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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

Gary Cohn, who leads the White House’s National Economic Council, finally spoke out publicly about President Donald Trump’s failure to fully condemn white nationalists in the wake of the Charlottesville attack, urging the Trump administration Thursday to do more to denounce hate groups.

Trump’s comments pandering to white nationalists had sparked speculation that Cohn, who is Jewish, could resign from his post over the matter. However, despite Cohn’s friends’ comments to the media that he was deeply upset by Trump’s response to the violence in Charlottesville, Cohn has not quit and is just now publicly criticizing the President.

“Citizens standing up for equality and freedom can never be equated with white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and the KKK. I believe this administration can and must do better in consistently and unequivocally condemning these groups and do everything we can to heal the deep divisions that exist in our communities,” Cohn told the Financial Times on Thursday.

“As a Jewish American, I will not allow neo-Nazis ranting ‘Jews will not replace us’ to cause this Jew to leave his job,” he added. “I feel deep empathy for all who have been targeted by these hate groups. We must all unite together against them.”

Cohn said that he faced pressure both to resign and to remain in his post, but said that he ultimately decided he needed to stay on in the Trump administration.

“I have come under enormous pressure both to resign and to remain in my current position,” he told the Financial Times. “As a patriotic American, I am reluctant to leave my post as director of the National Economic Council because I feel a duty to fulfill my commitment to work on behalf of the American people. But I also feel compelled to voice my distress over the events of the last two weeks.”

Cohn told the Financial Times that he has had several conversations with Trump about the need to condemn white nationalists. He also drafted a resignation letter last week, but never followed through, the New York Times reported Friday morning, citing two unnamed people familiar with the draft letter.

Asked about Cohn’s comments to the Financial Times during the White House press briefing on Friday, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders downplayed Cohn’s criticism of Trump and noted that his comments about Trump’s Charlottesville response were a “very small portion” of the interview.

“Gary has not held back on how he feels, I don’t think anyone was surprised by the comments,” Sanders said.

 

This post has been updated.

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House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) on Thursday downplayed President Donald Trump’s Thursday morning tweets attacking congressional leaders on pending legislation to raise the debt limit.

“I don’t really take it as going after me,” Ryan said on CNBC when asked about Trump’s tweets.

The President on Thursday morning criticized Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) for not tying legislation to raise the debt limit to a Veterans Affairs bill, claiming that Congress is now in a “mess.” He also went after McConnell in a separate tweet, undermining the White House’s attempts to quell reports of a Trump-McConnell feud.

Ryan told CNBC that while leaders considered tying the VA bill to the debt limit, the timing didn’t work out. He added that he’s not concerned about Congress’ ability to pass a bill raising the debt ceiling.

“I’m really not that worried about this. We have plenty of options ahead of us,” he said.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) also seemed unconcerned about Trump’s attacks on GOP leaders, arguing that it’s typical for presidents to use their “bully pulpit” to pressure Congress.

 

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Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) on Thursday morning argued that President Donald Trump’s recent attacks on congressional leaders aren’t “unhinged” rantings but a political strategy, even if that strategy isn’t necessarily a smart one.

“The Congress is very unpopular, particularly with the Republican base, so there’s nothing unhinged about it. It’s a political strategy that I’m not so sure is smart, but it’s a very thought-out strategy. There’s nothing crazy about it. It’s a political strategy,” Graham told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt.

“The media has gone absolutely insane over his insanity,” the senator added later. “The President can be very disciplined. His Afghan speech was excellent in terms of substance and tone. He listened to the generals, unlike President Obama who ignored sound military advice. President Trump’s going to take it. He goes to Phoenix and kind of goes nuts on stage, but that’s Donald Trump.”

Trump on Thursday morning published several tweets attacking Republican leaders in Congress and pressuring them on upcoming legislation. He criticized both Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) for their approach to raising the debt ceiling and bashed McConnell for failing to pass Obamacare repeal in the Senate.

These tweets escalated Trump’s feud with Congress, and McConnell in particular, following Trump’s Tuesday night threat to shut down the government over funding for the border wall and reports that he’s in a standoff with the Senate leader.

Graham said that Trump pushing to tie an unrelated measure to the debt ceiling bill in order to win Democratic support and pressure Congress wasn’t particularly unusual.

“He’s not the first president to use the bully pulpit to try to push the country in a particular direction or to keep his base on board,” the senator told Hugh Hewitt.

He went on to argue that Trump’s right that it’s time for Republicans to put Democrats in a tough spot.

“The President is not crazy to attack the Congress. He’s not crazy to think of ways to put Democrats in a bad spot regarding the debt ceiling. They do this all the time to us,” he said.

But pressed on whether the level at which Trump is warring with Congress is typical, Graham admitted that this President has an unusual approach.

“There’s nothing ordinary about Donald Trump, okay? And so the first thing you’ve got to realize is this is not an ordinary guy. These are not ordinary times. So Mitch is trying to navigate a 52 seat majority and get big things done with no Democratic support. It’s tough,” he said, adding that Trump still has the right to be frustrated that Congress has not yet repealed Obamacare.

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Less than 24 hours after the White House tried to tamp down reports that President Donald Trump was feuding with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Trump published tweets Thursday morning reigniting the standoff in the public sphere.

Trump began by preemptively blaming McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) for any difficulty in passing legislation to raise the debt ceiling.

Trump followed up an hour later explicitly stating that he does have a “problem” with McConnell and chastising the Senate leader for failing to repeal Obamacare this summer.

The tweets from Trump come amid reports that he is in a standoff with McConnell. The two reportedly yelled at each other in an early August phone call during which Trump berated McConnell for not protecting him from the Russia probes, and the two have apparently not spoken since. Though the two have reportedly not spoken, they have taken jabs at each other in public.

Wednesday afternoon, both McConnell and the White House sought to quell the murmurings about their standoff with statements claiming that Trump and the Senate leader are in regular contact and are united.

But despite the White House communications office’s best efforts to dismiss the reports that Trump is at odds with Congressional leadership, Trump unraveled that narrative with his angry tweets Thursday morning.

Trump has also signaled that he is prepared for a big fight over the spending bill that Congress must pass by the end of September. During his Tuesday night rally in Phoenix, Arizona, Trump said he was willing to shut the government down in order to secure funding for his coveted border wall.

Ryan quickly dismissed the possibility of a government shutdown in September on Wednesday, a statement that may have irked Trump and prompted his Thursday morning tweets.

This post has been updated.

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Nearly a month after President Donald Trump announced in a series of tweets that he would ban transgender individuals from serving in the military, the White House is prepared to send guidance to the Pentagon on the implementation of the ban, the Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday night.

Defense Secretary James Mattis will have six months to put the new policy in place, according to the Wall Street Journal. The memo directs the military to reject transgender people who apply to serve and orders the Pentagon to stop paying for medical services for the transgender troops already serving, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The memo gives Mattis some leeway in determining the fate of those transgender people already serving in the military. He will be charged with determining whether transgender individuals are able to serve in a war zone and therefore whether they should be separated from the military, per the Wall Street Journal.

Trump announced the new policy in a late July tweetstorm claiming that he had discussed the policy with his “generals.” However, Pentagon leadership was caught off guard by the announcement. The new policy, an attempt to please the conservative base, drew criticism from several Republican members of Congress, as well as from some military leaders.

 

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Investigators in Congress have discovered an email sent by a Trump campaign aide in June 2016 referencing an effort to set up a meeting between Trump campaign officials and Russian President Vladimir Putin, CNN reported Wednesday, citing unnamed sources familiar with the matter.

Rick Dearborn, who was Jeff Sessions’ chief of staff in the Senate as well as a Trump campaign aide at the time, sent the email passing along information from an individual from WV, a reference to West Virginia, sources told CNN. The individual was looking to connect the Trump campaign to Putin, CNN reported.

Dearborn (pictured above on the left), who is now the White House deputy chief of staff, seemed skeptical of the attempt to set up a meeting in the email, one source told CNN.

Dearborn was also involved in arranging Donald Trump’s speech at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C., in April 2016, which was attended by then-Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. Investigators are now questioning whether Dearborn helped arrange two separate meetings between Sessions and Kislyak, according to CNN.

The email from Dearborn about the individual looking to set up campaign officials in a meeting with Putin came at around the same time that Donald Trump, Jr., Jared Kushner, and Paul Manafort met with a Kremlin-linked lawyer and Russian lobbyist at Trump Tower in New York.

Another Trump campaign aide, George Papadopoulos, also made several attempts to arrange meetings between Trump campaign staff and Russian officials between March and September 2016, as the Washington Post reported earlier in August.

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The Republican Party of Virginia on Wednesday attacked the Democratic candidate for governor, Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam, for calling for the removal of Confederate statues from public spaces and their relocation into museums.

In two tweets the state GOP said that Northam was betraying his “heritage” by backing the removal of statues that represent slavery. The Democratic candidate had found out in recent months that his ancestors, who were farmers on Virginia’s Eastern Shore, owned slaves.

When Northam discovered the part his own family played in the history of slavery in June, he told the Richmond Times-Dispatch that the revelation “disturbs and saddens me.”

Asked about the Virginia GOP’s tweets, Northam campaign press secretary Ofirah Yheskel said, “It’s a true shame to to see the party of Lincoln stoop so low.”

Northam also responded himself on Twitter.

The Virginia GOP took down the tweets hours after they were posted and apologized, saying they were “interpreted in a way we never intended.”

In the wake of the racist violence earlier this month in Charlottesville, Virginia, and President Donald Trump’s subsequent failure to swiftly condemn white nationalists, politicians in both parties have called for the removal of Confederate statues from public spaces.

Northam joined this chorus last week, despite previously taking the position that Confederate statue removal was a local issue.

“I support City of Charlottesville’s decision to remove the Robert E. Lee statue. I believe these statues should be taken down and moved into museums,” he said in a statement. “As governor, I am going to be a vocal advocate for that approach and work with localities on this issue.”

Northam’s Republican opponent, Ed Gillespie, believes that Confederate monuments should remain, but that local governments should be able to decide whether to remove them.

“I believe that decisions about historical statues are best made at the local level, but they should stay and be placed in historical context,” Gillespie said last week.

A Gillespie campaign spokesperson said in a statement that the Virginia GOP was right to take down its tweets.

“Though Ed disagrees with the Lieutenant Governor on the issue of statues, he knows we can disagree on issues like this without devolving into divisive rhetoric,” the statement read.

This post has been updated.

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Ousted FBI Director James Comey is expected to be the keynote speaker at Howard University’s opening convocation this fall, and give additional lectures throughout the school year.

The university announced Wednesday that Comey would be the Gwendolyn S. and Colbert I. King Endowed Chair in Public Policy for the 2017-2018 school year, through which he will facilitate lectures.

“His expertise and understanding of the challenges we continue to face today will go a long way in sparking rich discussion and advancing meaningful debates across campus,” President Wayne A.I. Frederick said in a statement.

President Donald Trump abruptly fired Comey from his role as FBI director earlier this year. Comey later testified before Congress that Trump had asked him to pledge his loyalty and to quash an FBI probe into former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

 

 

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Seven members of the White House’s National Infrastructure Advisory Council resigned from the panel on Monday, sending a letter to President Donald Trump telling him that his actions have undermined the country’s “moral infrastructure,” Roll Call reported.

The National Infrastructure Advisory Council is just the latest advisory panel to see defections in the wake of Trump’s failure to immediately condemn white nationalists following the violence earlier this month at a rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. Trump said he disbanded the Manufacturing Jobs Initiative and the Strategic and Policy Forum after business leaders on both councils quit. Members of the advisory arts council also quit in protest of Trump’s nod to racists.

“In taking on this duty, we each took an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic,” the resigning members of the National Infrastructure Advisory Council wrote in the letter obtained by Roll Call. “Today, that oath compels us to resign. The moral infrastructure of our Nation is the foundation on which our physical infrastructure is built. The Administration’s actions undermine that foundation.”

The White House confirmed in a statement that a few members of the pre-existing, 27-person panel had resigned, but did not specify exactly how many had quit.

“We can confirm that a number of members of the NIAC who had been appointed under the previous administration have submitted their resignation,” a White House official said in a statement obtained by TPM. “The NIAC met today as planned with the majority of its members, who remain committed to the important work of protecting our Nation’s critical infrastructure.”

The National Infrastructure Advisory Council is a panel of experts who advise the President through the Department of Homeland Security on matters related to the security of the country’s critical infrastructure and information systems. In the letter obtained by Roll Call, the members who resigned said that the Trump administration has not focused on infrastructure security or listened to the panel’s advice.

The resigning members wrote that “our experience to date has not demonstrated that the Administration is adequately attentive to the pressing national security matters within the NIAC’s purview, or responsive to sound advice received from experts and advisors on these matters,” per Roll Call.

This post has been updated.

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In an excerpt from her forthcoming book, “What Happened” that aired on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” Wednesday morning, Hillary Clinton described the “uncomfortable” October 2016 debate during which Donald Trump stood close behind her on the stage as she spoke.

“It was incredibly uncomfortable,” Clinton said in the excerpt aired on MSNBC. “He was literally breathing down my neck. My skin crawled. It was one of those moments where you wish you could hit pause and ask everyone watching, ‘well, what would you do?’”

Clinton said she decided to simply carry on.

“I kept my cool, aided by a lifetime of dealing with difficult men trying to throw me off,” she wrote in her book.

Yet she said she still wonders if she should have stopped and told Trump to back off and called him a “creep.”

Clinton also described her book in the excerpt aired on “Morning Joe,” explaining that it is not a “comprehensive account of the 2016 race.” Instead, Clinton’s book will center on her experience as a candidate.

“Every day that I was a candidate for president, I knew that millions of people were counting on me, and I couldn’t bear the idea of letting them down. But I did. I couldn’t get the job done, and I’ll have to live with that for the rest of my life,” Clinton said in the excerpt. “In this book, I write about moments from the campaign that I wish I could go back and do over. If the Russians could hack my subconscious, they’d find a long list.”

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