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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

The morning after FBI Director James Comey was fired, the White House announced that President Donald Trump would meet with Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov.

Trump and Lavrov are expected to discuss Syria and the fight against terrorism in a follow-up conversation to Trump’s phone conversation with Vladimir Putin a week ago, according to the Washington Post.

Trump’s meeting with Lavrov will come less than 24 hours after Comey was let go as director of the FBI. At the helm of the FBI, Comey was leading the probe into potential ties between Trump’s presidential campaign and Russian officials. Comey’s firing prompted concern from both Democratic and Republican lawmakers about the probe into Russia’s election meddling.

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A Paul Ryan-allied super PAC on Tuesday released a new television ad criticizing Jon Ossoff, the Democratic candidate in the runoff to fill an open U.S. House seat in Georgia, for taking campaign contributions from out of state.

The 30-second spot from the Congressional Leadership Fund attempts to mock Ossoff as “San Francisco’s congressman” and align him with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA).

“We’re proud that California is the leading funder of the Jon Ossoff campaign,” a woman standing on a San Francisco street says in the ad.

The Congressional Leadership Fund, the super PAC arm of the American Action Network, a nonprofit aligned with House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), said in a statement that the ad will begin airing on Tuesday as part of the $6.5 million the super PAC has pledged to infuse into the Georgia special election.

Watch the ad below:

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One week after his emotional appeal to Congress for a health care bill that would ensure coverage for all Americans, ABC late night host Jimmy Kimmel responded to conservative critics of his monologue.

“I cannot count the number of times I’ve been called an out of touch Hollywood elitist creep this week — which, I have to say, I kind of appreciate because when I was a kid, we had to drink the powdered milk because we couldn’t afford the liquid,” Kimmel said Monday night. “My dream was to become an out of touch Hollywood elitist, and I guess it came true.”

He noted that conservative outlets and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich criticized his monologue last week, during which he shared that his son was born with a heart condition and needed surgery. Kimmel offered a sarcastic apology.

“I would like to apologize for saying children in America should have health care. It was insensitive. It was offensive, and I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive me,” Kimmel said.

Kimmel also brought on Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA), who said last week that the Senate Obamacare repeal bill should “pass the Jimmy Kimmel test” and ensure that every child get “everything she or he would need in that first year of life.”

Watch the clip via ABC:

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Reports in the Canadian press on Monday cast some doubt on the narrative out of White House as to how President Donald Trump changed his mind about pulling out of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

Initial press accounts from American media outlets right after Trump decided against nixing NAFTA suggested that the President was persuaded by his aides and impromptu pleas from the leaders of Canada and Mexico.

White House officials told the Associated Press on Monday that Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, served as a conduit between Canada and the U.S. following reports that Trump was considering pulling out of NAFTA. The White House aides told the AP that Trudeau called Kushner about the reports and Kushner set up a call between Trudeau and Trump.

However, reports in the Canadian press on Monday offered out a different timeline for the calls between Kushner and Trudeau.

The National Post reported that White House aides reached out to Trudeau’s office to ask the Canadian prime minister to persuade Trump to stick with NAFTA, citing Canadian government sources. The plea from White House aides prompted a call between Trudeau and Trump, as well as with the Mexican president.

Metro News identified Jared Kushner as the the White House aide who called the Canadian government suggesting that Trudeau speak with Trump about NAFTA.

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During a town hall in Dubuque, Iowa, on Monday, Rep. Rod Blum (R-IA) faced a rowdy crowd of constituents concerned about the House bill to repeal and replace Obamacare.

Blum was met with boos, shouts, and cheers from the crowd of about 1,000 people as he answered questions about health care and other issues, according to the Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier.

He told one audience member that the American Health Care Act “is not law yet” and noted that the Senate will likely make changes, according to the Huffington Post.

One attendee complained to Blum that the House rushed the bill to a vote and claimed that Blum’s office said that the congressman did not read the full bill before voting, per the Huffington Post.

“You voted for this bill in a rush. There were no committee hearings. This is my life,” she said, according to the Huffington Post. “The Congressional Budget Office didn’t score this bill … what was the rush?”

“I have always said the process was bad,” Blum replied, per the Huffington Post. “It was rushed. There should have been hearings.”

Blum also claimed that “nothing changes” in the AHCA for Medicaid, Medicare, and individual market plans as long as there is no lapse in coverage, according to the Courier. However, the bill slashes federal funding to the Medicaid program.

Before Blum faced constituents at the rowdy town hall, he walked out of a contentious interview with a local television station, KCRG-TV9.

Reporter Josh Scheinblum asked Blum why his office screened town hall attendees to ensure that they live in the district. Scheinblum asked if all Iowans should be able to attend.

“I don’t represent all Iowans — I represent the First District of Iowa,” Blum replied.

“Would you still take donations from a Republican in Iowa City?” Scheinblum asked in response.

At that point, Blum stood up to leave the interview.

“This is ridiculous. This is ridiculous,” Blum said. “He’s going to sit here and just badger me.”

 

 

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During a speech Monday at the Anti-Defamation League’s conference in Washington, D.C., FBI Director James Comey said that it is important to protect Americans’ right to use Twitter since free speech is a vital right in the United States.

“Some of you may have read recently that I’m on Twitter. I’m not a tweeter,” Comey told the audience. “I am there to listen, to read, especially what’s being said about the FBI and its mission. Sometimes it’s a wonderful place. Sometimes it’s a depressing place. Sometimes it feels like I’m all of a sudden immediately in every dive bar in America, where I can hear everybody screaming at the television set.”

“But it is free speech. You don’t have to like it, you don’t have to agree with it, but we have to protect it because it is the bedrock of this great country,” he continued. “That we can believe and say what we want, no matter how distasteful or how disruptive, it’s a vital right in this amazing country of ours.”

But Comey warned that often hateful speech foments into action, which he said the country must work to prevent.

“You know all too well that in a heartbeat, words can turn to violence. Because hate doesn’t remain static too often,” he said. “An opinion, a prejudice, a dislike sometimes foments, sometimes it festers, and it can grow into something far more dangerous. Sometimes, too often, hate becomes hate crime. So we have to do everything in our power to stop those people who move from stewing to acting, who move from just hating to hurting.”

The Anti-Defamation League, which tracks hate crimes, issued a report in late April that found anti-Semitic attacks in the U.S. increased by 34 percent in 2016 and are set to increase even more in 2017.

The group also found that Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and adviser, was the target of anti-Semitic tweets around the time that the United States launched a missile strike in Syria and Kushner’s reported rival Steve Bannon was removed from the National Security Council’s Principal’s Committee.

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A panel discussion on CNN Monday afternoon highlighted how unusual it was for President Donald Trump to publish a tweet attacking former acting Attorney General Sally Yates mere hours before she testified in Congress.

“He’s the President of the United States and the former acting attorney general is about to testify under oath before the United States Congress and you tweet, ‘Ask Sally Yates under oath if she knows how classified information got into the newspapers soon after she explained it to the White House counsel,'” CNN’s John King said.

“I started, before I got into covering politics all the time, I used to cover the courts a lot. A lawyer would call that witness intimidation,” he added.

“Completely,” CNN reporter Dana Bash said in response. “Look, I think we have all been kind of desensitized in some way to his tweets and to his statements that are so out of the norm. This is beyond out of the norm. This is inappropriate. For the President of the United States to be this aggressive with somebody who used to work for him, who is coming before the United States Congress with sworn testimony hours later, is beyond the pale. It just is.”

King emphasized that it was unusual for Trump to make such a plea in public.

“To go public like this is striking,” he said.

Trump’s tweet about Yates came before she was expected to inform a Senate Judiciary subcommittee that is investigating Russian meddling in the U.S. election that she’d warned White House Counsel Don McGahn about former national security adviser Michael Flynn discussing U.S. sanctions with a Russian official.

Watch a clip via CNN:

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Kushner Companies on Monday said that it didn’t mean to mention Jared Kushner’s role in the Trump administration in order to reel in Chinese investors to help fund a development in New Jersey.

“In the course of discussing this project and the firm’s history with potential investors, Ms. Meyer wanted to make clear that her brother had stepped away from the company in January and has nothing to do with this project,” the company said in a statement. “Kushner Companies apologizes if that mention of her brother was in any way interpreted as an attempt to lure investors. That was not Ms. Meyer’s intention.”

Nicole Kushner Meyer mentioned her brother over the weekend at an investment conference in Beijing while she pitched the audience on a development in Jersey City, One Journal Square.

“In 2008, my brother Jared Kushner joined the family company as CEO, and recently moved to Washington to join the administration,” Meyer said on Saturday, as quoted by CNN Money.

A lawyer for Jared Kushner, Blake Roberts, said in a statement obtained by the Washington Post that his client had divested from the project.

“Mr. Kushner divested his interests in the One Journal Square project by selling them to a family trust that he is not a beneficiary of, a mechanism suggested by the Office of Government Ethics. As previously stated, he will recuse from particular matters concerning the EB-5 visa program,” Roberts said.

Ethics filings corroborate that Kushner divested from the One Journal Square project, although he and his wife, Ivanka Trump, still benefit from investments in other Kushner Companies projects.

Meyer and other representatives of the family’s real estate business were looking for Chinese citizens to invest in the project through the EB-5 visa program. Immigrants may get a green card if they invest $500,000 or more in a project that creates jobs in the United States.

Another speaker at the Beijing conference told the audience to invest soon, in case the Trump administration changes rules for visas, according to the Washington Post.

After the Meyer spoke in Beijing on Saturday, journalists were blocked from attending a similar event in Shanghai on Sunday, Reuters reported.

One Journal Square has also faced local pushback since Meyer pitched the Jersey City project to foreign investors over the weekend. Steven Fulop, the city’s mayor, announced in a Facebook post on Sunday that he opposes Kushner Companies’ request for a tax abatement.

“I want to be clear with residents on where the city stands here. Last week, the developer of this project submitted an application to Jersey City for a tax subsidy and abatement on this property. The administration made clear to the applicant that the city is not supportive of their request and while the law requires a first reading ordinance vote if they submit an application, I don’t foresee the council voting in favor,” Fulop wrote. “I know for certain I have made my feelings clear here on this project and what I feel works best for Jersey City. This tax abatement application doesn’t work for us.”

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), who has sponsored a bill to eliminate the EB-5 visa program along with Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), on Monday afternoon issued a statement calling for an end to the program. She said that the reports on the Kushner Companies’ investment pitch shows there is “a stark conflict of interest for the Trump White House” when it comes to the EB-5 visa program.

“I’ve long called for an end to the EB-5 program. It says that visas—and eventual U.S. citizenship—are for sale, a terrible message for the 4.4 million people waiting in line for visas—some for as long as 23 years,” Feinstein said in the statement.

“EB-5 is also rife with fraud and abuse. In addition to numerous cases of securities fraud, the program is frequently exploited by real estate developers to finance projects in the wealthiest parts of this country,” she continued. “This is a far cry from the program’s original intent to spur economic development in depressed communities. There isn’t a better example of how the program has been distorted than the Kushner Company’s marketing campaign in China.”

Feinstein said that because Trump and Kushner will not completely divest from their business interests, “the only way to eliminate this conflict is for Congress to allow the program to expire in September.”

This post has been updated.

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Ahead of former acting Attorney General Sally Yates’ testimony before a Senate Judiciary subcommittee on Monday, President Donald Trump published tweets urging Congress to ask Yates about leaks of classified information and defending his administration’s decision to hire Michael Flynn.

Yates’ testimony and Trump’s tweets follow a report from CNN last week that Yates is expected to tell the senate that she warned the White House about Flynn a few weeks before he was forced to resign from his role as national security adviser. Yates told White House Counsel Don McGahn in late January that Flynn was lying when he denied discussing U.S. sanctions with Russian officials, per CNN. At the time of Flynn’s firing, the White House claimed that Vice President Mike Pence had been unaware that the former national security adviser had discussed sanctions.

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Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) on Sunday signed into law a bill that would ban sanctuary cities in Texas and allow police officers to ask anyone they detain about their immigration status.

“As Governor, my top priority is public safety, and this bill furthers that objective by keeping dangerous criminals off our streets,” Abbott said in a statement announcing that he signed the bill. “It’s inexcusable to release individuals from jail that have been charged with heinous crimes like sexual assault against minors, domestic violence and robbery. There are deadly consequences to not enforcing the law, and Texas has now become a state where those practices are not tolerated. With this bill we are doing away with those that seek to promote lawlessness in Texas.”

The bill establishes misdemeanor penalties for any local police officer who does not aid federal law enforcement in detaining undocumented immigrants. If a local law enforcement entity declines to help federal officials, they would face a fine between $1,000 and $25,500.

The legislation, which is set to take effect Sept. 1, also includes an amendment that allows police officers to ask someone about their immigration status when they are detained.

In an op-ed in the Dallas Morning News last month, David Pughes, the interim Dallas police chief, and Art Acevedo, the Houston police chief, wrote that they opposed the legislation known as SB4.

“We officers work extremely hard to build and maintain trust, communication, and stronger relationships with minority communities through community based policing and outreach programs,” they wrote. “Broad rules, such as those imposed by SB 4, that push local law enforcement to take a more active role in immigration enforcement will further strain the relationship between local law enforcement and these diverse communities.”

“Officers would start inquiring about the immigration status of every person they come in contact with, or worse, inquire about the immigration status of people based on their appearance,” they continued. “This will lead to distrust of police and less cooperation from members of the community. And it will foster the belief that people cannot seek assistance from police for fear of being subjected to an immigration status investigation.”

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