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Caitlin MacNeal

Caitlin MacNeal is a News Writer based in Washington, D.C. Before joining TPM, Caitlin interned and wrote for the Huffington Post, the Sunlight Foundation and Slate. She is a graduate of Georgetown University.

Articles by Caitlin

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Friday afternoon announced that the Treasury Department would not grant ExxonMobil a waiver from U.S. sanctions to resume its drilling ventures in Russia.

“In consultation with President Donald J. Trump, the Treasury Department will not be issuing waivers to U.S. companies, including Exxon, authorizing drilling prohibited by current Russian sanctions,” Mnuchin said in a statement.

The Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday that Exxon had applied for a waiver to pick back up its joint venture with Rosneft, the Russian state-owned oil giant. Exxon initially applied for the waiver in July 2015, and the company restarted its push for approval in March of this year, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The company revived its effort to win approval for the waiver about a month after Rex Tillerson, the former CEO of Exxon, began his tenure as secretary of state.

 

President Donald Trump argued in a court filing submitted on Thursday that people have “no right” to protest inside his campaign rallies.

The filing was the latest from the President in a lawsuit brought by three protesters who alleged that he incited the crowd to harass and physically intimidate them at a March 2016 campaign rally in Kentucky. The suit alleges that Trump encouraged the crowd to remove the protesters from the rally and offered to pay legal fees for anyone arrested for removing protesters from the event.

In the Thursday filing, lawyers for Trump argued that he had a First Amendment right to exclude the protesters from his campaign rally.

They wrote that “political campaigns have a core First Amendment right to associate for the purpose of expressing a particular message,” which they argued allows for excluding views that are at odds with the campaign’s message. Trump then has a right to shape the rally “by excluding or expelling demonstrators who express contrary viewpoints,” the lawyers asserted.

“Of course, protesters have their own First Amendment right to express dissenting views, but they have no right to do so as part of the campaign rally of the political candidates they oppose,” Trump’s lawyers wrote.

They added that the demonstrators “obviously interfered with the Trump campaign’s First Amendment right” when they “began vigorously expressing their disdain for Mr. Trump.”

The federal judge proceeding over the case had previously denied motions from Trump’s lawyers to dismiss the case, agreeing with the protesters that Trump’s comments at the rally incited violence. About two weeks later, Trump’s lawyers submitted another filing arguing that Trump is immune from lawsuits as president.

In the most recent filing submitted on Thursday, Trump’s lawyers asked a federal district court judge to pause the proceedings in the case and allow Trump to appeal to a higher court since that district court judge had dismissed Trump’s initial request to dismiss the case.

In a statement to Politico, the lawyer for the protesters who filed the suit said that they “anticipated that the President would do everything in his power to prevent this case from proceeding to the discovery phase, so this motion was not a surprise.”

They also argued that Trump’s calls for the protesters to be removed were protected by the First Amendment. They noted that Trump never explicitly encouraged the use of force, but that even if he did, it would be permissible to a certain extent.

They wrote that “even if Mr. Trump implicitly instructed the audience to remove the protesters by using force if necessary, his speech was still entirely lawful and protected under the First Amendment unless he advocated a greater degree of force than was necessary under the circumstances.”

“Absent that type of unlawful advocacy, Mr. Trump cannot be held liable for incitement. It makes no difference whether the crowd reacted with unlawful violence beyond what Mr. Trump advocated,” Trump’s lawyers argued.

Fewer than 10 days out from the 100-day mark of his presidency, Donald Trump on Friday morning blasted the “ridiculous standard of the first 100 days.”

President Trump was likely looking to get out ahead of news stories analyzing what he has accomplished during his first 100 days, a benchmark on which many presidents have been assessed.

Already, outlets, including TPM, are publishing pieces noting that Trump has yet to achieve some of the goals he laid out for himself. The Washington Post on Thursday published a piece laying the goals Trump set for himself in his first 100 days, like cutting taxes and renegotiating trade deals. The Post noted that the President has yet to achieve those goals.

Emails between ousted Fox News host Bill O’Reilly and his legal team obtained by Politico on Thursday reveal that O’Reilly’s lawyers felt they could save O’Reilly’s job at Fox News by showing that liberal groups were pressuring companies to pull advertising from O’Reilly’s show.

O’Reilly and his lawyers discussed whether to share with leadership at 21st Century Fox an email showing that Democratic fundraiser Mary Pat Bonner was planning a conference call with a leader at the liberal group Media Matters to discuss a campaign to urge advertisers to pull out of O’Reilly’s show, according to Politico. The email was sent to Politico by mistake.

The former Fox host and his lawyers have been trying to prove that O’Reilly is merely the victim of a “smear campaign” from the left. It’s not clear what the email from Bonner would prove given that Media Matters has acknowledged its push for advertisers to leave the show. The recent pressure for companies to pull ads from O’Reilly’s show followed a report in the New York Times revealing that several women who accused O’Reilly of sexual harassment have received settlements.

O’Reilly argued that his legal team should not send the Bonner email to Fox.

“If we show to Fox tomorrow, word will get out and the Thursday call may be cancelled,” O’Reilly wrote in an email, per Politico.

“So no formal sending to Rupert until after the call,” he added. “You all should know that I will not put up with much more from FNC.”

Hawaii state Attorney General Doug Chin on Thursday criticized Attorney General Jeff Sessions for remarking that it is amazing that a judge on “an island in the Pacific” could stop President Donald Trump’s travel ban.

“President Trump previously called a federal judge in California a so-called judge. Now U.S. Attorney General Sessions appears to dismiss a federal judge in Hawaii as just a judge sitting on an island in the Pacific,” Chin said in a statement. “Our Constitution created a separation of powers in the United States for a reason. Our federal courts, established under article III of the Constitution, are co-equal partners with Congress and the President. It is disappointing AG Sessions does not acknowledge that.”

During an interview on “The Mark Levin” radio show Wednesday, Sessions complained that a federal judge in Hawaii blocked Trump’s travel ban, appearing to question that judge’s authority.

“I really am amazed that a judge sitting on an island in the Pacific can issue an order that stops the President of the United States from what appears to be clearly his statutory and Constitutional power,” Sessions said.

Under fire from Hawaii Democrats for Sessions’ remarks, the Department of Justice on Thursday released a statement noting that Hawaii is an island in the Pacific.

“Hawaii is, in fact, an island in the Pacific – a beautiful one where the Attorney General’s granddaughter was born,” Ian Prior, a spokesman for the Justice Department, said in a statement. “The point, however, is that there is a problem when a flawed opinion by a single judge can block the President’s lawful exercise of authority to keep the entire country safe.”

After federal prosecutors on Tuesday denied allegations they improperly turned a staffer into an informant to build a corruption case against former Rep. Aaron Schock (R-IL), the congressman asked a judge to dismiss that case, arguing in part that prosecutors violated the Constitution’s separation of powers provisions.

Schock was indicted by a federal grand jury last year on multiple counts, including improper use of campaign and government funds and falsifying documents. He had resigned from Congress in 2015 after news stories on his fancy, “Downton Abbey”-inspired office decor invited scrutiny of his finances and jet-setting lifestyle.

His lawyers now are trying to get those corruption charges tossed out in part by arguing that federal prosecutors were out of line in interpreting U.S. House rules for their own ends.

“The wide-ranging Indictment against Mr. Schock repeatedly trespasses on land the Constitution reserves for Congress,” Schock’s lawyers wrote in a Thursday filing supporting the motion to dismiss the indictment. “The Indictment repeatedly relies on House rules or standards that were not designed to be the basis for criminal charges and are themselves ambiguous.”

Schock’s attorneys argued that the government violated the Constitution’s Rulemaking Clause, Speech or Debate Clause and Due Process Clause. They specifically argued that House rulemaking, specifically rules on how members spend money, is protected under the Speech or Debate Clause, which shields members of Congress’ legislative work from the executive branch.

Read Schock’s filing below:

This motion to dismiss the indictment came after Schock’s lawyers submitted a filing last month alleging that federal investigators improperly directed a former office manager for the congressman to record phone conversations and take documents from his office. Schock’s lawyers requested access to additional documents so that they could definitively determine whether federal investigators broke any rules or laws.

Prosecutors denied any wrongdoing in a filing submitted late on Tuesday, however. They argued that they followed rules governing the use of informants in the case of the staffer, who they say was given specific instructions on what an informant was not permitted to record, such as conversations with a lawyer present. Prosecutors also wrote that the FBI and the deputy assistant attorney general both signed off on the informant recording conversations with Schock and other staffers.

“From the beginning of the investigation that led to his indictment, Defendant Schock has engaged in an increasingly aggressive search for some governmental misconduct claim, initially to forestall the indictment, and now to avoid the trial on the merits,” the government’s attorneys wrote. “In these motions, Defendant Schock futilely attempts to manufacture claims of governmental misconduct during the course of the investigation.”

While the government’s attorneys asserted in the filing that they did not break any laws in using Schock’s staffer as an informant, they wrote that they did not use records obtained by that staffer for the indictment and will not use them at the July 11 trial. They also argue that they have already handed over the documents to which Schock “is entitled under the law and much more.”

Read the government’s filing below:

Todd Rickets, whose family owns the Chicago Cubs, has withdrawn from his nomination to be the deputy secretary of the Commerce Department.

“I am deeply honored that President Trump nominated me to serve as Deputy Secretary of Commerce,” he told the Chicago Sun-Times. “I offer my continued support for President Trump and his administration, and the important work they are doing to promote economic opportunity. I hope there are other opportunities to contribute to his administration in the future.”

Ricketts withdrew his nomination because he was unable to untangle his finances to meet the Office of Goverment Ethics’ requirements, according to several reports.

“Mr. Ricketts has informed President Trump that he will be unable to serve as Deputy Secretary of Commerce,” a spokesman for Ricketts told the Chicago Tribune. “The scope of issues that face the Department of Commerce is very broad, and these issues potentially could touch many of Mr. Ricketts’ family’s current financial interests.”

“Mr. Ricketts is mindful of his obligation to avoid even the appearance of conflict and therefore decided not to pursue this opportunity at the Department of Commerce,” the spokesman added.

Ricketts was nominated for the position on Nov. 30 but a hearing for his nomination was never scheduled because the Office of Government Ethics had not yet approved his financial filings, per CNN.

Former Trump campaign aide Carter Page’s July 2016 trip to Moscow for meetings prompted the FBI to launch an investigation into potential ties between Russia and members of President Donald Trump’s campaign, the New York Times reported on Wednesday.

The Times reported, citing unnamed former and current law enforcement and intelligence officials, that federal investigators were just beginning to look into ties between Trump associates and Russia in July. The FBI gathered more evidence in the following months, including intercepts of Russian officials talking about Page and other Trump associates, according to the New York Times.

Page has come under increasing scrutiny for his ties to Russia as the FBI investigates any links between the Trump campaign and Russia. He said last week that U.S. sanctions “may have come up” during his July trip to Moscow. It was also revealed earlier this month that Page gave an undercover Russian agent information in 2013, though Page has said that the information was immaterial.

The FBI reportedly received a FISA court warrant to surveil Page as part of its probe into Russia’s election meddling, and the FBI reportedly used a dossier with allegations of links between Trump and Russia to justify its need for the warrant.

Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID), a member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, on Wednesday night faced a rowdy crowd in Meridian, Idaho, where he was pummeled with questions about health care and President Donald Trump.

The congressman was at times met with jeers and chants of “Do your job,” as well as with cheers and applause, according to the Spokesman-Review. He originally planned for a 90-minute event, but spoke with the 800 constituents packed into a middle school auditorium for about three hours, according to the Idaho Statesman.

“I actually like it – I’m used to getting booed. I get it at home all the time,” Labrador said at one point, per the Spokesman-Review.

He was confronted with questions about Trump, specifically whether the President Donald Trump should release his tax returns.

“I don’t think that there’s anything in the law that requires the president to provide his tax returns. There’s nothing in the law,” Labrador said to boos and some applause, according to the Spokesman-Review.

Though he would not call on Trump to release his tax returns, Labrador did tell the crowd that the President’s time spent at Mar-A-Lago presents costs and transparency issues, according to the Idaho Statesman.

Labrador was also grilled on the House Republicans’ failed Obamacare repeal bill, which the Freedom Caucus refused to support. He defended his decision to oppose the legislation.

“I don’t believe that health care should be provided by the government,” Labrador said, according to the Idaho Press-Tribune. “But I do believe that people should have access to health care.”

He was met with boos from the crowd.

In response, one audience member told Labrador, “You seem very concerned about the well-being of children before they’re born, but I wonder what happens to that compassion going forward, in terms of the positive changes you could make in the areas of health care, education and parental leave,” per the Press-Tribune.

 

Now that Democrat Jon Ossoff on Tuesday narrowly missed winning an open U.S. House seat in Georgia outright, he will compete against Republican Karen Handel in a special June runoff election.

Handel is a former Georgia secretary of state, where she helped implement and defended the state’s restrictive voter ID law. She also bid unsuccessfully for the Republican nomination in the 2010 governor’s race and the 2014 U.S. Senate race. But having held statewide office and competed in several elections, Handel has good name recognition in the district—and she now has the advantage of consolidating the resources that previously had been split among 11 Republican candidates, of which she was the frontrunner.

After she left office as Georgia’s secretary of state and lost her bid for governor, Handel joined the Susan B. Komen Foundation, where she served as the vice president for public policy. Handel made headlines in 2012 when she resigned from the foundation over her role in a push to end funding for Planned Parenthood. She later wrote a book titled “Planned Bullyhood,” in which she described the organization as “a bunch of schoolyard thugs.”

If she were to win the seat, Handel would join a House GOP caucus that has spent much of the year trying and failing to pass legislation to repeal and replace Obamacare that satisfies both the hard-line conservatives who want to scrap it entirely and moderates who want to keep some of the law’s protections in place. Notably, Handel lobbied for Obamacare’s Essential Health Benefits while at the Komen Foundation, specifically pushing for insurers to cover certain aspects of women’s health care.

But she told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution earlier this month that her advocacy for that specific provision did not amount to full support of the law.

“Obamacare was passed months before my first day at Komen. I thought it was bad legislation in 2010 and I support full repeal and replacement of the law today,” she said. “A small part of my job at Komen included advocating that mammogram screenings be covered under plans available on the exchanges —just as they are covered in other plans in Georgia. I think we can all agree that women deserve access to life saving, early detection procedures.”

It’s unclear that President Donald Trump would get a Congresswoman Handel’s full support as well. Trump loomed large over the race from the start, as Democrats saw the relatively affluent and well-educated district, which he won by just one point in November, as their ripest congressional pickup opportunity. Nevertheless, Ossoff seemed to studiously avoid talking about the President, and Handel did not seek to tie herself to Trump. She did acknowledge that she voted for the President but rarely mentioned him on the campaign trail, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Handel did not mention Trump in her victory speech, but instead used the time to contrast herself with Ossoff, who has never before held public office.

“We cannot let an untested, unproven, inexperienced ally of Nancy Pelosi steal the seat that has been held by the great leaders like Tom Price, Johnny Isakson, and Newt Gingrich,” she said.

However, Handel welcomed Trump’s help on Wednesday after he pledged to support her in the runoff.

Asked on CNN if she would welcome Trump on the campaign trail with her, Handel replied, “I would hope so.”

“It’s all hands on deck for us,” she continued. “We know what’s at stake here, and I don’t think this is about any one person. We need to rise above it.”

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