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

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein on Thursday night issued an odd statement warning Americans against trusting news stories that cite “anonymous ‘officials.'”

It was not immediately clear what stories Rosenstein was referring to in the cryptic statement, but it followed several Thursday evening reports about the status of the investigations into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election and potential collusion between Trump campaign associates and Russian operatives.

“Americans should exercise caution before accepting as true any stories attributed to anonymous ‘officials,’ particularly when they do not identify the country – let alone the branch or agency of government – with which the alleged sources supposedly are affiliated. Americans should be skeptical about anonymous allegations,” he said in the statement. “The Department of Justice has a long-established policy to neither confirm nor deny such allegations.”

Rosenstein’s statement echoed President Donald Trump’s attempts to delegitimize news stories about his administration, albeit with a more measured approach. Trump constantly blasts “fake news,” while Rosenstein issued a warning about anonymous sourcing.

An anonymous Justice Department official told a CNN reporter Friday morning that Trump did not order Rosenstein to issue the statement on anonymous sources.

A Washington Post report that special counsel Robert Mueller is looking at Jared Kushner’s finances cited anonymous sources, but described them as U.S. officials. The Washington Post reported earlier this week that Mueller is investigating whether Trump tried to obstruct justice, citing unnamed “officials.”

However, Trump appeared to confirm himself on Friday morning that he is under investigation by the FBI.

This post has been updated.

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President Donald Trump on Friday morning attempted to mock the Russia probes, claiming that they had not yet found evidence of collusion.

He followed up with a tweet defending his use of Twitter, perhaps anticipating the media attention aimed at his previous tweet.

Trump has tweeted about the Russia probes or lashed out at the media three out of the five business days this week, suggesting that the President has become frustrated with the attention paid to the Russia probes. Often early in the morning, Trump uses Twitter to declare that his campaign did not collude with Russia and to try to delegitimize the “Fake News” that’s reporting on the investigations.

His Friday morning tweets followed two reports that hint at the progress the Russia probes are making. The Washington Post reported that the special counsel’s investigation is looking at Jared Kushner’s finances. And a memo obtained by the New York Times and Politico revealed that the Trump transition team has been ordered to preserve documents related to Russia for the probes into election meddling.

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A lawyer for President Donald Trump’s transition team told transition and campaign officials to preserve documents related to Russia and Ukraine for probes into Russia’s election meddling, according to a memo obtained by the New York Times and Politico.

The memo from attorney Kory Langhofer also stated that officials should preserve travel records and records on campaign aides Paul Manafort and Carter Page, former national security adviser Michael Flynn, as well as records on Roger Stone and Rick Gates, according to Politico.

“In order to assist these investigations, the Presidential Transition Team and its current and former personnel have a responsibility to ensure that, to the extent potentially relevant documents exist, they are properly preserved,” Langhofer wrote in the memo dated Thursday, per Politico.

The memo did not specify which probes requested the documents, according to Politico and the New York Times.

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Special Counsel Robert Mueller is looking into the business dealings of Jared Kushner, son-in-law and adviser to President Donald Trump, as part of the Russia investigation, the Washington Post reported Thursday evening, citing unnamed “U.S. officials familiar with the matter.”

Mueller and his team are also looking at the financial activities of Paul Manafort, Michael Flynn, and Carter Page, according to the Washington Post.

The probe was already looking at Kushner’s meetings with a Russian banker, as well as a meeting with the Russian ambassador in December, where Kushner reportedly floated a secret line of communication between the Trump transition team and the Russian government, as the Washington Post previously reported.

The congressional committees are also looking at Kushner’s finances, specifically whether he tried to secure Russian financing for his family’s building in Manhattan, NBC reported earlier this month.

In a statement to the Washington Post, Jamie Gorelick, Kushner’s lawyer, seemed to brush off the prospect of Mueller looking at Kushner’s finances.

“We do not know what this report refers to,” Gorelick told the Post. “It would be standard practice for the Special Counsel to examine financial records to look for anything related to ­Russia. Mr. Kushner previously volunteered to share with Congress what he knows about ­Russia-related matters. He will do the same if he is contacted in connection with any other inquiry.”

The Washington Post also revealed in its report that FBI general counsel James A. Baker told Comey that he should not tell Trump that he was not under investigation personally. Comey testified last week that he told Trump three times in private that he was not a subject of the investigation, though Mueller is now reportedly looking into whether Trump tried to obstruct justice.

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Less than a week out from a highly-anticipated special U.S. House election in Georgia, a private security researcher has revealed that he discovered a serious security hole at the center that helps manage election operations and voting machines for the state.

The findings from researcher Logan Lamb, whose account was first reported by Politico on Wednesday, raise concerns about the security of the Georgia’s election system. Due to a misconfigured server on the website of the Kennesaw State University’s Center for Election Systems, Lamb said that he was able to gain access to data including a voter registration database with information on 6.7 million voters, documents with poll workers’ passwords and software for the state’s electronic poll books.

He told the Associated Press that he was moved to share his findings publicly after the Intercept published a National Security Agency report showing that Russian military intelligence hackers went after U.S. voting infrastructure in 2016, including attempting to phish local elections officials. Bloomberg also recently reported that Russian cyber attacks on voter databases and election software were much broader than previously known, targeting no less than 39 states (it’s unclear whether Georgia was one of the 39).

Lamb said he first came across the files in August 2016 and brought them to the attention of the center’s director, Merle King, who he says vowed to patch the hole. But a second private researcher was able to access the same data as Lamb earlier this year, showing that the security gaps Lamb says he warned King about had not been fully addressed. A security breach at the center first was reported in March, kicking off an FBI investigation.

A spokeswoman for the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office says they were made aware of the breach in March, but were unaware that the center had been warned about security issues before then.

“We were notified of the KSU hack on March 2. We were not notified, however, when KSU officials were apparently first warned by an outside source of potential server vulnerabilities,” Candice Broce, a spokeswoman for the secretary of state’s office, said in a statement. “This failure in communication is inexcusable.”

Despite the security concerns raised by Lamb, Broce said that the secretary of state “remains confident in Georgia’s elections systems and voting equipment,” citing a county judge’s recent decision in a case concerning the state’s voting system.

Two Georgia voters and an advocacy group filed a lawsuit last month to try to force the state to stop using its old touchscreen electronic voting machines, which do not produce a paper ballot, citing the FBI investigation into the data breach. Using machines that do not leave a paper trail could make it more difficult to determine whether hackers tried to interfere with an election. However, the judge denied their request on Friday, arguing that the plaintiffs did not offer enough evidence “to demonstrate any concrete harm.”

Republican congressional candidate Karen Handel has also been pulled into this story line, as she was involved in assessing the security of the state’s voting system when she was elected secretary of state in 2006. As the Washington Post reported, Handel ordered an assessment of the state’s voting system, prompting the Office of Policy Analysis and Research at Georgia Tech to produce a report in 2008.

Richard DeMillo, who oversaw that assessment, told the Post that it found several issues with the state’s election procedures and that he also told the secretary of state’s office that the Kennesaw State University’s Center for Election Systems was at risk of an attack. Handel never followed up on that report, according to DeMillo.

“She seemed very interested in getting this, at the time,” he told the Post. “Once she was in office for a few months, we heard nothing.”

The Post asked Rob Simms, who served as Handel’s deputy secretary of state and now runs her campaign, about DeMillo’s claims.

“You’re asking if we ever ‘responded’ to a report/study that was done more than 10 years ago?” Simms asked in response, per the Post. “Doesn’t make sense to me.”

Voters in Georgia’s Sixth Congressional District head to the polls Tuesday for the runoff election to replace Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price.

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Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, announced on Wednesday that his committee will investigate the circumstances surrounding the firing of James Comey as FBI director and whether there have been any “partisan” attempts to interfere with FBI probes.

Grassley announced the decision in a letter to Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), the committee’s ranking member, after she requested that the committee investigate those matters.

“You and I agree that the American people deserve a full accounting of attempts to meddle in both our democratic processes and the impartial administration of justice. The Judiciary Committee has an obligation to fully investigate any alleged improper partisan interference in law enforcement investigations. It is my view that fully investigating the facts, circumstances, and rationale for Mr. Comey’s removal will provide us the opportunity to do that on a cooperative, bipartisan basis,” Grassley wrote in the letter to Feinstein.

Grassley said that the committee will also look at former Attorney General Loretta Lynch’s handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email server as part of the probe, another issue that Feinstein had said should be investigated. Grassley said that the committee should look at Lynch’s actions as part of the probe into Comey’s firing since the former FBI director discussed her handling of the email probe in his testimony last week. He also noted that the Trump administration noted Comey’s handling of the email probe in its initial explanation for Comey’s firing.

“The Administration has referenced both Mr. Comey’s handling of the Clinton investigation and Russia investigation as factors in his decision to fire Mr. Comey,” Grassley wrote.

Read Grassley’s letter:

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Early Thursday morning, President Donald Trump fired off a tweet attempting to delegitimize a Wednesday Washington Post report that Special Counsel Robert Mueller is investigating whether the President tried to obstruct justice.

The Washington Post reported Wednesday evening that the probe began shortly after the President fired James Comey as the FBI director and that Mueller took up the obstruction of justice probe later. Mueller has scheduled interviews with top intelligence officials as part of the probe, per the Washington Post.

The revelation that Mueller is investigating whether Trump tried to obstruct justice follows Comey’s blockbuster testimony last week. The former FBI director testified that he believes Trump fired him because of the Russia probe and that the President pressured him to drop an investigation into Michael Flynn, the ousted national security adviser.

Trump has repeatedly dismissed the investigation into whether his campaign staffers colluded with Russian operatives to influence the 2016 election. He also claimed that he was vindicated after Comey confirmed that he told Trump he personally was not under investigation while Comey was still at the FBI. However, Comey otherwise painted Trump as a liar and charged that the Trump administration tried to defame him.

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President Donald Trump on Wednesday night visited Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA), who is being treated in a Washington, D.C. hospital for injuries sustained when he was shot in the hip at a GOP congressional baseball practice earlier in the day.

Melania Trump accompanied the President to the visit at the MedStar Washington Hospital Center, according to a White House pool report. They also visited Capitol Police Officer Crystal Griner, who was injured in the shooting, and brought bouquets of white flowers for both victims, per the pool report.

White House Press Secretary told the pool reporter that Trump sat at Scalise’s bedside and also spoke with the congressman’s wife and doctors.

Scalise was in critical condition as of Wednesday night. He had surgery earlier in the day, as well as blood transfusions, and he will require additional operations, according to an update from the hospital. He was one of at least five people hospitalized after the shooting.

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Matt Mika, a lobbyist for Tyson Foods, is in critical condition after he was shot in the chest on Wednesday morning at a congressional baseball practice in the suburbs of Washington, D.C.

Mika was shot multiple times in the chest and is being treated at the George Washington University Hospital in Washington, D.C. As of Wednesday evening, Mika had undergone surgery and was in the ICU in critical condition, according to a statement from his family.

Mika was one of at least five people hospitalized on Wednesday after a gunman opened fire on a baseball field where members of Congress and others were practicing for a charity baseball game.

Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) was among those shot and was also in critical condition as of Wednesday night.

The shooter, James T. Hodgkinson, died on Wednesday from injuries he sustained while exchanging gunfire with law enforcement officers at the baseball field in Alexandria, Virginia.

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Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) remains in critical condition after he was shot in the hip on Wednesday morning at a GOP congressional baseball practice in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., according to an update from the hospital treating the House GOP whip.

MedStar Washington Hospital Center said that Scalise was shot once in the hip and that the bullet fractured bones, injured internal organs and led to blood loss. He had surgery on Wednesday and blood transfusions, and will require additional surgeries, the hospital said.

“Congressman Steve Scalise sustained a single rifle shot to the left hip. The bullet travelled across his pelvis, fracturing bones, injuring internal organs, and causing severe bleeding,” MedStar Washington Hospital Center said in a statement. “He was transported in shock to MedStar Washington Hospital Center, a Level I Trauma Center. He underwent immediate surgery, and an additional procedure to stop bleeding. He has received multiple units of blood transfusion. His condition is critical, and he will require additional operations. We will provide periodic updates.”

Scalise was one of at least five people hospitalized after a gunman opened fire on a baseball field in Alexandria, Virginia, where Republican members of Congress were practicing for an annual charity baseball game scheduled for Thursday night.

The shooter, James T. Hodgkinson, died on Wednesday from injuries sustained while exchanging gunfire with law enforcement officers.

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