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

FBI Director Christopher Wray reiterated his position that Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Trump-Russia probe is not a witch hunt in an appearance before the Senate Appropriations Committee Wednesday, continuing to stake a position opposite to President Donald Trump’s.

According to a Wednesday CNN report, in reply to a question from Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) about if Wray still stands by his confirmation position that the probe is not a witch hunt, Wray answered succinctly: “yes.”

Wray also reportedly defended the agency as a whole against Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) and other House Republicans who accuse the Justice Department of withholding documents under false pretenses of source endangerment.

“The day that we can’t protect human sources is the day the American people start becoming less safe,” Wray reportedly said. “Human sources in particular who put themselves at great risk to work with us and with our foreign partners have to be able to trust that we’re going to protect their identities and in many cases their lives and the lives of their families.”

When asked about his reaction to more of the President’s recent criticism, Wray dodged the questions, largely sticking to praise of the agency and its work.

On Thursday, Trump sent out a morning tweet about Mueller’s investigation in the well-worn “witch hunt” vein.

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is dangling the threat of canceling the Senate’s August recess to pressure Democrats eager to get back to their hometown campaign trails, on key votes, according to a Wednesday Politico report.

McConnell is reportedly planning to meet with Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and President Donald Trump to see if he can negotiate with Schumer to get nominees confirmed and a spending bill passed in exchange for a ceasefire from Trump in attacking the Senate and it’s four-week break.

Sixteen Republican senators signed a letter last week urging McConnell to cancel the recess to force Democrats’ hand. They say that they want to forego the break to get work done amid “historic obstruction” from the Democrats.

However, the fact that ten Democrats are up for reelection this year in states won by Trump certainly factors in. Only one Republican, Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV), is up in a state won by Hillary Clinton in 2016.

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At Tuesday’s lunch with President Donald Trump and Senate Republicans, Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV) implored Trump not to shut down the government over his border wall before the midterms. Trump’s response? “We’ll see what happens.”

According to a Wednesday Politico report, Heller lavished praise on the President before making his request, reminding him that vulnerable Republicans have a lot to lose from a shutdown. Trump was noncommittal.

Trump has threatened lawmakers not to take their August break until they can secure funding for his wall in next year’s budget.

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Michael Avenatti, Stormy Daniels’ spotlight-loving lawyer, has become increasingly hostile to unflattering articles recently, calling a journalist with the Hollywood Reporter an “asshole” who interviewed lawyers jealous of him to write an article with an agenda.

When Avenatti caught wind of Hollywood Reporter staffer Eriq Gardner’s upcoming column that included a tally of Avenatti’s on-air appearances, he went to Gardner’s editor to air his concerns, per the Hollywood Reporter.

Gardner reportedly sent him a list of questions for the article, which Avenatti took as a sign that the article would be less than glowing. This sparked his angry exchange with Gardner, shortly before a separate incident when he threatened to sue the Daily Caller for defamation early this week.  

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The White House has eliminated the cyber coordinator role, an Obama-era position key to developing a cohesive policy for the federal government to fight back against hacking and other digital threats, according to a Tuesday Politico report.

Per Politico, National Security Adviser John Bolton floated the idea of eliminating the position last week, and an email sent to staffers Tuesday confirmed that the position would be ended in an effort to “streamline authority.”

The coordinator reportedly dealt with such timely issues as election security and digital warfare. Some have voiced concern that eliminating the position will only make America even more vulnerable to cyber attacks.

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When asked if White House aide Kelly Sadler should apologize for her off-color joke about Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said Tuesday that she should “apologize and apologize publicly.”

Sadler said last week in a leaked comment that McCain’s opposition to CIA director nominee Gina Haspel didn’t matter since he was “dying anyway.” Neither she nor the White House has issued a public apology.

Watch below:

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White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders excoriated leaks from the White House as “disgusting” on Wednesday, but quickly added that sometimes reporters are just making up the information.

“I think it is disgusting and some of the most shameful behavior that you could ever engage in,” Sanders said on “Fox and Friends” when asked about the general leakiness of the White House. “It’s an honor and privilege to work for the President and to be part of his administration. Anybody who betrays that, I think, is a total and complete coward and they should be fired.

 “I think sometimes, some of these leaks are made up and reporters search for validation for them,” she added.

Watch below:

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As the Trump administration agonizes over the leakiness of its White House, chief of staff John Kelly has implemented a new stopgap measure—glorified hall monitors.

Kelly’s ban on personal cell phones in the White House has been in place since January, but a Tuesday CNN report revealed new details about how the ban is executed.

Staffers reportedly leave their phones in lockers during the day, setting off an hours-long chorus of vibrations and rings. To ensure that White House officials have properly stowed their electronics, suit-clad men reportedly sweep the hallways and rooms with handheld devices that can pinpoint prohibited phones. Per CNN, the devices are so savvy that they can differentiate between types of electronic contraband.

Though Kelly has threatened White House bans for any staffer found with an illicit phone, unnamed sources told CNN that few people take that seriously. Some added that the draconian measures did not prevent staffer Kelly Sadler’s off-color joke about Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) “dying anyway” from leaking, the impetus of the recent crackdown.

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Disgraced former Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-TX) has landed on his feet after resigning his office in early April—and he has no intention to pay back the $84,000 of taxpayer money he used to settle his sexual harassment case, according to a Tuesday ABC report.

Though Farenthold’s new gig with the Calhoun Port Authority pays a reported six-figure salary, he has no plans to use that income to reimburse his constituents. “I will say this on the record: I have been advised by my attorneys not to repay that,” Farenthold told ABC. “That’s why it hasn’t been repaid.”

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) and the House Ethics Committee have all urged Farenthold to pay back the money he used for a 2015 settlement with a former congressional aide who accused him of sexual harassment and gender discrimination.

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