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

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:

A Colorado town that will decide next month whether or not it will issue permits to shoot down drones from the sky has been flooded by hundreds of applications as far away as the United Kingdom.

Deer Town, Colo. Clerk Kim Oldfield said the town has gotten more then 985 applications for $25 hunting permits that would allow them to shoot down unmanned aerial vehicles, according to Reuters. She said the applications came from all over the country and overseas, including the U.K. and Canada. 

Oldfield told Reuters she was setting aside the application checks until the town's 380 registered voters decide on the issue next month, and plans to return the payments should the proposal be rejected.

The resident who proposed the ordinance, Army veteran Phillip Steel, told Reuters that he's already sold about 150 mock drone-hunting licenses online. He vowed to continue selling the permits if his proposal doesn't pass the ballot in protest of what he calls "a surveillance society."

The Federal Aviation Association warned soon after the Deer Trail ordiance was proposed that "shooting at an unmanned aircraft could result in criminal or civil liability, just as would firing at a manned airplane."

A plan to send a delegation of Russian lawmakers to Washington to lobby members of Congress against military intervention in Syria has been cancelled, the speaker of Russia's parliament said Friday.

State Duma Speaker Sergei Naryshkin called U.S. lawmakers' refusal to meet with the delegation deplorable, according to CBS News, stating the lawmakers would no longer make the trip to the U.S.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) rejected the delegation's request to meet on Capitol Hill. A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), Adam Jentleson, confirmed Thursday that Reid had also rejected the request, according to CBS News.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, who supported sending the delegation, has said the idea that U.S. evidence could show Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime used chemical weapons against rebel soldiers is "utter nonsense."

Bill O'Reilly voiced his support for military strikes against Syria Thursday night, slamming both the left and the right for their de facto opposition to military intervention.

The Fox News host rattled off an extensive number of current and former politicians and pundits on both sides of the aisle along with their positions on Syria, calling the debate on the issue "healthy" before tearing into what he saw as baseless reasons for opposing military action.

"Back in America, it distresses me that some on the left will not support military action designed to protect and strengthen this country, ever," he said. "Some on the right despise Barack Obama so much that whatever he does, they oppose. We Americans should always put country first." 

O'Reilly said opposing military intervention is "valid if done for the right reasons," but called those opposing strikes on the basis of the "fantasy" Syrian President Bashar al-Assad did not use chemical weapons "flat out wrong."

"If you believe it would cause more harm to this country than good in the long run, then opposition is a must. I don't believe that," he said.



Deputy National Security Advisor Tony Blinken said Friday that it's neither President Barack Obama's "desire nor his intention" to strike Syria without Congressional approval.

Speaking on NPR's Morning Edition, Blinken said the president "has the authority to act, but it's neither his desire nor his intention to use that authority absent Congress backing him."

Obama said earlier this week at a press conference in Sweden that he believes he was not required to consult Congress on striking Syria, but predicted that Congress would pass a resolution authorizing the use of military force.

TPM is keeping track of where members of Congress stand on the Syrian intervention vote here.

Secretary of State John Kerry warned Thursday that if the United States does not act in Syria, extremists could hijack "moderate" opposition forces supported by the U.S and its allies.

In an interview with MSNBC's Chris Hayes, Kerry was asked if rebel soldiers shown in a video obtained by the New York Times, in which they allegedly prepare to execute seven captured Syrian soldiers, would be considered U.S. allies.

"No. In fact, I believe that those men in those videos are disadvantaged by an American response to the chemical weapons used because it, in fact, empowers the moderate opposition," Kerry responded.

The secretary said the administration is aware of close to a dozen "really bad" groups fighting against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime. But he said that U.S.-supported rebels go through a "vetting process," warning of "jihadists who have been attracted by the chaos of Syria."

"They are not part of the opposition that is being supported by our friends and ourselves," Kerry said of the rebel soldiers in the video. "That is a moderate opposition. They condemn what has happened today."

"I guarantee you if we turn our backs today, the picture we all saw in the paper today and the media of those people being shot, that will take place more because more extremists will be attracted to this, because they will be funded as the only alternative in order to take on Assad," he added.

Watch below, courtesy of MSNBC: 

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President Barack Obama is scheduled hold a press conference Friday at 9:50 a.m. ET from the G20 Leader's Summit in Saint Petersburg, Russia, according to the White House.

According to the White House schedule, Obama was also expected to hold bilateral meetings with President Xi Jinping of China and President Francois Hollande of France, as well as host a roundtable with members of Russian civil society later in the day.