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

As has become an often-repeated theme, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt is again being accused of using his post for personal and familial profit, this time by contacting a Virginia lawmaker to get his daughter into the University of Virginia law school and using his aides to help get her a White House internship.

According to a Friday New York Times report, Pruitt contacted former speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates William Howell seeking help in getting his daughter, McKenna, into UVA law. Howell wrote a letter to the dean on her behalf and she was accepted.

A Pruitt spokesperson told the Times that the two were longtime friends and that “letters of recommendation are normal process for an application to law school.”

In a similar incident, at least three EPA aides were told to help get McKenna a White House internship. Kevin Chmielewski, Pruitt’s former deputy chief of staff for operations, said that Pruitt told them to “see what they could do” about getting her the internship, and that they were asked to complete tasks completely outside of their professional purview all the time. McKenna did get the internship.

According to the New York Times, EPA aides were also deployed to set up calls with his old donors in Oklahoma and secure tickets to the Rose Bowl, in addition to many other sporting events.

Pruitt, amazingly, still retains President Donald Trump’s support despite the dozens of federal ethics investigations his actions have launched—though on Friday, Trump did concede that he is “not happy about certain things” Pruitt has done.

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Going a step further than he has before, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Thursday that it’s time to “wrap up” Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe, falling into lockstep with Vice President Mike Pence and House Speaker Paul Ryan, according to a Friday Washington Examiner report.

“What I think about the Mueller investigation is, they ought to wrap it up,” he said on a Washington Examiner podcast. “It’s gone on seemingly forever, and I don’t know how much more they think they can find out.

“If the [Inspector General] is through, why can’t the Mueller investigation finally wrap up?” McConnell added.

McConnell is now almost exactly parroting other Republican leaders. In May, Ryan told reporters “it’s time to wrap it up.” Around the same time, Pence made a similar remark on NBC News. “Our administration has provided more than a million documents; we’ve fully cooperated in it, and in the interest of the country, I think it’s time to wrap it up,” Pence said.

Other Republicans have sung similar tunes, including Sen. John Thune (R-SD), who expressed his desire for the investigation to end, and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), who expressed skepticism that there is any collusion to be found, since it surely would have leaked by now if there was any.

The “wrap it up” quip puts them all squarely in line with President Donald Trump, who has been desperate for the “witch hunt” to end for months.

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President Donald Trump said Friday that he “hates” migrant parents being separated from their children at the U.S.-Mexico border and insisted that the “Democratic law” that requires the separation can only be changed by Democratic lawmakers, despite the Republican majorities in Congress.

“The Democrats forced that law upon our nation,” he said during an impromptu press conference outside the White House. “I hate it. I hate to see separation of parents and children. The Democrats can come to us, as they actually are, in all fairness, we’re talking to them, and they can change the whole border security.”

The practice of separating parents from their children at the border is not enshrined in some Democratic administration’s law. According to an extensive Washington Post fact check, it is largely a product of Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ “zero tolerance” immigration policy, which includes prosecutorial crackdowns on all undocumented adults, while existing policy requires that minors not be held in captivity. Thus, it is Sessions’ policy that directly caused the separations.

In addition, Trump has routinely put the onus on the minority party to pass legislation ending the separations, for some reason exempting the Republican majorities from taking any action. In fact, a week ago, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and 39 cosponsors—all Democrats plus the two Independents who caucus with the Democrats—introduced the “Keeping Families Together Act” on the floor of the Senate.

House Republicans have released drafted legislation that would end the separation practice as well, but it looks like it would include so many bitter pills—wall funding, significant restrictions on legal and family-based immigration—that it is not likely to garner much Democratic support.

When asked about the White House’s stance on the familial separations at the Thursday press briefing, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders backed up Sessions’ argument that “it is biblical to enforce the law,” falsely asserting that the Trump administration is bound to laws already on the books.

Watch Trump’s comments below:

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President Donald Trump threw Michael Cohen a bone Friday, telling reporters that he “always liked” him and that he’s a “good person.”

He added that Cohen is no longer his personal lawyer, and that he has not spoken to Cohen “in a long time.”

Cohen is reportedly currently considering cutting his lawyers loose and potentially flipping to cooperate with federal prosecutors.

Watch below:

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President Donald Trump showed indifference to White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Friday, revealing that he did not watch her contentious press briefing on Thursday and that the prospect of her departure does not ruffle him.

“I don’t think so, but at a certain point everyone sort of has to leave,” Trump told Fox News’ Steve Doocy when asked if Sanders plans to quit. “I’m like a ship, I just keep going. But Sarah loves this job.

“At some point she will leave like everybody leaves,” he continued. “We’ll get somebody else.”

He also said that he did not watch or hear of her press conference Thursday when she got in heated back-and-forths with reporters over immigration, but that the press treats her “very unfairly.”

Watch below:

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When asked if North Korean leader Kim Jong Un would visit the White House, President Donald Trump said that he likely would, complimented his “strong” leadership, and said he wished Americans would “sit up at attention” when he speaks like the North Koreans do for Kim.

“Hey, he is the head of a country and I mean he is the strong head,” Trump said of Kim to Fox News’ Steve Doocy on Friday. “Don’t let anyone think anything different. He speaks and his people sit up at attention. I want my people to do the same.”

Watch below:

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During a Monday night debate, ex-convict and former Rep. Michael Grimm (R-NY) upended an already contentious primary by accusing the incumbent he is challenging, Rep. Dan Donovan (R-NY), of offering to get him a presidential pardon in exchange for Grimm’s promise to keep out of the race, according to a Thursday Politico report.

Grimm pleaded guilty to tax evasion charges in 2014 and served seven months in prison, being forced to give up his congressional seat.

Donovan acknowledges talking to President Donald Trump about the pardon on Air Force One last summer, but hotly denies that he did it to keep Grimm, who had not yet entered the race, from campaigning. Per Politico, he claims that he raised the issue with Trump at the behest of Guy Molinari, a former Staten Island congressman with ties to Grimm, Donovan, and Trump.

The relationship between Molinari and Donovan has since broken down, as Molinari has thrown his support behind Grimm for the Republican candidacy.

According to Donovan’s account of his meeting with Trump, he did raise the issue but was rebuffed by Trump aides who insisted he go through the proper channels of the DOJ to obtain a pardon. Grimm remembers things differently, claiming that Donovan indicated after meeting with Trump that he would be able to obtain the pardon if Grimm would forego the election.

Per Politico, Donovan currently has Trump’s endorsement as well as the support of House GOP leaders, but is struggling with anemic fundraising totals and Grimm’s enduring popularity in the district.

Democrats are salivating on the sidelines, hoping that the Republican kerfuffle will leave the seat vulnerable to a robust challenge and possible flip come November.

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More details have come to light about the maneuvering around the United States-North Korea summit, highlighting President Donald Trump’s impulsivity and constant breaks with U.S. foreign relations norms—whether it be trying to move the summit up out of boredom or praising North Korea’s propagandist press.

According to a Thursday Washington Post report, Trump started off his trip in Singapore by expressing his boredom to staffers and asking why they couldn’t just move the fully-planned summit up a day. “We’re here now,” he reportedly said. “Why can’t we just do it?”

He was only talked out of this idea when Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders convinced him that he would lose press coverage if the summit were to be changed to what would be Sunday night in America.

Trump reportedly started to hit his groove when the summit began, lavishing praise on North Korea’s state-run propaganda machine that masquerades as a news source, joking that even Fox News isn’t as friendly to him to North Korea’s media is to Kim Jong Un. Per the Washington Post, he jokingly offered a North Korean anchor a spot on a U.S. news show.

He reportedly continued to swoon at North Korea’s displays, awestruck by how “tough” their soldiers were and quipping that they could probably beat up Chief of Staff John Kelly, a retired general. He took his admiration a bridge too far, as footage is now circulating of him saluting a North Korean soldier, a gesture seen as a shocking display of deference to a hostile regime.

As he left the summit, he was entranced by the idea of bringing in developers and financiers to get into the North Korean real estate market, according to the Washington Post. “As an example, they have great beaches,” Trump told reporters at a news conference.. “You see that whenever they’re exploding their cannons into the ocean, right? I said, ‘Boy, look at the view. Wouldn’t that make a great condo behind?’ ”

Per the Washington Post, it is unclear if Trump kept these fantasies to himself and the American press, or if he shared them personally with Kim.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) sees no problem with Trump’s real estate ambitions. “He is selling condos, that’s what he is doing,” Graham told the Washington Post. “He’s approaching North Korea as a distressed property with a cash-flow problem. Here’s how we can fix it.”

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The mass exodus from the White House continues as two more staffers make plans to leave the front lines of the Trump administration.

According to a Thursday Wall Street Journal report, Legislative Director Marc Short may leave as soon as this summer, citing the “diminishing returns” of pushing for Trump’s agenda. Kelly Love, White House senior assistant press secretary, is bolting for the energy department, per Bloomberg.

Short reportedly told Chief of Staff John Kelly his intentions before the United States-North Korea summit, citing the preponderance of leaks as an impetus for his departure.

Short has been with the administration since inauguration day after working for Vice President Mike Pence during the campaign. Per the Wall Street Journal, a rumored contender to fill his spot is Shahira Knight, deputy director of the National Economic Council.

Love has likewise been with team Trump for a long time, having handled press for Donald Trump Jr., Ivanka Trump, and Eric Trump during the campaign. Per Bloomberg, she plans to leave the communications staff on Friday.

Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders reportedly commented on Love’s departure on Thursday. “She has been a valued member of the press team since day one of the administration,” she said. “She will be promoted to the Department of Energy as principal deputy press secretary, allowing her to focus on issues she oversaw here at the White House.”

These departures are the latest in a long line of fleeing staff, forcing the high-turnover administration to take such measures as recruiting for usually highly-coveted positions at a Capitol Hill job fair.

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White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders opened Thursday’s press briefing with an assertion that the DOJ Inspector General’s report about the FBI’s handling of Hillary Clinton’s emails confirmed President Donald Trump’s suspicions about former FBI Director James Comey — conveniently avoiding the less palatable parts of the report.

“The President was briefed on the Inspector General’s report earlier today, and it has reaffirmed the President’s suspicions about Comey’s conduct and the political bias among some of the members of the FBI,” she said.

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