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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

President Donald Trump said Monday morning that the Sunday shooting in Texas is a “mental health problem,” signaling that the administration would again be unwilling to pursue gun control measures in the wake of another deadly mass shooting.

“I think that mental health is your problem here. This was a very — based on preliminary reports —very deranged individual. A lot of problems over a long period of time,” Trump said at a press conference with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe when asked about gun control.

“This isn’t a guns situation. I mean we could go into it, but it’s a little bit soon to go into it. But fortunately somebody else had a gun that was shooting in the opposite direction, otherwise it would have been, as bad as it was, it would have been much worse,” he continued. “But this is a mental health problem at the highest level. It’s a very, very sad event.”

A gunman on Sunday opened fire in a small church in southern Texas, killing 26 and injuring about 20 others. The alleged shooter, Devin Kelley, who has yet to be officially identified by police, received a bad conduct discharge from the Air Force for assaulting his wife and child.

Trump’s comments Monday morning echo his administration’s response to the deadly shooting in Las Vegas in October. Trump at the time focused on the police response to the shooting and the gunman’s mental health issues, and White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said it was too early to talk about gun control the day following the shooting.

 

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After a military judge ruled Friday that Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl will not face prison time for walking off his post in Afghanistan in 2009, President Donald Trump was quick to call the decision a disgrace.

The President’s criticism of the decision was one of many tweets he published while aboard Air Force One on his way to Hawaii.

Trump has called for Bergdahl to face significant punishment for leaving his post, a decision that led to injuries for his fellow soldiers as they searched for him. The judge in the case said that he would consider Trump’s harsh comments about Bergdahl as a mitigating factor in the sentencing.

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Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) on Friday introduced a resolution calling on special counsel Robert Mueller to step aside from the Russia probe, claiming that Mueller is “hopelessly compromised” because he ran the FBI when it was investigating a Russian nuclear energy company.

In his statement on the resolution, Gaetz appears to be referring to an October report in The Hill that the FBI was investigating a bribery scheme at a Russian nuclear energy firm and its arm in the U.S. A spokesperson for an unnamed informant who allegedly spoke to the FBI about this scheme told The Hill that the informant had to sign a non-disclosure agreement with the FBI, barring him from talking to Congress. Gaetz also criticized Mueller for not bringing charges against the Russian firm while he was running the FBI.

“These deeply troubling events took place when Mr. Mueller was the director of the FBI. As such, his impartiality is hopelessly compromised. He must step down immediately,” Gaetz said in a statement.

The resolution itself also mentions donations to the Clinton Foundation and speaking fees received by former President Bill Clinton while the Obama administration was considering a deal to allow the Russian nuclear energy agency to acquire a stake in Uranium One, a Canadian company with uranium extraction operations in the U.S. President Donald Trump and conservatives have railed against Hillary Clinton over the Uranium One deal in recent weeks as Mueller’s Russia probe has intensified. Clinton was secretary of state when the deal was approved, but she did not have sole power over the deal.

In the resolution, Gaetz argues that Muller is compromised because he “has a personal or political relationship” with an “organization substantially involved in the conduct that is subject of the investigation” and argued that Mueller’s participation in the Russia probe “would create an appearance of conflict of interest likely to affect public perception of the integrity of the investigation.”

Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ) and Rep. Louis Gohmert (R-TX) have joined Gaetz as co-sponsors of the resolution, according to Gaetz’s statement.

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President Donald Trump on Friday morning said that he does not “remember much” about a meeting during the 2016 campaign attended by George Papadopoulos, the former campaign aide who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Kremlin-linked individuals during the 2016 race.

“I don’t remember much about that meeting. It was a very unimportant meeting. Took place a long time — don’t remember much about it,” Trump told reporters Friday morning outside the White House when asked about the Papadopolous meeting.

Trump does not clearly recall the meeting despite having “one of the greatest memories of all time,” as he boasted just last week.

Asked again about the Russia probe, Trump told reporters that there was “no collusion” and that the media should focus more on Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee.

Since Papadopoulos’ guilty plea was unsealed on Monday, Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions have come under scrutiny for a meeting they attended with Papadopoulos and other advisers in March 2016. Papadopoulos says he suggested that Trump meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the campaign meeting, claiming that he had connections to help set it up.

CNN reported Wednesday that Trump did not agree to or reject the meeting when the idea was raised byP apadopoulos, citing an unnamed source in the room. CNN and NBC News both reported that Sessions rejected the idea during the March 2016 meeting.

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During a tirade on Twitter about the 2016 Democratic primary and claims from former interim DNC chair Donna Brazile, President Donald Trump revived his “Pocahontas” nickname for Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) that he used during the 2016 campaign.

In an excerpt published Thursday from her forthcoming book, Brazile accused Hillary Clinton’s campaign of taking control over the Democratic National Committee before Clinton won the primary. She wrote that the Clinton campaign signed a joint fundraising agreement with the DNC nearly a year before Clinton secured the Democratic presidential nomination.

Later on Thursday, Warren told CNN that she believes the DNC favored Clinton during the primary.

The President pounced on Brazile’s claims to accuse the Clinton campaign of “collusion” and took the opportunity to attempt to diss Warren, who has said she has Native American heritage. Trump called Warren “Pocahontas” several times during the 2016 campaign.

Trump’s focus on Brazile’s claim is just the latest narrative he has grabbed ahold of in the past week. As special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe has intensified, Trump has increasingly tried to shift the narrative to his former campaign rival. The President on Thursday called for the Justice Department to investigate the Clinton campaign’s decision to fund opposition research that eventually became the dossier alleging ties between Trump and Russia.

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After testifying to the House Intelligence Committee behind closed doors on Thursday, former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page told CNN that he told Jeff Sessions that he had plans to travel to Russia in July 2016.

“Back in June 2016, I mentioned in passing that I happened to be planning to give a speech at a university in Moscow,” Page told CNN. “Completely unrelated to my limited volunteer role with the campaign and as I’ve done dozens of times throughout my life. Understandably, it was as irrelevant then as it is now. If it weren’t for the dodgy dossier and all the chaos that those complete lies had created, my passing comment’s complete lack of relevance should go without saying.”

Page told CNN that it was the only time he met Sessions, who at the time was a national security adviser to the campaign and now serves as attorney general.

Page said that he told this to the House Intelligence Committee, and the Republican leading the committee’s Russia probe, Rep. Mike Conaway (R-TX) confirmed that to CNN. Conaway said that Page told the committee that Sessions did not react to Page’s heads up about the trip.

“I don’t make anything sinister out of it. He said Sessions did not react or comment one way or the other,” Conaway told CNN. “If I were Sessions, I wouldn’t have recalled it either. It was just in passing. He was walking out of the room. A guy he had never met before, grabs him, ‘Hey, I’m out on the team. I changed my travel plans to go to Russia.'”

Page’s claim that he told Sessions about an upcoming trip to Russia comes after a guilty plea in special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe revealed that a campaign aide, George Papadopolous, had conversations several people with ties to the Russian government and wanted to set up a meeting between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Sessions was reportedly present at a campaign meeting where Papadopolous floated the Trump-Putin meeting.

 

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President Donald Trump vented about the wall between the White House and the Justice Department in a Thursday interview, complaining that he’s unable to ask the DOJ or FBI to investigate Hillary Clinton.

“The saddest thing is that because I’m the President of the United States I am not supposed to be involved with the Justice Department. I’m not supposed to be involved with the FBI. I’m not supposed to be doing the kinds of things that I would love to be doing. And I’m very frustrated by it,” Trump told WMAL’s Larry O’Connor in a radio interview.

Trump has been on a tear recently, bashing the Clinton campaign for helping fund opposition research that eventually became the dossier alleging ties between Trump and Russia. He’s also renewed his focus on a uranium deal completed while Clinton was serving as secretary of state, though Clinton did not have full power over the deal.

“Why aren’t they going after Hillary Clinton with her emails and with the dossier, and the kind of money?” Trump asked O’Connor. “I don’t know, is it possible that they paid $12.4 million for the dossier? And how was it – which is total phony, fake – and how was it used?”

Trump has claimed that Democrats spent $12.4 million on the dossier, an inflated number. Democrats paid the law firm Perkins Coie $12.4 million to represent the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee during the 2016 race. However, not all of that $12.4 million went toward the opposition research that became the dossier. Fusion GPS, the firm that commissioned the dossier, says that Perkins Coie paid the firm about $1 million and that Fusion GPS paid former MI6 officer Christopher Steele $168,000 for his work on the dossier.

Apparently still frustrated, the President repeated his call for investigations into Clinton and the DNC in a series of tweets Friday morning.

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The Democrats on the House Oversight Committee on Thursday filed a lawsuit against Trump administration over its refusal to share documents about President Donald Trump’s Washington, D.C. hotel.

“This hotel is not just a building with Donald Trump’s name on it,” House Oversight Committee Ranking Member Elijah Cummings said in a statement announcing the lawsuit Thursday. “It is a glaring symbol of the Trump Administration’s lack of accountability and a daily reminder of the refusal by Republicans in Congress to do their job. This may be standard operating procedure in foreign countries—but not here. Not in America.”

“We regret that we have to go to court to obtain these basic documents, which are clearly within our Committee’s jurisdiction,” Cummings added. “We would not be here today if Chairman Gowdy and his Republican colleagues would do their jobs. In my opinion, House Republicans are aiding and abetting President Trump’s ongoing abuses. Republicans are essentially walling off President Trump from credible congressional oversight.”

In the lawsuit, 17 Democratic members of the committee asked the court to compel the Trump administration to turn over the documents they have requested about the hotel’s operation and the General Services Administration’s oversight of the lease.

Since Trump took office, his hotel in Washington, D.C. has come under scrutiny from Democrats and outside groups who charge that the hotel presents a conflict of interest for the President. Democrats on the House Oversight Committee have sought information on payments to the hotel from foreign entities, which may violate the Emoluments Clause in the Constitution. Democrats have also argued that the hotel presents a conflict of interest for Trump since the lease appeared to prohibit an elected official from being a party to the lease, but the GSA ruled otherwise in March.

Democrats on the committee have sought documents on the Trump hotel from the GSA, but the administration has refused to comply with the requests, according to the complaint. The Obama administration provided minority members of the Oversight Committee with documents, including information on the Trump hotel. But the Trump administration has taken a different tack, the Democrats on the committee allege in the complaint.

In the lawsuit, the Democratic members argue that they have a right to obtain this information under the “Seven Member” statute, which states the federal government must turn over requested documents to any seven members of the House Oversight Committee. The statute has not been used frequently since it became law in 1928, but a district court judge ruled in 2002 that the Bush administration were required to turn over data to Democrats on the House Oversight Committee, based on the “Seven Member” rule. The federal government appealed the ruling, but the matter was resolved in a separate Freedom of Information Act case.

As the Democrats noted in their complaint, they have requested information from the GSA on the Trump hotel’s operating costs, the GSA’s correspondence with Trump’s company and information on the President’s potential conflict of interest as a party to the hotel lease. However, the GSA declined to share the documents several times, and ultimately told the committee Democrats in July 2017 that it would only comply with requests from the full committee or chairman, according to the complaint.

This decision from the GSA came after the administration said it would comply with a request from seven members of the committee in February 2017, per the complaint.

In the complaint, the Democratic members argue that they need the documents from the GSA in order to evaluate the GSA’s oversight of the lease, determine whether Trump is benefitting from the lease, and determine whether the Trump hotel has received payments from foreign entities.

Read the complaint:

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House Oversight Committee Ranking Member Elijah Cummings (D-MD) on Wednesday afternoon called out the White House and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for their failure to fully respond to the committee’s document requests regarding air travel by Trump administration officials.

Cummings said in a letter to the committee’s chairman, Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) that the White House has failed to respond to the committee’s request by the Oct. 31 deadline and said that HHS did not completely fulfill the committee’s document request.

“By now, the White House and HHS should have produced complete manifests with lists of all passengers who joined these flights, as well as the full costs of each flight,” Cummings wrote. “Unfortunately, the White House has provided no response whatsoever to the Committee’s bipartisan follow-up request on October 17, 2017. We have received no manifests, destinations, dates of use, purposes, or costs of trips. We have received no information on why the White House has failed to respond to this Committee’s second request for these documents.”

Without documents from the White House, the Oversight Committee cannot determine how often White House counselor Kellyanne Conway joined former HHS Secretary Tom Price on non-commercial flights, Cummings said. Conway joined Price for several flights on private planes, according to Politico.

While HHS did submit documents to the Oversight Committee, the documents were “so highly redacted that it is impossible to tell which other government officials or non-government officials joined Secretary Price on his charter flights,” Cummings wrote.

“For example, if Ms. Conway in fact joined any of these trips, it appears that her name has been intentionally concealed from these documents to eliminate any public reference to her participation,” Cummings said in the statement.

In the letter to Gowdy on Wednesday, Cummings called on Gowdy to issue subpoenas to the White House and HHS for the documents requested by the committee.

After several Cabinet officials came under scrutiny for using non-commercial planes, the Oversight Committee asked the White House and all departments to turn over their air travel records to the committee. Gowdy threatened to subpoena the Justice Department and Agriculture Department for not complying with the request, extending the deadline until the end of October. It’s not clear if those two agencies have yet to comply with the request. Gowdy also warned several agencies, including HHS, that they had not fully complied with the request.

Price pledged to repay the government for his seats on the non-commercial flights, but Cummings said in his Wednesday letter that neither HHS nor the Treasury Department have provided the committee with a copy of the check.

Check out an example of the documents redacted by HHS published by Cummings:

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CNN host Jake Tapper on Wednesday tore into Fox News for a misleading tweet and headline that took a comment he made about the terrorist attack in New York City out of context.

On Tuesday afternoon, Tapper addressed reports that the suspect yelled “Allahu Akbar” after exiting his vehicle.

“The Arabic chant ‘Allahu Akbar, ‘God is great.’ Sometimes said under the most beautiful of circumstances and too often we hear of it being said in moments like this,” Tapper said on his CNN show.

Fox News pounced on Tapper’s description of the phrase as “beautiful” without noting that Tapper said that it was used in a different way during the Tuesday attack.

Fox News Insider published the headline, “CNN’s Jake Tapper: ‘Allahu Akbar’ Can Be Said Under ‘Most Beautiful’ of Circumstances.” The body of the article uses Tapper’s full quote, but the context is not noted in the headline.

The network promoted the story with a since-deleted tweet that read, “@CNN’s Jake Tapper Says ‘Allahu Akbar’ Is ‘Beautiful’ Right After NYC Terror Attack,” according to the Huffington Post. Fox also shared the story on Facebook with a description that reads, “CNN anchor Jake Tapper said the Islamic phrase ‘Allahu akbar’ can be said ‘under the most beautiful of circumstances’ just minutes after a terrorist attack in New York City.” That social media post is still up.

Tapper tore into Fox News for “lying” and argued that Fox News is transforming into a right-wing outlet similar to InfoWars.

Tapper noted that the misleading headlines started with a post in the Daily Caller.

Fox News updated its story to include an apology from former Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), who criticized Tapper for calling the phrase “beautiful” on Fox News’ “The Five.”

The network also included a comment from Fox’s Dana Perino, who said that Tapper was trying to point out that terrorists pervert their religion to justify violence.

“I do think it’s important that we don’t talk about the suspect as deranged or mentally ill. He is evil,” Perino said. “And this is about good vs. evil. It’s not about religions vs. religions.”

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