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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

As former FBI Director James Comey testifies about his private conversations with President Donald Trump before Congress on Thursday, the Republican National Committee is expected to lead the response effort for the White House and the Republican Party.

The RNC has a team of about 60 staffers who will coordinate a message in response to Comey’s testimony, according to the Wall Street Journal. Trump’s outside counsel, Marc Kasowitz, is also expected to address questions about Comey’s testimony, according to the Journal. Kasowitz had offered a response to Comey’s prepared remarks after they were released on Wednesday afternoon.

The RNC has lined up surrogates to respond to the hearing as well, according to Politico.

“The RNC’s role is to support and defend the president and this White House and this week is no different,” RNC spokesman Ryan Mahoney told Politico. “And we prepare for everything, and we’re prepared for the hearing this week.”

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Melania and Barron Trump are expected to move into the White House on June 14 now that the school year is over, Politico reported Wednesday evening, citing people familiar with the planning.

President Donald Trump had previously said that his wife and youngest son would not join him in the White House residence until Barron Trump finished the school year.

Melania’s parents, who help care for Barron, will start spending more time in Washington, D.C., but they will not relocate to the city, per Politico.

Politico reported that the move “is seen internally at the White House as potentially a major shift for a president who has grown increasingly cheerless in his job.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) on Wednesday evening said that the fact that Robert Mueller, the special counsel leading the Russia probe, cleared former FBI Director James Comey to speak publicly about his conversations with President Donald Trump shows that Mueller does not think he has an obstruction of justice case against Trump.

Graham told Fox News’ Martha MacCallum that Comey’s prepared statement released Wednesday “means in the minds [sic] of special counsel Mueller there is no obstruction of justice case to be made because if he felt like he had a case, he wouldn’t let Comey, his chief and only witness, go out in public and get beat up.”

“What prosecutor in their right mind would allow their star witness to go out before the Senate panel of 20 senators and get beat up if he really believed he had a case?” Graham continued. “So this is the best evidence yet that in the mind of the special counsel, there is no obstruction of justice case to be made against President Trump because he allowed Comey to testify in public and issue a statement. No prosecutor would ever do that if there was a good case here.”

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Greg Gianforte, the Montana Republican who won a U.S. House seat in late May, on Wednesday formally apologized to a reporter with the Guardian and explicitly acknowledged that he assaulted the reporter.

“My physical response to your legitimate question was unprofessional, unacceptable, and unlawful. As both a candidate for office and a public official, I should be held to a high standard in my interactions with the press and the public. My treatment of you did not meet that standard,” Gianforte wrote in the letter to Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs.

“Notwithstanding anyone’s statements to the contrary, you did not initiate any physical contact with me, and I had no right to assault you,” he continued. “I am sorry for what I did and the unwanted notoriety this has created for you. I take full responsibility.”

The Wednesday letter was the first time that Gianforte acknowledged that he assaulted Jacobs. The Montana Republican apologized for his conduct during his victory speech in late May, but at the time he did not admit to assault.

His letter also explicitly contradicts a statement from the campaign issued soon after the incident with Jacobs. In that statement, a spokesman for Gianforte alleged that Jacobs initiated physical contact with Gianforte. However, Jacobs’ account of the incident, as well as accounts from witnesses, contradicted the campaign’s initial version of events. Jacobs accused Gianforte of bodyslamming him, while a Fox News reporter who witnessed the incident said that Gianforte grabbed Jacobs by the neck, slammed him to the ground, and punched Jacobs.

Gianforte was charged with misdemeanor assault following the incident but has yet to appear in court. Gianforte must appear in court by June 20, according to the Bozeman Daily Chronicle.

He wrote in his letter to Jacobs that he will donate $50,000 to the Committee to Protect Journalists. The donation and letter are part of a settlement with Jacobs, who signed a release giving up his ability to file a civil lawsuit against Gianforte, according to the Guardian. However, Gianforte still faces the misdemeanor assault charge.

“I have accepted Mr Gianforte’s apology and his willingness to take responsibility for his actions and statements,” Jacobs said in a statement published by the Guardian. “I hope the constructive resolution of this incident reinforces for all the importance of respecting the freedom of the press and the first amendment and encourages more civil and thoughtful discourse in our country.”

In his letter, Gianforte also wrote about the importance of the press and said that Jacobs was just trying to do his job.

“I understand the critical role that journalists and the media play in our society. Protections afforded to the press through the Constitution are fundamental to who we are as a nation and the way government is accountable to the people,” he wrote. “I had no right to respond the way I did to your legitimate question about healthcare policy. You were doing your job.”

 

Eric Trump on Tuesday night lashed out at people critical of his father during an interview with Fox News’ Sean Hannity, saying that he’s “never seen hatred” like what he’s seen directed at the President.

“To me, they’re not even people. It’s so, so sad,” Eric Trump said on Fox News, referring to critics of President Donald Trump. “Morality’s just gone, morals have flown out the window. We deserve so much better than this as a country.”

“You see the Democratic Party, they’re imploding. They’re imploding. They have no message. You see the head of the DNC, who is a total whack job,” he continued, referring to Tom Perez, the former labor secretary. “There’s no leadership there. And so what to they do? They become obstructionists because they have no message of their own. They have no solid candidates of their own.”

Eric Trump charged that Democrats have tried to obstruct the President and his family.

“They come after us viciously,” he said.

He also went after the media, suggesting that news outlets prompt criticism of his father and the Trump administration.

“I blame the media because it’s out of control,” Eric Trump told Hannity. “The way they act are out of control.”

Watch the interview via Fox News:

President Donald Trump and the top issues facing the United States were front and center during the first televised debate ahead of the closely-watched runoff to fill an open U.S. House seat in Georgia.

Even the moderator of the debate held by Atlanta television station WSB, anchor Justin Farmer, nodded at one point at the national implications of the race, segueing from a commercial break by saying the debate was “not just for Georgians, it’s on the national stage.”

With money pouring into the race on both sides, the special election slated for June 20th is the most expensive U.S. House race ever. And both Republican Karen Handel and Democrat Jon Ossoff went after each other Tuesday night over campaign spending from outside Georgia’s Sixth Congressional District. Handel repeatedly blasted Ossoff for fueling his campaign with donations from out of state, calling out places like California and New York. She mentioned House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) several times, attempting to tie Ossoff to Democratic leadership and “San Francisco values.” Ossoff went after Handel, too, arguing that her campaign has stayed afloat with the help of national super PACs.

The WSB debate panel’s questions forced Ossoff and Handel each to reckon with Trump’s policies and other national issues, too, after a campaign in which the candidates had avoided talking about the President to a certain extent.

Ossoff criticized Trump in several instances, from saying he opposed the President’s travel ban on six predominantly Muslim countries to criticizing Trump for pulling out of the Paris climate accord. He also said he was “dismayed by the weak trajectory” of the current administration’s foreign policy, chastising the administration for wavering on its commitment to Article 5 of the NATO treaty. Ossoff slammed the White House for not having a “firm response” to Russia’s attempts to meddle in the 2016 election, too.

He hesitated to come out strongly against Trump’s presidency on the whole, however.

Asked if he was part of the “resistance” opposing Trump, Ossoff would not define himself as an anti-Trump candidate.

“I hope to have the opportunity to work with the President to get things done for Georgia,” Ossoff said, after noting that he would not get a congratulatory tweet from Trump if he won.

He added that he would “stand up to anyone, regardless of their party” if he disagrees with them in an apparent appeal to moderate voters.

And while Ossoff said he opposed Trump’s travel ban, he did not offer a full-throated condemnation of the executive order. He instead said the travel ban was not an “effective” national security policy.

Handel embraced some of Trump’s policies during the debate, from backing his travel ban to defending the House GOP bill to repeal and replace Obamacare that has been pushed forcefully by the White House. But Handel also drew contrasts with the President, emphasizing that she does not support any “religious litmus test” for immigrants and noting that she does not agree with some of Trump’s proposed budget cuts, such as those to scientific and medical research.

She also suggested that Trump lay off Twitter.

“Sometimes you should just put down the computer, the phone, and walk away,” she said.

Handel was also asked to answer for Greg Gianforte, the Republican who recently won an at-large congressional seat in Montana after being charged for allegedly assaulting a reporter for The Guardian. Gianforte promoted the Georgia race in a fundraising email for the House Republicans’ campaign arm, and Handel pointedly said in the debate that Gianforte was not fundraising for her campaign. She said that she does not condone Gianforte’s behavior toward the reporter.

But after distancing herself from Gianforte, Handel lamented that people “on both sides of the aisle” have become increasingly aggressive toward political candidates. She claimed that a reporter associated with a liberal organization “almost literally accosted” her at a Memorial Day event.

While the candidates took their most concrete positions to date relative to Trump in the WSB debate, any single answer from either of them was perhaps overshadowed by a remark Handel made in response to a question from a viewer about raising the minimum wage.

“I do not support a livable wage,” she said. “What I support is making sure that we have an economy that is robust with low taxes and less regulation.”

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the House Democrats’ campaign arm, quickly blasted out video of Handel’s remarks, and the Ossoff campaign highlighted the gaffe on Twitter after the debate:

 

During Tuesday night’s debate for an open U.S. House seat in Georgia, Republican candidate Karen Handel said that she does not support a “livable wage.”

“This is an example of the fundamental difference between a liberal and a conservative: I do not support a livable wage,” she said on Atlanta’s WSB-TV in response to a viewer question about raising the minimum wage. “What I support is making sure that we have an economy that is robust with low taxes and less regulation.”

Handel said that raising the minimum wage could “dramatically” hurt small businesses.

Handel’s opponent, Democrat Jon Ossoff, said that “the minimum wage should be a living wage.” He noted that he supports raising the minimum wage gradually so that businesses can slowly adapt to the increase.

Ossoff’s campaign highlighted Handel’s remark about not supporting a “livable wage,” which quickly went viral, on Twitter after the debate:

Watch below:

This post has been updated.

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