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Kate Riga

Kate Riga is a news writer for Talking Points Memo based in New York City. Before joining TPM, Kate was the political reporter for The Southampton Press. She is a graduate of Georgetown University and a native of Philadelphia.

Articles by Kate

DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen had a tough week.

She was determined to start it off with a bang, holding a press conference to set the record straight as Americans were inundated with pictures and recordings of distraught children ripped from their parents at the border.

But throughout the press conference, Nielsen lied over and over again, showing an utter lack of compassion for the panicked, isolated babies and their equally panicked parents.

A common theme of her remarks were variations on: “This administration did not create a policy of separating families at the border.” This is a lie, as the practice is the direct result of the administration’s “zero-tolerance” immigration policy for migrants who cross the border without documentation.

She also took a page out of Trump’s playbook and attempted to place the blame on Congress, specifically Democrats. This makes sense because everyone knows that the real power rests with the party shut out of both Congressional majorities and the White House. 

She then made a shocking and humbling admission to the room, that she had not yet discovered the Internet, and thus had not seen the videos of young children in cages or heard their desperate cries for their moms and dads.

In a normal assertion of a very stable genius, she came scarily close to echoing the conspiracy theories of the far right and claimed that videos and audio (which she has not seen or heard) are, in fact, just being used to further the anti-Trump agenda of the videographers. “I think that they reflect the focus of those who post such pictures and narratives,” she said. “We don’t have a balanced view of what’s happening, but what’s happening at the border is the border is being overrun by those who have no right to cross it.”

Finally, she wrapped things up with competence and aplomb by contradicting what other administration officials have said, that these draconian measures are in place to deter other immigrants from entering this dystopian hellscape, and by flying into a snit on top of it.

“I find that offensive,” she said when asked if the policy was a deterrent. “No. Because why would I ever create a policy that purposely does that.”

Good question.

What could have possibly prompted Nielsen’s terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad press briefing? Was she flustered by Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ steady stream of “where r u???” texts until she arrived? Was she frazzled when she realized that she left her “I don’t care” blazer at home?

No, it seems that Nielsen willingly became the face of the family separation crisis and the administration’s indifference.

But hey, at least there was one silver lining for Nielsen in that dumpster fire of a press conference. President Donald Trump sent a congratulatory tweet, telling Nielsen she did a “fabulous job.” As a rule, affirmation from those who humiliate her in Cabinet meetings is highly prized by our DHS Secretary.

As pressure mounted for the administration to deal with the bad optics (and a much lesser priority, the human suffering) of the immigration crisis, Trump signed an executive order asking for the ability to jail families together, rather than keep them in separate pens.

As Nielsen stood in the Oval Office, watching her boss sign with a flourish a document that showed undeniably that she lied on tape about the administration’s ability to address the separations, she felt a budding sense of pride.

She had won over her constant tormentor (for now). In a desperate bid to look “tough enough” to fulfill his toxic notions of masculinity and gender, she had successfully removed her own heart and tossed her credibility in the trash. Sure, she’ll never eat Mexican food again, but it’s a small price to pay for being the poster child of an administration’s nonchalant snatching of young immigrant children from their families.

As Trump swiveled in his chair and she took the signing pen out of his tiny hand, the exchange was complete. Kirstjen Nielsen had traded the lives of helpless immigrant children for the temporary affection of a mercurial, overgrown toddler.

For trading the safety, wellbeing, and happiness of thousands of children for a fancy pen, Kirstjen Nielsen is our Duke of the Week.

 

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After a week of scrutiny over the Trump administration’s policy of family separation, a practice that was altered by executive order, President Donald Trump tried to change the narrative Friday by holding an event with the family members of people killed by undocumented immigrants.

The “permanent separation” event was a series of tragic stories from the left-behind relatives, telling the tales of how their loved ones were killed, and lavishing praise on Trump and Vice President Mike Pence.

Most of them clutched head shots of their dead loved that appeared to be signed by Trump. The event took place before a backdrop that emphasized “our borders” and “our communities.”

Using heavily nationalistic language, Trump said that “our citizens” are better than those trying to come in and that sanctuary cities will breed violence, drugs, and death at the hands of immigrants.

Throughout the event, undocumented immigrants were solely referred to as “illegal aliens” by all.

Watch below:

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Former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen is keeping odd company these days, based on tweets showing him hanging out with comedian Tom Arnold, an ardent Trump critic who is working on a show centered around hunting for the mythical Trump “pee tape.”

According to a Thursday NBC report, Arnold said that they met regarding the new  show, “The Hunt for the Trump Tapes.” Arnold did not reveal if Cohen would provide him with any information for the show, but said, “This dude has all the tapes — this dude has everything.”

Arnold continued, alluding to Cohen’s weariness as New York prosecutors bear down on him and his future looks increasingly grim: “I say to Michael, ‘Guess what? We’re taking Trump down together, and he’s so tired he’s like, ‘OK,’ and his wife is like, ‘OK, f*** Trump,'” he told NBC, laughing.

It’s been reported that Cohen is feeling forsaken by Trump as the investigation gets more serious. “Michael Cohen showed up and worked diligently above and beyond and sacrificed and Donald Trump is like I don’t even know who he is. You think Michael doesn’t notice that?” Arnold said to NBC.

Arnold later apologized for making light of Cohen’s situation and the power Trump still has over him.

“I owe Michael Cohen an apology because I made light of something that’s very serious for him,” he told a Vanity Fair reporter. “Michael Cohen knows more than any living human how serious and dangerous it is for America and the world right now because of how incompetent the president is. He knows the truth about everything and has the weight of the world on his shoulders right now.”

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Fox News host Brian Kilmeade argued Friday morning that the compassion owed migrant children separated from their parents is limited, since they’re “not our kids.”

“We can’t let everybody in that wants to be here. These are not, like it or not, these aren’t our kids,” he said on Fox and Friends. “Show them compassion. But it’s not like he is doing this to the people of Idaho or Texas. These are people from another country and now people are saying that they are more important than people in our country who are paying taxes and who have needs as well.”

President Donald Trump echoed the tenor of his favorite show later in the morning, tweeting “We must maintain a Strong Southern Border. We cannot allow our Country to be overrun by illegal immigrants,” going a bridge further and claiming baselessly that the heartbreaking images and audio of distraught children have been fabricated by Democrats.

Kilmeade addressed the backlash he received for the comments during his radio show later on Friday. “Meanwhile, I’m just realizing doing the show there’s some things getting some traction out there about something I said this morning about kids not being important, or unimportant,” he said. “All kids are important, all kids are special. What I’m just trying to say in this country when they come in, that as the President of the United States, you can only do so much for so many and that’s why we give so many aids to other countries.”

He also tweeted:

Watch below:

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The Sinclair Broadcasting Group produced a must-air segment for all of their local news stations across the country that downplayed the family separations as “politically driven” by “liberals” and the “media,” according to a Thursday Media Matters report.

“Our immigration system is undeniably broken and the discourse around this topic is toxic. A perfect illustration of these facts is the recent firestorm surrounding President Trump’s decision to enforce a “zero tolerance” policy and prosecute all adults illegally crossing our borders,” said host Boris Epshteyn in the segment, which Sinclair stations label as “commentary.”

“Many members of the media and opponents of the President have seized on this issue to make it seem as if those who are tough on immigration are somehow monsters. Let’s be honest: While some of the concern is real, a lot of it is politically driven by the liberals in politics and the media,” he continued.

Epshteyn ended the segment by praising President Donald Trump for stepping in to roll back the family separation policy, omitting the fact that it was implemented by Trump and his administration in the first place.

Sinclear often infuses staunchly pro-Trump messaging into its local news programming, a practice that makes it difficult for viewers to differentiate between straight, unbiased local reporting and far-right propaganda.

Watch the segment below:

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At least one advertiser—and possibly more—has dropped Fox News host Laura Ingraham’s show, “The Ingraham Angle,” after her comment Monday comparing immigration detention centers to summer camps, according to a Thursday Politico report.

IAC, a media and internet company that is reportedly Ingraham’s second biggest advertiser, has pulled commercials for Angie’s List and Home Advisor from the show’s block.

A Fox News spokesperson told Politico that the boycott is not affecting business. “There’s been no impact on our business, and new advertisers continue to opt in for our powerful prime-time lineup,” the spokesperson said.

According to research analysts, the ad time on Ingraham’s show has dropped “significantly” since Monday’s show during which she made the remark, leading them to conclude that other advertisers have pulled out as well. Many advertisers declined to discuss their ad buys with Politico.

Ingraham tried to walk her comments back at the end of the show Monday: “Apparently, there are a lot of people very upset because we referred to some of the detention facilities tonight as essentially like summer camps,” she said. “The San Diego Union-Tribune today described the facilities as essentially like what you would expect at a boarding school. So I will stick to there are some of them like boarding schools.”

She omitted details in the story referring to round-the-clock surveillance and armed doors that blare alarms if a child tries to escape.

David Hogg, a Parkland shooting survivor who successfully pushed Ingraham’s advertisers to boycott when she previously made offensive comments about him, tweeted at her “we meet again” and a list of her advertisers.

Despite the criticism and advertising drops her comment garnered, Fox News is standing by the host.

“Laura Ingraham’s very personal, on-the-ground commitment to the plight of impoverished and abandoned children — specifically in Guatemala — speaks for itself,” a Fox News spokesperson told Politico in reference to her adopted child. “So, too, does her strong belief in a common-sense, legal immigration system, which will continue to be a focus of her show. Fox News will never tolerate or give in to attempts to silence diverse viewpoints by agenda-driven intimidation efforts.”

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If his government email record is to be believed, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has sent a grand total of one email to anyone outside of the EPA in his first 10 months on the job, causing watchdogs concern as they try to figure out how else he is communicating and if he’s covering his tracks.

According to a Friday Politico report, EPA spokespeople maintain that Pruitt prefers to conduct business in person or over the phone, accounting for the microscopic body of correspondence.

Outside groups counter that it is highly unlikely that someone who meets as frequently with political allies and industry bigwigs as Pruitt would have sent only one email to those external contacts. Some reportedly point out that he also has a history of using private email while serving as Oklahoma’s attorney general and of keeping ethically dubious meetings off the public record.

In addition, his call log is suspiciously empty for the head of a large agency who supposedly conducts the bulk of his business via phone.

Per Politico, the Sierra Club has filed Freedom of Information Act requests and follow-up lawsuits to get records of Pruitt’s correspondence, and is now pushing the EPA to search Pruitt’s private email accounts to ensure that he never used it for government work. If the EPA ignores the request, the Sierra Club could go to a judge to force the review.

Through its efforts, the Sierra Club obtained some text messages, suggesting that much of Pruitt’s contact with outsiders may have been conducted that way. Those records are reportedly much harder to obtain.

Previous reports have catalogued Pruitt’s unscrupulous contact with lobbyists and industry players who have done everything from set up his international trips to try to finagle his wife a job, making the communication void even more suspect.

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In a Thursday tweet, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) said that DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen privately told lawmakers that family separations at the border may continue.

Schiff’s statement comes a day after President Donald Trump signed an executive order stopping his administration’s policy of family separations, instead opting to have the children detained with their parents as the parents await criminal prosecution.

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First lady Melania Trump made an unannounced visit to the US-Mexico border in McAllen, Texas on Thursday, a day after her husband signed an executive order to alter his family separation policy, reportedly at least in part due to her prompting.

At an immigration detention center for minors, Trump made brief comments about her goals for the trip.

“I’m here to learn about your facility which I know you house children on a long-term basis,” she said. “And I would also like to ask you how I can help these children to reunite with their families as quickly as possible.”

She thanked the workers for their compassion, and said that she was looking forward to seeing the children.

She first asked how many children were in the shelter and how often they were allowed to speak to their families. She was told that there were 55 children there, and that they are allowed to speak on the phone with their families twice a week.

She also asked what the children’s physical and mental states generally are when they arrive. A clinician told her that they often enter very distraught, but calm down when they adjust to their surroundings.

When she asked how long the children stay without their parents, she was told 42-45 days. “That’s great,” she said.

She wanted to clarify that children that arrive truly unaccompanied are between 12 and 17 and that they know where they are. “They’re not young young?” she asked.

After the roundtable, she went on a tour of the facility with the workers.

Soon after, President Donald Trump commented on her trip at his Cabinet meeting. “My wife, first lady, is down now at the border because it really bothered her to be looking at this and seeing it, as it bothered me, as it bothered everybody at this table,” he said.

Melania Trump’s spokeswoman sent a statement upon her arrival.

“First lady Melania Trump has arrived in Texas to take part in briefings and tours at a nonprofit social services center for children who have entered the United States illegally and a customs and border patrol processing center,” she said. “Her goals are to thank law enforcement and social services providers for their hard work, lend support and hear more on how the administration can build upon the already existing efforts to reunite children with their families.”

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Patrons at a Mexican restaurant in D.C. recognized Trump aide Stephen Miller and took him to task on Sunday for his hand in the administration’s “zero-tolerance” immigration policy, according to a Wednesday New York Post report.

One kept his message simple, yelling “fascist!”

Another invoked sarcasm: “Hey look guys, whoever thought we’d be in a restaurant with a real-life fascist begging [for] money for new cages?”

Miller reportedly did not respond but moved away from the hecklers inside the restaurant.

The altercation occurred two days before Miller’s coworker, DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, was confronted by protesters at another D.C. Mexican joint, though she left the restaurant after enduring about 10 minutes of cries of “shame!” and “have you listened to it? Do you hear the babies crying?”  

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