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

The federal government on Thursday reached a settlement agreement with the plaintiffs in a lawsuit brought over President Donald Trump’s initial travel ban, which ensures that travelers who had valid visas and were barred entry to the United States under the initial executive order can now reapply for visas to enter the U.S.

“Although the government dragged its feet for far too long, it has finally agreed to do the right thing and provide those excluded under the first Muslim ban with proper notice of their right to come to the United States. While this closes one chapter in our challenge to Trump’s efforts to institute his unconstitutional ban, we continue our legal fight against Muslim ban 2.0 at the Supreme Court in October,” Lee Gelernt, the deputy director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, said in a statement announcing the settlement.

In the brief period between the initial, chaotic implementation of Trump’s first order barring travelers from certain majority Muslim countries from entering the U.S. and a judge’s order blocking the ban, several people with valid visas were barred from entering the country. Two of those people, Iraqi nationals Hameed Khalid Darweesh and Haider Sameer Abdulkhaleq Alshawi, filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration when they were detained at JFK airport.

Under the settlement announced Thursday, the federal government agreed to contact those barred entry in the first 24 hours of the ban to inform them of their right to reapply for visas and to give those people a list of organizations that provide pro bono legal aid, per the ACLU.


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As new chief of staff John Kelly tries to impose order in the White House by limiting the President’s impromptu conversations with friends and advisers, a defiant Donald Trump has taken to calling friends and outside advisers on his personal cell phone, circumventing Kelly’s attempt to vet calls and appointments, the Washington Post reported, citing unnamed people with knowledge of the calls.

Those in contact with Trump on his personal, unsecured cell phone when Kelly is not present include recently ousted chief strategist Steve Bannon, per the Washington Post.

Although Trump has praised Kelly both in private and in public, he has become frustrated with the chief of staff’s attempts to bring order to the White House and therefore limit the President’s interactions with friends and advisers, according to the Washington Post. In particular, Trump is unhappy with the way Kelly’s role managing Trump is covered in the media and has tried to counter that narrative, the Post reported.

Trump has also been frustrated with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn, who openly criticized Trump’s response to the violence in Charlottesville, per the Post.

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In the wake of a report on the potential conflicts of interest investor Carl Icahn had while serving as an informal adviser to President Donald Trump, Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) on Wednesday asked the FBI to investigate whether Icahn violated anti-corruption laws.

“Mr. Icahn appears to have abused his role as a special advisor to the President of the United States on issues relating to regulatory reform by participating personally and substantially, through recommendation and the rendering of advice, on a government matter that directly affects his own financial interests,” Duckworth wrote in a letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray.

Icahn resigned as a special adviser to Trump in late August, saying that he did so to prevent “partisan bickering” about his position advising the President. At the time, he said that he “never had access to nonpublic information or profited from my position” and argued that he did not have any conflicts of interest.

However, the billionaire investor left that role just as the New Yorker was set to publish a lengthy investigation laying out Icahn’s potential conflicts of interest. Icahn owns a stake in a refinery in Texas, and had previously tried to persuade the Obama administration to change regulations regarding ethanol blending in gasoline in a way that could have helped that refinery. He then pushed the Renewable Fuels Association to back an executive order changing those regulations in February, according to the New Yorker.

Duckworth urged the FBI to probe whether Icahn violated a criminal conflict of interest statute by working to change a regulation that would have benefitted him financially.

“I am confident that you will understand my grave concern that, if the FBI fails to thoroughly investigate Mr. Icahn’s potential violations of criminal conflict of interest statutes, our Nation could experience a significant increase in future public corruption, as wealthy individuals are empowered to take advantage of a new ‘Icahn loophole’ to serve as unpaid officers or employees of the Executive Branch of the United States Government while working to modify Federal programs and policies in a manner that directly benefits their own personal financial interests,” she wrote.

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Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) on Wednesday revealed that he received a phone call from President Donald Trump reassuring the senator that he supports ethanol production, a pet issue of Iowa politicians.

The call from Trump voicing support for an issue important to the Iowa senator followed reports on Tuesday that Donald Trump, Jr. had set a date to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee, which Grassley chairs, in a closed-door interview. The committee hasn’t confirmed when exactly senators with interview Trump Jr., but Politico reported that it could come in the next few weeks.

A spokesman for Grassley, Taylor Foy, told the Washington Post that Trump and the senator did not discuss the committee’s probe into Russian interference in the U.S> election. The call only lasted for a couple of minutes, during which the two discussed ethanol, Hurricane Harvey, and the ambassador to China, former Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, Foy told the Post. Grassley also informed Trump that he’d tweet about their conversation on ethanol, Foy said.

A White House official told the Post that Trump made the call to quash rumors that he no longer supported ethanol.

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Rep. Michael Burgess (R-TX) on Thursday morning defended his vote against legislation funding aid for Hurricane Sandy and argued that past disaster recoveries show that aid for the Hurricane Harvey response should come in stages.

Burgess is one of several Republican members of Congress who voted against an aid bill for Hurricane Sandy who will now have to advocate for funding to address disaster in their own state. These members have been forced  to square their votes against Sandy Aid with their current push to help victims of Hurricane Harvey. Defending his vote against Sandy aid earlier this week, Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX) and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) argued that the Sandy aide package was bloated. Several lawmakers have run with that defense, though fact-checks have found that the provisions in the Sandy aid package were in fact for the most part related to damage from Hurricane Sandy.

Burgess said on CNN Thursday morning that he felt it was a mistake for Congress to draw up large aid packages for past disasters like Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Sandy, arguing that it’s hard to predict an area’s needs right away and that some of the funding from past disasters has gone unspent.

“It’s tough. Because with Katrina we came in, did a big bill, and then another big bill and years later unfortunately found they couldn’t spend all the dollars that were sent,” the congressman told CNN. “That has been a concern of mine as well. I want to be certain that the help gets where it’s needed, when it’s needed.”

“I thought Sandy should have been broken into at least two tranches, it wasn’t. I didn’t win that argument,” he added.

Congress passed two bills following Hurricane Sandy, one passed quickly for the flood insurance program, and a larger aid package passed later on.

Burgess said that Congress should immediately pass a short-term aid bill to jumpstart the recovery from Hurricane Harvey, and then take several months to develop a long-term aid package.

“So there will be immediate help that will likely come as early as early next week,” the congressman said.

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Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK), a high-ranking Republican who sits on the House Budget and Appropriations committees, on Wednesday warned President Donald Trump against publicly attacking Republican senators.

“You’re not going to bully United States senators, this isn’t the Apprentice,” Cole told the Associated Press. “You can’t look at them and say you’re fired, you’re going to need their vote and you oughta remember that they’re going to be at the table in every major deal you need for the next three years. So I just don’t think that’s a productive way to proceed.”

While Republican lawmakers have been away from Washington, D.C. for the August recess, Trump has gone after several Republican senators. His feud with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) spilled into the open, with Trump publishing tweets chastising McConnell for failing to pass Obamacare repeal. Trump has also launched attacks against Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), who recently published a book critical of Trump.

When Congress returns in September, lawmakers must tackle several must-pass bills, including legislation to fund the government and to raise the debt ceiling. They will likely push for an aid package to fund recovery in Texas and other parts of the south following the devastation of Hurricane Harvey. Trump has also pushed for the funding legislation to include money to build a border wall, and he will need all the support he can muster in the Senate, which has a slim majority of just 52 Republican senators.

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Special prosecutor Robert Mueller has teamed up with New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman on a probe into former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort’s finances, Politico reported Wednesday night, citing several unnamed people familiar with the matter.

Federal investigators have been looking into Manafort’s financial transactions. Manafort reportedly owes millions of dollars to pro-Russia interests, has money tied up in bank accounts in Cyprus, and belatedly filed as a lobbyist in June, confirming he was paid for work for a pro-Russia political party in Ukraine. Federal agents in July raided Manafort’s home in Virginia, reportedly seeking tax and bank documents related to his financial dealings in Cyprus and Ukraine.

The New York attorney general’s office had been investigating Manafort’s real estate holdings and potential money laundering.

Federal investigators and the New York attorney general’s office have spoken frequently and shared information, Politico reported. However, the investigators have not yet decided whether to file charges, sources told Politico.

As Politico noted, Mueller’s decision to work with Schneiderman could put pressure on Manafort to cooperate with the probe, since President Donald Trump would not have the power to pardon Manafort for state crimes.

The federal investigation into Manafort has intensified over the past couple of months with the raid at Manafort’s Virginia home. Mueller’s team has also reportedly issued subpoenas to a former lawyer to Manafort and to Manafort’s spokesperson.

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This post has been updated.

Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday called on the committee’s Republican chair to hold a hearing scrutinizing President Donald Trump’s decision to pardon former Maricopa County, Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

“The pardon sends an unequivocal signal that institutionalized racial profiling as practiced by Sheriff Arpaio is acceptable; the pardon is disrespectful to the rule of law in general and to the federal courts in particular,” the Democrats wrote in a letter to, Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA).

A Republican aide on the House Judiciary Committee told TPM that the committee does not currently have plans to hold a hearing on this issue.

Trump pardoned Arpaio as a hurricane bore down on Texas late Friday, after teasing that he would help out the notorious Arizona sheriff in the weeks leading up to his final decision. Arpaio had been convicted of contempt of court last month for ignoring a court order to stop detaining people based on the suspicion that they are undocumented immigrants.

In their letter to Goodlatte, committee Democrats argued that the pardon “represents a gross injustice” given Arpaio’s history of racial discrimination and the infamous “tent city” open-air jail he ran.

They also noted that Trump did not go through the Justice Department’s Office of the Pardon Attorney to vet his pardon of Arpaio, as has been customary.

“President Trump chose to work around this mechanism and ignore DOJ policy calling for a waiting period of five years or more before considering a pardon application and the expression of regret or remorse by the applicant,” the Democrats wrote.

They warned that Trump’s dismissal of the norms for presidential pardons suggests he “may soon be tempted to issue pardons that stem from matters under investigation by Special Counsel Bob Mueller.”

“We should be certain that the right structures are in place to temper those decisions well before they reach the President’s desk,” Democrats argued in the letter.

They also noted that Trump reportedly asked Attorney General Jeff Sessions to drop the federal case against Arpaio before he pardoned the former sheriff. Committee Democrats gave Sessions credit for telling Trump that dropping the case wouldn’t have been appropriate, but they argued that Trump’s conversation with Sessions shows the President continues to improperly contact the Justice Department.

The Democrats pointed out that they were not alone in their concern over the Arpaio pardon, noting opposition from House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), and urged Goodlatte to take up the issue with the committee.

They also criticized the chairman for declining to hold an oversight hearing during the Trump administration so far.

“We note that this letter represents the fifth time we have written to ask you to conduct oversight of the Trump administration,” they wrote. “Given that our Committee created an entire task force to examine ‘executive overreach’ last Congress during President Obama’s term, it is somewhat disturbing that we have not engaged in any comparable oversight of the Trump Administration.”

Read the letter below:

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In an apparent reversal from his Tuesday statement on North Korea, President Donald Trump on Wednesday morning indicated he is no longer willing to engage in diplomatic talks with the isolated nation.

The President complained on Twitter about the state of talks with North Korea and declared that “talking is not the answer!”

Trump’s tweet follows a more measured statement issued by the White House on Tuesday, after North Korea fired a missile over Japan. In that statement, Trump said that “all options are on the table,” but he’s now suggesting that he’s against talks.

Over the past month, Trump has escalated his rhetoric regarding North Korea as the country signals that it’s making progress toward becoming a nuclear power. Trump’s own fiery comments on North Korea often have been countered by more measured statements form other members of his administration, only to be reversed by Trump again shortly afterward.

Following reports earlier in August that North Korea had developed a nuclear warhead small enough to fit on an intercontinental ballistic missile, Trump warned in off-the-cuff remarks that advancements in North Korea’s nuclear capabilities would “be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.” Trump reportedly improvised those comments and had not run the language by his advisers beforehand.

Following the “fire and fury” remarks, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson tried to downplay Trump’s aggressive rhetoric and North Korea’s subsequent threat, telling Americans that the situation between the two countries had not changed.

Reports also surfaced around that time that the U.S. had been engaged in quiet talks with North Korea for several months. Trump’s Wednesday morning tweet indicates that if he has it his way, however, those talks would not continue.

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Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) on Tuesday claimed that a meeting between himself and President Donald Trump was being set up so that the congressman could brief the President on a recent meeting he had with Wikileaks founder Julian Assange.

“It is my understanding from other parties who are trying to arrange the rendezvous, that a rendezvous with myself and the President, it is being arranged for me to give him the firsthand information,” Rohrabacher said on Sean Hannity’s radio show, according to a clip highlighted by CNN.

Rohrabacher, who has been described as “Putin’s favorite congressman,” met with Assange earlier in August and returned to relay Assange’s claim that Russia did not orchestrate the leak of emails damaging to Hillary Clinton. At the time, Rohrabacher pledged to give Assange’s message to Trump, and he now claims that the wheels are in motion to set up that meeting.

It’s not clear, based on the congressman’s claims, that any such meeting is being arranged. The White House declined to comment to TPM on Rohrabacher’s comments.

The congressman also recently promoted a report claiming that the hack into the Demcoratic National Committee’s server was an inside job.

He echoed this in his interview with Hannity on Tuesday, claiming that the DNC hack was not carried out by the Russians and that the narrative of Russian interference was crafted by the liberal “establishment” to distract from Hillary Clinton’s scandals.

“If the information comes out, there will be an outrage among the American people that their time has been wasted,” he told Hannity. “They’ve had this story over and over and again shoved down their throats as if the Russians colluded with Donald Trump, and this is an attempt, as I say, to negate their vote in the ballot booth. When the American people realize that this is a con job and a power grab, they’ll be upset.”

“I’m trying to get this out in the public now where we can get this Julian Assange thing straightened out so that people know that it wasn’t the Russians that hacked into the system, and that’s not how this information was released,” Rohrabacher added.

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