Kate_riga_profile2019

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. Bob Corker (R-TN) is letting loose this week, expressing anger and frustration with his party after Republican leaders blocked his trade proposal from the Senate floor.

“We are in a strange place. I mean, it’s almost, it’s becoming a cultish thing, isn’t it?” he said to reporters Wednesday. “And it’s not a good place for any party to end up with a cult-like situation as it relates to a President that happens to be of, purportedly, of the same party.”

He continued to say that some Republicans in congress still stand up to Trump, but there is a clear resistance by many, including leadership, to “poke the bear” that is Trump.

These comments come on the heels of an impassioned floor speech he delivered Tuesday, when he took his party to task for letting the looming election castrate any willingness to stand up to the President. “My gosh, if the President gets upset with us we might not be in the majority,” he said sarcastically.

Corker’s proposed amendment would curtail Trump’s ability to levy international tariffs on national security grounds by requiring congressional approval first.

Watch below:

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EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt asked EPA aides and top Republican donors to set up a job for his wife, Marlyn, last year and ultimately got her a spot in a conservative political group, according to a Wednesday Washington Post report.

A spokesperson for the Judicial Crisis Network confirmed that Marlyn Pruitt had been hired temporarily on recommendation by Leonard Leo, executive vice president of the Federalist Society and a longtime Pruitt friend who set up his $100,000 taxpayer-funded trip to Italy last year.

Marlyn Pruitt reportedly left the organization earlier this year.

This is just the latest in a long list of ethically dubious actions Pruitt has taken since becoming administrator, actions which have catalyzed a dozen separate federal ethics probes.

Virginia Canter, executive branch ethics counsel for the Washington watchdog CREW, told the Post that for an EPA administrator to “become the headhunter for his spouse” would be “highly inappropriate” since the search would affect Pruitt’s finances. “It’s above and beyond anything I’m aware of, with respect to any government employee,” she added.

Per the Washington Post, this attempt to secure Marlyn a job from his perch in the EPA was not Pruitt’s first — his maneuvering to get his wife a Chick-Fil-A franchise is the most recently reported precedent.

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Former House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) told Cincinnati station WCPO Monday that he thinks recreational marijuana should be regulated by states, and that states that allow medical marijuana have seen myriad positive benefits.

“If the states decide they want to do this, this is up to them, but I am not going to be an advocate on what the states should and should not do,” Boehner told WCPO. “That’s clearly up to them.”

Boehner’s position has been echoed in the highest levels of government lately, as President Donald Trump said Friday that he will “probably end up supporting” a bill that would buffer state laws on marijuana from federal interference.

The bill, spearheaded by Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Cory Gardner (R-CO), would give states leeway to make their own decisions on both recreational and medical marijuana policy.

On the subject of medical marijuana, Boehner was more loquacious during his interview. “There’s a lot of evidence that it works,” he said, referring specifically to children with epilepsy and veterans with chronic pain or PTSD.

He added that relaxing the rules around recreational marijuana could provide an alternative to more dangerous drugs. “When you look at the states where medical marijuana is pretty prevalent, the use of opioids is down 25 percent,” Boehner said.

Since leaving Congress in 2015, Boehner has flipped his position on marijuana, even joining the board of a company that promotes the use of medical marijuana.

H/T The Hill

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North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has accepted President Donald Trump’s invitation to come to Washington, according to North Korea’s Central News Agency and first picked up by Agence France-Presse Tuesday.

Trump had said Tuesday that he “absolutely” planned to invite Kim to the White House and that he would be willing to travel to Pyongyang as well.

Details of the meeting are not yet known, though it’s unsurprising that Trump would want another meeting with Kim, seeming to take to the dictator and showering him with praise after the United States-North Korea summit this week.

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Claire McCaskill (D-MO) confirmed Tuesday that she used her family’s personal plane during some periods of a three-day campaign RV trip through Missouri, though she derided the scrutiny as “election-year silliness,” according to a Politico report.

The Washington Free Beacon published a report Tuesday after using aircraft-tracking data to discern that McCaskill did not spend the entirety of her “Veterans for Claire” RV trip inside the vehicle, ducking out to her plane for some stops.

“I spent two-plus days on the RV,” McCaskill told Politico, adding that the plane “picked me up at the end of one day, after I spent all day on the RV” before being used to add “some stops.”

McCaskill’s opponents have jumped on the report, using it to paint her as an out-of-touch Washington elite.

“Claire McCaskill is desperate to put on a folksy act when she’s back in Missouri, but she’s too much of an elitist to even stick to a three-day RV tour without hopping on her private plane,” National Republican Senatorial Committee spokesman Bob Salera told Politico.

This is not the first time a personal aircraft landed McCaskill in hot water. In 2011, she was forced to sell her family’s private plane after failing to pay property taxes on it. She has since repaid the money.

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National Security Council staff members were the creative minds behind the eerie faux movie trailer President Donald Trump showed North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at the summit, according to a Tuesday New York Times report.

NSC staff named their fake production company “Destiny Pictures” as an apparent metaphor, unwittingly making the real Destiny Pictures, a small production outfit in Los Angeles, a target for bombardment from reporters trying to suss out the origins of the weird trailer.

“We had no involvement in the video,” Destiny Pictures founder Mark Castaldo confirmed to TPM.

Infused with a dramatic score and narrated by a an inspirational baritone, the trailer paints Trump as a harbinger of peace and prosperity, with Kim poised to take his country out of isolation and broker an era of innovation in the global community.

The four-minute video is punctuated with soaring vistas, extreme zoom-outs to the Earth’s rotating surface, fiery missiles and portraits of the two leaders looking by turns fierce and benevolent.

“Featuring President Donald Trump and Chairman Kim Jong Un in a meeting to remake history,” the trailer’s narrator intones. “To shine in the sun. One moment, one choice, what if? The future remains to be written.”

Watch here.

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George Conway, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway’s outspoken husband, wrote a legal column Tuesday tearing apart President Donald Trump’s complaint that Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe is “UNCONSTITUTIONAL!”

Writing for the “LawFare” blog, Conway meticulously debunked the arguments of conservative legal scholar and Federalist Society cofounder Steven Calabresi, upon which he assumes President Donald Trump’s tweets were been based.

“Unfortunately for the President, these writings are no more correct than the spelling in his original tweet,” Conway said, poking fun at Trump’s misspelling of the word “counsel” in a first attempt at the tweet, which has since been deleted.

Conway is a respected Republican attorney who is notably outspoken on Twitter in denouncing Trump, despite his wife’s high-profile administration job.

In his column, Conway argues that Mueller’s investigation is indeed legal, and that Calabresi’s arguments are specious.

“The ‘constitutional’ arguments made against the special counsel… had little more rigor than the tweet that promoted them,” Conway concludes. “Such a lack of rigor, sadly, has been a disturbing trend in much of the politically charged public discourse about the law lately, and one that lawyers — regardless of their politics — owe a duty to abjure.”

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The verdict is in: Meh.

That’s generally how foreign affairs experts reacted to the historic summit between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore. For the most part, experts agreed that Trump made more significant concessions than Kim; that North Korea has committed to denuclearization before and not followed through; and that even a weak agreement is better than war.

Here is a roundup of some of their reactions:

First is the deja vu camp. These experts have seen these pacts before, and despite all the pageantry from the Trump administration about the historic nature of this sit-down, they don’t see anything new here. What’s more, some of them see this agreement as even weaker than other administrations’ — particularly due to the ambiguity around the denuclearization logistics.

1) Heritage Senior Research Fellow for Northeast Asia Bruce Klinger, who served as CIA deputy division chief for Korea, on Twitter:

2) Former Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes on Twitter:

3) James Acton, senior associate of the Nuclear Policy Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, on Twitter:

4) New York Times National Security correspondent David Sanger to CNN’s Poppy Harlow: “The words complete denuclearization are there, but they’re nowhere defined and there’s no timetable,” he said. “Previous agreements have committed North Korea to allowing [International Atomic Energy Agency] inspectors back into the country, to adhering to international arms control treaties, and so forth.”

5) Vipin Narang, MIT associate professor specializing in nuclear proliferation in North Korea, on Twitter: 

6) Josh Smith, the Reuters senior correspondent covering the Koreas, on Twitter:

The other group homes in on Trump’s concessions, noting that his agreement to cease United States-South Korea military exercises is a big win for Kim, and was made without getting the United States anything significant in return.

7) General Michael Hayden, former CIA director, to CNN’s John Berman: “The North Koreans did not come with anything new,” he said. “The new element is that we agreed to stop our annual exercise cycle with our South Korean allies. That’s actually a pretty significant concession.”

8) Ian Bremmer, president of the Eurasia Group, on CBS:

9) Julian Borger, The Guardian’s world affairs editor, on Twitter: 

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Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), a public servant devoted to safeguarding the union, is finally making progress on blocking a ghastly prospect from ever becoming part of American life: phone calls on commercial flights.

According to a Tuesday Roll Call report, he is trying to finagle the ban into the Transportation Department budget after fretting about hypothetical airborne phone chatters for years.

“I would suggest that any senator who opposes banning cell phone conversations on flights be sentenced to sit next to a loud businessman talking to his girlfriend on a six-hour flight between New York and California,” Alexander reportedly said Thursday. “Keeping phone conversations off commercial flights may not be enshrined in the Constitution, but surely it is enshrined in common sense.”

Per Roll Call, the possibility has been a thorn in the senator’s side for years, leading to an impassioned speech in 2014. “Stop and think about what we hear in airport lobbies — babbling about last night’s love life, next week’s schedule, arguments with spouses — and then imagine hearing the same thing while you’re trapped in 17-inch-wide seats thousands of feet above the ground,” he said then.

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President Donald Trump told Fox News host Sean Hannity Monday that his “little rocket man” brand of rhetoric from earlier this year made him feel “foolish” at times, but that it was all part of a grand strategy to get Kim Jong Un to the table.

“Well, I think without the rhetoric, we wouldn’t have been here,” Trump said of the summit. “We did sanctions and all of the things that you would do. I think without the rhetoric, you know, other administrations, I don’t want to get specific on that, but they had a policy of silence if they said something very bad, very threatening and horrible, just don’t answer. That’s not the answer. That’s not what you have to do.

“So I think the rhetoric, I hated to do it,” he continued. “Sometimes I felt foolish doing it but we had no choice.”

The full interview will air Tuesday night; watch part of it below:

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