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 toured a former slave house on Goree Island, Senegal Thursday as part of his three-day trip to Africa.

Obama was accompanied by First Lady Michelle Obama and his daughters. The former slave house's "Door of No Return," opening onto the Atlantic Ocean, is said to have been the last location for slaves being shipped to North America. The president spent a few moments there alone, per a pool report.

The president said the trip was a reminder that "we have to remain vigilant when it comes to the defense of human rights," according to the report.

"Obviously, for an African American, an African American president, to be able to visit this site, I think, gives me even greater motivation in terms of human rights around the world," he added.

Sen. Jeff Chiesa (R-NJ) said that he will vote yes on comprehensive immigration reform, slated to come to a vote on final passage Thursday.

“As a former Federal prosecutor and Attorney General for the State of New Jersey, I have looked carefully at this debate through the lens of public safety and law enforcement," Chiesa said in a statement. "This bill strengthens border security, E-verify and better identifies visa overstays through an improved entry/exit system. I will vote for this immigration bill because I believe it is the right thing to do.”

Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) said that a vote on the final passage of the Senate's comprehensive immigration reform bill will likely come at about 4:00 p.m. ET Thursday.

Three separate procedural tests on Wednesday saw 67 supporters or more voting yes on the bill. Two more procedural tests were set for Thursday.

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) shot back Thursday at Wall Street Journal columnist James Taranto, who in a June 17 op-ed had accused her of trying to "criminalize male sexuality" through her crusade against sexual assault in the military.

"Mr. Taranto says that I’m involved in a crusade to 'criminalize male sexuality,'" McCaskill said in an article published in the Daily Beast. "For decades, from my time as a courtroom prosecutor and throughout my career in public service, I have indeed done my best to criminalize violence. And I have never subscribed to Mr. Taranto’s bizarre and deeply out of touch understanding of sexual assault as somehow being a two-way street between a victim and an assailant.

"Mr. Taranto’s arguments contribute to an environment that purposely places blame in all the wrong places, and has made the current culture and status quo an obstruction to sorely needed change," she added. "My colleagues and I are fighting not to criminalize men, but to bring the cowards who commit sexual assault to justice."

A longtime Wikileaks volunteer who was close to Julian Assange became a paid informant for the FBI, Wired reported Thursday.

Sigurdur Thordarson, 20, of Iceland told Wired he received $5,000 from the FBI in exchange for sharing Wikileaks chat logs, video, and other data with the U.S. government.

According to Wired, Thordarson approached the U.S. government in August 2011 and was flown internationally for debriefings with the FBI a total of four times. When asked why he came to the FBI, Thoradson said "I guess I cooperated because I didn’t want to participate in having [hacking gangs] Anonymous and Lulzsec hack for Wikileaks, since then you’re definitely breaking quite a lot of laws.”

Wikileaks fired Thordarson in November 2011 when it accused him of embezzling funds through an online T-shirt store in the organization's name. After a final meeting with the FBI in March of the next year, in which Thordarson turned over the eight hard drives worth of data to the agency, he was let go. 

The FBI declined to comment for the Wired article.

Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis (D), who generated buzz this week when she led an epic, nearly 13-hour filibuster of a restrictive proposed abortion bill, said Wednesday that she would consider running for higher office.

"I would be lying if I told you that I hadn't had aspirations to run for a statewide office," Davis told MSNBC's Chris Hayes when asked if she would run for governor.

She added that chances are "pretty good" that the sentiment of Texans towards the abortion bill foreshadows a desire for new leadership. 

Watch the interview below, courtesy of MSNBC:

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Texas held its 500th modern execution Wednesday night since the state reinstated the death penalty over 30 years ago, according to the Dallas Morning News.

Kimberly McCarthy, 52, was executed for the 1997 murder of her neighbor, a 71-year-old college professor, during a robbery.

The milestone puts Texas far ahead of other states that allow capital punishment. Virginia has had 110 modern executions, making it the next highest total to Texas.

Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) ripped into a witness Wednesday during a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing, debunking his claim to military disability status over an injury he suffered decades ago, according to the Washington Post.

A congressional investigation found that Braulio Castillo, President and CEO of Strong Castle, Inc., filed a claim for service-disabled veteran status in 2012 entitling him to lucrative business contracts. Castillo cited an ankle injury he sustained while at the U.S. Military Academy Preparatory School in 1984.

Duckworth, who lost both her legs while serving in the Iraq War, was angered by Castillo's claim.

"I'm sorry that twisting your ankle in high school has now come back to hurt you in such a painful way, if also opportune for you to gain this status for your business as you were trying to compete for contracts," Duckworth said.

"Shame on you, Mr. Castillo," she added. "Shame on you. You may not have broken any laws … but you certainly broke the trust of this great nation. You broke the trust of veterans."

Watch Duckworth questioning Castillo below:

California Attorney General Kamala Harris (D) on Wednesday urged the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to lift the stay on the injunction against Proposition 8 and allow same-sex couples to marry "as quickly as possible."

"I am calling on the Ninth Circuit today to urge them on the strongest terms that they lift the stay and enforce the permanent injunction that [Justice] Vaughn Walker outlined so marriages can begin in California immediately," Harris said in a press conference.

In response to a reporter's question, Harris acknowledged that the appeals court could legally delay lifting the injunction for a waiting period of 25 days, but again urged the court to use its power to lift the stay as soon as possible.

Harris further praised the Supreme Court's dismissal of the case on the grounds that its parties had no standing, arguing that their ruling sent the message that those who wish to challenge gay marriage "cannot do so simply because they don't like the notion."

Earlier in the day, Gov. Jerry Brown (D) issued an order to California county clerks mandating the issue of marriage licenses as soon as the Prop 8 injunction is lifted.