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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

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer on Wednesday painted the results in the special election to fill a U.S. House seat in Georgia, which the leading Democrat narrowly missed winning outright, as a “big loss” for the party.

Democrat Jon Ossoff garnered 48 percent of the vote, just shy of the 50 percent he needed to clear to avoid a runoff, while the top Republican vote-getter, Karen Handel, won 20 percent.

“They were clear going into this election, they said their goal was to get over 50 percent. They came up short,” Spicer said during the daily press briefing when asked about the race. “I think this was a big loss for them. The bottom line is they went all-in on it. They said that they — their goal was to get over 50 percent. They came up short.”

Asked later about his assessment of the race and whether Republicans had to put in too much effort to compete in what is historically a solid Republican district, Spicer doubled down on his depiction of Democrats as the race’s losers, noting that they spent more than $8.3 million on the race.

“They ran to win last night and they lost,” he said. “Anything short of describing that as a loss is sort of inconceivable to me in the sense that’s literally what they said their goal was to do.”

Spicer was also asked if Ossoff’s relative success in the race shows that Republicans need to pay attention to demographic changes in the South. The press secretary, who formerly ran communications for the Republican National Committee, replied that the GOP is in great shape.

“I think you know that based on my former position, we talked about changing demographics throughout the country and made significant headway in doing that. In large part, that’s why we won,” he said.

“I think we did pretty well in November,” he added. “And we’ve continued to pick up seats around the country at different levels. So I feel very confident about the state of the party.”

Spicer said he was not yet sure whether Trump would campaign for Handel in Georgia.

“If needed I think the President is going to make sure he does everything he can to maintain majorities and further the party. But we’ll see if we’re needed,” he said.

President Donald Trump on Wednesday morning spun the results from Tuesday night’s special election in Georgia as a win for Republicans because the leading Democrat in the race narrowly missed winning it outright.

Republican Karen Handel earned 20 percent of the vote, compared to Democrat Jon Ossoff’s 48 percent, so the two will compete in a June 20 runoff to decide the fate of an open seat in the U.S. House. Though no Republican candidate clinched the seat or outperformed Ossoff, Trump insisted the results represented a win:

Trump also framed the upcoming runoff as “Hollywood vs. Georgia,” a reference to Ossoff’s fundraising prowess and the celebrities, like actress Alyssa Milano, who helped him campaign. As it turns out, Ossoff did not pull much of his more than $8 million in campaign cash from big Hollywood donors.

The President published a similar tweet Tuesday night declaring that a runoff represented a victory for Republicans:

During a town hall in Claremore, Oklahoma, on Tuesday, Sen. James Lankford said that President Donald Trump should release his tax returns, according to the Tulsa World.

“He promised he would,” Lankford said when asked if the President should release his tax returns, per the Tulsa World. “He should keep his promise.”

A handful of Republican lawmakers believe Trump should release his tax returns, including Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) and several members of the House Freedom Caucus.

At another event in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, Lankford addressed the failed House bill to repeal and replace Obamacare and said it would not have passed in the Senate.

“The bill the House put out originally would have included twice as many people with half as much help,” he said, according to the Tulsa World. “That would not get through the Senate.”

The senator also criticized Trump’s social media use.

“I’m very aware our president is not a good example of how to do social media,” he told constituents on Tuesday, per the Tulsa World.

Amid reports Tuesday night that executives at Fox are discussing cutting ties with Bill O’Reilly, the Fox News host’s lawyer issued a statement claiming that O’Reilly is the the victim of a “smear campaign” from the “far-left.”

“Bill O’Reilly has been subjected to a brutal campaign of character assassination that is unprecedented in post-McCarthyist America. This law firm has uncovered evidence that the smear campaign is being orchestrated by far-left organizations bent on destroying O’Reilly for political and financial reasons,” O’Reilly’s lawyer, Marc Kasowitz, said in a statement Tuesday night. “That evidence will be put forth shortly, and it is irrefutable.”

The statement came as several outlets reported that it’s unlikely O’Reilly will return to his show at the network.

New York Magazine reported Tuesday afternoon that members of the Murdoch family have been fighting over whether O’Reilly should leave the network. The Murdochs are “leaning toward” announcing O’Reilly’s departure, per New York Magazine.

Tuesday evening, CNN reported that representatives for Fox and O’Reilly have begun discussing the host’s exit, citing a “well-placed source.” Sources close to O’Reilly denied this, but yet another source told CNN that it’s not likely O’Reilly will return to his primetime show on the network.

The Wall Street Journal later reported that Fox News is preparing to have O’Reilly leave the network, citing unnamed “people close to the situation.” A final decision on the host’s fate could come in the next few days, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Fox News declined to respond to several outlets when asked about O’Reilly’s status at the network on Tuesday.

O’Reilly went on a lengthy vacation following a New York Times report revealing that the host and Fox had settled multiple sexual harassment cases. The report prompted several advertisers to pull their ad buys from the show, putting pressure on the network to boot O’Reilly.

Jon Ossoff led the 18-candidate pack in Tuesday’s special election to fill an open U.S. House seat in Georgia, but he came just short of clearing the 50 percent hurdle to win the seat outright and will now compete in a June runoff election against Republican Karen Handel.

Ossoff earned 48 percent of the vote in Georgia’s Sixth Congressional District, followed by Handel just shy of 20 percent.

“This is already a victory for the ages,” Ossoff told supporters gathered at an election night rally just before midnight, when vote totals from one county experiencing technical problems had yet to come in. “That no matter what the outcome is tonight, whether we take it all or we fight on, we have defied the odds. We have shattered expectations. We are changing the world.”

Late Tuesday night, Handel addressed supporters and pledged to fight for the House seat against Ossoff. In her 10 minute speech, she did not mention President Donald Trump, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

“Tomorrow, we start the campaign anew,” she said, per the Journal-Constitution. “Beating Ossoff and holding this seat is something that rises above any one person.”

The results for the race were not finalized until after midnight Wednesday morning due to a data error in Fulton County that forced poll workers to screen ballots by hand, according to the Journal-Constitution.

Before the final results came in, President Donald Trump declared victory for Republicans in the race, touting that the GOP had prevented Ossoff from winning the race outright with his help.

The historically Republican seat had previously been held by Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price. Trump only won the suburban Atlanta district by one point in November, however, giving Democrats hope that they could channel anti-Trump energy into a victory there.

Democrats still have an opportunity to flip the district in the June 20 runoff, but it will be a tall order now that Republicans can put their full might behind a single candidate. Ossoff consistently led polls of the 18-candidate field for the jungle primary-style election, and was polling at an average of 42 percent in the last nine polls before polls opened, according to FiveThirtyEight. But the crowded field, which included 11 Republicans, gave Ossoff a change to rise above the fray. That’s an advantage he won’t have in June.

The special election in Georgia drew national attention as one of the first congressional pickup opportunities after Trump’s November victory—and the most promising one at that for Democrats, who were especially optimistic about being able to flip the fairly wealthy, well-educated district. Ossoff’s fundraising prowess boosted Democrats’ hopes, and by Tuesday he had raised more than $8 million for the race.

But as the frontrunner, Ossoff was subject to relentless attacks from conservatives, with one Republican candidate, former Georgia state Sen. Judson Hill, making a last-ditch attempt to tie him to terrorism.

Trump himself waded into the race in its final days in a big way, with multiple tweets going after Ossoff and a robocall urging Republicans to get out to the polls. Though Trump got involved at the eleventh hour, Ossoff declined to go after the President at all during a Tuesday morning interview on CNN, instead choosing to pitch his economic message.

Back at the local level, news broke on Monday afternoon that some electronic poll books had been stolen over the weekend in Cobb County, part of which lies in the 6th District. The county elections board said that the stolen units would be replaced for the election, and there was no evidence the theft had any impact on the race.

Ossoff’s first-place finish came on the heels of a closer-than-expected race last week to fill another open U.S. House seat in Kansas vacated by CIA Director Mike Pompeo. Republican Ron Estes won by a seven-point margin in a solidly conservative district that Trump had swept by 27 points in November, a 20-point swing.

This post has been updated.

 

 

On Saturday, just a few days before Tuesday’s highly anticipated special election to fill an open congressional seat, election equipment used to check in voters at the polls was stolen in Cobb County, Georgia.

“On the evening of April 15th, voting equipment used for voter check-in for one Cobb County precinct for the April 18 Special Election was stolen from a poll manager’s vehicle,” the Cobb County Board of Elections said in a statement. “The Cobb County Board of Elections is working with the Georgia Secretary of State’s office to address this serious matter. Cobb County Police is investigating the theft.”

Although the units were stolen on Saturday, the Georgia secretary of state’s office says the Cobb County Board of Elections did not notify it until two days later. The secretary of state’s office has reconfigured the coding to make the stolen units unusable, according to spokeswoman Candice Boce.

“It is unacceptable that the Cobb County Elections Office waited two days to notify my office of this theft,” Secretary of State Brian Kemp said in a statement. “We have opened an investigation, and we are taking steps to ensure that it has no effect on the election. I am confident that the results will not be compromised.”

Pam Burel, the administrative supervisor at the Cobb County Board of Elections, told TPM that the board was unable to comment further while there is an open investigation.

The units stolen were not voting machines, so they could not be used to fraudulently vote, Cobb County Elections Director Janine Eveler told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The equipment did contain the voter file with Georgia voters’ personal information like driver’s license numbers and addresses, but not social security numbers, Eveler told the Journal-Constitution. But she added that “it does require some knowledge or expertise to use machine to retrieve the information.”

Eveler told told Atlanta television station WSBTV that they will replace the stolen equipment.

Though local officials say the machines stolen cannot be used to vote, some residents may link the incident to concerns about voter fraud, which is extremely rare in the U.S.

“It’s very shocking, especially with the climate we have of voter fraud out there,” an unnamed voter  told WSBTV of the theft.

The incident took place just a few days before the high-stakes special election to fill a House seat vacated by Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price. Democrat Jon Ossoff has been leading the 18-candidate field in the polls, and Democrats are hopeful that they can turn the historically Republican district blue.

Tammy Patrick, a fellow at the Bipartisan Policy Center who served on the Presidential Commission on Election Administration, told TPM that the theft should not have much of an impact on Tuesday’s election. She said that electronic poll books are more secure than paper books and that voter information is often available to the public in some form, though driver’s license numbers are likely not public information.

She said that someone could not use the electronic poll books to alter voter information or to fraudulently cast a vote. And as long as there is a back-up electronic or paper voter file, the theft would not impact voters’ ability to cast a ballot at the polling place.

Patrick did note that the theft could prompt an “issue of the perception and the confidence in the process from the voter’s perspective.” But she did not see an effect beyond that.

“It sounds far worse than it is,” she told TPM. “I don’t see how this is going to be impactful in the election itself unless people say, ‘Oh look, it’s already compromised, I’m just not going to go vote.’ Then that would obviously have an impact.”

This post has been updated.

 

 

On the morning of the special election to fill an open House seat in Georgia, President Donald Trump went all in on attacking Jon Ossoff, the Democratic candidate leading the polls. However, Ossoff himself repeatedly declined to go after Trump in a Tuesday morning interview.

During an interview on CNN’s “New Day,” co-host Alisyn Camerota noted that Trump recorded a robocall singling out Ossoff and asked him to respond.



“I appreciate the president’s interest in the race. Although, he is misinformed with respect to my priorities,” Ossoff replied.

Camerota then asked Ossoff if the race was a referendum on Trump.

“This race is about local economic issues here and values that unite people in the community in Georgia before it’s about the national political circus. Everyone’s looking for national implications, but all politics is local,” he replied, again declining to go after Trump.

The special election in Georgia and Ossoff’s dominance in the polls has been linked to Trump from the start. Democrats are hopeful they can flip the solidly Republican district given that the President only won the district by one point in November. Democrats are counting on anti-Trump fervor to drive their base to the polls.

When asked if he was motivated to run by Trump’s election, Ossoff noted that he does have “serious concerns about the direction of things in Washington.” But he quickly pivoted to his pitch on boosting the economy.

And he demurred yet again when Camerota asked if he talks about Trump on the campaign trail.

“I’ll always voice my concerns about what’s happening in Washington. That includes my concerns about the administration, whether it’s on the environment or civil liberties,” he replied, avoiding Trump’s name.

The Democratic candidate also declined to respond to Trump when asked about the President’s fiery tweets labelling Ossoff “VERY weak on crime and illegal immigration.”

“Once again I appreciate the President’s interest. It sounds like he’s misinformed about my priorities,” Ossoff said before suggesting Trump visit his campaign website.

During the interview, Camerota also pointed out that Ossoff does not currently live in the district, noting that this means he won’t be able to vote for himself. In response, Ossoff explained that he grew up in the district and is living just outside it with his girlfriend while she attends medical school at Emory University.

Watch part of the interview via CNN:

President Donald Trump on Tuesday will sign an executive order calling for a review of the H-1B visa program, which brings high-skilled immigrants to the United States.

Trump will sign the “Buy American and Hire American” order during his trip to Kenosha, Wisconsin, the White House told reporters on Monday.



The executive order will not make any changes to the visa program — it would simply initiate a review and order the Labor, Justice, Homeland Security and State Departments to come up with changes to ensure that the visas go to the highest skilled workers, the administration told reporters. It would also direct those agencies to strictly enforce the laws governing the H-1B program, per the White House.

Trump’s order will also call for the Commerce Department to reduce waivers and exceptions to “Buy American” laws, the administration told reporters.

As Tuesday’s special election to fill an open House seat in Georgia drew closer, President Donald Trump upped his attacks on Jon Ossoff, the Democratic candidate leading the race.

The President recorded a robocall for the Republican National Committee urging Republican voters to get out to the polls on Tuesday, but did not endorse a specific Republican candidate.



“Liberal democrats from outside of Georgia are spending millions and millions of dollars trying to take your Republican congressional seat away from you. Don’t let them do it,” Trump said on the call, according to The Hill. “Only you can stop the super-liberal Democrats and Nancy Pelosi’s group, and in particular Jon Ossoff. If you don’t vote tomorrow, Ossoff will raise your taxes, destroy your healthcare, and flood our country with illegal immigrants.”

Trump’s robocall came as he fired off several tweets about the race to fill the House seat vacated by Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price.

Late Monday night, Trump said that a runoff would count as a victory for the GOP, given the crowded Republican field. (Tuesday’s race will function as a jungle primary, with candidates from all parties competing against each other, and if no candidate clears 50 percent, the top two will head to a June runoff.)

Trump followed up Tuesday morning and singled out Ossoff.

 

During a Monday night interview on MSNBC, Ossoff offered a mild criticism of Trump.

“It was one of the most divisive and destructive presidential races in U.S. history and I think that many have been hoping that the president will heal some of those wounds, show good faith and a more inclusive approach to governance,” Ossoff told MSNBC’s Chris Matthews when first asked about Trump. “So far, I don’t think that he’s allayed those concerns among those who believe that that divisive approach to government is not right for the United States.”

Asked again to describe Trump, Ossoff said, “I have great respect for the office. I don’t have great personal admiration for the man himself.”

When asked yet again, Ossoff said he does not know Trump personally but that he would be willing to work with the President on an infrastructure package.

Ossoff has been leading the crowded field by a wide margin, but polls show him falling short of the 50 percent needed to avoid a runoff. Democrats have been hopeful from the outset that they can use anti-Trump energy to flip the ruby-red district Democratic, especially given that Trump only won the district by one point in November.

Paul Manafort, former campaign chairman for President Donald Trump, is working with a Chinese billionaire to help him navigate U.S. building contracts should Trump push through an infrastructure plan, the Financial Times reported Monday.

Manafort met last week with Yan Jiehe, the founder of Pacific Construction Group in Shanghai. Yan told the Financial Times ahead of the meeting that Manafort would help him with the process of winning infrastructure contracts in the United States.

A spokesman for Manafort denied that the former Trump aide was helping Yan land  infrastructure projects, however.

“The Pacific Construction Group was an impromptu meeting added to Mr Manafort’s schedule at their request because the Chinese are interested in US infrastructure,” Jason Maloni told the Financial Times. “However, his work does not involve any current or future infrastructure projects or contracts in the United States. As he has said before, he is not engaged in government affairs or lobbying for corporations, governments or individuals.”

Yan seemed confident he could win a construction bid in the United States.

“I will not seek out Trump. He will seek me out,” he told the Financial Times. “In the entire world, I am definitely the most ideal privately owned unit to invest in construction. In the whole world, there’s not another company equal to Pacific Construction.”

Manafort, whose previous work for a pro-Russia political party in Ukraine has been subject to intense scrutiny, said last week that he would belatedly register with the U.S. government as a foreign agent. Following a slew of recent reports about Manafort’s ties to Russia, the White House has tried to distance Trump from Manafort, while the FBI and congressional committees probe any potential links between the Trump campaign and Russia.

 

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