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 Office of Congressional Ethics has asked the House Ethics Committee to investigate Rep. John Duncan Jr. (R-TN) for his possible misappropriation of funds from his campaign committee and leadership PAC for personal use, the House committee said Wednesday.

“…There is substantial reason to believe that Rep. Duncan’s campaign committee and leadership PAC expended funds that were not attributable to bona fide campaign or political purposes,” the Office of Congressional Ethics’ report said.

Looking back a full decade into Duncan’s Federal Election Commission records, the office found “multiple instances in which the campaign committee expended funds for the personal benefit of Rep. Duncan’s family and friends.” Some of those examples included in the report are private travel, weddings and baby showers, and personal cell phones.

The possibly inappropriately spending detailed in the report totals more than $100,000, though the document contains caveats that this referral does not necessarily mean that “any violation has occurred.”   

David Goch and Heidi Abegg, Duncan’s counsel from law firm Webster, Chamberlain & Bean LLP, responded with a letter to the Office of Congressional Ethics claiming that the accusations are specious and that the referral to the House Ethics Office should be dismissed.

“We urge the Committee to reject the OCE’s recommendation that it further review these allegations and close its investigation of this matter as the OCE has presented no compelling support for concluding that substantial reason exists for a belief that a violation occurred,” they wrote. “The facts, testimony, and law support a dismissal.”

Duncan has held his office since 1988 and had previously announced in late July that he would not seek reelection in the 2018 midterm election in order to spend more time with his family.

Read the Office of Congressional Ethics’ full report below:

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Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen announced at the White House press briefing on Wednesday that the Trump administration intends to send members of the National Guard to bolster security at the United States’ southern border.

“The President has directed the Department of Defense and Department of Homeland Security to work together with the governors to deploy the National Guard to the southwest border to assist border patrol,” she said. “The President will be signing a proclamation to that effect today.”

She did not disclose how many troops would be sent, nor the cost of the endeavor, but asserted that they would be deployed “immediately.” She added that, at this point in the plan, the troops are intended to operate in a support, not enforcement, capacity.

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Democrats on the House Oversight Committee are requesting documents related to the recent decision to add a question about citizenship status to the 2020 census.

In a letter addressed to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Census Bureau Acting Director Ron Jarmin on Wednesday, the Democrats mentioned the Census Bureau’s previously expressed concern that the new question would “negatively impact the response rate for non-citizens” and asked for any documents detailing this concern, correspondence including qualms about the new question, and data about the question’s potential impact.

They requested the documents be delivered by April 11.

Ranking Member Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) has previously called for hearings on the new question, saying that “the Trump administration’s plan to insert a new, untested question on citizenship will increase costs for American taxpayers and decrease the accuracy of the census itself.”

Read the full letter here:

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House Oversight Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-SC) weighed in on recent revelations about President Donald Trump and Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe in a Wednesday morning interview on CNN.

In response to the Washington Post’s Tuesday report that Mueller currently considers Trump a “subject” but not “criminal target” of the Russia probe, Gowdy downplayed the significance of the news, saying that a subject can easily turn into a target during an investigation as complex and wide-ranging as this one.

Citing his experience as a former federal prosecutor, Gowdy told CNN’s Alisyn Camerota that the labels are “meaningless to me because one witness can take you from being a subject to a target. And unless and until you have interviewed everyone and looked at everything, no one has been implicated and no one has been exculpated.”

He continued that he believes Trump should sit down with Mueller, saying that if he has done nothing wrong, he has nothing to hide. “I would tell you, if you did not rob the bank, there is no reason for you not to sit down and talk to the FBI about the bank robbery,” he said. “Assuming you have a fair prosecutor, and I think Mueller is, sit down and tell him what you know.”

Watch part of the interview on CNN below:

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Police responded to a shooting at YouTube headquarters in San Bruno, California Tuesday.

Police Chief Ed Barberini of the San Bruno police has confirmed that a woman who police consider a suspect is dead from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound, and that four additional victims with gunshot-related wounds have been transferred to nearby hospitals for treatment.

San Bruno police confirmed via tweet Tuesday that they are responding to an active shooter situation, warning passersby to stay away.

The San Francisco division of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is also responding to the scene.

President Donald Trump has been briefed and is monitoring the situation, CNN and others reported.

Images from local news network affiliates, including KPIX and KTVU, are showing images of people leaving the YouTube building with their hands raised.

Local news station KRON reported that the city manager has received multiple 9-1-1 calls from the building, though they did not reveal the reason.

Vadim Lavrusik, an employee of YouTube, tweeted that he “heard shots and saw people running”

He later tweeted that he was safely outside the building.

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After receiving intense backlash from hundreds of thousands of outdoorsy Americans, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is moderating his idea to exorbitantly raise entrance fees at the most highly visited national parks, the Washington Post reported Tuesday.

Over the month-long public comment period, the Washington Post reported that the National Park Service website was flooded with outraged comments from people irate over the proposed hike of entry fees from $25 to $70 at several popular parks.

According to the Washington Post, a price raise is still on the table, but one small enough to avoid driving the incensed masses away from what could be a record-breaking year for visits.

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President Donald Trump rallied behind his beleaguered EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, giving him a pep talk via a phone call on Monday, according to a Tuesday morning Bloomberg report.

An unnamed source told Bloomberg that the President told Pruitt to “keep fighting” and “keep your head up,” and that the administration has “got your back.” Chief of Staff John Kelly reportedly echoed the President’s sentiments in a call on Tuesday.  

Pruitt has been embroiled in a maelstrom of controversy lately, drawing fire for his use of a suspiciously cheap Capitol Hill apartment connected to a prominent energy lobbyist; his frequent first class travel, especially to his home in Oklahoma; and his use of an expensive security detail, appearing to accompany him even on non-official business.

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President Donald Trump heaped more praise upon the Sinclair Broadcast Group in an early morning tweet Tuesday, asserting its superiority over all of the major news networks — except for Fox.

Trump tweeted in support of Sinclair on Monday as well, but only put it ahead of a mere two networks.

However, not everyone is so pleased with Sinclair after scores of local news anchors across the country parroted a script from the parent company warning of fake news and biased reporting. One Sinclair-owned local affiliate, WMSN/Fox 47 Madison in Wisconsin, tweeted out its news team’s refusal to read the script on air.

Steven Poster, president of the International Cinematographers Guild, the group representing photojournalists at Sinclair stations, also joined the chorus of condemnation, per Politico, saying that the command to read the script was an attack on ICG members and “not in the public interest.”

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A Kentucky Democratic congressional candidate has pulled all of her campaign advertisements from her local, Sinclair Broadcasting-owned news channel after the controversy that exploded when anchors all over the country echoed the same script warning of fake news and biased reporting.

Amy McGrath is challenging incumbent Republican Andy Barr in Kentucky’s 6th Congressional District. “Today, I have instructed my campaign team to cease and pull all campaign advertising on WDKY-TV (Channel 56), the Sinclair-owned television station in our congressional district, as soon as possible,” she wrote in a Facebook post on Monday. “Sinclair’s corporate-mandated ‘must-read’ right-wing script on its nearly 200 television stations about ‘fake news’ is itself an extreme danger to our Democracy and eerily mimics the propaganda efforts that authoritarian regimes often use to control the media in their own country.”

I've just put out the following statement to the media:===============“Today, I have instructed my campaign team to…

Posted by Amy McGrath on Monday, April 2, 2018

In the post, she called on all Democratic candidates to join in her boycott.

WDKY-TV Anchor Marvin Bartlett responded to TPM’s inquiries with a statement from an executive at Sinclair.

“We aren’t sure of the motivation for the criticism, but find it curious that we would be attacked for asking our news people to remind their audiences that unsubstantiated stories exist on social media, which result in an ill-informed public with potentially dangerous consequences,” Scott Livingston, Sinclair’s senior vice president of news, said in a written statement. “It is ironic that we would be attacked for messages promoting our journalistic initiative for fair and objective reporting, and for specifically asking the public to hold our newsrooms accountable.”

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Democrats on the House Oversight Committee are calling for greater transparency of a legal defense fund created to assist Trump campaign and White House staffers with costs stemming from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.

Eighteen Democrats signed the letter sent Monday to Acting Director of the Office of Government Ethics David Apol. “The structure of the Fund appears to allow secret donations to these individuals, and it raises serious concerns about whether it complies with ethics, tax, and elections laws, as well as OGE guidance,” the letter reads.

According to the letter, the Patriot Legal Expense Fund Trust, LLC was formed on February 27 to help “an employee, consultant, fundraiser or volunteer” of the Trump campaign, administration or transition team with legal costs should he or she be pulled into Mueller’s investigation.

The Democrats are asking for information about identifying and vetting donors to the fund, how the expenditures will be reported and capped, and how the fund was initially created. In the letter, they request that the documents be delivered by April 12 with a corresponding briefing the next day.

Read the full letter below:

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