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

Pope Francis criticized President Donald Trump’s zero-tolerance immigration policy, calling the border separations “immoral” and “contrary to our Catholic values,” according to a Wednesday Reuters report.

“It’s not easy, but populism is not the solution,” he said of immigration. He added that he sided with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops about Trump’s policy, a leading body of church leaders which sent out a missive condemning the zero-tolerance practice for putting battered women at risk and rending families asunder.

Pope Francis had the same message for Trumpian sentiment washing over Europe and ushering in an era of nationalism and isolationism. He told Reuters that populists were “creating psychosis” on the topic of immigration and that much of Europe is in “a great demographic winter” desperately in need of more immigrants. Without them, the continent “will become empty,” he added.

“I believe that you cannot reject people who arrive,” he told Reuters. “Some governments are working on it, and people have to be settled in the best possible way, but creating psychosis is not the cure. Populism does not resolve things. What resolves things is acceptance, study, prudence.”

Pope Francis took issue with other Trump administration moves as well. He told Reuters that he was saddened by Trump’s move to restrict Americans’ access to Cuba, saying that former President Barack Obama’s opening of the island “was a good step forward.” He also said that Trump’s pulling out of the Paris Agreement caused him “a bit of pain” because “the future of humanity is at stake.”

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President Donald Trump targeted one of his favorite enemies during a Tuesday immigration talk, accusing the “fake news media” of helping smugglers and traffickers at the border by not speaking about the asylum process enough.

“Keep in mind, those who apply for asylum legally at ports of entry are not prosecuted,” he said. “The fake news media back there doesn’t talk about that. They are fake. They are helping, they are helping these smugglers and these traffickers like nobody would believe.”

He linked that to people coming into the country illegally and “endangering our children,” citing MS13 at the perpetrator of this violence.

Watch below:

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In his classic stream-of-consciousness style, President Donald Trump took aim at immigration judges, saying “I don’t want judges, I want border security.”

“I don’t want people coming in,” he said, referring to immigrants. “If a person comes in and puts one foot in our ground, it is essentially ‘welcome to America, welcome to our country,’ and you never get them out.

“Because they take their name, they bring the name down, they file it, they let the person go, they say ‘show back up to court in one year from now,'” he continued. “One year. But here’s the thing, that in itself is ridiculous. Three percent come back.”

According to a 2016 report from the Syracuse University Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, a collection of nonpartisan reports on federal spending and enforcement actions, in 2015, 86 percent of undocumented immigrants who were released from detention and given a later court date showed up.

Trump also attacked the entire process by which we choose immigration judges, calling the nomination and vetting process “graft.”

“Who are these people?” he said, of immigration judges. “When we vet the single federal judge, it goes through a bid process, everybody that’s ever met her or him, they come, they complain, they don’t complain, they say he’s brilliant, she is brilliant, he’s not smart enough to be a judge, now we are hiring thousands and thousands — what country does this?”

He added that people “line up” to become immigration judges, calling the process “horrible.”

Immigration judges are selected by the Executive Office for Immigration Review, part of the Department of Justice.

Trump also asserted that some immigration lawyers are “bad people” for coaching asylum applicants about what to say during their hearings.

Watch below:

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During a Tuesday call hosted by DHS and HHS, some major revelations about the Trump administration’s border separations came to light, including that the departments have no current plan to expand detention facilities or shelters in the belief that the “zero tolerance” policy will deter immigrants from making the journey.

“We expect that the new policy will result in a deterrence effect and we certainly hope parents stop bringing kids on this dangerous journey,” HHS spokesman Steve Wagner said.

According to CNN, the policy has not worked to deter immigrants from coming, as there has been a 5 percent uptick in those caught crossing the border since April, including an increase of unaccompanied children.

Pertaining to the lone children, Wagner revealed that he does not have statistics on how many children have been reunited with their parents or placed with sponsors.

“I don’t know how many separated kids have been placed with sponsors or reunited with their parents,” Wagner said. “I could look into it, this policy is relatively new, and we are still working through the experience of reuniting kids with their parents after adjudication.”

Many of the unaccompanied children are only classified as such after they get to the U.S. — if they did not enter the country at a point of entry, children are reclassified as “unaccompanied alien children” even if they came over the border with their parents.

“When a family comes into custody and if we’re going to prosecute, that is when we create unaccompanied alien children,” said a border patrol spokesperson who did not announce his name.

Finally, and perhaps most worryingly, there is no policy about what border patrol is supposed to do with very young children when they are first taken into custody apart from their parents, before they are transferred into the care of HHS.

“Discretion is given to field chiefs for application referrals for sensitive cases, and that includes adults with tender-aged children,” said Chief Patrol Agent Brian Hastings. “The chiefs can make a discretionary call.”

He said that border patrol usually considers “tender-aged” or “tender-headed” children as those under five years old.

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In an abrupt reversal of previous statements, including under sworn testimony, former Trump campaign aide Michael Caputo is now admitting that he did knowingly have contact with a Russian offering dirt on Hillary Clinton during the 2016 campaign.

In a Tuesday morning interview with CNN’s John Berman, Caputo said that he previously “did not recall” his interactions with the Russian Henry Greenberg—despite a follow-up text conversation with Trump confidant Roger Stone about the meeting—and tried to shift the conversation by alleging that Greenberg was an undercover FBI agent.

At the time, Caputo had set up the meeting between Stone and Greenberg in May 2016.

Even if Greenberg was an FBI informant, it would not explain Caputo’s willingness to meet with someone he thought was a Russian national to get the scoop on Clinton. When Berman pushed him, asking if he truly felt comfortable getting damaging information on Clinton from a Russian, Caputo said: “There’s nothing wrong with having a meeting with someone who’s not representing a foreign government for dirt on Hillary Clinton.”

Records of the Caputo and Stone conversation after the Greenberg meeting have been released. Caputo started it, asking, “how crazy is the Russian?”

Stone replied: “He wants big $ for the info waste of time.”

Caputo responded: “The Russian way. Anything at all interesting?” Stone said “no.”

Caputo told Berman that he had forgotten that interaction as well.

He also acknowledged that President Donald Trump made a false statement when he said “I have nothing to do with Russia. To the best of my knowledge, no person that I deal with does” in February 2017.

According to the Washington Post, these comments from Caputo are in stark contradiction to previous statements he made on his Russian contacts.

“I spent my time in front of the [House Intelligence] Committee detailing the fact that I had no contact with Russians, that I never heard of anyone with the Trump campaign talking with Russians, that I was never asked questions about my time in Russia, that I never even spoke to anyone about Russia, that I never heard the word ‘Russia,’ and we did not use Russian dressing,” he said in July 2017.

Stone also claims temporary amnesia during the meeting, saying that 2016 was “a pretty busy year.”

He previously told the Washington Post: “I didn’t talk to anybody who was identifiably Russian during the two-year run-up to this campaign. I very definitely can’t think of anybody who might have been a Russian without my knowledge. It’s a canard.”

Watch Caputo’s comments below:

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Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Monday that comparing the Trump administration’s separation of families at the border to Nazi Germany is a “real exaggeration,” noting that the Nazis were keeping Jews from leaving the country.

“It’s a real exaggeration,” he said to Fox News’ Laura Ingraham. “In Nazi Germany, they were keeping the Jews from leaving the country, but this is a serious matter.

“We want to allow asylum for people who qualify for it,” he continued. “People who want economic migration for their personal financial benefit and what they think is their family’s benefit is not a basis for a claim of asylum.”

He added that if parents are deported, their children will be permitted to leave with them, but if their parents claim asylum and are allowed to stay, the children stay also—in the custody of Health and Human Services.

Watch below:

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Sen. John McCain spoke up about the Trump administration’s policy of separating migrant families at the border, tweeting Monday that it’s an “affront” and that the administration has “the power to rescind” it.

Though the separations do stem directly from the Trump administration’s actions and not from any law, the Democrats (and Independents who caucus with them) have introduced the “Keep Families Together Act” to take matters into their own hands. No Republicans, including McCain, have signed it so far.

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Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani said Monday that he was just joshing when he called last week for the DOJ to end Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe in the next 24 hours, saying that he “didn’t think it would” end, according to a Monday Politico report.

He reportedly added that he still thinks it should be.

Giuliani’s demand last week came after the release of the DOJ Inspector General’s report on the Hillary Clinton email probe, and Giuliani argued that Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein should “redeem themselves” by ending the probe immediately, according to Politico.

“That’s what I’m supposed to do,” Giuliani told Politico “What am I supposed to say? That they should investigate him forever? Sorry, I’m not a sucker.”

Giuliani added that Trump’s team could come to an agreement in the next two weeks about sitting down with Mueller.

He reportedly said that the interview would take place at the White House or Camp David, as having it in Mueller’s office or the federal courthouse in downtown Washington would be a “freak show.”

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The already deteriorating relationship between President Donald Trump and Chief of Staff John Kelly is being torn asunder as the two clash over Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, according to a Monday Politico report.

Though the two men have long been at loggerheads over Nielsen—Kelly reportedly considers her a “surrogate daughter” while Trump enjoys flagellating her at Cabinet meetings—the explosive atmosphere around the administration’s border separation policy has inflamed the pre-existing tensions.

Per Politico, Kelly tried to talk Nielsen out of giving a press conference on the issue Monday, but she disregarded his advice, willingly becoming the administration’s poster child for separating families at the border.

Internally, she reportedly took issue with the “zero tolerance” immigration policy, viewing it as difficult to enforce without congressional action. She changed her tune when given a talking-to about staying on message.

However, Nielsen’s consent to take the brunt of the bullets from an increasingly unpopular policy has paid her no dividends with the boss. Per Politico, Trump has Nielsen square in his phaser beams, targeting his wrath on her as criticism pours in from both sides of the aisle.

Nielsen reportedly seems to be in an increasingly perilous situation, as Trump’s dislike—which he has sustained since she began in his White House, due to her Bush administration origins—grows and Kelly’s influence wanes.

According to Politico, Kelly and Trump’s relationship has devolved into “barely tolerating” each other, and Kelly has accordingly checked out of the difficult job of being the West Wing’s enforcer. He reportedly mused to a friend that if Trump is given the latitude to get himself impeached, at least this chapter of American politics will be over.   

Kelly has reportedly been spending chunks of his days at the gym in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, the pain of a workout far preferable to the pain of taking responsibility for an impetuous and bombastic president.

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The three most recent former first ladies have banded together to condemn the Trump administration’s policy of separating migrant families at the border in a bipartisan call for compassion in the face of the immigrants’ plight.

Laura Bush opened the salvo on Sunday with an editorial in the Washington Post, a rare public position on policy from the usually low-key first lady.

“I live in a border state,” she said. “I appreciate the need to enforce and protect our international boundaries, but this zero-tolerance policy is cruel. It is immoral. And it breaks my heart.”

Michelle Obama reached across the aisle to support her Republican counterpart on Monday with a retweet of Bush’s article. She captioned it: “Sometimes truth transcends party.”

Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton had taken to the air Monday, devoting an award acceptance speech to her own disavowal of the cold-hearted practice.

“We are a better country than one that tears families apart, turns a blind eye to women fleeing domestic violence, and treats frightened children as a negotiating tool as a means to a political end,” she said. “These actions are an affront to our values and they undermine America’s reputation as a beacon of hope and freedom in the world.”

The comments of current first lady Melania Trump are more fraught. Her spokeswoman gave a statement to CNN on Sunday. “Mrs. Trump hates to see children separated from their families and hopes both sides of the aisle can finally come together to achieve successful immigration reform,” communications director Stephanie Grisham said. “She believes we need to be a country that follows all laws, but also a country that governs with heart.”

Though notable that the media-averse first lady made a statement at all, many take issue with her “both sides” rhetoric when the practice stems directly from the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy and her husband is fully vested with the power to roll it back.

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