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

George Conway, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway’s outspoken husband, wrote a legal column Tuesday tearing apart President Donald Trump’s complaint that Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe is “UNCONSTITUTIONAL!”

Writing for the “LawFare” blog, Conway meticulously debunked the arguments of conservative legal scholar and Federalist Society cofounder Steven Calabresi, upon which he assumes President Donald Trump’s tweets were been based.

“Unfortunately for the President, these writings are no more correct than the spelling in his original tweet,” Conway said, poking fun at Trump’s misspelling of the word “counsel” in a first attempt at the tweet, which has since been deleted.

Conway is a respected Republican attorney who is notably outspoken on Twitter in denouncing Trump, despite his wife’s high-profile administration job.

In his column, Conway argues that Mueller’s investigation is indeed legal, and that Calabresi’s arguments are specious.

“The ‘constitutional’ arguments made against the special counsel… had little more rigor than the tweet that promoted them,” Conway concludes. “Such a lack of rigor, sadly, has been a disturbing trend in much of the politically charged public discourse about the law lately, and one that lawyers — regardless of their politics — owe a duty to abjure.”

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The verdict is in: Meh.

That’s generally how foreign affairs experts reacted to the historic summit between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore. For the most part, experts agreed that Trump made more significant concessions than Kim; that North Korea has committed to denuclearization before and not followed through; and that even a weak agreement is better than war.

Here is a roundup of some of their reactions:

First is the deja vu camp. These experts have seen these pacts before, and despite all the pageantry from the Trump administration about the historic nature of this sit-down, they don’t see anything new here. What’s more, some of them see this agreement as even weaker than other administrations’ — particularly due to the ambiguity around the denuclearization logistics.

1) Heritage Senior Research Fellow for Northeast Asia Bruce Klinger, who served as CIA deputy division chief for Korea, on Twitter:

2) Former Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes on Twitter:

3) James Acton, senior associate of the Nuclear Policy Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, on Twitter:

4) New York Times National Security correspondent David Sanger to CNN’s Poppy Harlow: “The words complete denuclearization are there, but they’re nowhere defined and there’s no timetable,” he said. “Previous agreements have committed North Korea to allowing [International Atomic Energy Agency] inspectors back into the country, to adhering to international arms control treaties, and so forth.”

5) Vipin Narang, MIT associate professor specializing in nuclear proliferation in North Korea, on Twitter: 

6) Josh Smith, the Reuters senior correspondent covering the Koreas, on Twitter:

The other group homes in on Trump’s concessions, noting that his agreement to cease United States-South Korea military exercises is a big win for Kim, and was made without getting the United States anything significant in return.

7) General Michael Hayden, former CIA director, to CNN’s John Berman: “The North Koreans did not come with anything new,” he said. “The new element is that we agreed to stop our annual exercise cycle with our South Korean allies. That’s actually a pretty significant concession.”

8) Ian Bremmer, president of the Eurasia Group, on CBS:

9) Julian Borger, The Guardian’s world affairs editor, on Twitter: 

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Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), a public servant devoted to safeguarding the union, is finally making progress on blocking a ghastly prospect from ever becoming part of American life: phone calls on commercial flights.

According to a Tuesday Roll Call report, he is trying to finagle the ban into the Transportation Department budget after fretting about hypothetical airborne phone chatters for years.

“I would suggest that any senator who opposes banning cell phone conversations on flights be sentenced to sit next to a loud businessman talking to his girlfriend on a six-hour flight between New York and California,” Alexander reportedly said Thursday. “Keeping phone conversations off commercial flights may not be enshrined in the Constitution, but surely it is enshrined in common sense.”

Per Roll Call, the possibility has been a thorn in the senator’s side for years, leading to an impassioned speech in 2014. “Stop and think about what we hear in airport lobbies — babbling about last night’s love life, next week’s schedule, arguments with spouses — and then imagine hearing the same thing while you’re trapped in 17-inch-wide seats thousands of feet above the ground,” he said then.

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President Donald Trump told Fox News host Sean Hannity Monday that his “little rocket man” brand of rhetoric from earlier this year made him feel “foolish” at times, but that it was all part of a grand strategy to get Kim Jong Un to the table.

“Well, I think without the rhetoric, we wouldn’t have been here,” Trump said of the summit. “We did sanctions and all of the things that you would do. I think without the rhetoric, you know, other administrations, I don’t want to get specific on that, but they had a policy of silence if they said something very bad, very threatening and horrible, just don’t answer. That’s not the answer. That’s not what you have to do.

“So I think the rhetoric, I hated to do it,” he continued. “Sometimes I felt foolish doing it but we had no choice.”

The full interview will air Tuesday night; watch part of it below:

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Former basketball player Dennis Rodman, clad in a red MAGA hat, succumbed to tears Monday night as he told CNN’s Chris Cuomo of his unwavering belief in North Korea and former President Barack Obama’s dismissal of his message.

“Obama didn’t give me the time of day,” Rodman said. “But that didn’t deter me—I still kept going back.”

He continued, getting increasingly emotional. “When I got back home, I got so many death threats,” he said, gasping through his tears. “And I believe in North Korea…I kept my head up high, brother. I knew things were going to change. I knew it. I was the only one.

“Today is a great day for everybody, Singapore, Tokyo, China. A great day,” he finished, referring to Monday’s United States-North Korea summit. “I’m so happy.”

He also refers to Kim Jong Un as a “big kid” who “loves to have a good time.”

“People know that Kim Jong Un is not a dumb man,” Rodman said. “He is trying to protect his people and trying to protect his honor and everything that has to do with his country.”

Watch below:

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Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump brought in $82 million in outside income while serving as unpaid senior White House advisers last year, according to a Monday Washington Post report.

The figure was outed in financial disclosure forms released Monday.

Trump reportedly made nearly $6 million from Trump businesses like the Trump International Hotel in D.C. and in severance from the Trump Organization. Kushner got a $5 million chunk from a Kushner Companies apartment complex.

Per the Washington Post, ethics experts are concerned that the extraordinary outside cash flow could create intense conflicts of interest.

A spokesperson for Trump and Kushner’s ethics counsel told the Post that they followed the rules set out by the Office of Government Ethics and that their net worth has held steady.

In an interview last month, Kushner’s father Charles reportedly called watchdogs who have criticized his son and daughter-in-law’s business entanglements “jerks” who “can’t get a real job.”

Trump and Kushner aren’t the only White House staffers raking in the millions, however.

According to the disclosures, National security adviser John Bolton pulled in $2.2 million last year from organizations including Fox News, the conservative think tank American Enterprise Institute, and the Gatestone Institute, an anti-Muslim think tank of which he previously served as chairman.

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Amid the international upheaval after the G-7 summit, an unnamed senior White House official summed up the Trumpian foreign policy doctrine: “We’re America, bitch.”

According to a Monday Atlantic report, a “senior White House official with direct access to the president and his thinking” explained: “Obama apologized to everyone for everything. He felt bad about everything.” The official said that Trump “doesn’t feel like he has to apologize for anything America does.”

Another distillation of Trump’s doctrine came from a senior national security official: “permanent destabilization creates American advantage,” the official said, arguing that leaving everyone else on shaky ground makes America the sole strong power. 

A senior administration official contributed “no friends, no enemies,” a quip that encapsulates Trump’s distaste for permanent alliances in favor of shifting relationships based on his moods and impulses.

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A Fox News host apologized Sunday on the air after referring to the United States-North Korea summit as “a meeting between two dictators.”

“There we have him, the President of the United States, Donald Trump, about to walk down those stairs, stepping foot in Singapore as we await this historic summit with the North Korean Dictator Kim Jong Un,” host Abby Huntsman said as she watched footage of Trump disembarking from Air Force One. “This is history we are living regardless of what happens in that meeting between the two dictators.”

Anthony Scaramucci, Huntsman’s guest and Trump’s former White House Communications Director, appeared not to notice Huntsman’s mistake and continued talking.

Huntsman apologized later on the show, saying “I do want to point out that earlier, as you know on live TV sometimes you don’t always say things perfectly, I called both President Trump and Kim Jong Un a dictator, I did not mean to say that. My mistake, so I apologize for that.”

Watch below:

H/T The Hill

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The mood in the White House is increasingly grim as President Donald Trump gains confidence in acting alone and on instinct, sending exhausted aides hunting for escape routes, according to a Sunday New York Times report.

Top staff members are among the burned-out group, with Chief of Staff John Kelly reportedly telling visiting senators that the White House is a “miserable place to work.” His deputy Joe Hagin is reportedly looking to vamoose after the North Korea-United States summit.

The already record-high turnover in the Trump White House is widely expected to skyrocket after the 2018 midterms.

While the administration often seems chaotic and flailing from the outside, sources told the New York Times that Trump is enjoying wielding his power unchecked, and isn’t bothered by the exodus that his impulsiveness has sparked.

He reportedly focuses his energy instead on those who are unwaveringly loyal to him, calling his former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski and old friend David Bossie for advice.

Per the New York Times, he also enjoys gabbing with EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, especially about the shortcomings of Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

In addition, despite the historic summit with North Korea and his myriad international spats, Trump is reportedly still laser-focused on the leaks in his White House, reportedly trying to ferret out leakers by asking aides to rat on one another.

Per the New York Times, at least one senior staffer has been spreading fake stories to find the source of the leaks.

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Former President Barack Obama has secretly held meetings with at least nine possible 2020 Presidential candidates in his Washington D.C. office, according to a Monday Politico report.

He has reportedly met with contenders including Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), former Vice President Joe Biden, former Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick (D), former New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu (D), former Missouri Senate candidate Jason Kander (D), and South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg (D).

Per Politico, Obama also had a one-on-one with Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti (D) when he was out of town, and hosted Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) last year.

The meetings reportedly tend to be long and varied, as the former President weighs in on everything from philosophy and ideology to logistics and messaging.

In his meeting with Sanders, Obama and the Vermont Senator discussed their different visions of the Democratic Party’s future, reportedly debating the gaps between idealism and practicality.

Per Politico, Obama met Warren in April, when they reminisced and discussed the Trump presidency. This was reportedly the second meeting of the two, as the pair had come together in spring 2017 after Warren criticized Obama for accepting large sums in exchange for his speeches and appearances.

Obama and Biden, still very close friends, have been in frequent contact, though Biden is reportedly holding his 2020 decision until after the 2018 midterms.

Patrick is a favorite among Obama and his circle, and has reportedly discussed his future in politics with the former President.

Though Obama has largely kept out of the spotlight during the Trump presidency, he has reportedly been working feverishly on the sidelines as he and his staff set up an endorsement and campaign plan for the fall.

Per Politico, he has also been contacting donors, meeting with former Attorney General Eric Holder about the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, and working on a new memoir.   

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