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

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson on Tuesday morning defended his role in the purchase of a $31,000 dining set for his office suite, claiming that he had little involvement in the decision-making process.

Carson told members of the House Appropriations Committee that he was too busy running the department to keep track of plans to purchase a new dining set and that he wasn’t “concerned” about the furniture.

“If it was up to me, my office would probably look like a hospital waiting room,” he told the committee.

Carson said that when he was informed that the dining set needed to be replaced because a chair collapsed and someone was stuck with a nail, he asked his wife to help. When they were shown catalogues, Carson says he was unhappy with the options.

“The prices were beyond what I wanted to pay. I made it clear that that just didn’t seem right to me,” he said.

Carson said Tuesday that he was not involved in the rest of the process and delegated to his wife, Candy Carson.

“I left it with my wife,” he told the committee.

The next Carson heard about the dining set was that a $31,000 set had been ordered, he told the committee. He said he immediately had it cancelled.

“I thought that that was excessive,” Carson said.

Asked about a statement from his spokesman shortly after the story on the dining set broke that the Carsons were not involved in the purchase, Carson said he could not speak for others’ statements and argued that he has always been truthful about his involvement.

Carson also addressed brochures that include guidelines for homeless shelters on how to prevent discrimination against transgender individuals that were taken off the HUD website last year. Carson said that he and HUD general counsel were looking over the brochure to ensure the “equal rights for the women in the shelters and shelters where there are men and their equal rights.”

“We want to look at things that really provide for everybody and doesn’t impede the rights of one for the sake of the other. It’s a complex issue,” he said.

Asked how protecting the rights of transgender individuals could impact others’ rights, Carson said that “there are some women who said they were not comfortable with the idea of being in a shelter, being in a shower, and somebody who had a very different anatomy.”

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Late update: Michael Avenatti will appear on “Fox News @ Night” with Shannon Bream during the 11 p.m. ET hour on Tuesday, a Fox spokesperson told TPM Tuesday afternoon.

Original story:

Michael Avenatti, the lawyer representing Stormy Daniels in her lawsuit against President Donald Trump, told MSNBC on Monday night that he has not received an interview request from Fox News.

“What is shocking to me is, I haven’t received a single request, not one, from Fox News,” Avenatti said on MSNBC’s “The Beat” after noting that he’s done interviews with a slew of news outlets. “They’ve reached out to me for copies of documents and things of that nature, and I’ve cooperated with them, just like I have with other networks, and I’ve been prompt in attending to their requests. But I haven’t received a single interview request, not one, from Fox News.”

Avenatti has regularly appeared on several cable news networks to discuss his client, the porn actress Stormy Daniels who allegedly had a sexual relationship with Trump.

Last week, Avenatti sat down for an interview with “The Josh Marshall Podcast.”

Fox News did not immediately respond to TPM’s request for comment on Avenatti’s claims.

Watch Avenatti’s Monday night interview on MSNBC:

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Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Chuck Grassley (R-IA) on Monday said that the committee would hold a hearing on the Justice Department inspector general’s investigation into fired deputy FBI director Andrew McCabe after the inspector general releases the report.

“Both Democrats and Republicans asked the non-partisan, independent Inspector General appointed by President Obama to look into a whole range go issues involving the FBI’s involvement in controversial cases related to the 2016 presidential campaign,” Grassley wrote in a letter to Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT). “We are all eager to see the results of that review, and you can be certain that this Committee will hold hearings on that report’s findings once they become available.”

“As many on both sides of the aisle have said in the wake of the removal of the former Deputy Director, we need to see what the evidence shows before making any final judgments,” Grassley continued, adding that he’ll request documents on the decision to fire McCabe.

Grassley wrote the letter in response to a January letter from Leahy released on Saturday urging Grassley to hold hearings on the politicization of the FBI. Leahy asked for Grassley to bring in McCabe and current FBI director Christopher Wray.

“I believe the Federal Bureau of Investigation, as an institution – and as our nation’s premier law enforcement agency – is under attack,” Leahy wrote in his letter. “During my four decades in the Senate, I have never before seen career, apolitical law enforcement officials so relentlessly and publicly maligned by our own government.”

In his response, Grassley wrote that he is also “deeply concerned about politicization of the FBI,” but he focused on actions taken by the FBI before the 2016 election. The Judiciary chairman mentioned the Democratic campaign of McCabe’s wife, the text messages between two FBI officials during the 2016 election, and Bruce Ohr, a Justice Department officials whose wife worked for the firm that funded the so-called Trump dossier, Fusion GPS.

Read Grassley’s letter:

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President Donald Trump discussed with Gary Cohn, his former top economic adviser, the possibility of Cohn taking over CIA director, only to quickly change his mind, Politico reported Monday, citing three people close to Trump.

Trump “informally offered” Cohn the position and Cohn had agreed to take it, but the President later decided to nominate deputy CIA director Gina Haspel instead, according to Politico. Cohn resigned as Trump’s top economic adviser earlier in March but told associates that he would return to the Trump administration for “the right big job,” per Politico.

Cohn and Trump discussed other positions for Cohn when Cohn first told Trump that he planned to resign, and the two continued discussions after the White House announced Cohn’ departure, Politico reported.

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After bringing on a new attorney to his outside legal team, Joseph diGenova, on Monday, President Donald Trump is weighing additional changes for his team of attorneys handling the Russia investigations, the New York Times reported late Monday.

Trump has told associates recently that he is considering firing Ty Cobb, the White House lawyer who handles the Russia probes and the loudest voice urging Trump to cooperate with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, according to the New York Times. Trump told Cobb on Monday that he was not going to fire him, however, per the Times.

John Dowd, a member of Trump’s outside legal team, is considering resigning out of frustration that he cannot control the President, two people briefed on the matter told the New York Times. Dowd was angered by Trump’s decision to hire diGenova, viewing it as a move to minimize his role on Trump’s legal team, two sources told the Washington Post. Dowd told the Times that he has no plans to leave and told the Post that he was happy with diGenova’s hire.

Trump is also still considering hiring Emmet Flood, an attorney who represented Bill Clinton during the impeachment process, according to the Washington Post.

The potential for a shakeup on Trump’s legal team comes as the President escalates his attacks on the Russia investigation. Over the weekend, Trump fired off several angry tweets, using Mueller’s name for the first time. Dowd also called for Mueller’s firing over the weekend and was forced to clarify that he was not speaking for the President in making that statement after first stating that he was. The incident prompted Cobb to issue a statement ensuring that Trump was not considering firing Mueller.

Trump has been complaining recently that his lawyers are not doing enough to protect him, a person with knowledge of Trump’s actions told the Washington Post.

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President Donald Trump plans to hire a new attorney, Joseph E. diGenova, for his outside legal team handling the Russia investigations, the New York Times reported Monday afternoon, citing three people told about the decision.

DiGenova, a Washington, D.C. lawyer and former U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, has pushed the conspiracy theory that FBI officials framed Trump. He told the Daily Caller in January that the FBI “created false facts so that they could get surveillance warrants.” DiGenova also served as independent counsel in the Bill Clinton passport investigation in the 1990s.

DiGenova will not play a leading role on Trump’s legal team but will be a “more aggressive player,” according to the New York Times.

Victoria Toensing, DiGenova’s wife, represents former Trump campaign co-chair Sam Clovis; Erik Prince, the Blackwater CEO and informal Trump adviser who reportedly met with a Russian businessman in the Seychelles early last year; and and an informant in the Uranium One conspiracy theory pushed by conservatives.

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After firing off a series of tweets aimed at special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation and fired FBI official Andrew McCabe on both Saturday and Sunday mornings, Trump again lashed out at the Russia probe Monday morning.

Trump often fires off tweets on weekend mornings, but his ire toward Mueller was especially apparent this past weekend. He also openly celebrated the firing of McCabe just two days before the FBI official’s retirement benefits would have kicked in, renewing his claims that McCabe was biased toward Democrats.

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When Hope Hicks announced last month that she would resign from her role as White House communications director, she had been contemplating the move for a while, according to a profile of Hicks published by New York magazine Sunday night.

Hicks had considered leaving her prominent role twice before, according to New York magazine. In August 2017, Hicks told Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner that she was unhappy and floated moving to a different role in the administration, but Ivanka Trump and Kushner encouraged her to wait for chief of staff John Kelly to bring changes to the West Wing, per the report. In December 2017, Hicks considered leaving again when her lease in Washington, D.C. was up, according to New York magazine.

Hicks resigned in late February a couple of weeks after key White House aide Rob Porter, whom Hicks was reportedly dating at the time, was ousted from the administration over accusations from his ex-wives that he was abusive.

Read New York magazine’s profile of Hick here.

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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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