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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’s national security team was blindsided last month when he strayed from a speech they’d approved that affirmed the United States’ commitment to Article 5 of the NATO alliance, according to a Monday report in Politico.

Three of Trump’s top advisers and cabinet leaders—National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson—had all worked on the address Trump was to deliver at NATO headquarters in Brussels, and they included language reaffirming the U.S. commitment to Article 5, the provision in the NATO treaty about collective defense, per Politico.

And they were not told that Trump wouldn’t mention Article 5, only finding out as he delivered the address on May 25, Politico reported.

National Security Council spokesman Michael Anton did not deny this account, according to Politico.

“The president attended the summit to show his support for the NATO alliance, including Article 5. His continued effort to secure greater defense commitments from other nations is making our alliance stronger,” he told Politico.

It’s unclear whether Trump removed the section of the speech himself or if he was persuaded to do so by his chief strategist, Steve Bannon, and senior policy adviser, Stephen Miller, per Politico.

European leaders were surprised that Trump did not reaffirm his commitment to Article 5, especially since the New York Times had reported that the President would use the address to endorse that provision in the NATO treaty.

The omission left Trump’s advisers scrambling to ensure that the United States is committed to Article 5.

“I think it’s extraordinary that there would be an expectation that the President would have to say explicitly that he supports Article 5. Of course he does,” McMaster told reporters after Trump’s speech.

During a Saturday morning town hall, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) faced a raucous crowd of about 500 people pressing him on President Donald Trump and on health care.

The crowd cheered and jeered at times as Issa, who could face a tough re-election battle next year as his district trends to the left, attempted to answer his constituents’ questions.

John Mathews, a Republican voter in Issa’s district, asked the congressman to be more of a check on Trump.

“I want to know when you and the Republican Party are going to stand up, use your political capital, and recognize that our democracy is under attack from an adversary,” Mathews said, according to Politico. His comment was met with cheers from the audience.

Issa replied that he is tough on Russia, prompting jeers from the crowd and shouts of “Stand up,” according to Politico.

The congressman also said that he would continue to support Robert Mueller, the special counsel now tasked with the Russia probe, and defend his ability to conduct the investigation.

“I want him to have the freedom and the funds to do it. And that last part, I can tell you, is where I have more power,” Issa said, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Issa also faced questions on health care. When one member of the crowd criticized Issa for supporting the House GOP bill to repeal and replace Obamacare, the congressman did not back down from his decision to vote for the legislation, according to Politico.

The congressman did say he didn’t agree with Trump’s decision to pull out from the Paris climate agreement, however.

“I am disappointed in the tactic the president took,” he said, according to the Ocean County Register. “I would have preferred he renegotiate from that position of strength.”

Asked after the town hall if he was concerned about re-election, Issa told Politico he wasn’t worried.

“Not a bit,” he said.

“I got more votes in the last election than I did in any previous election. But there was an 83 percent turnout,” he continued. “That’s not duplicatable in an off year. It’s not even normally duplicatable in a presidential year.”

During an interview with NBC’s Megyn Kelly that aired Sunday night, Russian President Vladimir Putin denied that Russia meddled in the 2016 election in the United States and claimed to be unaware of any interactions Russian officials had with members of Trump’s campaign.

Putin told Kelly that he has “no idea” if Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the U.S., met with any members of Trump’s team before inauguration.

“Do you think that from all over the world or from the United States the ambassador reports to me every day who he meets with or what they discuss there? That’s complete nonsense,” he said.

Asked if Jared Kushner tried to set up a secret line of communication between the Trump transition team and Russia, Putin said “no proposal like that came to me.”

And when asked about the 2015 dinner in Moscow during which he sat next to Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security adviser, Putin claimed that he did not know who Flynn was until after the dinner.

“I didn’t even really talk to him,” Putin told Kelly.

The Russian leader also denied that Russia tried to interfere in the 2016 election in the U.S. and suggested that U.S. intelligence services could have fabricated Russian interference.

“There’s a theory that Kennedy’s assassination was arranged by the United State intelligence services,” he said. “So, if this theory is correct and that can’t be ruled out, then what could be easier, in this day and age, than using all the technical means at the disposal of the intelligence services, and using those means to organize some attacks and then pointing the finger at Russia?”

When asked if he had damaging information on Trump, Putin dismissed the question as “just another load of nonsense.”

“Where would we get this information from? Why, did we have some special relationship with him?” Putin asked.

“There was a time when he used to come to Moscow,” he continued. “But you know, I never met with him. We have a lot of Americans who visit us.”

 

 

President Donald Trump on Monday morning lashed out at his own Justice Department for offering a “watered down” version of the executive order barring travel to the United States from certain majority Muslim countries after courts blocked the administration’s initial order.

Trump’s tweets about his so-called travel ban came after he promoted his executive order in a Sunday morning series of tweets about the weekend terror attack in London.

In the Monday morning tweets, Trump said that he wished his administration had fought for the original executive order and called on the Justice Department to seek a “much tougher version” of the travel ban. He also notably described the order as a “travel ban,” a term that his administration has dismissed.

Trump’s revised travel ban has been held up in federal courts despite the administration’s effort to craft a new executive order that courts might allow to proceed. The Justice Department asked the Supreme Court last week to reinstate the travel ban order.

Court orders staying both the initial and the revised travel bans have cited Trump’s comments, including those he made on the campaign trail, about a Muslim ban. In its decision upholding a block on Trump’s initial order, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said that states raised “serious allegations” about religious discrimination and indicated that courts could use Trump’s past comments to determine the administration’s intentions in crafting the executive order.

In its ruling late last month upholding a block on Trump’s revised travel ban, the chief judge of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals wrote that the executive order “drips with religious intolerance, animus, and discrimination.” The court wrote that it’s possible states could prove, using past comments from Trump and his aides, that Trump wrote the executive order with a Muslim ban in mind.

The President’s Monday morning tweetstorm followed more tempered remarks about the London terror attack on Sunday night. Speaking at the Ford’s Theatre Annual Gala, Trump offer his support to the United Kingdom and said that the United States would try to help “bring those that are guilty to justice,” according to the White House pool report.

“We renew our resolve, stronger than ever before, to protect the United States and its allies from a vile enemy that has waged war on innocent life. And it has gone on too long. This bloodshed must end. This bloodshed will end,” Trump said, per the pool report. “As president I will do what is necessary is to prevent this threat from spreading to our shores.”

This post has been updated.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer would not say whether President Donald Trump would invoke executive privilege in a bid to block former FBI Director James Comey from testifying before the Senate Intelligence Committee next week.

“That committee hearing was just noticed, and I think obviously it’s got to be reviewed,” Spicer said at the daily press briefing Friday when first asked if Trump would try to block Comey from testifying.

“So that’s not a ‘no?'” the reporter pressed. In response, Spicer added that he has not yet spoken to the White House counsel about the issue and was unsure how counsel would respond.

The former FBI director will testify before the Senate intelligence panel Thursday, and he is expected to detail how Trump asked him to drop the bureau’s probe into former national security adviser Michael Flynn, according to CNN.

Kellyanne Conway on Friday morning also left open the possibility that Trump could invoke executive privilege.

“The President will make that decision,” she said on ABC’s “Good Morning America” when asked if the White House would try to block Comey from testifying.

Legal experts say that Trump certainly could try to invoke executive privilege, but that he may not have the strongest case, since the President himself has made public statements about his private conversations with Comey.

Democrat Jon Ossoff leads Republican Karen Handel by less than two points in the special election to fill an open U.S. House seat in Georgia, according to a new poll released by WSB-TV on Thursday night.

Ossoff earned 49.1 percent support and Handel earned 47.6 percent support among likely voters, according to the poll, which was conducted by Landmark Communications. The previous WSB-TV poll, conducted in early May, had showed Handel leading Ossoff by 2.5 percentage points.

The survey also showed a reverse gender divide in the race, with Ossoff leading among female voters by about 10 points and Handel leading among male voters by about 10 points.

The poll released Thursday surveyed 500 likely voters via phone and online May 30-31 with a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points.

Georgia Democrat Jon Ossoff’s campaign pushed back Thursday on a new ad from a Republican super PAC that stretched to tie Ossoff to Kathy Griffin, who kicked off a firestorm this week when she was photographed holding a bloody likeness of Donald Trump’s head.

“Jon Ossoff believes what Kathy Griffin did was despicable and for Karen Handel’s superPAC [sic] to say otherwise is a disgrace. Karen Handel should immediately demand this ad be pulled before any more children have to see these disturbing images on TV,” Ossoff campaign spokeswoman Sacha Haworth said in a statement.

The 30-second spot from the Congressional Leadership Fund, a conservative super PAC aligned with House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), began airing on Thursday as part of its $6.7 million campaign in the U.S. House race in Georgia. The ad begins with images of protesters lighting cars on fire and smashing windows before showing images from Griffin’s gory photoshoot, for which she has apologized.

“Liberal extremists have gone too far,” the narrator says in the ad. “Now a celebrity Jon Ossoff supporter is making jokes about beheading the president of the United States.”

“It’s not funny. these angry liberals will go to any extremes to elect Jon Ossoff,” the narrator continues.

As the Washington Post noted, Griffin has not been involved in the special election to fill an open U.S. House seat in Georgia and she has not donated to the Ossoff campaign. She has tweeted support for Ossoff, the Democrat facing off against Republican Karen Handel in the June 20 runoff election.

Corry Bliss, the Congressional Leadership Fund’s executive director, told the Washington Post that the group ran the ad because Ossoff had not explicitly denounced Griffin’s photos.

“Jon Ossoff has refused to denounce his supporter Kathy Griffin for over 48 hours after posting distributing images of her and President Trump. His silence speaks volumes,” Bliss told the Post. “To disagree with a president, or any elected official, on issues or beliefs is normal and often even celebrated in our democracy, but the actions coming from extreme liberals like Kathy Griffin have absolutely no place in civil discourse.”

The Ossoff campaign, however, told the Washington Post that the candidate had not been asked about Griffin’s photoshoot.

Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) on Thursday indicated that he’s not optimistic about the Senate’s chances to pass a comprehensive bill to repeal and replace Obamacare this year.

“I don’t see a comprehensive health-care plan this year,” he told North Carolina television station WXII 12 News.

Burr also said that the House bill is “dead on arrival” in the Senate.

The senator’s comments come after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said last week that he’s not sure how the Senate will pass an Obamacare repeal bill.

“I don’t know how we get to 50 at the moment,” he told Reuters. “But that’s the goal.”

H/t Wall Street Journal

After President Donald Trump announced his decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate agreement on Thursday, the Democratic governors in California, New York and Washington state announced a state climate coalition called the United States Climate Alliance.

“The President has already said climate change is a hoax, which is the exact opposite of virtually all scientific and worldwide opinion,” California Governor Jerry Brown said in a statement announcing the alliance. “I don’t believe fighting reality is a good strategy – not for America, not for anybody. If the President is going to be AWOL in this profoundly important human endeavor, then California and other states will step up.”

The alliance will support the Paris pact and serve as “a forum to sustain and strengthen existing climate programs, promote the sharing of information and best practices, and implement new programs to reduce carbon emissions from all sectors of the economy,” according to a statement from the three governors.

Brown will also travel to China on Friday where he will participate in a climate summit and speak with Chinese officials about combatting climate change.

 

 

The Department of Justice on Thursday night asked the Supreme Court to reinstate President Donald Trump’s executive order to temporarily ban people from six majority Muslim countries from traveling to the United States.

The filing came after a federal appeals court last week upheld a ruling blocking Trump’s travel ban from going into effect.

“We have asked the Supreme Court to hear this important case and are confident that President Trump’s executive order is well within his lawful authority to keep the Nation safe and protect our communities from terrorism,” Sarah Isgur Flores, a spokeswoman for the Justice Department, said in a statement Thursday night. “The President is not required to admit people from countries that sponsor or shelter terrorism, until he determines that they can be properly vetted and do not pose a security risk to the United States.”

The Trump administration asked the Supreme Court to issue a stay on the ruling blocking the order from going into effect and to accept the case for oral arguments.

LiveWire