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

The White House has accused the Philadelphia Eagles of “abandoning their fans” in a statement about the cancellation of the team’s visit with President Donald Trump due to the small number of players who planned to attend.

“Unfortunately, the Eagles offered to send only a tiny handful of representatives, while making clear that the great majority of players would not attend the event, despite planning to be in D.C. today,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement. “In other words, the vast majority of the Eagles team decided to abandon their fans.”

The statement describes how, when the White House learned that only some of the players would attend, they tried to reconfigure the event but decided to call it off altogether when they learned how small that number was. Reportedly, fewer than 10 team members planned to attend.

The event will be replaced by a “celebration of the American flag” for Eagles fans with musical performances by the United States Marine Band and the United States Army Chorus. 

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In an interview with conservative talk show host Hugh Hewitt, Attorney General Jeff Sessions spoke about the administration’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy, saying that it is “absolutely necessary” to separate undocumented parents from their children.

Here are some of the biggest takeaways from the interview:

1.) When asked why, at the very least, infants can’t stay with their parents during the hearing process, Sessions said “well, most are not infants.”

“Most are teenagers, although we do have a number of younger ones now, more than we’ve seen recently,” he continued. “And they are maintained in a very safe environment not by the law enforcement team at Homeland Security, but put with Health and Human Services.”

2.) Sessions admitted that he had never personally visited one of the children’s holding facilities.

“I have not visited them,” he said. “Those are within the ambit of the Homeland Security and the Health and Human Services. But I believe for the most part they’re well taken care of.”

3.) Sessions compared undocumented immigrants coming across the border to convicted American criminals, saying that those who break the law lose their children.

“Every time somebody, Hugh, gets prosecuted in America for a crime, American citizens, and they go to jail, they’re separated from their children,” Sessions said. “We don’t want to do this at all. If people don’t want to be separated from their children, they should not bring them with them. We’ve got to get this message out.”

4.) Sessions does not think it’s a “moral right” for refugees and asylum seekers to be allowed access to legal counsel to help them navigate the complicated legal waters of asylum requests.

“No, I don’t think it’s a moral right, Hugh,” he said. “No, no. If you come to the country, you should come through, first, through the port of entry and make a claim of asylum if you think you have a legitimate asylum claim.”

5.) Sessions said he would recommend to President Donald Trump that facilities be built specifically to house immigrant parents and their children, that he would “look into” visiting one of the facilities, and that, if it fits his schedule, he’ll try to go with Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), who was barred from one of the facilities in Texas on Sunday.

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Fourteen lawyers and law professors sent a letter to the White House on Monday rebutting a memo from President Donald Trump’s lawyers which asserted broad presidential power that would protect Trump from any ramifications in the Russia probe.

“The Office of the President is not a get-out-of-jail free card for lawless behavior,” the lawyers wrote. “Indeed, our country’s Founders made it clear in the Declaration of Independence that they did not believe that even a king had such powers…Our Founders would not have created — and did not create — a Constitution that would permit the President to use his powers to violate the laws for corrupt and self-interested reasons.”

The letter came in response to a New York Times report on Saturday that the Trump legal team sent Mueller a 20-page memo in January arguing that Trump was incapable of obstructing justice in the Russia collusion case because he could “if he wished, terminate the inquiry, or even exercise his power to pardon.”

In their Monday letter, the legal experts argued that Trump could not end Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation or pardon himself afterwards without running afoul of the Constitution.

“The federal obstruction laws, with their bar on corruptly-motivated actions, apply whether the President obstructs an investigation through firing officials leading it, shutting down the investigation, ordering the destruction of documents, or dangling or issuing pardons to induce witnesses to impede the investigation,” they wrote.

“Just as the President could not use otherwise lawful firing powers in exchange for a bribe without running afoul of federal bribery laws, he is not free to exempt himself from the application of the obstruction of justice laws,” they added.

The letter is addressed specifically to Trump attorneys Donald McGahn and Emmet Flood and was organized by a group called “Protect Democracy,” a nonpartisan watchdog.

H/T Politico

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National Park Service Chief P. Daniel Smith apologized to his staff on Friday after the Inspector General investigated an allegation that Smith made a crude gesture to mime urinating on the wall of a public hallway in the Interior Department headquarters, according to a Monday Washington Post report.

The IG began the probe in March after Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke sent them an anonymous complaint about the incident that allegedly occurred while Smith was telling a story. In the alleged incident, Smith “grabbed his crotch and his penis and acted out as though he was urinating on the wall.” The IG’s office has reportedly completed the report, but will not release it publicly until late June.

In his apology, Smith took pains to classify his behavior as crude, but not sexual harassment.

“I recognize that the story was inappropriate for the workplace, even though it does not rise to the level of harassment,” Smith said. “I am very sorry for my mistake in telling this story and any discomfort it clearly caused.”

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In a lengthy interview, Russian president Vladimir Putin blamed American political conflict for both the U.S. indictment of Russian citizens over election meddling, and for the fact that Putin and President Donald Trump have not yet held a formal summit.

Asked by Austria’s national public broadcast provider, ORF, about why there has not yet been a summit, Putin replied: “You should ask our colleagues in the United States. In my opinion, this is the result of the ongoing acute political struggle in the United States. Indeed, Donald Trump and I have, firstly, met more than once at various international venues and secondly, we regularly talk over the phone.”

In February, Special Counsel Robert Mueller indicted 13 Russians for allegedly impersonating Americans and contacting “unwitting” Trump campaign officials in an attempt to tilt the 2016 election in Trump’s favor.

“As for personal meetings, I think that the possibility of these meetings depends to a large extent on the internal political situation in the United States,” Putin continued. “The congressional election campaign is getting under way and then there will be the next presidential election, and the President of the United States is coming under attack over various matters. I think this is the main reason.”

Putin mentioned that he had spoken on the phone with Trump recently about their shared intent to avoid an arms race, adding “I hope that someday this work in the interests of the United States and Russia, indeed in the interests of the whole world, will begin, including between us personally.”

Putin also said that he has “high hopes” about the U.S.-North Korea summit.

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In a 17-tweet-long thread Monday, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) admonished everyone who is debating whether or not President Donald Trump can pardon himself and attacked media reports on his response to questions about Trump’s pardoning power.

Cruz protested a report that when asked whether Trump has the power to pardon himself, the senator was silent for a while before dodging the question altogether.

Read the rest of the thread here.

The audio of the media scrum, posted by a Weekly Standard reporter, reveals silence after the initial question if Trump can pardon himself, followed by Cruz eventually answering: “That is not a constitutional issue I’ve studied so I will withhold judgement at this point.”

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The Department of Defense Inspector General has formally launched an investigation into White House doctor Ronny Jackson.

“The DOD Office of Inspector General has initiated an investigation into allegations related to Rear Admiral (Lower Half) Ronny L. Jackson,” DOD IG spokesman Bruce Anderson said in a Tuesday email to TPM.

Jackson, who served as both former President Barack Obama’s and President Donald Trump’s personal physician, was nominated by Trump to be Secretary of Veterans Affairs in March. Soon after Jackson was named, multiple allegations surfaced from coworkers accusing him of drinking on the job, giving out prescription medications freely and creating a hostile and abusive work environment.

Jackson withdrew as the nominee in April and ceased to be Trump’s personal doctor, staying on as a general White House physician.

After his withdrawal, the accusations, pulled together in a memo by Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT), were sent to the DOD IG’s office to let officials decide whether or not to pursue the charges.

H/T The Hill

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In a Monday interview with Fox News host Tucker Carlson, Simona Mangiante Papadopoulos defended her husband George’s innocence and called on President Donald Trump to pardon him.

“Honestly, I know how dedicated and committed he was to the Trump campaign,” she said. “I know he did an excellent job. Because of this incident, his freedom is challenged. I trust and hope and ask President Trump to pardon him. I hope that he will.”

Asserting that her husband never colluded with Russia, she added “it’s very fascinating and actually frustrating to see my husband in the center of this investigation for talking in a bar.”

“I think he’s a hero because he’s been approached by many different characters, let’s say spies, he has been the victim,” she said, in an apparent reference to the FBI informant Stefan Halper, who Trump and his allies have characterized as a Deep State spy.

George Papadopoulos pleaded guilty last year to lying to the FBI about his contact with Russian individuals during the 2016 campaign and agreed to cooperate with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. Mueller’s team indicated last month that it’s finally preparing for Papadopoulos’ sentencing.

Watch below:

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Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) reacted to President Donald Trump’s tweet asserting that he could pardon himself on Monday, suggesting that the President should boot the lawyer who gave him that advice.

“If I were President of the United States and I had a lawyer that told me I could pardon myself, I think I would hire a new lawyer,” Grassley told CNN’s Manu Raju.

Grassley’s comment was a less-than-subtle shot at Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani, who said Sunday that Trump “probably does” have the power to pardon himself, but won’t. Giuliani then went so far as to say that Trump is so immune from prosecution that he could shoot former FBI Director James Comey in the Oval Office and not pay any consequences. 

Watch below:

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