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

Former FBI Director James Comey said he could not assess whether President Donald Trump’s request for Comey to drop an investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn amounted to obstruction of justice.

“I don’t think it’s for me to say whether the conversation I had with the President was an effort to obstruct,” Comey said when asked if Trump had obstructed justice. “I took it as a very disturbing thing, very concerning, but that’s a conclusion I’m sure the special counsel will work towards to try and understand what the intention was there and whether that’s an offense.”

Former FBI Director James Comey will not read his entire opening statement out loud at Thursday’s hearing, instead allowing senators to quickly begin asking him questions.

As former FBI Director James Comey testifies about his private conversations with President Donald Trump before Congress on Thursday, the Republican National Committee is expected to lead the response effort for the White House and the Republican Party.

The RNC has a team of about 60 staffers who will coordinate a message in response to Comey’s testimony, according to the Wall Street Journal. Trump’s outside counsel, Marc Kasowitz, is also expected to address questions about Comey’s testimony, according to the Journal. Kasowitz had offered a response to Comey’s prepared remarks after they were released on Wednesday afternoon.

The RNC has lined up surrogates to respond to the hearing as well, according to Politico.

“The RNC’s role is to support and defend the president and this White House and this week is no different,” RNC spokesman Ryan Mahoney told Politico. “And we prepare for everything, and we’re prepared for the hearing this week.”

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Melania and Barron Trump are expected to move into the White House on June 14 now that the school year is over, Politico reported Wednesday evening, citing people familiar with the planning.

President Donald Trump had previously said that his wife and youngest son would not join him in the White House residence until Barron Trump finished the school year.

Melania’s parents, who help care for Barron, will start spending more time in Washington, D.C., but they will not relocate to the city, per Politico.

Politico reported that the move “is seen internally at the White House as potentially a major shift for a president who has grown increasingly cheerless in his job.”

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Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) on Wednesday evening said that the fact that Robert Mueller, the special counsel leading the Russia probe, cleared former FBI Director James Comey to speak publicly about his conversations with President Donald Trump shows that Mueller does not think he has an obstruction of justice case against Trump.

Graham told Fox News’ Martha MacCallum that Comey’s prepared statement released Wednesday “means in the minds [sic] of special counsel Mueller there is no obstruction of justice case to be made because if he felt like he had a case, he wouldn’t let Comey, his chief and only witness, go out in public and get beat up.”

“What prosecutor in their right mind would allow their star witness to go out before the Senate panel of 20 senators and get beat up if he really believed he had a case?” Graham continued. “So this is the best evidence yet that in the mind of the special counsel, there is no obstruction of justice case to be made against President Trump because he allowed Comey to testify in public and issue a statement. No prosecutor would ever do that if there was a good case here.”

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Greg Gianforte, the Montana Republican who won a U.S. House seat in late May, on Wednesday formally apologized to a reporter with the Guardian and explicitly acknowledged that he assaulted the reporter.

“My physical response to your legitimate question was unprofessional, unacceptable, and unlawful. As both a candidate for office and a public official, I should be held to a high standard in my interactions with the press and the public. My treatment of you did not meet that standard,” Gianforte wrote in the letter to Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs.

“Notwithstanding anyone’s statements to the contrary, you did not initiate any physical contact with me, and I had no right to assault you,” he continued. “I am sorry for what I did and the unwanted notoriety this has created for you. I take full responsibility.”

The Wednesday letter was the first time that Gianforte acknowledged that he assaulted Jacobs. The Montana Republican apologized for his conduct during his victory speech in late May, but at the time he did not admit to assault.

His letter also explicitly contradicts a statement from the campaign issued soon after the incident with Jacobs. In that statement, a spokesman for Gianforte alleged that Jacobs initiated physical contact with Gianforte. However, Jacobs’ account of the incident, as well as accounts from witnesses, contradicted the campaign’s initial version of events. Jacobs accused Gianforte of bodyslamming him, while a Fox News reporter who witnessed the incident said that Gianforte grabbed Jacobs by the neck, slammed him to the ground, and punched Jacobs.

Gianforte was charged with misdemeanor assault following the incident but has yet to appear in court. Gianforte must appear in court by June 20, according to the Bozeman Daily Chronicle.

He wrote in his letter to Jacobs that he will donate $50,000 to the Committee to Protect Journalists. The donation and letter are part of a settlement with Jacobs, who signed a release giving up his ability to file a civil lawsuit against Gianforte, according to the Guardian. However, Gianforte still faces the misdemeanor assault charge.

“I have accepted Mr Gianforte’s apology and his willingness to take responsibility for his actions and statements,” Jacobs said in a statement published by the Guardian. “I hope the constructive resolution of this incident reinforces for all the importance of respecting the freedom of the press and the first amendment and encourages more civil and thoughtful discourse in our country.”

In his letter, Gianforte also wrote about the importance of the press and said that Jacobs was just trying to do his job.

“I understand the critical role that journalists and the media play in our society. Protections afforded to the press through the Constitution are fundamental to who we are as a nation and the way government is accountable to the people,” he wrote. “I had no right to respond the way I did to your legitimate question about healthcare policy. You were doing your job.”


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