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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

Vice President Joe Biden on Thursday foreshadowed that if Congress doesn't work toward advancing gun control measures, legislators may pay for their inaction in the 2014 midterms.

Before swearing in Todd Jones, the new director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), Biden said the Obama administration's newly announced executive actions on gun control are a "simple, common sense way to reduce gun violence," according to a White House pool report. Those orders reign in the import of military weapons and propose closing a loophole that allows those ineligible to own a gun to register a firearm through a corporation or trust. 

Earlier this year, legislation that would have expanded background checks to gun shows and Internet sales failed to make it past a Senate filibuster.

"If Congress doesn't act we'll fight for a new Congress. It's that simple," Biden said, according to the pool report. "But we're going to get this done."

Former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden gained access to some of the secret agency documents he leaked to the media earlier this year by borrowing the identities of top NSA officials, NBC News reported Thursday.

An anonymous intelligence official told NBC News that the NSA's forensic investigation has already identified multiple instances where Snowden accessed some documents on the NSA's intranet, NSAnet, by borrowing other employees' user profiles.

Snowden, as a system administrator, had the ability to create and modify user profiles on NSAnet in addition to accessing the intranet using those profiles, according to intelligence officials. He accessed the most sensitive documents by borrowing the user profiles of employees with higher level security clearances than his own "top secret" clearance.

“Every day, they are learning how brilliant [Snowden] was,” a former U.S. official with knowledge of the case told NBC News. “This is why you don’t hire brilliant people for jobs like this. You hire smart people. Brilliant people get you in trouble.”

Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis (D) said Wednesday that she'd be postponing the announcement of her decision whether to run for governor while she cares for her sick father, even as Texas Democrats have begun searching for a potential running mate. 

“I had hoped to make public my decision about that next week, but with everything that’s going on with my dad, I won’t be doing that,” Davis told the Texas Tribune. “It’s likely it will be late September before I do.”

Her father, Jerry Russell, has been in critical condition in a Fort Worth, Texas hospital since complications arose from an abdominal surgery, according to the Tribune.

According to the Dallas Morning News, some business leaders and state Democrats have already approached at least five politicians, including state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte (D) of San Antonio, about joining a Democratic ticket should Davis decide to run.

“I’m not ruling it out, but right now I’m holding off on considering it until Wendy decides what she’s going to do,” Van de Putte, a potential lieutenant governor pick, told the newspaper.

A sorority at the University of Alabama offered incentives like free drinks and limo rides to the polls for members who cast votes in the Tuscaloosa City Board of Education election, the Birmingham News reported Wednesday.

An email obtained Monday by the newspaper, sent by a member of the sorority chapter's executive board, urged members residing in the city's District 4 to vote in exchange for perks. The email also encouraged members to vote for certain candidates.

"In a list that was e-mailed to me this weekend, y'all are the only [members] registered in the specific district that are allowed to vote," the email read, as quoted by the Birmingham News. "Cason Kirby, a past SGA president of the University of Alabama is running for the City Board of Education, and Lee Garrison a UA Alum is also running." 

"They would really appreciate/need your vote to win this election. It's going to be really tight, and it is SO IMPORTANT that they get the Greek Vote," the email continued. "I told both of them that I would do my best to make sure that I got every Chi O that was registered to the polls. There is a big incentive for you going as well!!"

Stretch limousines could be seen shuttling passengers to and from sorority row and the District 4 polling station Tuesday, according to the newspaper. Both Kirby and Garrison were narrowly elected, although their opponents did not immediately concede.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) issued a statement on Syria late Wednesday that condemned a use of force if it was done "simply to save face."

“Military action, taken simply to save face, is not a wise use of force,” Rubio wrote in a press release, as quoted by the Miami Herald. The statement came after the Herald and another local newspaper, the Tampa Bay Times, published separate stories about how Rubio had stayed quiet on the situation in Syria.

“My advice is to either lay out a comprehensive plan using all of the tools at our disposal that stands a reasonable chance of allowing the moderate opposition to remove Assad and replace him with a stable secular government,” the press release continued. “Or, at this point, simply focus our resources on helping our allies in the region protect themselves from the threat they and we will increasingly face from an unstable Syria.”

Rubio's colleagues Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Rand Paul (R-KY), however, were quick to condemn U.S intervention in Syria. Cruz said Monday that the "United States Armed Forces doesn't exist to be a policeman for the world," while Paul said in a statement earlier on Wednesday that Syria has "no clear national security connection to the United States."

This post has been updated.

President Barack Obama said Wednesday that although he has not yet made a decision about a potential military strike against the Syrian government over its use of chemical weapons, any action the U.S. may decide to take against Syria must send a "pretty strong signal" that prevents further proliferation. 

"I have not made a decision, but I think it's important that if, in fact, we make a choice to have repercussions for the use of chemical weapons, then the Assad regime, which is involved in a civil war, trying to protect itself, will have received a pretty strong signal, that in fact, it better not do it again," Obama said in an interview with PBS' "NewsHour."

Although he said he had "no interest" in an "open-ended conflict" with Syria, Obama reiterated that his administration believes Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime did in fact carry out a chemical weapons attack and must face "international consequences."

Watch the interview segment below, courtesy of PBS:

Correction: This post incorrectly attributed the interview segment to CBS. The video is courtesy of PBS.

Former Rep. Joe Walsh (R-IL) commemorated the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech Wednesday by delivering his own list enumerating problems he sees facing the African-American community on his talk radio program.

The list, titled "My Own Dream for America," was posted on his radio program's website:

I have a dream that all black parents will have the right to choose where their kids attend school.

I have a dream that all black boys and girls will grow up with a father.

I have a dream that young black men will stop shooting other young black men.

I have a dream that all young black men will say “no” to gangs and to drugs.

I have a dream that all black young people will graduate from high school.

I have a dream that young black men won’t become fathers until after they’re married and they have a job.

I have a dream that young unmarried black women will say “no” to young black men who want to have sex.

I have a dream that today’s black leadership will quit blaming racism and “the system” for what ails black America.

I have a dream that black America will take responsibility for improving their own lives.

I have a dream that one day black America will cease their dependency on the government plantation, which has enslaved them to lives of poverty, and instead depend on themselves, their families, their churches, and their communities.

As Mother Jones notes, Walsh, a former Tea Party representative who lost to Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) in 2012, was sued by his ex-wife in 2011 for failing to pay over $100,000 in child support payments.

A town official in Maine was visited by the Secret Service Tuesday after posting a message to Facebook referring to President Barack Obama with a racial slur and calling for him to be shot, the Portland Press Herald reported.

David Marsters, a retired Massachusetts police officer and a candidate for selectman in Sabattus, Maine, posted a photo of Obama along with a link to a story about a Republican push to impeach the president at 8:17 p.m. Friday, writing "Shoot the Nigger" above it, according to the newspaper.

Marsters told the Press Herald that after his Facebook post was flagged to local law enforcement by other residents, he was visited by both the Secret Service and the CIA. He said he told the Secret Service agents who questioned him that he didn't intend to threaten the president. 

Marsters told the Press Herald in a telephone interview that his post was taken out of context.

"I think it's a lot of hogwash," he said. "I did not threaten the president. ... I might have used the wrong words. ... I didn't say I was going to do it."

"What I really meant to say is, 'When are we going to get rid of this (expletive),'" Marsters added. "I should have said, 'I hope the bastard dies.'"

View the post below, archived by the Lewiston-Auburn Sun-Journal:

Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst (R) said he was acting as a "very concerned uncle" when he called the Allen police department on Aug. 3 in hopes of getting his nephew's wife released from jail on shoplifting charges.

Dewhurst told Austin television station KVUE on Saturday that he never had a family member arrested before and didn't know the rules.

"How would you feel if you had two family members call and they were so distraught that they could barely talk?" Dewhurst said. "And so I simply wanted to know what the procedures were, what could be done, if anything."

Allen police released audio of the phone call last week to Dallas television KXAS, and Dewhurst could be heard on the call demanding to talk to "the most senior police officer you have" and referring to himself as "the No. 1 pick of all the law enforcement agencies in Texas."

"I'm the type of guy that I care for family, I care for my friends, I care for the people of Texas and I'm going to fight for them," Dewhurst told KVUE.

Carl DeMaio, a former San Diego city councilman and current Republican congressional candidate, dismissed a news report that alleged he had been seen masturbating in a men's room after leaving council meetings as "disgusting, humiliating and nothing more than a character assassination attempt."

“In politics, you see people make accusations all the time. And you know, I’ve had people criticize me before and I usually let it roll off my back,” DeMaio told San Diego's KNSD in an interview published Wednesday. “But this one crosses the line. It’s so gross. It’s so false, that I have to speak out. I have to present the truth.”

The Voice of OC reported late last week on allegations that DeMaio had been seen masturbating in the men's room in City Hall on at least two occasions, quoting former City Councilman Ben Hueso.

DeMaio provided KNSD with the results of a polygraph test taken on Aug. 26, in which the polygraph examiner concluded the "subject was not attempting deception" when he answered "no" to whether he recalled masturbating in the City Hall men's room when Hueso came in or if Hueso ever saw DeMaio masturbate.

Hueso's office told KNSD that he stands by the statements in the Voice of OC article, while attorney Robert Ottlie has sent a letter to the Voice of OC on DeMaio's behalf demanding a correction.  

DeMaio lost a mayoral runoff to outgoing Mayor Bob Filner, who plans to resign after being accused of inappropriate behavior by at least 18 women, in November. DeMaio hasn't ruled out running for the office again, according to San Diego's KGTV.

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