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

During a press conference on Republicans’ ongoing immigration debate, House Speaker Paul Ryan briefly mentioned the Trump-Russia probe, insisting that there is no evidence of collusion.

“In all of this, in any of this, there’s been no evidence that there’s any collusion between the Trump campaign and the President and Russia,” he said. “Let’s just make that clear — there is no collusion.

“This is Russia and what they did and making sure they don’t do it again and about us, Congress, the elected representative branch of government, conducting very legitimate oversight over the appointed executive branch of government, and we expect them to comply with all of our oversight requests because that is how good government works,” he added. 

Ryan is again singing President Donald Trump’s tune after a rare break with the President Wednesday when he cast doubt on Trump’s “spygate” conspiracy by asserting that the FBI had legitimate grounds for sending an informant to converse with Trump campaign aides.

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Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) lambasted EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt on CNN Thursday morning, saying that the Trump official is “acting like a moron.”

“The things that Scott Pruitt is alleged to have done, they continue, the hits just keep coming,” Kennedy told CNN’s John Berman. “I think he’s hurting the President and therefore he’s hurting the country.

“He’s acting like a moron and he needs to stop it,” he continued. “It’s not personal, but he needs to stop misbehaving in this way.”

Just this week, Pruitt has been accused of using an EPA aide to try to meet with the CEO of Chick-Fil-A to set up a franchise for his wife to run, has reportedly been asked to lay off eating at the White House mess after racking up a $400 bill in one month, and sent an aide to obtain a used mattress from a Trump hotel. A top Pruitt aide also quit this week, prompting an EPA spokesperson to call the reporter who broke the story “a piece of trash.” 

Watch below:

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Martese Edwards, the National Security Council contractor who was arrested on a murder warrant at a White House secret service checkpoint Wednesday, had obtained a security clearance despite allegedly shooting his ex-girlfriend’s boyfriend, according to a Wednesday Daily Beast report.

Besides the murder charges, Edwards has run into legal problems related to assault twice before.

Per the Daily Beast, prosecutors in Prince George’s County charged Edwards with second-degree assault in May 2015, later dismissing the case for unknown reasons. In August 2013, he was reportedly involved in another legal proceeding over domestic violence and was served with an interim restraining order. That case was also dropped when the petitioner did not appear in court.

That both previous cases did not end in convictions could reportedly explain why Edwards was still able to obtain a White House job with security clearance.

An unnamed White House spokesperson told the Daily Beast that he was hired to “provide temporary services” to the NSC in December 2017.

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Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani went after Stormy Daniels on Wednesday at a press conference in Israel, expressing his disbelief that her alleged affair with President Donald Trump occurred because of Daniels’ looks and occupation.

I don’t think there’s a slight suspicion it’s true. Excuse me, but when you look at Stormy Daniels. I know Donald Trump. Look at his three wives,” Giuliani said. “Beautiful women, classy women, women of great substance. Stormy Daniels?” he asked, widening his eyes in disbelief. 

I respect all human beings. I have to respect criminals,” he barreled on. “I’m sorry, I don’t respect a porn star the way I respect a career woman or a woman of substance or a woman who has great respect for herself as a woman and as a person and isn’t going to sell her body for sexual exploitation.” 

He ended his tirade with a patronizing crescendo. “So, Stormy, you want to bring a case—let me cross examine you.”

After being asked by MSNBC’s Hallie Jackson if he would retract his demeaning comments, Giuliani stood his ground. “Why would I withdraw them?” he reportedly asked. “You’re going to tell me that being involved in pornography isn’t demeaning to women? I don’t know—do you have a daughter?

“I think most decent women would consider pornography demeaning,” he continued. “They used to! And she gets money for that…This is all part of ripping apart anything anybody says who defended the President.”

Stormy Daniels’ lawyer Michael Avenatti, never one to stay on the sidelines of a scandal, weighed in Thursday morning on MSNBC saying that Giuliani is an “absolutely disgusting pig” who “should be fired immediately.”

He added that Trump’s wife, Melania, used to work as a model, sometimes “scantily clad” in photos. He added that the photos are “beautiful.”

Watch below:

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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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