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

When White House staff secretary Rob Porter announced Wednesday that he would resign following allegations of domestic abuse, the White House was still circulating statements defending Porter.

However, despite the White House’s projection of ignorance about the accusations against Porter (pictured above on the right), several reports reveal that administration officials were aware of the allegations from Porter’s ex wives before the news broke publicly and worked to keep him on staff anyway.

Top aides in the White House were aware that allegations of domestic abuse were holding up Porter’s application for a full security clearance, CNN and Politico reported. Chief of staff John Kelly, who worked closely with Porter, was among the officials who knew about the accusations, per Politico, and some officials were aware of the allegations for months, according to CNN. The President was unaware of the allegations before Tuesday’s report in the Daily Mail about the ex-wives’ allegations, two officials told Bloomberg News.

An ex-girlfriend of Porter, who also works in the Trump administration, also reached out to White House counsel Don McGahn in recent weeks when she learned Porter was romantically involved with White House Communications Director Hope Hicks, and she warned McGahn about the abuse allegations from Porter’s ex-wives, Politico reported.

Though the allegations of domestic violence reportedly kept Porter from obtaining a full security clearance, the White House kept him on staff. Porter was a crucial part of White House operations and frequently traveled with President Donald Trump. He also participated in some National Security Council meetings in which classified material was discussed, per Bloomberg News.

Two White House officials told the New York Times that Porter misled Kelly about the allegations and claimed that his ex-wives were fabricating stories and just trying to cause trouble.

When the news of the allegations against Porter first broke on Tuesday, the White House stood by the top aide, releasing statements with effusive praise for Porter. Kelly called Porter a “man of true integrity and honor,” and Porter’s former boss, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) slammed reports about Porter’s past.

Kelly fought for Porter to stay on staff, telling him that he would be able to withstand the allegations, according to CNN and Axios. Hicks also pushed for Porter to stay on, according to CNN.

However, by Wednesday afternoon, the Intercept had published a new interview with one of Porter’s ex-wives, along with photos of her bruised face, and the outlet reported that Porter’s ex-wives told the FBI about his past abuse.

The escalating coverage prompted Porter to resign, but the White House was still circulating the statements offering praise for the top aide on Wednesday afternoon. White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters that Porter was not pressured to resign and that he would not leave his post in the administration immediately.

By Wednesday night, the White House’s tune changed yet again, and a senior administration official said Porter would leave the White House in the next 48 hours, according to the Washington Post. Kelly also issued an updated statement indicating surprise about the allegations against Porter.

“I was shocked by the new allegations released today against Rob Porter. There is no place for domestic violence in our society,” Kelly said, though he went on to say in the statement that he stood by his previous comments about Porter’s work.

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White House staff secretary Rob Porter resigned on Wednesday following allegations from both of his ex-wives that he physically and emotionally abused them.

In a statement confirming his departure, Porter denied the allegations.

“These outrageous allegations are simply false. I took the photos given to the media nearly 15 years ago and the reality behind them is nowhere close to what is being described. I have been transparent and truthful about these vile claims, but I will not further engage publicly with a coordinated smear campaign,” Porter said. “My commitment to public service speaks for itself. I have always put duty to country first and treated others with respect. I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to have served in the Trump Administration and will seek to ensure a smooth transition when I leave the White House.”

The allegations first surfaced in interviews with the Daily Mail. Porter’s second wife, Jennifer Willoughby, told the Daily Mail in an interview published Tuesday that Porter verbally abused her and once dragged her from the shower by her shoulders. On Wednesday, Porter’s first wife, Colbie Holderness, came forward in an interview with the Daily Mail. She accused Porter of punching her and provided a photo of her with a black eye.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters in the daily press briefing that Porter has resigned, but that he will not be leaving his role immediately in order to help with the transition. She would not confirm the status of Porter’s security clearance.

Sanders said that Porter’s resignation was “a personal decision that Rob made, and one that he was not pressured to do, but one that he made on his own.”

When the White House confirmed Porter’s resignation, the administration also circulated statements from several individuals defending Porter’s character and work ethic.

“Rob Porter is a man of true integrity and honor and I can’t say enough good things about him. He is a friend, a confidante and a trusted professional. I am proud to serve alongside him,” chief of staff John Kelly said in a statement.

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Porter’s former boss, previously praised Porter in a Tuesday night statement after the allegations first surfaced. When Porter announced his resignation on Wednesday, Hatch issued a new statement condemning domestic violence.

“I am heartbroken by today’s allegations. In every interaction I’ve had with Rob, he has been courteous, professional, and respectful. My staff loved him and he was a trusted advisor,” Hatch said in a Wednesday afternoon statement. “I do not know the details of Rob’s personal life. Domestic violence in any form is abhorrent and unacceptable. I am praying for Rob and those involved.”

Kelly urged Porter to stay in his position at the White House after the allegations became public, according to reports from the Washington Post and Axios.

Both of Porter’s ex-wives told the Intercept that they told the FBI that Porter abused them in interviews for his security clearance. Kelly was aware of a 2010 protective order Willoughby obtained against Porter and the order kept Porter from obtaining a full security clearance, a senior administration official told Politico.

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President Donald Trump’s carefully coifed hairdo suffered a setback on Friday as he boarded Air Force One on a windy day.

A video posted on Friday that did not surface until Tuesday shows the hair on the back of Trump’s head completely blown up and to the side, exposing his scalp.

Trump takes great pride in his hair and has repeatedly insisted that he does not wear a wig. His election to the presidency reignited rumors about scalp reduction surgery and speculation about the precise process used to create his orange-hued helmet of hair.

Trump has acknowledged that his hair is not “perfect” and has admitted that he uses some variation on a combover to achieve his look. But he has apparently insisted that he must keep his unique hairdo because it’s become a crucial part of his image.

The video exposing Trump’s head began circulating Tuesday when journalist Ashley Feinberg discovered the YouTube clip.

New York magazine’s Jonathan Chait jumped on the bandwagon, highlighting Trump’s “worst hair day of what has been a bad hair life.”

British tabloids were particularly enthusiastic about the clip as well, with the Metro, the Evening Standard, and the Sun all gawking over Trump’s bald head.

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Speculation that President Donald Trump would use the memo released by the House Intelligence Committee to fire Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein has died down now that White House officials have said he’s not going anywhere, but it appears Trump is looking for a different staff shake-up.

Vanity Fair’s Gabe Sherman reported Tuesday, citing people familiar with Trump’s thinking, that the President is frustrated that his staff is not working hard enough to defend him from the Russia probes and that he’s looking to bring in new defenders to the White House. Ivanka Trump has urged her father to bring on a strong ally to defend him, according to Sherman.

Trump is considering bringing in Jason Miller, a spokesman for the Trump campaign who withdrew from an administration post following the revelation that he had an affair with another Trump aide,  A.J. Delgado, according to Sherman. Trump speaks regularly with Miller, as well as former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, Fox News personality Sean Hannity, former chief of staff Reince Priebus, and Republican National Committee Chair Ronna Romney McDaniel, per Sherman.

Read Shermans’s full report at Vanity Fair.

Read the latest editor’s brief (Prime access) on the Russia probe »


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Steve Wynn on Tuesday stepped down as CEO of his company, Wynn Resorts, about a week and a half after the Wall Street Journal published a report with sexual misconduct allegations against Wynn from several women.

In a statement Tuesday, Wynn said that he was a distraction to the company, citing “negative publicity” and a “rush to judgement.”

“In the last couple of weeks, I have found myself the focus of an avalanche of negative publicity. As I have reflected upon the environment this has created — one in which a rush to judgment takes precedence over everything else, including the facts — I have reached the conclusion I cannot continue to be effective in my current roles,” Wynn said in a statement. “Therefore, effective immediately, I have decided to step down as CEO and Chairman of the Board of Wynn Resorts, a company I founded and that I love.”

Wynn, a close ally of President Donald Trump, resigned as finance chair of the Republican National Committee shortly after the allegations surfaced.

The casino mogul denied the allegations surfaced by the Wall Street Journal, which reported that Wynn paid a $7.5 million settlement to a manicurist he allegedly pressured into having sex with him.

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Now that the White House is poised to approve the release of Democrats’ memo rebutting the controversial Republican-drafted memo from the House Intelligence Committee alleging abuses of the surveillance process by top Justice Department and FBI officials, Republicans in Congress are working to undermine the Democratic memo.

In an interview that aired Tuesday evening, Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC), a member of the Intelligence Committee involved in crafting the Republican memo, floated a theory that Democrats purposefully wrote a memo that would need redactions so that they could then attack Trump’s redactions as political censorship.

“I think the Democrats are politically smart enough to put things in the memo that require either the bureau or the Department of Justice to say it needs to be redacted. Therefore, it creates this belief that there’s something being hidden from the American people,” Gowdy told Fox News’ Martha MacCallum.

“Unfortunately, we’re in an environment where you would include material that you know has to be redacted and you know responsible people are going to redact it just so that questions will be asked,” he added.

Gowdy’s comments came after Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), the ranking member on the Intelligence Committee, warned on CNN Tuesday morning that Trump could make “political redactions” on the Democratic rebuttal memo.

Rep. Mike Conaway (R-TX), who is leading the House Intelligence Committee’s Russia investigation, made a similar accusation on Tuesday.

“You have to hand it to them; they set themselves up in a really great position,” Conaway said, according to the Washington Post. “The other side will be able to say, ‘Well something politically was redacted out of there,’ and how do you prove that being wrong? Because it’s stuff we can’t tell people about.”

A Republican lawmaker anonymously pushed the conspiracy theory about the Democratic memo to the Washington Examiner, ostensibly in an effort to drum up skepticism about that memo.

“Part of what they are going to do is to talk about how the White House redacted their memo and didn’t redact the Republican one,” one Republican lawmaker told the Examiner. “Part of the plan was, let’s create a document that gets eviscerated in the scrubbing and comes out with a bunch of redactions and they say, look, the White House is hiding something.”

Later in his interview on Fox News, Gowdy aired skepticism for another narrative floated by lawmakers in Congress and President Donald Trump: that the Republican memo proves that the Justice Department and FBI were out to get Trump.

“I never allege a conspiracy when simple incompetence will suffice as an explanation,” he said. “I would not allege that the bureau and the Department of Justice had a conspiracy. I’ve got really serious questions about why they handled things certain ways, but I don’t start with conspiracy.”

Read the latest editor’s brief (Prime access) on the Russia probe »



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President Donald Trump on Tuesday afternoon said that he would back another federal government shutdown if Democrats in Congress don’t agree to immigration legislation that encompasses the White House’s demands.

“If we don’t change the legislation,” Trump said at a White House roundtable on the MS-13 gang. “Let’s have a shutdown. We’ll do a shutdown.”

“I’d love to see a shutdown if we don’t get this taken care of,” the President continued.

Trump made the comments after complaining that laws in the United States are too restrictive when it comes to deporting immigrants who are “literally killers.”

He complained several times during the roundtable Tuesday afternoon that the administration has not gotten enough support from Democrats in Congress.

After calling for a shutdown, Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-VA) told the President that Congress doesn’t “need a government shutdown over this,” touting a bill currently working its way through the House.

In response, Trump told Comstock, “We’re not getting support from the Democrats.”

Trump’s suggestion that the federal government shut down again this year came after he lambasted Democrats over the January shutdown. The President tried to blame Democrats for the shutdown, despite the fact that Republicans control the White House and both branches of Congress.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer quickly weighed in on Trump’s call for a shutdown Tuesday afternoon, telling reporters that nobody else wants the federal government to shut down.

“We had one Trump shutdown. Nobody wants another, maybe, except him,” Schumer said.

Cameron Joseph contributed reporting.

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Rep. Claudia Tenney (R-NY) said Tuesday that President Donald Trump was not too far off the mark on Monday when he called Democrats’ refrain from clapping and standing during his State of the Union speech “treasonous” and “un-American.”

“I would say it was un-American. And they don’t love our country. I don’t know if I would go as far as treasonous,” Tenney said on CNN Tuesday morning when asked about Trump’s comments about Democrats’ behavior during his speech.

Tenney defended Trump’s criticisms for Democrats, telling CNN that the President just “likes to talk in colorful language.”

“But I sat on the Democratic side, and I was frankly appalled at the behavior of the Democrats,” she added.

The congresswoman was particularly offended that Democrats were not more enthusiastic about Trump’s offer to grant a path to citizenship to the 1.8 million immigrants eligible for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

“My first blush at it at the State of the Union was, wow, this is really generous. And I was just shocked. I had Democrats sitting behind me that sat on their hands, not seeing what the President was trying to do,” Tenney said.

Asked if Republicans were equally resistant to President Barack Obama during his State of the Union speeches, Tenney insisted they were not.

“I saw many more Republicans en masse standing up in President Obama’s State of the Union addresses,” she said.

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After the Indiana State Police identified a suspect in the drunk driving accident that killed Colts player Edwin Jackson over the weekend as an undocumented immigrant, President Donald Trump quickly used the reports to promote his immigration agenda.

In a tweet Tuesday morning, Trump said that Jackson’s death was a “preventable” tragedy and suggested that the incident proves the need for a “tough” border policy.

Only after linking Jackson’s death to the immigration debate did Trump offer his condolences to the football player’s family.

Jackson died Sunday morning after he was struck by a car while standing on the side of an interstate in Indianapolis. Authorities believe that the man who hit Jackson, as well as the driver of his ride-share, was intoxicated at the time. Indiana State Police believe the driver was Manuel Orrego-Savala, an undocumented immigrant who had previously been deported twice.

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Before he joined the communications staff in President Donald Trump’s White House, Raj Shah made statements critical of Trump, calling him a “deplorable” about one month before Trump secured the presidency, New York magazine reported Monday.

Shah, who now serves at the White House’s principal deputy press secretary and appears frequently on television to defend Trump, worked for the Republican National Committee during the general election.

Shortly after the infamous “Access Hollywood” tape was published in October 2016, Shah weighed in in a text message to RNC colleague Andrew Hemming, according to text messages obtained by New York magazine. Shah asked Hemming, “u wanna hear something a little fucked up?”

Hemming responded, “Sure,” per New York magazine.

“I’m kinda enjoying this, some justice. I honestly don’t think it’s the worst thing he’s done but he somehow got passes for the other acts,” Shah then said, per New York magazine. “Trump is a deplorable.”

In a statement to New York magazine, White House Communications Director Hope Hicks said that the White House was already aware of Shah’s messages and was unconcerned.

“Raj Shah is a talented operative and skilled communicator. We have always known about his previous roles and are so pleased he is using his unparalleled capabilities to advance the agenda of President Trump, whom he has tremendous respect for,” Hicks said in the statement. “Perhaps if the leakers trying to undermine him were as talented and smart as Raj, they would be here fighting for the American people every day, rather than trying desperately to remain relevant by spreading information that Raj himself shared many months ago. Raj’s skills as a press secretary are only surpassed by his stellar character.”

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