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

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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Michael Avenatti, Stormy Daniels’ lawyer, critiqued journalists who have come to the defense of the Daily Caller after Avenatti publicly mused filing a defamation lawsuit against the publication.

“If an attorney engaged in unethical behavior or conduct, I wouldn’t naturally jump to their defense just because they’re a member of the bar,” he said on a Tuesday episode of Pod Save America. “I think it’s somewhat improper for other journalists to jump to this knee-jerk reaction and defense of the Daily Caller without knowing all the facts.”

He added that he “isn’t doing anything wrong,” that the Daily Caller disregarded journalistic standards and “engaged in basically unethical conduct.”

Daily Caller reporter Peter Hasson posted an email from Avenatti threatening legal action to twitter on Monday.

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Former NBC News correspondent Linda Vester, who accused veteran anchor Tom Brokaw of sexually harassing her in the ’90s, said Tuesday that NBC’s recent internal investigation was “deeply flawed.”

“Women have contacted me in recent days to say that they did not feel that they could fully speak candidly to the NBC lawyers, and others have contacted me to say that they didn’t feel that they were properly interviewed,” Vester said to CNN’s Alisyn Camerota.

The investigation turned up no structural problems contributing to a culture of sexual misconduct. It was triggered after former Today host Matt Lauer was fired for sexual harassment last fall.

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Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) are joining Ron Wyden (D-OR) in his call for information from AT&T and Novartis about their payments to Michael Cohen.

The three have written or signed letters to the companies, calling for an investigation into the seeming “pay-for-play operation.”

Stormy Daniels’ lawyer Michael Avenatti first released a document early last week revealing the payments, which were subsequently confirmed by the companies involved. Cohen was paid $600,000 from AT&T to give them guidance about the new administration and proposed merger with Time Warner; he received $1.2 million from Novartis to provide healthcare insights.

Read the letters below:   

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White House counselor Kellyanne Conway expects firings in coming weeks as a response to the Thursday leak of a staffer’s joke about Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) made in an internal meeting.

“I do, actually, yes I do,” Conway said in response to Fox News host Martha MacCallum’s question about if she expected personnel changes as ramifications for the leak. Kelly Sadler, the aide who joked that McCain’s opposition to CIA director nominee Gina Haspel didn’t matter since he was “dying anyway,” is still employed at the White House.

Conway said that the leaks are often staffers’ attempts to sabotage each other. “Some leaks exist to hurt colleagues, some leaks exist because they disagree with the policies that are being put forth, but none of them are helpful,” she said. “I will tell you something else that’s going on in this White House, but not as badly as it was at the beginning, it’s not so much leaking as using the media to shiv each other.”

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Despite his ardent opposition to the Affordable Care Act, former Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price said that everybody should have access to healthcare, according to a Monday CNN report.

“Nobody wants individuals not to have coverage. We want everybody to have coverage,” Price said on the podcast, “The Axe Files.” “Having everybody have coverage is imperative at this point.”

He reportedly added that he does not think that the ACA provides people with “affordable, accessible” coverage.

Price helped lead the unsuccessful charge to repeal the ACA last year, and maintains that Trump’s moves since to slash ACA advertising money and to shorten the enrollment period were not attempts to damage the program, calling that train of thought “an illogical conclusion.”

Price resigned from the administration in September 2017 after his ethically suspect practice of using private planes for government work became known.

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