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

A few days after counsel Robert Mueller announced an indictment against several Russians for meddling in the 2016 election, President Donald Trump latched into Mueller’s finding that Russians organized and promoted anti-Trump rallies after the election.

Trump attacked the media for covering the rallies and appeared to suggest that cable news networks may have known the rallies were organized by foreigners posing as Americans on social media.

Trump’s tweet came after conservative news outlets pointed out on Monday that the cable news networks covered a Nov. 12 of an anti-Trump rally. The conservative site NewsBusters first highlighted this, and the Daily Caller then picked it up.

Mueller’s indictment found that Russians promoted both a pro-Trump rally and an anti-Trump protest on the same day in November as part of the effort to sow discord in the U.S. elections process.


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Jared Kushner, son-in-law and senior adviser to President Donald Trump, has pushed back on chief of staff John Kelly’s effort to rein in the use of interim security clearance and argued that he needs to keep his interim access to classified material, the New York Times reported Tuesday night, citing White House officials and others briefed on the situation.

Following the firing of Rob Porter and revelations that he was able to use an interim security clearance despite allegations of domestic abuse, Kelly has set out to reform the security clearance process in the White House. He issued a memo last week declaring that anyone who has been operating with an interim security clearance since June will see that access revoked until they obtain a full clearance, and that the White House will continue to assess who can keep a security clearance.

Kushner has come under increased scrutiny since Porter’s ouster because he has reportedly been working on an interim clearance for more than a year and has filed several updates to his lists of foreign contacts and financial assets.

Kushner told colleagues that he does not want to give up his interim clearance and insisted that he must maintain his access, according to the New York Times. Kushner also feels personally targeted by Kelly’s memo, officials told the Times. However, others familiar with Kushner’s thinking denied to the New York Times that he feels singled out by Kelly or that he has resisted Kelly’s efforts.

The White House said Tuesday that Kushner’s work will not be impacted by Kelly’s changes to the security clearance process but did not acknowledge whether Kushner’s interim clearance would be revoked.

“Mr. Kushner’s work that he has done will not be impacted and he’s going to continue to do the work that he’s done over the last year,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters during the daily briefing.

Kelly echoed Sanders in a statement to the New York Times.

“As I told Jared days ago, I have full confidence in his ability to continue performing his duties in his foreign policy portfolio including overseeing our Israeli-Palestinian peace effort and serving as an integral part of our relationship with Mexico,” Kelly said in the statement.

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White House deputy press secretary Raj Shah on Tuesday morning defended President Donald Trump’s tweets attacking the Obama administration regarding Russia, and charged that there has been a “revision of history” when it comes to comparing Trump’s attitude toward Russia to that of former President Obama.

Trump attacked Obama on Twitter Tuesday morning, accusing Obama of responding to Russian election meddling too late and claiming that he has been “much tougher on Russia than Obama.”

Asked on Fox News how the Trump administration plans to deter Russia from meddling in U.S. elections again, Shah offered few details and instead defended Trump’s response to Russia so far. He noted that the Trump administration is working with states to protect elections infrastructure from interference before diving into his defense of Trump.

“To the President’s tweet, this is something that we think there is a bit of a revision of history going on about how this President has confronted Russia and dealt with Russia and how the last administration dealt and confronted Russia,” Shah said on Fox News. “We have been tough, we have been measured, we have been smart and appropriate in dealing with Russia. What you had under the Obama administration was a lot of hot rhetoric and little results.”

Trump has repeatedly tried to undermine the intelligence community’s assessment that Russia meddled in the 2016 election by calling the investigations into the matter a “hoax.” The President still claims that Russian interference had no impact on the outcome of the election, even though U.S. officials have said there’s no way to tell.

The President has also dragged his feet on implementing new sanctions against Russia. Despite reluctantly signing into law new sanctions against Russia as punishment for election meddling, the Trump administration has blown past deadlines for actually imposing the sanctions.

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President Donald Trump on Tuesday morning weighed in on the redistricting fight in Pennsylvania and urged Republicans to fight the congressional district map drawn by the state supreme court.

Trump acknowledged that the new map could hurt Republicans in the 2018 election since it erases the gerrymandered districts created by the GOP.

The Pennsylvania supreme court announced a new map on Monday that will go into effect for the 2018 midterm elections. Republicans have said that they plan to challenge the new map in federal court.

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Special counsel Robert Mueller’s team is looking into Jared Kushner’s contacts with foreign investors during the presidential transition after President Donald Trump won the election, CNN reported Monday evening.

It was previously reported that the special counsel’s team was looking at Kushner’s contacts with Russians, but the new report from CNN indicates that Mueller is now looking at Kushner’s contacts with other foreign individuals as well.

Mueller is specifically looking at the Kushner Cos. building at 666 Fifth Avenue in New York City, the family’s troubled Manhattan office building, according to CNN. Kushner reportedly spoke to Qatari and Chinese investors about the building, and Mueller’s team is looking at those interactions, per CNN.

The special counsel’s team has not yet requested documents from the Kushner Cos. or interviews with its executives, per CNN. Kushner’s lawyer, Abbe Lowell, said that his client had not been asked about the building.

“Another anonymous source with questionable motives now contradicts the facts — in all of Mr. Kushner’s extensive cooperation with all inquiries, there has not been a single question asked nor document sought on the 666 building or Kushner Co. deals. Nor would there be any reason to question these regular business transactions, Lowell said in a statement to CNN.

As Mueller’s probe heats up, Kushner has come under intense scrutiny for his investments and foreign contacts. He has submitted several updates to his financial disclosure forms, and has reportedly yet to receive his security clearance.

Read CNN’s full report here.


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After the cable news networks turned their attention away from the scandals plaguing the White House to a deadly school shooting in Florida last week, one White House aide reportedly felt a sense of relief.

“For everyone, it was a distraction or a reprieve,” an unnamed White House official told the Washington Post. “A lot of people here felt like it was a reprieve from seven or eight days of just getting pummeled.”

The comment referring to the school shooting as a “reprieve” invited quick denunciation on Twitter, with several media figures pointing out the insensitive remark.

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After special counsel Robert Mueller on Friday announced that 13 Russian individuals and three Russian entities have been indicted as part of the federal Russia probe, top Democrats in Congress said the indictment shows the importance of letting the investigations into Russian election meddling continue uninhibited.

The lengthy indictment from Mueller’s grand jury lays out how Russians systematically worked to interfere in the 2016 election by setting up social media accounts and posing as Americans.

Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA), the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said that the panel’s work investigating Russia’s use of social media to spread disinformation was “vindicated today by the Special Counsel’s indictment” of a Russian troll farm.

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, said that the indictment “reaffirms what our Intelligence Community concluded, what our Committee’s investigation has borne out, and what President Trump denies: that Russia interfered in our election in an effort to assist his presidential campaign and harm Hillary Clinton’s campaign.”

House Oversight Committee Ranking Member Elijah Cummings (D-MD) said that the indictment undermines President Donald Trump’s repeated claims that the idea that Russians tried to help him win the 2016 election is a “hoax.”

“For all of those who have been asking ‘where is the evidence of a crime?’—this is it. This is the criminal conspiracy. This is what President Trump and his allies have repeatedly called a ‘hoax’ and ‘fake news.’ This is what they tried to cover up,” Cummings said in a statement. “This is what we might never have known if President Trump had been successful in shutting down this investigation.”

He said that Mueller’s probe “is still ongoing.”

“We don’t know what the next step will be,” Cummings said. “We all must support his ability to complete his investigation independently and prevent anyone from undercutting or interfering with his continued work.”

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said that Friday’s indictment shows it is “imperative that the Special Counsel investigation be allowed to continue to follow the facts on the Trump-Russia scandal, unhindered by the White House or Republicans in Congress.”

“As desperately as President Trump insists that the Special Counsel investigation is a ‘hoax’, these latest indictments build on multiple guilty pleas and indictments of several Trump campaign officials, demonstrating the gravity of the Trump-Russia scandal,” Pelosi said in a statement.

And Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) emphasized that the indictment shows the U.S. must work to prevent further Russian election meddling.

“The indictments are also a reminder that Russia will continue to try to interfere in our Democracy,” he said. “The administration needs to be far more vigilant in protecting the 2018 elections, and alert the American public any time the Russians attempt to interfere.”

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In the wake of Wednesday’s deadly shooting at a school in Parkland, Florida, lawmakers were faced with questions as to how they will prevent future tragedies.

As is typical, conservatives are bending over backward to avoid proposing gun control measures, and have instead claimed that it’s “not the time to jump to some conclusion” and argued that gun control laws won’t prevent every tragedy.

In their contortionist dance around the subject of gun control, conservatives have also offered up alternative proposals for preventing such tragedies, some vague, some impossible and some downright bizarre.

Below are some of the worst proposals conservatives have come up with this week:

Monitor ‘all of the social media’

Rep. Jim Renacci (R-OH), who is running to challenge Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) for his seat, on Thursday morning rebuffed Fox Business host Stuart Varney’s calls for tighter restrictions on who can buy guns and instead proposed a way to track social media platforms for hints that somebody could become violent.

“We’ve got to come up with a model that starts to look over all of the social media and pick up these issues, and then says, ‘Hey we got a problem.’ That’s probably going to be the next best invention coming forward because that is a necessary thing for our country,” Renacci said.

He did not specify what such a monitoring service would look for or how it would alert authorities to those “issues.”

The FBI said on Thursday that it investigated a comment posted by a YouTube user who used the same name as Nikolas Cruz, the suspected gunman in Wednesday’s shooting, but was unable to identify him.

Report disturbing behavior

President Donald Trump on Thursday called for people to “report” when others show “signs” that they are “mentally disturbed,” but did not define criteria for those behavior or propose a specific law or regulation to parlay such reports into action.

The FBI on Friday acknowledged that it received a tip from somebody concerned about Cruz’s gun ownership and “erratic behavior,” but said officials did not take the appropriate steps to follow up on the tip.

Arm teachers — even if it’s just with a slingshot

Fox News analyst Andrew Napolitano on Thursday suggested that teachers should be trained to respond to active shooters and armed — even by the most generous definition.

“The only way to stop this is by superior fire power,” Napolitano said on Fox Business.

On “Fox and Friends,” he also claimed, “You could stop a person with an AR-16 with a slingshot if you know how to use it.”


Restrict access to schools

In an interview Thursday morning on Fox Business, Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-OK) on Thursday proposed better monitoring the entrances and exits at schools and said that limiting access to schools would help prevent mass shootings.

“We should quit allowing our schools to be soft targets,” he said.

Mullin said that while he does not oppose arming some teachers, they should have to go through the same training that law enforcement officials complete.


Keep guns in lockboxes

On his radio show on Wednesday, Sean Hannity pitched a specific brand of lockbox that he claimed would help people be “responsible gun owners.”

“Go to LibertySafe.com. They have fingerprint handgun safes that open in a second. It’s — you can’t get to it any quicker, and you know, put ’em strategically, locate them throughout your house,” Hannity said.

Hold more hearings

Perhaps the most vague proposal came from Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who simply said that Congress should hold hearings on mass shootings — but did not specify what issues lawmakers should focus on or what kind of legislation they should propose.

“Congress needs to be holding hearings on these issues. And we’ve seen lots of discussion about this every time we’ve had another incident,” she told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt on Thursday.

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A report out from the New Yorker Friday morning about President Donald Trump’s alleged affair with model Karen McDougal more than a decade ago shows how Trump’s allies paid women who had affairs with him to stay silent.

Trump and McDougal began an affair in 2006 after he met her at a party at the Playboy Mansion in Los Angeles, where he taped an episode of “The Apprentice,” according to notes about their relationship the New Yorker obtained from McDougal.

McDougal’s account of her affair with Trump is strikingly similar to reports about Trump’s affair with porn star Stephanie Clifford, who uses the screen name Stormy Daniels.

According to McDougal’s and Clifford’s accounts, Trump pursued both women while married to Melania Trump, and both women met up with him in a bungalow at the Beverly Hills Hotel. (Former “Apprentice” contestant Summer Zervos alleged in 2016 that Trump inappropriately kissed and groped her at the same hotel years earlier.)

His allies also arranged payments to both McDougal and Clifford in exchange for their silence, according to reports, and the same lawyer — Keith Davidson — represented both women.

The Wall Street Journal reported in January that Trump’s longtime attorney Michael Cohen paid Clifford $130,000 as part of an agreement for her to keep quiet about her relationship with Trump. Cohen on Wednesday confirmed that he made a payment in that amount to Clifford, though he would not say why.

According to the New Yorker’s report, American Media, Inc. (AMI), the company that owns the Trump-friendly National Enquirer, purchased the rights to McDougal’s story — for $150,000, as the Wall Street Journal reported in November 2016 — but has yet to run her account.

McDougal told the New Yorker that Davidson represented her when she sold the rights to her story to AMI, and said he encouraged her to sign the deal. McDougal said that she now regrets signing the contract, in which AMI promised to feature her on two covers and publish regular columns by McDougal about fitness.

“It took my rights away,” she told the New Yorker. “At this point I feel I can’t talk about anything without getting into trouble, because I don’t know what I’m allowed to talk about. I’m afraid to even mention his name.”

McDougal said that she did not fully understand the contract when she signed it. According to emails obtained by the New Yorker, Davidson pushed her to sign the deal to get things “wrapped up.” She also told the New Yorker that AMI has not upheld its commitment to publish her columns regularly, though AMI contended that McDougal did not submit the promised columns.

Trump has denied that he had an affair with either woman. A White House official in January told the Wall Street Journal that allegations of an affair between Trump and Clifford were “old, recycled reports, which were published and strongly denied prior to the election.” Cohen in January also said that Trump “vehemently” denied having a sexual relationship with Clifford.

A White House spokesperson told the New Yorker that McDougal’s account was “fake news,” and said, “The President says he never had a relationship with McDougal.”

Read the New Yorker’s full report here.

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Mitt Romney on Friday morning officially announced that he would run for the open Senate seat representing Utah that retiring Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) will vacate at the end of the year.

Romney’s announcement was expected this week, but was delayed by a day following a deadly school shooting in Florida.

In his campaign launch video, the former Republican presidential nominee mentioned his work for the 2002 Olympics in Utah and touted the state’s government.

“Utah has a lot to teach the politicians in Washington,” Romney says in the video, noting that Utah has balanced its budget. “Utah welcomes legal immigrants from around the world, Washington sends immigrants a message of exclusion.”

Romney, an outspoken critic of President Donald Trump, has been considering running for Senate since last year, and he has received Hatch’s blessing to run.

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