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

Amid the news that Facebook plans to arrange to turn over ads bought by Kremlin-linked entities during the 2016 campaign to Congress, President Donald Trump lashed out and dismissed the belief held by U.S. intelligence agencies that Russia interfered in the 2016 election as a “hoax.”

Trump claimed that the real issues with the 2016 election were Hillary Clinton and the “fake news media” instead:

Facebook announced Thursday it would turn over Russian ads from the 2016 election to Congress. A Kremlin-linked troll farm spent about $100,000 on political ads during the 2016 election, which Facebook has begun to remove.

Trump has long dismissed the Russia probe as a “hoax” and denied that his campaign tried to collude with Russia. In July, when news broke that Donald Trump, Jr. and other campaign aides met with a Kremlin-linked lawyer who promised dirt on Hillary Clinton, Trump called the investigation a “witch hunt.” At a rally in August, he called the probe a “total fabrication.”

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Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) sent a letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray on Wednesday asking if the bureau ever warned the Trump campaign about ties between Russian officials and aides to the campaign.

In the letter, which Grassley released on Thursday, he noted that the Russia probe began in July 2016 and that recent reports show that former Trump campaign aide Paul Manafort was under investigation by federal investigators before the election.

“This raises the question of whether the FBI ever alerted Mr. Trump to the FBI’s counter-intelligence concerns regarding his campaign manager and others associated with the campaign — so that he could take defensive action to prevent the campaign from being infiltrated,” Grassley wrote in the letter.

The senator cited a June piece from Circa reporting that federal authorities warned Sen. John McCain’s (R-AZ) 2008 presidential campaign about ties between Paul Manafort and Russia. McCain’s campaign manager, Rick Davis, was Manafort’s business partner, and McCain met with Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska during the campaign. Manafort reportedly offered Deripaska private briefings on Trump’s campaign in 2016.

However, McCain’s office said that he does not recall any such warnings from federal officials.

“Neither Senator McCain nor anyone on his staff recalls receiving such warnings from the intelligence community. Senator McCain had two interactions with Mr. Deripaska in 2006, and both were social occasions and entirely incidental,” McCain spokeswoman Julie Tarallo told CNN.

Tarallo said that any attempts to link McCain to Russian officials serve as a distraction from special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe.

“Facts are stubborn things, and the fact is no member of Congress has done more to push back on Russian aggression, human rights abuses, and corruption than Senator John McCain,” she said in the statement. “Any suggestion to the contrary is clearly intended to distract from the serious ongoing investigations into Russia’s interference in our election system.”

Grassley told the FBI that, given reports that the McCain campaign received a briefing on Manafort, he would like to know whether the Trump campaign received a similar warning about Manafort or other aides.

“If the FBI did provide a defensive briefing or similar warning to the campaign, then that would raise important questions about how the Trump campaign responded,” the senator wrote. “On the other hand, if the FBI did not alert the campaign, then that would raise serious questions about what factors contributed to its decision and why it appears to have been handled differently in a very similar circumstance involving a previous campaign.”

Grassley asked Wray to respond by Oct. 4.

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After North Korean leader Kim Jong Un issued a rare statement on Thursday responding to President Donald Trump’s speech at the United Nations, Trump hit back at Kim in an early-morning tweet Friday.

Trump called the North Korean leader a “madman” and warned that he “will be tested like never before.”

Kim Jong Un called Trump “deranged” in his statement Thursday and warned that Trump will “pay dearly” for his threats to North Korea.

“I will make the man holding the prerogative of the supreme command in the U.S. pay dearly for his speech calling for totally destroying the DPRK,” he said in the statement.

During his speech at the UN on Tuesday, Trump called Kim Jong Un “rocket man” and threatened to “totally destroy North Korea” if Kim did not stop with his threats.

“The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself for its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea,” Trump said in his speech. “The United States is ready, willing, and able, but hopefully this will not be necessary.”


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Up early Friday morning to fire off warnings on Twitter, President Donald Trump targeted Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) for the second time this week over his opposition to the Senate’s latest attempt to repeal Obamacare.

Trump warned that Paul will go down in history as one of the Republicans who saved the Affordable Care Act if the bill tanks next week.

The President also called out Paul on Twitter Wednesday morning, calling him a “negative force” in the bid to repeal Obamacare.

But the senator has not backed down. He responded to Trump in several tweets on Wednesday, standing by his opposition to the bill and pledging to work with the White House on repeal.

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Sean Spicer, on a press tour now that he’s left the Trump administration, told ABC’s “Good Morning America” on Thursday that he never “knowingly” lied as White House press secretary.

“I don’t think so,” Spicer told ABC News when asked if he lied during his White House tenure.

“I have not knowingly done anything to do that, no,” he added when pressed again.

He also said that President Donald Trump never asked him to lie.

Spicer notoriously berated reporters in January for reporting that fewer people attended Trump’s inauguration than in past years, based on aerial photographs showing larger crowds at former President Obama’s inauguration.

“This was the largest audience ever to witness an inauguration, period,” Spicer said at the time.

“I think it might’ve been better to be a lot more specific with what we were talking about in terms of the universe, not focus so much on photographic evidence, et cetera,” Spicer told ABC when asked about his declaration about the crowds at Trump’s inauguration. “I could’ve probably had more facts at hand and been more articulate.”

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Former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer blew up at Axios reporter Mike Allen this week when asked about his note-taking practices, threatening to call the police over Allen’s “harassment.”

Allen wrote in Axios Thursday morning that when he had learned Spicer has a propensity for taking detailed notes—something that could be of interest to special counsel Robert Mueller as he investigates President Donald Trump’s actions—he sent Spicer a text message asking about his note-taking practices at the White House.

Spicer refused to answer Allen’s questions, though.

“Mike, please stop texting/emailing me unsolicited anymore,” Spicer responded, per Allen.

Pressed by the reporter, Spicer sent another text message reading, “From a legal standpoint I want to be clear: Do not email or text me again. Should you do again I will report to the appropriate authorities.”

The former press secretary followed up with a similar email, threatening to “contact the appropriate legal authorities to address your harassment,” according to Allen.

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Vice President Mike Pence on Thursday morning joined “Fox and Friends” to help sell the Senate’s last-ditch attempt to repeal Obamacare, where he argued that “almost anything” would be better than the Affordable Care Act and that any funding issues with the current proposal could be addressed later.

“Fox and Friends” co-host Brian Kilmeade asked Pence to respond to Republicans like New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie who oppose the deal since it will decrease federal funds to their states.

Pence acknowledged that the bill will decrease funding over time, but argued that the way the bill distributes money is preferable. He also argued that Republicans should push ahead despite concern about funding, and that any issues like that would be addressed later.

“It’s absolutely true to say the Graham-Cassidy bill over time levels out on a per-person basis the way we distribute money on healthcare, which I think resonates with most Americans, that we will ultimately get to place where the resources available to states are based on a per-individual basis. And we’ll get to that,” he said.

“But, there is time in the days ahead and in future budgets to address those issues as they arise,” Pence added, stressing that the Graham-Cassidy bill is Republicans’ “last best chance” to “head America back in the direction of the kind of healthcare reform that’s based on individual choice, state based innovations.”

Earlier in the interview, Pence touted the bill by declaring that basically anything Republicans could pass would be better than the status quo.

“Almost anything would be better than Obamacare. Obamacare is imploding,” he said.

Asked if the bill would pass, considering that a few Republican senators have so far held off on publicly backing the bill, Pence said, “We’ll see. We’re close.”

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Late night host Jimmy Kimmel’s war of words with Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) escalated Wednesday night when Kimmel doubled down on his criticism of the Senate’s latest bill to repeal Obamacare and responded to defenses from both Cassidy and President Donald Trump.

Kimmel first criticized Cassidy Tuesday night, arguing that the senator had gone back on his word that any Obamacare replacement would have to pass the so-called “Jimmy Kimmel test” and ensure that all kids get the health care they need. Cassidy responded to Kimmel Wednesday morning, claiming that the late night host simply does not “understand” the bill. Kimmel was less than pleased with that line.

“Oh, I get it. I don’t understand because I’m a talk-show host, right? Well then, help me out. Which part don’t I understand?” Kimmel asked in response Wednesday night. “Is it the part where you cut $243 billion from federal health-care assistance? Am I not understanding the part where states would be allowed to let insurance companies price you out of coverage for having pre-existing conditions?”

“Which part of that am I not understanding? Or could it be, Senator Cassidy, that the problem is that I do understand, and that you got caught with your G-O-Penis out? Is that possible? Because it feels like it is,” Kimmel added after pointing out that several health care groups have come out against the Graham-Cassidy bill.

Trump also jumped into the fray on Wednesday, claiming that Cassidy would never lie and that the bill covers pre-existing conditions.

“There’s no way President Trump read this bill that he says is ‘great.’ He just wants to get rid of it because Obama’s name is on it,” Kimmel said Wednesday night in response. “The Democrats should just rename it ‘Ivankacare.’ Guaranteed he gets on board. Can you imagine Donald Trump sitting down to read a health-care bill? It’s like trying to imagine a dog doing your taxes. It just doesn’t compute.”

Watch the clip below via ABC:

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Preet Bharara, a prominent former U.S. attorney who was let go by President Donald Trump in March, revealed in detail the events that led up to his firing in a podcast released Wednesday morning.

In the first episode of his new podcast from WNYC Studios and CAFE, “Stay Tuned with Preet,” Bharara outlined each of his interactions with Trump and the White House between the November election and his sudden dismissal in early March.

Bharara said that Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) first informed him about a week after the election that Trump wanted him to stay on as the U.S. attorney in Manhattan, an unusual move given that a President typically asks all U.S. attorneys to resign at the beginning of a first term.

Trump then confirmed in a Nov. 30 meeting at Trump Tower that he wanted the top prosecutor to stay on, Bharara said. He recalled that Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and his adviser Stephen Bannon were also at the meeting and in an “upbeat” mood. Trump “did not say anything inappropriate” and did not discuss individual cases during the meeting, the former U.S. attorney said; instead Trump asked Bharara for his contact info, and Bharara gave him his office and cell phone numbers.

“It was odd because as a general matter, presidents don’t speak directly to United States attorneys,” he said. “It’s unheard of in my experience.”

A couple weeks later, on Dec. 12, Bharara said he missed a phone call from Trump and discussed with his staff whether it would be appropriate to call the President-elect back. Bharara said he also called the head of the Justice Department transition team to convey that it’s “not the greatest thing in the world for there to be a direct and casual line of communication between a sitting United States attorney and the future president of the United States, particularly given the kind of jurisdiction I have in Manhattan.”

Bharara said he decided to return that call, and that there was nothing “untoward” in the subsequent conversation. He said it seemed that Trump just wanted to “cultivate a relationship” with him.

The former prosecutor then got another call from Trump just before the inauguration, he said. He decided it was appropriate to call Trump back, given that he was not yet President. Again, Bharara recalled that Trump just wanted to chit chat and the two did not discuss individual cases.

Things changed when the White House called Bharara on March 9 and asked that he call Trump. Bharara said he felt it was inappropriate to call a sitting President, and looked through Justice Department rules on the matter to back up his decision. The former U.S. attorney said he briefly considered recording the phone call with Trump or else having another person on the line, but quickly dismissed the ideas as “a bridge too far.”

He also said he called Jody Hunt, Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ chief of staff and Trump’s nominee to be assistant attorney general of the department’s Civil Division, to discuss the matter. According to Bharara, Hunt agreed that it would not be appropriate for him to speak with Trump.

About 20 hours after he declined to return that fateful call, Bharara, along with all other holdover U.S. attorneys, was asked to resign.

“I don’t know if those two events are connected. We may never know. But the timing certainly is pretty odd,” Bharara said on the podcast.

The former prosecutor said he did not submit a letter of resignation when he initially heard from the Justice Department that he was being asked to resign, given his previous conversations with Trump. But Bharara said that once he confirmed what was happening, he obliged.

Perhaps he views the ordeal as all for the best: Bharara was emphatic on the podcast that he believes Trump would have asked him to do something inappropriate if he had stayed on in the Southern District of New York after all.

“I believe, based on the information that we have about the President talking to Jim Comey relating to Michael Flynn, the information about the President talking to Jeff Sessions about the case of Joe Arpaio, and how he wanted both of those cases to go away, that had I not been fired, and had Donald Trump continued to cultivate a direct, personal relationship with me,” he said. “It’s my strong belief, that at some point, given the history, the President of the United States would have asked me to do something inappropriate. And I would have resigned then.”

Listen to the podcast episode via WNYC:

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After late night host Jimmy Kimmel on Tuesday night slammed Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) for pushing an Obamacare repeal bill that does not pass the so-called “Jimmy Kimmel test,” Cassidy insisted that his bill actually would protect more Americans.

“I’m sorry he does not understand. Under Graham-Cassidy-Heller-Johnson more people will have coverage, and we protect those with pre-existing conditions,” Cassidy said on CNN’s “New Day” in response to Kimmel. “States like Maine, Virginia, Florida, Missouri — there’ll be billions more dollars to provide health insurance coverage for those in those states that have been passed by by ObamaCare.”

The bill crafted by Cassidy and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) turns most control of health care over to the states, keeping some of Obamacare’s taxes in place and giving funds earmarked for health care to states in the form of block grants. The bill would cut funding for Medicaid substantially, causing many people to lose their health insurance. It would allow states to waive key Obamacare rules, such as protections from price-gouging for people with pre-existing conditions.

CNN’s Chris Cuomo noted that people may have to pay more for health insurance under the senator’s bill, but Cassidy claimed that “the price will actually be lower.”

“What is being circulated is by those who wish to preserve Obamacare, and they’re doing everything they can to discredit the alternative,” Cassidy said.

Earlier this year, Kimmel shared that his infant son needed expensive heart surgery and implored Congress to protect Americans’ health insurance. Cassidy then seized on Kimmel’s story, saying repeatedly that he wanted a replacement for Obamacare to pass the “Jimmy Kimmel test” of making sure children get the health care they need.

Kimmel went after Cassidy and his legislation Tuesday night, asserting that Cassidy “just lied to my face.”

Watch Cassidy’s appearance on “New Day” via CNN:

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