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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

A Republican state lawmaker prompted a scuffle in the Texas House on Monday when he told his Democratic colleagues that it had called Immigration and Customs Enforcement on protesters in the capitol who were speaking out against a new immigration law.

Republican state Rep. Matt Rinaldi acknowledged in a Facebook post that he called ICE on people protesting SB4, a new law that will allow law enforcement to ask about the immigration status of anyone they detain. When Rinaldi told his colleagues in the state House that he had called ICE, he started a verbal altercation, according to Democratic members of the state House.

Democratic state Rep. Ramon Romero Jr. told reporters that Rinaldi told them, “I called ICE — fuck them,'” according to the Texas Tribune. Romero said that Rinaldi also said “Fuck you” directly to Democratic lawmakers, per the Texas Tribune.

At that point, Democratic state Rep. Cesar Blanco noted to Rinaldi that Italian Americans were also once immigrants, according to Romero.

Blanco told reporters that Rinaldi responded, “‘The difference between me and them is that I love this country.'”

Democratic state Rep. Justin Rodriguez told reporters that Rinaldi threatened to shoot one of his colleagues.

“There was a subsequent exchange between my brother Poncho and Representative Rinaldi and there was a threat made from Rinaldi to put a bullet in one of my colleague’s heads,” Rodriguez said of Rinaldi, according to the Texas Observer. “That kind of threatening language he needs to be called out and held accountable for.”

In a Facebook post, Rinaldi claimed that he was assaulted by Romero and threatened by Democratic state Rep. Alfonso “Poncho” Nevárez. Rinaldi said that he said he would use his gun in self-defense.

Democratic lawmakers said that the scuffle on the House floor did not lead to any physical violence, countering Rinaldi’s claim that he was assaulted, according to the Texas Tribune.

Video captured by KVUE shows lawmakers pushing each other on the state House floor.

 

President Donald Trump’s golf courses in the United States display a coat of arms taken from another prominent American family with just one small tweak, according to a New York Times report out Sunday.

Trump uses the coat of arms belonging to Joseph Edward Davies, the third husband of Marjorie Merriweather Post, according to the Times. Post built Mar-A-Lago, the Florida resort now run by Trump. Davies’ coat of arms shows three lions with a chevron pattern, with the word “integritas,” Latin for integrity, at the bottom. Trump uses the same coat of arms, but replaced “integritas” with “Trump,” per the Times.

Trump never asked the family for permission to use the coat of arms, Joseph D. Tydings, a former senator and Davies’ grandson, told the New York Times. Tydings said that some members of his family wanted to sue Trump but that he argued against taking on the real estate mogul.

“I just told the other members of my family that you can’t win on this,” he told the New York Times. “You’ll borrow for two generations to sue him.”

Trump got in trouble with Scottish authorities when he tried to use the coat of arms at a golf course, there, however. He now uses a different coat of arms at his golf courses in Scotland, according to the Times.

Read the full report at the New York Times.

In an interview with an Australian media outlet published Monday, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) said that he does not believe Jared Kushner’s reported suggestion that the Trump transition team establish a secret backchannel to the Russian government followed typical procedures.

“I don’t like it, I just don’t,” McCain told Australian outlet ABC regarding the Washington Post report that Kushner asked the Russian ambassador to set up a secret communications channel between the Trump team and the Kremlin using Russia’s embassy in the U.S.

“I know some administration officials are saying this is standard procedure. I don’t think it’s standard procedure prior to the inauguration of the President of the United States by someone who is not in an appointed position,” McCain told ABC.

Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly and National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster both defended Kushner’s reported request for a backchannel on Sunday, arguing that such a move is typical and helpful.

McCain also told ABC that he sees Russian President Vladimir Putin as a greater threat than the Islamic State.

“I think ISIS can do terrible things,” he said. “But it’s the Russians who tried to destroy the very fundamental of democracy and that is to change the outcome of an American election.”

President Donald Trump defended his son-in-law Jared Kushner on Sunday as reports on Kushner’s contacts with Russian officials piled up and his clout in the White House reportedly began to fade.

“Jared is doing a great job for the country,” Trump said in a statement to the New York Times. “I have total confidence in him. He is respected by virtually everyone and is working on programs that will save our country billions of dollars. In addition to that, and perhaps more importantly, he is a very good person.”

Yet despite Trump’s public display of support for Kushner, the President has become increasingly unhappy with Kushner, according to the New York Times. Trump was not pleased when Kushner’s sister pitched EB-5 visas to potential Chinese investors, the Times reported. And the President recently told Kushner to quit pushing for the ouster of Steve Bannon, another top advisor with whom Kushner has constantly butted heads, per the Times.

NBC News reported Monday morning that some in the White House have suggested Kushner “lay low” after a flood of reports on Kushner’s contacts with Russian officials before Trump took office. The Washington Post reported earlier in the weekend that some White House aides have discussed that Kushner should have a diminished role in the administration.

Over the past week, the White House has been hit with several news reports about Kushner’s contacts with Russian officials, as well as reports that Kushner is now a subject in the FBI’s Russia probe. Kushner reportedly asked the Russians to establish a secret communications channel with the Trump team through the Russian embassy.

A local television station in Montana on Friday apologized for not airing audio of Republican congressman-elect Greg Gianforte’s alleged assault on a reporter for The Guardian, Ben Jacobs.

“We clearly made a mistake, it was unintentional and we apologize,” Tamy Wagner, the general manager of Missoula NBC affiliate KECI, said in a statement to TPM.

The Huffington Post was first to note that KECI did not air the audio recording published by The Guardian, even as it went viral Wednesday night and figured prominently in many news outlets’ reports.

In the recording, Jacobs can be heard asking a man who is apparently Gianforte for his thoughts on the Congressional Budget Office score of the House GOP bill to repeal Obamacare. Gianforte can be heard asking Jacobs to ask his question at another time, followed by a crashing noise. Gianforte then can be heard saying, “I’m a sick and tired of you guys,” and telling Jacobs to “get the hell out of here.”

“We did not air the recording however we did report the incident including the press release from the Sheriff in our newscasts from the very beginning,” Wagner told TPM in the statement. “The decision we made to not air the audio tape was made from our commitment to treat everyone, in all circumstances, on all sides fairly and without bias. In retrospect, this event has caused us to pause to review our editorial decision. However, while we do that, we remain committed journalists who believe in reporting without motive, agenda or bias.”

New York Magazine also reported that KECI’s news director, Julie Weindel, had refused to cover the alleged assault when contacted by NBC News, saying she thought that Jacobs “is a reporter for a politically biased publication.” Weindel told New York Magazine that the comment was “taken out of context between numerous phone calls as well with NBC” and that the TV station “aggressively” reported the story once local law enforcement made clear it was investigating.

KECI’s statement did not specifically respond to TPM’s question about the New York Magazine report.

It appears that the news station did not devote much attention to the alleged assault in its online coverage. In an initial story Wednesday night, KECI reported that the county sheriff would investigate an alleged assault, later providing an update noting that Gianforte had been charged with a misdemeanor. That report did not mention the audio recording, corroborating witness accounts, or the Gianforte campaign’s statement asserting that it was Jacobs, who it called a “liberal reporter,” who actually grabbed Gianforte.

KECI’s story included this line: “NBC Montana takes pride in reporting only verifiable facts from independent reliable sources, officials and documents, regardless of what is reported by other media outlets. The only verifiable facts are what is being stated by the Gallatin County sheriff at this time.”

A reporter read a similar statement on-air Wednesday night, per the Huffington Post’s report.

KECI mentioned the alleged assault again in its report on Gianforte’s special election win. That report mentioned that Gianforte was “charged with misdemeanor assault on Wednesday after witnesses said he grabbed a reporter for the Guardian newspaper and slammed him to the ground.”

In between those two reports, KECI’s online coverage relied on wire stories from CNN and the Associated Press, which did incorporate witness accounts and the statement from the Gianforte campaign.

The Huffington Post noted that KECI’s decision not to air the recording of the alleged assault comes after it was purchased by Sinclair Broadcast Group, although that sale has not been finalized.

Asked if Sinclair played a role in KECI’s decision not to air the audio, Wagner said in a statement: “Sinclair Media Group had no bearing on this decision, we report to our parent company until the purchase is finalized.”

Sinclair is a right-leading media group and the largest owner of local television stations in the country. During the 2016 campaign, Sinclair reportedly reached an agreement with the Trump campaign to air interviews with Trump without commentary in exchange for access to the campaign. After Trump took office, Sinclair hired former Trump aide Boris Epshteyn as the groups chief political analyst.

During a fiery commencement address Friday at her alma mater Wellesley College, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton took several shots at President Donald Trump without ever mentioning him by name.

Trump’s presidential opponent invoked the example of former President Richard Nixon’s fall and took aim at the Trump administration’s budget, which she said shows an “unimaginable level of cruelty” toward vulnerable Americans.

Clinton began her references to the President by discussing the Nixon era and the changes that came after Nixon left office.

“We were furious about the past presidential election of a man whose presidency would eventually end in disgrace with his impeachment for obstruction of justice,” Clinton said to cheers and applause from the class of 2017.

“After firing the person running the investigation into him at the Department of Justice,” she added in an allusion to Trump’s decision to fire James Comey as the director of the FBI earlier this month.

“We got through that tumultuous time and once again we began to thrive as our society changed laws and opened the circle of opportunity and rights wider and wider for more Americans,” she said.

“Now, of course today has some important differences,” Clinton continued, noting advances in technology and a “fragmented media landscape.”

“We can shut out contrary voices, avoid ever questioning our basic assumptions, extreme views are given powerful microphones, leaders willing to exploit fear and skepticism have tools at their disposal that were unimaginable when I graduated.”

Clinton told the class of 2017 that they are “graduating at a time when there is a full-fledged assault on truth and reason,” again to applause from the crowd.

“Just log on to social media for ten seconds; it will hit you right in the face. People denying science, concocting elaborate, hurtful conspiracies theories about child abuse rings operating out of pizza parlors,” she said. “Drumming up rampant fear about undocumented immigrants, Muslims, minorities, the poor. Some are even denying things we see with our own eyes. Like the size of crowds. And then defending themselves by talking about, quote, unquote, alternative facts.”

Clinton then criticized the budget proposal recently offered by the Trump administration.

“Let’s call it what it is. It’s a con. They don’t even try to hide it,” she said. “Why does all this matter? It matters because if our leaders lie about the problems we face, we’ll never solve them.”

A couple of minutes later, Clinton again called out the Trump administration for lying.

“As the history majors among you here today know all too well, when people in power invent their own facts and attack those who question them, it can mark the beginning of the end of a free society,” she said. “That is not hyperbole. It is what authoritarian regimes throughout history have done. They attempt to control reality. Not just our laws and our rights and our budgets, but our thoughts and beliefs.”

Clinton also said that Americans needed to address the concerns of those who feel left behind in the country.

“A lot of our fellow Americans have lost faith in the existing economic, social, political, and cultural conditions of our country. Many feel left behind, left out, looked down on. Their anger and alienation has proved a fertile ground for false promises and false information,” she said. “Their economic problems and cultural anxiety must be addressed or they will continue to sign up to be foot soldiers in the ongoing conflict between us and them.”

She encouraged Wellesley graduates to reach out to those people, noting that the same individuals may be hurt by the Republican budget and are not necessarily opposed to advancements in equality.

“Millions of people will be hurt by the policies, including this budget that is being considered, and many of those same people don’t want dreamers deported or health care taken away. Many don’t want to retreat on civil rights, women’s rights and LGBT rights,” Clinton said. “So if your outreach is rebuffed, keep trying. Do the right thing anyway. We’re going to share this future. Better do so with open hearts and outstretched hands than closed minds and clenched fists.”

Following a report in German media outlet Der Spiegel that President Donald Trump told European Union leaders at a meeting in Brussels that the Germans are “very bad,” a White House official clarified that Trump said that Germany is bad “on trade.”

“He said they’re very bad on trade but he doesn’t have a problem with Germany,” Gary Cohn, the director of the National Economic Council, told Politico’s Tara Palmeri, the White House pool reporter following Trump on Friday.

Cohn was responding to a report in Der Spiegel about comments Trump made to EU leaders at a gathering in Brussels.

“The Germans are bad, very bad,” Trump said, according to unnamed participants in the meeting cited by Der Spiegel. “See the millions of cars they are selling to the U.S. Terrible. We will stop this.”

Republican Greg Gianforte on Thursday night won the special election to fill the lone U.S. House seat representing Montana, just one night after he was charged with misdemeanor assault.

With most precincts reporting results, Gianforte was leading Democrat Rob Quist by six points, 50-44, as of early Friday morning, though several precincts had yet to file results in the race. Several news outlets called the race by early Friday morning, including the Associated Press and CNN.

Gianforte pulled off a victory despite his alleged assault of a reporter Wednesday night as his campaign headquarters. Ben Jacobs, a reporter for The Guardian, said that Gianforte bodyslammed him after he attempted to asked the candidate a question about the House Republican health care bill. A Fox News reporter who was in the room supported Jacobs’ account of the incident, saying that Gianforte grabbed Jacobs by the neck, pushed him to the ground, and punched him.

Initially, Gianforte did not issue an apology but instead claimed that Jacobs grabbed him by the wrist before the two fell to the ground, an account that was not in line with the Fox News reporter’s description of the incident. A statement from the campaignWednesday night lamented “aggressive behavior from a liberal journalist.”

Yet during his victory speech on Thursday night after the polls in Montana had closed, Gianforte issued an apology for the incident.

“Last night I made a mistake, and I took an action that I can’t take back. And I’m not proud of what happened. I should not have responded in the way that I did, and for that I’m sorry,” he told supporters. “I shouldn’t have treated that reporter that way, and for that, I’m sorry, Mr. Ben Jacobs.”

“That’s not the person I am, and it’s not the way I’ll lead in this state,” Gianforte continued. “You deserve a congressman who stays out of the limelight and just gets the job done. I promise to work hard to protect our precious way of life.”

Gianforte did not describe the incident or make an attempt to explicitly correct the campaign’s Wednesday night description of the alleged assault.

He did mention President Donald Trump in his victory speech, promising to work with the President.

“Montana sent a strong message tonight that we want a congressman who will work with President Trump to make America and Montana great again,” he said, according to the New York Times.

Gianforte had been expected to win the race, but the special election was closely watched given its proximity to the 2016 election. Democrats have been looking to win back a House seat after Republicans won the White House and maintained both chambers of Congress in November. The race saw a flood of spending, with outside groups putting up about $6 million, according to a Roll Call analysis.

 

Greg Gianforte, the Republican U.S. House candidate who was charged late Wednesday with assaulting a reporter who asked him a policy question, is a billionaire tech entrepreneur who’s never held public office before, despite what his hardened distaste for the press may suggest.

He faces Democrat Rob Quist Thursday in a special election to fill Montana’s open congressional seat, which was vacated by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. The race already had garnered a lot of attention given that some observers viewed it as a referendum on President Donald Trump, but it was thrust even further into the national spotlight after Gianforte allegedly bodyslammed Guardian U.S. reporter Ben Jacobs when Jacobs asked him to respond to the Congressional Budget Office scoring of House Republicans’ bill to repeal Obamacare.

Gianforte’s alleged assault of Jacobs on the eve of the election is not the first time he’s expressed open hostility toward the media. During an event in April, an attendee asked the Republican candidate how to “rein in the news media,” which that individual described as “our biggest enemy,” according to the Billings Gazette.

“We have someone right here,” Gianforte replied, pointing to a reporter sitting in the audience, per the newspaper. “It seems like there is more of us than there is of him. I don’t have a simple solution for you. I will say that doing town hall meetings and getting out and visiting with people is very important.”

In its editorial rescinding an endorsement of Gianforte, the Billings Gazette said that the Wednesday incident puts Gianforte’s April comments in a new light.

“We’d point out that all the other questionable interactions Gianforte had with reporters, including one case where he joked about ganging up on a reporter, must now be seen through a much more sinister lens,” the Billings Gazette editorial board wrote. “What he passed off as a joke at the time now becomes much more serious.”

The Helena Independent Record also noted in its reversal of its endorsement for Gianforte that he has previously been hostile to the press.

“We are also sick and tired – of Gianforte’s incessant attacks on the free press. In the past, he has encouraged his supporters to boycott certain newspapers, singled out a reporter in a room to point out that he was outnumbered, and even made a joke out of the notion of choking a news writer, and these are not things we can continue to brush off,” the Helena Independent Record editorial board wrote, though it did not offer specific examples.

Gianforte has openly embraced President Donald Trump, an unusual move given the President’s low approval ratings, and adopted Trump’s “drain the swamp” catchphrase from the 2016 campaign. He has brought Donald Trump Jr. and Vice President Mike Pence along to campaign with him, and Trump himself recorded a robocall for Gianforte this week.

The candidate’s antagonism toward the press echoes that of Trump. In the Gianforte campaign’s statement on Jacobs’ allegation, a spokesman complained that “aggressive behavior from a liberal journalist created this scene at our campaign volunteer BBQ.”

Gianforte made his first bid for public office in 2016, when he unsuccessfully challenged incumbent Montana Gov. Steve Bullock. Bullock, a Democrat, won by four points even though Trump won the state by a significant margin.

Prior to getting into politics he amassed great personal wealth by founding RightNow Technologies and later selling it to Oracle for $1.5 billion. The former tech entrepreneur also has ties to multiple Russian companies that have been sanctioned by the United States, as the Guardian reported in April.

As a candidate Gianforte is known for his religious and conservative views. He has questioned the theory of evolution as recently as April.

“I personally believe, as many Montanans do, that God created the Earth,” Gianforte said in an April interview with Montana Public Radio. “I believe that God created the Earth. I wasn’t there, I don’t know how long it took, I don’t know how he did it exactly. But I look around me at the grandeur in this state and I believe God created the Earth.”

His foundation has donated to the Glendive Dinosaur and Fossil Museum, which presents a Creationist viewpoint of the earth’s origins. And Gianforte once cited the biblical figure Noah to argue that Americans have an “obligation to work.”

“There’s nothing in the Bible that talks about retirement. And yet it’s been an accepted concept in our culture today,” he said in a February 2015 speech at the Montana Bible College, according to the Huffington Post. “Nowhere does it say, ‘Well, he was a good and faithful servant, so he went to the beach.’ It doesn’t say that anywhere.”

“The example I think of is Noah,” he added, per the Huffington Post. “How old was Noah when he built the ark? 600. He wasn’t like, cashing Social Security checks, he wasn’t hanging out, he was working. So, I think we have an obligation to work. The role we have in work may change over time, but the concept of retirement is not biblical.”

Though Gianforte’s alleged assault made a big splash in the national media just before polls opened, it’s not clear that it will have an impact on the election. A significant number of Montanans typically vote early via absentee ballot, and some voters told reporters on the ground Thursday that they were unfazed by Gianforte’s misdemeanor charge:

After Republican U.S. House candidate Greg Gianforte was charged with assault on the eve of Thursday’s special election in Montana, some Republicans on Capitol Hill blamed “the left” or appeared to crack jokes while members of the conservative media mocked the reporter Gianforte was accused of bodyslamming.

Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) told MSNBC that he rejects using violence and blamed the alleged assault on “the left” for taking what he called a “confrontational approach.”

“The left has precipitated this intense, confrontational approach throughout the country in recent months. I reject any kind of thing where we use physical violence in a situation like that,” he said. “It should not have happened. And the law will have to be the ultimate arbiter.”

Franks’ comments echoed the statement issued by Gianforte’s campaign. His spokesman, Shane Scanlon, lamented that “aggressive behavior from a liberal journalist created this scene at our campaign volunteer BBQ.” Scanlon also claimed that the reporter, Ben Jacobs, grabbed Gianforte first, which contradicts both the reporter’s account and the eyewitness account of a Fox News reporter who was in the room.

Rep. David Brat (R-VA) told the Washington Post that he was unsure of exactly what happened and heard about the incident “in the weight room.”

“Everyone was laughing,” Brat noted, per the Post. “Democrats and Republicans.”

A few other Republicans appeared to crack jokes about the alleged assault:

“We didn’t have a course on body slamming when I went to school,” Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) told MSNBC when asked about Gianforte.

Some in the conservative media mocked Jacobs and questioned the amount of media attention given to the alleged assault, with NewsBusters editor Tim Graham even incorrectly identifying Jacobs as a British reporter:

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