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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

President Donald Trump on Thursday morning suggested that Russia, the FBI and Democrats could have paid for the dossier tying him to Russia, even though there is no evidence to suggest the dossier was ordered by anyone other than his political rivals.

Trump described the dossier as “discredited and Fake,” suggesting that the FBI and Democrats may have colluded to surface false and damaging information about him.

The President also claimed that the firm that put together the dossier invoked their Fifth Amendment rights; however, the firm, Fusion GPS, has not refused outright to discuss its work on the dossier with Congress. Fusion GPS’ founder has already met with the Senate Judiciary Committee and reportedly spoke with investigators on special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe.

Trump is likely referring to the firm signaling it would not fulfill a subpoena from the House Intelligence Committee, accusing Chair Devin Nunes (R-CA), who’d stepped down from the panel’s Russia investigation, of a “pattern of unprofessional conduct.” Fusion GPS also said that if compelled to testify before the committee, staff at the firm would invoke their constitutional privileges, but they have yet to do so.

Fusion GPS has refused to say who payed for the dossier, which was compiled by retired British intelligence officer Christopher Steele. The Washington Post reported back in February that the FBI had planned to pay the Steele for the dossier but never ended up doing so; the FBI did not request that the dossier be compiled in the first place, as Trump suggests.

In his series of Thursday morning tweets on Russia matters, the President also falsely claimed that Hillary Clinton was involved in striking a uranium deal during former President Barack Obama’s tenure, as he did several times on the 2016 campaign trail, although there’s no evidence of her involvement.

Trump also claimed Russia sent millions to the Clinton Foundation. While individuals linked to the firms involved in the uranium deal did donate to the Clinton Foundation, but most of those came before Clinton’s 2008 presidential run — well before she served as secretary of state.

Trump returned to the uranium deal later in the day Thursday, telling reporters that it’s “one of the big stories of the decade.” Trump said that Russia holds 20 percent of the United States’ uranium, then later exaggerated that Russia has “a vast percentage” of American uranium. Russia’s nuclear energy agency does have control over about 20 percent of the United States’ uranium extracting capacity as the result of a 2010 deal.

“That’s your real Russia story,” Trump told reporters, referring to the uranium deal he’s tried to link to Clinton. “Not a story where they talk about collusion, and there was none. It was a hoax. Your real Russia story is uranium. And how they got all of that uranium, a vast percentage of what we have, that is to me, one of the big stories of the decade. Not just now. Of the decade.”

“The problem is that the mainstream media does not want to cover that story because that affects people that they protect. So they don’t like covering that story, but the big story is uranium and how Russia got 20 percent of it,” he continued. “And frankly, it’s a disgrace. It’s a disgrace. And it’s a disgrace that the fake news won’t cover it. It’s so sad.”

In a Tuesday letter, House Oversight Committee Chair Trey Gowdy (R-SC) and Ranking Member Elijah Cummings (D-MD) threatened to subpoena the Department of Justice and the Department of Agriculture for the agencies’ air travel records.

The committee leaders wrote in a letter obtained by Politico that the DOJ and USDA had failed to comply with their request for agency officials’ air travel records. The committee asked for the documents to be turned over by Oct. 10, and Gowdy and Cummings said they will issue subpoenas to the two agencies if they do not comply by the end of October.

Gowdy and Cummings asked all federal agencies and the White House to turn over air travel records for their staff following reports that several Cabinet leaders used non-commercial airplanes for official travel. Tom Price resigned as Health and Human Services secretary after Politico revealed that he spent about $1 million of taxpayer money on charter and government planes. Several other Cabinet leaders have also come under scrutiny for their travel habits, including Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt.

Of the 24 agencies contacted by the committee, only ten were completely compliant with the request. The committee sent letters to 12 agencies and the White House, noting that they did not fully comply with the records request and asking that they provide the additional documents by the end of the month, per Politico. However, Gowdy and Cummings did not threaten a subpoena in those letters.

The committee also sent an additional request to all agencies for information on the travel options during the last few months of the Obama administration.

“This additional request is necessary to assess the frequency and nature of this issue to help determine whether new policies or regulations need to be enacted or perhaps to even change the nature of appropriations to your department,” they wrote in the letters.

The White House responded to the committee’s request, which was sent to chief of staff John Kelly, earlier this month and told the committee that Kelly was not in charge of travel requests from all components within the White House, per Politico. The White House told the committee to direct its request to the different components within the White House.

A bipartisan group of governors on Wednesday night sent a letter to Congressional leaders urging them to pass legislation to stabilize Obamacare’s individual health market.

“We urge Congress to quickly pass legislation to stabilize our private health insurance markets and make quality health insurance more available and affordable,” the governors wrote in the letter.

The governors support the agreement reached by Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) to restore the subsidies to insurers cut off by the Trump administration this month. They called for the government to fund the cost sharing reduction (CSR) payments through 2019. The governors warned that nixing the CSR payments will raise premiums and cause insurers to leave the marketplace, citing a Congressional Budget Office report predicting a premium spike.

“With the elimination of the federal payments for the cost charing reduction program, insurers are faced with significant financial losses, which could force them to withdraw from the marketplace, or, in some states, request significant rate increases,” the governors wrote.

The Republican governors who signed the letter include Ohio Gov. John Kasich, Massachusetts Gov. Charles Baker, Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval, and Vermont Gov. Phil Scott. Independent Alaska Gov. Bill Walker and several Democratic governors also signed the letter.

Earlier this week, it appeared that Congress had a break-through when Alexander and Murray announced that they had reached an agreement on a bill to stabilize the individual market. But several Republican lawmakers are skeptical, and President Donald Trump has sent worrisome mixed signals on the bill, leaving it unclear whether Congress could pass it.

Staff with the National Security Council wrote a statement for President Donald Trump addressing the deadly attack on American soldiers in Niger soon after the attack occurred earlier this month, but the President never released the statement, Politico reported on Wednesday.

The draft was circulated among staff at the National Security Council and the Defense Department but was never released, according to Politico.

“Melania and I are heartbroken at the news that three U.S. service members were killed in Niger on October 4 while providing guidance and assistance to Nigerien security force counter-terror operations. We offer our deepest condolences to the families and friends of these brave American soldiers and patriots. They will remain in our thoughts and prayers,” the draft statement obtained by Politico reads. “We are also praying for the two U.S. service members who were injured in the incident. We wish them a complete and swift recovery.”

Trump stirred up a political firestorm this week with his first comments on the attack. When asked why he had not addressed the ambush on U.S. soldiers for nearly two weeks, Trump said that he had written letters to their families and baselessly claimed that past presidents rarely called the families of fallen soldiers. Trump then escalated his criticisms of former President Barack Obama by suggesting that Obama did not call chief of staff John Kelly when his son was killed in action in 2010.

When Trump did call the widow of one of the fallen soldiers, Myeshia Johnson, he told her that her husband “knew what he was signing up for,” according to a congresswoman who was present for the call. Trump denied that he made those remarks, but the Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-FL) has stood by her account of the conversation.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions refused to say on Wednesday whether he was aware of a draft of a letter that President Donald Trump reportedly wrote arguing that James Comey should be fired as FBI director because of the way he handled the Russia investigation.

Trump reportedly dictated a letter griping about Comey and the Russia probe before the White House publicly released a memo from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein that argued Comey should be fired due to the way he handled the Hillary Clinton email investigation. In that draft letter, which Sen. Pat Leahy (D-VT) brought up in a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, Trump allegedly argued that Comey should be fired for declining to say publicly that Trump himself was not under FBI investigation.

Leahy asked Sessions if he was aware of that reported draft letter when he signed off on Comey’s firing in May. Sessions would not say, invoking executive privilege.

“I also believe it considers and consumes a possible communication for the President of the United States and the same privilege would apply,” Sessions told Leahy.

Earlier in the hearing, Sessions declined to say whether Trump discussed with him that he wanted to fire Comey because of what was happening with the bureau’s probe of Russian interference in the 2016 election, invoking executive privilege in that instance as well.

A document circulated within the White House in September claimed that the demise of the American manufacturing industry has led to an uptick in abortions, divorce, infertility and opioid abuse without offering any evidence, according to a Tuesday report in the Washington Post.

The document about a weakened manufacturing sector in the U.S. was prepared by Peter Navarro (pictured above), the director of the White House Office of Trade and Manufacturing Policy, according to the report. It asserted that a declining manufacturing sector has led to job loss and factory closures, but also included claims of socioeconomic impacts that the Post reported were “presented without any data or information to back up the assertions.”

One unnamed administration official told the Post that the document was distributed to White House staff, while a different administration official said that Cabinet leaders saw the document.

The Trump administration has repeatedly claimed that large trade deals like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) have hurt American manufacturing. Navarro has encouraged Trump to pull out of multilateral trade deals in favor of bilateral agreements.

Read the Washington Post’s full report here.

President Donald Trump on Wednesday morning latched onto the release of a completely redacted early draft of former FBI Director James Comey’s statement on the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server.

Trump claimed that the documents, which appear to show that Comey began drafting his memo two months before he gave the statement publicly and before he interviewed Clinton herself, prove that Comey tried to protect Clinton.

Although it’s been nearly a year since Trump won the presidential election, he still enjoys bashing Clinton occasionally, reliving his time on the campaign trail. On Monday, Trump said that he hopes Clinton will run again, even though the former secretary of state has said she will not.

The FBI on Monday made public a document titled “Drafts of Director Comey’s July 5, 2016 Statement Regarding Email Server Investigation Part 01 of 01.” The documents suggest the FBI began drafting its statement on the email investigation in early May, even though Comey did not announce the conclusion of the probe until June. The draft statement itself is completely redacted, so it’s not at all clear what Comey was preparing to say about Clinton at that time.

The draft memo was accompanied by an email chain, which was also redacted for the most part. All that is visible is a comment from an FBI official asking for “any comments on this statement so we may roll it into a master doc for discussion with the Director at a future date.”

The morning after a congresswoman said President Donald Trump made “insensitive” comments to the widow of a U.S. soldier killed in Niger, the President hit back on Twitter, accusing Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-FL) of fabricating his comments.

He added that he had “proof” the phone call with the widow didn’t go the way Wilson said it did.

On Tuesday, Wilson described to several news outlets Trump’s comments to Myeshia Johnson, the widow of Sgt. La David T. Johnson. Wilson said she was in the car with Johnson when Trump called her and heard their conversation on speaker phone.

Wilson told the Washington Post that Trump said to Johnson, “He knew what was signing up for, but I guess it hurts anyway.” The conversation left Johnson in tears, Wilson said.

Upon learning of Trump’s tweet Wednesday morning, Wilson told CNN that she too has proof of the conversation between Trump and Johnson.

“I’m not the only person that was in the car. I have proof too. This man is a sick man,” she told CNN.

Trump stirred up a political firestorm on Monday when he baselessly claimed that former President Barack Obama and other past presidents rarely called the family members of fallen soldiers. Aides to Obama quickly pushed back on the accusation.

After baselessly accusing President Barack Obama of failing to call the families of fallen soldiers earlier this week, on Tuesday, President Donald Trump himself called the families of the U.S. soldiers who were killed in Niger earlier this month.

However, it appears Trump’s comments to one widow did not bring comfort and instead made her cry, according to an account from Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-FL).

Wilson was in a car with Myeshia Johnson, the widow of Sgt. La David T. Johnson, on Tuesday afternoon when Trump called and spoke to Johnson on speakerphone. The congresswoman told the Washington Post that Trump told Johnson, “He knew what was signing up for, but I guess it hurts anyway.”

“He made her cry,” Wilson told the Washington Post, describing Johnson’s reaction to Trump’s phone call.

Johnson was on the way to the airport to meet her husband’s remains, according to Miami television station WPLG.

The White House did not deny the account on Tuesday night, telling the Post, “The President’s conversations with the families of American heroes who have made the ultimate sacrifice are private.”

However, Trump responded Wednesday morning and claimed Wilson “fabricated” his comments.

Wilson told WPLG that Trump’s comments to the widow were inappropriate.

“It’s so insensitive. He should have not have said that. He shouldn’t have said it,” the congresswoman said.

The account of Trump’s phone call to the family of one of the fallen soldiers came after the President politicized the situation on Monday. When asked why he had not publicly addressed the death of four U.S. soldiers in Niger for nearly two weeks, Trump told reporters that he had written letters yet to be sent to the families, and that he would follow up with phone calls.

He then attacked Obama and other former presidents, baselessly claiming that they rarely called the families of fallen soldiers. Staff to former President Obama quickly pushed back on the accusation.

Trump then ramped up his criticisms, suggesting that Obama did not call chief of staff John Kelly when his son died in combat in 2010. Obama hosted Kelly at a dinner for Gold Star Families in 2011, six months after his son died.

A Republican candidate for governor in Georgia on Monday suggested that bump stocks—devices that make semi-automatic weapons act more like automatic weapons, several of which were found on the Las Vegas shooter’s guns—may have prevented further casualties in what was the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.

The candidate, State Sen. Michael Williams, also announced that his gubernatorial campaign would give away a bump stock “as a show of support” for the Second Amendment.

“The tragedy in Las Vegas broke my heart, but any talk of banning or regulating bump stocks is merely cheap political lip service from career politicians,” Williams said in a statement. “In reality, the bump stock is the new, shiny object politicians are using to deceive voters into believing they are taking action against gun violence.”

“Many firearms experts determined the Las Vegas shooter’s use of a bump stock actually prevented more casualties and injures due to its inconsistency, inaccuracy, and lack of control,” he claimed. “There is zero evidence that banning bump stocks would prevent any gun violence deaths.”

Bump stocks increase the rate at which a weapon can fire, and do reduce the shooter’s accuracy, since they cause the gun to bounce. The Las Vegas shooter fired from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay hotel, raining bullets onto a crowd of about 22,000 people attending a country music festival.

Gun expert and former Army Ranger Frankie McRae told the Associated Press that while bump stocks do make guns less accurate, it did not matter in the Las Vegas shooting because the gunman was firing from an elevated position onto a large, confined crowd.

“Because he was firing down, he was able to use the inaccuracy of that to cover a larger area, which inflicted more damage,” McRae said.

In the wake of the shooting, which left 58 people dead and more than 500 others injured, many Republicans have questioned why bump stocks are legally available and pushed for a review of the devices.

However, Williams argued Monday that it’s wrong to go after bump stocks just because police say they were used in the shooting.

“Blaming guns or bump stocks for the actions of a lunatic, is the same as blaming McDonald’s for heart disease,” he said in his statement. “I will stand up for the Second Amendment against liberals and weak Republicans who wish to limit our freedoms. Not only that, I will continue to call out Democrats and Republicans who provide cheap talk and excuses rather than solutions.”

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