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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

Vice President Mike Pence briefly addressed reporters on Capitol Hill Wednesday, where he insisted that FBI’s Russia investigation did not play a role in President Donald Trump’s decision to fire James Comey as the director of the bureau.

“As you know very clearly — as has been stated repeatedly and the President has been told — he’s not under investigation, and as former Director Clapper, the director of national intelligence, said, there is no evidence of collusion between our campaign and any Russian officials,” Pence told reporters when first asked by NBC’s Kristen Welker if Trump fired Comey in an attempt to interfere with the FBI probe.

“That’s not what this is about,” Pence continued. “The President took strong and decisive leadership here to put the safety and the security of the American people first by accepting the recommendation of the deputy attorney general to remove Director Comey as the head of the FBI.”

Asked if there should be an independent probe of potential links between Trump associates and Russia, Pence claimed that there is “no evidence of collusion” and repeated the President’s claim that Comey told Trump he was not under investigation.

“The evidence or the facts that are in public today are very clear. The former director of national intelligence has said there is no evidence of collusion,” Pence told reporters. “The President and I remain confident that the committees in the House and the Senate that are looking into every aspect of issues that arise out of last year’s election will be able to do their work and do it in an orderly way.”

Trump administration officials often cite comments made by James Clapper, the former director of national intelligence, that he had not seen any evidence of links between the Trump campaign and Russia. However, Clapper noted in a Senate hearing on Monday that he was never even aware of the FBI’s investigation into the matter until after Comey made the probe’s existence public.

Speaking to reporters, Pence emphasized that Trump moved to fire Comey after seeing a recommendation from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

“Let me be very clear that the President’s decision to accept the recommendation of the deputy attorney general and the attorney general to remove Director Comey as the head of the FBI was based solely and exclusively on his commitment to the best interest of the American people and to ensuring that the FBI has the trust and confidence of the people of this nation,” Pence said when asked a second time if the Russia probe was a factor in Trump’s decision.

Asked if Trump had directed Rosenstein to conduct the review of Comey, Pence did not deny that Trump gave the Justice Department any direction. Instead he repeated that Trump acted on Rosenstein’s recommendation.

“The new deputy attorney general, who was just sworn in two weeks ago and confirmed by the FBI, came to work — he is a man of extraordinary independence and integrity and a reputation in both political parties of great character — came to work, sat down and made the recommendation for the FBI to be able to do its job that it would need new leadership,” Pence said.

“He brought that recommendation to the President, the attorney general concurred with that recommendation, and I personally am grateful that we have a President who is willing to provide the kind of decisive and strong leadership to take the recommendation of the deputy attorney general and the attorney general to remove an FBI director who had lost the confidence of the American people,” Pence said.

The morning after the White House’s abrupt announcement that President Donald Trump had fired James Comey as director of the FBI, it’s still unclear how exactly the administration came to the conclusion that Comey must go.

The narrative out of the White House on the lead-up to Comey’s firing conflicts with press accounts on the decision-making process within the administration.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer told reporters Tuesday night that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein independently launched a review of Comey and denied that the deputy attorney general drew up the letter at the request of the White House.

“It was all him,” Spicer said, according to the Washington Post. “No one from the White House. That was a DOJ decision.”

However, press reports indicate that Trump asked the Justice Department to find reasons to fire Comey.

Anonymous Trump administration aides told the New York Times that White House and DOJ officials “had been charged with building a case to justify Mr. Comey’s firing since at least last week, and that Attorney General Jeff Sessions had been tasked with coming up with reasons to fire him.” CNN reported that Trump “had been considering firing Comey for at least a week,” and that Rosenstein and Attorney General Jeff Sessions “began fine-tuning their rationale for removing Comey” after they learned Trump wanted him gone. According to Politico, the President “had talked about the firing for more than a week, and the letters were written to give him rationale to fire Comey.”

These press accounts paint a picture of a frustrated Trump who spent more than a week finalizing his decision to fire Comey. Trump was also unhappy with the media attention received by Comey. The Wall Street Journal reported:

In the months before his decision to dismiss Mr. Comey as head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Mr. Trump grew unhappy that the media spotlight kept shining on the director. He viewed Mr. Comey as eager to step in front of TV cameras and questioned whether his expanding media profile was warping his view of the Russia investigation, the officials said.

Deputy White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Tuesday night said that the focus on the probe into links between Trump associates and Russia is “absurd.”

During an interview on Fox News, host Tucker Carlson asked Sanders how the firing of James Comey as FBI director would impact the Russia probe. Sanders said that Comey’s departure won’t change anything about the investigation. She then launched into a rant about the probe.

“When are they gonna let that go?” she asked. “It’s been going on for nearly a year. Frankly, it’s kind of getting absurd. There’s nothing there. We’ve heard it time and time again. We heard it in the testimonies earlier this week. We’ve heard it for the last 11 months. There is no ‘there’ there. It’s time to move on, and frankly, it’s time to focus on things the American people care about.”

She doubled down on this sentiment Tuesday morning during an interview on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

Asked if she knew something that nobody else knew about the probe, Sanders replied, “I know that person after person, including your own Joe Scarborough, have said there’s no evidence of collusion here. They’ve been pushing on this for months.”

“Morning Joe” co-host Joe Scarborough jumped in to object to Sanders’ characterization of his comments, emphasizing that there has not yet been any “obvious” evidence leaked to the press.

Watch Sanders’ interview on Fox News:

The morning after he fired James Comey as the director of the FBI, President Donald Trump fired off several tweets defending his decision and criticizing Democrats for questioning the move.

Trump began the series of tweets just after 7 a.m., mixing his own thoughts with retweets of the Drudge Report.

He also singled out Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) in a tweet late Monday night.

When the news broke that President Trump had fired James Comey, the former FBI director was addressing a group of FBI employees in Los Angeles. Comey laughed and said it was a prank before his aides confirmed the news, according to a report in the New York Times.

Per the Times:

Mr. Comey was addressing a group of F.B.I. employees in Los Angeles when a television in the background flashed the news that he had been fired.

In response, Mr. Comey laughed, saying he thought it was a fairly funny prank.

Then his staff started scurrying around in the background and told Mr. Comey that he should step into a nearby office.

Trump had dispatched Keith Schiller, a top aide and former bodyguard to Trump, to the FBI to hand deliver the letter notifying Comey of his firing, but the FBI director was out of town.

CNN also reported that Comey first saw the news of his firing on television and made a joke about it before confirming the reports’ validity:

TVs set to cable news inside the room he was speaking began airing reports of his demise midway through his speech. He made a joke about it to lighten the situation, phoned back to FBI headquarters, and received official confirmation that his tenure atop the law enforcement agency was over.

The morning after FBI Director James Comey was fired, the White House announced that President Donald Trump would meet with Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov.

Trump and Lavrov are expected to discuss Syria and the fight against terrorism in a follow-up conversation to Trump’s phone conversation with Vladimir Putin a week ago, according to the Washington Post.

Trump’s meeting with Lavrov will come less than 24 hours after Comey was let go as director of the FBI. At the helm of the FBI, Comey was leading the probe into potential ties between Trump’s presidential campaign and Russian officials. Comey’s firing prompted concern from both Democratic and Republican lawmakers about the probe into Russia’s election meddling.

A Paul Ryan-allied super PAC on Tuesday released a new television ad criticizing Jon Ossoff, the Democratic candidate in the runoff to fill an open U.S. House seat in Georgia, for taking campaign contributions from out of state.

The 30-second spot from the Congressional Leadership Fund attempts to mock Ossoff as “San Francisco’s congressman” and align him with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA).

“We’re proud that California is the leading funder of the Jon Ossoff campaign,” a woman standing on a San Francisco street says in the ad.

The Congressional Leadership Fund, the super PAC arm of the American Action Network, a nonprofit aligned with House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), said in a statement that the ad will begin airing on Tuesday as part of the $6.5 million the super PAC has pledged to infuse into the Georgia special election.

Watch the ad below:

One week after his emotional appeal to Congress for a health care bill that would ensure coverage for all Americans, ABC late night host Jimmy Kimmel responded to conservative critics of his monologue.

“I cannot count the number of times I’ve been called an out of touch Hollywood elitist creep this week — which, I have to say, I kind of appreciate because when I was a kid, we had to drink the powdered milk because we couldn’t afford the liquid,” Kimmel said Monday night. “My dream was to become an out of touch Hollywood elitist, and I guess it came true.”

He noted that conservative outlets and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich criticized his monologue last week, during which he shared that his son was born with a heart condition and needed surgery. Kimmel offered a sarcastic apology.

“I would like to apologize for saying children in America should have health care. It was insensitive. It was offensive, and I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive me,” Kimmel said.

Kimmel also brought on Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA), who said last week that the Senate Obamacare repeal bill should “pass the Jimmy Kimmel test” and ensure that every child get “everything she or he would need in that first year of life.”

Watch the clip via ABC:

Reports in the Canadian press on Monday cast some doubt on the narrative out of White House as to how President Donald Trump changed his mind about pulling out of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

Initial press accounts from American media outlets right after Trump decided against nixing NAFTA suggested that the President was persuaded by his aides and impromptu pleas from the leaders of Canada and Mexico.

White House officials told the Associated Press on Monday that Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, served as a conduit between Canada and the U.S. following reports that Trump was considering pulling out of NAFTA. The White House aides told the AP that Trudeau called Kushner about the reports and Kushner set up a call between Trudeau and Trump.

However, reports in the Canadian press on Monday offered out a different timeline for the calls between Kushner and Trudeau.

The National Post reported that White House aides reached out to Trudeau’s office to ask the Canadian prime minister to persuade Trump to stick with NAFTA, citing Canadian government sources. The plea from White House aides prompted a call between Trudeau and Trump, as well as with the Mexican president.

Metro News identified Jared Kushner as the the White House aide who called the Canadian government suggesting that Trudeau speak with Trump about NAFTA.

During a town hall in Dubuque, Iowa, on Monday, Rep. Rod Blum (R-IA) faced a rowdy crowd of constituents concerned about the House bill to repeal and replace Obamacare.

Blum was met with boos, shouts, and cheers from the crowd of about 1,000 people as he answered questions about health care and other issues, according to the Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier.

He told one audience member that the American Health Care Act “is not law yet” and noted that the Senate will likely make changes, according to the Huffington Post.

One attendee complained to Blum that the House rushed the bill to a vote and claimed that Blum’s office said that the congressman did not read the full bill before voting, per the Huffington Post.

“You voted for this bill in a rush. There were no committee hearings. This is my life,” she said, according to the Huffington Post. “The Congressional Budget Office didn’t score this bill … what was the rush?”

“I have always said the process was bad,” Blum replied, per the Huffington Post. “It was rushed. There should have been hearings.”

Blum also claimed that “nothing changes” in the AHCA for Medicaid, Medicare, and individual market plans as long as there is no lapse in coverage, according to the Courier. However, the bill slashes federal funding to the Medicaid program.

Before Blum faced constituents at the rowdy town hall, he walked out of a contentious interview with a local television station, KCRG-TV9.

Reporter Josh Scheinblum asked Blum why his office screened town hall attendees to ensure that they live in the district. Scheinblum asked if all Iowans should be able to attend.

“I don’t represent all Iowans — I represent the First District of Iowa,” Blum replied.

“Would you still take donations from a Republican in Iowa City?” Scheinblum asked in response.

At that point, Blum stood up to leave the interview.

“This is ridiculous. This is ridiculous,” Blum said. “He’s going to sit here and just badger me.”

 

 

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