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

The Anti-Defamation League reported Monday that anti-Semitic incidents in the United States had increased 34 percent in 2016 and were on track for an even greater increase in 2017.

The ADL recorded a total of 1,266 anti-Semitic incidents in 2016 in its annual audit of anti-Semitic incidents, compared to 942 in 2015. During the first quarter of 2017, it recorded 541 incidents, a 127 percent increase over the same period in 2016. The organization noted that 369 incidents in 2016 occurred in November and December alone.

The audit includes incidents of vandalism, harassment and assault, both criminal and non-criminal, and is tallied from reports by victims, law enforcement and community leaders, the ADL said in a press release Monday.

Among the instances of harassment in 2017 were 161 bomb threats against Jewish institutions. An Israeli teen was arrested in late March as the primary suspect in the bulk of those threats. On Friday, the Justice Department announced that Michael Ron David Kadar, 18, a joint U.S.-Israeli citizen, had been charged with “making threatening calls to Jewish Community Centers in Florida, conveying false information to police dispatch regarding harm to private residents in Georgia, and cyberstalking.”

The DOJ noted in its press release that “the investigation into violent threats to Jewish Community Centers, schools and other institutions across this nation continues, including an ongoing investigation into potential hate crime charges.”

The ADL included three incidents of Jewish cemetery desecration among its count of vandalism incidents in 2017. After one of those incidents, in which hundreds of headstones were reportedly damaged at the Mt. Carmel Cemetery in Philadelphia in late February, White House press secretary Sean Spicer condemned the vandalism in his daily briefing.

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A Republican member of Congress suggested last week that one of his constituents should simply buy better health insurance, rather than settling for catastrophic care, if Republicans roll back Obamacare’s expansion of Medicaid.

That comment earned Rep. Warren Davidson (R-OH) boos from the crowd at a town hall Tuesday.

Davidson was responding to one town hall attendee who told him that her son, who works in the service industry and does not work enough hours to qualify for employer-provided care, did not have health insurance until Ohio expanded Medicaid access under Obamacare. Under Republicans’ efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, she said, her son might lose Medicaid coverage and be left with only “catastrophic” health care plans, which do not cover the 10 “Essential Health Benefits” (EHBs) laid out by Obamacare.

“Can you explain why my son and millions of others in his situation are not deserving of affordable, decent health care that has essential benefits so that he can stay healthy and continue working?” she asked.

“I don’t know anything about your son, but as you described him, his skills are focused in a industry that doesn’t have the kind of options that you want him to have for health care,” Davidson responded. “I don’t believe that the taxpayers here are entitled to give that to him. I believe he’s got the opportunity to go earn those health benefits.”

Davidson noted that most Americans “earn” health care through their employer, and that the expansion of Medicaid authorized by Obamacare provided an incentive to grow the Medicaid rolls.

“What about prescribing what benefits he shall have?” he continued. “If he doesn’t want a catastrophic care plan, then don’t buy a catastrophic care plan. If you don’t want a flip phone, don’t buy a flip phone.”

The crowd began booing. “Oh my God, stop doing that,” one attendee told the congressman.

“I’m sorry, health care is much different than a cell phone,” the questioner responded. “And I’m tired of people using cell phone analogies with health care.”

She may have been referring to Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), who said in defense of Republicans’ health care plan in early March: “Americans have choices. And they’ve got to make a choice. And so maybe rather than getting that new iPhone that they just love and they want to go spend hundreds of dollars on that, maybe they should invest in their own health care.”

Watch the exchange below at 36:50:

H/t Huffington Post

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President Donald Trump posted an enthusiastic tribute to recently-freed American aide worker Aya Hijazi on his Twitter account Friday, just hours after Hijazi joined him in the Oval Office for a photo-op.

Set to “God Bless the USA,” whose creator sang at Trump’s inaugural concert, the two-minute video briefly scrolls past part of a Washington Post article marking Hijazi’s homecoming Thursday and includes more than a dozen photos of her visit with Trump.

The Post reported that the Trump administration had worked for several weeks with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi to secure Hijazi and her Egyptian husband’s release from prison, as well as that of four other humanitarian workers.

Sissi never visited the White House during the Obama administration, perhaps because of the tens of thousands of political prisoners believed to be behind bars in the country. Trump said during Sissi’s visit that “we are very much behind” the Egyptian leader.

“You have a great friend and ally in the United States, and in me,” he said.

White House spokesman Sean Spicer confirmed Friday that Trump had discussed Hijazi’s release with Sissi during the Egyptian leader’s visit to the White House in early April.

The Trump administration is reportedly desperate to show progress on major legislative goals and other achievements before its 100th day in office, April 29. So far, it has little to show for major promises like overhauling the health care system and reaching a tax deal.

On Friday, Trump ranted on Twitter that the 100 day mark, on which he staked many promises during the campaign, was a “ridiculous standard.”

The video concludes by zooming out to a red-and-blue message, posted above an American flag: “On behalf of the Trump administration and the United States of America, welcome home Aya Hijazi! President Donald J. Trump.”

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Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) said Thursday that she was waiting to determine her political future until some family health issues were resolved, the Los Angeles Times reported.

“The time is coming, be assured. I’ve had reasons for waiting, and so once those problems are solved, I’ll let you know,” Feinstein told the paper after a town hall, referring to the choice of whether to run for re-election in 2018.

Feinstein, 83, is the oldest member of the U.S. Senate, and was first elected to the body in 1992. The state is stocked with young political talent, including many who would be eager for a shot at Feinstein’s seat. California Gov. Jerry Brown is the oldest state executive in the country at 79.

In January, the Times noted, she told KQED that, “as long as I feel I can get things done, and I can, then I think I benefit the people of my state as opposed to someone new coming in.”

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Despite the first known deportation of a DACA recipient, President Donald Trump said Friday that so-called Dreamers should “rest easy.”

Trump told the Associated Press in an interview that he administration is “not after the Dreamers, we are after the criminals.” He said “that is our policy,” according to the AP.

“Dreamer” was originally a term applied in reference to DREAM Act, first introduced in 2001, which would have gradually granted legal status to undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States at a young age.

Today, it generally refers to young undocumented people registered with the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which protects registrants from deportation and allows them, among other things, to apply for a Social Security number and a drivers license.

Trump has put forward similar assurances before, telling ABC News days after his inauguration, referring to Dreamers: “They shouldn’t be very worried. They are here illegally. They shouldn’t be very worried. I do have a big heart. We’re going to take care of everybody.”

Trump told AP that the case of Juan Manuel Montes, whose lawyers say he is the first known DACA recipient to be deported, was “a little different than the Dreamer case,” though AP said he did not specify why.

Montes’ lawyers sued the government Tuesday, accusing U.S. Customs and Border Protection and Citizenship and Immigration Services of withholding information related to his deportation despite a FOIA request in mid-March.

Montes says he was deported on Feb. 17 without seeing a lawyer or immigration judge after he failed to produce identification for a border patrol agent, having left it in a friend’s car. DHS has said there is no record of that deportation, USA Today reported Tuesday when it broke the story.

Both Montes’ lawyers and DHS agree that Montes climbed over a border fence to cross into the United States on the Feb. 19, the Los Angeles Times reported. He was then returned to Mexico. Montes’ lawyers noted that he suffered a traumatic brain injury as a child.

The Department of Homeland Security originally incorrectly stated that Montes had not renewed his DACA status through this year. In fact, Montes had, DHS now acknowledges.

“There was a time in his life that this individual was a DACA registrant,” DHS Secretary John Kelly said Thursday in reference to Montes, according to the Washington Times. “But he gave that up in his behavior, by his illegal actions. He’s no longer covered by the DACA arrangement.”

The judge assigned to the lawsuit is Gonzalo Curiel, who also oversaw the multi-million dollar settlement between former students of the Trump U. wealth seminar courses and Trump in November, and whom Trump smeared as “a Mexican” during the campaign, though he was born in Indiana.

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Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Friday defended his reference t0 a federal judge in Hawaii as “a judge sitting on an island in the Pacific” after the judge blocked a revised travel ban from President Donald Trump in March.

The new ban suspended America’s refugee program and restricting travel from six Muslim-majority countries, among other things. Days after he blocked the order, on March 19, Judge Derrick Watson also rejected the federal government’s request that he narrow the scope of his restraining order. On March 29, he turned it into a preliminary injunction.

“Well I think that was a perfectly correct statement,” Sessions told MSNBC’s Ali Velshi.

“We have some 700 federal judges. One of them has now stopped the President of the United States, who’s briefed daily from the Department of Defense, the CIA, the Department of Justice, Homeland Security, on the dangers and threats we face. He’s issued a perfectly reasonable executive order.”

“I wasn’t diminishing the judge or the island of Hawaii, that beautiful place, give me a break,” Sessions said later in response to Velshi, who asked about criticism of Sessions’ remark. “I was just making the point that’s very real: one judge out of 700 has stopped the President of the United States from doing what he believes is necessary to protect our safety and security.”

Both of Hawaii’s senators quickly criticized Sessions’ remark Thursday. Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) called it “dog whistle politics.” Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) told Sessions to “have some respect.”

The state’s attorney general, Doug Chin, who represents Hawaii in its lawsuit against the federal government over the executive order, said in a statement, “Our Constitution created a separation of powers in the United States for a reason.”

“Our federal courts, established under article III of the Constitution, are co-equal partners with Congress and the President. It is disappointing AG Sessions does not acknowledge that,” he added.

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A Florida lawmaker has resigned days after using the n-word in front of two of his black colleagues in the state senate, and calling one of them a “bitch” and “girl.”

“My actions and my presence in government is now a distraction to my colleagues, the legislative process, and the citizens of our great State,” Sen. Frank Artiles (R) wrote in a letter Friday. “I am responsible and I am accountable and effective immediately, I am resigning from the Florida State Senate.”

The Miami Herald first reported that on Monday, Artiles told two black colleagues over drinks at the Governors Club in Tallahassee that the Florida Senate president had only been elected due to “six niggers” in his caucus. He also called one of the colleagues, Sen. Audrey Gibson (D), “this fucking asshole” and “this bitch.”

The Florida Democratic Party and several lawmakers immediately called for Artiles’ resignation, though no Republicans joined them at first.

“That’s a decision he’s going to have to make,” Florida GOP Chairman Rep. Blaise Ingoglia told Politico Tuesday, referring to the possibility of Artiles resigning. “It’s not my job as chair to say what somebody should or should not do.”

Artiles apologized on the Senate floor Wednesday morning. But shortly afterward, Sen. Perry Thurston (D), the other colleague at the Governors Club Monday night, filed a formal complaint on behalf of the state’s Legislative Black Caucus seeking his expulsion, the Herald reported, calling the remarks the latest in Artiles’ well-known history of racist remarks. Artiles was also stripped of a committee chairmanship.

Still, according the paper, the senator was defiant. He hired an aggressive lawyer to defend him in the Senate’s investigation of his actions and vowed Wednesday to file for and win re-election in 2018.

By Thursday, 4,000 people had signed two petitions calling for his resignation, according to the Miami New Times. El Nuevo Herald covered protesters outside his Kendall office.

On Friday, in the final two weeks of the state’s annual legislative session, Artiles resigned.

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Attorney General Jeff Sessions has said that it is a “priority” to arrest Wikileaks founder Julian Assange.

The remark came during a press conference in El Paso, Texas on Thursday, in response to a reporter who asked if it was the Department of Justice’s priority to arrest Assange “once and for all,” according to The Guardian.

“We are going to step up our effort and already are stepping up our efforts on all leaks,” Sessions said in response. “This is a matter that’s gone beyond anything I’m aware of. We have professionals that have been in the security business of the United States for many years that are shocked by the number of leaks and some of them are quite serious.”

“So yes it is a priority,” he continued. “We’ve already begun to step up our efforts, and whenever a case can be made, we will seek to put some people in jail.”

The remarks came hours before CNN reported, citing unnamed U.S. officials familiar with the matter, that authorities had “prepared charges to seek the arrest” of Assange.

It’s unclear so far what the charges against Assange would be. He has lived in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London since 2012, evading extradition to Sweden as part of a rape investigation against him.

During an interview with CNN’s Kate Bolduan on Friday, Sessions refused to confirm or deny even an investigation of Assange.

“We’ve seen too many breaches, and hopefully we’ll be able to strike back against those who violate our systems,” he said, speaking in general.

CIA Director Mike Pompeo on April 13 called Wikileaks “a non-state hostile intelligence service” and said that it had “directed Chelsea Manning in her theft of specific secret information.”

Pompeo did not discuss specific charges against Assange, but argued nonetheless that “we have to recognize that we can no longer allow Assange and his colleagues the latitude to use free speech values against us. To give them the space to crush us with misappropriated secrets is a perversion of what our great Constitution stands for. It ends now.”

During the 2016 election, Trump regularly praised Wikileaks for publishing information damaging to Hillary Clinton. And Pompeo once tweeted an article that used emails published by Wikileaks from the Democratic National Committee, writing “Need further proof that the fix was in from Pres. Obama on down? BUSTED: 19,252 Emails from DNC Leaked by WikiLeaks.”

CNN also reported Thursday that “The U.S. view of WikiLeaks and Assange began to change after investigators found what they believe was proof that WikiLeaks played an active role in helping Edward Snowden” in his leak of a massive trove of intelligence community documents in 2013.

Assange’s lawyer told CNN Thursday that he had not heard from the Department of Justice about any charges brought against Assange. Indeed, the Wikileaks’ founder’s legal team has long complained of the United States’ unwillingness to clarify whether or not Assange would be charged with a crime.

Bolduan asked Sessions if organizations like CNN or the New York Times should be concerned about similar charges brought against them. Both outlets, and hundreds of others, have published government information first released by Wikileaks.

“That’s speculative, and I’m not able to comment on that,” Sessions said.

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Hillary Clinton rallied a crowd of LGBT rights advocates Thursday, encouraging her audience to organize to protect what she said were increasingly insecure protections for the community.

Clinton spoke at a fundraiser for The Center, an LGBT community center in New York.

“We’ve learned something important,” she said, according to video from CNN. “The progress that we fought for, that many of you were on the front lines of, and that we’ve celebrated, and maybe even taken for granted, may not be as secure as we once expected.”

According to the network, she tallied the anti-LGBT steps already taken by the Trump administration: lifting the Obama-era protections for transgender students at public schools, proposing cuts to HIV/AIDS research and nominating the anti-LGBT Tennessee legislator Mark Green to be Army secretary.

“I also really appreciate that, after the election, you came together and decided unanimously to invest in advocacy and organizing,” she said separately, according to video from Alexandra Bergstein. “This is the right step. This is absolutely essential, that you do this.”

Clinton also highlighted reports out of Chechnya that gay and bisexual men were being rounded up and killed, despite government denials.

“The United States government — yes this government — should demand an end to the persecution of innocent people around the world.”

“But I think we have to face the fact that we may not ever be able to count on this administration to lead on LGBT issues,” she added later. “Let’s remember, 2018, the midterm elections!”

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