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

CIA Director Mike Pompeo met with his Russian counterparts when they visited the United States last week, including the the chief of the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service, Sergey Naryshkin, who is included on a list of sanctioned Russian officials sanctioned by the U.S., CBS News reported Tuesday night.

Russian media also reported that Naryshkin and Pompeo met in the U.S. last week, and the Russian embassy in the U.S.  appeared to confirm the meeting in a tweet.

Jon Huntsman, the U.S. ambassador to Russia, told a Russia radio station on Tuesday that Pompeo met with his Russian counterparts, but Huntsman did not say exactly who attended the meeting.

The meeting took place in the same week that Pompeo told the BBC that he expects Russia to try to interfere in the 2018 U.S. elections.

I have every expectation that they will continue to try and do that,” Pompeo said in an interview that aired Monday. “But I am confident that America will be able to have a free and fair election, that we’ll push back in a way that is sufficiently robust, that the impact that they will have on our election won’t be great.”

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Brenda Fitzgerald stepped down as the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday morning following a Politico report on the conflicts of interest created by her financial holdings.

“This morning Secretary Azar accepted Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald’s resignation as Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  Dr. Fitzgerald owns certain complex financial interests that have imposed a broad recusal limiting her ability to complete all of her duties as the CDC Director. Due to the nature of these financial interests, Dr. Fitzgerald could not divest from them in a definitive time period,” Health and Human Services spokesman Matt Lloyd said in a statement.

“After advising Secretary Azar of both the status of the financial interests and the scope of her recusal, Dr. Fitzgerald tendered, and the Secretary accepted, her resignation.  The Secretary thanks Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald for her service and wishes her the best in all her endeavors,” Lloyd added.

The news of Fitzgerald’s resignation came less than 24 hours after Politico published a report on Fitzgerald’s stock trades. Fitzgerald purchased stock in a tobacco company about one month after she took over as director of the CDC, an agency that urges Americans to stop smoking tobacco products. She later sold stock in that company, but was unable to sell other stocks that presented conflicts.

Fitzgerald had been forced to recuse herself from a number of issues that the CDC addresses, but she said she was unable to quickly sell those stocks. This prevented her from testifying at a January hearing and prompted scrutiny in Congress.

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About one month after she took over as director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Brenda Fitzgerald purchased stock in a tobacco company, Politico reported Tuesday.

As CDC director, Fitzgerald oversees the agency’s efforts to push Americans to stop smoking tobacco products, so the purchase raised questions about conflicts of interest.

Documents obtained by Politico show that in August and September, Fitzgerald bought stock in several companies, including Japan Tobacco, a cigarette manufacturing company. She also purchased stock in pharmaceutical companies Merck & Co. and Bayer, and health insurance company Humana, Politico reported.

In a statement to Politico, a spokesperson for the Department of Health and Human Services acknowledged that Fitzgerald purchased “potentially conflicting” stocks but said that she has now sold them. Politico confirmed that Fitzgerald sold her stock in Japan Tobacco in October.

“Like all presidential personnel, Dr. Fitzgerald’s financial holdings were reviewed by the HHS Ethics Office, and she was instructed to divest of certain holdings that may pose a conflict of interest. During the divestiture process, her financial account manager purchased some potentially conflicting stock holdings. These additional purchases did not change the scope of Dr. Fitzgerald’s recusal obligations, and Dr. Fitzgerald has since also divested of these newly acquired potentially conflicting publicly traded stock holdings,” the spokesperson said.

Fitzgerald was already under scrutiny for her stock holdings. She was unable to testify before Congress in January because she had yet to address conflicts of interest created by stock she and her husband own.

Read Politico’s full report here.

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Shortly before the House Intelligence Committee voted to release the anti-FBI memo crafted by staff for Chair Devin Nunes (R-CA), Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and FBI Director Christopher Wray met with White House chief of staff John Kelly to make on final appeal for blocking the release of the memo, according to Tuesday reports in the New York Times and Washington Post.

Rosenstein and Wray tried to persuade Kelly to convince Nunes to delay the committee’s vote on releasing the memo, but were unsuccessful, a current and former official told the New York Times.

In the meeting with Kelly, Rosenstein did most of the talking and warned Kelly that releasing the memo to the public could jeopardize classified information, according to the Washington Post. Rosenstein also told Kelly that the Nunes memo did not provide an accurate description of the Justice Department’s investigative practices, per the Post. Kelly told Rosenstein and Wray that President Donald Trump is inclined to release the memo but that the White House would conduct a review of the document, the Post reported.

The meeting highlights the divide between Trump and his Republican allies on Capitol Hill and the officials he appointed to lead the Justice Department and FBI over the highly controversial memo.

Justice Department officials have repeatedly warned against releasing the memo, but Republicans have charged ahead with plans to make their allegations public.

The memo reportedly purports to show that the Justice Department and FBI abused the process used to conduct surveillance on a Trump campaign aide. The memo reportedly alleges that the FBI failed to reveal in its application for surveillance to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance court that one of its sources, dossier author Christopher Steele, was being paid by Democrats.

Democrats have slammed the memo as a mere vehicle for Republican attempts to undermine the FBI’s probe into the Trump campaign.

The House Intelligence Committee voted to released the memo on Monday night, and Trump now has five days to review the memo and decide whether he agrees that it should be made public.

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After FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe announced Monday that he would leave the bureau, the Virginia Republican Party pounced on the opportunity to remind everyone that McCabe’s wife lost her 2015 race for a state senate seat.

The tweet noting that Jill McCabe lost the race calls to mind President Donald Trump’s reported comment to Andrew McCabe when James Comey was allowed to fly on an FBI plane after he was fired as director of the bureau. Trump blasted McCabe over the flight and told him to ask his wife what it feels like to be a loser, per NBC News.

Jill McCabe’s Democratic campaign for public office and a campaign contribution from former Democratic Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s super PAC, have played a big role in the Trump administration’s pressure campaign to oust Andrew McCabe. Trump has publicly chastised the FBI official over his wife’s ties to Democrats, and the White House reportedly pressured FBI Director Christopher Wray to fire McCabe.

McCabe was expected to leave the FBI, but not until March, when he will be eligible for his pension. His early departure appears to be linked to a forthcoming report from the Justice Department inspector general looking at the FBI’s probes into Hillary Clinton and the Trump campaign during the 2016 election, as the New York Times and CNN both reported. Wray reportedly gave McCabe the choice of taking on a different position within the FBI or leaving.

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FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe’s sudden decision on Monday to leave the bureau appears to be linked to a forthcoming report from the Justice Department inspector general about the bureau’s investigations during the 2016 election, according to reports from the New York Times and CNN.

McCabe’s departure from the bureau was expected, but not until March, when he would qualify for his full government pension. His surprise decision to leave the FBI on Monday raised questions about pressure he faced to step away from his top position within the bureau.

A former law enforcement official close to McCabe told the New York Times that FBI Director Christopher Wray was concerned about the report from Inspector General Michael Horowitz and discussed moving McCabe to a different position within the FBI. McCabe instead chose to leave the bureau altogether, per the Times.

CNN reported that Wray suggested in a memo to FBI staff that the forthcoming inspector general report played a role in McCabe’s decision to leave, citing sources who saw Wray’s memo. Wray told McCabe that he would be bringing on a new team to lead the FBI, and that McCabe could move to a different position or leave, according to CNN.

The department’s inspector general is investigating several facets of the FBI’s investigations into Hillary Clinton’s email servers and possible collusion between the Trump campaign an Russia during the 2016 election. The inspector general is looking at whether McCabe should have recused himself from the Clinton investigation given that his wife ran a Democratic campaign for public office in 2015. The inspector general is also looking at text message exchanges between F.B.I. officials Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, who were involved in both the Clinton and Trump probes.

Past reporting indicates that McCabe was under pressure from the Trump administration to step down. President Donald Trump publicly chastised McCabe over a campaign contribution to his wife from a Clinton ally, and the White House reportedly pressured Wray to fire McCabe.

Read the latest editor’s backgrounder (Prime access) on this story »


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Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) lamented on Tuesday morning that the House Intelligence Committee’s Russia investigation has become partisan and warned against the release of an anti-FBI memo crafted by staff for the committee’s Republican chair, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA).

“I believe that he should follow the advice of his Justice Department which so far is to not release it,” Collins said on CNN when asked if President Donald Trump should approve the release of the memo, now that the House Intelligence Committee voted to make it public.

She said that the Justice Department has a “legitimate concern” in not wanting the memo released because it could “result in a compromise of sources and methods.”

Collins said that the House investigation has become too partisan and that House lawmakers are better off working together, along with the Justice Department, on a report everyone agrees can be released to the public.

“This issue is too important to break down along partisan lines,” she said.

The senator said that when the Senate Intelligence Committee encountered disagreement over a report on the use of torture, they worked with all parties on the final result.

“We sat down for months with the CIA and others from the intel community. We went through it, we redacted parts of it, and ultimately we released it. We released dissenting views at the same time,” she said. “It was a much better way to proceed.”

“It seems to me that what the House Intelligence Committee ought to do is sit down with the Justice Department, go through the report, see if there are issues that are contested or that would compromise our security, and come up with a redacted report. Now that’s not as satisfying to the press and the public, but there’s some underlying intelligence that will never be able to be released,” she added.

Collins also stressed that the public should pay attention to the final results in the Senate Intelligence Committee, special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe, and in the investigation by the Justice Department’s inspector general.

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Rep. Mark Walker (R-NC) has read the anti-FBI memo crafted by the House Intelligence Committee and wants the public to see it, but he told MSNBC Monday night that the memo is not exactly a “smoking gun.”

“If your audience or somebody is believing this is the end all smoking gun — it isn’t,” Walker told MSNBC’s Katy Tur when discussing the memo.

The House Intelligence Committee voted along party lines Monday night to release the memo to the public. President Donald Trump now has five days to review the memo and determine whether the public should view the document.

Republicans have not offered much detail on the memo since it is classified, but reports indicate that the memo purports to show that the FBI misled the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance court in its application to conduct surveillance of Trump aide Carter Page. The memo reportedly alleges that the FBI did not share that one of the sources cited in the application, Trump dossier author Christopher Steele, was being paid by Democrats.

Despite the lack of detail made available by Republicans, some have claimed that the information contained in the memo is “jaw-dropping” and “worse than Watergate.”

Walker said Monday evening that the memo may reveal bias within the FBI, as Republicans have alleged, and said that the memo’s revelations make “you ask even more questions.” He suggested that it was unclear whether the memo revealed mere “bias” or “intention of wrongdoing.” However, he cautioned that the memo is not all that shocking.

“But to make the case that this is the most shocking document in the history of mankind, I believe that’s a little hyperbole,” he said on MSNBC.

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Following the news Monday that FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe would leave the bureau, former FBI Director James Comey offered kind words for his former colleague on Twitter.

Comey wrote in a tweet that McCabe “stood tall” at the FBI when “small people were trying to tear down” the bureau.

Both Comey and McCabe are now part of a club of FBI officials forced out of the bureau under the Trump administration. Trump fired Comey over the Russsia investigation, as the President himself admitted.

The exact circumstances around McCabe’s firing are less clear cut, but the former FBI deputy director likely felt pressure to leave, even if the ultimate decision to leave was not his alone.

He was the subject of a months-long campaign by Trump to undermine his credibility and paint him as someone loyal to Democrats. Trump has mentioned publicly several times that McCabe’s wife received a campaign contribution from a committee affiliated with former Democratic Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, an ally of Hillary Clinton. The White House also reportedly pressured new FBI Director Christopher Wray to fire McCabe.

The New York Times reported Monday that McCabe told friends he resigned on Monday because he felt pressure from Wray to leave. Both the Times and CNN reported that Wray told McCabe he would be bringing on a new team to lead the FBI and that McCabe could decide whether or not to remain in a different position.

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Following the New York Times’ Friday report revealing that Hillary Clinton decided against firing her 2008 presidential campaign’s faith adviser when he was accused of sexual harassment, Clinton’s campaign manager at the time, Patti Solis Doyle, spoke out about the decision on CNN on Monday.

Solis Doyle recommended that Clinton fire the adviser, Burns Strider, but Clinton overruled that suggestion and kept Strider on, as the New York Times reported. Solis Doyle confirmed this on CNN and said that she still believes Clinton made the “wrong call.”

Solis Doyle also said she was “disappointed” by Clinton’s tweet responding to the story over the weekend, in which the former presidential candidate acknowledged the incident but did not say whether she believes she should have done things differently.

“I was disappointed by that tweet, that response. It was the wrong call. I wish she had said it was the wrong call. I wish she had said, ‘You know, having to do it over, I would have fired him.’ I think that’s actually true. I believe that she thinks that ‘if I had to do it over again, I would fire him,” Solis Doyle said on CNN.

Solid Doyle also argued that it was a challenging decision for Clinton to make.

“It wasn’t an easy call. None of these calls are easy. And especially in a presidential campaign, we were just a few months away from voting beginning to start with the caucuses and the primaries, firing a high-profile person on the campaign would have certainly made news and caused a distraction, so it wasn’t an easy call,” she said on CNN.

She also defended Clinton personally and attested to the former presidential candidate’s commitment to hiring and helping female staff.

“I feel like I know the totality of her as a person, as a politician, as a public servant. And this is a woman who allowed me to put a crib in my office, in the White House, and bring my 3-month-old baby to work every day because she knew that I was struggling with balancing my early motherhood with a rising career,” Solis Doyle said. “This is a woman who hires women at the highest levels in her orbit, promotes women, gives them raises, who is dogged in her advocacy for the issues that she cares about.”

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