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

Former NSC officer, and current aide to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Ezra Cohen-Watnick has explored ways of surveilling staffers’ interactions with reporters to cut down on leaks, according to a Sunday Daily Beast report.

The targets would reportedly be those perceived to lack loyalty to President Donald Trump, especially Obama-era holdovers.

It is unclear if any system was put into place as a result of Cohen-Watnick’s ideas.

Cohen-Watnick, promoted by former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, reportedly shares his old boss’ paranoia and desired to implement “insider threat detection” to root out damaging leaks that lead to unflattering stories about Trump.

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At a Friday meeting, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders took the communications staff to task over the leak of staffer Kelly Sadler’s comment about Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) “dying anyway,” according to a Saturday Axios report.

“I am sure this conversation is going to leak, too. And that’s just disgusting,” she reportedly said.

Per Axios, Sanders called Sadler’s comment “inappropriate,” but said that that did not justify leaking it to the press, a move she called “selfish.”

Sadler made the comment about McCain’s opposition to CIA director nominee Gina Haspel’s confirmation, saying that it “didn’t matter” since he is “dying anyway.”

Sanders reportedly added at the meeting that Thursday should have been a banner day for the White House with the release of the North Korea captives, but that the news cycle was dominated by the damaging comment.

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Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) called on the White House to apologize for staffer Kelly Sadler’s quip that his good friend Sen. John McCain is “dying anyway” during an appearance on CBS’ Face the Nation Sunday.

“If it was a joke, it was a terrible joke. I just wish somebody from the White House would tell the country that was inappropriate, that’s not who we are in the Trump administration,” he said, adding that it was a “disgusting thing to say.”

Sadler made the comment about McCain’s opposition to CIA director nominee Gina Haspel’s confirmation.

Watch below:

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EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt had a gourmet meal last summer with a Cardinal who his staff knew was being investigated for sexual abuse in Italy, and subsequently tried to cover it up, according to documents obtained by the New York Times.

According to an email the Times obtained under a Freedom of Information Act request, planning for the dinner started in May 2017, when aides learned after vetting that Cardinal George Pell was being investigated for sexual abuse. A private tour of the Vatican with the Cardinal was apparently also planned, though it never happened.

EPA spokesperson Jahan Wilcox sent a short statement in response. “On June 9, 2017, Administrator Pruitt had dinner with over a dozen leaders from the Holy See and on June 29, 2017, Cardinal Pell was charged.” He did not respond to questions about if Pruitt knew that Pell was being investigated at the time.

Additionally, the restaurant that the men dined at during the June 2017 trip, La Terrazza, reportedly costs hundreds of dollars per plate, a meal that Pruitt had as part of an official EPA trip. It is also unclear what official business Pruitt had with Pell, who is reportedly a climate change skeptic.  

According to the Times’ documents, the EPA then put out four different versions of Pruitt’s schedule from that day, all of which omit Pell’s name.

Pell, one of the Vatican’s highest-ranking officials, is currently set to stand trial on many charges of sexual abuse.

Read the documents obtained by the New York Times below:

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After a meeting at the Justice Department on Thursday, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) seems to be backing off his threats to hold Attorney General Jeff Sessions in contempt if Nunes does not receive the classified documents he has requested, according to a Thursday Washington Post report.

Nunes and Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) reportedly met with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and other intelligence officials at the DOJ, later issuing a joint statement calling the conversation “productive.”

Despite Nunes’s cooling off, House Speaker Paul Ryan jumped into the fray Thursday, saying that it’s “wholly appropriate” that Nunes get the classified documents, per the Post.

“I expect that we will be able to have an accommodation to honor this request because first of all, it’s our job to do oversight of the executive branch,” Ryan said. “This request is perfectly appropriate within the scope of the committee’s investigation, and I hope and believe and expect that they’ll be complied with.”

It is not fully clear which documents Nunes is trying to get, since much of his request is also classified. However, the DOJ has warned that the declassification of these documents would expose sources and endanger lives.

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House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) is trying to quietly put down a rebellion in his own party as vulnerable House Republicans work to bring an immigration bill to the floor despite his resistance, according to a Thursday Washington Post report.

“Going down a path and having some kind of a spectacle on the floor that just results in a veto doesn’t solve the problem,” Ryan reportedly said. “We actually would like to solve this problem, and that is why I think it’s important for us to come up with a solution that the President can support.”

Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL) filed a discharge petition Wednesday to bring immigration bills to a vote, overriding party leadership. According to the Post, the bill has 18 Republican signatures currently, seven short of those needed to pass, when joined with all House Democrats.

Some House Republicans are reportedly still weighing their decision, while party leaders are privately encouraging them not to sign and stir up more contention before a likely challenging midterm season.

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Former President George W. Bush gave a speech Thursday night warning of the dangers of isolationism, comments which seem to be sharply juxtaposed with President Donald Trump’s exit of the Iran nuclear deal earlier this week.

Quoting Winston Churchill, Bush said: “One cannot rise to be in many ways the leading community in the civilized world without being involved in its problems, without being convulsed by its agonies and inspired by its causes.”

He added that “people of the United States cannot escape world responsibility.”

Watch below:

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Failed Republican West Virginia Senate candidate Don Blankenship is not only withholding his endorsement from Republican candidate Patrick Morrisey, he has vowed to actively work to damage his chances.

Blankenship campaign manager Greg Thomas told West Virginia’s “Talkline with Hoppy Kercheval” that “I think the one thing he is going to make sure doesn’t happen is that Patrick Morrisey does not become a U.S. Senator.”

When pushed for a reason for the intra-party animosity, Thomas called Morrisey a “corrupt carpetbagger.”

“Don Blankenship does not believe it should be Patrick Morrisey. He also does not believe it should be Joe Manchin,” Thomas said, referencing the Democratic incumbent. “Don’s gonna do what he thinks is best. We’ve only just begun”

H/T The Hill

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