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Catherine Thompson

Catherine Thompson is a senior editor for Talking Points Memo in New York City. She came to the site in 2013 and reported on national affairs. Previously, she worked as a research assistant to investigative reporter Wayne Barrett. She can be reached at catherine@talkingpointsmemo.com.

Articles by Catherine

Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) on Friday criticized President Barack Obama's response to the recently publicized National Security Agency phone and Internet data surveillance programs.

"There are several parts to this that the president glossed over," Merkley told MSNBC after Obama spoke.

The Oregon senator said Obama took the data collection "very lightly." In response to the president's claims that the appropriate Senate Intelligence Committees were briefed on the NSA programs, Merkley said he had to seek out "special permission" to learn about the intelligence initiatives because that information was not freely available. 

Merkley then found the NSA intelligence gathering "so out of sync with the law" that he thought it merited public disclosure.  

"There was a broad vacuum sweeping up data across America," he added.

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President Barack Obama took subtle aim at critics of the Affordable Care Act in a speech in San Jose, Calif. Friday, asserting that in states like California that work to correctly roll out the health care program, the law is decreasing premiums and increasing competition between insurance companies.

"In states that are working hard to implement this law properly, it's working for people," Obama said.

Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who got served by a federal judge recently for his office's racially discriminatory crime sweeps, brushed off criticism Thursday by arguing that he is a victim of age discrimination.

Arpaio, who turns 81 next week, slammed his detractors in an interview with KSAV TV for calling his suitability for office into question on the basis of his age.

"I get very angry at people out there throwing my age out now," Arpaio said of his critics. "Last resort they have to throw my age out there and that's disgusting." 

The sheriff promises that he will indeed run for office again, but on a platform very different from illegal immigration.

"It's an insult to all senior citizens, to criticize and make fun of someone's age," Arpaio said. "I've been a poster boy for illegal immigration. I'm gonna be a poster boy this time around for all the senior citizens out there with discrimination against them."

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President Obama congratulated Rep. John Dingell (D-MI) for becoming the longest-serving member of Congress on Friday. He has held his congressional seat for nearly 58 years.

"I want to congratulate Congressman John Dingell on becoming the longest-serving member of Congress in our country’s history," the president said in a statement. "First elected in 1955 to the seat formerly held by his father, John Dingell Sr., John has always worked tirelessly for people of his beloved Michigan and for working families across America. He has helped pass some of the most important laws of the last half-century, from Medicare to the Civil Rights Act to the Clean Air Act to the Affordable Care Act, and he continues to fight for workers’ rights, access to affordable healthcare, and the preservation of our environment for future generations to enjoy.  Michelle and I send our warmest wishes to John and his family, and I look forward to congratulating him in person at the White House next week."

Congress will celebrate Dingell's accomplishments in a ceremony June 13 at the National Statuary Hall in the Capitol.

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After threatening earlier this week to vote against his own immigration reform bill, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) told reporters Thursday "I won't abandon this issue until it's done, until we get a bill passed," according to the Orlando Sentinel.

"I'm working as hard today on immigration reform as I ever have," Rubio said. "That's what I'm committed to trying to accomplish, and that's what I'm spending all of my time on, figuring out how we can get a bill that passes the Senate and serves as a starting point to get it passed in the House as well."

Rubio promised to promote a compromise overhauling the bill that includes adding border-security provisions in order to get it to pass, the Sentinel reported.

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An accidental email alerted IRS officials in Washington about extra scrutiny applied to conservative groups a year early than previously acknowledged, Reuters reported Friday.

According to transcripts of interviews between congressional investigators and IRS employees obtained by Reuters, a July 2010 email from an IRS worker in Cincinnati was accidentally blasted out to a large number of officials in the Washington office. 

Elizabeth Hofacre, coordinating "emerging issues" for the IRS' tax-exempt unit in Cincinnati, intended to send the message to a small group of employees, including some workers in Washington's tax-exempt unit. The contents of the email summarized Hofacre's findings on groups flagged on a "be-on-the-lookout" list, which included those groups with "Tea Party" and "Patriot" in their names. Officials in the IRS Exempt Organizations Rulings and Agreements unit accidentally received the email.

"Everybody in DC got it by mistake," Hofacre said in the transcripts, as quoted in the Reuters report.

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Federal officials are investigating allegations that the former head of a Wisconsin Division of Criminal Investigation field office has been selling guns without a license, according to the Associated Press.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms has been investigating Special Agent Jay Smith at the DCI office in Superior, Wis. for several months, spokesman Bob Schmidt confirmed Thursday to the AP.

The man who raised the alarm on the gun sales, DCI Agent Dan Bethards, claimed in his whistleblower complaint to the state's justice department that Smith had been selling firearms to other law enforcement officers. Bethards also alleged that Smith told local law enforcement agencies that he was suicidal and dangerous, per the AP report.

(via Green Bay Press Gazette)

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Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO) told the Denver Post on Thursday that he was aware the National Security Agency had been collecting the phone records of tens of thousands of Americans--and tried to stop it.

Udall said that he "did everything in my power" to raise awareness of the domestic surveillance program and bring the data collection to a halt. The senator only stopped "short of leaking classified information" because he was concerned about the program's lack of transparency. 

"That’s why I’ve been fighting for years to amend the Patriot Act,” Udall told The Denver Post. “My concerns are that people need to know how the president interprets his authority under the Patriot Act … He said he was going to submit to transparency in the State of the Union … I expect him to uphold his commitment.”

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Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-LA) called for an investigation into allegations that a federal judge made racially biased remarks in a speech at the University of Pennsylvania Law School on Wednesday, according to the New Orleans Times-Picayune.

A coalition of civil rights organizations claimed in a lawsuit that 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Edith Jones made inappropriate statements against minority groups, including saying that African-Americans and Hispanics are "predisposed to crime." In a letter to Judge Carl Stewart, the chief on the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Richmond demands a "full and swift" investigation into the accounts of Jones' speech.

"The alleged statements, if true, demonstrate personal racial and religious bias as well as questionable legal analysis," Richmond wrote in the letter, as quoted by the Times-Picayune. "These biases are incredibly inappropriate for a sitting jurist at any level, let alone a former chief judge on one of the highest level Article III Courts of Appeal."

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Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) took an opportunity Thursday to jab Attorney General Eric Holder over the recently revealed National Security Agency surveillance of Verizon phone customers.

In a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing, Kirk asked Holder if the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court order allowed certain phone lines in Washington to come under NSA scrutiny--in particular those that belong to members of Congress. Kirk expressed concern that monitoring the phone records of lawmakers could give a future executive branch an unfair advantage over legislators.

"I don't think this is an appropriate setting for me to discuss that issue," Holder responded.

Kirk interrupted the attorney general, asserting that "the correct answer is no."

As Kirk pressed the question, Holder repeated his offer to discuss the nature of the NSA surveillance outside the space of an open hearing. The committee later agreed that Holder will give a classified briefing to the full committee.

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