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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

Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) on Wednesday morning faced a crowd of more than 200 people with questions about Republicans’ plans to repeal Obamacare and the Russia probes, according to the Times-Picayune.

Cassidy was met with both cheers and jeers as he answered questions from constituents submitted in advance. Most questions centered on the Republican health care plan, per the Times-Picayune.

At one point, Cassidy tried to lay out the major points he would like to see in a bill to replace the Affordable Care Act, such as making sure people don’t have a gap in coverage and caring for those with pre-existing conditions. When he mentioned that President Donald Trump pledged to eliminate the ACA mandates “because Americans hate the federal government telling them what to do,” a few members of the audience could be heard saying, “No,” according to a clip from the event aired by MSNBC.

“You all may disagree with him, but that’s what he said,” Cassidy replied.

At that point, one member of the crowd could be heard saying, “He lost by 3 million votes,” a reference to Hillary Clinton’s popular vote victory.

The room where the town hall was held at the St. Tammany Parish School Board office was at capacity, per the Times-Picayune, which left some outside chanting, “Do your job!”

Cassidy also faced tough questions about Trump’s potential ties to Russia and the investigations into Russia’s election meddling.

He was asked if he would back an expanded Russia probe, and Cassidy replied that he thinks the congressional intelligence committees can handle the investigation. Cassidy said that he has a lot on his plate as a senator, according to the Times-Picayune.

A town hall attendee then told Cassidy that “if the president is a traitor that should be the biggest thing on your plate,” per the Times-Picayune.

Pressed further by that attendee on the Russia probe, Cassidy noted that he is not on the committee charged with the investigation, according to a clip aired by MSNBC.

“Well, I’m not the special counsel. And I’m not on that committee of jurisdiction. At some point, the — not to say I don’t follow it and not to say I don’t intend to learn — I already go to classified briefings. Actually, the special counsel actually is asking some material not to be shared with Congress yet because he is keeping it in his office to review,” he said.

During the town hall, Cassidy also said he was not bothered by the reports that Trump is planning on pulling out of the Paris climate agreement.

“I’m actually neutral on whether we pull out of the Paris Accord or not,” he said, according to the Times-Picayune.

Ousted FBI Director James Comey plans to testify in public that President Donald Trump pressured him to quash the bureau’s investigation into Trump’s former national security adviser, CNN reported Wednesday afternoon, citing a “source close to the issue.”

Comey’s testimony could come as early as next week, but a date has not been finalized, according to CNN. The Senate Intelligence Committee’s co-chairs previously announced that they expected Comey to testify in public before the panel.

The New York Times reported earlier this month that Trump had asked Comey to shut down the FBI investigation into Michael Flynn the day after Flynn was ousted from his post as national security adviser. Comey documented the conversation in a contemporaneous memo that was shared with his inner circle at the bureau, according to the report.

During a town hall in Cranford, New Jersey on Tuesday evening, Rep. Leonard Lance (R-NJ) faced pressure from the crowd to stand up to President Donald Trump.

Lance did tell the audience that he opposes Trump’s proposed budget.

“Regarding the budget document, I do not support it,” he said, according to Politico. “The president proposes and Congress disposes.”

Lance said that he would oppose Trump on an issue-by-issue basis when pressed on other topics, however.

Members of the crowd applauded Lance when he expressed support for NATO’s Article 5, which details the alliance’s collective defense responsibilities, according to the Associated Press. But he was met with boos when he he said he opposed a single-payer health plan, per the AP.

One member of the crowd told Lance that he stopped supporting the Republican Party due to “clear criminality of the current administration and the lack of outcry or action from the party in control,” per Politico. That audience member asked Lance when he would call on Trump to released his tax returns and more information related to the Russia probe.

In response, Lance said that he supports the appointment of former FBI director Robert Mueller to lead the sprawling federal investigation into Russian interference in the U.S. election.

“I think that is an excellent step and I believe that Mr. Mueller will investigate the matters that you have raised and he will do so in a completely impartial and above board manner,” Lance said, adding that the special counsel may subpoena Trump’s tax returns, per Politico.

Asked again when he would stand up to Trump, Lance said, “I criticize the president where I disagree with him. I indicate where I support him.”

Fox News’ Sean Hannity on Tuesday night updated his viewers on his baseless conspiracy theory about the murder of DNC staffer Seth Rich even though he has promised not to talk about Rich anymore.

He began by reiterating his pledge not to talk about Rich for the time being before telling his audience that he’s still digging and complaining that he’s been called a conspiracy theorist.

“I have to start tonight on a personal note of something that happened last week. Now, I was asked by the family of the DNC staffer that was killed in July to pull back covering the story of the death because their son and their family was hurting,” he said on his show. “Now out of respect for the family’s wishes, well, I decided for the time being not to discuss it unless there were further developments.”

“But I also promised you, my audience, my loyal audience, that I will not stop investigating. I will not stop asking questions,” he continued. “And at a very high level, the bottom line here is the family wants the truth and I think the country deserves the truth, because this impacts so much of what the narrative in this country is now about, which is the left and their conspiracy theory. Now I can report, I am making progress. We will have a lot more coming probably sooner than later.”

He then complained that he has been labeled a conspiracy theorist “because I dare to ask questions” and claimed that liberals are trying to get his show cancelled by going after his advertisers. Several companies have pulled ads from the show following his relentless coverage of the Seth Rich conspiracy theory, though USAA has said it will again begin airing ads on “Hannity.”

Hannity’s update Tuesday night followed a very similar update last week during which he said he would stop talking about Seth Rich for the time being.

 

President Donald Trump on Wednesday morning published a short series of tweets about former campaign aide Carter Page following a report on “Fox and Friends” about claims from Page that the House Intelligence Committee had delayed a planned session with him.

Trump used the “Fox and Friends” report to blast the Russia probe and the attention paid to Page’s ties to Russia as a “witch hunt.”

His tweet followed a brief segment on “Fox and Friends” reporting that Page sent a letter to the House Intelligence Committee on Monday claiming that the committee had delayed its plans to interview him. One of the hosts of “Fox and Friends” also highlighted a Tuesday night report from Fox News’ Catherine Herridge that Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee had pushed for Page’s testimony to be delayed, citing a “source familiar with the matter.”

However, it’s not clear that the committee ever scheduled an interview with Page.

Page claimed last week that he had tentatively scheduled a hearing with the committee on June 6. However, the committee would not confirm that Page was set to testify that day, and one Democrat on the committee, Rep. Jim Himes (D-CT) told Politico that he had not heard that the committee had confirmed a hearing date with Page.

Page is one of several Trump campaign aides who has come under scrutiny by federal investigators due to his links to Russian officials. Page left the campaign in September 2016 after a brief stint there. Since his ties to Russia have surfaced, Trump officials have tried to distance themselves from Page, making Trump’s mention of Page on Wednesday morning somewhat peculiar.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer on Tuesday said that President Donald Trump developed a “fairly unbelievable” relationship with German Chancellor Angela Merkel last week during the European leg of his first trip abroad as President.

“I think the relationship that the President has had with Merkel he would describe as fairly unbelievable,” Spicer said at the daily press briefing when asked about Merkel. “They get along very well. He has a lot of respect for her. They continue to grow the bond that they had during their talks in the G7.”

Spicer’s insistence that Trump and Merkel got along well comes after Trump made negative comments about the United States’ trade relationship with Germany. He told European Union officials last week that Germany is “very bad on trade,” and on Tuesday morning criticized Germany for not contributing enough to NATO.

Spicer also told reporters that the White House views Germany and other European countries as important allies. He said that last week Trump “re-affirmed the need to deepen and improve our transatlantic relationship.”

Yet following Trump’s trip abroad, Merkel said Sunday that “the times in which we can fully count on others are somewhat over, as I have experienced in the past few days.”

Spicer insisted on Tuesday that those remarks actually were “great.”

“That’s what the President called for. He called for additional burden-sharing. The secretary general of NATO said that the President’s calls are what’s moving them in the right direction,” Spicer said. “The President is getting results. More countries are stepping up their burden-sharing. That is a good thing for them. It’s a good thing for NATO and it’s a good thing for America.”

Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), the chair of the House Intelligence Committee, offered a different explanation for his decision to step aside from the panel’s investigation of Russian interference in the U.S. election at a fundraiser in California in early April, the day after he stepped down from the probe.

He also hinted that he was eager to return to the probe, which he painted as an attempt by Democrats to explain away Hillary Clinton’s election loss.

Nunes told attendees at the Tulare County Lincoln Dinner that he stepped aside in order to protect vulnerable Republican House members from facing questions about his actions from the media, according to a video of the event published by the Los Angeles Times on Tuesday. The video was provided to the newspaper by someone who attended the event and filmed part of Nunes’ remarks.

“The reporters and the national news were going to chase David and every other member of Congress around the country for the next two weeks. Basically what I said, I said, ‘Well, screw you,’” Nunes said at the fundraiser, referring to neighboring Rep. David Valadao (R-CA). “So I did something that they never thought I would do and I stepped aside, and I gave them a gift.”

At the time, Nunes said he stepped down from the probe due to complaints he said “leftwing activist groups” filed with the Office of Congressional Ethics. He had come under fire for going directly to President Donald Trump with information he alleged showed that the Obama administration asked for the names of Trump transition officials to be improperly unmasked in intelligence reports on foreign nationals.

Nunes told the attendees at the April fundraiser that he would return to the helm of the Russia probe as soon as the ethics charges against him were cleared up.

“And guess what? When these ethics charges are gone then I’m going to be back again,” he said.

He also complained about Democrats’ focus on the Russia investigation, claiming that Democrats only want to talk about Russia’s election meddling in order to excuse Hillary Clinton’s loss to Trump.

“The Democrats don’t want an investigation on Russia. They want an independent commission,” Nunes said at the fundraiser. “Why do they want an independent commission? Because they want to continue the narrative that Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump are best friends, and that’s the reason that he won, because Hillary Clinton could have never lost on her own; it had to be someone else’s fault.”

“They have tried to destroy this Russia investigation, they’ve never been serious about it,” he added.

 

Mike Dubke has resigned as the White House communications director, just a few months after he started in the role.

Axios was first to report Dubke’s resignation, which he submitted on May 18, and several news outlets subsequently confirmed Dubke’s departure.

Dubke confirmed to CNN Tuesday morning that he had submitted his resignation and said that he “a good conversation with the President” after informing him he would be stepping down. Dubke did not offer a specific reason for leaving the White House, telling CNN that he was resigning “for a number of reasons — for personal reasons.”

“It has been a privilege to serve this president,” Dubke told CNN.

It’s not yet clear when Dubke will leave the White House, but he could depart as soon as Tuesday, according to the Washington Post.

Dubke joined the Trump administration in February from Crossroads Media, a Republican political consulting firm that had been critical of Trump. He was one of just a few top advisers who had not worked on the campaign and he “struggled to build alliances with some colleagues on the senior staff,” according to the Washington Post.

His resignation may be the first move in a Trump administration staffing shakeup, according to Axios and the Washington Post.

In a statement issued Tuesday morning, White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus confirmed Dubke’s resignation and thanked him for his service. Priebus did not say wheun Dubke’s last day at the White House will be.

“I want to thank Mike Dubke for his service to President Trump and this administration.  We appreciate Mike and are very grateful for his service to President Trump and our country,” Priebus said in the statement. “Mike tendered his resignation just before the President’s historic international trip and offered to remain onboard until a transition is concluded.  Mike will assist with the transition and be a strong advocate for the President and the President’s policies moving forward.”

This post has been updated.

Back in the United States after his first major trip abroad, President Donald Trump has returned to his habit of responding to the news in angry early-morning tweets.

On Tuesday morning, he began by reiterating that he’s unhappy about the current state of trade between the U.S. and Germany.

Last week, he complained to European Union leaders in Brussels that Germany is “very bad on trade.”

In a second tweet Tuesday morning, Trump dismissed the focus on the probe into Russia’s election meddling and any links between Russia and the Trump campaign as “Fake News.”

Trump also published a series of tweets bashing the media on Sunday, claiming that any media reports using anonymous sources may be “made up by fake news writers.” The Sunday tweetstorm came after a series of reports on senior adviser Jared Kushner’s role in communicating with Russian officials before Trump took office.

White House senior adviser and son-in-law to the President Jared Kushner receives a separate intelligence briefing from President Donald Trump, earlier in the morning than when Trump sits for his briefing, the Washington Post reported Monday night, citing two unnamed White House officials.

Kushner often joins Trump for his intelligence briefing as well, according to the Washington Post. Trump in November had reportedly said that he wanted Kushner to have access to the presidential intelligence briefings.

Kushner has come under increased scrutiny recently as reports have revealed that he has become a focus of the FBI’s Russia investigation. Kushner also reportedly sought to establish a secret line of communication with the Russian government before Trump took office.

Trump’s intelligence briefings feature visual aides like videos and “killer graphics,” CIA Director Mike Pompeo told the Washington Post.

Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence, told the Post that Trump takes the intelligence briefings very seriously.

“A president who I think came into the office thinking he would focus on domestic issues — ‘make America great again’ — has learned that you inherit the world and its problems when you’re president of the United States,” Coats told the Post.

“One time he came in and said, ‘All right, what’s the bad news this morning?’ ” he continued. “You can see the weight of the burden on the shoulders of the president.”

Read the Washington Post’s full report on intelligence briefings here.

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