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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

During a visit to South Korea and the Demilitarized Zone, Vice President Mike Pence said that “all options are on the table” when it comes to preventing North Korea from using a nuclear weapon.

“The United States and our allies have stood together for a denuclearized Korean Peninsula.  We hope to achieve this objective through peaceable means.  But all options are on the table,” he said in Seoul after a visit to the demilitarized zone between North Korea and South Korea.

The Vice President said that “the era of strategic patience is over.”

During his visit to the Demilitarized Zone, Pence told CNN that the U.S. hopes to stop North Korea’s nuclear program peacefully.

“We’re going to abandon the failed policy of strategic patience. But we’re going to redouble our efforts to bring diplomatic and economic pressure to bear on North Korea. Our hope is that we can resolve this issue peaceably,” he said.

Pence called on China to do more to pressure North Korea.

“I know the President was heartened by his discussions with President Xi (Jinping). We’ve seen China begin to take some actions to bring pressure on North Korea but there needs to be more,” Pence told CNN.

President Donald Trump will not make White House visitor logs available to the public while he is in office, breaking from precedent set by his predecessor Barack Obama.

White House Communications Director Michael Dubke said in a statement that the administration would keep the logs secret due to “the grave national security risks and privacy concerns of the hundreds of thousands of visitors annually.”

The logs of visitors to the White House complex are maintained by the Secret Service. The White House will still fulfill Freedom of Information Act Requests for records that fall under areas that are considered agencies, like the Office of Management and Budget, but it does not plan to release logs of of those entering the complex to visit Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, or members of the White House senior staff.

In his statement, Dubke said that the Trump administration’s decision is one “the Obama White House successfully defended in federal court,” referring to a 2013 appeals court ruling that held the Executive Branch does not need to release White House visitor logs.

Time Magazine first reported the announcement. The Trump administration will not make the logs public until five years after Trump has left office, according to Time.

In response to lawsuits, President Barack Obama adopted a policy that made the White House visitor logs public but also gave the White House counsel power to redact log entries, including personal visits from friends.

The Trump White House will also decline to renew a contract for Open.WhiteHouse.gov, the site where the Obama administration published visitor logs along with other data.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ choice to help lead the department’s Office for Civil Rights once complained that in college she had experienced discrimination for being white, ProPublica reported Friday.

Candice Jackson was tapped to serve as the deputy assistant secretary for the Office of Civil Rights, a position that does not require Senate confirmation. But she will serve as the interim head of the office until the assistant secretary has been named. At the office, Jackson will be charged with helping protect students from discrimination.

She once recounted her experience in a class at Stanford University in the 1990s, where she was an undergraduate student, in a piece for the Stanford Review. She complained that she was unable to join a section of a math class that offered minority students additional help with tough problems, according to ProPublica.

“I am especially disappointed that the University encourages these and other discriminatory programs,” Jackson wrote, per ProPublica. “We need to allow each person to define his or her own achievements instead of assuming competence or incompetence based on race.”

Jackson also wrote an op-ed when she was an undergraduate that opposed affirmative action, arguing that it “promotes racial discrimination,” according to the report.

“As with most liberal solutions to a problem, giving special assistance to minority students is a band-aid solution to a deep problem,” she wrote, as quoted by ProPublica. “No one, least of all the minority student, is well served by receiving special treatment based on race or ethnicity.”

Asked for an interview by ProPublica, Jackson referred the outlet to the Department of Education. The Education Department did not respond to the publication’s request for a statement.

Read the whole thing here.

 

Intelligence agencies in Great Britain and other European countries intercepted communications between Trump staffers and Russian officials during the 2o16 campaign, and shared that information with the United States, according to reports in The Guardian and CNN.

The Guardian first reported the revelation on Thursday, and CNN later confirmed that the foreign agencies caught those communications.

GCHQ first noticed “interactions” in late 2015 and over the next six months several intelligence agencies in the West caught communications between Trump staffers and Russian officials, according to The Guardian. The countries that shared information with the U.S. in addition to the U.K. included Germany, Poland, Estonia and Australia, per The Guardian.

The Guardian reported that “GCHQ played an early, prominent role in kickstarting the FBI’s Trump-Russia investigation.”

The British and European agencies were not conducting surveillance of aides to President Donald Trump, but were conducting surveillance of Russian officials, according to CNN.

The revelation follows a claim by Fox News analyst Andrew Napolitano that the U.S. asked Great Britain to spy on Trump. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer then cited Napolitano to back up Trump’s unsubstantiated claim that Trump Tower was wiretapped. GCHQ denied Napolitano’s claim, calling it “utterly ridiculous,” and the White House later apologized for parroting it.

However, the reports in The Guardian and CNN did not suggest that the U.S. asked other intelligence agencies to surveil Trump staffers. Both outlets reported that the foreign intelligence agencies picked up the communications while surveilling Russian officials.

Two Secret Service officers have been fired over an incident in which a man jumped over the White House fence and remained on the grounds for more than 15 minutes, according to Thursday reports by CNN, the New York Times, and NBC News.

The two officers, both who had been in the job for less than a year, were stationed near the Treasury Department and East Executive Avenue, near where the fence-jumper made it onto the White House grounds, according to CNN.

On the night of March 10, 26-year-old Jonathan Tran, made it over three fences and into the grounds, setting of several sensors before officers were able to locate him, according to CNN.

In a statement, the Secret Service said it is still reviewing the incident, according to NBC News.

“The Secret Service review of the March 10 incident is ongoing. The Secret Service continues to take appropriate actions based upon findings of the mission assurance review,” the Secret Service said in a statement. “We do not comment on personnel actions. However, all Secret Service personnel are held to the highest standards of professional and ethical conduct.”

Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR), one of the Republicans who helped craft the GOP bill to repeal and replace Obamacare, was forced to defend his support for the American Health Care Act (AHCA) to a raucous crowd on Thursday at a town hall in Bend, Oregon.

More than 2,000 people attended the event, where they booed, shouted, and grilled Walden on health care and his support for President Donald Trump, according to Oregon Public Broadcasting (OPB).

“Why do you want to do away with the Affordable Care Act?” one attendee asked Walden, according to OPB.

The congressman said that he wants to keep certain parts of Obamacare, like protections for those with pre-existing conditions, but change other aspects of the law.

“I want to fix it, so it will work,” Walden said, per OPB.

He said that the AHCA is a “work in progress” that “needs to be improved,” according to Portland television station KOIN.

When asked if he thinks Trump should release his tax returns, Walden said that everyone has a right to keep their taxes private, and his answer was met with boos, OPB reported.

As members of the audience jeered and shouted, Walden asked the crowd to be respectful.

“You’re starting to sound like Congress,” he said, according to OPB.

Walden also faced tough crowds at two town halls on Wednesday, where attendees largely focused on Obamacare.

“I witnessed you on television with Paul Ryan when he announced his so-called health care bill,” one attendee, Roger Wagner, said at a Wednesday town hall, according to The Oregonian. “That bill eliminates 24 million people off of health care. But that wasn’t enough. You also wanted to cut funding for Meals on Wheels, well-baby care, all the while giving $1 billion in tax cuts to the wealthy and your corporate buddies?”

Asked to defend his support for the AHCA at the Wednesday event, Walden emphasized the parts of Obamacare that he wants to keep, the Washington Post reported.

“It was an embarrassment and a disaster,” one attendee told walden at a Wednesday event, drawing applause from the crowd, per the Washington Post. “You don’t make the plan better by taking away insurance for 24 million people across the nation.”

President Donald Trump’s children are worried that reports on chaos inside the White House will hurt the family brand and have been pushing for changes, according to a Wednesday night Washington Post report.

Per the Post:

Trump’s three oldest children — Donald Jr., Ivanka and Eric — and Kushner have been frustrated by the impression of chaos inside the White House and feel that their father has not always been served well by his senior staff, according to people with knowledge of their sentiments. The Trump heirs are interested in any changes that might help resuscitate the presidency and preserve the family’s name at a time when they are trying to expand the Trump Organization’s portfolio of hotels.

“The fundamental assessment is that if they want to win the White House in 2020, they’re not going to do it the way they did in 2016, because the family brand would not sustain the collateral damage,” said one well-connected Republican operative, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss the president’s family. “It would be so protectionist, nationalist and backward-looking that they’d only be able to build in Oklahoma City or the Ozarks.”

Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner, have been battling with White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon, per the Washington Post. Bannon’s removal from the National Security Council’s Principals Committee has been followed by a flood of reports indicating that Bannon’s influence in the White House has decreased and that he’s been at odds with Kushner and other Trump aides.

Neither Trump nor his daughter, Ivanka Trump, who works as an unpaid adviser to the President, have divested from their interests in Trump brands.

The President declined to completely separate himself from his businesses after winning the election and instead passed the reins to his two oldest sons, Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump. Trump pledged that he would have no knowledge of the business while in office, but Eric Trump said last month in an interview that he planned to give his father at least quarterly updates on the business’ finances.

A lawyer for Ivanka Trump, who has an office in the White House, has acknowledged that the President’s daughter has not eliminated her conflicts of interest entirely by stepping down from her leadership role in both the family business and at her own clothing and accessories company. It was also revealed in financial disclosures late last month that Ivanka Trump still has a stake in the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C.

Both the President and Ivanka Trump also are facing unfair competition lawsuits from small businesses who argue that their various Trump brands have had an unfair advantage over competitors since they entered the White House.

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) has recorded a robocall urging Republicans to turn out to vote in next week’s highly anticipated special election to fill a Georgia congressional seat.

The Washington Post first reported that Ryan had recorded the call on Thursday morning. A House GOP political aide confirmed to TPM that Ryan had recorded a call through House Republicans’ campaign arm, the National Republican Congressional Committee.

The speaker recorded a message urging people to vote for a Republican candidate in the election but did not endorse one candidate in the race, the aide told TPM. It wasn’t clear how long the robocall campaign would run or how much the NRCC was spending on the calls.

Ryan’s effort to turn out the GOP vote comes after the Cook Political Report moved the historically ruby-red district’s rating to a Republican toss-up this week. It also follows a closer-than-expected result in a Tuesday special election for a Kansas congressional seat, where the GOP candidate won the solidly Republican district by a single-digit margin.

Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff has been leading the crowded field in the Georgia race. A poll released last week showed him leading the pack with 43 percent, followed by Republicans Karen Handel and Bob Gray with 15 and 14 percent support, respectively.

The special election to fill the seat left open by Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price will function as a jungle primary, with all candidates, regardless of party, competing against each other on April 18. If no candidate clears 50 percent, the top two candidates will compete in a June runoff election.

Democrats have been hopeful that they can turn the district blue by harnessing voters’ unhappiness with President Donald Trump, who won the district suburban Atlanta district by just one point in November. Republicans, for their part, have been targeting Ossoff relentlessly, making long-shot attempts to tie him to terrorism.

 

A state Republican lawmaker in North Carolina on Wednesday called President Abraham Lincoln a “tyrant,” comparing him to Adolf Hitler.

State Rep. Larry Pittman made the remark in a Facebook post responding to criticism of his bill that would reverse the Supreme Court ruling striking down a ban on same-sex marriage, according to the Charlotte Observer. The Republican leader of the North Carolina House said that the bill will not go up for a vote, per the Charlotte Observer.

Pittman first defended his bill by arguing that it would not reinstate a ban on same-sex marriage but would uphold “the law of this State in spite of the opinion of a federal court that had no business interfering,” according to screengrabs posted by IndyWeek.

After commenters on Facebook continued to criticize Pittman, with one telling him that the “Civil war is over,” Pittman brought up Hitler and Lincoln.

“And if Hitler had won, should the world just get over it?” he wrote. “Lincoln was the same sort if (sic) tyrant, and personally responsible for the deaths of over 800,000 Americans in a war that was unnecessary and unconstitutional.”

Pittman appears to have taken down his Facebook page as of Thursday morning.

His comments drawing a comparison between Hitler and Lincoln came one day after White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer incorrectly stated that Hitler did not use chemical weapons. Spicer later apologized for his mistake.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer on Wednesday night said that President Donald Trump has been trying to make it clear that he has been setting the policy agenda with his recent lukewarm comments about White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon.

“I think he values Steve’s commitment to the team and helping to advance his agenda. But I think he also wants to make sure that everybody understands when you look back in the 1980s and the 1990s, the policies that this president is now espousing and championing here in terms of trade policies, economic policies, they’re policies that he’s held in some cases for two, three, four decades,” Spicer said on Fox News when asked about Trump’s recent comments about Bannon.

“And then he wants to make sure that he’s very clear that he won this election because of the policies that he’s been laying out for decades and the commitment that he’s had to the American worker, to growing our economy and keeping our country safe,” Spicer continued. “And I think the line has been blurred up a little bit. He wanted to make it very clear. But at the same time, express confidence in the team that’s here and the talent that he has assembled.”

Bannon was recently removed from the National Security Council’s Principals Committee, and the move was followed by a flurry of reports that Bannon’s influence in the White House is waning. Amid infighting in the administration, Trump reportedly had to sit Bannon down with Jared Kushner and other White House aides and tell them to work it out.

When asked about those reports in two interviews this week, Trump appeared to distance himself from Bannon.

“I like Steve, but you have to remember he was not involved in my campaign until very late,” Trump told the New York Post when asked if he had confidence in Bannon. “I had already beaten all the senators and all the governors, and I didn’t know Steve. I’m my own strategist and it wasn’t like I was going to change strategies because I was facing crooked Hillary.”

“Steve is a good guy, but I told them to straighten it out or I will,” Trump added to the Post in an interview published Tuesday night.

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal published Wednesday, Trump said that the reports on Bannon were “overblown” but described Bannon merely as a “a guy who works for me.” Trump again said that he was his “own strategist.”

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