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

Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats told investigators with the House Intelligence Committee on Thursday that President Donald Trump seemed obsessed with the Russia probe and asked Coats several times to publicly deny that there was evidence of collusion, NBC News reported Thursday evening, citing an unnamed U.S. official.

Coats and Adm. Mike Rogers, the National Security Agency director, told special counsel Robert Mueller and Senate investigators last week that Trump suggested that they publicly deny that there was evidence of collusion between Trump and Russia, according to a CNN report.

During a public hearing with the Senate Intelligence Committee, both Coats and Rogers declined to discuss their conversations with Trump. Rogers said at the time that he had not been “directed to do anything I believe to be illegal, immoral, unethical or inappropriate.” Coats told the Senate committee that he “never felt pressure to intervene or interfere in any way with shaping intelligence in a political way or in relationship to an ongoing investigation.”

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In an interview with “Fox and Friends” set to air in full on Friday morning, President Donald Trump complained that special counsel Robert Mueller and former FBI Director James Comey are “good friends.”

“He’s very, very good friends with Comey, which is very bothersome, but he’s also — we’re gonna have to see,” Trump said when asked if he is going to fire Mueller in an excerpt published Thursday evening.

The President claimed that “the people” hired by Mueller to work on the Russia probe “are Hillary Clinton supporters.”

“The whole thing is ridiculous,” Trump said.

“Robert Mueller is an honorable man, and hopefully he’ll come up with an honorable solution,” he then added.

Trump reportedly considered firing Mueller, but his staff talked him out of it, according to a New York Times report earlier this month. Several Trump allies aired criticism of Mueller earlier this month, with one of Trump’s friends telling PBS that Trump was mulling letting Mueller go. But the White House said that Trump had “no intention” to fire Mueller even though he has the “right to.”

Trump also defended himself from the Russia probes, telling “Fox and Friends,” “There has been no obstruction, there has been no collusion.” He then added that “there has been leaking by Comey.”

His comments came after he finally admitted on Thursday that he does not have “tapes” of his conversations with Comey.

This post has been updated.

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A group of four Republican senators on Thursday afternoon issued a statement warning that they are not ready to support the legislation to repeal Obamacare unveiled by Senate GOP leadership earlier in the day.

In the statement, Sens. Rand Paul (R-KY), Ted Cruz (R-TX),  Mike Lee (R-UT) and Ron Johnson (R-WI) say that they have concerns about the legislation. However, they did not say they would refuse to vote for the bill, and hinted that they could be persuaded to back the legislation with “negotiation” or “more information.”

“Currently, for a variety of reasons, we are not ready to vote for this bill, but we are open to negotiation and obtaining more information before it is brought to the floor,” the senators said in the statement. “There are provisions in this draft that represent an improvement to our current health care system, but it does not appear this draft as written will accomplish the most important promise that we made to Americans: to repeal Obamacare and lower their health care costs.”

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Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV) said Thursday that he has yet to make a decision on his support for the Senate’s bill to repeal Obamacare, but he said in a statement that he has “serious concerns” about how the legislation will impact those on Medicaid.

“Throughout the health care debate, I have made clear that I want to make sure the rug is not pulled out from under Nevada or the more than 200,000 Nevadans who received insurance for the first time under Medicaid expansion. At first glance, I have serious concerns about the bill’s impact on the Nevadans who depend on Medicaid,” he said in a statement.

“I will read it, share it with Governor Sandoval, and continue to listen to Nevadans to determine the bill’s impact on our state,” he added. “I will also post it to my website so that any Nevadans who wish to review it can do so. As I have consistently stated, if the bill is good for Nevada, I’ll vote for it and if it’s not – I won’t.”

The Senate bill released Thursday morning would gradually wind down the expansion of Medicaid initiated by the Affordable Care Act. The process for reducing the federal match rate would take longer than the process laid out in the House bill. However, the Senate’s version makes steeper cuts to Medicaid overall in an attempt to appease conservatives unhappy with the longer transition period.

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Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) on Thursday said that while he has yet to review the Senate’s Obamacare repeal bill, he is concerned that it does not actually repeal Obamacare.

Paul told reporters that he and a “team of people” will release a statement on the legislation later on Thursday, likely around 1 or 2 p.m. ET.

“My concern is that this doesn’t repeal Obamacare,” Paul told reporters, noting that the legislation offered by Senate GOP leaders keeps many of the Affordable Care Act’s regulations and still offers subsidies.

Paul also said that the bill might not do enough to bring down premiums. He said that it appears that the legislation “actually subsidizes the death spiral of Obamacare” instead of fixing it.

Tierney Sneed contributed reporting.

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Senate Republicans are expected to release their legislation to repeal and replace Obamacare on Thursday morning.

The Senate Republican caucus is meeting at 9:30 a.m. ET on Thursday morning so that leadership can unveil the bill text to all GOP senators. Going into the meeting on Thursday, many Republicans had yet to see a draft of the bill.

The bill is expected to be released to the public at 11 a.m. Thursday morning, according to Politico, but there’s a chance it could be leaked earlier.

A small group of Senate Republicans has been involved in the secretive process to craft the bill, leaving some senators unaware of the bill’s contents. Leaders are pushing for a vote on the bill next week, which has frustrated a few Republicans who feel they need more time to digest the bill before casting a vote.

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In closed-door interviews with special counsel Robert Mueller and Senate investigators last week, two of the top intelligence community leaders said that President Donald Trump suggested they publicly deny that there was any collusion between Trump and the Russians, CNN reported early Thursday morning, citing unnamed sources.

Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and National Security Agency Director Adm. Mike Rogers told investigators about Trump’s request, and said that they did not feel Trump was trying to interfere in the probes, CNN reported. Both said they were surprised by Trump’s suggestion and that the interactions were uncomfortable, per CNN.

The Washington Post had reported in May that Trump asked Coats and Rogers to deny in public that there was evidence of collusion.

During a public hearing with the Senate Intelligence Committee, Coats and Rogers declined to confirm that Trump pressured them to end a probe into Michael Flynn. Rogers told the committee that he had not been “directed to do anything I believe to be illegal, immoral, unethical or inappropriate.” Coats said that he “never felt pressure to intervene or interfere in any way with shaping intelligence in a political way or in relationship to an ongoing investigation.”



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During a trip to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Wednesday night, President Donald Trump returned to his comfort zone of the campaign rally, delivering a rambling speech resembling those he gave during his presidential campaign.

Trump bragged about his accomplishments in office and railed against Democrats and his favorite bogeyman, the media, in a speech that lasted for more than an hour.

Toward the beginning of his speech, the President touted Republican legislation to repeal Obamacare — the Senate GOP caucus is set to reveal its bill on Thursday. Trump complained about the lack of Democratic support for Republicans’ push to erase President Barack Obama’s signature health care law.

“If we went and got the single greatest health care plan in the history of the world, we would not get one Democrat vote, because they’re obstructionists,” Trump said. “If we came to you and said, ‘Here’s your plan, you’re going to have the greatest plan in history, and you’re going to pay nothing,’ they’d vote against it, folks.”

He told the crowd that he wanted a “plan with heart,” even though a draft of the Senate bill proposed deeper funding cuts to Medicaid than the House version.

“If we had even a little Democrat support, just a little, like a couple of votes, you’d have everything. And you could give us a lot of votes and we’d even be willing to change it and move it around and try and make it even better,” Trump said. “But again, They just want to stop, they just want to obstruct. A few votes from the Democrats, seriously, a few votes from the Democrats, it could be so easy and so beautiful, and you’d have cooperation.”

Trump then pivoted to Democrats’ loss in the Georgia special election Tuesday night, bragging that Democrats spent millions only to lose the race.

“Their plan isn’t working because they thought they were going to win last night in Atlanta,” he said.

He also blasted the media for the way outlets covered the race.

“This phony NBC television network — they actually had one of the people say ‘It was a little rainy last night. Maybe that was the difference in Karen’s race,'” Trump told the crowd. “Can you believe that?”

At another point in the speech, Trump defended his decision to appoint wealthy businessmen to top cabinet roles, explaining that he doesn’t want “poor” people in that type of position.

“These are people that are great, brilliant business minds,” Trump said. “I love all people. Rich or poor. But in those particular positions, I just don’t want a poor person. Does that make sense? Does that make sense? If you insist, I’ll do it—but I like it better this way, right?”

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Democrats were doing some soul-searching Wednesday as to the party’s next steps going into 2018, after a months-long slog of an attempt to turn the ruby-red Georgia Sixth Congressional District blue ended in Republican Karen Handel’s decisive victory over Jon Ossoff.

Handel bested Ossoff by just under four points, after polls of the race’s final weeks showed the two candidates in a tight race. So in the hours since Handel secured a seat in Congress, some national Democrats have found a silver lining there, arguing that the fact that the race was competitive shows the party has a chance to make real gains in the 2018 midterms. But others on the party’s left flank argued that despite the relatively strong performance of Democratic candidates in this year’s special elections, the party needs to put forth a much stronger message going into the midterms.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the House Democrats’ campaign arm, sent out an internal memo on Wednesday morning rallying the troops and insisting that Democrats have a shot at taking back the House next year.

“Last night’s results in Georgia were disappointing – we wanted to win and left everything on the field. Despite the loss, we have a lot to be proud of. The margin was close in this deep red district, and Jon Ossoff pushed the race to the limit in both the primary and runoff by impressively mobilizing the base and persuading independents and moderate Republicans,” Rep. Ben Ray Luján (D-NM), the chair of the DCCC, wrote in the memo. “We will carry those key lessons forward in order to compete in districts as Republican-leaning as Georgia, and in the dozens and dozens of districts on our battlefield that are much more competitive.”

Luján acknowledged that reclaiming a majority in the House would be an incredibly tough fight, but he argued that “the national environment and historical trends are key indicators as well, and there’s no doubt that the momentum is on our side.” He predicted that Trump’s low approval ratings will benefit Democrats going forward.

Tharon Johnson, a Democratic strategist who has worked for several Georgia lawmakers, said Tuesday night’s election results were still a positive sign for Democrats going forward.

“We always knew this was going to be an uphill battle, so even though last night’s result was disappointing, it wasn’t heartbreaking,” Johnson said in a statement to TPM. “Democrats spent a lot of money in this race, but Republicans spent nearly as much to defend a ruby-red district. Keep in mind that all of these special elections so far have been for some of the most hardcore conservatives who were handpicked to serve Trump.”

“I’m not claiming a moral victory here – when it comes to making a change, all I care about are electoral victories,” he continued. “But if we can take districts that Republicans have historically carried by 15-20 points and come within 3-5 points, then I feel very confident about taking dozens of districts that the GOP carry by single digits in the midterms.”

Jesse Ferguson, a former DCCC operative and Hillary Clinton campaign aide, told TPM that Democrats’ overall performance in the 2017 special elections has shown they have a chance in the 2018 midterms.

“If Democrats over perform in 2018 by as much as Ossoff overperformed last night, Democrats take the House,” Ferguson said. “There are more than enough Republican held seats that would flip to Democrats if we did that well next fall.”

Ferguson said that Democrats need to push harder to link Republicans to President Donald Trump going forward.

“I think there’s more we can do to tie Republicans to Trump and make the debate about them,” he told TPM.

But asked if Ossoff should have done more to tie Handel to Trump, Ferguson replied, “I don’t think there is too much you can do to make that tie clear to voters.”

Particularly since he advanced to the runoff election in April, Ossoff shied away from talking about Trump as he honed a more moderate image. While he made it clear that he was not a big fan of Trump, he rarely mentioned the President’s name on the campaign trail and repeatedly pointed out that he would work with anyone if elected to Congress.

Ossoff did champion some liberal causes, arguing that the country needs to address climate change and criticizing Handel for her role in the Susan G. Komen Foundation’s decision to stop funding Planned Parenthood. But he portrayed himself as a moderate, talking about wasteful spending and creating tech jobs, in an apparent attempt to appeal to Republican voters who were uneasy about Trump.

While some Democratic operatives played up the silver lining they saw in Ossoff’s loss, members of the party’s progressive wing said that candidates needed to strengthen the party’s message going forward.

Matt Blizek, the election mobilization director at MoveOn.org, noted that Ossoff and other Democratic candidates have over-performed and said that their races show that “progressives and the Democratic base is obviously really fired up.”

But he also said that Democrats need to promote a “bold, progressive vision” and that Ossoff “missed an opportunity to do that.”

“It was just not clear what Jon Ossoff stood for,” he told TPM.

Two Democratic lawmakers argued that Democrats needed to promote their own solutions for the country, rather than focus on Trump and the 2016 election.

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) said Wednesday morning that Democrats needed to hone their economic message in particular.

“Democrats have to be hyperfocused on an economic message that tells people that the Republican Party is all about economic growth for millionaires and billionaires and the Democratic Party is about economic growth for everybody,” he said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” “The fact that we have spent so much time talking about Russia, you know, has been a distraction from what should be the clear contrast between Democrats and the Trump agenda, which is on economics.”

Asked if Democrats should fine tune an economic message going forward, Ferguson told TPM that Democrats need to work on “offering a better alternative” to Trump’s agenda when campaigning. He said it’s clear that many Americans are unhappy with Trump’s agenda but “don’t yet have enough confidence in the Democratic alternative.”

It’s not just Democratic operatives that are projecting a certain optimism about the party’s chances in 2018 after Ossoff’s loss, however. Political analysts agree that Ossoff’s defeat Tuesday night doesn’t necessarily spell doom-and-gloom for Democrats.

Cook Political Report’s David Wasserman wrote that Tuesday night’s “results were far from a disaster for Democrats, and Republicans shouldn’t be tempted to believe their House majority is safe.” He noted that in the four special elections that have taken place since Trump took office, given the partisan make-up of those areas, Democratic candidates outperformed in all of them.

“That’s an enthusiasm gap that big enough to gravely imperil the Republican majority next November—even if it didn’t show up in ‘the special election to end all special elections,” Wasserman wrote.

Kyle Kondik, a House expert at the University of Virginia, also told TPM in an email that Democrats outperformed in this year’s special elections and noted that Trump’s approval ratings should worry Republicans going into 2018.

“Democrats are generally running ahead of Clinton’s margins in U.S. House and state legislative special elections, even though they did not in GA-6,” Kondik wrote. “With a president at 40% approval, the party that doesn’t hold the White House should, historically, have a shot at making big gains in the House, and last night’s results don’t change that.”

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After Republican Karen Handel decisively defeated Democrat Jon Ossoff in the Georgia special election, President Donald Trump published a series of tweets bragging about Republican wins.

Trump reveled in the fact that Democrats spent millions trying to make the House races competitive but ultimately came up short.

Republicans won special elections for House seats representing in Georgia, South Carolina, Montana, and Kansas this year.

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