Catherine Thompson

Catherine Thompson is a reporter for Talking Points Memo. Before joining TPM, she worked as a research assistant to investigative reporter Wayne Barrett. She is a graduate of New York University, where 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

An Arkansas man was indicted by a federal grand jury Wednesday for making threats toward an Arizona congressman, including "bashing his teeth in," the Phoenix New Times reported.

Court records state Michael Wayne Cummins called the office of Rep. Ron Barber (D-AZ) on Aug. 20 to say he would like to assault the congressman.

Barber is a survivor of the 2011 Tucson shooting that seriously wounded former Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-AZ), whose congressional seat he took over in 2012. Barber was hit by bullets in the face and thigh during the incident, according to the New Times.

"I am not interested in killing Ron, but I am interested in bashing his teeth in and seeing him rot in hell," Cummins told the staff member, as quoted by the newspaper.

The man added the general threat "I am just going to start killing people indiscriminately," and spelled out his name for the staffer as well as his phone number.

Court records show Cummins confessed to making the call when the FBI visited him in Fort Smith, Ark., according to the newspaper. He was then brought to Tucson, Ariz. where he was indicted in federal court for threatening to assault Barber "with intent to impede, intimidate or interfere" with the congressman. 

Iranian President Hasan Rouhani declared Thursday in a Washington Post op-ed that the United States and the rest of the world "must work together to end the unhealthy rivalries and interferences that fuel violence and drive us apart" through a policy of "constructive engagement."

Rouhani, the newly elected moderate leader of a nation that has long been at odds with the U.S. over its nuclear policy, advocated for international dialogue on issues plaguing the Middle East. He modeled that kind of "constructive interaction" by declaring that Iran would "help facilitate dialogue" between the Syrian government and rebel opposition. 

The president also directly addressed tension over Iran's nuclear energy program, describing it as "peaceful" and arguing nuclear power "is as much about diversifying our energy resources as it is about who Iranians are as a nation."

Rouhani wrote that the international community needs to "aim higher" in order to move beyond sticking points like the Syrian conflict and Iran's nuclear policy, suggesting a desire for potential talks between Iran and the U.S. at the United Nations General Assembly next week.

"Rather than focusing on how to prevent things from getting worse, we need to think — and talk — about how to make things better," Rouhani wrote.

The Pennsylvania police chief who was suspended over a series of profane YouTube videos in which he fires borough-owned guns and refers to Democrats as "libtards" was effectively fired Thursday evening.

The borough council of Gilberton, Pa. voted 6-1 to suspend Chief Mark Kessler pending termination after meeting with him at a disciplinary hearing earlier that day, according to the Allentown Morning Call

Kessler's attorney, Joseph Nahas, told the newspaper that the council argued Kessler neglected official duties, did not properly hand over police weapons to the borough and disparaged council members, among other offenses. The council tried to avoid mentioning the YouTube videos that got Kessler suspended in their decision to fire him, Nahas said.

The council declined to comment to the Morning Call on what it called a personnel issue.

Kessler's law enforcement career may have a second act, however: Nahas said he will request a hearing on the council's decision, while Kessler himself launched a write-in campaign for the local county sheriff's office last week.

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) said Thursday that he may sue to prevent congressional staffers from receiving employer contributions under Obamacare, Roll Call reported.

Johnson filed a formal comment to the Office of Personnel Management last week that challenged a rule it issued allowing the federal government to contribute insurance premiums for lawmakers and congressional staff set to buy health care plans under the Affordable Care Act. He told Roll Call he filed the comment in order to create standing for a legal case.

“My intent is to make sure President Obama is not allowed to exceed his legal authority in implementing this law, and that members of Congress and their staffs are not shielded from the harmful effects of this law that every other American will experience," Johnson said in a Sept. 10 statement announcing he and his staffers had filed the comment, as quoted by Roll Call.

This post has been updated.

An attorney for former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin filed to postpone his client's corruption trial indefinitely after a judge granted a new trial in the Danzinger Bridge shooting case this week, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reported Thursday.

U.S. District Judge Kurt Engelhardt said in his Tuesday ruling that several government attorneys posted anonymous comments on the Times-Picayune's website that "distorted" justice in the Danzinger Bridge case. Nagin's attorney, Robert Jenkins, said in a filing Thursday that the same anonymous commenting by prosecutors on criminal matters is a concern in his client's case, according to the newspaper.

Nagin was indicted by a federal grand jury in January on charges including bribery, money laundering and tax fraud. He pleaded not guilty in February.

This post has been updated.

Police said two men with concealed-carry permits died Wednesday after a shootout allegedly motivated by road rage, the Grand Rapids Press reported. 

The initial police investigation showed Ionia, Mich. residents James Pullum, 43, and Robert Taylor, 56, pulled into a car wash parking lot after a confrontation on the road. They then exited their vehicles, drew handguns and exchanged fire, authorities said. 

Police found both men at the scene with gunshot wounds, and the two were pronounced dead at an area hospital soon after, according to the newspaper.

A California town removed its mayor this week, allegedly for her declaration of an LGBT pride month, Fresno TV station KFSN reported Wednesday. 

The city council in Porterville, Calif. voted to oust both Mayor Virginia Gurrula and Vice Mayor Pete McCracken by a 3 to 2 vote, according to the news station. Gurrula told KFSN that there was no basis for her removal, but said she was not surprised by the vote since she's a supporter of gay rights. The former mayor's supporters said the city council was rankled when Gurrula proclaimed June be designated as Porterville's LGBT Pride Month.

Gurrula's replacement Mayor Cameron Hamilton denied that the pride month spat was the reason for Gurrula's removal, according to the news station.

Porterville's city council received backlash from gay rights supporters in 2009 for publicly supporting California's Proposition 8, which banned gay marriage in the state.

[h/t Huffington Post]

Rep. Steve King (R-IA) invoked the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks at a rally in Omaha, Neb. Friday to argue that undocumented immigrants are responsible for the deaths of thousands of Americans.  

In a video recording of the event surfaced by the Des Moines Register on Thursday, King said a former immigration official from New York told him in congressional testimony that the number of Americans who have been killed by people who entered the country illegally would be "in multiples of the victims of Sept. 11."

"Now that hits home, doesn't it?" King said. "When you think about multiples of the victims of Sept. 11, three thousand times something."

The rally was held to honor victims of crimes committed by people residing in the United States illegally, according to the Omaha World-Herald, including a 93-year-old woman who died after being raped and beaten in her home by a native of Sonora, Mexico.

“The violent rape and murder of 93-year-old Louise Sollowin was a 100 percent preventable death,” King said. “What we needed to do was enforce our existing laws. We didn't even need to pass a new one.”

Friday's comments aren't King's first on the consequences of immigration policy. Back in July, King said that for every undocumented valedictorian, there are 100 more immigrants carrying drugs across the border.

EMILY's List, the group that supports Democratic female political candidates, endorsed Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley (D) for governor on Thursday, just four days after Coakley formally launched her campaign.

“Martha Coakley is a trailblazer who has shown an unwavering commitment to serving her community and Massachusetts as a strong advocate and problem solver for nearly three decades,” EMILY's List President Stephanie Schriock said in a press release. “She worked tirelessly to protect women and families from abuse by engaging communities in crime prevention efforts as district attorney. As attorney general, Martha fights for taxpayers and consumers and brings the criminals who betray their trust to justice. Martha Coakley will be the kind of bold, pragmatic governor that Massachusetts women and families need, and the EMILY’s List community – now more than two million members strong – is excited to support her campaign.”

Coakley is the most widely recognized candidate in a field of five Democrats, including another woman, former Homeland Security advisor Juliette Kayyem. The only Republican to announce his candidacy so far is former gubernatorial hopeful Charlie Baker.

Aaron Alexis carved odd messages on the shotgun he used to kill 12 people at the Washington, DC Navy Yard on Monday, according to media reports.

Alexis carved "better off this way" and "my ELF weapon" on the shotgun, according to a law enforcement document reviewed by the Associated Press. That document described the firearm as a "sawed off" Remington shotgun.

It's unclear what Alexis meant in carving the messages. As the Washington Post pointed out, ELF can be an acronym for "extremely low frequency" and may refer to communications efforts.

Officials said Alexis was treated for a host of mental problems prior to the Navy Yard shooting, including insomnia, and had been hearing voices in his head.