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

A draft bill ordered by President Donald Trump and leaked to Axios Sunday reveals Trump’s desire to have the ability to raise tariffs without congressional approval and in complete disregard of international agreements.

The bill would directly contradict major rules of the World Trade Organization, including already agreed to tariff ceilings and the policy about setting tariffs on different countries.

An unnamed source told Axios that the bill would never muster the requisite congressional support, and White House Legislative Affairs Director Marc Short reportedly called it “dead on arrival.”

Despite the fact it will likely never emerge from the draft stages, the bill is a stunning look at Trump’s disregard for international agreements and the U.S. checks and balances system in favor of giving himself complete, unilateral power over his pet issues.

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Top Republican donor Elliott Broidy will end hush money payments to his onetime mistress in a situation arranged by former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen, claiming a breach of the nondisclosure agreement.

According to a Sunday Wall Street Journal report, Broidy agreed last year to pay Playboy model Shera Bechard $1.6 million in installments in exchange for her silence about their alleged affair.

The deal was reached when Keith Davidson, former lawyer for Bechard and Stormy Daniels, called Cohen, having worked with him in the hush money payments for Daniels and another alleged Trump mistress Karen McDougal. Cohen negotiated the repayment plan for Broidy, his old colleague at the Republican National Committee.

Broidy is now calling the deal off, claiming that Davidson improperly discussed the hush money with another lawyer: Michael Avenatti, Daniels’ current lawyer.

A Davidson spokesman denied the allegations to the Wall Street Journal, saying that “any accusation to the contrary is false and defamatory.”

Avenatti also weighed in, telling the Journal that “I’m neither going to confirm nor deny what information I have about this, whether it’s all been disclosed yet, or where I learned it. But I would encourage Ms. Bechard to disclose everything she knows about this situation to the public.”

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In a flood of emails and snail-mail letters come to light as a result of the Sierra Club’s Freedom of Information Act requests, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s close relationships with many leaders of the industries his agency is tasked with regulating became evident.

In a detailed Sunday Washington Post report, multiple examples are revealed of industry officials asking for relaxed regulation and soon after getting corresponding rollbacks.

In addition, published in a string of tweets by a New York Times reporter, many old fashioned letters also show Pruitt’s propensity for rubbing shoulders with industry bigwigs. The thank you notes to oil and gas executives often feature handwritten scrawling from Pruitt in the corners.

On Saturday, news broke that the EPA’s chief ethics official is calling for multiple investigations into Pruitt’s conduct as head of the agency.

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In an interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos Monday, former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen repeatedly distanced himself from President Donald Trump, broke with the President explicitly and hinted that he would one day soon air Trump’s damaging dirty laundry.

Again and again, Cohen refused declare fealty to Trump. “My wife, my daughter and my son have my first loyalty and always will—I put family and country first,” he said, repeating the refrain in different ways twice more. This is a far cry from his emotional promises to “take a bullet” for the President less than a year ago.  

When confronted with the reality that Trump and his legal team would put a target on Cohen’s back if they perceive him to be a threat, Cohen “stiffened his spine.” “I will not be a punching bag as part of anyone’s defense strategy, I am not a villain in any story and won’t allow others to try to depict me in that way,” he told Stephanopoulos.

He even went so far as to candidly break with the President’s position on Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe, saying “I don’t like the term ‘witch-hunt.’ As an American, I repudiate any foreign government’s attempt to interfere in our democratic process and I would call on all Americans to do the same.”

“Simply accepting Putin’s denial is unsustainable,” he continued. “I choose to believe our intelligence agencies.”

Tantalizingly, Cohen then hinted heavily that he has information to share on two hot-button and possibly damning episodes for the President: the infamous Trump tower meeting when “dirt” on Hillary Clinton was promised, and the $130,000 hush money payout made to Stormy Daniels during the election.

On both questions, whether Trump knew of the meeting and if he had requested or promised to reimburse the payment, Cohen cryptically refused to answer—for now.

“I want to answer,” he said. “One day I will answer. But for now I can’t comment further on advice of my counsel.”

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Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) cancelled two events in Alabama and Texas this week after receiving a flood of “hostile mail” — including “one very serious death threat,” according to a Friday CNN report.

“As the President has continued to lie and falsely claim that I encouraged people to assault his supporters, while also offering a veiled threat that I should ‘be careful,’ even more individuals are leaving (threatening) messages and sending hostile mail to my office,” Waters said in a statement.

“There was one very serious death threat made against me on Monday from an individual in Texas which is why my planned speaking engagements in Texas and Alabama were cancelled (sic) this weekend,” she continued. “This is just one in several very serious threats the United States Capitol Police are investigating in which individuals threatened to shoot, lynch, or cause me serious bodily harm.”

Waters called for people to continue protesting Trump staffers in public spaces on Saturday, prompting Trump to threaten her in a tweet and rail against her at rallies since. Trump claims that Waters is advocating for physical violence against his administration, while she insists that she is only urging for peaceful protest.

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Maggie Cordish, one of Ivanka Trump’s closest allies and a lead staffer on paid family leave, is quitting, according to a Thursday Politico report. There are no plans to replace the staffer.

 The two women have been good friends since college, and President Donald Trump is close with Cordish’s father.

Along with a loss of support for Ivanka Trump, Cordish’s departure also signals that the White House is largely giving up on its paid family leave push.

Though a White House spokesperson denied that implication to Politico, Republicans have been unsuccessful in moving paid family leave legislation forward.

Sens. Marco Rubio (R-FL), Mike Lee (R-UT) and Joni Ernst (R-IA) have reportedly been working on legislation that would allow people to borrow from their social security to fund paid family leave, but the idea is strongly opposed by Democrats and even some Republicans.

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After former EPA director of scheduling Millan Hupp testified to a congressional committee that she had tried to obtain a used mattress from Trump Tower for her boss, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt went after her, smearing her name to conservative groups and assuring them that she couldn’t be trusted, according to a Thursday Daily Beast report.

Before her testimony, which she had no choice but to deliver, Hupp was one of Pruitt’s most loyal aides, sticking with him since his attorney general campaign in Oklahoma.

Pruitt is already reportedly under investigation due to charges levied by his former chief of staff, Kevin Chmielewski, who claims that Pruitt leaked damaging information about him when he suspected that Chmielewski was leaking to the media.

Sources told the Daily Beast that Pruitt also tells his employees to pitch “oppo hits” to media outlets about other staffers who left on bad terms.  

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Seasoned appellate Judge Brett Kavanaugh and recent circuit court appointee Judge Amy Coney Barrett are leading candidates in President Donald Trump’s search for a Supreme Court nominee, according to a Thursday Los Angeles Times report.

They both reportedly come from a list curated by the Federalist Society and the Heritage Foundation. The motto of the list is “no more Souters,” a reference to a George W. H. Bush appointee believed to be conservative who turned out to have a moderate-liberal bent while on the court, voting to uphold Roe v. Wade.

Both Kavanaugh and Barrett are far right enough to leave no doubt about their rulings, per the Los Angeles Times.

Kavanaugh is 53 and has a long record of conservative opinions on everything from guns to immigrants’ right to have an abortion. He was a top deputy to Kenneth Starr during Bill Clinton’s impeachment proceedings and was a member of the legal team representing George W. Bush in the recount battle after the 2000 election.

Barrett, 46, has a less extensive record but clerked for Justice Antonin Scalia and was narrowly confirmed to the 7th circuit court in Chicago in November. She, unlike Kavanaugh, has written directly on Roe v. Wade, calling it “an erroneous decision.”

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The White House has been working to prod Justice Anthony Kennedy out of his Supreme Court seat for months, giving his clerks plum judgeships, developing personal relationships, and striking the fear of a Democratic Senate into him, according to a Thursday New York Times report.

President Donald Trump has been assiduously appointing Kennedy clerks to federal appeals courts, floating their names for Supreme Court vacancies, and following through to put one on the bench: Justice Neil Gorsuch.

Trump is reportedly close to Kennedy, often praising him while criticizing his more conservative peers, and Ivanka Trump has visited the Supreme Court with her daughter at Kennedy’s invitation.

Trump allies have reportedly been lobbying Kennedy for months, telling him that getting a strict constructionist on the bench would be well-nigh impossible with a Democratic Senate.

Kennedy’s retirement is a significant win for Trump, who will now get another chance to alter the highest court, this time in an even more dramatic way as he’ll likely pick a staunch conservative without Kennedy’s occasional swing on social issues.

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The recently taciturn former President Barack Obama broke his silence Thursday, speaking at a DNC fundraiser about how it’s time to stop “kvetching” and “howling at the moon” and get mobilized instead—even if the candidates are less inspiring than he was.

According to a Friday Politico report, Obama focused on a message of hope over despair, though he acknowledged to the crowd that “you are right to be concerned.”

“Do not wait for the perfect message, don’t wait to feel a tingle in your spine because you’re expecting politicians to be so inspiring and poetic and moving that somehow, ‘OK, I’ll get off my couch after all and go spend the 15-20 minutes it takes for me to vote,’” he said. “Because that’s part of what happened in the last election.”

He also acknowledged the down-ballot shellacking Democrats took across the country during his tenure. “I’ll be honest with you, if I have a regret during my presidency, it is that people were so focused on me and the battles we were having, particularly after we lost the House, that folks stopped paying attention up and down the ballot,” Obama said.

He said that Democrats should take a page out of the Republican book when it comes to philosophy. “They don’t worry about inspiration,” Obama said. “They worry about winning the seat and they are very systematic about work not just at the presidential level but at the congressional and state legislative levels.”

He added that, until candidates emerge and a clear 2020 message is formulated, people can use his slogan: “yes we can.”

“All these people that are out here kvetching and wringing their hands and stressed and anxious and constantly watching cable TV and howling at the moon, ‘What are we going to do?,’ their hair’s falling out, they can’t sleep,” Obama said. “The majority of the American people prefer a story of hope. A majority of the American people prefer a country that comes together rather than being divided. The majority of the country doesn’t want to see a dog-eat-dog world where everybody is angry all the time.”

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