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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

Michael Avenatti, the lawyer representing porn actress Stormy Daniels in her lawsuit against President Donald Trump, renewed the motion to depose Trump and his longtime personal attorney Michael Cohen.

The filing states that Daniels would like to depose both Trump and Cohen for no more than two hours and seeks the production of documents from Trump and Cohen about the hush agreement Daniels signed barring her from talking about her alleged affair with Trump. Daniels is seeking to be released from the agreement through the lawsuit and argues that the agreement is invalid because Trump never signed it.

Avenatti initially filed the motion to depose Trump and Cohen late last month, but the judge ruled that the motion was premature. Now that Trump and Cohen have formally pushed for the lawsuit to be settled in private arbitration, Avenatti has resubmitted his motion to request depositions and document production.

Cohen paid Daniels $130,000 shortly before the election as part of her agreement not to talk about her alleged relationship with Trump. Cohen has insisted that he made the payment on his own, and Trump said last week that he was unaware of the payment. Avenatti likely wants more information on Trump’s knowledge of the agreement and payment from the depositions and document production.

 

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Following a Saturday report in the Washington Post indicating that White House chief of staff John Kelly’s influence over President Donald Trump and the White House has diminished since the beginning of his tenure, both Trump and his trade adviser on Sunday bashed the piece as incorrect.

“He serves the president, he has the president’s ear, he runs the West Wing well. That’s all I know, that’s all I see,” Peter Navarro, Trump’s trade adviser, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” when asked about Kelly. “He has the confidence of the President.”

“When you read stuff in The Washington Post, frankly, that’s fake news most of the time,” Navarro added.

According to the Washington Post report, clashes between Kelly and Trump have been on the rise as the President seeks to make more decisions on his own. Kelly’s credibility also took a hit due to the way he handled the domestic abuse allegations made against former staffer Rob Porter.

Read the full Washington Post report here.

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Michael Anton, the top spokesman for the National Security Council will leave his role in the administration, the White House confirmed Sunday night.

“Michael is one of the smartest and most talented individuals I’ve ever worked with – not to mention an amazing chef. He has been more than a colleague, he is a true friend. Everyday I got to work with Michael was a good day and he will be greatly missed,” Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement.

Reporting did not indicate that Anton left due to bad blood, but his departure coincides with beginning of John Bolton’s run as national security adviser. Anton was brought on by former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI last year, but spent most of his time working under H.R. McMaster.

Anton is known for an essay he wrote during the 2016 election making the case for conservatives to back Donald Trump as a presidential candidate.

He told Politico that he will become a lecturer and writer at Hillsdale College’s Kirby Center.

“I will be forever grateful to President Trump for the opportunity to serve my country and implement his agenda,” Anton told Politico.

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The lawyers representing Michael Cohen and Stormy Daniels are locked in a petty battle over the timing of correspondence between the lawyers about upcoming filing deadlines.

The lawyers representing a business set up by longtime Trump attorney Michael Cohen complained in a Thursday court filing that Michael Avenatti, the attorney representing porn actress Stormy Daniels, had been slow to respond to an email even though he appeared on cable news shows.

Brent Blakely, one of the lawyers representing Essential Consultants, LLC, the business used to pay Daniels $130,000 in exchange for her silence, emailed Avenatti on April 3 to set up time to discuss an potential extension on a filing. However, Avenatti took more than a day to get back to him and proposed a weekend call, which would provide little time to submit the extension request, according to the lawyers for Essential Consultants.

“Mr. Avenatti did not respond to Mr. Blakely’s email for over thirty (30) hours, and when he did respond, Mr. Avenatti offered to schedule the call over the weekend (i.e. at least 2 days later),” the Thursday filing reads. “In the interim, on April 4, 2018, Mr. Avenatti appeared on at least three national television shows to discuss this case.”

The complaint came in a request to the judge for an extension to submit a filing. In that request, lawyers for Essential Consultants also accused Avenatti of being uncooperative as they sought more time to submit that filing.

Avenatti responded in a Friday filing and said that he had not acted improperly. He wrote that he responded to Blakely’s April 3 email the next morning, and that he suggested a call over the weekend because he knew Blakely had to be present at a trial during the week. He also defended his refusal to agree to an extension for the lawyers representing Essential Consultants because he feel’s it’s appropriate to stick to the schedule laid out by the judge.

“Notwithstanding the unfortunate personalized attacks lodged against Plaintiff’s counsel (which Plaintiff believes are completely irrelevant, have no place in Defendants’ filing, and which Plaintiff does not intend to respond to), the timeline laid out by Defendants’ counsel only confirms that Plaintiff’s counsel has conducted himself appropriately and that Defendants only have themselves to blame for the predicament they find themselves in relating to timing,” Avenatti wrote.

Avenatti’s client, Stormy Daniels, filed a lawsuit against President Donald Trump and Essential Consultants seeking to be released from a hush agreement she signed shortly before the election that barred her from discussing her alleged relationship with Trump. Daniels argues that because Trump himself never signed the agreement, it is invalid.

Read the filings:

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President Donald Trump once again suggested that he will stand by Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt for now, despite the onslaught of reports about Pruitt’s spending habits and rental agreement with a lobbyist.

In a Friday morning tweet, Trump attacked a CNN report from Thursday that Trump has floated replacing Attorney General Jeff Sessions with Pruitt. Trump did not explicitly deny that he considered such a change, but blasted the “Fake News Media” over the report.

He also said that Pruitt is “doing a great job but is TOTALLY under siege,” attempting to blame the negative attention Pruitt received this week on the press.

Trump also told reporters on Thursday that he still has confidence in Pruitt. The Washington Post reported Thursday night that Trump has privately complained about Pruitt over the past week but has so far resisted advisers’ calls to fire Pruitt.

Despite Trump’s assurances that he supports Pruitt, the EPA administrator is not necessarily in the clear. The President has a tendency to make last-minute decisions to fire members of his cabinet shortly after the White House has suggested such a move won’t happen.

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On his first full day in office, President Donald Trump was perplexed when he watched a recorded video of a drone strike on a foreign terror suspect in which the CIA waited to strike until the suspect was alone, according to the Washington Post.

The recording showed that the waited until the terror suspect walked away from the house in which his family was residing to fire, a part of the agency’s push to limit civilian casualties, per the Washington Post.

“Why did you wait?” Trump asked, one meeting participant told the Washington Post.

It’s not clear how much of an explanation Trump received about the particular drone strike before he asked why CIA operatives waited.

Trump offered harsh rhetoric about the battle against the Islamic State while on the campaign trail. In 2015, he proposed that the U.S. “take out” the families of terrorists.

Read the full Washington Post report here.

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In a speech Thursday afternoon, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto tore into President Donald Trump over his comments about immigration and the southern border.

Peña Nieto told Trump that if he is unhappy with immigration trends in the United States, he should take the issue up with Congress, and not lash out at Mexico.

“President Trump: If you wish to reach agreements with Mexico, we stand ready, as we have proved until now, always willing to engage in a dialogue, acting in earnestness, in good faith and in a constructive spirit,” Peña Nieto said, according to the Washington Post. “If your recent statements are the result of frustration due to domestic policy issues, [due] to your laws or to your Congress, it is to them that you should turn to, not to Mexicans.”

“We will not allow negative rhetoric to define our actions. We will act only in the best interest of Mexicans,” he added.

Trump paid particular attention to immigration and the southern border this week, obsessing over a caravan of Central American immigrants traveling north to the U.S. The caravan will end in Mexico, but some will head to the U.S. seeking asylum. The coverage of the caravan prompted Trump to fire off several angry tweets earlier in the week and order the National Guard to the southern border to support Border Patrol officers there.

On Thursday, Trump escalated his rhetoric and claimed that women in the caravan have been “raped at levels that nobody’s ever seen before.”

 

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President Donald Trump said on Thursday afternoon that he still has confidence in scandal-plagued Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt, but behind closed doors, Trump has complained about Pruitt, the Washington Post reported Thursday night.

Advisers told the Washington Post that Trump has complained about Pruitt for several days, but that he has resisted advice from his top advisers to fire Pruitt. White House advisers’ concern about Pruitt increased this week with the news that he circumvented the White House to give large raises to two of his top aides, according to the Washington Post.

As the ethical questions surrounding Pruitt increase, the White House has given mixed signals on the EPA administrator’s future. Two communications officials at the White House have offered vague comments on Pruitt this week suggesting that the White House is unhappy with Pruitt, and chief of staff John Kelly is reportedly frustrated with the EPA administrator. Yet, Trump still publicly stands behind Pruitt.

Read the Washington Post’s full report here.

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The prominent Washington, D.C. lobbyist who rented a room in his home to Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt defended his decision to do so in a Friday morning statement.

Steve Hart, a lobbyist with the firm Williams & Jensen, claimed that his rental agreement with Pruitt did not lead to any favoritism toward his firm’s clients at the EPA.

“Williams & Jensen has always been committed to delivering exceptional client service with the highest ethical standards of professional conduct, so I take this matter very seriously and I regret that recent news reports could have created even a mere appearance that could call into question that forty year commitment,” Hart said in a statement to Politico’s Playbook.

“As I have stated previously, the condominium is not owned by Williams & Jensen, its partners, or any other employees of the firm, and any suggestion that Administrator Pruitt’s short-term rental of one of its bedrooms in 2017 resulted in undue influence for the firm or its clients with business before the EPA is simply false,” he continued in the statement. “I am confident in these facts, and certain that all fair and impartial assessments of the matter will conclude accordingly. Finally, I apologize to my wife, Vicki, whose fantastic career is being maligned unnecessarily.”

The revelation that Pruitt rented a room from a lobbyist came amid a swirl of ethics scandals plaguing the EPA administrator. He was already under fire for his travel expenses and other spending habits when the news of his short-term rental agreement broke. Pruitt and Hart have both defended the arrangement, but reporting indicates that the rental did create the potential for a conflict of interest. Hart and his firm represent several companies that deal with the EPA.

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The lawyer who represented both Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal in the agreements they signed during the 2016 election barring them from discussing their alleged relationships with President Donald Trump, spoke out to CNN this week about his involvement in the agreements.

The attorney, Keith Davidson revealed to CNN that Trump lawyer Michael Cohen encouraged him recently to talk to the media about his knowledge of the agreements, arguing that Daniels and McDougal waived attorney-client privilege when they spoke about their stories.

“He suggested that it would be appropriate for me to go out into the media and spill my guts,” Davidson told CNN.

Davidson said that after consulting with his ethics lawyer, he determined that it would not be appropriate for him to discuss the agreements in public.

Davidson also defended his legal representation of McDougal and Daniels. McDougal, who sold the rights to her story about Trump to the publisher of the National Enquirer, said she felt poorly represented by Davidson in the agreements. She accused him of secretly working with Cohen while hashing out the agreement in her lawsuit against American Media, Inc. seeking to be released from her agreement. Daniels has sued Trump seeking to be released from her hush agreement, arguing that the agreement is invalid because Trump never signed it.

“I read each of the ladies’ complaints and pleadings,” Davidson told CNN. “The recitation of the facts that are contained within those pleadings I do not agree with, and I look forward to an opportunity in an appropriate forum to discuss them.”

Davidson said that in McDougal’s case, he only reached out to Cohen after the agreement was reached to let him know about it as “a professional courtesy.” It was after that that Cohen reached out to Davidson about Stormy Daniels and Davidson helped negotiate a hush agreement between Cohen, Trump, and Daniels, Davidson told CNN.

Davidson had dealt with Cohen previously in 2011 when Davidson was helping Daniels remove a story about her alleged relationship with Trump from a gossip website. Davidson told CNN that Cohen was aggressive at first but that his tone changed once Davidson assured him that Daniels also wanted the story removed.

“‘We’ll chase you to the ends of the earth,'” Davidson recalled Cohen saying, “‘This is not a true story … we’re gonna come and get you.'”

 

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