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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

In a Wednesday interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network, President Donald Trump pushed back on the U.S. intelligence community’s assessment that the Russian government wanted to help Trump win the 2016 election.

Trump claimed that Russia actually would have wanted Hillary Clinton to win, arguing that her policies would have been more favorable to Russia. Trump’s claims about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s preferences came after the stunning revelation that his son, Donald Trump Jr., met with a Kremlin-linked lawyer who supposedly had dirt on Clinton. Emails disclosed by Trump Jr. show that a publicist noted that the meeting would be part of the Russian government’s efforts to help Trump.

“We are the most powerful country in the world and we are getting more and more powerful because I’m a big military person. As an example, if Hillary had won, our military would be decimated. Our energy would be much more expensive. That’s what Putin doesn’t like about me. And that’s why I say, why would he want me? Because from day one I wanted a strong military, he doesn’t want to see that,” Trump told CBN’s Pat Robertson.

“And from day one I want fracking and everything else to get energy prices low and to create tremendous energy. We’re going to be self-supporting, we just about are now. We’re going to be exporting energy – he doesn’t want that,” the President continued. “He would like Hillary where she wants to have windmills. He would much rather have that because energy prices would go up and Russia as you know relies very much on energy.”

Trump said that there are “many things” he supports that are “the exact opposite” of what Putin wants.

“So what I keep hearing about that he would have rather had Trump, I think ‘probably not,’ because when I want a strong military, you know she wouldn’t have spent the money on the military,” Trump said. “When I want tremendous energy, we’re opening up coal, we’re opening up natural gas, we’re opening up fracking, all the things that he would hate, but nobody ever mentions that.”

 

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) on Wednesday afternoon announced that he cannot support the revised and yet-to-be-revealed Senate Republican bill to repeal and replace Obamacare as of right now, complaining that legislation will boost spending on subsidies and keep some Obamacare taxes.

“We’ve had time to hear what’s going to be in the new bill, and as far as I can tell, the new bill is the same as the old bill except for it leaves in place more taxes, increases taxpayer subsidies to buy insurance, and adds about $70 billion to the insurance bailout superfund,” he told reporters on a conference call. “I don’t see anything in here really remotely resembling repeal. And I’ve said for some time now that the bill has to looks more like repeal to get my vote.”

“I can’t support it at this point,” Paul said.

Paul said that he has sent requests to Senate GOP leadership for changes to the bill, but he did not specify what those requests were. He instead pitched passing a bill repealing Obamacare, and then allowing Republicans to work with Democrats to pass bills that contain the “big government spending items.” He said that an initial repeal would not need to be a clean repeal, but that he believes he could find certain aspects of Obamacare that the majority of the Republican caucus agrees on nixing.

“I guarantee that on repeal, Susan Collins and I have common ground,” he said, referencing the more moderate senator from Maine who opposes the deep cuts to Medicaid in the Senate repeal bill.

Paul was also not convinced that an amendment to the bill proposed by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) could win over his vote. That proposal would allow insurers to offer plans that do not comply with Obamacare standards as long as they offer one compliant plan. Paul said that he liked that the proposal gives insurance companies more “freedom.” But he warned against the tweaks needed to address the likelihood that the proposal would lead to adverse selection — healthier individuals would opt for cheaper plans, leaving sick Americans purchasing the more expensive plans. Sick Americans would then need large subsidies to be able to afford the more robust plans, and Paul said this amendment would lead to “a lot more money in the insurance bailout fund.”

With questions about whether the Trump team colluded with Russian operatives during the 2016 campaign dominating headlines for yet another week, President Donald Trump has funneled much of his anger at Marc Kasowitz, the attorney leading his outside legal team, according to a New York Times report Tuesday night.

Trump has become “disillusioned by Mr. Kasowitz’s strategy” regarding the various probes into Russian interference in the U.S. election, the Times reported, citing three anonymous “people close to the legal team.”

Kasowitz, for his part, is also frustrated with the President, according to the report. His team of lawyers has been complaining about Jared Kushner’s influence on the President and considering whether Kasowitz should resign, per the Times:

The president’s lawyers view Mr. Kushner as an obstacle and a freelancer more concerned about protecting himself than his father-in-law, the person said. While no ultimatum has been delivered, the lawyers have told colleagues that they cannot keep operating that way, raising the prospect that Mr. Kasowitz may resign.

Kasowitz also told ProPublica recently that he does not have a security clearance and does not plan on trying to secure one, a move that could prove to be an obstacle as he tried to defend the President through investigations involving sensitive matters.

The latest headache for the Trump administration centers around a recently reported meeting Donald Trump, Jr. had in June 2016 with a Kremlin-linked lawyer (his brother-in-law Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort, the former campaign chairman, were also in attendance). Trump Jr. on Tuesday released emails showing that a publicist offered to set up the meeting with a “Russian government attorney” who supposedly had dirt on Hillary Clinton. The publicist also wrote explicitly that the meeting would be part of the Russian government’s efforts to help the Trump campaign, and Trump Jr. agreed to the meeting, apparently without hesitation.

The revelations assure that the Russia probes will continue to dominate media headlines, and the controversy has angered President Trump as he tries to push his policy agenda.

A team of advisers to the President crafted Donald Trump, Jr.’s initial statement on his meeting with a Kremlin-linked lawyer, in which the eldest Trump son said that the meeting was about Russian adoption and left out the fact that he was promised dirt on Hillary Clinton, according to a Tuesday night New York Times report.

Trump Jr. revealed through emails earlier Tuesday that the rendezvous had been presented to him as a meeting with a “Russian government attorney” who had damaging information on Clinton. An email from a publicist acquainted with the Trumps noted that meeting would be part of a Russian government effort to aid the Trump campaign, and Trump Jr. enthusiastically set up the meeting.

According to the New York Times, the President’s staff debated Saturday aboard Air Force One just how transparent Trump Jr. should be about the meeting, and landed on a statement about Russian adoption. That decision required several rounds of revisions, and President Trump himself signed off on the final statement, per the report:

Ultimately, the people said, the president signed off on a statement from Donald Trump Jr. for The Times that was so incomplete that it required day after day of follow-up statements, each more revealing than the last.

The President’s team took the lead on addressing Trump Jr.’s meeting even though he is not on the White House staff. Trump Jr. instead is tasked with running Trump’s businesses and is not supposed to discuss the business with his father.

The email disclosure on Tuesday came after several days of evolving statements from Trump Jr. When the Times’ first article on the subject dropped Saturday, he claimed that it was a short meeting on the adoption of Russian children. The next day, after additional reporting from the newspaper, Trump Jr. acknowledged that he took the meeting because he believed the lawyer had information helpful to the campaign. And on Monday, he acknowledged that the lawyer had information on an opponent.

The revelations about the meeting between the Russian attorney and Trump Jr., which was also attended by Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort, has reportedly roiled the White House this week.

The Washington Post reported that Trump “is enraged that the Russia cloud still hangs over his presidency and is exasperated that his eldest son and namesake has become engulfed by it.” However, Trump is more upset with press coverage of Trump Jr. than with his son himself, per the Washington Post.

Jay Sekulow, a member of President Donald Trump’s outside legal team, on Wednesday morning would not say whether Trump believes it was inappropriate for his son to meet with a Kremlin-linked lawyer in the hopes of getting dirt on Hillary Clinton.

“It’s not illegal,” Sekulow said on ABC’s “Good Morning America” when asked if Trump thought the meeting was inappropriate. “I haven’t had the conversation with the president on whether he thought it was appropriate or not.”

Trump Jr. revealed emails on Tuesday showing that he set up the meeting knowing that the information was pitched as part of an effort by the Russian government to help the Trump campaign.

“The meeting that took place is not illegal. These kinds of meetings take place,” Sekulow said on ABC, claiming that the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee received information from the Ukrainian government.

Sekulow also said that the President was not aware of the meeting until “very recently.”

“The President was not aware of the meeting, did not participate in the meeting, did not attend the meeting,” he said on GMA, adding that Trump was brief by his lawyers on the meeting recently but that the President did not see the actual email chain until yesterday.

During an appearance on NBC’s “Today,” Sekulow downplayed the importance of Trump Jr.’s meeting with the Kremlin-linked lawyer.

“This was a 20-minute meeting that took place out of thousands of meetings,” he said when asked about Trump Jr.’s claim to the New York Times in March that he did not meet with any Russians while representing the campaign.

Sekulow acknowledged that Trump Jr. was representing the campaign in his meeting with the Russian lawyer, but he would not say that Trump Jr. lied to the New York Times.

“You want to call it a lie. This was a situation where he was having literally dozens of meetings every day,” he told “Today.”

NBC’s Savannah Guthrie also asked Sekulow to explain Donald Trump’s June 7 speech during which he teased upcoming news on Clinton’s crimes. The speech took place after the initial email to Trump Jr. but before the meeting took place.

“Opposition research was being done every single day by the campaigns. That’s the nature,” Sekolow replied. “It was not based on any of this.”

President Donald Trump on Wednesday morning offered his most full-throated defense of his eldest son yet, after the revelation that Donald Trump, Jr. willingly met with a Kremlin-linked lawyer who supposedly had dirt on Hillary Clinton with the knowledge that meeting would be part of Russia’s efforts to help his dad win the presidency.

In tweets published before 7 a.m., the President declared that his son was “open, transparent and innocent” during a Tuesday night appearance with Fox News’ Sean Hannity. Trump also railed against the “Fake Media,” even though Trump Jr. himself released the emails showing that the meeting took place.

Trump Jr. on Tuesday published an email he received from friend and publicist Rob Goldstone seeking to set up a meeting with a “Russian government attorney” who allegedly had “documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father.” Goldstone told Trump Jr. that the meeting would be “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.” Trump Jr. responded with enthusiasm and proceeded to meet with the lawyer.

During an interview with Hannity on Tuesday, Trump Jr. tried to downplay his meeting with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, arguing that the story has been “overplayed.”

Following the stunning revelation on Tuesday that Donald Trump, Jr. willingly met with a Kremlin-linked lawyer promising dirt on Hillary Clinton as part of the Russian government’s efforts to help his father’s presidential campaign, Trump Jr. tried to downplay the meeting during an interview with Fox News’ Sean Hannity.

Hannity, an unabashed defender of the Trump administration, asked Trump Jr. to address accusations that he was willing to collude with Russia.

In response, Trump Jr. told the Fox News host that “politics is a dirty game.”

“I think it’s a little bit ridiculous and overplayed,” he said of both media coverage of his meeting with the Russian lawyer and the various investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 election, knocking the press for “picking sides so flagrantly.”

Trump Jr. published emails on Tuesday revealing that publicist and friend of the family Rob Goldstone offered to set up a meeting with a “Russian government attorney” who supposedly had “documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia.” Goldstone told Trump Jr. that the information was “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.”

Trump Jr. told Hannity that had the lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, had incriminating information on Hillary Clinton, he would have alerted the appropriate authorities. But he dismissed the meeting as a waste of time and a favor to a friend.

Asked if Goldstone’s note that the information was part of a Russian government effort to help his father raised any red flags, Trump Jr. replied, “Honestly, I don’t know.” He added that the meeting took place “pre-Russia fever.”

Trump Jr. also told Hannity that he “probably met with other people from Russia” but seemed unsure.

The Fox News host gave Trump Jr. another opportunity to bash the media and its coverage of the Russia probes.

“I think the mainstream media has done themselves a pretty big disservice by going so far, by going so extreme, by being so sensational. And I think it’s pushing regular people away,” Trump Jr. said later in the interview.

Paul Manafort appears to be distancing himself from the meeting he attended at Trump Tower in June 2016 with Donald Trump Jr. and a Kremlin-linked lawyer.

An unnamed “source close to Manafort” claimed to Politico on Tuesday that Manafort did not read the entire email chain Trump Jr. had forwarded him about the meeting, and said the former campaign chairman was unaware of exactly who he would meet.

If he had read past a short note from Trump Jr. about moving the meeting time, Manafort would have seen that he would be meeting with a “Russian government attorney” who supposedly had damaging information on Hillary Clinton, and that the meeting was described as part of the Russian government’s efforts to sway the 2016 election in Donald Trump’s favor.

President Donald Trump’s eldest son has for months insisted that efforts to determine whether there was any collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian officials interfering in the U.S. election are a “witch hunt.” That argument imploded when it was revealed Tuesday that Donald Trump, Jr. took a meeting in the hopes of obtaining damaging information on Hillary Clinton, and with the knowledge that the information was part of Russian government efforts to help his father’s campaign.

It was a remarkable self-own, too: Trump Jr. himself released emails on Twitter that showed he was promised “documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia” if he were to meet with a “Russian government attorney.” A publicist and family friend of the Trumps linked Trump Jr. up with that lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, for a sit-down meeting in June 2016, shortly after his father secured enough delegates to be the presumptive Republican presidential nominee.

Trump Jr. also was told that the damaging information was “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.” Despite that overture, Trump Jr. adopted the “witch hunt” line and attacked the media and Democrats for their focus on new developments in the federal and congressional Russia probes, dismissing the investigations themselves as political attacks.

Trump Jr. told ABC News that the Russia probe was a “witch hunt” against his father in early June, lamenting that there was “a political establishment working to make it difficult for him to succeed.”

He then published an angry series of tweets as fired FBI Director James Comey testified before Congress on June 8, describing Comey’s testimony that the President had pressured him to quash the bureau’s investigation of ousted national security adviser Michael Flynn as “BS.”

The day after Comey testified on Capitol Hill, however, Trump Jr. said that the “witch hunt” targeting his father had “passed.”

“This is the only thing that they had on Trump,” he told Fox News’ Sean Hannity at the time. “This is what they did to distract him from being able to get the stuff done that he was elected to ultimately do, and I think now that this has all passed, he can go back to doing what he promised he was going to do.”

He continued his victory lap the following day in an appearance on the Fox Business Network, where he claimed that his father had been “vindicated” by Comey’s testimony, calling the Russia probes a “10-month witch hunt.”

At the end of June, just 10 days before the New York Times published its first report about his meeting with Veselnitskaya, Trump Jr. wrote a tweet agreeing with an out-of-context remark from a CNN commentator that the Russia story was a “nothing burger.”

Even before questions about the Trump campaign’s potential collusion with Russian officials dominated headlines, Trump Jr. dismissed the notion that Russia was behind the hacks of Democratic organizations and operatives that roiled the 2016 election and strenuously denied that the Trump campaign had been involved in any way.

In July 2016, less than two months after Trump Jr.’s meeting with Veselnitskaya, CNN’s Jake Tapper asked him about the Clinton campaign’s allegations that Russia intervened in the 2016 campaign in an effort to help his father.

“I mean, they will say anything to be able to win this. I mean, this is time and time again, lie after lie. You notice he won’t say, ‘Well, I say this.’ We hear ‘experts,'” Trump Jr. replied.”You know, ‘His house cat at home once said that this is what’s happening with the Russians.'”

“It’s disgusting. It’s so phony,” he continued. “I watched him bumble through the interview, I was able to hear it on audio a little bit. I mean, I can’t think of bigger lies, but that exactly goes to show you what the DNC and what the Clinton camp will do. They will lie and do anything to win.”

Later in that same interview, he dismissed the notion that the Trump team would work with Russia to sway the election.

“I’m really frustrated with what’s going on in this country, Jake. And if I can do that one day I’d love to be able to do it for the people of this country,” he said when asked if he might run for mayor of New York City. “It’s not going to be about divisive politics and emails, you know, accusing people of working with the Russian government.”

In an interview with NBC News published on Tuesday morning, the Russian lawyer who met with Donald Trump Jr. last year denied that she promised him information on Hillary Clinton or the Democratic National Committee.

“I never had any damaging or sensitive information about Hillary Clinton. It was never my intention to have that,” Natalia Veselnitskaya told NBC News.

“It’s quite possible that maybe they were longing for such an information. They wanted it so badly that they could only hear the thought that they wanted,” she added when asked why Trump Jr. thought she had damaging info on Democrats.

She also denied to NBC News that she has any connections to the Russian government.

NBC’s Keir Simmons, who interviewed Veselnitskaya, said on MSNBC Tuesday morning that Veselnitskaya told him she got a call from a man she didn’t know asking her to meet with the Trump campaign at Trump Tower. She said that Emin Agalarov, a pop star who appeared in a Miss Universe video with Donald Trump, was involved in setting up the meeting.

“I never asked anybody for a particular meeting with Mr. Donald Trump Jr., or with anybody else,” she told NBC.

Veselnitskaya told NBC that Trump Jr. asked her if she had “had any financial records which might prove that the funds used to sponsor the DNC were coming from inappropriate sources.” She said she told him that she did not have any such records.

She said that Trump Jr. may have been interested in speaking with her because she had gathered info on a former U.S. citizen who ran a company that she believes did not pay taxes in Russia or the U.S. and that might have donated to the DNC.

Veselnitskaya met with Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, and Paul Manafort at Trump Tower soon after Donald Trump secured the Republican presidential nomination. Trump Jr. has acknowledged that he agreed to the meeting because he believed Veselnitskaya had information about Clinton and the DNC that could help the Trump campaign.

Trump Jr. said that Veselnitskaya did not have “meaningful information” and that they spent much of the meeting talking about Russian adoption. Veselnitskaya told NBC News that the issue of adoption was the main reason for her to attend the meeting.

The New York Times reported Monday night that an email to Donald Trump Jr. indicated that the promised information about Clinton was part of an effort by the Russian government to help the Trump campaign. One source told the Times that it appeared that the publicist who set up the meeting was passing along information that had already been passed through others.

In her interview with NBC News, Veselnitskaya indicated that Kushner and Manafort did not play active roles during her meeting with Trump Jr.

“I could recognize the young gentleman who was only present in the meeting for probably the first seven to 10 minutes, and then he stood up and left the room,” she told NBC News. “It was Mr. Jared Kushner. And he never came back, by the way.”

“And the other individual who was always in the same meeting, but all the time he was looking at his phone. He was reading something. He never took any active part in the conversation. That was Mr. Manafort,” she added.

Watch part of the NBC interview:

This post has been updated.

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