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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

In his first interview since the leak of an “Access Hollywood” tape last fall showing Donald Trump making lewd comments about women to Billy Bush in 2005, the former “Today Show” host told the Hollywood Reporter that he regrets how he handled the interview at the time.

“I heard it for the first time seven and a half months ago, three days before the rest of the world heard it. I was shocked and alarmed and totally and completely gutted. It was awful. And my participation was awful, too,” Bush told the Hollywood Reporter. “I remember that guy, he was almost sycophantic. It was my first year as co-host of Access Hollywood, and I was an insecure person, a bit of a pleaser, wanting celebrities to like me and fit in.”

Bush said that he wished he had steered Trump toward a different topic.

“Looking back upon what was said on that bus, I wish I had changed the topic. [Trump] liked TV and competition,” he said. “I could’ve said, ‘Can you believe the ratings on whatever?’ But I didn’t have the strength of character to do it.”

The former television host said that he has done a lot of self-reflection since the Washington Post published the tape in October.

“I am not grateful for the moment,” Bush told the Hollywood Reporter. “But I’m grateful for what I’ve gotten out of it. I’m grateful that it hit me all the way to my core.”

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The White House is trying to keep the Office of Government Ethics from viewing documents detailing which former lobbyists have been hired by the Trump administration for positions in the federal government, the New York Times reported Monday morning.

The Trump administration asked Walter Shaub Jr., the director of the Office of Government Ethics, to withdraw his request for copies of the waivers for former lobbyists, arguing that Shaub did not have the legal authority to make such a request, per the New York Times.

“This data call appears to raise legal questions regarding the scope of O.G.E.’s authorities,” Mick Mulvaney, the head of the Office of Management and Budget wrote in the letter, according to the Times.“I therefore request that you stay the data call until these questions are resolved.”

The Office of Management and Budget defended the news in a statement Sunday

“This request, in both its expansive scope and breathless timetable, demanded that we seek further legal guidance,” OMB said in a statement about Shaub’s request, per the Times. “The very fact that this internal discussion was leaked implies that the data being sought is not being collected to satisfy our mutual high standard of ethics.”

Shaub told the New York Times that he was surprised by the White House’s response to his request.

“It is an extraordinary thing,” he said. “I have never seen anything like it.”

An executive order signed by President Trump bars lobbyists from working in the federal government on issues pertaining to their former clients for two years, but allows the administration to issue waivers. Shaub was requesting copies of these waivers, per the Times.

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President Donald Trump will propose slashing the budget for Medicaid by more than $800 billion over 10 years in a budget set to be released Tuesday, according to several reports published Sunday evening.

Trump’s proposed cuts were first reported by the Washington Post and later confirmed by CNN and the Associated Press.

The President’s forthcoming proposal comes after he pledged on the campaign trail not to touch social safety net programs like Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security.

In addition to the major budget cuts to Medicaid, the White House will also push for states to have more flexibility when it comes to imposing work requirements for Americans seeking assistance, per the Washington Post.

Trump’s budget proposal will also call for a $193 billion cut for food stamps over the next ten years, according to the Associated Press.

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Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein reportedly pushed White House Counsel Don McGahn to correct the White House’s initial narrative about FBI Director James Comey’s departure, which seized on a memo from Rosenstein as the justification for firing Comey.

The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday:

Mr. Rosenstein left the impression that he couldn’t work in an environment where facts weren’t accurately reported, the person said. The deputy attorney general objected to statements by White House aides citing Mr. Rosenstein’s critical assessment of Mr.Comey’s job performance to justify the firing.

The Wall Street Journal’s reporting follows a Wednesday night article from the Washington Post detailing how Rosenstein threatened to quit over the White House’s portrayal of his role in Comey’s firing.

During a visit to Capitol Hill on Thursday, Rosenstein told Sinclair Broadcast Group that he is not resigning and that he did not threaten to quit.

Initial comments on Comey’s firing from the White House pinned the President’s decision on a memo from Rosenstein arguing that the former FBI director mishandled aspects of the probe into Hillary Clinton’s email use. But late Wednesday and Thursday, the White House began to shift the narrative, placing more emphasis on Trump’s longstanding unhappiness with Comey.

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Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) will send a letter to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein on Thursday demanding more information on the circumstances surrounding the firing of James Comey as FBI director.

In the letter, which was first reported by the Washington Post, Schumer wrote to Rosenstein that his reputation was “imperiled by your participation in the abrupt dismissal of FBI Director Comey.”

Schumer noted that the Trump administration used Rosenstein’s memo about Comey’s conduct in the Hillary Clinton email server probe as justification for the former director’s firing, but argued that reports on the President’s reasoning cast doubt on that official explanation.

“This skepticism, and indeed all of the circumstances surrounding Director Comey’s dismissal just as he was leading an investigation into the Trump administration’s and Trump campaign’s ties with Russia and President Putin’s interference with the 2016 election, have shaken public confidence in the Department, in your leadership, and in the administration of law and justice in our country,” Schumer wrote.

He asked Rosenstein a long list of questions about the run-up to Comey’s departure and his role in the decision-making process to dismiss the FBI Director.

Read the full letter below:

May 10, 2017

 

The Honorable Rod Rosenstein

Deputy Attorney General

U.S. Department of Justice

950 Pennsylvania Avenue NW

Washington, DC 20530

 

Dear Mr. Rosenstein,

Over the last three decades of your career at the Department of Justice, you have developed a reputation for integrity and impartiality.  That reputation, along with the personal and public commitments you made to me and other Senators that you would be an independent, apolitical actor as Deputy Attorney General, earned you broad bipartisan support in your confirmation vote.  And that reputation is now imperiled by your participation in the abrupt dismissal of FBI Director Comey.

Your memorandum to Attorney General Sessions described disagreement with Director Comey’s conduct last summer and fall; it was used as the justification for his dismissal this week.  However, there is widely reported skepticism that the reasons laid out in your memo are the real basis for the President’s decision to fire Director Comey.  This skepticism, and indeed all of the circumstances surrounding Director Comey’s dismissal just as he was leading an investigation into the Trump administration’s and Trump campaign’s ties with Russia and President Putin’s interference with the 2016 election, have shaken public confidence in the Department, in your leadership, and in the administration of law and justice in our country.

In order to restore the nation’s faith in you personally and in our law enforcement system more broadly, the American people must understand more about your role in the President’s firing of Director Comey.  To that end, please answer the following questions by Monday, May 15th.

1. It was publicly reported that Director Comey last week asked you for additional resources for the investigation into the Trump campaign’s connection to Russia. Are these reports accurate?
a. Did Director Comey recently provide you with a briefing on this investigation or any other politically sensitive investigation? Please describe the date and circumstances of any such update.
b. Did you convey any information provided by Director Comey to Attorney General Sessions or anyone in the Executive Office of the President? Please describe the date and circumstances of any such conveyance.
2. It was reported that the President decided over the weekend to fire Director Comey and summoned you and Attorney General Sessions to the White House to discuss the Director on Monday May 8th. Are these reports accurate?
a. Did you meet with the President on Monday, May 8th?
b. Were you aware what would be the topic of the meeting before you arrived?
c. Did you discuss the topic of the meeting with Attorney General Sessions or anyone in the Executive Office of the President before the meeting?
d. Who was present at the meeting?
e. Did the President or anyone else tell you the President had made a decision to fire Director Comey?
f. Did the President or anyone else ask for a justification to fire Director Comey?
g. Did the President or anyone else direct you to write your memo?
3. On Tuesday, May 9th, you sent a memorandum to the Attorney General entitled “Restoring Public Confidence in the FBI.” What were the circumstances that led to the drafting and transmittal of this memo?
a. Who participated in the drafting of the memo, including but not limited to its preparation before it was finalized?
b. Who provided guidance, in any form whatsoever, on the memo’s contents, style, timing or any other element?
c. Who was aware that the memo was being prepared?
d. Who reviewed the memo before it was finalized?
e. Were you aware when you drafted the memo that it would be used to justify the firing of Director Comey?
f. Why does the memo not explicitly call for the Director to be dismissed?
g. Was Attorney General Sessions or anyone in the Executive Office of the President involved, in any capacity whatsoever, in the planning, drafting, consideration, review, or transmittal of the memo?
4. Attorney General Sessions recused himself from any role in the investigation of Russia’s involvement in the 2016 elections and the Trump campaign because of his close relationship with the campaign and his own undisclosed contacts with Russian officials. Yet your memorandum is addressed to him and, according to public reporting, he participated in the decision to fire Director Comey. How do you reconcile Attorney General Sessions’s participation with his ethical obligations under the Department’s recusal guidelines?
a. Did you and Attorney General Sessions ever discuss whether it would be improper for him to be involved in the dismissal of the lead investigator of a politically sensitive investigation from which he was recused?
b. Did you or anyone else in the Justice Department ever advise Attorney General Sessions not to participate in these discussions or the dismissal?
c. Did you seek, or are you aware of anyone else at the Justice Department seeking, advice or counsel about whether it was appropriate for Attorney General Sessions to participate in these discussions or the dismissal?
5. After Director Comey was fired, the White House said that you had initiated the memorandum on your own and that you instigated the decision to remove him. Yet this morning, press reports indicate that you threatened to resign because “the narrative emerging from the White House on Tuesday evening cast [you] as a prime mover of the decision to fire Comey and that the president acted only on [your] recommendation.” Are these reports accurate?
a. Did you object, either to the White House, to Attorney General Sessions, or to anyone else, to the media characterizations of your role in the firing?
b. Did you take any steps to correct any inaccuracies in the public record?
c. Did you discuss the possibility that you might resign from the Department with anyone?

I look forward to your prompt response to my letter.  In addition, I hope you will make yourself available to me and all of my colleagues to answer these and other additional questions that will arise.

Sincerely,

Charles E. Schumer

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Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein on Thursday met with the chair and ranking member of the Senate Intelligence Committee during the panel’s hearing with members of the intelligence committee on world threats.

Intelligence Committee Chair Richard Burr (R-NC) told reporters after the meeting that it had been a previously scheduled chat. Initial reports suggested that it was an impromptu meeting, as Burr and Ranking Member Mark Warner (D-VA) left the hearing before it was over to meet with Rosenstein.

The senators told reporters that they requested the meeting with Rosenstein ahead of Comey’s departure and that they discussed ways for the Senate committee to avoid interfering with the FBI probe of Russia’s election meddling.

News of the meeting came as senators quizzed the new acting director of the FBI, Andrew McCabe, on the investigation into potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia and on the circumstances surrounding the firing of James Comey as FBI director.

Rosenstein has come under fire from Democrats for his role in Comey’s firing. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) on Thursday plans to send a letter to Rosenstein telling him that his “reputation for integrity and impartiality” is “now imperiled by your participation in the abrupt dismissal of FBI Director Comey,” according to the Washington Post. Schumer asked Rosenstein a series of questions about his role in the decision to fire Comey.

In the letter, Schumer noted that reports on Trump’s reasoning for firing Comey cast doubt on the ostensible reasons for Comey’s departure laid out in a memo written by Rosenstein.

“This skepticism, and indeed all of the circumstances surrounding Director Comey’s dismissal just as he was leading an investigation into the Trump administration’s and Trump campaign’s ties with Russia and President Putin’s interference with the 2016 election, have shaken public confidence in the Department, in your leadership, and in the administration of law and justice in our country,” Schumer wrote, per the Post.

 

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Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, on Thursday called on the FBI to make public whether or not President Donald Trump is under federal investigation.

In prepared remarks for a Thursday committee meeting, Grassley cited Trump’s statement on the firing of FBI Director James Comey, in which the President claimed that Comey told him he was not under investigation no less than three times. Grassley argued that the FBI now is obligated to confirm to the public whether that’s true.

The senator said that he “heard nothing that contradicted the President’s statement” when he was briefed by Comey, but noted that Comey is no longer leading the FBI.

“On Tuesday, the President’s letter said that Director Comey told him he was not under investigation. Senator Feinstein and I heard nothing that contradicted the President’s statement,” the prepared remarks read. “Now Mr. Comey is no longer the FBI director. But the FBI should still follow my advice. It should confirm to the public whether it is or is not investigating the President. Because it has failed to make this clear, speculation has run rampant.”

“The intelligence community said that one of the Russians’ goals is to undermine the American public’s faith in our democratic institutions,” the remarks continued. “Wild speculation that the FBI is targeting the President in a criminal or intelligence inquiry is not just irresponsible and unfounded. It provides aid and comfort to the Russians and their goal of undermining faith in our democracy.”

Grassley said that the “American people deserve to know if senior government officials are under active criminal or intelligence investigation.”

He also said that senators on the Judiciary Committee should receive a briefing from the FBI before doing “anything more on this matter.”

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Two top Democrats on the Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday asked the Justice Department to provide any information it has on a reported request from former FBI Director James Comey for additional resources to conduct an investigation into Russia’s election meddling.

The letter from Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), the vice chairman of the committee, and Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) cites Wednesday reports that Comey asked Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein for more resources to conduct the Russia probe before his abrupt ouster.

Leahy and Shaheen asked for information on any request Comey made and when the resources would be needed, as well as for information on whether the request was also sent to the White House or Congress.

The senators further asked for information on any response to requests Comey may have made. The senators said that they need the information to properly assess what funding is needed for the DOJ in the 2018 budget.

Read the letter below:

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Since the bombshell news dropped that James Comey was fired as director of the FBI, the White House has slowly shifted its narrative on the reasoning behind the move, placing more emphasis on President Donald Trump’s unhappiness with Comey.

In the initial aftermath, the White House emphasized the role of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, insisting that he initiated a review of Comey without any direction from the White House. But the administration has started changing its tune, perhaps because Rosenstein threatened to quit when he realized the White House was pinning the decision on him, as the Washington Post reported Wednesday night.

Press Secretary Sean Spicer denied to reporters Tuesday night that Rosenstein acted on orders from the White House. And Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders emphasized in an interview Tuesday night that Trump acted on a recommendation from Rosenstein.

However, at the White House daily briefing Wednesday afternoon, Sanders shifted the narrative slightly, placing more emphasis on Trump’s unhappiness with Comey. She cited Comey’s inaccurate testimony during a hearing last week and his decision to hold a press conference in July 2016 to discuss the FBI’s findings in the Hillary Clinton email probe. She also acknowledged that Trump had been unhappy with Comey for a while and that “he’d been considering letting Director Comey go since the day he was elected.”

Later on Wednesday, the White House sent a timeline of the run-up to Comey’s firing to White House reporters that took some of the heat off of Rosenstein. Trump “lost confidence” in Comey “over the last several months” and “was strongly inclined to remove him” after his hearing on Capitol Hill last week, according to the White House timeline. Trump then met with Rosenstein and Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Monday where “they discussed reasons for removing the Director,” per the White House. The administration did not say who initiated the meeting about Comey, however. Rosenstein then sent his written recommendation to Sessions on Tuesday, per the White House.

Finally, on Thursday morning, Sanders told NBC’s “Today” that the decision to fire Comey rested solely with Trump.

“I’m not aware of that conversation, but I do know that the decision to fire Director Comey was the President’s and the President’s alone. Obviously he took their recommendation very seriously, but the President had been thinking about this since November, since he was elected president,” Sanders said when Matt Lauer asked about the Washington Post’s report that Rosenstein threatened to quit. “This was something he had considered. He had never been solidly on board with keeping Comey for the long term, and the erosion of confidence had been taking place over a long period of time.”

She also mentioned Comey’s testimony on the Hill last week and said that Trump asked for “feedback” from Sessions and Rosenstein. They spoke with the President and then he asked them for a written recommendation, Sanders told “Today.”

During an interview on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” co-host George Stephanopoulos noted to Sanders that the White House initially said that Rosenstein came up with the recommendation on Comey on his own.

“That wasn’t true, was it?” he asked.

“I think you’re putting things a little out of context here. The information in the letter was something that he came to on his own,” Sanders replied. “On Monday, they were at the White House for other meetings. The President asked them about their opinions on Comey. They told him. He asked for them to put that in writing, the conversation that they had had orally there at the White House on Monday. ”

“But it wasn’t directed or those — the words that were written weren’t at the direction necessarily of the President. Those were their own thoughts and ideas,” she added.

In response, Stephanopoulos noted that Spicer denied the White House had any involvement in Rosenstein’s decision and that Vice President Mike Pence suggested Rosenstein wrote the memo of his own volition, saying that he “came to work, sat down and made the recommendation.”

Stephanopoulos asked Sanders, “[Trump] directed him to write this memo, didn’t he?”

“He did not direct him to write the context of the memo. He asked him to put the comments that he had already made directly to the President in writing,” Sanders replied, adding that the memo included “original thoughts by Mr. Rosenstein.”

This post has been updated.

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In the immediate aftermath of President Donald Trump’s decision to fire James Comey as the director of the FBI, the White House signaled that a review of Comey started with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, which reportedly frustrated Rosenstein.

When he realized that the White House was trying to pin Comey’s departure on him, Rosenstein threatened to quit, the Washington Post reported Wednesday night, citing an unnamed “person close to the White House.”

On Thursday morning ABC News’ Jonathan Karl also reported that Rosenstein considered quitting over the White House’s initial narrative surrounding Comey’s firing.

Reports suggest that Trump had been considering firing Comey for at least a week and that the President had been growing increasingly angry over Comey’s actions. Per the Washington Post:

Trump was angry that Comey would not support his baseless claim that President Barack Obama had his campaign offices wiretapped. Trump was frustrated when Comey revealed in Senate testimony the breadth of the counterintelligence investigation into Russia’s effort to sway the 2016 U.S. presidential election. And he fumed that Comey was giving too much attention to the Russia probe and not enough to investigating leaks to journalists.

Trump was also unhappy with the attention Comey received in the media, according to the Wall Street Journal. Trump “viewed Mr. Comey as eager to step in front of TV cameras and questioned whether his expanding media profile was warping his view of the Russia investigation,” the Journal reported.

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