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Hunter Walker

Hunter Walker is a national affairs reporter for TPM. He came to the site in 2013 from the New York Observer. He has also written for New York Magazine, Gawker, the Village Voice, Forbes, The Daily, and Deadspin. He can be reached at hunter@talkingpointsmemo.com

Articles by Hunter

The U.S. Court for the Northern District of Mississippi unsealed an indictment Monday against J. Everett Dutschke for allegedly mailing ricin-laced letters in April to President Barack Obama, Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS), and a local judge in an attempt to "frame" a rival. Dutschke, a taekwondo teacher, failed political candidate, blues singer, and alleged child molester, faces charges on five separate counts, the most serious of which means he could face up to life imprisonment.

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Sen. Frank Lautenberg's death Monday morning sets up a complicated succession process that will have implications for two Garden State politicians widely believed to hold national ambitions: Gov. Chris Christie (R) and Newark Mayor Cory Booker (D).

With Lautenberg's passing, it falls to Christie to appoint a temporary replacement and to decide when to schedule the election to replace Lautenberg, both while he faces his own re-election in November and tries to build his brand on the national stage. Booker, who all-but officially announced his decision to run for Lautenberg's seat in December, may find himself simultaneously facing off against Christie's chosen successor and confronting the consequences of the stormy relationship he had with Lautenberg prior to the senator's death.

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A Texas couple at the center of the investigation into ricin-tainted letters sent to President Barack Obama and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg are reportedly trading accusations back and forth. CBS News said Nathan Richardson told investigators his wife, Shannon, is attempting to frame him for the mailings. Meanwhile, Shannon Richardson allegedly told family members she believed her husband was trying to poison her and had a "racist" anger towards the president.

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Multiple news outlets have identified a man named Nathan Richardson as federal investigators' "person of interest" in the case involving ricin-tainted letters that were sent to New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, President Barack Obama, and the director of Bloomberg's gun control group.

According to the Texarkana Gazette, a local newspaper based near Richardson's home, FBI officials were at Richardson's house in New Boston, Texas, as of three hours ago.

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A spokesman for New York City Council Speaker and mayoral candidate Christine Quinn cried foul after her official Twitter account gained about 20,000 questionable followers overnight. 

"Attack of the drones @Quinn4NY rec'd 20K dummy fllwers last night. Didn't ask 4 em, didn't pay 4 em. In contact w/ Twitter 2 get rid of 'em," Quinn campaign spokesman Mike Morey wrote on Twitter Friday. 

Quinn's surging follower count came to light after a report in City & State, which noted the increase and that many of the accounts had no tweets and similar usernames.

After the deluge, Quinn has, by far, more Twitter followers than the other leading Democrats in the mayoral race. Quinn's count currently stands at 24,626 followed by Anthony Weiner at 14,088, Bill de Blasio at 5,406, John Liu at 4,195, and Bill Thompson at 3,502.

Republican Michigan Governor Rick Snyder brought along stickers that said "I'm A Rick Chick" to the annual Mackinac Policy Conference in his home state yesterday. The stickers included a pun based on the popular chick-shaped "Peeps" marshmallow candies. 

"I'm a RickChick," the sticker said over a picture of a chick. "One of the gov's peeps."

The stickers were spotted by Detroit Free Press reporter Kathy Gray.

(Photo: Twitter.com/MichPoligal) 

According to CBS News, the FBI has identified and questioned a person of interest after letters tainted with ricin were sent to President Barack Obama, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Sources told CBS the person of interest was a man who was questioned in Texarkana, Tex. FBI agents also searched a home in nearby New Boston, Tex. 

News station WABC reported the FBI became aware of a man in New Boston after his wife called authorities because "she noticed strange material in her refrigerator and computer searches for ricin."

In addition to Obama and Bloomberg, Mark Glaze, the director of the pro-gun control group co-founded by Bloomberg, Mayors Against Illegal Guns, also received a ricin-tainted letter. The Secret Service has said there were similarities between all three letters. The letters sent to Bloomberg and Glaze referenced their gun control advocacy. No one was seriously injured by the letters, though the NYPD has said preliminary testing indicated the presence of ricin on the letters sent to both Bloomberg and Glaze. 

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford held a brief press conference Thursday afternoon to address two staffers who resigned from his office in the wake of multiple reports he was filmed smoking crack. Ford characterized the staffers' departures as a result of them finding other unspecified jobs. 

"I have a great deal of respect for every single person that works with me here in my office," said Ford. "I have a talented and loyal group of people. I've also always said to my staff, if a new opportunity arises, take it."

Ford ignored multiple questions reporters shouted about the alleged crack video at the press conference. Ford reportedly told staffers not to be concerned about the video since he knew exactly where it was being held. Photographs shown to reporters who claim to have seen the video showed Ford alongside a murder victim named Anthony Smith. He was asked whether he had done "any illegal drugs" since become mayor. Ford was also asked if he knew Smith or had made any attempt to obtain the video. 

"Anything else?" Ford said to each of these questions. 

Touting his economic record, Ford told the assembled reporters he does not plan to resign and vowed to run for re-election. 

"I'm not stepping aside, I'm running in the next election," said Ford. "If the great people of this city want to go in a different direction, that's what their perogative is." 

Ford also dismissed the idea his administration is troubled. 

"Things are doing great and we're doing fine," he said. 

First Lady Michelle Obama spoke at a DNC Fundraiser at the Manhattan home of fashion designer Tory Burch Wednesday evening. TPM was in attendance to provide press pool coverage. Our unedited pool report is below:

"Your pooler is currently composing this report in a Starbucks a few blocks from Manhattan's Hotel Pierre where First Lady Michelle Obama just gave a speech at a DNC fundraiser in the home of fashion designer Tory Burch. In her speech, Obama encouraged the crowd to remain politically engaged and active though "the excitement that comes with the presidential campaign has faded."

Pool was led up to the hallway outside Burch's 9th floor apartment shortly after 5 PM. At approximately 5:21 PM we saw the actress Julianne Moore make an early exit from the event. We were ushered into Ms. Burch's opulent abode at about 5:40, just in time to see Anna Wintour leaving with another woman. After walking through a long hallway, we passed through a room with a stuffed peacock, a table filled with gold leaf, and a painting of more peacocks. Next, we went through a set of doors into the library where the fundraiser was being held.
 

The library was peach-colored and filled with books and decorations including a massive sea turtle shell and the skeletons of several crustaceans. Obama and Burch stood at a podium in front of a crowd of about 40 people including designer Vera Wang. For those of you who care about these things, Obama was wearing a black dress and a pair of black necklaces. Reports of the death of her bangs appear to be greatly exaggerated.

Burch introduced Obama by praising the First Lady for working "tirelessly and effectively" on several issues including "the problem of childhood obesity," education, and standing up for the needs of "women and girls."

"With her passionate advocacy, dedication, grace, and style our First Lady has been an important voice for women and girls around the world," Burch said. "Women and girls in this country and around the world have a true ally and an amazing role model in our first lady."

Obama spoke next. The White House will be sending out a full official transcript of her remarks, so as always, be sure to check these quotes against that. She began by thanking Burch and the crowd by making a nod to the guests' fashion industry ties.

"This is a special event because there are a lot of people who have touched my life in so many important ways, who have helped me become the poised and stylish woman that I am," the First Lady said, provoking laughs from the audience. "So, I want to thank all of you. I want to thank Tory."

Obama then noted the presence of DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz. The first lady initially had trouble spotting Schultz in the crowd, which led her to make a joke about the congresswoman's height.

"I also want to recognize our fabulous DNC chair, who I haven't seen ... because she's small," Obama said as she spotted Schultz. "Debbie and I hang out sometimes, I don't see her. ... She is fearless, she is a hard worker, and she is a true friend."

After she dispensed with the acknowledgements, Obama told her audience they were responsible for not only winning "two elections" but also helping make "some real meaningful change in this country" including strengthening the economy and making progress on "health reform," "climate change," "gun violence," and "comprehensive immigration reform."

"Although our economy is improving, too many middle class families are still struggling," Obama said.

The First Lady then encouraged the crowd to remain engaged though the presidential election has ended.

"Now that the excitement that comes with the presidential campaign has faded, it is so tempting to just turn off the TV and wait another four years to re-engage. But make no mistake about it, if we are tuning out, I trust you others are tuning in, others are doing everything they can to make their voices heard," said the First Lady.

Obama said the consequences of this "imbalance" in engagement are on display "every day in Washington."

"Just last month for example we saw the failure of common sense legislation to protect our kids from gun violence, legislation by the way that 90 percent of the American people supported. We're seeing a budget stalemate and a sequester resulting in children across the country being turned away from Head Start, and so many seniors losing their meals on wheels, and now there's talk about cutting food stamps," Obama said.

The First Lady described these cuts as "not what this country is about."

"We are so much more compassionate and fair, so much more decent than
that," said Obama.

She continued by saying this "decency" is on display "every day" when people work hard, sacrifice for their children, and help neighbors. Obama also noted it was "especially" apparent "in times of tragedy and crisis" and cited several recent examples.

"The teachers who rushed children to safety in Newtown, the teachers who risked their lives to save students in Oklahoma. We saw it in the volunteer firefighters in Texas who plunged into the flames and all those folks in Boston who ran toward the explosions and spent hours tending to perfect strangers," the First Lady said. "None of these folks asked the people who they were helping whether they were Democrats or Republicans, they didn't ask whether they were Christians, or Muslims, or Jews. They didn't care whether they were gay or straight."

Obama said she was thinking of this unprejudiced aid "during a recent visit I made to my hometown of Chicago" where she met high school students plagued by poverty and gun violence. She noted the children all raised their hands when asked if they knew someone who had been shot and described them as "consumed with staying alive" rather than "reveling in the joys of their youth." Obama added there are "so many kids in this country" who are "just like" those children she saw in Chicago.

"We have to remember that they are the reason were here today," said Obama. "So, here's the thing, we can't afford to wait for the next presidential election to get fired up and ready to go. They can't afford to have us wait."

She urged the crowd to "recapture that passion" of 2008 and 2012 to help children get access to education, to "finally pass some commonsense gun safety laws," and to fight for women to make "our own decisions about our bodies and our healthcare." Obama then said the president "can't do this alone" and needs "folks in Congress to help him every step of the way." As evidence of this, she cited several pieces legislation that failed by slim margins in Congress including the DREAM Act and the gun bill.

"So, we need all of you to get engaged in every special election and every midterm election all across this country. We need you to keep on writing those checks and, if you haven't maxed out, max out. Get your friends to max out," the First Lady said.

According to a Democratic Party official, there were approximately 100 guests at Burch's fundraiser who paid between $5,000 and $25,000 to attend. Obama told them donating money is "not nearly enough" and asked them to go "out there making phone calls" and to "bring people to the polls." She closed by referencing Desiline Victor, a 102-year-old female voter that the president discussed in his State of the Union speech.

"If Desiline Victor can summon that kind of passion and energy, then we don't have any excuse," said Obama. "If we all keep on working, and organizing, and engaging, then I know that we can keep on building that change we believe in, and together we can build a future worthy of all of our children."

After her remarks, the crowd cheered the First Lady and she made her way out of the room, which had become quite warm.

"Alright you guys, get some air," Obama said as she departed.

First Lady Michelle Obama will be in New York City Wednesday evening for a pair of DNC fundraisers.

According to a Democratic Party official, the first event will be a reception at a private residence with approximately 100 guests and tickets costing between $5,000 and $25,000. The First Lady will then attend an LGBT Gala at 583 Park Avenue that will be hosted by Bravo's Andy Cohen and include a performance by Sara Bareilles. In addition to the First Lady, DNC Chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) and openly gay NBA player Jason Collins will speak at the LGBT gala. Tickets for that event range from $1,250 to $32,400 and 350 people are expected to attend. 

The First Lady is scheduled to visit Boston prior to her trip to New York. While in Boston, she will attend a fundraiser for Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA), the Democratic nominee in the Massachusetts Senate race, and visit with victims of last month's marathon bombing.

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