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

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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Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) said Monday that he thinks reports of the frequency of families being separated at the border have been “greatly exaggerated.”

He then walked the statement back a bit, saying that “this is not my area of expertise.” He added that “maybe this is happening with a higher frequency than I’ve been aware of, and it is certainly, it’s just not the right thing to be doing.”

Toomey made the comments during an interview with conservative talk radio host Hugh Hewitt.

He also advocated for the creation of family detention centers as a solution to the Trump administration’s practice.

Toomey added that the familial separations could become President Donald Trump’s Hurricane Katrina, or the equivalent of the humanitarian and political disaster that sank George W. Bush’s presidency.

“Yeah, yes. I suppose it could,” he said, affirming that this catastrophe could be Trump’s Katrina. “I mean, I think clearly, the country is focused on this. Clearly, it’s a horrendous situation if a small child is being taken away from the child’s actual mother. So I think we’ve got to solve this problem.”

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Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said Monday that the Trump administration does not apologize for “doing their jobs” by separating families at the border, adding falsely that they are waiting on Congress to change the law to stop the practice.

“We do not have the luxury of pretending that all individuals coming to this country as a family unit are in fact a family,” she said. “We have to do our job, we will not apologize for doing our job.”

She added that “we are also asking Congress to allow us to keep families together while they are detained,” invoking the false premise that separating families comes from a law, and not from the administration’s own “zero-tolerance” immigration policy.

She continued that many “families” crossing the border are not families at all, saying that “illegal aliens” are “fraudulently” using unrelated children to gain entry into the country.

Watch below:

Nielsen came under fire recently for tweeting Sunday that the many stories of families being separated are products of “misreporting.”

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According to a Monday “CBS This Morning” report, border patrol spokespeople told the show that they are “very uncomfortable” with their reporters’ use of the term “cages” to describe where migrant children separated from their parents are kept, though they admit that it’s not inaccurate.

They reportedly added that though there “may be” cages, the people inside them are not treated like animals.

Watch below:

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The U.N.’s top human rights official called the United States’ practice of separating migrant families at the border “abuse” and called for an immediate stop to the practice, according to a Monday New York Times report.

“The thought that any state would seek to deter parents by inflicting such abuse on children is unconscionable,” said Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, the U.N. high commissioner for human rights.

He reportedly cited a statement made by American Association of Pediatrics President Dr. Colleen Kraft when she called the practice “government-sanctioned child abuse.”

His office has decried the practice before, reportedly saying that it is in violation of the children’s rights and international law. This prompted admonishment from U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley who accused his office of “ignorance” and “hypocrisy,” per the New York Times.

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Former White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci said Monday that President Donald Trump must “step in and end” the policy of separating families at the border, due to both its immorality and the bad optics for him and his party.

“He has to step in there and has to end this thing because I think it is an inhumane and atrocious policy,” he told CNN’s Alisyn Camerota. “It is offensive to the average American…and does not represent American values.”

He added that the disturbing imagery of and stories about families being separated will only hurt Trump politically. 

“The President is good at imagery,” he said. “He is a television star and understands that this is not good for him and not good for the congress if we want to win the midterms.”

Watch below:

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House Republicans, faced with growing public outcry over the separations of migrant families at the border, plan to confront President Donald Trump about changing the policy at a Tuesday meeting, according to a Monday Axios report.

Trump will be a guest at a special House Republicans meeting Tuesday evening, when GOP lawmakers reportedly plan to use Trump’s sensitivity to disturbing photos and negative media spin to circumvent Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ “zero-tolerance” immigration policy.

However, per Axios, Trump views family separation as a bargaining chip and is disinclined to roll back the policy without securing a concession like his border wall in return.

Republican sources reportedly told Axios that the story’s legs and emotional heft are making it a cudgel they fear will hammer GOP candidates during the midterms.

They also fear that the party line that the policy is Democrats’ fault and responsibility to change is too unbelievable to hide behind, as Republicans control all of Congress and the White House. Also, a simple fact check reveals that the separation practice comes from the Trump administration’s policy and not any preexisting law.

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