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

Special Counsel Robert Mueller is looking into Russia-related events that occurred during the 2016 Republican Convention in Cleveland, Reuters reported Thursday

Anonymous sources told Reuters that Mueller is primarily investigating a meeting between then-Sen. and current Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Russia’s U.S. then-Ambassador Sergei Kislyak at a convention event, as well as the softening of platform language supportive of Ukraine after Russia’s invasion.

The platform reportedly initially called for the United States to supply “lethal defensive weapons to Ukraine’s armed forces and greater coordination with NATO on defense planning,” though the first half of the sentence was later removed. Diana Denman, who sat on the platform committee’s national security subcommittee, told Reuters that the Trump campaign had a direct hand in altering that language.

Sessions’ meetings with Kislyak have created problems for him before, after he initially failed to disclose them when asked by former Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) if he was aware of any contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian officials during the attorney general’s January 2017 confirmation hearing. The revelation of those meetings by the Washington Post a couple months later forced Sessions to recuse himself from the Russia probe, leading to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein taking over the investigation and appointing Mueller as special prosecutor.

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Thanks to the passion of Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA), President Donald Trump has signed a bill to nip wanton government spending in the bud—by eliminating oil paintings.

Trump signed the Eliminating Government-Funded Oil-Painting (EGO) Act on Wednesday, the law now banning taxpayer funds from being used for portraits of the President, vice president and members of Congress, along with other agency and office heads according to CNN.

Though Cassidy is touting his accomplishment, tweeting that he joined Congress to “cut wasteful spending,” the Congressional Budget Office estimated that the measure will save less than $500,000 a year due to the limited number of commissioned portraits.

As the CNN report points out, the law would not have prevented the recently unveiled portraits of the Obamas from being painted, since they were funded by private contributions. And despite Cassidy’s conviction that “few people ever see or care about” the oil paintings of government officials, administrators at the National Portrait Gallery had to move Michelle Obama’s portrait to a bigger space in early March, as the throngs flocking to see it have created so much congestion in the museum’s halls.

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President Donald Trump’s sons, Eric and Donald Trump Jr., spent their Wednesday night convincing Twitter and Jeb Bush that, yes, they do love their dad.

These statements of paternal devotion came as a rebuke to Bush after he made what was interpreted as a jab at the Trump family during a speaking event at Yale University. According to the Yale Daily News, Bush said that after he lost to Trump in the 2016 South Carolina primary he returned home to children who “actually love me.”

The event was billed as a speech on “Restoring Conservatism in America,” but Bush took another shot at his former opponent, reportedly calling him a “Republican in basically name only.”

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As rumors fly about President Donald Trump’s possible plans to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller, recently departed Trump defense lawyer John Dowd is taking pains to praise Mueller and his investigation.

“We had a terrific relationship with Mueller—the best that I can recall in my 50 years of practice,” Dowd told the National Law Review in a report published Wednesday afternoon. “It was terrific, completely open, people trusted each other, and we had no misunderstandings.”

He added that he was the lawyer who had the most direct contact with Mueller when he was on the team, but that lawyer Jay Sekulow had probably taken over that role.

Dowd also emphasized to the National Law Review that he continues to support the President despite his departure from the defense team.  “I really do wish him well,” he said. “I’m in his corner.”

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After being rebuffed by many of his top choices, President Donald Trump is turning to a Beltway outsider to take on more responsibility within his defense team for Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe.

Andrew Ekonomou, who has been assisting head lawyer Jay Sekulow since June, will now occupy a lead role in the void left by John Dowd’s departure, Reuters reported late Tuesday.

Ekonomou is contracted as an assistant district attorney in Brunswick, Georgia, and told Reuters that he “prosecutes a lot of murders for the D.A.,” though he has never been involved in such a prominent or far-reaching case as the Mueller investigation

When asked if he has the requisite experience to defend Trump in such an important case, he cited his 40 years of legal experience. “Just because you’re not a Beltway lawyer doesn’t mean you don’t know what you’re doing,” he told Reuters.

This promotion comes after reports on Tuesday that Tom Buchanan and Dan Webb, of the firm Winston & Strawn, had been asked to join the team, but declined. A few days before that, legal team Joe diGenova and Victoria Toensing also decided against working for Trump. All four lawyers cited business conflicts.

According to Reuters, Ekonomou is a part of The Lambros Firm LLC in Atlanta and focuses on cases of civil and criminal racketeering for D.A.s in Georgia. Earlier in his career, he also worked in the U.S. Attorney’s office and he went back to get his doctorate in medieval history from Emory University in 2000.

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Former Vice President Joe Biden walked back his comments on a hypothetical fight with President Donald Trump in a podcast interview that aired Wednesday.

“I shouldn’t have said what I said,” Biden said to the hosts of “Pod Save America.” “I shouldn’t have brought it up again because I don’t want to get down in the mosh pit with this guy.”

He emphasized that he made the comment within the rhetorical parameters that he and Trump were still in high school, not in the current day. He added that, while he should not have echoed this statement he first made during the 2016 campaign, he still feels strongly about the underlying sentiment.

“The truth of the matter is, I find the behavior and the talk vulgar, I find it degrading, and what I think it does is encourage the minority element of the male population to think it’s okay to engage in the behavior the President talks about,” he said.

The war of words between the septuagenarians began when Biden brought up the Access Hollywood tapes leaked during the campaign while speaking at a recent rally against sexual violence at the University of Miami. “A guy who ended up becoming our national leader said, ‘I can grab a woman anywhere and she likes it.’ ” He continued, “If we were in high school, I’d take him behind the gym and beat the hell out of him.”

Trump retaliated with a tweet saying that Biden would “go down fast and hard, crying all the way.”

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Sens. Thom Tillis (R-NC) and Chris Coons (D-DE) are reiterating their call for Special Counsel Robert Mueller to be allowed to finish his Russia investigation unimpeded.

In a statement released on Tuesday, the senators said that many of their constituents across the ideological spectrum want Mueller to finish the job without interference.

“We urge President Trump to allow the Special Counsel to complete his work without impediment, which is in the best interest of the American people, the President, and our nation,” they said.

The two lawmakers have been sounding the alarm about Mueller’s vulnerability since August, when they introduced the Special Counsel Integrity Act. Stalled in the Senate, the legislation mandates that only the Senate-confirmed attorney general, or next highest ranked Department of Justice official in the event of a recusal, can fire the special counsel. If that happens, the bill allows the special counsel to challenge the decision before a three-judge panel, which could overturn the ousting.

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Like most observers, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders expects President Donald Trump’s twitter silence to be short lived.

After being asked for a reason for Trump’s rare half-day silence at Tuesday’s White House briefing, Sanders said that he has been “incredibly engaged,” sending messages through his staff. “He has also put out a number of tweets over the last week and I think you can expect him to continue to do that,” she said.

Sure enough, as Sanders was speaking, Trump’s account tweeted about an opioid memorial, ending the drought.

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Still feeling spurned by the paltry $1.6 billion allotted for his border wall in last week’s funding bill, President Donald Trump is now urging the military to pay for the project, the Washington Post reported Tuesday.

Trump ended an early Sunday morning tweet detailing the wealth of the military and the necessity of the border wall with “Build WALL through M!” Unnamed advisers told the Washington Post that “M” stands for military.

According to the report, Trump floated the idea to Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) on Wednesday, receiving little reaction, though unnamed senior officials later dismissed the viability of the proposal.    

Read the Washington Post’s full report here.  

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