businesses, nor would he even put them into a blind trust, Shaub positioned himself squarely against the new administration.

Shaub called the plan “wholly inadequate” and said it “doesn’t meet the standards that the best of his nominees are meeting and that every president in the last four decades have met.”

His prodding of the administration continued for months, including when White House aide Kellyanne Conway plugged Ivanka Trump’s clothing line in her official capacity, and in response to Trump’s after-the-fact waivers for many members of his administration who were in violation of the Presidential ethics pledge.

This post has been updated.

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Eighteen states and the District of Columbia on Thursday filed suit against the Department of Education and its secretary, Betsy DeVos, for “abandoning” protections for student loan borrowers established in the Obama administration and originally scheduled to take effect on July 1.

The so-called Borrower Defense Rule, completed by the Obama administration after years of work, entitled student loan borrowers to pursue loan forgiveness from schools found to have defrauded them. It also limited the ability of for-profit colleges to force students to sign arbitration agreements and class action waivers — thereby preventing them from taking cases against the schools to court.

“Since day one, Secretary DeVos has sided with for-profit school executives against students and families drowning in unaffordable student loans,” Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey wrote in a statement accompanying the lawsuit. “Her decision to cancel vital protections for students and taxpayers is a betrayal of her office’s responsibility and a violation of federal law. We call on Secretary DeVos and the U.S. Department of Education to restore these rules immediately.”  

Healy noted that DeVos announced a review of the rule in May following a lawsuit against the Department of Education to stop the rule, from a group of for-profit colleges. DeVos announced she would delay the rule in June, citing “pending litigation challenging the BDR regulations” and what she described as an Obama administration rule-making effort that “missed an opportunity to get it right.”

The attorneys general filing suit against DeVos don’t buy it.

“[B]oth the language of the Delay Notice and the circumstances of its announcement belie this rationale and make clear that the Department’s reference to the pending litigation is a mere pretext for repealing the Rule and replacing it with a new rule that will remove or dilute,” they alleged in the suit.

In fact, Politico reported in June, citing internal documents that it had obtained, that DeVos cited the lawsuit as grounds to delay the rule’s implementation only after considering other rationales.

The rule largely took shape in the shadow of Corinthian Colleges, Inc., a for-profit group that declared collapsed 2015, leaving behind a massive, nationwide trail of defrauded students (and student loan borrowers).

In June, a similar wave of attorneys general urged DeVos to provide debt relief to students defrauded by Corinthians, signing onto a letter penned by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan.

“We urge the Department to discharge these loans, consistent with your statements before a House appropriations subcommittee in May, and to do so swiftly,” the attorneys general wrote. “There are already findings that these student borrowers have been defrauded, and every day that passes causes them further harm. The Department should act immediately to finalize the discharge of these loans.”

Read the complaint below:

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The ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee slammed President Donald Trump on Thursday for again casting doubt on the assertion of the U.S. intelligence community that Russia interfered in the 2016 election.

“The President’s comments today, again casting doubt on whether Russia was behind the blatant interference in our election and suggesting – his own intelligence agencies to the contrary – that nobody really knows, continue to directly undermine U.S. interests,” Schiff said in a statement. “This is not putting America first, but continuing to propagate his own personal fiction at the country’s expense.”

In a press conference with Polish President Andrzej Duda in Warsaw, Trump said of the election meddling: “I think it was Russia. And I think it could have been other people and other countries. It could have been a lot of people interfered.”

He added: “I won’t be specific. But I think a lot of people interfere.”

Trump also blamed the Obama administration for not doing more to counter the interference at the time, and compared intelligence communities’ assessments to their assertions in the lead up to the Iraq War that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.

“They were wrong, and it led to a mess,” he said.

The House Intelligence Committee, one of several bodies investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 election, including potential collusion with Trump associates, is in the middle of interviewing several individuals close to Trump.

Read Schiff’s full statement below:

Los Angeles, CA – Today, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), the Ranking Member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, released the following statement:

“The President’s comments today, again casting doubt on whether Russia was behind the blatant interference in our election and suggesting – his own intelligence agencies to the contrary – that nobody really knows, continue to directly undermine U.S. interests. This is not putting America first, but continuing to propagate his own personal fiction at the country’s expense.

“President Trump must have the courage to raise the issue of Russian interference in our elections directly with President Putin, otherwise the Kremlin will conclude he is too weak to stand up to them. That would be a historic mistake, with damaging implications for our foreign policy for years to come.

“He should also confront Russia over its continued destabilization  of Ukraine, and the illegal annexation and continued occupation of Crimea and parts of Georgia. He should make it clear that the U.S. is not going to make common cause with Russia in propping up Bashar al-Assad in Syria, nor turn a blind eye to any potential Russian support of the Taliban or increased trade with North Korea.”

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President Donald Trump on Thursday drew a direct link between his aspirations for a strict immigration policy and what he characterized as the Western world’s fight against Islamist terrorism.

“We are confronted by another oppressive ideology — one that seeks to export terrorism and extremism all around the globe,” he said in a speech in Warsaw, Poland. “America and Europe have suffered one terror attack after another. We’re going to get it to stop.”

Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party is well-known for its nativist views on immigration, especially from Muslim-majority countries. After a terror attack in London left five dead, Poland’s prime minister linked the attack to the European Union’s immigration policy. (The attacker, Khalid Masood, was born and raised in Britain.)

“While we will always welcome new citizens who share our values and love our people, our borders will always be closed to terrorism and extremism of any kind,” Trump said.

After several lower courts temporarily blocked the Trump administration’s ban on travel from several Muslim-majority countries, the Supreme Court allowed much of the ban to go back into effect, except for those with close relationships to individuals or entities in the United States.

“We are fighting hard against radical Islamic terrorism, and we will prevail,” Trump said. “We cannot accept those who reject our values and who use hatred to justify violence against the innocent.”

He characterized Poland and the United States as part of “the West” 10 times in the speech, positioning the nations against the Islamic State and other foreign threats.

“We have to remember that our defense is not just a commitment of money, it is a commitment of will,” Trump said. “Because as the Polish experience reminds us, the defense of the West ultimately rests not only on means but also on the will of its people to prevail and be successful and get what you have to have.”

“The fundamental question of our time is whether the West has the will to survive,” he added. “Do we have the confidence in our values to defend them at any cost?  Do we have enough respect for our citizens to protect our borders? Do we have the desire and the courage to preserve our civilization in the face of those who would subvert and destroy it?”

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