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

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott (R) backtracked Sunday after initially thanking a supporter who called Abbott's potential 2014 opponent in the governor's race, state Sen. Wendy Davis (D), "retard barbie."

The offensive language was used in a tweet to the attorney general on Saturday, with the supporter also writing that Abbott would "demolish" Davis in a match-up and calling her an "idiot." Abbott replied on the same day, telling the supporter, "Jeff, thanks for your support."

But Abbott backtracked on Sunday with a second tweet. He did not apologize, but he wrote that he did not "endorse anyone's offensive language." An Abbott campaign spokesperson told the Dallas Morning News that the attorney general writes all of his tweets himself.

Davis has fueled speculation about a gubernatorial run after her marathon filibuster of an abortion bill earlier this year. Recently Davis said she will either be running for re-election to her state Senate seat or for the governor's office. 

This post has been updated.

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus on Sunday brushed off criticism of the organization's debate ultimatum from a former senior advisor to Mitt Romney's 2012 presidential campaign.  

"This Week" host George Stephanopoulos asked Priebus to respond to Eric Fehrnstrom's tweet, which said it was "bad optics" for the party and a "loser's game" to ban CNN and NBC from partnering with the RNC for 2016 presidential debates over pending film projects about Hillary Clinton.

"Well, I don’t know if his Etch a Sketch is on tilt, George," Priebus said. "I’m not really taking advice from Eric Fehrnstrom right now.”

The remark referenced Fehrnstrom's memorable comment on the 2012 campaign trail that seemed to imply Romney would change his position on key issues as need be to get elected.

“Well, I think you hit a reset button for the fall campaign,” Fehrnstrom said. “Everything changes. It’s almost like an Etch-A-Sketch. You can kind of shake it up and restart all over again.”

Correction: This post has been updated to correct the title of the show to "This Week."

An Alabama Republican Party member's Facebook post in support of gay marriage catalyzed a proposed amendment to the state party's bylaws that would remove anyone publicly supporting a position contrary to the national GOP platform from its steering committee, Yellowhammer News reported Thursday.

Alabama College Republicans Chairwoman Stephanie Petelos posted a positive reaction to the Supreme Court's striking down of the Defense of Marriage Act on Facebook this summer and invited her friends to "like" a page called "Young Conservatives for the Freedom to Marry," according to the news website.

“I feel like as a member of the Steering Committee and leadership, that you have a higher duty to support the party’s platform in your official capacity,” Don Wallace, the president of the Alabama Republican Assembly and the party member who proposed the amendment, told the Yellowhammer News. “When the College Republican Chairwoman made official statements in conflict with the party platform’s support for traditional marriage, as well as the Governor and Chairman Armistead, I believe that requires action by the Republican Party on both procedural and moral grounds.”

The Alabama GOP's executive committee will vote on the amendment on Aug. 24, according to the news website.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) on Friday expressed concern that the National Security Agency is not giving "straightforward answers" about its surveillance activity after a Washington Post report revealed the agency broke privacy rules thousands of times a year. 

"The American people rely on the intelligence community to provide forthright and complete information so that Congress and the courts can properly conduct oversight. I remain concerned that we are still not getting straightforward answers from the NSA," Leahy said in a written statement.

"I plan to hold another hearing on these matters in the Judiciary Committee and will continue to demand honest and forthright answers from the intelligence community," the statement continued. "Using advanced surveillance technologies in secret demands close oversight and appropriate checks and balances, and the American people deserve no less than that."

The Republican National Committee is scheduled to vote at 11 a.m. EST Friday on a resolution barring CNN and NBC from parterning with the organization for 2016 presidential debates unless those networks scuttle planned film productions about Hillary Clinton. Watch live below. 

NSA leaker Edward Snowden told the Huffington Post on Thursday that news organizations have been "misled" by associates of his father into printing "false claims" about his legal situation.

"I would like to correct the record: I've been fortunate to have legal advice from an international team of some of the finest lawyers in the world, and to work with journalists whose integrity and courage are beyond question," Snowden wrote in an email to the Huffington Post's Michael Calderone. "There is no conflict amongst myself and any of the individuals or organizations with whom I have been involved."

"Neither my father, his lawyer Bruce Fein, nor his wife Mattie Fein represent me in any way," the email continued. "None of them have been or are involved in my current situation, and this will not change in the future. I ask journalists to understand that they do not possess any special knowledge regarding my situation or future plans, and not to exploit the tragic vacuum of my father's emotional compromise for the sake of tabloid news."

Snowden's email "correcting the record" came on the heels of a Wall Street Journal report published Thursday, in which Mrs. Fein said the lawyers of Snowden's father believed journalist Glenn Greenwald and Julian Assange's WikiLeaks organization had been working to promote their own interests over those of Snowden.

An advisor to Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) on Thursday dismissed New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's (R) speech at a luncheon for the Republican National Committee, in which the governor argued the GOP needs to govern rather than brainstorm.

"I think that we have some folks who believe that our job is to be college professors … for our ideas to matter we have to win," Christie said at the closed-door luncheon, according to media reports. "Because if we don't win, we don't govern. And if we don't govern, all we do is shout to the wind."

"So if I translate Gov. Christie correctly, we shouldn't be the party of ideas," Paul adviser Doug Stafford wrote CNN in an email. "We shouldn't care what we stand for or even if we stand for anything. We reject that idea. Content-free so-called 'pragmatism' is the problem, not the solution."

Christie's speech hearkened back to a heated feud between he and the Kentucky senator over the direction of the party. Christie had called the strain of libertarianism in the GOP "dangerous," dismissing politicians like Paul as "esoteric" and too caught up in "intellectual debates."

Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean (D) plans to travel to Iowa later this month to speak at a labor convention, the New York Times reported Thursday.

An aide for Democracy for America, the grassroots progressive PAC Dean founded, told the Times that the former presidential candidate will speak about the group's efforts to elect more Democrats to state legislatures at the Iowa Federation of Labor convention in Altoona on Aug. 21. Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) urged Dean to speak at the convention, according to the aide.

Dean recently told CNN that he would consider launching another presidential bid. 

"This isn’t the last you’ll be hearing of Dean and Democracy for America in Iowa leading up to 2016,” the aide told the Times.

Molly Crabapple is a New York illustrator and artist who has aptly been called "equal parts Hieronymus Bosch, William S. Burroughs and Cirque du Soleil." She recently visited the detention facility at the US military base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba as only the third person allowed to draw the prison and court proceedings at what has become one of the most iconic and controversial plots of land in the world in the last decade. Her visit coincided with the pre-trial hearings of admitted 9/11 plotter Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and his co-conspirators. And she wrote about it in an illustrated essay for VICE. TPM's Catherine Thompson spoke to Crabapple last week about what she hoped to accomplish with her sketch pad in the face of 24/7 military escorts and in the midst of what she wrote was "a concentration camp on the Caribbean." She returns to Gitmo later this month.


TPM: I'd like to ask some about your sketches and your drawing process. How did people react to the act of you sketching while you were there? Watching the trials, for instance?

MOLLY CRABAPPLE: People in general liked it. Sketching in general - anywhere, not just in Gitmo, but in life, in the world - is a profoundly disruptive act. Because you're creating something when you're kind of expected to consume or sit passively. I've always sketched things as a way to get into them, whether it was a fancy nightclub or, you know, to have kids think I was cool, whatever. I always used drawing as a bridge.

I think a lot of the Army people liked my drawings. When I was in court, I wasn't allowed to take my sketchbook out of the courtroom without an official censor stickering each page. And they were kind of disturbed initially that there were two sketch artists there. Because there's this one brilliant woman named Janet Hamlin who's been coming for seven years and who documents everything. They're super-used to Janet and how she works. She's an amazing court artist. But I think it kind of freaked them out that there were two of us, because we get to bring extra things into the courtroom. Normal journalists aren't allowed to bring anything into the courtroom at all except a notebook and a pencil. They can't bring a bag; they can't bring contact solution, nothing. And we get to come in with our art supplies.

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Former Rep. Gabby Giffords' (D-AZ) gun control group plans to return a donation it received from actress Bette Midler's private foundation, the Center for Public Integrity reported Thursday.

Campaign records showed that among other donations from nonprofit organizations to the group, Midler's foundation had given $10,000 to Giffords' Americans for Responsible Solutions PAC, according to the Center for Public Integrity. Tax experts told the center that such donations from private foundations could be "very problematic."

Because it is a 501(c)(3), Midler's foundation is barred from participating directly or indirectly in political campaigns, the center noted. In addition, private foundations are also barred from lobbying to influence legislation.

"These are not illegal contributions for us to take, but it’s our understanding that the donations are not appropriate for the donors to make,” Katie Hill, the communications director for Americans for Responsible Solutions, wrote the Center for Public Integrity in an email. “Thus, we are processing refunds, which will be disclosed on our next report.”

Campaign finance records showed that Americans for Responsible Solutions raised more than any other super PAC during the first half of 2013, taking in $6.6 million.