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

Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s longtime personal lawyer, is expected to meet with the Senate Intelligence Committee as part of its Russia probe behind closed doors on Tuesday, Buzzfeed News reported.

Cohen has been under scrutiny by the various congressional committees investigating Russia’s interference in the 2016 election since early this year. He has business ties in the former Soviet bloc, and was reportedly involved in a Ukraine “peace plan” that would have involved the Trump team in lifting economic sanctions on Russia.

It also came to light last month that Cohen was involved in efforts to build a Trump tower in Moscow while serving as a surrogate for the Trump campaign.

The longtime Trump ally initially refused requests to speak with congressional investigators in May, arguing that “the request was poorly phrased, overly broad and not capable of being answered.”

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The Trump administration is considering lowering the number of refugees the United States accepts each year to below 50,000 people, the New York Times reported Tuesday, citing unnamed current and former officials.

It would be the lowest number of refugees accepted by the U.S. since 1980, the New York Times noted.

President Donald Trump already set the maximum number of refugees accepted in the country to 50,000 with his executive order earlier this year, down from more than 100,000 under President Barack Obama. But some White House officials are pushing for him to lower that cap even further, according to the New York Times.

White House senior adviser Stephen Miller, known for his hard-right views on immigration, has led this push, at one point proposing lowering the number of refugees accepted to 15,000, per the Times. Officials at the Department of Homeland Security are also pushing to lower the cap, proposing it be set at 40,000 refugees, the New York Times reported. Officials at the National Security Council, State Department, and Defense Department have opposed a significant drop in the number of refugees accepted, per the Times.



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House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) will meet with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and other congressional leaders Wednesday evening to discuss how Congress may approach restoring the protections from the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program now that President Donald Trump has announced an end to the program next year, according to several reports out Tuesday night.

Politico was first to report that the meeting will take place, and the Washington Post later confirmed Ryan would meet with Pelosi about DACA, which protects undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as minors from deportation.

Leaders in both parties have said that they would like to restore DACA protections, but it’s not yet clear that Republicans and Democrats will be able to agree on legislation. Pelosi and Democrats are pushing for Congress to pass the DREAM Act, which would grant DACA recipients legal protections. Republicans have been less clear on what protections they would be willing to grant in legislation.

Democrats have also made it clear that they will not support tying funding for the border wall to legislation restoring DACA protections. The White House has indicated that it would like to see any legislation include provisions on border security, but a top White House aide suggested yesterday that the administration will not demand border wall funding be tied to a DACA bill.

“The President has made a commitment to the American people that he wants—he believes that a physical barrier is important to that equation of border security,” White House legislative affairs director Marc Short said Tuesday. “Whether or not that is part of a DACA equation, or whether or not that’s another legislative vehicle, I don’t want us to bind ourselves into a construct that makes reaching a conclusion on DACA impossible.”

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Former national security adviser Michael Flynn has again declined a request to appear before the Senate Intelligence Committee, CNN reported early Wednesday, citing an unnamed source in Congress.

Investigators are reportedly interested in Flynn’s contacts with Russian officials during the transition and his failure to disclose payments he received from Russian firms.

The former Trump official previously refused a Senate Intelligence Committee request to appear in May, citing Fifth Amendment rights. At the time, Flynn’s lawyers argued that an “escalating public frenzy against him” created a a legally dangerous environment for Flynn, preventing him from testifying.

The Senate committee also issued subpoenas for documents from Flynn in May, and the former national security adviser reportedly agreed to turn over documents to the committee.

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The United Kingdom’s culture minister on Tuesday said that she will likely refer 21st Century Fox’s bid to buy British outlet Sky News to the country’s competition watchdog to examine whether Fox has an appropriate commitment to broadcasting standards.

British authorities have increased scrutiny of the impending deal following several complaints raising concerns that the Fox News parent company is not fit to own Sky News. That scrutiny followed several resignations at Fox News over allegations of sexual harassment, as well as a lawsuit alleging that the network worked with the Trump administration to push a conspiracy theory about a murdered Democratic National Committee staffer.

In a statement to members of British Parliament on Tuesday, Culture Minister Karen Bradley said that the country’s communications regulator, Ofcom, found there are “non-fanciful concerns” about the company’s commitment to British broadcasting standards. Bradley said that Fox News had not had proper compliance procedures in place to broadcast in the U.K., and only made changes after Ofcom related concerns.

“The fact that Fox belatedly established such procedures does not ease my concerns, nor does Fox’s compliance history,” Bradley said.

Fox News has been cited by Ofcom before: The regulator ruled in 2015 that Fox News broke British law with bogus claims about Muslim “no-go zones.”

She also raised concerns about “corporate governance issues.”

“I agree with the view that, in this context, my proper concern is whether Fox will have a genuine commitment to attaining broadcasting standards objectives,” she said. “However, I am not confident that weaknesses in Fox’s corporate governance arrangements are incapable of affecting compliance in the broadcasting standards context.”

Bradley also said she’d heard concerns over “the ‘Foxification’ of Fox-owned news outlets internationally,” which she encouraged the competition watchdog, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), to look into if it does go ahead with a review.

The culture minister must first hear from the parties in the proposed merger before finalizing her decision to refer the deal to the CMA.

In an August 25 letter to the culture minister published on Tuesday, Ofcom wrote that certain “alleged behaviors” at 21st Century Fox were “concerning,” but that those failures should not prompt additional review. It appears Bradley disagreed that this finding does not warrant an investigation by the CMA.

“There were alleged behaviours amounting to significant corporate failures which were very concerning,” Ofcom chief executive Sharon White wrote. “However taking account of the nature of the failings, which did not occur in a broadcasting standards context, and the evidence before us of senior management efforts to rectify the situation, which included dismissal of those directly responsible, our judgment was that when taken together with the positive evidence of broadcast standards compliance, there were not concerns which may justify a reference on grounds of the broadcast standards public interest consideration.”

The letter did not say that the “alleged behaviors” were allegations of sexual harassment, but it’s possible that is what White was referencing.

Ofcom also reviewed complaints about comments made on Fox News, but the regulator determined that the instances did not warrant further investigation. In dismissing complaints about certain claims made on Fox News shows, Ofcom determined that “Hannity,” “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” and “Fox and Friends” are not news programs and therefore do not have a “due accuracy requirement.”

The regulator also considered the lawsuit alleging that Fox News worked with the Trump administration to push a conspiracy theory about Seth Rich using inaccurate statements. However, Ofcom said that it could not make a determination on the matter since the issue has not yet worked its way through the courts.

“If evidence of wider wrongdoing were to emerge at some future date it may be significant,” White wrote.

This post has been updated.

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Marc Short, the White House’s director of legislative affairs, on Tuesday acknowledged that the Trump administration did not do the best job of winning over conservative allies’ support for a plan to repeal and replace Obamacare early on in the process.

One of the things that we could learn from the last battle was that in many cases, we did not get all of our allies on board with the path forward,” Short said at a breakfast with reporters hosted by the Christian Science Monitor. “And so therefore the Republican base was splintered, and some of the reform packages were tagged early on as ‘Obamacare lite.'” 

Short added that the White House did not have its full team in place before talks on Obamacare repeal began, which he argued prevented the White House from bringing allies on board.

I will say that that process began that first couple days in January. We were inaugurated at the end of the month and didn’t have our team really on the field,” he said. “So we do believe that was a process that we had a lot of our conservative allies already out attacking the House package before we were even in office.”

Short also indicated the White House would like to see Republicans take another stab at repealing Obamacare before the end of September. He brought up a bill drafted by Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Bill Cassidy (R-LA), which would keep some of the taxes imposed by Obamacare and send those funds to the states in the form of block grants.

The aide did not say that the White House backs the bill, however.

That is a vehicle that will hopefully get more attention in the coming days,” Short said when asked if Trump backs the Graham-Cassidy plan.

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A top White House official on Tuesday morning refrained from demanding that any legislative fix for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program be tied to funding for a wall on the U.S. border with Mexico.

During a breakfast with reporters held by the Christian Science Monitor, Marc Short, the White House’s director of legislative affairs, was asked if President Donald Trump will demand that Congress tie legislative restoration of DACA’s policies to funding for a border wall.

“We are most interested in getting border security. And the President has made a commitment to the American people that he wants—he believes that a physical barrier is important to that equation of border security,” Short replied. “Whether or not that is part of a DACA equation, or whether or not that’s another legislative vehicle, I don’t want us to bind ourselves into a construct that makes reaching a conclusion on DACA impossible.”

Later, asked again if Trump would demand that legislation restoring DACA’s protections be paired with funding for a wall, Short said that Trump is not backing off his demand that the country build a physical barrier at the southern border.

“Whether or not that is specifically part of a DACA package, or in a different legislative package, I’m not going to prejudge here today,” Short added.

Short would not say whether Trump is willing to sign legislation that provides a path to citizenship for DACA recipients, undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as minors.

“I’m not going to state on that,” Short said when asked if Trump would be open to a path to citizenship. He said that the White House would wait to see Congress’ proposals.

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) indicated on Monday that he is not concerned about Democrats gaining leverage as a result of their deal with President Donald Trump to raise the debt ceiling and fund the government through mid-December.

“Let’s put it this way,” McConnell told the New York Times podcast “The New Washington.” “The deal is not quite as good as my counterpart thought it was.”

McConnell said that he wrote the legislation to raise the debt ceiling in a way that would allow the Treasury secretary to use “extraordinary measures” and shift government funds around in order to extend the debt ceiling into 2018. Moving a vote on the debt ceiling back a few months would reduce the leverage Democrats have on a deal to fund the government in December. McConnell told the New York Times that he wrote the bill this way over objections from Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY).

“Since I was in charge of drafting the debt ceiling provision that we inserted into the flood bill we likely — almost certainly — are not going to have another debt ceiling discussion until well into 2018,” McConnell told the Times. “One of the advantages of being the majority leader is you control the paper.”

Trump angered conservatives in Congress when he came to an agreement with Democratic leaders last week to tie legislation to raise the debt limit and fund the government through mid-December to funding for Hurricane Harvey. Republicans who believe any debt limit hike should be paired with budget cuts were irked by the deal, as well as by White House officials’ attempt to sell the bill.


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Some of the lawyers on President Donald Trump’s outside legal team handling matters related to the Russia probe decided this summer that Jared Kushner, son-in-law and senior adviser to Trump, should resign from his role at the White House, the Wall Street Journal reported Monday, citing unnamed people familiar with the matter.

The lawyers felt Kushner should step down because he had several meetings with Russian officials before Trump took office and because he initially failed to disclose those meetings, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The attorneys took their concerns to the president, people familiar with the matter told the Wall Street Journal, but two members of the legal team were unable to confirm this to the newspaper. Trump did not believe that Kushner needed to leave the White House, per the report.

John Dowd, who now leads Trump’s outside legal team, told the Journal that some of the attorneys held this view of Kushner, but that he disagreed with their assessment. He also told the Journal that he was not aware those lawyers aired their concerns to the President.

“I didn’t agree with that view at all. I thought it was absurd,” Dowd said. “I made my views known.”

Marc Kasowitz, who left his role leading Trump’s outside legal team in July, denied that he had any involvement in a recommendation to the President that Kushner should go.

“I never discussed with other lawyers for the President that Jared Kushner should step down from his position at the White House, I never recommended to the President that Mr. Kushner should step down from that position and I am not aware that any other lawyers for the President made any such recommendation either,” he said in a statement to the Journal.

Read the full report here.

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Several Democratic lawmakers have asked the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general to look into whether the Secret Service’s spending to secure President Donald Trump’s properties exceeds the amount allowed by law.

Democrats sent a letter to the DHS watchdog last week, following reports that the Secret Service is struggling to cover the costs of keeping Trump and his large family safe at several of the President’s properties, including Trump Tower in New York, Mar-a-Lago in Florida, and the golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey. The director of the Secret Service told USA Today in August that he can’t pay hundreds of agents because they’ve already met salary and overtime caps.

Now, Democratic lawmakers are asking whether the Secret Service is violating federal law to secure Trump’s properties across the country. The Presidential Protection Assistance Act of 1976 states that presidents can only designate one property to be fully secured by the Secret Service, and that spending on security for additional properties cannot exceed $200,000, they wrote in the letter.

The Secret Service told lawmakers that Trump has designated Trump Tower as his main property, and that the service plans to spend $26 million securing it in 2017. Trump has also requested security at Mar-a-Lago and the Bedminster golf club, however, and he visits those properties more frequently than he does Trump Tower.

“There is reason to believe that President Trump and his family’s use of multiple non-governmental properties, such as Trump Tower in New York, the Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Fla., and the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J., may interfere with the Secret Service’s ability to protect the First Family while remaining in compliance with the act,” Democrats wrote in their letter.

Several senators, Tom Udall of New Mexico, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, and Gary Peters of Michigan, signed the letter, along with Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD).

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