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Catherine Thompson

Catherine Thompson is a news writer for Talking Points Memo. Before joining TPM, she worked as a research assistant to investigative reporter Wayne Barrett and interned at The L Magazine. At New York University she served as the deputy managing editor of NYU's student newspaper, The Washington Square News. She can be reached at catherine@talkingpointsmemo.com.

Articles by Catherine

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power was pressed on Monday about the legality of potential U.S. military strikes against Syria and maintained that such action is "legitimate, necessary and proportionate."

"You're representing the U.S. at the United Nations, which has not authorized a strike," NPR Morning Edition host Steve Inskeep asked the ambassador. "Would an American strike on Syria be legal?"

"If we take military action in this context, it will be a legitimate, necessary and proportionate response to this large-scale and indiscriminate use of chemical weapons by the [Syrian] regime," Power responded.

Inskeep later asked Power to clarify whether she intended to say that at this stage in the process the Obama administration needed to go outside the "legal framework" to attack Syria.

In response, Power reiterated an argument she's made over the past several days: that it has been "structurally impossible" for the United States to get support for military action through the U.N. Security Council due to Russia's support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime.

[h/t Huffington Post]

Secretary of State John Kerry said Monday that limited missile strikes the United States were planning against Syria would constitute an "unbelievably small" attack.

"We will be able to hold [Syrian President] Bashar al-Assad accountable without engaging in troops on the ground or any other prolonged kind of effort in a very limited, very targeted, short-term effort that degrades his capacity to deliver chemical weapons without assuming responsibility for Syria's civil war," Kerry said at a press conference in London, as quoted by the Guardian. "That is exactly what we are talking about doing – unbelievably small, limited kind of effort."

Kerry also suggested that Assad could avoid a U.S. attack altogether if he were to turn any chemical weapons he may possess over to the international community within the next week, but acknowledged that scenario would be highly unlikely.

Three Tea Party-supported Republican lawmakers thanked the Egyptian military for both the July 3 overthrow of former President Mohammed Morsi and crackdowns on protesters in the chaotic weeks that followed in a video released Saturday.

The video, published Saturday, was apparently recorded a few hours after Reps. Michele Bachmann (R-MN), Steve King (R-IA) and Louie Gohmert (R-TX) met with Egyptian military leader General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi over the weekend, according to the Washington Post.

“I want to assure the people of Egypt that I, as a member of Congress, will stand strong in support of continuing military support, United States support financially, to stand for the military in Egypt,” said Bachmann, who led the remarks. “We know that you have been a partner. You’ve been a partner in the war on terrorism. You’ve acted bravely here on the front lines.”

Bachmann went on to suggest that the Muslim Brotherhood, the party of the former Egyptian president, was responsible for the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks.

"We have seen the threat that the Muslim Brotherhood has posed, here, for the people of Egypt. We’ve seen the threat that the Muslim Brotherhood posed around the world," she continued. "We stand against this great evil. We remember who caused nine-one-one in America. We remember who it was that killed 3,000 brave Americans. We have not forgotten. We know that you have dealt with that enemy as well.”

The Republican lawmakers' effusive praise contrasted the Obama administration's cautious position on Egypt's interim government. While the president and his staff have not described the transition of power in Egypt as a "coup," administration officials have weighed suspending aid to that country in the wake of bloody crackdowns on civilian protests. 

An effort has been launched in Maryland to separate five western counties fed up with liberal leadership from the rest of the state, the Washington Post reported Sunday.

The move has been led by Maryland resident Scott Strzelczyk's Western Maryland Initiative. Strzelczyk, 49, is an information technology consultant who considers himself a constitutionalist. 

“If you think you have a long list of grievances and it’s been going on for decades, and you can’t get it resolved, ultimately this is what you have to do,” Strzelczyk, who resides in Carroll County, told the Post. “Otherwise you are trapped.”

Strzelczyk told the Post he wants to live in a smaller state with more "personal liberty, less government intrusion, less federal entanglements.” Among his other political notions are putting gay marriage to a vote and abolishing the U.S. Department of Education.

The five western counties -- Garrett, Allegany, Washington, Frederick and Carroll -- comprise just 11 percent of the Maryland's population, according to 2010 Census estimates, and vote overwhelmingly Republican.

Stzelczyk has yet to push county commissioners to put the initiative to voters.

Other secession efforts that have cropped up across the nation this summer have moved closer to achieving their goals. Colorado's Weld County voted to put a 51st state initiative on the November ballot last month. Last week, the board of California's Siskiyou County voted to secede from that state.

[Image via Shutterstock / Glynnis Jones]

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) slammed the U.S. Supreme Court on Sunday as being too right-wing in serving the interests of corporate America.

Warren warned union leaders at the AFL-CIO convention in Los Angeles of a "corporate capture of the federal courts," citing an academic study that counted the five conservative-minded Supreme Court justices among the "top 10 most pro-corporate justices in half a century," according to Politico.

“You follow this pro-corporate trend to its logical conclusion, and sooner or later you’ll end up with a Supreme Court that functions as a wholly owned subsidiary of big business,” she said, as quoted by Politico. 

The Massachusetts Democrat also struck a chord with labor by voicing skepticism about upcoming trade deals and criticizing Wall Street for throwing "everything they've got" against banking regulation.

"Ah, if we could only clone her," AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said after Warren concluded her remarks, as quoted by Politico.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is expected to make her first public remarks on U.S. military action in Syria when she visits the White House on Monday, a Clinton aide told Politico.

The unidentified aide told Politico that Clinton's remarks will come after a private meeting with President Barack Obama, when she appears at an unrelated wildlife preservation event at which her daughter Chelsea appears on the program. Clinton is expected to briefly speak about Syria at the beginning of the event, the aide said.

Clinton is also expected to reiterate her remarks in a speech Tuesday at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, the source said.

Last week, an unnamed Clinton aide said the former secretary of state "supports the President’s effort to enlist the Congress in pursuing a strong and targeted response to the Assad regime’s horrific use of chemical weapons."

President Barack Obama joined Vice President Joe Biden Sunday night at the Naval Observatory for a dinner Biden hosted for Republican senators, according to the White House.

Obama spent about an hour and a half meeting with the senators before returning to the White House, according to pool reports. In attendance were Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Susan Collins (R-ME), Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), Bob Corker (R-TN), Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) and Deb Fischer (R-NE).

The Obama administration has been lobbying members of Congress since the president announced he would seek their approval for military action against Syria in response to a reported chemical weapons attack on Aug. 21 in Damascus.

New Jersey handgun permits increased by 67 percent through June this year compared to the same period in 2012, the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday.

The state issued 59,120 permits to purchase handguns in the first six months of 2013, according to data provided to the Journal by state police. For that same period in 2012, 35,425 permits were issued, and a total of 64,107 were issued for the entire year.

New Jersey, which already had some of the strictest gun laws in the country, has adopted 11 new gun control measures since the Newtown, Conn. elementary school shooting. Gov. Chris Christie (R) vetoed three other measures last month that would have banned sales of .50-caliber rifles, altered the way the state issued firearm-identification cards and established a training safety course for gun owners, according to the Journal.

Vice President Joe Biden lavished praise on Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano as he bid farewell Friday at her going away ceremony.

"I think Janet Napolitano should be on the Supreme Court of the United States," Biden said, as quoted by CNN.

Napolitano had been on President Barack Obama's shortlist of potential Supreme Court nominees in 2009 and 2010, but that distinction was ultimately bestowed upon Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.

Napolitano stepped down from the Department of Homeland Security to lead the University of California system as its first-ever female president. 

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) said Thursday that President Barack Obama would run the risk of impeachment if he were to put "boots on the ground" in Syria.

McCain spoke to Phoenix KFYI radio host Mike Broomhead after getting grilled by constituents for supporting missile strikes on Syria at a pair of town halls. McCain specified that he did not favor sending American troops into Syria, however.

The Arizona Republican said he understood his constituents' skepticism in the wake of the Iraq War, but urged they "look at the facts."

"The fact is [President] Bashar Assad has massacred 100,000 people. The conflict is spreading … Iraq has now become a haven for al-Qaeda and the violence is greater than in 2008, the Russians are all in, the Iranians are all in, and it’s an unfair fight,” McCain said. “And no one wants American boots on the ground. Nor will there be American boots on the ground because there would be an impeachment of the president if they did that.” 

He added that the president has "bungled" the response to Syria "beyond belief" by consulting Congress after anouncing he would strike Syria.

Listen below, courtesy of KFYI:

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