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

Special counsel Robert Mueller sent questions to President Donald Trump recently, around the same time that Trump published angry tweets on Saturday aimed at Mueller and the Russia probe, according to the New York Times.

Mueller’s team sent the questions as a preliminary step in negotiations for an interview with the President, and the special counsel’s office would ask Trump questions in the interview, according to the New York Times.

Mueller’s team and Trump’s attorneys are looking to set the specifics of the interview within the next few weeks, according to Axios. In negotiations with Trump’s lawyers, Mueller has focused on post-election activity, including the firings of James Comey and Michael Flynn, per Axios.

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Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) on Sunday criticized the Trump administration’s decision to fire Andrew McCabe from the FBI just days before he qualified for his full retirement benefits.

“I don’t like the way it happened. He should’ve been allowed to finish through the weekend,” Rubio said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” when asked about Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ decision to fire McCabe Friday night.

“That said, that there’s an inspector general report that’s due and work that’s being done, and after he had retired if that report would’ve indicated wrongdoing or something that was actionable, there’s things that could’ve been done after the fact,” the senator added. “But 48 hours to go before retirement, I would’ve certainly done it differently, given the fact there’s still this report out there that hasn’t come in.”

Several Republicans on Sunday criticized Sessions’ firing of McCabe, and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) called for the Senate Judiciary Committee to hold a hearing on McCabe’s firing.

Watch a clip of Rubio’s interview via NBC:

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National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster on Friday afternoon brushed off a question about reports that he will leave the Trump administration by noting that everybody will leave the White House eventually.

“Sarah said it straight yesterday. Everybody’s going to leave the White House sometime,” he told ABC News, laughing, when asked if he has plans to leave.

Pressed on whether he’s leaving soon, McMaster replied, “I’m doing my job.”

Several reports recently have indicated that McMaster could be the next top official to leave the White House. The Washington Post reported Thursday evening that President Donald Trump had decided to fire McMaster, but that he will take his time in officially ousting his national security adviser while he lines up a replacement.

Following that report, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders tweeted that McMaster will not be leaving at this time.

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Asked about claims that porn actress Stephanie Clifford, who uses the stage name Stormy Daniels, was physically threatened in order to keep quiet about her alleged affair with President Donald Trump, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee on Friday said that the White House does not condone any threats.

“Obviously we take the safety and security of any person seriously, certainly would condemn anyone threatening any individual,” Sanders said.

She would not address alleged threats made to Clifford, however, and referred reporters to Trump’s outside legal counsel.

“I have no knowledge of that situation,” she said, adding that she hasn’t spoken to Trump about the matter.

Clifford’s lawyer, Michael Avenatti, told MSNBC Friday morning that Clifford was “physically threatened” to remain silent about her alleged affair with Trump. He later told TPM’s “Josh Marshall Podcast” that he and Clifford both fear for their “physical safety.”

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Listen to the interview on “The Josh Marshall Podcast” »

Michael Avenatti, the lawyer representing porn actress Stephanie Clifford in her lawsuit against President Donald Trump, told TPM’s “Josh Marshall Podcast” on Friday that both he and Clifford, who uses the stage name Stormy Daniels, fear for their physical safety.

Avenatti told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” earlier Friday morning that Clifford has been “physically threatened,” but he emphasized to TPM later on Friday that he and his client are taking at least some of those threats seriously.

“I think she’s very concerned about her physical safety right now, and I think she has very — or a lot of reasons to be concerned. I likewise am slightly concerned about my physical safety,” Avenatti told TPM’s Josh Marshall. “There’s been a series of death threats that have been received by her and me. There’s a lot of kooky people out there. Many of those threats we laugh off, some of which we don’t laugh off. But regardless of the death threats, or threats of injury to us or our families, we’re not going home. We’re not packing up.”

Avenatti would not go into detail on the nature of the threats when Marshall followed up to ask whether any of the threats appeared to be credible. However, Avenatti said that the intimidation Clifford has faced should be addressed in her upcoming “60 Minutes” interview, set to air March 25, and he indicated that he believes viewers will find the threats serious.

“I think when the interview airs, people are going to hear in detail what happened, and they’re going to judge for themselves as to whether that was some kook, if you will, some wing-nut, that just happened to come out of the blue, or if it was more than that. And I think they’re going to conclude it was certainly more than that,” he said.

Later in the interview, Marshall asked if “surrogates” of President Donald Trump have bullied Clifford or spread false narratives about Clifford.

Avenatti replied that Trump allies have done “both,” but would not indicate who the individuals were or how closely connected they are to the President.

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Former White House aide Steve Bannon, now in Europe touting his “populist-nationalist movement,” said in an interview published Wednesday that he is “fascinated by” Italian fascist dictator Benito Mussolini.

Bannon made the comment to Nicholas Farrell, who in 2003 authored a biography of the dictator.

“You put the juice back in Mussolini,” Bannon said, referring to Farrell’s book. “He was clearly loved by women. He was a guy’s guy. He has all that virility. He also had amazing fashion sense, right, that whole thing with the uniforms. I’m fascinated by Mussolini.”

Bannon has described himself as an “economic nationalist” and “a fire-breathing populist.” During his brief stint at the White House, he pushed for President Donald Trump and cabinet officials to roll back regulations and supported Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric and policies.

When Farrell asked Bannon whether his ideology is similar to fascism, Bannon replied, “This is all theoretical bullshit. I don’t know. Populism, fascism — who cares?”

Read the full interview at the Spectator.

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Though chief of staff John Kelly’s tenure at the White House seemed shaky earlier in the week, the top White House official and President Donald Trump on Thursday reached an agreement that Kelly would remain for now, the Wall Street Journal reported Friday morning.

After Trump fired Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Kelly indicated to colleagues that he may be the next staffer ousted from the administration, according to the Wall Street Journal. A CBS report Thursday morning indicated that Kelly could be one of several key administration officials to leave next.

Trump and Kelly met on Thursday, after which both men signaled that Kelly would remain as chief of staff for now, the Wall Street Journal reported. Trump said that Kelly was “100 percent safe” and Kelly told staff, “I’m in,” per the Journal.

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John McEntee, who was fired as President Donald Trump’s personal aide on Monday, was dismissed from his job because his background check revealed that he gambled frequently, betting thousands of dollars at a time, the Washington Post reported Thursday evening.

Investigators did not believe his gambling was illegal but the habit made him a security risk because he could be influenced by outsiders, according to the Washington Post.

Though McEntee was forced to leave his position in the Trump administration and was hastily escorted off White House grounds, he will join Trump’s 2020 presidential campaign, according to a Tuesday press release.

It had been previously reported by the Wall Street Journal that McEntee was denied a security clearance due to issues with gambling and mishandled taxes, but the extent of his gambling had not been clear. CNN reported earlier this week that McEntee was investigated for “serious financial crimes,” but it’s not clear what he did that may have been illegal.

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White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Thursday night insisted that National Security Adviser H. R. McMaster will not be leaving the administration anytime soon despite several reports indicating he is on his way out.

Sanders’ tweet followed a Washington Post report that Trump has decided to remove McMaster. Trump has been discussing possible replacements for the national security adviser, the Washington Post reported, citing five sources familiar with the plans.

According to the Post, Trump will take his time ousting McMaster because he doesn’t want McMaster to be “humiliated” and wants to choose a replacement. Some in the White House also want to wait to oust McMaster until they have a position lined up for him elsewhere, per the Post.

After Sanders’ tweet denying the Washington Post report, CNN published a report that Trump is ready to fire McMaster and wants to have a replacement in place before talks with North Korea in May.

Trump has been eyeing John Bolton, a former ambassador to the United Nations who makes frequent appearances on Fox News, and Keith Kellogg, the chief of staff of the National Security Council, according to the Washington Post.

Reports that Trump will move to replace McMaster have been swirling for weeks. Several other members of the administration are also in danger of being dismissed by Trump, including Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson and Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin, according to the Post and the New York Times.

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Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) on Thursday morning called on the CIA to release documents related to CIA director nominee Gina Haspel’s involvement in the agency’s torture program.

“As we move forward with the nomination process for Ms. Haspel, my fellow Senators and I must have the complete picture of Ms. Haspel’s involvement in the program in order to fully and fairly review her record and qualifications. I also believe the American people deserve to know the actual role the person nominated to be the director of the CIA played in what I consider to be one of the darkest chapters in American history,” Feinstein wrote in a letter to CIA Director Mike Pompeo.

Haspel played a large role in the CIA’s secret torture program. She oversaw the torture of two terror suspects in a secret prison in Thailand in 2002 and helped destroy video of the interrogations.

Feinstein played a key role in publicizing the CIA’s torture practices following the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks in 2014 when she served as chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee. The committee’s torture report outlined the gruesome tactics the CIA used to interrogate terror suspects and concluded that the tactics were not effective in gaining information.

Feinstein blocked Haspel’s promotion to lead the CIA’s clandestine operations in 2013 over her involvement in the torture program.

When Haspel was first nominated to lead the CIA earlier this week, Feinstein praised Haspel’s work as deputy director but said she had not yet decided whether she would support Haspel’s confirmation.

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