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 part of a Tuesday-morning tweetstorm on the various issues bothering him at the moment, President Donald Trump accused former Attorney General Loretta Lynch of illegally trying to protect his erstwhile opponent Hillary Clinton from an investigation into her use of a private email server as secretary of state.

During his testimony before the Senate last week, former FBI Director James Comey suggested he’d been concerned about the way Lynch handled the email server probe.

He said that Lynch’s tarmac meeting with former President Bill Clinton influenced his decision to speak publicly about his findings in the probe last summer. Comey also said that Lynch pushed him to call the investigation a “matter,” rather than an “investigation.”

“At one point, the attorney general had directed me not to call it an investigation but instead to call it a matter, which confused me and concerned me,” Comey said. “That was one of the bricks in the load that led me to conclude I have to step away from the department if we’re to close this case credibly.”

An unnamed person close to Lynch pushed back against Comey’s characterization of the former attorney general’s comments. This person told the New York Times that Comey sought out Lynch’s guidance on how to talk about the probe, and that Lynch encouraged him not to acknowledge an ongoing investigation.

Read More →

Rep. Sean Duffy (R-WI), a longtime Trump supporter, on Monday night criticized the special counsel’s Russia probe and questioned why the investigation is still underway now that former FBI Director James Comey has said that President Donald Trump himself was not under investigation while Comey was at the FBI.

During an appearance on Fox News, Duffy claimed that Comey and special counsel Robert Mueller are “best friends” and complained that Mueller has hired people to work on the investigation who have donated to Democrats.

“This seems more like an effort to prosecute Donald Trump than it is to investigate,” he said.

“What the hell are we investigating?” Duffy then asked. “Why are we going through with this charade?”

Duffy noted Comey’s testimony that he told Trump earlier this year that he was not under investigation at the time. He also claimed that former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said he had not seen evidence of collusion between Trump and Russia, peddling a favorite conservative talking point. However, Clapper has made it clear that he is not privy to the FBI probe.

Duffy joined several other conservatives and Trump allies who have criticized Mueller in recent days and questioned his ability to conduct an independent probe.

Watch the clip via Fox News:

Read More →

Senators on Monday evening reached a bipartisan deal to impose new sanctions on Russia over its attempts to meddle in the 2016 election, its involvement in the conflict in Syria and its invasion of Crimea.

The deal would also allow Congress to review any attempts by President Donald Trump to ease U.S. sanctions on Russia.

The deal, which was negotiated by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), will come up for a vote in the Senate on Wednesday, according to Politico. McConnell filed the deal Monday evening as an amendment to a bill upping sanctions on Iran, according to the Washington Post.

“By codifying existing sanctions and requiring Congressional review of any decision to weaken or lift them, we are ensuring that the United States continues to punish President Putin for his reckless and destabilizing actions,” Schumer said in a statement about the amendment. “These additional sanctions will also send a powerful and bipartisan statement to Russia and any other country who might try to interfere in our elections that they will be punished.”

The bill would have to pass the House before heading to Trump’s desk. The President has not publicly weighed in on the new Russia sanctions, and if the House passes the deal, it could force Trump to take a stance on Russia sanctions.

The Senate waited to propose a Russia sanctions deal because Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), the chair of the Foreign Relations Committee, wanted to give the Trump administration time to work with Russia on Syria policy, according to the Washington Post.

“I wanted to give [Secretary of State Rex] Tillerson until two weeks ago,” Corker said, per the Post. “I’ve been ready the whole time.”

Corker said that he thinks Trump “has to at least strongly consider supporting this” but that the Senate may have a veto-proof majority supporting the bill, according to the Washington Post.

Read More →

Chris Ruddy, a friend of President Donald Trump, on Monday evening said that the President is considering firing Robert Mueller, the special counsel overseeing the Russia probe.

“I think he’s considering perhaps terminating the special counsel. I think he’s weighing that option,” Ruddy, the CEO of Newsmax Media, said on PBS “NewsHour.” I think it’s pretty clear by what one of his lawyers said on television recently. I personally think it would be a very significant mistake.”

The White House distanced Trump from Ruddy but did not deny that Trump is considering such a move.

Following Ruddy’s appearance on PBS, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said that Ruddy and Trump never talked about Mueller.

“Mr. Ruddy never spoke to the president regarding this issue,” Spicer said. “With respect to this subject, only the president or his attorneys are authorized to comment.”

Deputy White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said, “Chris speaks for himself.”

Ruddy’s comments came as several conservatives began to question whether Mueller could be impartial in overseeing the Russia probe. However, it’s unclear whether Trump is truly considering firing Mueller.

Ruddy told PBS that he was concerned about conflicts of interest Mueller might have, revealing that Trump interviewed Mueller for the FBI director position just one day before Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein named him as the special counsel.

“There are some real conflicts. He comes from a law firm that represents members of the Trump family,” Ruddy said on PBS. “I know for a fact that he was under consideration and that the President did talk with him in the days before he was named special counsel. I think there’s a conflict there.”

He added that he would it was “strange” that Mueller would accept the special counsel position after having a “confidential conversation” with Trump that may have included the Russia probe.

An unnamed senior White House official confirmed to the New York Times that Trump spoke with Mueller about the FBI director position the day before Rosenstein announced he would be the special counsel.

Read More →

The National Endowment for the Arts on Sunday distanced itself from The Public Theater’s rendition of Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar,” which has drawn backlash for its portrayal of a Donald Trump-like dictator.

“The National Endowment for the Arts makes grants to nonprofit organizations for specific projects. In the past, the New York Shakespeare Festival has received project-based NEA grants to support performances of Shakespeare in the Park by the Public Theater,” the federal arts endowment said in a statement. “However, no NEA funds have been awarded to support this summer’s Shakespeare in the Park production of Julius Caesar and there are no NEA funds supporting the New York State Council on the Arts’ grant to Public Theater or its performances.”

The play, which is performed in New York City’s Central Park as part of Shakespeare in the Park, has sparked controversy and prompted sponsors to pull out over the similarities between the title character in the Public Theater’s rendition of the play and the President.

Victoria Hutter, a spokeswoman for the NEA, told TPM on Monday that the endowment issued its statement after hearing from “someone in the public,” though Hutter said she was “not sure who it was.” Asked if the endowment had received calls with complaints about the play, Hutter said that the NEA did not get calls.

Hutter also said the endowment saw “media reports that were not correct” about its funding relationship to the Public Theater.

While it’s unclear how many news outlets reported that the NEA supports Shakespeare in the Park, a post in the National Review from Friday claims that the endowment funds those performances. Hutter told TPM that the NEA has supported Shakespeare in the Park in the past, but noted grant funds did not go toward that program this year.

Asked if anyone in the administration outside of the NEA had a part in the decision to issue the statement, Hutter told TPM, “No, this was something that the agency did.”

The statement comes as the endowment is in the Trump administration’s crosshairs, as the White House has proposed eliminating the endowment entirely in its budget.


Read More →

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and his staff on Monday recorded a video mocking President Donald Trump and a bizarre televised portion of his Monday Cabinet meeting during members took turns thanking Trump for the opportunity to serve in his administration.

In the video Schumer shared on Twitter, his staffers took turns praising the senator’s performance on the Sunday shows—and his hair. One staffer copied almost verbatim the words of praise Trump’s chief of staff, Reince Priebus, offered the President earlier in the day.

Priebus told Trump, “On behalf of the entire senior staff around you, Mr. President, we thank you for the opportunity and the blessing that you’ve given us to serve your agenda and the American people.”

Schumer’s staffer told the senator, “Thank you for the opportunity and blessing to serve your agenda” before the group broke out in laughter.

Watch below:



Read More →

Update at 11:34 a.m. ET: The Senate Intelligence Committee and the Department of Justice announced Monday morning that Sessions will testify in an open hearing Tuesday afternoon.

Sen. Angus King (I-ME), a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, on Monday morning said that Attorney General Jeff Sessions should testify before the panel in an open setting.

“My inclination is that this should be in an open session,” he said on CBS “This Morning.” “The only reason you go into a close session is if it’s a national security, and I don’t believe we’re talking about national security issues here.”

Read More →

The White House on Sunday denied a report that President Donald Trump was delaying a planned trip to the United Kingdom.

The Guardian reported that Trump recently told British Prime Minister Theresa May over the phone that he was putting the tentative visit on hold due to concerns that he’d face protests, citing an unnamed British adviser present in the room during the call. The New York Times also reported Sunday that Trump was considering delaying a visit, citing two unnamed administration officials.

An anonymous senior Trump official told CNN that Trump did not float delaying his trip on a Friday call with May. An unnamed Trump administration official also denied to Reuters that Trump broached the subject.

May invited Trump to visit Britain this year shortly after he was inaugurated, but Trump has yet to firmly schedule a trip there. His administration briefly considered including the United Kingdom in a trip to Europe set for next month but ended up dropping that idea, according to the New York Times.

During the White House daily press briefing on Monday afternoon, Press Secretary Sean Spicer said that Trump had yet to schedule a trip to the UK and that he still plans on visiting the country. Spicer also said that Trump does not factor in his popularity in a country before agreeing to visit.

Trump has come under fire for his criticism of London’s mayor following a recent terrorist attack there. He criticized Sadiq Khan in a tweet for telling London residents not to be alarmed by increase police presence, taking Khan’s words out of context.

May’s office told Reuters that plans for a Trump visit have not changed.

“We aren’t going to comment on speculation about the contents of private phone conversations,” a spokeswoman for May told Reuters. “The queen extended an invitation to President Trump to visit the UK and there is no change to those plans.”

This post has been updated.

Read More →

Ivanka Trump on Monday morning told the hosts of “Fox and Friends” that she wasn’t expecting the “level of viciousness” she has experienced since her father was elected president.

“Fox and Friends” co-host Brian Kilmeade asked Ivanka Trump if it has been hard for her to focus on the issues important to her with distractions like the Russia probes.

“It is hard. And there is a level of viciousness that I was not expecting. I was not expecting the intensity of this experience,” she replied. “But this isn’t supposed to be easy. My father and this administration intends to be transformative. And we want to do big, bold things. And we’re looking to change the status quo. So, I didn’t expect it to be easy. I think some of the distractions and some of the ferocity was — I was a little blindsided by on a personal level.”

“I’m trying to keep my head down, not listen to the noise and just work really hard to make a positive impact in the lives of many people,” she added.

She also said on Fox that her father felt “vindicated” by the testimony from former FBI Director James Comey last week and that President Trump “feels incredibly optimistic.”

Watch part of the interview via Fox News:

Read More →

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) said that “American leadership” on the global stage was better under President Barack Obama than it is under President Donald Trump, according to a Sunday report in The Guardian.

The Guardian asked McCain, a critic of Obama’s foreign policy, if America’s standing in the world was better under Obama.

“As far as American leadership is concerned, yes,” McCain replied.

McCain was also asked about Trump’s criticism of London’s mayor soon after a terrorist attack in the city and what kind of message Trump’s reaction sent.

“What do you think the message is? The message is that America doesn’t want to lead,” McCain said told The Guardian. “They are not sure of American leadership, whether it be in Siberia or whether it be in Antarctica.”

Read More →