Alice Ollstein

Alice Ollstein is a reporter at Talking Points Memo, covering national politics. She graduated from Oberlin College in 2010 and has been reporting in DC ever since, covering the Supreme Court, Congress and national elections for TV, radio, print, and online outlets. Her work has aired on Free Speech Radio News, All Things Considered, Channel News Asia, and Telesur, and her writing has been published by The Atlantic, La Opinión, and The Hill Rag. She was elected in 2016 as an at-large board member of the DC Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. Alice grew up in Santa Monica, California and began working for local newspapers in her early teens.

Articles by Alice

On Saturday, a Russian official tweeted out a photo, that has since been deleted, of first daughter Ivanka Trump sitting in her father’s place at a meeting of world leaders at the G20 summit on the topic of African migration and health.

Ivanka, an unpaid but official White House adviser, briefly took President Donald Trump’s seat between Chinese President Xi Jinping and British Prime Minister Theresa May when Trump stepped out of the room.

A White House official told the Associated Press that Ivanka Trump had been sitting in the back of the room, and moved forward when the president of the World Bank began discussing topics related to a new women’s entrepreneurship fund she is working on.

“The official said that when other leaders stepped out, their seats were also briefly filled by others,” AP reported.

The stand-ins for other heads of state, however, were government ministers or senior officials, not a family member with no previous foreign policy experience. Several U.S. pundits condemned the move as “grotesque” and reminiscent of a “banana republic.”

Just a few weeks ago, in an interview on Fox News, Ivanka Trump said that she tries “to stay out of politics.”

“I don’t profess to be a political-savant,” she said. “I leave the politics to the other people and work on issues I deeply care about.”

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A federal court heard arguments Friday in a lawsuit challenging the Trump administration’s demand from all 50 states for sensitive voter information, including addresses, Social Security numbers and party affiliation data.

Over the July 4 holiday weekend, the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) sued the leaders of the dubious “election integrity” commission—Vice President Mike Pence and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach—saying they had committed “egregious security blunders” that “would enable identity theft and financial fraud.” They’re demanding that the commission’s data collection efforts be immediately halted.

Already, the vast majority of states have resisted the commission’s inquiry, with at least 44 states refusing to hand over some of the information requested. In court on Friday, an attorney for the Justice Department admitted that only one state, Arkansas, has sent its voter information to the federal government thus far.

EPIC’s attorneys argued, for their part, that the commission is violating the E-Government Act of 2002, which government agencies to conduct a privacy impact assessment before collecting personal information using information technology. No assessment was conducted before requesting voter data, the suit alleges. The DOJ lawyer responded that because the “election integrity” commission is not an official government agency, it does not have to abide by these rules.

EPIC also raised concerns that the site the commission has set up to receive sensitive voter information is hosted by the Pentagon, with a .mil web address.

After hearing both sides make their case on Friday afternoon,US District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly said she would issue a written opinion in the coming days.

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As Senate Republicans struggled in late June to muster the votes for a health care overhaul, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) threw a Hail Mary pass, urging his colleagues to vote on a bill that would simply repeal the Affordable Care Act without creating anything to take its place.

Asked by TPM how the pitch was received, Paul deadpanned: “Not very well. Lead balloon.”

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As Senate Republicans lurch towards repealing the Affordable Care Act, party leaders and the Trump administration are pushing a new line about the projection that their bill would strip 22 million people of their health insurance over the next decade: that many or most of those people would be exercising their freedoms and dropping coverage by choice.

“If you’re not going to force people to buy something they don’t want, then they won’t buy it,” House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) said on Fox News. “So it’s not that people are getting pushed off a plan. It’s that people will choose not to buy something they don’t like or want.”

Ryan’s GOP colleagues in the Senate are doubling down on this argument even as the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office and outside health care experts say it is largely the bill’s gutting of Medicaid, reduction of subsidies and increase in out-of-pocket costs that would price tens of millions of people out of the health care marketplace entirely.

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A bipartisan delegation of five senators visiting U.S. troops in Afghanistan for the Independence Day holiday issued a stark warning about the Trump administration’s lack of strategy for a military conflict that has dragged on for more than a decade.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) noted with concern that Trump’s Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has yet to visit the country, and the administration has not yet nominated an ambassador in Kabul.

“It’s more than just dropping bombs that will win in Afghanistan,” Graham said. “Secretary Tillerson needs to come to Afghanistan quickly.”

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At a rally and parade in the border town of McAllen, Texas on Independence Day, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) clashed with a group of protesters who booed, heckled, and attempted to question him about his support for a bill that would repeal the Affordable Care Act.

According to the Texas Tribune, Cruz attempted to work the crowd and shake hands while avoiding the protesters, who held up signs reading “We’re pissed,” “No Medicaid cuts” and “No transfer of wealth 4 our health”—a reference to the massive tax cuts for the wealthy in the Senate GOP’s health care bill. Other protesters held signs attacking Cruz for his positions on immigration and climate change.

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In a scathing post on LinkedIn, Justice Department compliance counsel Hui Chen announced her decision to resign last month, saying it was impossible to go after corporate fraud and corruption when President Donald Trump himself was engaging in such practices.

“Trying to hold companies to standards that our current administration is not living up to was creating a cognitive dissonance that I could not overcome,” she wrote.

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A wide gulf continues to separate Republican senators as they furiously negotiate the fate of their health care bill after canceling a vote last week when it became evident it would go down in flames. While GOP senators cannot even agree on the basic questions of health care policy—whether people with pre-existing conditions should be protected from discrimination, whether or not to scrap Obamacare’s taxes on the wealthy, whether Obamacare should be repealed without a replacement ready—they have coalesced around a strategy of working the refs.

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White House officials confirmed Thursday that Donald Trump is expected to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G-20 summit next week. Russian government sources already had confirmed the two leaders would meet.

But asked in an off-camera briefing if the President would bring up in that meeting Russia’s interference in the 2016 election on his behalf—an effort confirmed by U.S. intelligence agencies—National Economic Council Chair Gary Cohn demurred.

“We don’t have an agenda set up right now,” he said. “As you know, these meetings are a week away. We haven’t finalized the schedule.”

When reporters asked what the Trump administration is doing, if anything, to hold Russia accountable for hacking in the run-up to the election and prevent such activity in the future, National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster said that all government departments are working together to “confront Russia’s destabilizing behavior” and “deter Russia.” He declined to give details of that effort.

McMaster then pivoted to speak in greater detail about the need for the United States to work with Russia on national security matters.

“What are the areas that we can identify in which we can work together with Russia? There are a lot of problems in the world that fall under that category,” he said, rattling off North Korea, battling international terrorism, and the ending the conflict in Syria.

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