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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

Democrat Jon Ossoff leads Republican Karen Handel by seven points in the special election to fill an open U.S. House seat in Georgia, according to a new poll from local television station WXIA.

Ossoff earned 51 percent of voters’ support to Handel’s 44 percent support in the poll, which was released Monday and conducted by SurveyUSA.

SurveyUSA’s previously polled the race in April, before the initial jungle primary that sent Ossoff and Handel, the top two finishers, into a runoff. In that poll, Ossoff had a significant lead over his numerous Republican opponents.

Ossoff and Handel will face off in a June 20 runoff election in Georgia’s Sixth Congressional District. Democrats are hopeful they can channel anti-Trump fervor into a win for Ossoff, given that Trump won the ruby-red district by just one point in November.

SurveyUSA polled 700 registered voters from May 16-20 by phone. The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.3 percentage points.

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In a scathing letter issued late Monday, the Office of Government Ethics rejected a request from the Office of Management and Budget that OGE suspend its request that federal agencies turn over copies of ethics waivers granted to former lobbyists hired under the Trump administration.

“The unusual nature of your letter highlights OGE’s responsibility to lead the executive branch ethics program with independence, free from political pressure. Accordingly, OGE declines your request to suspend its ethics inquiry and reiterates its expectation that agencies will fully comply with its directive by June 1, 2017. Public confidence in the integrity of government decisionmaking demands no less,” OGE Director Walter Shaub Jr. wrote in a letter to OMB Director Mick Mulvaney.

Mulvaney had asked Shaub to suspend his directive to agencies to disclose the ethics waivers, questioning whether OGE had the legal authority to demand the documents.

In his letter to Mulvaney, Shaub argued that his office does have the legal authority to view the documents and generally oversee the executive branch’s ethics practices. He also noted that Congress supports giving OGE access to the waivers, citing a 2009 letter from Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) urging the Obama administration to disclose to the public waivers granted to former lobbyists. Shaub wrote in his letter that Grassley’s call for the waivers to be disclosed in 2009 prompted OGE to begin the practice of posting the waivers on its website for the public to view.

“OGE is exercising its authority and independence appropriately. OGE’s April 28, 2017, directive is supported by ample legal authority and compliant with applicable procedures,” Shaub wrote at the end of his lengthy Monday letter to Mulvaney. “I want to assure you that a request from the Director of the Office of Management and Budget is not something that I decline lightly.”

Read Shaub’s letter:

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Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Richard Burr (R-NC) said Monday night that he would not rule out holding former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn in contempt of Congress for refusing to turn over documents.

“You’ll just have to wait and watch. [Contempt is] certainly one of the avenues that we could pursue,” Burr told reporters regarding Flynn, according to Politico. “It does us no good to have people insist on pleading the Fifth if you’re out trying to get information. The only thing I can tell you is immunity is off the table.”

Lawyers for Flynn informed the Senate Intelligence Committee that Flynn would invoke the Fifth Amendment and refuse to comply with a subpoena for documents related to the probe into Russian election meddling.

Burr indicated that he was perplexed by the letter from Flynn’s lawyers.

“All I’ve asked him for is documents. I don’t know how you can plead the Fifth on a document request,” Burr said, per Politico.

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President Donald Trump on Tuesday morning addressed the Monday night attack at a concert in the United Kingdom, calling the perpetrators of such an attack “evil losers.”

“I extend my deepest condolences to those so terribly injured in this terrorist attack and to the many killed and the families, so many families of the victims. We stand in absolute solidarity with the people of the United Kingdom,” Trump said in Bethlehem, addressing the media along with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

“So many young beautiful innocent people living and enjoying their lives murdered by evil losers in life. I wont call them monsters, because they would like that term. They would think that’s a great name,” Trump continued. “I will call them, from now on, losers because that’s what they are, they’re losers, and we’ll have more of them, but they’re losers. Just remember that.”

Authorities in the United Kingdom have confirmed that at least 22 people died after a bomb went off during an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester on Monday night. The attack appeared to have been carried out by a suicide bomber, and police are treating it as a terrorist attack.

In his remarks Tuesday morning, Trump called for an end to violence carried out by “terrorists and extremists.”

“This is what I’ve spent these last few days talking about during my trip overseas — our society can have no tolerance for this continuation of bloodshed. We cannot stand a moment longer for the slaughter of innocent people. And in today’s attack, it was mostly innocent children. The terrorists and extremists and those who give them aid and comfort must be driven out from our society forever. This wicked ideology must be obliterated, and I mean completely obliterated,” Trump said.

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Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, has held onto about 90 percent of his real estate investments even as he serves as a top White House adviser, according to a Washington Post analysis of his financial disclosure form published Sunday.

It’s unclear whether any of the 124 assets maintained by Kushner stand to pose conflicts of interest with his work in the White House, and the Trump administration declined to share Kushner’s ethics agreement with the Washington Post.

Jamie Gorelick, an attorney for Kushner, told the newspaper that Kushner and his team were “striving for simplicity” in choosing which assets to sell off.

“Jared takes the ethics rules very seriously and would never compromise himself or the administration,” Joshua Raffel, a spokesman for Kushner, told the Post.

Representatives for Kushner also told the newspaper that the White House adviser plans to file an updated financial disclosure form to make corrections and fill in omissions.

Kushner recently came under scrutiny after his sister, Nicole Kushner Meyer, mentioned him while pitching a project to potential investors in China. Meyer was looking for investors in a new Kushner Companies real estate development in New Jersey, One Journal Square. She was pitching specifically to investors through the EB-5 visa program, which gives foreign nationals who invest $500,000 or more in a project that creates jobs in the United States a path to a green card.

Meyer apologized for mentioning her brother, and the White House issued a statement at the time noting that Kushner had sold his stake in that particular real estate project. The White House also said that he would not work with issues related to the EB-5 program.

“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,” Blake Roberts, an attorney for Kushner, said in a statement earlier in May. As previously stated, he will recuse from particular matters concerning the EB-5 visa program.”

The Washington Post noted that while Kushner divested from One Journal Square, he held onto his stake in a project across the street called 30 Journal Square.

“30 Journal Square is a separate project that did not pose the same complexities, including EB-5 financing, as One Journal Square,” Kushner’s lawyers said in a statement to the Post when asked why Kushner maintained his stake in one project but not the other.

Read the full analysis at the Washington Post.

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In his first interview since the leak of an “Access Hollywood” tape last fall showing Donald Trump making lewd comments about women to Billy Bush in 2005, the former “Today Show” host told the Hollywood Reporter that he regrets how he handled the interview at the time.

“I heard it for the first time seven and a half months ago, three days before the rest of the world heard it. I was shocked and alarmed and totally and completely gutted. It was awful. And my participation was awful, too,” Bush told the Hollywood Reporter. “I remember that guy, he was almost sycophantic. It was my first year as co-host of Access Hollywood, and I was an insecure person, a bit of a pleaser, wanting celebrities to like me and fit in.”

Bush said that he wished he had steered Trump toward a different topic.

“Looking back upon what was said on that bus, I wish I had changed the topic. [Trump] liked TV and competition,” he said. “I could’ve said, ‘Can you believe the ratings on whatever?’ But I didn’t have the strength of character to do it.”

The former television host said that he has done a lot of self-reflection since the Washington Post published the tape in October.

“I am not grateful for the moment,” Bush told the Hollywood Reporter. “But I’m grateful for what I’ve gotten out of it. I’m grateful that it hit me all the way to my core.”

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The White House is trying to keep the Office of Government Ethics from viewing documents detailing which former lobbyists have been hired by the Trump administration for positions in the federal government, the New York Times reported Monday morning.

The Trump administration asked Walter Shaub Jr., the director of the Office of Government Ethics, to withdraw his request for copies of the waivers for former lobbyists, arguing that Shaub did not have the legal authority to make such a request, per the New York Times.

“This data call appears to raise legal questions regarding the scope of O.G.E.’s authorities,” Mick Mulvaney, the head of the Office of Management and Budget wrote in the letter, according to the Times.“I therefore request that you stay the data call until these questions are resolved.”

The Office of Management and Budget defended the news in a statement Sunday

“This request, in both its expansive scope and breathless timetable, demanded that we seek further legal guidance,” OMB said in a statement about Shaub’s request, per the Times. “The very fact that this internal discussion was leaked implies that the data being sought is not being collected to satisfy our mutual high standard of ethics.”

Shaub told the New York Times that he was surprised by the White House’s response to his request.

“It is an extraordinary thing,” he said. “I have never seen anything like it.”

An executive order signed by President Trump bars lobbyists from working in the federal government on issues pertaining to their former clients for two years, but allows the administration to issue waivers. Shaub was requesting copies of these waivers, per the Times.

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President Donald Trump will propose slashing the budget for Medicaid by more than $800 billion over 10 years in a budget set to be released Tuesday, according to several reports published Sunday evening.

Trump’s proposed cuts were first reported by the Washington Post and later confirmed by CNN and the Associated Press.

The President’s forthcoming proposal comes after he pledged on the campaign trail not to touch social safety net programs like Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security.

In addition to the major budget cuts to Medicaid, the White House will also push for states to have more flexibility when it comes to imposing work requirements for Americans seeking assistance, per the Washington Post.

Trump’s budget proposal will also call for a $193 billion cut for food stamps over the next ten years, according to the Associated Press.

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Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein reportedly pushed White House Counsel Don McGahn to correct the White House’s initial narrative about FBI Director James Comey’s departure, which seized on a memo from Rosenstein as the justification for firing Comey.

The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday:

Mr. Rosenstein left the impression that he couldn’t work in an environment where facts weren’t accurately reported, the person said. The deputy attorney general objected to statements by White House aides citing Mr. Rosenstein’s critical assessment of Mr.Comey’s job performance to justify the firing.

The Wall Street Journal’s reporting follows a Wednesday night article from the Washington Post detailing how Rosenstein threatened to quit over the White House’s portrayal of his role in Comey’s firing.

During a visit to Capitol Hill on Thursday, Rosenstein told Sinclair Broadcast Group that he is not resigning and that he did not threaten to quit.

Initial comments on Comey’s firing from the White House pinned the President’s decision on a memo from Rosenstein arguing that the former FBI director mishandled aspects of the probe into Hillary Clinton’s email use. But late Wednesday and Thursday, the White House began to shift the narrative, placing more emphasis on Trump’s longstanding unhappiness with Comey.

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Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) will send a letter to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein on Thursday demanding more information on the circumstances surrounding the firing of James Comey as FBI director.

In the letter, which was first reported by the Washington Post, Schumer wrote to Rosenstein that his reputation was “imperiled by your participation in the abrupt dismissal of FBI Director Comey.”

Schumer noted that the Trump administration used Rosenstein’s memo about Comey’s conduct in the Hillary Clinton email server probe as justification for the former director’s firing, but argued that reports on the President’s reasoning cast doubt on that official explanation.

“This skepticism, and indeed all of the circumstances surrounding Director Comey’s dismissal just as he was leading an investigation into the Trump administration’s and Trump campaign’s ties with Russia and President Putin’s interference with the 2016 election, have shaken public confidence in the Department, in your leadership, and in the administration of law and justice in our country,” Schumer wrote.

He asked Rosenstein a long list of questions about the run-up to Comey’s departure and his role in the decision-making process to dismiss the FBI Director.

Read the full letter below:

May 10, 2017

 

The Honorable Rod Rosenstein

Deputy Attorney General

U.S. Department of Justice

950 Pennsylvania Avenue NW

Washington, DC 20530

 

Dear Mr. Rosenstein,

Over the last three decades of your career at the Department of Justice, you have developed a reputation for integrity and impartiality.  That reputation, along with the personal and public commitments you made to me and other Senators that you would be an independent, apolitical actor as Deputy Attorney General, earned you broad bipartisan support in your confirmation vote.  And that reputation is now imperiled by your participation in the abrupt dismissal of FBI Director Comey.

Your memorandum to Attorney General Sessions described disagreement with Director Comey’s conduct last summer and fall; it was used as the justification for his dismissal this week.  However, there is widely reported skepticism that the reasons laid out in your memo are the real basis for the President’s decision to fire Director Comey.  This skepticism, and indeed all of the circumstances surrounding Director Comey’s dismissal just as he was leading an investigation into the Trump administration’s and Trump campaign’s ties with Russia and President Putin’s interference with the 2016 election, have shaken public confidence in the Department, in your leadership, and in the administration of law and justice in our country.

In order to restore the nation’s faith in you personally and in our law enforcement system more broadly, the American people must understand more about your role in the President’s firing of Director Comey.  To that end, please answer the following questions by Monday, May 15th.

1. It was publicly reported that Director Comey last week asked you for additional resources for the investigation into the Trump campaign’s connection to Russia. Are these reports accurate?
a. Did Director Comey recently provide you with a briefing on this investigation or any other politically sensitive investigation? Please describe the date and circumstances of any such update.
b. Did you convey any information provided by Director Comey to Attorney General Sessions or anyone in the Executive Office of the President? Please describe the date and circumstances of any such conveyance.
2. It was reported that the President decided over the weekend to fire Director Comey and summoned you and Attorney General Sessions to the White House to discuss the Director on Monday May 8th. Are these reports accurate?
a. Did you meet with the President on Monday, May 8th?
b. Were you aware what would be the topic of the meeting before you arrived?
c. Did you discuss the topic of the meeting with Attorney General Sessions or anyone in the Executive Office of the President before the meeting?
d. Who was present at the meeting?
e. Did the President or anyone else tell you the President had made a decision to fire Director Comey?
f. Did the President or anyone else ask for a justification to fire Director Comey?
g. Did the President or anyone else direct you to write your memo?
3. On Tuesday, May 9th, you sent a memorandum to the Attorney General entitled “Restoring Public Confidence in the FBI.” What were the circumstances that led to the drafting and transmittal of this memo?
a. Who participated in the drafting of the memo, including but not limited to its preparation before it was finalized?
b. Who provided guidance, in any form whatsoever, on the memo’s contents, style, timing or any other element?
c. Who was aware that the memo was being prepared?
d. Who reviewed the memo before it was finalized?
e. Were you aware when you drafted the memo that it would be used to justify the firing of Director Comey?
f. Why does the memo not explicitly call for the Director to be dismissed?
g. Was Attorney General Sessions or anyone in the Executive Office of the President involved, in any capacity whatsoever, in the planning, drafting, consideration, review, or transmittal of the memo?
4. Attorney General Sessions recused himself from any role in the investigation of Russia’s involvement in the 2016 elections and the Trump campaign because of his close relationship with the campaign and his own undisclosed contacts with Russian officials. Yet your memorandum is addressed to him and, according to public reporting, he participated in the decision to fire Director Comey. How do you reconcile Attorney General Sessions’s participation with his ethical obligations under the Department’s recusal guidelines?
a. Did you and Attorney General Sessions ever discuss whether it would be improper for him to be involved in the dismissal of the lead investigator of a politically sensitive investigation from which he was recused?
b. Did you or anyone else in the Justice Department ever advise Attorney General Sessions not to participate in these discussions or the dismissal?
c. Did you seek, or are you aware of anyone else at the Justice Department seeking, advice or counsel about whether it was appropriate for Attorney General Sessions to participate in these discussions or the dismissal?
5. After Director Comey was fired, the White House said that you had initiated the memorandum on your own and that you instigated the decision to remove him. Yet this morning, press reports indicate that you threatened to resign because “the narrative emerging from the White House on Tuesday evening cast [you] as a prime mover of the decision to fire Comey and that the president acted only on [your] recommendation.” Are these reports accurate?
a. Did you object, either to the White House, to Attorney General Sessions, or to anyone else, to the media characterizations of your role in the firing?
b. Did you take any steps to correct any inaccuracies in the public record?
c. Did you discuss the possibility that you might resign from the Department with anyone?

I look forward to your prompt response to my letter.  In addition, I hope you will make yourself available to me and all of my colleagues to answer these and other additional questions that will arise.

Sincerely,

Charles E. Schumer

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