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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

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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Paul Manafort on Wednesday night asked the judge overseeing his case in Washington, D.C., to dismiss special counsel Robert Mueller’s indictment against him, arguing that Mueller did not have the authority to bring charges.

This is Manafort’s second attempt to throw out Mueller’s indictment in Washington, D.C. — Manafort’s lawyers filed a civil lawsuit in January against Mueller, the Justice Department and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, claiming that Mueller overstepped his authority by indicting Manafort.

Manafort’s lawyers filed two additional motions to dismiss on Wednesday night, one calling for the judge to dismiss the money laundering count and another calling for the judge to dismiss one of two counts that accuses Manafort of making false statements.

In the complaint filed Wednesday night, Manafort’s lawyers note that when Rosenstein appointed Mueller as special counsel, he gave Mueller the authority to “investigate any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump” as well as “any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation.” Manafort’s lawyer’s argue that Rosenstein did not have the authority to grant Mueller the broad authority to investigate any matter that arises from the probe.

“The Superseding Indictment’s allegations have nothing to do with alleged coordination between the 2016 Trump campaign and the Russian government. They instead concern alleged conduct that long pre-dates the Trump campaign—and which prosecutors knew about but declined to pursue long ago,” Manafort’s lawyers wrote, arguing that the indictment against Manafort should not fall within Mueller’s purview.

Manafort’s lawyers further argued that even if Rosenstein had the authority to grant Mueller the ability to investigate any matters that arise from the Russia probe, the indictment against Manafort still does not fall within the special counsel’s investigative authority. They argue that Mueller’s authority to investigate “any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation” should only include matters Mueller learns “because of” the original Russia investigation.

“None of the charges before this Court were discovered because of the Special Counsel’s investigation into alleged coordination; nor are any of them ‘demonstrably related to’ that investigation,” Manafort’s lawyers wrote.

Manafort’s attorneys noted that the tax and financial crimes alleged in the indictment took place before the Trump campaign began and that the Justice Department was aware of certain activities before Mueller was appointed.

“Given that the DOJ was aware of Mr. Manafort’s activities years before the Special Counsel was appointed, the Special Counsel cannot credibly claim that he discovered the alleged conduct because of his investigation into unrelated claims about Russian involvement in the 2016 campaign,” they wrote.

In a separate motion to dismiss, Manafort’s lawyers asked the judge to throw out the money laundering charge. The money laundering count alleges that Manafort made financial transactions through foreign bank accounts using proceeds from unlawful activity and to “promote” illegal activity, which Mueller’s team identified as Manafort’s failure to register as a foreign lobbyist. Manafort’s attorneys argued that Manafort’s work as a foreign lobbyist was not in itself illegal, and that his alleged failure to register and false statements were not related to the financial transactions. In the filing, Manafort’s lawyers also asked the judge to dismiss the indictment’s forfeiture allegation, which would require Manafort to forfeit property involved in the alleged money laundering scheme if convicted. A new attorney on Manafort’s legal team, Richard Westling, signed onto this motion.

In yet another motion to dismiss, Manafort’s lawyers argued that two counts alleging that Mueller lied to investigators were duplicative and asked the judge to dismiss one of the counts.

Manafort faces charges of money laundering, tax evasion, and failure to disclose foreign lobbying in the indictment brought in Washington, D.C. A separate indictment in Virginia includes charges of making false statements on tax returns, failing to report foreign bank accounts, and bank fraud. He has pleaded not guilty to both indictments.

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A lawyer for the Trump Organization was involved in arbitration proceedings between Stephanie Clifford, the porn actress who uses the stage name Stormy Daniels, and the company created by Trump attorney Michael Cohen to pay Clifford, according to documents first reported by the Wall Street Journal.

Jill A. Martin is listed as counsel on a “demand for arbitration” document signed in February that claims a “breach of contract” by Peggy Petersen, the name used for Clifford in the “hush agreement” she allegedly agreed to with Cohen. The document, which was shared by Clifford’s lawyer with the Wall Street Journal, NBC News and CNN, links a lawyer for the Trump Organization to the “hush agreement” that bars Clifford from discussion her alleged intimate relationship with President Donald Trump.

Martin told the Wall Street Journal that she was representing Cohen’s company, Essential Consulting, LLC, “in her individual capacity” until the main lawyer on the arbitration received permission to practice in California.

The Trump Organization told NBC News that it had nothing to do with the arbitration.

“The Trump Organization is not representing anyone and, with the exception of one of its California-based attorneys in her individual capacity facilitating the initial filing pending the pro hac admission of Mr. Rosen, the company has had no involvement in the matter,” the company said in a statement.

Clifford allegedly had a sexual relationship with Trump that began back in 2006, and Clifford signed a non-disclosure agreement with Cohen in October 2016 that barred her from publicly discussing the alleged affair. Cohen paid her $130,000 through an LLC, and Trump has denied the affair and any involvement in the payment.

More than a year after she signed the agreement, Clifford is looking for ways to discuss her affair with Trump. She sued Trump, alleging that he never signed the hush agreement, rendering it invalid.

On the same day that Clifford sued Trump at the end of February, Cohen reportedly obtained a temporary restraining order against Clifford that bars her from discussing the matters laid out in the non-disclosure agreement she signed in 2016.

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