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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

Late night host Jimmy Kimmel’s war of words with Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) escalated Wednesday night when Kimmel doubled down on his criticism of the Senate’s latest bill to repeal Obamacare and responded to defenses from both Cassidy and President Donald Trump.

Kimmel first criticized Cassidy Tuesday night, arguing that the senator had gone back on his word that any Obamacare replacement would have to pass the so-called “Jimmy Kimmel test” and ensure that all kids get the health care they need. Cassidy responded to Kimmel Wednesday morning, claiming that the late night host simply does not “understand” the bill. Kimmel was less than pleased with that line.

“Oh, I get it. I don’t understand because I’m a talk-show host, right? Well then, help me out. Which part don’t I understand?” Kimmel asked in response Wednesday night. “Is it the part where you cut $243 billion from federal health-care assistance? Am I not understanding the part where states would be allowed to let insurance companies price you out of coverage for having pre-existing conditions?”

“Which part of that am I not understanding? Or could it be, Senator Cassidy, that the problem is that I do understand, and that you got caught with your G-O-Penis out? Is that possible? Because it feels like it is,” Kimmel added after pointing out that several health care groups have come out against the Graham-Cassidy bill.

Trump also jumped into the fray on Wednesday, claiming that Cassidy would never lie and that the bill covers pre-existing conditions.

“There’s no way President Trump read this bill that he says is ‘great.’ He just wants to get rid of it because Obama’s name is on it,” Kimmel said Wednesday night in response. “The Democrats should just rename it ‘Ivankacare.’ Guaranteed he gets on board. Can you imagine Donald Trump sitting down to read a health-care bill? It’s like trying to imagine a dog doing your taxes. It just doesn’t compute.”

Watch the clip below via ABC:

Preet Bharara, a prominent former U.S. attorney who was let go by President Donald Trump in March, revealed in detail the events that led up to his firing in a podcast released Wednesday morning.

In the first episode of his new podcast from WNYC Studios and CAFE, “Stay Tuned with Preet,” Bharara outlined each of his interactions with Trump and the White House between the November election and his sudden dismissal in early March.

Bharara said that Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) first informed him about a week after the election that Trump wanted him to stay on as the U.S. attorney in Manhattan, an unusual move given that a President typically asks all U.S. attorneys to resign at the beginning of a first term.

Trump then confirmed in a Nov. 30 meeting at Trump Tower that he wanted the top prosecutor to stay on, Bharara said. He recalled that Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and his adviser Stephen Bannon were also at the meeting and in an “upbeat” mood. Trump “did not say anything inappropriate” and did not discuss individual cases during the meeting, the former U.S. attorney said; instead Trump asked Bharara for his contact info, and Bharara gave him his office and cell phone numbers.

“It was odd because as a general matter, presidents don’t speak directly to United States attorneys,” he said. “It’s unheard of in my experience.”

A couple weeks later, on Dec. 12, Bharara said he missed a phone call from Trump and discussed with his staff whether it would be appropriate to call the President-elect back. Bharara said he also called the head of the Justice Department transition team to convey that it’s “not the greatest thing in the world for there to be a direct and casual line of communication between a sitting United States attorney and the future president of the United States, particularly given the kind of jurisdiction I have in Manhattan.”

Bharara said he decided to return that call, and that there was nothing “untoward” in the subsequent conversation. He said it seemed that Trump just wanted to “cultivate a relationship” with him.

The former prosecutor then got another call from Trump just before the inauguration, he said. He decided it was appropriate to call Trump back, given that he was not yet President. Again, Bharara recalled that Trump just wanted to chit chat and the two did not discuss individual cases.

Things changed when the White House called Bharara on March 9 and asked that he call Trump. Bharara said he felt it was inappropriate to call a sitting President, and looked through Justice Department rules on the matter to back up his decision. The former U.S. attorney said he briefly considered recording the phone call with Trump or else having another person on the line, but quickly dismissed the ideas as “a bridge too far.”

He also said he called Jody Hunt, Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ chief of staff and Trump’s nominee to be assistant attorney general of the department’s Civil Division, to discuss the matter. According to Bharara, Hunt agreed that it would not be appropriate for him to speak with Trump.

About 20 hours after he declined to return that fateful call, Bharara, along with all other holdover U.S. attorneys, was asked to resign.

“I don’t know if those two events are connected. We may never know. But the timing certainly is pretty odd,” Bharara said on the podcast.

The former prosecutor said he did not submit a letter of resignation when he initially heard from the Justice Department that he was being asked to resign, given his previous conversations with Trump. But Bharara said that once he confirmed what was happening, he obliged.

Perhaps he views the ordeal as all for the best: Bharara was emphatic on the podcast that he believes Trump would have asked him to do something inappropriate if he had stayed on in the Southern District of New York after all.

“I believe, based on the information that we have about the President talking to Jim Comey relating to Michael Flynn, the information about the President talking to Jeff Sessions about the case of Joe Arpaio, and how he wanted both of those cases to go away, that had I not been fired, and had Donald Trump continued to cultivate a direct, personal relationship with me,” he said. “It’s my strong belief, that at some point, given the history, the President of the United States would have asked me to do something inappropriate. And I would have resigned then.”

Listen to the podcast episode via WNYC:

After late night host Jimmy Kimmel on Tuesday night slammed Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) for pushing an Obamacare repeal bill that does not pass the so-called “Jimmy Kimmel test,” Cassidy insisted that his bill actually would protect more Americans.

“I’m sorry he does not understand. Under Graham-Cassidy-Heller-Johnson more people will have coverage, and we protect those with pre-existing conditions,” Cassidy said on CNN’s “New Day” in response to Kimmel. “States like Maine, Virginia, Florida, Missouri — there’ll be billions more dollars to provide health insurance coverage for those in those states that have been passed by by ObamaCare.”

The bill crafted by Cassidy and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) turns most control of health care over to the states, keeping some of Obamacare’s taxes in place and giving funds earmarked for health care to states in the form of block grants. The bill would cut funding for Medicaid substantially, causing many people to lose their health insurance. It would allow states to waive key Obamacare rules, such as protections from price-gouging for people with pre-existing conditions.

CNN’s Chris Cuomo noted that people may have to pay more for health insurance under the senator’s bill, but Cassidy claimed that “the price will actually be lower.”

“What is being circulated is by those who wish to preserve Obamacare, and they’re doing everything they can to discredit the alternative,” Cassidy said.

Earlier this year, Kimmel shared that his infant son needed expensive heart surgery and implored Congress to protect Americans’ health insurance. Cassidy then seized on Kimmel’s story, saying repeatedly that he wanted a replacement for Obamacare to pass the “Jimmy Kimmel test” of making sure children get the health care they need.

Kimmel went after Cassidy and his legislation Tuesday night, asserting that Cassidy “just lied to my face.”

Watch Cassidy’s appearance on “New Day” via CNN:

President Donald Trump on Wednesday morning called out Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) for his staunch opposition to the Senate’s last-gasp effort to repeal Obamacare before the end of the month.

Paul is the one senator who has so far made very clear he will not support the Obamacare repeal bill crafted by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA), though others are likely to follow. Paul has rankled Republican leadership throughout their months-long effort to repeal Obamacare, repeatedly labeling certain proposals as “Obamacare lite,” a term he’s using again this time around.

Throughout that process, Rand spoke to Trump about Obamacare repeal, building a relationship with the White House. While the House was working on its Obamacare repeal bill, Paul came out against the legislation. He then played a game of golf with Trump in April, after which he said he was optimistic about reaching an agreement to repeal Obamacare.

Paul met with Trump again in June as he was an outspoken skeptic of Senate efforts to repeal Obamacare.

Despite their frequent conversations about Obamacare, Trump was reportedly irked by Paul’s loud, public opposition to Senate repeal efforts.

 

United National Ambassador Nikki Haley on Wednesday morning defended President Donald Trump’s decision to refer to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un as “rocket man” in his Tuesday speech before the UN General Assembly.

“It worked,” Haley told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos when asked if it was appropriate for Trump to call Kim “rocket man.”

Haley said it was a way of “getting people to talk about” North Korea.

“Every other international community is now referring to him as ‘rocket man,'” Haley said on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

In his speech Tuesday, Trump also threatened to “totally destroy North Korea” if diplomatic efforts fail.

Haley said Trump was “being honest” when asked about his decision to issue a threat during his UN speech.

“I know that people and countries don’t want to hear it,” she added. “If you want to talk about who’s been giving the threats, it’s certainly been the Kim regime.”

Late night host Jimmy Kimmel on Tuesday night slammed the latest attempt to repeal Obamacare in the Senate, calling out Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA), who earlier in the year said that any health care bill must pass the “Jimmy Kimmel test.”

Back in May, Kimmel made a heartfelt plea to Republicans in Congress not to repeal Obamacare, sharing that his newborn son needed expensive heart surgery. After Kimmel waded into the health care debate, Cassidy said that any health care plan passed by Republicans should pass the “Jimmy Kimmel test” and ensure that every child gets the health care he or she needs.

Kimmel argued that Cassidy’s Obamacare repeal bill, which Republican leaders are making a last-minute push to pass this month, does not align with the concerns Cassidy laid out in May.

“Not only did Bill Cassidy fail the Jimmy Kimmel test, he failed the Bill Cassidy test,” Kimmel said Tuesday night.

“This guy, Bill Cassidy, just lied to my face,” Kimmel added. “We can’t let him do this to our children and our senior citizens and our veterans or to any of us.”

The late night host told Cassidy to “stop using my name” while discussing health care.

“There’s a new Jimmy Kimmel test for you. It’s called the lie-detector test. You’re welcome to stop by the studio and take it anytime,” he said.

Watch the clip via ABC:

Special counsel Robert Mueller’s team interviewed Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein about the firing of James Comey as FBI director over the summer, the Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday night, citing people familiar with the Mueller probe.

CNN later confirmed that Mueller’s office has interviewed Rosenstein as part of its Russia probe. The interview took place in either June or July, according to the Wall Street Journal. Mueller’s team has been looking into whether President Donald Trump attempted to obstruct justice by firing Comey.

Rosenstein sat for an interview for an investigation he technically oversees as the deputy attorney general. Asked about this, Justice Department spokesman Ian Prior suggested that there is still no reason for Rosenstein to recuse himself from the probe. The fact that Rosenstein has not recused himself suggests Mueller is not treating him as a key witness in the probe.

“As the deputy attorney general has said numerous times, if there comes a time when he needs to recuse, he will. However, nothing has changed,” Prior told the Journal.

Rosenstein discussed with Trump his concerns about Comey in May, and promptly wrote a memo outlining the reasons for Comey’s firing at Trump’s direction, as has been previously reported.

In his interview with Mueller’s team, Rosenstein said that Trump at the time acknowledged that firing Comey would not end the Russia probe and that the decision could create problems for the president, the Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday.

 

As Senate Republicans push full steam ahead on their final attempt to repeal Obamacare, several key governors came out on Tuesday against the bill crafted by Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Bill Cassidy (R-LA).

Independent Alaska Gov. Bill Walker and Republican Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval were among ten governors to sign a letter opposing the bill. Walker’s opposition could influence Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s (R-AK) vote, while Sandoval’s complaints about the bill buck Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV), who co-sponsored the bill.

In the letter, the governors called on senators to abandon the Graham-Cassidy bill and pursue bipartisan legislation to stabilize the health insurance market instead. They also urged lawmakers to use regular order to craft legislation, rather than follow the rushed process GOP leaders are using in their last-ditch attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

“Only open, bipartisan approaches can achieve true, lasting reforms,” the governors wrote.

Several other Republican governors signed the letter as well, including Ohio Gov. John Kasich, Massachusetts Gov. Charles Baker, and Vermont Gov. Phil Scott.

Walker, the Alaska governor, expressed concern Tuesday morning about how the Graham-Cassidy bill would impact Medicaid, but the letter later confirmed his opposition to the bill. Murkowski, who has opposed other recent attempts to repeal Obamacare in the Senate, is again a key lawmaker to watch as Republicans search for the votes needed to pass the Graham-Cassidy bill. As of Tuesday morning, she was still assessing the bill.

Walker’s opposition to the bill came after the White House called the Alaska governor as part of an effort to garner more support for the Graham-Cassidy bill, according to a vice presidential pool report citing comments from Mike Pence and Graham.

Republican Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan issued a statement later on Tuesday declaring his opposition to the Graham-Cassidy repeal bill and instead calling for a bipartisan fix in the Senate.

“Unfortunately, the Graham-Cassidy bill is not a solution that works for Maryland. It will cost our state over $2 billion annually while directly jeopardizing the health care of our citizens. We need common sense, bipartisan solutions that will stabilize markets and actually expand affordable coverage,” he said in a statement.

Read the letter below:

This post has been updated.

Fox News channel and its parent company, 21st Century Fox, on Monday filed a motion to either dismiss or move to arbitration a lawsuit alleging that employees with the news network worked with the White House to push a conspiracy theory about a murdered Democratic National Committee staffer.

Rod Wheeler, a contributor for the network, filed the lawsuit alleging that Fox News had defamed him by misquoting him in a story about the DNC staffer, Seth Rich. Wheeler said that a reporter for the network misquoted him in a story claiming that Rich had been in contact with WikiLeaks, which published internal emails stolen from the DNC. Fox News later retracted the story without much explanation.

In the filing submitted on Monday, lawyers for Fox insisted that Wheeler was not misquoted.

“He made substantially the same statements on the air in several on-camera interviews, before and after the Fox News report, and even stated publicly that the article he now challenges as false ‘was essentially correct and worthy of further investigation,'” they wrote in the filing.

Wheeler alleged in his lawsuit that he was pressured to help with the story. He further claimed that the White House wanted the story published, and that he was coached to tout the story on air and push the narrative that Russia was not involved in the DNC hack.

Wheeler also claimed Fox discriminated against him based on his race, which the network also pushed back on in its Monday filing. Wheeler did not offer “the facts necessary to support such a charge, because there are no such facts,” Fox argued.

The network also said that Wheeler had an obligation to pursue his claims in the lawsuit through arbitration. Fox argued in the filing that if the court does not agree to move the suit to arbitration, it should dismiss the lawsuit altogether.

Read the motion below:

Correction: The original version of this article incorrectly described Wheeler as a former Fox News contributor. Wheeler remains a contributor to the network.

Fresh off an appearance at the Emmy Awards, where he made light of his time as President Donald Trump’s primary mouthpiece, Sean Spicer said Monday that he regrets scolding reporters for accurately reporting on the crowd size at Trump’s inauguration.

“Of course I do, absolutely,” the former White House press secretary told the New York Times when asked if he regretted criticizing reporters for noting that Trump saw a smaller crowd at his inauguration than past presidents.

In his first appearance as press secretary, Spicer notoriously assailed reporters for their characterizations of Trump’s inauguration crowd size, declaring,”This was the largest audience ever to witness an inauguration, period.”

Spicer appeared at the Emmys Sunday night, where he made light of that January outburst, declaring that “this will be the largest audience to witness an Emmys period, both in person and around the world.”

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