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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

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer would not say whether President Donald Trump would invoke executive privilege in a bid to block former FBI Director James Comey from testifying before the Senate Intelligence Committee next week.

“That committee hearing was just noticed, and I think obviously it’s got to be reviewed,” Spicer said at the daily press briefing Friday when first asked if Trump would try to block Comey from testifying.

“So that’s not a ‘no?'” the reporter pressed. In response, Spicer added that he has not yet spoken to the White House counsel about the issue and was unsure how counsel would respond.

The former FBI director will testify before the Senate intelligence panel Thursday, and he is expected to detail how Trump asked him to drop the bureau’s probe into former national security adviser Michael Flynn, according to CNN.

Kellyanne Conway on Friday morning also left open the possibility that Trump could invoke executive privilege.

“The President will make that decision,” she said on ABC’s “Good Morning America” when asked if the White House would try to block Comey from testifying.

Legal experts say that Trump certainly could try to invoke executive privilege, but that he may not have the strongest case, since the President himself has made public statements about his private conversations with Comey.

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Democrat Jon Ossoff leads Republican Karen Handel by less than two points in the special election to fill an open U.S. House seat in Georgia, according to a new poll released by WSB-TV on Thursday night.

Ossoff earned 49.1 percent support and Handel earned 47.6 percent support among likely voters, according to the poll, which was conducted by Landmark Communications. The previous WSB-TV poll, conducted in early May, had showed Handel leading Ossoff by 2.5 percentage points.

The survey also showed a reverse gender divide in the race, with Ossoff leading among female voters by about 10 points and Handel leading among male voters by about 10 points.

The poll released Thursday surveyed 500 likely voters via phone and online May 30-31 with a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points.

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Georgia Democrat Jon Ossoff’s campaign pushed back Thursday on a new ad from a Republican super PAC that stretched to tie Ossoff to Kathy Griffin, who kicked off a firestorm this week when she was photographed holding a bloody likeness of Donald Trump’s head.

“Jon Ossoff believes what Kathy Griffin did was despicable and for Karen Handel’s superPAC [sic] to say otherwise is a disgrace. Karen Handel should immediately demand this ad be pulled before any more children have to see these disturbing images on TV,” Ossoff campaign spokeswoman Sacha Haworth said in a statement.

The 30-second spot from the Congressional Leadership Fund, a conservative super PAC aligned with House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), began airing on Thursday as part of its $6.7 million campaign in the U.S. House race in Georgia. The ad begins with images of protesters lighting cars on fire and smashing windows before showing images from Griffin’s gory photoshoot, for which she has apologized.

“Liberal extremists have gone too far,” the narrator says in the ad. “Now a celebrity Jon Ossoff supporter is making jokes about beheading the president of the United States.”

“It’s not funny. these angry liberals will go to any extremes to elect Jon Ossoff,” the narrator continues.

As the Washington Post noted, Griffin has not been involved in the special election to fill an open U.S. House seat in Georgia and she has not donated to the Ossoff campaign. She has tweeted support for Ossoff, the Democrat facing off against Republican Karen Handel in the June 20 runoff election.

Corry Bliss, the Congressional Leadership Fund’s executive director, told the Washington Post that the group ran the ad because Ossoff had not explicitly denounced Griffin’s photos.

“Jon Ossoff has refused to denounce his supporter Kathy Griffin for over 48 hours after posting distributing images of her and President Trump. His silence speaks volumes,” Bliss told the Post. “To disagree with a president, or any elected official, on issues or beliefs is normal and often even celebrated in our democracy, but the actions coming from extreme liberals like Kathy Griffin have absolutely no place in civil discourse.”

The Ossoff campaign, however, told the Washington Post that the candidate had not been asked about Griffin’s photoshoot.

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Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) on Thursday indicated that he’s not optimistic about the Senate’s chances to pass a comprehensive bill to repeal and replace Obamacare this year.

“I don’t see a comprehensive health-care plan this year,” he told North Carolina television station WXII 12 News.

Burr also said that the House bill is “dead on arrival” in the Senate.

The senator’s comments come after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said last week that he’s not sure how the Senate will pass an Obamacare repeal bill.

“I don’t know how we get to 50 at the moment,” he told Reuters. “But that’s the goal.”

H/t Wall Street Journal

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After President Donald Trump announced his decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate agreement on Thursday, the Democratic governors in California, New York and Washington state announced a state climate coalition called the United States Climate Alliance.

“The President has already said climate change is a hoax, which is the exact opposite of virtually all scientific and worldwide opinion,” California Governor Jerry Brown said in a statement announcing the alliance. “I don’t believe fighting reality is a good strategy – not for America, not for anybody. If the President is going to be AWOL in this profoundly important human endeavor, then California and other states will step up.”

The alliance will support the Paris pact and serve as “a forum to sustain and strengthen existing climate programs, promote the sharing of information and best practices, and implement new programs to reduce carbon emissions from all sectors of the economy,” according to a statement from the three governors.

Brown will also travel to China on Friday where he will participate in a climate summit and speak with Chinese officials about combatting climate change.

 

 

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The Department of Justice on Thursday night asked the Supreme Court to reinstate President Donald Trump’s executive order to temporarily ban people from six majority Muslim countries from traveling to the United States.

The filing came after a federal appeals court last week upheld a ruling blocking Trump’s travel ban from going into effect.

“We have asked the Supreme Court to hear this important case and are confident that President Trump’s executive order is well within his lawful authority to keep the Nation safe and protect our communities from terrorism,” Sarah Isgur Flores, a spokeswoman for the Justice Department, said in a statement Thursday night. “The President is not required to admit people from countries that sponsor or shelter terrorism, until he determines that they can be properly vetted and do not pose a security risk to the United States.”

The Trump administration asked the Supreme Court to issue a stay on the ruling blocking the order from going into effect and to accept the case for oral arguments.

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Jon Ossoff, the Democratic candidate in the special election to fill an open U.S. House seat in Georgia, on Thursday criticized President Donald Trump for considering withdrawing from the Paris climate agreement.

“I agree with our military, our intelligence community, and peer-reviewed science that climate change is a major threat to our prosperity and our security, and if we walk away from this historic agreement now, history will condemn us,” Ossoff said in a statement to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Trump is expected to announce his decision on the Paris agreement Thursday afternoon, and reports this week indicated he will announce the United States will leave the global climate pact.

Ossoff will face off against Republican Karen Handel on June 20 in the Georgia special election. Democrats are hopeful they can flip the red district in the suburbs of Atlanta, given Trump’s minuscule margin of victory there in November.

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The White House on Wednesday night disclosed the ethics waivers the Trump administration has granted to former lobbyists, lawyers, and political operatives, revealing that at least 17 staffers have been granted waivers.

The disclosure came after the White House initially pushed back on the Office of Government Ethics’ push to see the waivers and make them public.

The ethics waivers exempt staffers from Trump’s executive order on ethics meant to avoid conflicts of interest after Trump campaigned on “draining the swamp” of lobbyists in government. The waivers were granted to four lobbyists and six lawyers who formerly worked for the Jones Day law firm, which still represents Trump.

The Trump administration granted waivers to several other appointees, allowing them to interact with their former clients and employers.

The White House also issued two blanket waivers for an unspecified number of staff members. One of the waivers allows appointees in the Executive Office of the President “to participate in communications and meetings with news organizations on matters of broad policy and particular matters of general  applicability.” This waiver would let adviser Steve Bannon communicate with his former employer, Breitbart News.

Another blanket waiver allows certain staffers to communicate with Republican political organizations, including the Republican National Committee and Trump’s presidential campaign.

White House spokeswoman Lindsay Walters said that the White House worked with many staffers to avoid conflicts of interest without issuing ethics waivers.

“The White House has voluntarily released the ethics waivers as part of the President’s commitment to the American people to be transparent,” Walters said in a statement. “The White House Counsel’s Office worked closely with all White House officials to avoid conflicts arising from their former places of employment or investment holdings. To the furthest extent possible, counsel worked with each staffer to recuse from conflicting conduct rather than being granted waivers, which has led to the limited number of waivers being issued.”

The Trump administration is so far outpacing the Obama administration with ethics waivers granted to White House appointees. The Obama administration granted ethics waivers to 17 White House appointees over Obama’s eight years in office.

Kellyanne Conway, a former Republican pollster, was granted a waiver allowing her to work with former clients, and Reince Priebus was given a waiver allowing him to work with the Republican National Committee, his former employer.

The White House issued waivers to three former lobbyists who work under Gary Cohn at the National Economic Council. Michael Catanzaro, the special assistant to the president for domestic energy and environmental policy, worked for the CGCN Group representing energy industry clients. Shahira Knight, the special assistant to the president for tax and retirement policy, worked in the policy and public relations group at Fidelity Investments. Andrew Olmem, the special assistant to the president for financial policy, was a partner at Venable where he lobbied on financial issues.

The White House also gave a waiver to Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff, Joshua Pitcock, who was a lobbyist in Washington, D.C. for the state of Indiana.

This post has been updated.

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Investigators with the congressional Russia probes are looking into whether Attorney General Jeff Sessions had another meeting with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the 2016 campaign, CNN reported early Thursday, citing unnamed sources on Capitol Hill and intelligence officials.

Those involved in the congressional probes are looking at an event on April 27, 2016 when President Donald Trump, then a candidate, gave a foreign policy speech at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C., according to CNN. Kislyak was in attendance, and investigators on the Hill are looking into whether Kislyak met with Sessions in private at that time, per CNN. Hill investigators have requested schedules and other information from Sessions, according to CNN.

The FBI is also looking at how many members of Trump’s team interacted with Kislyak at that event, CNN reported. Neither probe has yet determined whether additional meetings took place, per CNN.

“The Department of Justice appointed special counsel to assume responsibility for this matter,” Sarah Isgur Flores, a spokeswoman for Sessions, said in a statement to CNN. “We will allow him to do his job. It is unfortunate that anonymous sources whose credibility will never face public scrutiny are continuously trying to hinder that process by peddling false stories to the mainstream media. The facts haven’t changed; the then-Senator did not have any private or side conversations with any Russian officials at the Mayflower Hotel.”

Sessions met with Kislyak twice during the 2016 campaign — once at an event during the Republican National Convention and once in his Senate office. Sessions did not disclose the meetings during his confirmation hearings on Capitol Hill. He also did not list the meetings in his security clearance application, though the Justice Department said that Sessions was instructed by FBI investigators not to list those meetings.

 

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The Trump administration is considering allowing Russian officials to return to two diplomatic compounds in New York and Maryland after the Obama administration ejected the Russians from the compounds as part of U.S. sanctions after Russia meddled in the 2016 election, according to a Washington Post report published Wednesday evening.

The Obama administration directed Russians to leave the compounds in December 2016 and said that Russia had used the compounds for spying.

The Trump administration has yet to finalize any plans to let Russia use the compounds again. The Trump administration had informed Russia that the United Sates would let them used the compounds again if Russia would let the country resume building a new consulate in St. Petersburg, according to the Washington Post. Russia had barred the United States from continuing work on the consulate in 2014, after sanctions on Russia were imposed.

However, the administration changed its position just two days later, with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson telling Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak that the United States would not tie Russia’s return to the compounds to the country’s ability to keep building the consulate, according to the Washington Post.

R.C. Hammond, an adviser to Tillerson, told the Post that “the U.S. and Russia have reached no agreements.”

Even if the Trump administration does allow Russia to use the compounds again, it is considering restricting the use of the properties, such as revoking diplomatic immunity there, per the Washington Post.

Read the full report at the Washington Post.

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LiveWire