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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

Senior Obama administration officials held an unclassified conference call with Congressional leaders Thursday night to seek their input on a response to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime’s use of chemical weapons, according to the White House.

"The views of Congress are important to the President’s decision-making process, and we will continue to engage with Members as the President reaches a decision on the appropriate U.S. response to the Syrian government’s violation of international norms against the use of chemical weapons," the White House readout of the call read. 

Administration officials that participated in the call included National Security Advisor Susan Rice, Secretary of State John Kerry, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, and Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Sandy Winnefeld. Below is a list of members of Congress who participated in the briefing, according to the readout:

 Speaker John Boehner, R-OH

·         Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-CA

·         Senator Dick Durbin, D-IL, Assistant Majority Leader and Chairman, Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense

·         Senator John Cornyn, R-TX, Republican Whip

·         Representative Eric Cantor, R-VA, Majority Leader

·         Representative Kevin McCarthy, R-CA, Majority Whip

·         Representative Steny Hoyer, D-MD, Democratic Whip

·         Senator Charles Schumer, D-NY, Democratic Conference Committee Vice Chair

·         Senator Barbara Mikulski, D-MD, Chair, Appropriations Committee

·         Senator Carl Levin, D-MI, Chairman, Armed Services Committee

·         Senator Robert Menendez, D-NJ, Chairman, Foreign Relations Committee

·         Senator Dianne Feinstein, D-CA, Chair, Select Committee on Intelligence

·         Senator James Inhofe, R-OK, Ranking Member, Armed Services Committee

·         Senator Bob Corker, R-TN, Ranking Member, Foreign Relations Committee

·         Senator Saxby Chambliss, R-GA, Ranking Member, Select Committee on Intelligence

·         Senator Patrick Leahy, D-VT, Chairman, Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs

·         Senator Lindsey Graham, R-SC, Ranking Member, Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs

·         Senator Thad Cochran, R-MS, Ranking Member, Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense

·         Representative Bill Young, R-FL, Chairman, Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense

·         Representative Ed Royce, R-CA, Chairman, Foreign Affairs Committee

·         Representative Mike Rogers, R-MI, Chairman, Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence

·         Representative Nita Lowey, D-NY, Ranking Member Appropriations Committee and Ranking Member, Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs

·         Representative Buck McKeon, R-CA, Chairman, Armed Services Committee

·         Representative Eliot Engel, D-NY, Ranking Member, Foreign Affairs Committee

·         Representative Dutch Ruppersberger, D-MD, Ranking Member, Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence

·         Representative Kay Granger, R-TX, Chair, Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) released a statement late Thursday following a conference call briefing between Congressional leaders and the Obama administration that expressed her support for potential "measured, targeted and limited" military action in Syria.

"What Assad has done is outside the realm of basic human rights. On this evening’s call, I expressed my appreciation for the measured, targeted and limited approach the President may be considering," Pelosi said in the written statement.

Pelosi also said in the statement that those members of Congress on the call were "assured during the call there would be ongoing consultation with Congress."

"On the call, I agreed with Speaker Boehner and other Members who stated that there needs to be more consultation with all Members of Congress and additional transparency into the decision making process and timing, and that the case needs to be made to the American people," she added.

A source connected to the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington said Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC), the only sitting black senator, was not invited to speak at the event because his office had declined an invitation to attend the commemoration as a spectator, Roll Call reported.

An email exchange obtained by Roll Call showed that an invitation to the 50th anniversary commemoration appeared to be sent to all members of Congress, as the form letter identified the recipient as "Representative" rather than by name. 

The exchange showed that a staff assistant to Scott, Rachel Shelbourne, sent a reply to the invitation that read in part, "Unfortunately, the Senator will be in South Carolina during this time, so he will be unable to attend the event. Please do, however, keep him in mind for future events you may be hosting," as quoted by Roll Call.

The source explained to Roll Call that the speaking program was largely drafted according to who was able to confirm availability to attend the event.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) reportedly were invited to speak at the ceremony, but declined.

Colorado Attorney General John W. Suthers (R) reacted Thursday to the Department of Justice's announcement it would not sue the state over its marijuana legalization law, saying he was "mystified" that it "took so long" for the department to articulate the position.

“The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) contacted Governor John Hickenlooper and me this morning to inform us of the position they are taking with regard to Colorado having legalized marijuana at the state level," Suthers said in a written statement. "The position taken by DOJ is very much along the lines I anticipated and I remain mystified as to why it took so long to articulate it. Clarification of the federal position, however, is nevertheless welcome. Colorado state government will continue to develop a regulatory scheme that is as effective as possible under the dictates of Amendment 64, with recognition that the federal government will take action if the state regulatory scheme does not deter activity that runs afoul of federal enforcement priorities."

"The eight criteria set forth for future federal prosecutions of marijuana in Colorado will give state and local law enforcement officials a basis for discussion with federal law enforcement officials about prosecuting those who abuse Colorado’s marijuana regulatory system," the statement continued.

White House Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Thursday that an unclassified intelligence report about Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime's use of chemical weapons could be released to the public as soon as today. 

Earnest said in the daily White House press briefing that to his understanding, the report "has not been finalized as of this moment," but is "on track" to be produced by the end of the week. Asked if the report could be released today, Earnest said "I'm not ruling out today."

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.

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