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

Greg Gianforte, the Republican candidate to fill the open U.S. House seat in Montana, was charged with misdemeanor assault on Wednesday night after he allegedly body-slammed a reporter.

The Gallatin County Sheriff’s office announced the charge in a statement on Wednesday night and said that Gianforte will have to appear in court by June 7.

A reporter for The Guardian, Ben Jacobs, said on Wednesday night that Gianforte “body-slammed” him after he asked the candidate a question about the Congressional Budget Office’s new analysis of the Republican bill to repeal and replace Obamacare.

In audio of the incident published by The Guardian, a man who is apparently Gianforte can be heard telling Jacobs to ask him at another time and to speak with someone on his staff about his question. A rustling noise can then be heard on the recording, followed by Gianforte apparently saying, “I’m a sick and tired of you guys,” and telling Jacobs to “get the hell out of here.”

“You just body slammed me and broke my glasses,” Jacobs can then be heard saying on the recording.

In a Wednesday night statement, Gianforte’s campaign spokesman Shane Scanlon contradicted Jacobs’ account of the incident, claiming that Jacobs “aggressively shoved a recorder in Greg’s face.”

“After asking Jacobs to lower the recorder, Jacobs declined. Greg then attempted to grab the phone that was pushed in his face. Jacobs grabbed Greg’s wrist, and spun away from Greg, pushing them both to the ground. It’s unfortunate that this aggressive behavior from a liberal journalist created this scene at our campaign volunteer BBQ,” Scanlon continued.

However, an account from a Fox News reporter who was in the room with Jacobs and Gianforte aligns with Jacobs’ description of the incident, not with that of the Gianforte campaign.

Fox News’ Alicia Acuna said that Jacobs came into the room where a Fox News crew was preparing for an interview with Gianforte and asked the Republican candidate about the Republican health care bill. Acuna said that Gianforte told Jacobs he would answer later and that Jacobs persisted in asking his question. Acuna said that Ginaforte then grabbed Jacobs by the neck and pushed him to the ground, punching the reporter. She wrote:

At that point, Gianforte grabbed Jacobs by the neck with both hands and slammed him into the ground behind him. Faith, Keith and I watched in disbelief as Gianforte then began punching the reporter. As Gianforte moved on top of Jacobs, he began yelling something to the effect of, “I’m sick and tired of this!”

Acuna said that Jacobs was not acting in an aggressive manner:

To be clear, at no point did any of us who witnessed this assault see Jacobs show any form of physical aggression toward Gianforte, who left the area after giving statements to local sheriff’s deputies.

Following the incident, three Montana newspapers — the Missoulian, the Billings Gazette, and the Helena Independent Record — pulled their endorsements of Gianforte, citing his alleged assault of a reporter.

The incident occurred the night before the election in which Gianforte will face off against Democrat Rob Quist. It’s unclear how much the alleged assault will impact the race given the number of absentee ballots that have already been submitted. More than half the number of ballots projected to be submitted in the race had already been submitted by Wednesday night, per the New York Times.

Quist declined to comment on the incident Wednesday night.

“That’s really not for me to talk about. I think that’s more a matter for law enforcement,” he told reporters when asked about the incident, per the New York Times.

But the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee called on Gianforte to pull out of the race.

“Greg Gianforte must immediately withdraw his candidacy after his alleged violent assault of an innocent journalist. Further, Speaker Ryan and the National Republican Campaign Committee should not waste another minute before publicly denouncing their candidate and apologizing for the millions of dollars they spent on his behalf,” DCCC spokesman Tyler Law said in a statement Wednesday night.

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With voters less than a day away from heading to the polls for a special election to fill an open U.S. House seat in Montana, President Donald Trump has recorded a robocall making a last-minute pitch for the Republican candidate.

“Hi, this is President Donald Trump, and I know what the people of Montana really want and really care about: lower taxes, good paying jobs, secure borders — and we’ve done a great job on those borders — and protecting your God-given right to bear arms, your Second Amendment,” he says in a recording of the robocall obtained by CNN. “If you don’t vote tomorrow, the liberal Democrats running for Congress will decimate and dismantle all that we’ve done.”

Trump then urges voters to support Republican candidate Greg Gianforte in the call, which was paid for by the Republican National Committee.

Trump’s robocall comes as Republicans fret that the race is closer than it should be, according to a Politico report published Wednesday. Vice President Mike Pence also recorded a call supporting Gianforte this week.

Gianforte faces off against Democrat Rob Quist on Thursday.

Montana’s at-large congressional seat hasn’t been held by a Democrat in over 20 years. But Given Trump’s lack of popularity, Democrats are looking to this spring’s special elections to score some wins, including the special election in Montana. The House race there has drawn a lot of money from both sides, flooding Montanans’ televisions with political ads.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) traveled to Montana to campaign for Quist over the weekend, and Quist has recently focused on criticizing Republican plans to repeal and replace Obamacare.

Democrats have put substantial resources into the race to boost Quist, but Republican outside groups have outspent Democrats in the special election. Republican outside groups have spent about $7 million on ads for the race, where Democrats have spent about $3 million on ads in Montana, per Politico.

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Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-TX) on Wednesday morning discarded the U.S. intelligence community’s assessment that Russia was responsible for a hack of the Democratic National Committee during the 2016 campaign, instead pushing a conspiracy theory favored by some conservatives that a DNC staffer was responsible for leaking emails.

Farenthold’s comments came after multiple conservative outlets promoted the baseless conspiracy theory that Seth Rich, a DNC staffer who was murdered last year in Washington, was central to the hack. A story in which a private investigator claimed Rich had been in contact with WikiLeaks prior to his death was pulled from Fox News’ website late Tuesday after being live for a full week, and network host Sean Hannity said he would stop pushing the conspiracy theory on air for the time being, in accordance with the Rich family’s wishes.

Farenthold insisted during an interview on CNN that the takeaway from former CIA Director John Brennan’s testimony Tuesday before Congress was that Brennan said he had not seen any evidence of collusion between Trump campaign officials and Russia. That interpretation of Brennan’s remarks echoed that of the White House.

CNN’s John Berman noted that Farenthold’s interpretation did not tell the whole story, though: Brennan said that he saw intelligence suggesting contact between Trump associates and Russian officials.

“There you go taking the worst possible spin,” Farenthold said in response.

The congressman added later that Brennan “was unable to point to any specific evidence, and I think that’s what we’re going to continue to see there.” He then rushed headlong into the conspiracy theory that the hack of the DNC was an inside job.

“And my fear is our constant focusing on the Russians is deflecting away for some other things that we need to be investigating in,” Farenthold said. “There’s still some question as to whether the intrusion of the DNC server was an insider job or whether or not it was the Russians.”

Berman asked Farenthold if he was referring to the report on Rich that Fox News retracted, to which Farenhold replied: “There’s stuff circulating on the internet.” He added that he would like federal officials to look at DNC computers.

CNN’s Poppy Harlow then jumped in to ask Farenthold if he thought it was “responsible” to float the conspiracy theory without evidence.

“I think the same is true with what the media is doing with Trump. We’re basing allegations on anonymous sources,” he replied.

Watch part of the interview below:

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Democratic senators sent a letter to President Donald Trump on Wednesday complaining that the administration appears to be purposefully ignoring requests for information from Democratic members of Congress.

“We write to express our concerns with recent reports that the White House may have instructed certain Federal agencies to refuse requests for information from Democratic members of Congress,” the senators wrote in a letter first reported by the Washington Post. “If true, such an instruction would be a significant departure from the practices of past Administration and seriously inhibit Congress’s ability to fulfill its legislative and oversight duties.”

The senators noted in the letter that the Supreme Court has acknowledged the need for Congress to have access to information from the White House in order to conduct oversight. They contended that most requests sent to agencies have gone unanswered under the Trump administration, however.

The senators asked Trump to “clarify that your Administration will not refuse requests for information from Congress, including Democratic members, and will provide the courtesy of a response to congressional inquiries in a timely and comprehensive manner.”

The letter was signed by 17 Democratic senators, including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), as well as Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), who caucuses with the Democrats.

Read the letter:

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President Donald Trump has hired Marc Kasowitz to serve as outside legal counsel and help the President navigate the federal investigation into potential collusion between his campaign officials and Russia, according to several news reports.

The news of Kasowitz’s hiring was first reported Tuesday by ABC News and Fox Business, and it was subsequently confirmed by additional outlets, including the Washington Post and Politico.

Trump’s decision to hire outside counsel comes as the investigation into his associates’ ties to Russia ramps up with the appointment of special counsel Robert Mueller, a former FBI director.

Kasowitz has worked with Trump in the past and has been in regular communication with the President since he took office, according to Politico. Kasowitz represents Trump in a defamation lawsuit filed by Summer Zervos, a former “Apprentice” contestant who accused Trump of groping her. Kasowitz sought to dismiss that case on behalf of Trump in March, arguing that Trump is immune to lawsuits in state court as President.

Kasowitz also sent a letter to the New York Times in October on behalf of Trump, arguing that the paper’s report about allegations that Trump groped several women was “reckless and defamatory.”

Trump’s decision to hire Kasowitz may have thrown a wrench into the White House’s plans to consider former Sen. Joe Lieberman as the next FBI director. Trump himself said last week that Lieberman, who is a partner at the same law firm as Kasowitz, was his top pick for the job. Lieberman is no longer the leading candidate for the position, CNN reported Wednesday.

The White House did not immediately respond to TPM’s request for confirmation of Kasowitz’s hiring.

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After Fox News pulled a report based on a conspiracy theory about the murder of DNC staffer Seth Rich, Sean Hannity, one of the most prominent voices pushing the theory, said on Tuesday night that he would stop talking about Rich for the time being.

Hannity said that he would stop discussing the conspiracy theory on air out of respect for Rich’s family, but he indicated that he will still attempt to prove the theory true and that he may return to it at a later time.

“I totally, completely understand how upset, how hard this is on this family, especially over the recent coverage of Seth’s death,” he said on his Fox News show, noting that he has been in touch with Rich’s family. Seth Rich’s brother made a plea to Hannity to stop pushing conspiracy theories about the murder.

“Out of respect from the family’s wishes for now, I am not discussing this matter at this time,” Hannity continued before launching into a rant about the probe into potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. Hannity said that Democrats and the media “have been pushing that tinfoil hat conspiracy with zero evidence.”

Though he said he would stop talking about Rich’s death for now, Hannity indicated a few minutes later that he would keep digging.

“I want to say this to you, my loyal audience, please do not interpret what I am saying tonight to mean anything — don’t read into this. I promise you, I am not going to stop doing my job. To the extent of my ability, I’m not going to stop trying to find the truth. That’s what we do here every single day. That effort is not stopping in any way, shape, matter or form,” he said. “I’m continuing the work that I promise to do every day for you and at the proper time, we shall continue and talk a lot more.”

Hannity also followed up with tweets suggesting that he was not dropping the conspiracy theory entirely.

Conspiracy theories about Rich’s murder resurfaced recently after a private investigator alleged to Washington, D.C. Fox affiliate WTTG that Rich was communicating with Wikileaks before he was killed. A spokesman for Rich’s family pushed back on the claim, and the investigator later backtracked, however.

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In a private phone call with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte last month, President Donald Trump praised the way Duterte has handled drug crimes in the Philippines, according to reports in the Washington Post and The Intercept.

Duterte’s crackdown on drug-related crimes has led to a significant increase in extrajudicial killings and Duterte has publicly threatened to kill drug suspects.

Trump praised Duterte for his “unbelievable job on the drug problem,” according to the Washington Post, which obtained a copy of the transcript produced by the Philippine government.

“Many countries have the problem, we have the problem, but what a great job you are doing and I just wanted to call and tell you that,” Trump added, per the Post.

Trump told Duterte that he is a “good man,” according to a transcript from the Philippine government obtained by the Intercept.

“Thank you Mr. President,” Duterte then told Trump, per The Intercept. “This is the scourge of my nation now and I have to do something to preserve the Filipino nation.”

Trump then appeared to make a comment about former President Barack Obama.

“I understand that and fully understand that and I think we had a previous president who did not understand that,” Trump told Duterte, according to the Washington Post.

In the White House’s official readout of the call released in April, the administration said Trump and Duterte “discussed the fact that the Philippine government is fighting very hard to rid its country of drugs.”

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Democrat Jon Ossoff leads Republican Karen Handel by seven points in the special election to fill an open U.S. House seat in Georgia, according to a new poll from local television station WXIA.

Ossoff earned 51 percent of voters’ support to Handel’s 44 percent support in the poll, which was released Monday and conducted by SurveyUSA.

SurveyUSA’s previously polled the race in April, before the initial jungle primary that sent Ossoff and Handel, the top two finishers, into a runoff. In that poll, Ossoff had a significant lead over his numerous Republican opponents.

Ossoff and Handel will face off in a June 20 runoff election in Georgia’s Sixth Congressional District. Democrats are hopeful they can channel anti-Trump fervor into a win for Ossoff, given that Trump won the ruby-red district by just one point in November.

SurveyUSA polled 700 registered voters from May 16-20 by phone. The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.3 percentage points.

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In a scathing letter issued late Monday, the Office of Government Ethics rejected a request from the Office of Management and Budget that OGE suspend its request that federal agencies turn over copies of ethics waivers granted to former lobbyists hired under the Trump administration.

“The unusual nature of your letter highlights OGE’s responsibility to lead the executive branch ethics program with independence, free from political pressure. Accordingly, OGE declines your request to suspend its ethics inquiry and reiterates its expectation that agencies will fully comply with its directive by June 1, 2017. Public confidence in the integrity of government decisionmaking demands no less,” OGE Director Walter Shaub Jr. wrote in a letter to OMB Director Mick Mulvaney.

Mulvaney had asked Shaub to suspend his directive to agencies to disclose the ethics waivers, questioning whether OGE had the legal authority to demand the documents.

In his letter to Mulvaney, Shaub argued that his office does have the legal authority to view the documents and generally oversee the executive branch’s ethics practices. He also noted that Congress supports giving OGE access to the waivers, citing a 2009 letter from Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) urging the Obama administration to disclose to the public waivers granted to former lobbyists. Shaub wrote in his letter that Grassley’s call for the waivers to be disclosed in 2009 prompted OGE to begin the practice of posting the waivers on its website for the public to view.

“OGE is exercising its authority and independence appropriately. OGE’s April 28, 2017, directive is supported by ample legal authority and compliant with applicable procedures,” Shaub wrote at the end of his lengthy Monday letter to Mulvaney. “I want to assure you that a request from the Director of the Office of Management and Budget is not something that I decline lightly.”

Read Shaub’s letter:

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Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Richard Burr (R-NC) said Monday night that he would not rule out holding former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn in contempt of Congress for refusing to turn over documents.

“You’ll just have to wait and watch. [Contempt is] certainly one of the avenues that we could pursue,” Burr told reporters regarding Flynn, according to Politico. “It does us no good to have people insist on pleading the Fifth if you’re out trying to get information. The only thing I can tell you is immunity is off the table.”

Lawyers for Flynn informed the Senate Intelligence Committee that Flynn would invoke the Fifth Amendment and refuse to comply with a subpoena for documents related to the probe into Russian election meddling.

Burr indicated that he was perplexed by the letter from Flynn’s lawyers.

“All I’ve asked him for is documents. I don’t know how you can plead the Fifth on a document request,” Burr said, per Politico.

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