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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 an interview with NBC’s Megyn Kelly that aired Sunday night, Russian President Vladimir Putin denied that Russia meddled in the 2016 election in the United States and claimed to be unaware of any interactions Russian officials had with members of Trump’s campaign.

Putin told Kelly that he has “no idea” if Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the U.S., met with any members of Trump’s team before inauguration.

“Do you think that from all over the world or from the United States the ambassador reports to me every day who he meets with or what they discuss there? That’s complete nonsense,” he said.

Asked if Jared Kushner tried to set up a secret line of communication between the Trump transition team and Russia, Putin said “no proposal like that came to me.”

And when asked about the 2015 dinner in Moscow during which he sat next to Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security adviser, Putin claimed that he did not know who Flynn was until after the dinner.

“I didn’t even really talk to him,” Putin told Kelly.

The Russian leader also denied that Russia tried to interfere in the 2016 election in the U.S. and suggested that U.S. intelligence services could have fabricated Russian interference.

“There’s a theory that Kennedy’s assassination was arranged by the United State intelligence services,” he said. “So, if this theory is correct and that can’t be ruled out, then what could be easier, in this day and age, than using all the technical means at the disposal of the intelligence services, and using those means to organize some attacks and then pointing the finger at Russia?”

When asked if he had damaging information on Trump, Putin dismissed the question as “just another load of nonsense.”

“Where would we get this information from? Why, did we have some special relationship with him?” Putin asked.

“There was a time when he used to come to Moscow,” he continued. “But you know, I never met with him. We have a lot of Americans who visit us.”

 

 

President Donald Trump on Monday morning lashed out at his own Justice Department for offering a “watered down” version of the executive order barring travel to the United States from certain majority Muslim countries after courts blocked the administration’s initial order.

Trump’s tweets about his so-called travel ban came after he promoted his executive order in a Sunday morning series of tweets about the weekend terror attack in London.

In the Monday morning tweets, Trump said that he wished his administration had fought for the original executive order and called on the Justice Department to seek a “much tougher version” of the travel ban. He also notably described the order as a “travel ban,” a term that his administration has dismissed.

Trump’s revised travel ban has been held up in federal courts despite the administration’s effort to craft a new executive order that courts might allow to proceed. The Justice Department asked the Supreme Court last week to reinstate the travel ban order.

Court orders staying both the initial and the revised travel bans have cited Trump’s comments, including those he made on the campaign trail, about a Muslim ban. In its decision upholding a block on Trump’s initial order, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said that states raised “serious allegations” about religious discrimination and indicated that courts could use Trump’s past comments to determine the administration’s intentions in crafting the executive order.

In its ruling late last month upholding a block on Trump’s revised travel ban, the chief judge of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals wrote that the executive order “drips with religious intolerance, animus, and discrimination.” The court wrote that it’s possible states could prove, using past comments from Trump and his aides, that Trump wrote the executive order with a Muslim ban in mind.

The President’s Monday morning tweetstorm followed more tempered remarks about the London terror attack on Sunday night. Speaking at the Ford’s Theatre Annual Gala, Trump offer his support to the United Kingdom and said that the United States would try to help “bring those that are guilty to justice,” according to the White House pool report.

“We renew our resolve, stronger than ever before, to protect the United States and its allies from a vile enemy that has waged war on innocent life. And it has gone on too long. This bloodshed must end. This bloodshed will end,” Trump said, per the pool report. “As president I will do what is necessary is to prevent this threat from spreading to our shores.”

This post has been updated.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer would not say whether President Donald Trump would invoke executive privilege in a bid to block former FBI Director James Comey from testifying before the Senate Intelligence Committee next week.

“That committee hearing was just noticed, and I think obviously it’s got to be reviewed,” Spicer said at the daily press briefing Friday when first asked if Trump would try to block Comey from testifying.

“So that’s not a ‘no?'” the reporter pressed. In response, Spicer added that he has not yet spoken to the White House counsel about the issue and was unsure how counsel would respond.

The former FBI director will testify before the Senate intelligence panel Thursday, and he is expected to detail how Trump asked him to drop the bureau’s probe into former national security adviser Michael Flynn, according to CNN.

Kellyanne Conway on Friday morning also left open the possibility that Trump could invoke executive privilege.

“The President will make that decision,” she said on ABC’s “Good Morning America” when asked if the White House would try to block Comey from testifying.

Legal experts say that Trump certainly could try to invoke executive privilege, but that he may not have the strongest case, since the President himself has made public statements about his private conversations with Comey.

Democrat Jon Ossoff leads Republican Karen Handel by less than two points in the special election to fill an open U.S. House seat in Georgia, according to a new poll released by WSB-TV on Thursday night.

Ossoff earned 49.1 percent support and Handel earned 47.6 percent support among likely voters, according to the poll, which was conducted by Landmark Communications. The previous WSB-TV poll, conducted in early May, had showed Handel leading Ossoff by 2.5 percentage points.

The survey also showed a reverse gender divide in the race, with Ossoff leading among female voters by about 10 points and Handel leading among male voters by about 10 points.

The poll released Thursday surveyed 500 likely voters via phone and online May 30-31 with a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points.

Georgia Democrat Jon Ossoff’s campaign pushed back Thursday on a new ad from a Republican super PAC that stretched to tie Ossoff to Kathy Griffin, who kicked off a firestorm this week when she was photographed holding a bloody likeness of Donald Trump’s head.

“Jon Ossoff believes what Kathy Griffin did was despicable and for Karen Handel’s superPAC [sic] to say otherwise is a disgrace. Karen Handel should immediately demand this ad be pulled before any more children have to see these disturbing images on TV,” Ossoff campaign spokeswoman Sacha Haworth said in a statement.

The 30-second spot from the Congressional Leadership Fund, a conservative super PAC aligned with House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), began airing on Thursday as part of its $6.7 million campaign in the U.S. House race in Georgia. The ad begins with images of protesters lighting cars on fire and smashing windows before showing images from Griffin’s gory photoshoot, for which she has apologized.

“Liberal extremists have gone too far,” the narrator says in the ad. “Now a celebrity Jon Ossoff supporter is making jokes about beheading the president of the United States.”

“It’s not funny. these angry liberals will go to any extremes to elect Jon Ossoff,” the narrator continues.

As the Washington Post noted, Griffin has not been involved in the special election to fill an open U.S. House seat in Georgia and she has not donated to the Ossoff campaign. She has tweeted support for Ossoff, the Democrat facing off against Republican Karen Handel in the June 20 runoff election.

Corry Bliss, the Congressional Leadership Fund’s executive director, told the Washington Post that the group ran the ad because Ossoff had not explicitly denounced Griffin’s photos.

“Jon Ossoff has refused to denounce his supporter Kathy Griffin for over 48 hours after posting distributing images of her and President Trump. His silence speaks volumes,” Bliss told the Post. “To disagree with a president, or any elected official, on issues or beliefs is normal and often even celebrated in our democracy, but the actions coming from extreme liberals like Kathy Griffin have absolutely no place in civil discourse.”

The Ossoff campaign, however, told the Washington Post that the candidate had not been asked about Griffin’s photoshoot.

Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) on Thursday indicated that he’s not optimistic about the Senate’s chances to pass a comprehensive bill to repeal and replace Obamacare this year.

“I don’t see a comprehensive health-care plan this year,” he told North Carolina television station WXII 12 News.

Burr also said that the House bill is “dead on arrival” in the Senate.

The senator’s comments come after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said last week that he’s not sure how the Senate will pass an Obamacare repeal bill.

“I don’t know how we get to 50 at the moment,” he told Reuters. “But that’s the goal.”

H/t Wall Street Journal

After President Donald Trump announced his decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate agreement on Thursday, the Democratic governors in California, New York and Washington state announced a state climate coalition called the United States Climate Alliance.

“The President has already said climate change is a hoax, which is the exact opposite of virtually all scientific and worldwide opinion,” California Governor Jerry Brown said in a statement announcing the alliance. “I don’t believe fighting reality is a good strategy – not for America, not for anybody. If the President is going to be AWOL in this profoundly important human endeavor, then California and other states will step up.”

The alliance will support the Paris pact and serve as “a forum to sustain and strengthen existing climate programs, promote the sharing of information and best practices, and implement new programs to reduce carbon emissions from all sectors of the economy,” according to a statement from the three governors.

Brown will also travel to China on Friday where he will participate in a climate summit and speak with Chinese officials about combatting climate change.

 

 

The Department of Justice on Thursday night asked the Supreme Court to reinstate President Donald Trump’s executive order to temporarily ban people from six majority Muslim countries from traveling to the United States.

The filing came after a federal appeals court last week upheld a ruling blocking Trump’s travel ban from going into effect.

“We have asked the Supreme Court to hear this important case and are confident that President Trump’s executive order is well within his lawful authority to keep the Nation safe and protect our communities from terrorism,” Sarah Isgur Flores, a spokeswoman for the Justice Department, said in a statement Thursday night. “The President is not required to admit people from countries that sponsor or shelter terrorism, until he determines that they can be properly vetted and do not pose a security risk to the United States.”

The Trump administration asked the Supreme Court to issue a stay on the ruling blocking the order from going into effect and to accept the case for oral arguments.

Jon Ossoff, the Democratic candidate in the special election to fill an open U.S. House seat in Georgia, on Thursday criticized President Donald Trump for considering withdrawing from the Paris climate agreement.

“I agree with our military, our intelligence community, and peer-reviewed science that climate change is a major threat to our prosperity and our security, and if we walk away from this historic agreement now, history will condemn us,” Ossoff said in a statement to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Trump is expected to announce his decision on the Paris agreement Thursday afternoon, and reports this week indicated he will announce the United States will leave the global climate pact.

Ossoff will face off against Republican Karen Handel on June 20 in the Georgia special election. Democrats are hopeful they can flip the red district in the suburbs of Atlanta, given Trump’s minuscule margin of victory there in November.

The White House on Wednesday night disclosed the ethics waivers the Trump administration has granted to former lobbyists, lawyers, and political operatives, revealing that at least 17 staffers have been granted waivers.

The disclosure came after the White House initially pushed back on the Office of Government Ethics’ push to see the waivers and make them public.

The ethics waivers exempt staffers from Trump’s executive order on ethics meant to avoid conflicts of interest after Trump campaigned on “draining the swamp” of lobbyists in government. The waivers were granted to four lobbyists and six lawyers who formerly worked for the Jones Day law firm, which still represents Trump.

The Trump administration granted waivers to several other appointees, allowing them to interact with their former clients and employers.

The White House also issued two blanket waivers for an unspecified number of staff members. One of the waivers allows appointees in the Executive Office of the President “to participate in communications and meetings with news organizations on matters of broad policy and particular matters of general  applicability.” This waiver would let adviser Steve Bannon communicate with his former employer, Breitbart News.

Another blanket waiver allows certain staffers to communicate with Republican political organizations, including the Republican National Committee and Trump’s presidential campaign.

White House spokeswoman Lindsay Walters said that the White House worked with many staffers to avoid conflicts of interest without issuing ethics waivers.

“The White House has voluntarily released the ethics waivers as part of the President’s commitment to the American people to be transparent,” Walters said in a statement. “The White House Counsel’s Office worked closely with all White House officials to avoid conflicts arising from their former places of employment or investment holdings. To the furthest extent possible, counsel worked with each staffer to recuse from conflicting conduct rather than being granted waivers, which has led to the limited number of waivers being issued.”

The Trump administration is so far outpacing the Obama administration with ethics waivers granted to White House appointees. The Obama administration granted ethics waivers to 17 White House appointees over Obama’s eight years in office.

Kellyanne Conway, a former Republican pollster, was granted a waiver allowing her to work with former clients, and Reince Priebus was given a waiver allowing him to work with the Republican National Committee, his former employer.

The White House issued waivers to three former lobbyists who work under Gary Cohn at the National Economic Council. Michael Catanzaro, the special assistant to the president for domestic energy and environmental policy, worked for the CGCN Group representing energy industry clients. Shahira Knight, the special assistant to the president for tax and retirement policy, worked in the policy and public relations group at Fidelity Investments. Andrew Olmem, the special assistant to the president for financial policy, was a partner at Venable where he lobbied on financial issues.

The White House also gave a waiver to Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff, Joshua Pitcock, who was a lobbyist in Washington, D.C. for the state of Indiana.

This post has been updated.

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