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

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s frequent indulgences have forced the White House to issue a pointed directive to Cabinet officials reminding them that the luxe White House mess hall is not for everyday use and begging them to please eat elsewhere, according to a Wednesday Politico report.

The restaurant is run by members of the U.S. Navy and located next to the Situation Room in the West Wing. The high-quality food reportedly runs at very low prices relative to restaurants in close proximity to the White House campus, making it a draw for the White House officials permitted to use it.

But Pruitt has overstayed his welcome. Per Politico, he racked up a $400 bill in one month, partaking in delicacies like beer-braised brisket tacos and “chocolate freedom,” a molten lava cake crafted with imported French chocolate.

He has also reportedly frequented the dining hall as a hotspot to bring prominent visitors from his home state of Oklahoma, including Bob Funk, a wealthy Republican and one-time business partner of Pruitt’s.

Per Politico, Pruitt has been known to complain that the EPA doesn’t have an eatery of its own.

“We love having Mr. Pruitt,” an unnamed source told Politico. “But [the mess] is not meant for everyday use.”

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In a heated interview Wednesday night, CNN host Chris Cuomo tried to back White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders into a corner to address the changing story around the infamous Trump Tower meeting, resulting in 20 minutes of verbal sparring.

Cuomo committed much of the interview to pressing Sanders to address why she said in August 2017 that President Donald Trump only gave advice to Donald Trump Jr. about the letter saying his infamous June 2016 Trump Tower meeting was solely about Russian adoption, and that he did not dictate it, only to be directly contradicted in recent days by a leaked copy of a letter written by Trump lawyers.

As Cuomo repeatedly tried to contort his question into a more palatable form, Sanders, with increasing frustration, continued to dodge.

“I’ve answered this question multiple times and no matter how many times I answer it for you, it’s not going to change. It’s the same one,” she said, continuing to refer Cuomo to outside counsel. “I’m starting to regret sitting here because I’ve answered the same question I’ve answered a million times.”

Cuomo finally conceded, saying that he thinks it damages her reputation as press secretary that she won’t address her own statement that has been proven false. “I wanted to give you a lot of chances at it, because I think it matters,” he said. “I think it hurts your credibility. I think it hurts the dynamic. But I gave you the opportunities, you made of them what you wanted, all right?”

Sanders quickly retorted. “I’m very comfortable with my credibility and the fact that I think by sitting here right now and taking questions from you shows the type of person I am, shows my effort to provide information,” she said. “And frankly, to be in an environment that’s not exactly friendly, that’s not exactly one that I think a lot of people in my position would come and sit in. And I think that speaks a lot to my credibility.”

Cuomo continued the interview, trying unsuccessfully to nudge Sanders off of her talking points on subjects like the economy and the FBI informant.

The interview ended on a chilly note, with Sanders saying that she had been called “useless” and other insults on CNN, that reporters had stopped reporting actual news, and that she understands that it would be difficult for Cuomo to talk about the President’s successes “of which there are many.”

Cuomo responded that she had taken cheap shots, implying that CNN did not like veterans, and that the President has said “horrible” things about the American press.

“I brought you on here because you said you wanted to talk about 500 days and we would handle the news of the day. Did I keep my word?” Cuomo asked.

“For the most part,” Sanders replied.

Watch part of the interview below:

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A conversation hosted by MSNBC’s Katy Tur about the California primary results took a sharp turn Wednesday as a Republican strategist called Los Angeles a “third world, kind of poverty-stricken area,” provoking a volley of insults between him and his Democratic counterpart.

Shawn Steele, Republican national committeeman in California, followed up his smear of the major city by calling his fellow interviewee, Bob Shrum, Democratic strategist and director of USC’s institute of politics, a “partisan hack” when Shrum came to LA’s defense.

“Just shut up!” Shrum shot back.

The exchange blurred into heated crosstalk as Tur tried to wrench the conversation back on track.

Watch below:

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President Donald Trump has commuted the sentence of Alice Johnson, a 62-year-old currently serving a life sentence for a non-violent drug offense, according to a Wednesday Axios report.

The commutation comes days after Kim Kardashian West came to the White House to advocate Johnson’s case.

The celebrity celebrated the victory on Twitter.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders explained the choice in a statement. “Ms. Johnson has accepted responsibility for her past behavior and has been a model prisoner over the past two decades,” she said. “Despite receiving a life sentence, Alice worked hard to rehabilitate herself in prison, and act as a mentor to her fellow inmates. Her Warden, Case Manager, and Vocational Training Instructor have all written letters in support of her clemency.

“While this Administration will always be very tough on crime, it believes that those who have paid their debt to society and worked hard to better themselves while in prison deserve a second chance,” she concluded.

West has been in contact with White House Senior Adviser Jared Kushner about commuting Johnson’s sentence for months after being moved by her story. She reportedly hired a legal team to advocate for Johnson’s release.

Johnson’s may be the first of many commutations or pardons, as CNN reported Wednesday morning that the President is prepping paperwork for as many as 30 more.

A White House official told the Washington Post that Trump is “obsessed” with pardons, which this person characterized as Trump’s “favorite thing” to discuss with aides.

 

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House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) seconded Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC)’s assessment that the FBI acted properly in utilizing an informant to converse with Trump campaign advisers in a rare public stance in opposition to President Donald Trump.

“I think Chairman Gowdy’s initial assessment is accurate,” Ryan said during a press conference Wednesday. “I have seen no evidence to the contrary of the initial assessment that Chairman Gowdy has made.”

The speaker added that he still wants to get some questions answered and bemoaned that Republican congressional leaders did not receive the briefing sooner.

In late May, DOJ officials held two briefings to inform congressional leaders about the FBI informant’s interactions with the Trump campaign as the President doubled down on denunciations of the “spy” who he claims, without any evidence, was sent to destroy his 2016 campaign.

Following the briefing, Gowdy, chair of the House Oversight Committee, said he was “even more convinced that the FBI did exactly what my fellow citizens would want them to do when they got the information they got and that it has nothing to do with Trump.”

White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and Trump lawyer Emmet Flood also attended the briefing, prompting outrage from Democrats, but reportedly left after giving introductory remarks.

Watch Ryan’s remarks below:

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In a Wednesday interview on CNN, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway said that there are “other administration jobs open” to Kelly Sadler, the recently ousted White House staffer who mocked “dying” Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) in May.

“Kelly Sadler has been told there are administration jobs that fit with her skill set and her experience and that the rest is really her choice what she would like to do next,” Conway said. 

Conway declined to say why Sadler left her job in the White House, which was first reported on Tuesday.

Sadler made headlines when her comments about McCain’s opposition to then-CIA director nominee Gina Haspel’s confirmation during an internal meeting leaked. Sadler reportedly said that McCain’s stance “doesn’t matter” since he’s “dying anyway.” The White House never denied or disavowed her comments.

Soon after, another inflammatory story came out that Sadler accused her boss, to her face, of being a leaker in front of President Donald Trump in the Oval Office.

Watch Conway’s interview on CNN below:

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Former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe is requesting immunity in exchange for his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on the handling of the Hillary Clinton email probe, according to a Tuesday CNN report.

In a letter obtained by CNN, McCabe’s lawyer, Michael Bromwich, set out the terms to Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA), wanting to establish that no information McCabe provided would be used against him in a criminal prosecution.

Per CNN, Grassley has called McCabe to testify next week, though the inspector general’s report has not yet been released. He has reportedly also called former FBI Director James Comey and former Attorney General Loretta Lynch.

In the letter, Bromwich added that if McCabe is not granted immunity, he will invoke his Fifth Amendment right to remain silent and not self-incriminate.

After the Justice Department’s IG concluded that McCabe “lacked candor” in his interactions with internal investigators about giving FBI officials permission to talk about an ongoing investigation of the Clinton Foundation in 2016, the IG reportedly referred McCabe to the U.S. Attorney’s office for possible criminal prosecution. McCabe has maintained his innocence.

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Kayla Moore, former Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore’s wife, lost her challenging bid to oust Sandra Lasseter from the Alabama State Republican Executive Committee, the body that runs the state GOP, according to a Tuesday AL.com report.

Lasseter reportedly received 7,275 votes to Moore’s 5,939.

Moore posted on Facebook to congratulate her opponent.

Per AL.com, it was a bad night all around for those connected to Roy Moore, as his former campaign manager Rich Hobson lost badly in his attempt to dislodge Rep.  Martha Roby (R-AL).

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National Security Council contractor Martese Edwards was arrested on an outstanding murder warrant as he tried to pass through a Secret Service security checkpoint on his way into the White House compound, according to a Tuesday CNN report.

His pass was reportedly for entry to the Eisenhower Executive Office Building.

Per CNN, the Secret Service was notified Monday that Edwards was wanted on a first-degree murder charge in Prince George’s County, Maryland. Details are unknown.

Edwards was reportedly transported to the Washington Metropolitan Police Department station.

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In an intense back-and-forth between White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and American Urban Radio Networks reporter April Ryan at Tuesday’s press briefing, Ryan repeatedly shouted questions about the NFL and police brutality until Sanders was forced to answer.

“Is the President aware that this is about police-involved shootings and not disrespecting the flag?” Ryan asked about football players kneeling, despite Sanders’ attempt to call on another reporter.

When Ryan had captured Sanders’ attention, she asked her full question. “There are black and brown soldiers that fight in the military as well who feel that taking a knee, bringing an attention to police-involved shootings, is something that this White House should deal with,” she said. “Is the President aware that taking the knee is about police-involved shootings?”

As Sanders began to answer, Ryan tried to pull her back to the specific question, earning a sharp rebuke from the press secretary.

I let you rudely interrupt me and your colleague,” Sanders said. “I’m going to ask that you allow me to finish my answer. I would be happy to answer it if you would stop talking long enough to let me do that.”

She went on to say that standing for the national anthem makes America “special and unique” and that the President is not going to “back down” on that stance. 

Watch below: 

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