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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

Hawaii state Attorney General Doug Chin on Thursday criticized Attorney General Jeff Sessions for remarking that it is amazing that a judge on “an island in the Pacific” could stop President Donald Trump’s travel ban.

“President Trump previously called a federal judge in California a so-called judge. Now U.S. Attorney General Sessions appears to dismiss a federal judge in Hawaii as just a judge sitting on an island in the Pacific,” Chin said in a statement. “Our Constitution created a separation of powers in the United States for a reason. Our federal courts, established under article III of the Constitution, are co-equal partners with Congress and the President. It is disappointing AG Sessions does not acknowledge that.”

During an interview on “The Mark Levin” radio show Wednesday, Sessions complained that a federal judge in Hawaii blocked Trump’s travel ban, appearing to question that judge’s authority.

“I really am amazed that a judge sitting on an island in the Pacific can issue an order that stops the President of the United States from what appears to be clearly his statutory and Constitutional power,” Sessions said.

Under fire from Hawaii Democrats for Sessions’ remarks, the Department of Justice on Thursday released a statement noting that Hawaii is an island in the Pacific.

“Hawaii is, in fact, an island in the Pacific – a beautiful one where the Attorney General’s granddaughter was born,” Ian Prior, a spokesman for the Justice Department, said in a statement. “The point, however, is that there is a problem when a flawed opinion by a single judge can block the President’s lawful exercise of authority to keep the entire country safe.”

After federal prosecutors on Tuesday denied allegations they improperly turned a staffer into an informant to build a corruption case against former Rep. Aaron Schock (R-IL), the congressman asked a judge to dismiss that case, arguing in part that prosecutors violated the Constitution’s separation of powers provisions.

Schock was indicted by a federal grand jury last year on multiple counts, including improper use of campaign and government funds and falsifying documents. He had resigned from Congress in 2015 after news stories on his fancy, “Downton Abbey”-inspired office decor invited scrutiny of his finances and jet-setting lifestyle.

His lawyers now are trying to get those corruption charges tossed out in part by arguing that federal prosecutors were out of line in interpreting U.S. House rules for their own ends.

“The wide-ranging Indictment against Mr. Schock repeatedly trespasses on land the Constitution reserves for Congress,” Schock’s lawyers wrote in a Thursday filing supporting the motion to dismiss the indictment. “The Indictment repeatedly relies on House rules or standards that were not designed to be the basis for criminal charges and are themselves ambiguous.”

Schock’s attorneys argued that the government violated the Constitution’s Rulemaking Clause, Speech or Debate Clause and Due Process Clause. They specifically argued that House rulemaking, specifically rules on how members spend money, is protected under the Speech or Debate Clause, which shields members of Congress’ legislative work from the executive branch.

Read Schock’s filing below:

This motion to dismiss the indictment came after Schock’s lawyers submitted a filing last month alleging that federal investigators improperly directed a former office manager for the congressman to record phone conversations and take documents from his office. Schock’s lawyers requested access to additional documents so that they could definitively determine whether federal investigators broke any rules or laws.

Prosecutors denied any wrongdoing in a filing submitted late on Tuesday, however. They argued that they followed rules governing the use of informants in the case of the staffer, who they say was given specific instructions on what an informant was not permitted to record, such as conversations with a lawyer present. Prosecutors also wrote that the FBI and the deputy assistant attorney general both signed off on the informant recording conversations with Schock and other staffers.

“From the beginning of the investigation that led to his indictment, Defendant Schock has engaged in an increasingly aggressive search for some governmental misconduct claim, initially to forestall the indictment, and now to avoid the trial on the merits,” the government’s attorneys wrote. “In these motions, Defendant Schock futilely attempts to manufacture claims of governmental misconduct during the course of the investigation.”

While the government’s attorneys asserted in the filing that they did not break any laws in using Schock’s staffer as an informant, they wrote that they did not use records obtained by that staffer for the indictment and will not use them at the July 11 trial. They also argue that they have already handed over the documents to which Schock “is entitled under the law and much more.”

Read the government’s filing below:

Todd Rickets, whose family owns the Chicago Cubs, has withdrawn from his nomination to be the deputy secretary of the Commerce Department.

“I am deeply honored that President Trump nominated me to serve as Deputy Secretary of Commerce,” he told the Chicago Sun-Times. “I offer my continued support for President Trump and his administration, and the important work they are doing to promote economic opportunity. I hope there are other opportunities to contribute to his administration in the future.”

Ricketts withdrew his nomination because he was unable to untangle his finances to meet the Office of Goverment Ethics’ requirements, according to several reports.

“Mr. Ricketts has informed President Trump that he will be unable to serve as Deputy Secretary of Commerce,” a spokesman for Ricketts told the Chicago Tribune. “The scope of issues that face the Department of Commerce is very broad, and these issues potentially could touch many of Mr. Ricketts’ family’s current financial interests.”

“Mr. Ricketts is mindful of his obligation to avoid even the appearance of conflict and therefore decided not to pursue this opportunity at the Department of Commerce,” the spokesman added.

Ricketts was nominated for the position on Nov. 30 but a hearing for his nomination was never scheduled because the Office of Government Ethics had not yet approved his financial filings, per CNN.

Former Trump campaign aide Carter Page’s July 2016 trip to Moscow for meetings prompted the FBI to launch an investigation into potential ties between Russia and members of President Donald Trump’s campaign, the New York Times reported on Wednesday.

The Times reported, citing unnamed former and current law enforcement and intelligence officials, that federal investigators were just beginning to look into ties between Trump associates and Russia in July. The FBI gathered more evidence in the following months, including intercepts of Russian officials talking about Page and other Trump associates, according to the New York Times.

Page has come under increasing scrutiny for his ties to Russia as the FBI investigates any links between the Trump campaign and Russia. He said last week that U.S. sanctions “may have come up” during his July trip to Moscow. It was also revealed earlier this month that Page gave an undercover Russian agent information in 2013, though Page has said that the information was immaterial.

The FBI reportedly received a FISA court warrant to surveil Page as part of its probe into Russia’s election meddling, and the FBI reportedly used a dossier with allegations of links between Trump and Russia to justify its need for the warrant.

Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID), a member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, on Wednesday night faced a rowdy crowd in Meridian, Idaho, where he was pummeled with questions about health care and President Donald Trump.

The congressman was at times met with jeers and chants of “Do your job,” as well as with cheers and applause, according to the Spokesman-Review. He originally planned for a 90-minute event, but spoke with the 800 constituents packed into a middle school auditorium for about three hours, according to the Idaho Statesman.

“I actually like it – I’m used to getting booed. I get it at home all the time,” Labrador said at one point, per the Spokesman-Review.

He was confronted with questions about Trump, specifically whether the President Donald Trump should release his tax returns.

“I don’t think that there’s anything in the law that requires the president to provide his tax returns. There’s nothing in the law,” Labrador said to boos and some applause, according to the Spokesman-Review.

Though he would not call on Trump to release his tax returns, Labrador did tell the crowd that the President’s time spent at Mar-A-Lago presents costs and transparency issues, according to the Idaho Statesman.

Labrador was also grilled on the House Republicans’ failed Obamacare repeal bill, which the Freedom Caucus refused to support. He defended his decision to oppose the legislation.

“I don’t believe that health care should be provided by the government,” Labrador said, according to the Idaho Press-Tribune. “But I do believe that people should have access to health care.”

He was met with boos from the crowd.

In response, one audience member told Labrador, “You seem very concerned about the well-being of children before they’re born, but I wonder what happens to that compassion going forward, in terms of the positive changes you could make in the areas of health care, education and parental leave,” per the Press-Tribune.

 

Now that Democrat Jon Ossoff on Tuesday narrowly missed winning an open U.S. House seat in Georgia outright, he will compete against Republican Karen Handel in a special June runoff election.

Handel is a former Georgia secretary of state, where she helped implement and defended the state’s restrictive voter ID law. She also bid unsuccessfully for the Republican nomination in the 2010 governor’s race and the 2014 U.S. Senate race. But having held statewide office and competed in several elections, Handel has good name recognition in the district—and she now has the advantage of consolidating the resources that previously had been split among 11 Republican candidates, of which she was the frontrunner.

After she left office as Georgia’s secretary of state and lost her bid for governor, Handel joined the Susan B. Komen Foundation, where she served as the vice president for public policy. Handel made headlines in 2012 when she resigned from the foundation over her role in a push to end funding for Planned Parenthood. She later wrote a book titled “Planned Bullyhood,” in which she described the organization as “a bunch of schoolyard thugs.”

If she were to win the seat, Handel would join a House GOP caucus that has spent much of the year trying and failing to pass legislation to repeal and replace Obamacare that satisfies both the hard-line conservatives who want to scrap it entirely and moderates who want to keep some of the law’s protections in place. Notably, Handel lobbied for Obamacare’s Essential Health Benefits while at the Komen Foundation, specifically pushing for insurers to cover certain aspects of women’s health care.

But she told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution earlier this month that her advocacy for that specific provision did not amount to full support of the law.

“Obamacare was passed months before my first day at Komen. I thought it was bad legislation in 2010 and I support full repeal and replacement of the law today,” she said. “A small part of my job at Komen included advocating that mammogram screenings be covered under plans available on the exchanges —just as they are covered in other plans in Georgia. I think we can all agree that women deserve access to life saving, early detection procedures.”

It’s unclear that President Donald Trump would get a Congresswoman Handel’s full support as well. Trump loomed large over the race from the start, as Democrats saw the relatively affluent and well-educated district, which he won by just one point in November, as their ripest congressional pickup opportunity. Nevertheless, Ossoff seemed to studiously avoid talking about the President, and Handel did not seek to tie herself to Trump. She did acknowledge that she voted for the President but rarely mentioned him on the campaign trail, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Handel did not mention Trump in her victory speech, but instead used the time to contrast herself with Ossoff, who has never before held public office.

“We cannot let an untested, unproven, inexperienced ally of Nancy Pelosi steal the seat that has been held by the great leaders like Tom Price, Johnny Isakson, and Newt Gingrich,” she said.

However, Handel welcomed Trump’s help on Wednesday after he pledged to support her in the runoff.

Asked on CNN if she would welcome Trump on the campaign trail with her, Handel replied, “I would hope so.”

“It’s all hands on deck for us,” she continued. “We know what’s at stake here, and I don’t think this is about any one person. We need to rise above it.”

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer on Wednesday painted the results in the special election to fill a U.S. House seat in Georgia, which the leading Democrat narrowly missed winning outright, as a “big loss” for the party.

Democrat Jon Ossoff garnered 48 percent of the vote, just shy of the 50 percent he needed to clear to avoid a runoff, while the top Republican vote-getter, Karen Handel, won 20 percent.

“They were clear going into this election, they said their goal was to get over 50 percent. They came up short,” Spicer said during the daily press briefing when asked about the race. “I think this was a big loss for them. The bottom line is they went all-in on it. They said that they — their goal was to get over 50 percent. They came up short.”

Asked later about his assessment of the race and whether Republicans had to put in too much effort to compete in what is historically a solid Republican district, Spicer doubled down on his depiction of Democrats as the race’s losers, noting that they spent more than $8.3 million on the race.

“They ran to win last night and they lost,” he said. “Anything short of describing that as a loss is sort of inconceivable to me in the sense that’s literally what they said their goal was to do.”

Spicer was also asked if Ossoff’s relative success in the race shows that Republicans need to pay attention to demographic changes in the South. The press secretary, who formerly ran communications for the Republican National Committee, replied that the GOP is in great shape.

“I think you know that based on my former position, we talked about changing demographics throughout the country and made significant headway in doing that. In large part, that’s why we won,” he said.

“I think we did pretty well in November,” he added. “And we’ve continued to pick up seats around the country at different levels. So I feel very confident about the state of the party.”

Spicer said he was not yet sure whether Trump would campaign for Handel in Georgia.

“If needed I think the President is going to make sure he does everything he can to maintain majorities and further the party. But we’ll see if we’re needed,” he said.

President Donald Trump on Wednesday morning spun the results from Tuesday night’s special election in Georgia as a win for Republicans because the leading Democrat in the race narrowly missed winning it outright.

Republican Karen Handel earned 20 percent of the vote, compared to Democrat Jon Ossoff’s 48 percent, so the two will compete in a June 20 runoff to decide the fate of an open seat in the U.S. House. Though no Republican candidate clinched the seat or outperformed Ossoff, Trump insisted the results represented a win:

Trump also framed the upcoming runoff as “Hollywood vs. Georgia,” a reference to Ossoff’s fundraising prowess and the celebrities, like actress Alyssa Milano, who helped him campaign. As it turns out, Ossoff did not pull much of his more than $8 million in campaign cash from big Hollywood donors.

The President published a similar tweet Tuesday night declaring that a runoff represented a victory for Republicans:

During a town hall in Claremore, Oklahoma, on Tuesday, Sen. James Lankford said that President Donald Trump should release his tax returns, according to the Tulsa World.

“He promised he would,” Lankford said when asked if the President should release his tax returns, per the Tulsa World. “He should keep his promise.”

A handful of Republican lawmakers believe Trump should release his tax returns, including Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) and several members of the House Freedom Caucus.

At another event in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, Lankford addressed the failed House bill to repeal and replace Obamacare and said it would not have passed in the Senate.

“The bill the House put out originally would have included twice as many people with half as much help,” he said, according to the Tulsa World. “That would not get through the Senate.”

The senator also criticized Trump’s social media use.

“I’m very aware our president is not a good example of how to do social media,” he told constituents on Tuesday, per the Tulsa World.

Amid reports Tuesday night that executives at Fox are discussing cutting ties with Bill O’Reilly, the Fox News host’s lawyer issued a statement claiming that O’Reilly is the the victim of a “smear campaign” from the “far-left.”

“Bill O’Reilly has been subjected to a brutal campaign of character assassination that is unprecedented in post-McCarthyist America. This law firm has uncovered evidence that the smear campaign is being orchestrated by far-left organizations bent on destroying O’Reilly for political and financial reasons,” O’Reilly’s lawyer, Marc Kasowitz, said in a statement Tuesday night. “That evidence will be put forth shortly, and it is irrefutable.”

The statement came as several outlets reported that it’s unlikely O’Reilly will return to his show at the network.

New York Magazine reported Tuesday afternoon that members of the Murdoch family have been fighting over whether O’Reilly should leave the network. The Murdochs are “leaning toward” announcing O’Reilly’s departure, per New York Magazine.

Tuesday evening, CNN reported that representatives for Fox and O’Reilly have begun discussing the host’s exit, citing a “well-placed source.” Sources close to O’Reilly denied this, but yet another source told CNN that it’s not likely O’Reilly will return to his primetime show on the network.

The Wall Street Journal later reported that Fox News is preparing to have O’Reilly leave the network, citing unnamed “people close to the situation.” A final decision on the host’s fate could come in the next few days, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Fox News declined to respond to several outlets when asked about O’Reilly’s status at the network on Tuesday.

O’Reilly went on a lengthy vacation following a New York Times report revealing that the host and Fox had settled multiple sexual harassment cases. The report prompted several advertisers to pull their ad buys from the show, putting pressure on the network to boot O’Reilly.

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