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

Already embroiled in a sexual harassment scandal that forced him to withdraw from a reelection bid, Rep. Pat Meehan (R-PA) abruptly announced his resignation Friday.

“While I do believe I would be exonerated of any wrongdoing, I also did not want to put my staff through the rigors of an Ethics Committee investigation and believed it was best for them to have a head start on new employment rather than being caught up in an inquiry,” he said in a statement. “And since I have chosen to resign, the inquiry will not become a burden to taxpayers and committee staff.”

“I recognize that there are constituents who are disappointed in the manner in which I handled the situation that lead to my decision not to seek reelection and wish I had done better by them,” he added.

Meehan was already under fire for reportedly using $39,000 of taxpayer dollars to settle sexual harassment claims from a former aide. He promised to pay back the money, though he refers to it as “severance,” denying any wrongdoing.

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House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) blasted House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) Friday for abruptly dismissing House Chaplain Rev. Patrick Conroy, calling the firing “unwarranted,” “hard to understand” and “impossible to support.”

“It is my hope that we will honor Father Conroy’s service by pursuing justice and making clear the true motivations of this unjust action,” she said in a statement. “I have expressed my forceful disagreement with this decision to the Speaker. It is truly sad that he made this decision, and it is especially bewildering that he did so only a matter of months before the end of his term.”

Ryan’s office reportedly disputes Pelosi’s claim that she was outraged by the firing when he made the decision in mid-April. A spokeswoman for Ryan said that Pelosi was passive when she first heard the decision. “While it was the speaker’s decision, she and her office were fully read in, and did not object,” AshLee Strong said to the Washington Post.

Pelosi denies that claim. In her statement, she also expressed support for the motion from Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-NY) brought to the floor on Friday to establish a special committee to investigate the firing. The motion was killed by Republicans, with only two defecting to vote with the Democrats.

Early Friday morning, Ryan held a meeting with House Republicans where he assured them that the dismissal was not politically motivated, though some speculate that it was prompted by a prayer Conroy said on the day that the House was marking up the GOP tax bill. He prayed that the bill would not create “winners and losers” but that its benefits be “balanced and shared by all.”

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The House of Representatives on Friday rejected a resolution put forward by Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-NY) to establish a select committee to investigate Speaker Paul Ryan’s firing of House Chaplain Rev. Patrick Conroy.

Only two Republicans — Reps. Tom Reed (R-NY) and Patrick Meehan (R-PA)— voted with the Democrats against tabling the resolution. The final tally was 215 votes to table against 171 not to table, with three Republicans only voting “present.”

Some other Republicans have reportedly voiced their opposition to Ryan’s move, including Rep. Peter King (R-NY) who said, according to CNN’s Jim Sciutto, “It is such an unprecedented action to only be taken for very, very serious issues. And the speaker said it was just because certain people said he…was not giving good counsel. I never heard that from anyone.”

Nevertheless, King voted with the majority of Republicans to table the motion.

According to the Washington Post, Ryan met with House Republicans Friday morning, assuring them that he fired Conroy due to members’ complaints, not because of any political reason.

Some have speculated that the firing is a result of a prayer Conroy said on the day the House was marking up the GOP tax bill. In the prayer, Conroy expressed the hope that the bill not create “winners and losers” but that its benefits be “balanced and shared by all.”

Ryan’s explanation was not enough for the Democrats and two Republicans who stood together as Crowley and others read comments praising the Jesuit priest and condemning his dismissal.

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Chance the Rapper walked back his support of Kanye West’s affection for President Donald Trump on Friday, releasing a statement asserting that his backing of West is divorced from his dislike for Trump and promising future advocacy to make up for the conflation.

“We have to talk honestly about what is happening and has been happening in this county and we have to challenge those who are responsible, as well as those who are giving them a pass,” he wrote. “If that happens to include someone I love, someone who is my brother-in-Christ and someone who I believe does really want to do what is right, it is not my job to defend or protect him. It’s my job to pick up the phone and talk to him about it.”

Chance the Rapper added that he personally would never support someone who talks about his hometown of Chicago like it’s “hell on earth” and that while he does believe that black people should get to choose their political ideologies, his comments were poorly timed.

The statement comes on the heels of a Friday morning Trump tweet thanking Chance the Rapper for “getting it” after Chance the Rapper tweeted that “black people don’t have to be Democrats” while West was receiving criticism for his relationship with the President.

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President Donald Trump continued his online lovefest with rapper Kanye West in a tweet Friday morning, including shoutouts to Chance the Rapper and Dr. Darrell Scott, a pastor and member of Trump’s transition team.

Though the affection between Trump and West was made public back in 2016 when West visited Trump Tower after the election, it has been recently reignited by West’s tweetstorm articulating his support for the President.

Scott and Chance the Rapper both posted tweets this week supportive of either the President or West’s autonomy to politically support whomever he chooses.

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House Chaplain Rev. Patrick Conroy spoke out in a Thursday New York Times report about his firing, confirming that he was blindsided by Speaker Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) decision and was never told why he has been dismissed.

“I was asked to resign, that is clear,” Conroy told the New York Times. He added that it is “unclear” why.

“I certainly wasn’t given anything in writing,” he continued. “Catholic members on both sides are furious.”

The only possible rationale Conroy could identify is a prayer he delivered the day that the House was marking up the GOP tax bill.

“May all members be mindful that the institutions and structures of our great nation guarantee the opportunities that have allowed some to achieve great success, while others continue to struggle,” he prayed then. “May their efforts these days guarantee that there are not winners and losers under new tax laws, but benefits balanced and shared by all Americans.”

According to the New York Times, Ryan approached him a week after the prayer, warning him to stay out of politics.

Conroy reportedly said that he had never been scolded for being too political in his seven years in the House, adding that just as a hospital chaplain prays about health issues, the chaplain for Congress prays about the politics of the day.

Though Conroy does not plan to fight his dismissal, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are irate about the decision and seeking answers. Per the New York Times, Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC) and Rep. Gerald Connolly (D-VA) are leading the charge to collect signatures on a letter to Ryan demanding his rationale and the standards to which future chaplains will be held.

Conroy, a Jesuit and only the second Catholic to ever hold the post, has served since being nominated by former speaker John Boehner (R-OH) in 2011. His last day is scheduled for May 24.

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House Speaker Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) dismissal of House Chaplain Rev. Patrick Conroy earlier this month has stirred up outrage and wide-ranging speculation, according to a Thursday afternoon Washington Post report.

In Ryan’s original press release, the ouster was painted as a voluntary resignation; only in recent days have details fully emerged confirming that it was a firing, according to the Washington Post.

A letter from a bipartisan group of lawmakers is reportedly circulating currently, collecting signatures to request more information from Ryan about the dismissal.

According to the Hill, unnamed sources are guessing that Ryan fired Conroy over as wide a range of issues as voicing disquiet with the GOP tax bill through a prayer to inviting a Muslim to deliver one day’s opening invocation.

Conroy has been the House chaplain since 2011 and, as a Jesuit, is only the second Catholic ever to hold the post.

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Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) was reportedly taken aback that Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) so aggressively pursued allegations against President Donald Trump’s veterans affairs secretary nominee Ronny Jackson, given that Tester faces reelection this year in a state that the President won by over 20 points in 2016. 

“I’m frankly a little surprised at how emboldened he has felt,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) told the Washington Post. “He apparently isn’t too worried about the election.”

Trump attacked Tester Thursday morning for his role in the investigation, predicting a personal cost down the line. “For Jon Tester to start bringing up stuff like ‘candy man’ and the kind of things he was saying, well you know, that are statements that are made up,” Trump said on Fox and Friends. “I think Jon Tester has a big price to pay in Montana. I don’t think people in Montana — the admiral is the kind of person that they respect and admire. And they don’t like seeing what’s happened to him.”

Jackson withdrew his nomination Thursday morning after Tester’s office published a summary of the mounting allegations against him.

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