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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

Jay Sekulow, a member of President Donald Trump’s outside legal team, on Wednesday morning would not say whether Trump believes it was inappropriate for his son to meet with a Kremlin-linked lawyer in the hopes of getting dirt on Hillary Clinton.

“It’s not illegal,” Sekulow said on ABC’s “Good Morning America” when asked if Trump thought the meeting was inappropriate. “I haven’t had the conversation with the president on whether he thought it was appropriate or not.”

Trump Jr. revealed emails on Tuesday showing that he set up the meeting knowing that the information was pitched as part of an effort by the Russian government to help the Trump campaign.

“The meeting that took place is not illegal. These kinds of meetings take place,” Sekulow said on ABC, claiming that the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee received information from the Ukrainian government.

Sekulow also said that the President was not aware of the meeting until “very recently.”

“The President was not aware of the meeting, did not participate in the meeting, did not attend the meeting,” he said on GMA, adding that Trump was brief by his lawyers on the meeting recently but that the President did not see the actual email chain until yesterday.

During an appearance on NBC’s “Today,” Sekulow downplayed the importance of Trump Jr.’s meeting with the Kremlin-linked lawyer.

“This was a 20-minute meeting that took place out of thousands of meetings,” he said when asked about Trump Jr.’s claim to the New York Times in March that he did not meet with any Russians while representing the campaign.

Sekulow acknowledged that Trump Jr. was representing the campaign in his meeting with the Russian lawyer, but he would not say that Trump Jr. lied to the New York Times.

“You want to call it a lie. This was a situation where he was having literally dozens of meetings every day,” he told “Today.”

NBC’s Savannah Guthrie also asked Sekulow to explain Donald Trump’s June 7 speech during which he teased upcoming news on Clinton’s crimes. The speech took place after the initial email to Trump Jr. but before the meeting took place.

“Opposition research was being done every single day by the campaigns. That’s the nature,” Sekolow replied. “It was not based on any of this.”

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President Donald Trump on Wednesday morning offered his most full-throated defense of his eldest son yet, after the revelation that Donald Trump, Jr. willingly met with a Kremlin-linked lawyer who supposedly had dirt on Hillary Clinton with the knowledge that meeting would be part of Russia’s efforts to help his dad win the presidency.

In tweets published before 7 a.m., the President declared that his son was “open, transparent and innocent” during a Tuesday night appearance with Fox News’ Sean Hannity. Trump also railed against the “Fake Media,” even though Trump Jr. himself released the emails showing that the meeting took place.

Trump Jr. on Tuesday published an email he received from friend and publicist Rob Goldstone seeking to set up a meeting with a “Russian government attorney” who allegedly had “documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father.” Goldstone told Trump Jr. that the meeting would be “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.” Trump Jr. responded with enthusiasm and proceeded to meet with the lawyer.

During an interview with Hannity on Tuesday, Trump Jr. tried to downplay his meeting with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, arguing that the story has been “overplayed.”

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Following the stunning revelation on Tuesday that Donald Trump, Jr. willingly met with a Kremlin-linked lawyer promising dirt on Hillary Clinton as part of the Russian government’s efforts to help his father’s presidential campaign, Trump Jr. tried to downplay the meeting during an interview with Fox News’ Sean Hannity.

Hannity, an unabashed defender of the Trump administration, asked Trump Jr. to address accusations that he was willing to collude with Russia.

In response, Trump Jr. told the Fox News host that “politics is a dirty game.”

“I think it’s a little bit ridiculous and overplayed,” he said of both media coverage of his meeting with the Russian lawyer and the various investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 election, knocking the press for “picking sides so flagrantly.”

Trump Jr. published emails on Tuesday revealing that publicist and friend of the family Rob Goldstone offered to set up a meeting with a “Russian government attorney” who supposedly had “documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia.” Goldstone told Trump Jr. that the information was “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.”

Trump Jr. told Hannity that had the lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, had incriminating information on Hillary Clinton, he would have alerted the appropriate authorities. But he dismissed the meeting as a waste of time and a favor to a friend.

Asked if Goldstone’s note that the information was part of a Russian government effort to help his father raised any red flags, Trump Jr. replied, “Honestly, I don’t know.” He added that the meeting took place “pre-Russia fever.”

Trump Jr. also told Hannity that he “probably met with other people from Russia” but seemed unsure.

The Fox News host gave Trump Jr. another opportunity to bash the media and its coverage of the Russia probes.

“I think the mainstream media has done themselves a pretty big disservice by going so far, by going so extreme, by being so sensational. And I think it’s pushing regular people away,” Trump Jr. said later in the interview.

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Paul Manafort appears to be distancing himself from the meeting he attended at Trump Tower in June 2016 with Donald Trump Jr. and a Kremlin-linked lawyer.

An unnamed “source close to Manafort” claimed to Politico on Tuesday that Manafort did not read the entire email chain Trump Jr. had forwarded him about the meeting, and said the former campaign chairman was unaware of exactly who he would meet.

If he had read past a short note from Trump Jr. about moving the meeting time, Manafort would have seen that he would be meeting with a “Russian government attorney” who supposedly had damaging information on Hillary Clinton, and that the meeting was described as part of the Russian government’s efforts to sway the 2016 election in Donald Trump’s favor.

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President Donald Trump’s eldest son has for months insisted that efforts to determine whether there was any collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian officials interfering in the U.S. election are a “witch hunt.” That argument imploded when it was revealed Tuesday that Donald Trump, Jr. took a meeting in the hopes of obtaining damaging information on Hillary Clinton, and with the knowledge that the information was part of Russian government efforts to help his father’s campaign.

It was a remarkable self-own, too: Trump Jr. himself released emails on Twitter that showed he was promised “documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia” if he were to meet with a “Russian government attorney.” A publicist and family friend of the Trumps linked Trump Jr. up with that lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, for a sit-down meeting in June 2016, shortly after his father secured enough delegates to be the presumptive Republican presidential nominee.

Trump Jr. also was told that the damaging information was “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.” Despite that overture, Trump Jr. adopted the “witch hunt” line and attacked the media and Democrats for their focus on new developments in the federal and congressional Russia probes, dismissing the investigations themselves as political attacks.

Trump Jr. told ABC News that the Russia probe was a “witch hunt” against his father in early June, lamenting that there was “a political establishment working to make it difficult for him to succeed.”

He then published an angry series of tweets as fired FBI Director James Comey testified before Congress on June 8, describing Comey’s testimony that the President had pressured him to quash the bureau’s investigation of ousted national security adviser Michael Flynn as “BS.”

The day after Comey testified on Capitol Hill, however, Trump Jr. said that the “witch hunt” targeting his father had “passed.”

“This is the only thing that they had on Trump,” he told Fox News’ Sean Hannity at the time. “This is what they did to distract him from being able to get the stuff done that he was elected to ultimately do, and I think now that this has all passed, he can go back to doing what he promised he was going to do.”

He continued his victory lap the following day in an appearance on the Fox Business Network, where he claimed that his father had been “vindicated” by Comey’s testimony, calling the Russia probes a “10-month witch hunt.”

At the end of June, just 10 days before the New York Times published its first report about his meeting with Veselnitskaya, Trump Jr. wrote a tweet agreeing with an out-of-context remark from a CNN commentator that the Russia story was a “nothing burger.”

Even before questions about the Trump campaign’s potential collusion with Russian officials dominated headlines, Trump Jr. dismissed the notion that Russia was behind the hacks of Democratic organizations and operatives that roiled the 2016 election and strenuously denied that the Trump campaign had been involved in any way.

In July 2016, less than two months after Trump Jr.’s meeting with Veselnitskaya, CNN’s Jake Tapper asked him about the Clinton campaign’s allegations that Russia intervened in the 2016 campaign in an effort to help his father.

“I mean, they will say anything to be able to win this. I mean, this is time and time again, lie after lie. You notice he won’t say, ‘Well, I say this.’ We hear ‘experts,'” Trump Jr. replied.”You know, ‘His house cat at home once said that this is what’s happening with the Russians.'”

“It’s disgusting. It’s so phony,” he continued. “I watched him bumble through the interview, I was able to hear it on audio a little bit. I mean, I can’t think of bigger lies, but that exactly goes to show you what the DNC and what the Clinton camp will do. They will lie and do anything to win.”

Later in that same interview, he dismissed the notion that the Trump team would work with Russia to sway the election.

“I’m really frustrated with what’s going on in this country, Jake. And if I can do that one day I’d love to be able to do it for the people of this country,” he said when asked if he might run for mayor of New York City. “It’s not going to be about divisive politics and emails, you know, accusing people of working with the Russian government.”

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In an interview with NBC News published on Tuesday morning, the Russian lawyer who met with Donald Trump Jr. last year denied that she promised him information on Hillary Clinton or the Democratic National Committee.

“I never had any damaging or sensitive information about Hillary Clinton. It was never my intention to have that,” Natalia Veselnitskaya told NBC News.

“It’s quite possible that maybe they were longing for such an information. They wanted it so badly that they could only hear the thought that they wanted,” she added when asked why Trump Jr. thought she had damaging info on Democrats.

She also denied to NBC News that she has any connections to the Russian government.

NBC’s Keir Simmons, who interviewed Veselnitskaya, said on MSNBC Tuesday morning that Veselnitskaya told him she got a call from a man she didn’t know asking her to meet with the Trump campaign at Trump Tower. She said that Emin Agalarov, a pop star who appeared in a Miss Universe video with Donald Trump, was involved in setting up the meeting.

“I never asked anybody for a particular meeting with Mr. Donald Trump Jr., or with anybody else,” she told NBC.

Veselnitskaya told NBC that Trump Jr. asked her if she had “had any financial records which might prove that the funds used to sponsor the DNC were coming from inappropriate sources.” She said she told him that she did not have any such records.

She said that Trump Jr. may have been interested in speaking with her because she had gathered info on a former U.S. citizen who ran a company that she believes did not pay taxes in Russia or the U.S. and that might have donated to the DNC.

Veselnitskaya met with Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, and Paul Manafort at Trump Tower soon after Donald Trump secured the Republican presidential nomination. Trump Jr. has acknowledged that he agreed to the meeting because he believed Veselnitskaya had information about Clinton and the DNC that could help the Trump campaign.

Trump Jr. said that Veselnitskaya did not have “meaningful information” and that they spent much of the meeting talking about Russian adoption. Veselnitskaya told NBC News that the issue of adoption was the main reason for her to attend the meeting.

The New York Times reported Monday night that an email to Donald Trump Jr. indicated that the promised information about Clinton was part of an effort by the Russian government to help the Trump campaign. One source told the Times that it appeared that the publicist who set up the meeting was passing along information that had already been passed through others.

In her interview with NBC News, Veselnitskaya indicated that Kushner and Manafort did not play active roles during her meeting with Trump Jr.

“I could recognize the young gentleman who was only present in the meeting for probably the first seven to 10 minutes, and then he stood up and left the room,” she told NBC News. “It was Mr. Jared Kushner. And he never came back, by the way.”

“And the other individual who was always in the same meeting, but all the time he was looking at his phone. He was reading something. He never took any active part in the conversation. That was Mr. Manafort,” she added.

Watch part of the NBC interview:

This post has been updated.

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In an email before his meeting with a Russian lawyer, Donald Trump Jr. was told that the promised compromising information on Hillary Clinton was part of an effort by the Russian government to help Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, the New York Times reported Monday night.

Publicist Rob Goldstone sent the email to Donald Trump Jr. and suggested that the Russian government was behind the alleged damaging info on Clinton, the New York Times reported, citing “three people with knowledge of the email.” The Times noted that there’s no evidence suggesting that the email or meeting between Trump Jr. and the Russian lawyer were linked to Russia’s hacking attempts.

The Times initially reported on Saturday that Donald Trump Jr., along with Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort, met with a Kremlin-linked lawyer at Trump Tower shortly after Trump secured the Republican presidential nomination last year. Trump Jr. acknowledged that he took the meeting on Saturday, but he did not at first mention that he discussed the campaign.

A day later, Trump Jr. revealed that he took the meeting because he was told the lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, had “information helpful to the campaign.”

“After pleasantries were exchanged, the woman stated that she had information that individuals connected to Russia were funding the Democratic National Committee and supporting Ms. Clinton,” Trump Jr. said in a Sunday statement. “Her statements were vague, ambiguous and made no sense. No details or supporting information was provided or even offered. It quickly became clear that she had no meaningful information.”

Then on Monday, Trump Jr. defended his decision to attend the meeting and said that he believed Veselnitskaya had “info about an opponent.”

Trump Jr. has hired attorney Alan Futerfas to represent him. Futerfas told the Times in a statement on Monday that his client did nothing wrong.

“In my view, this is much ado about nothing. During this busy period, Robert Goldstone contacted Don Jr. in an email and suggested that people had information concerning alleged wrongdoing by Democratic Party front-runner, Hillary Clinton, in her dealings with Russia,” Futerfas told the New York Times in a Monday email. “Don Jr.’s takeaway from this communication was that someone had information potentially helpful to the campaign and it was coming from someone he knew. Don Jr. had no knowledge as to what specific information, if any, would be discussed.”

Read the New York Times’ full report here.

 

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Jared Kushner, son-in-law and senior adviser to President Donald Trump, unsuccessfully sought a financing deal from a wealthy Qatari investor to save his family’s troubled midtown Manhattan building, according to a Monday report from The Intercept.

Kushner tried to negotiate with Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani, a billionaire and former prime minister of Qatar known as HBJ, for half a billion dollars to help refinance Kushner Companies’ flailing investment in the building at 666 Fifth Avenue, The Intercept reported, citing “three well-placed sources with knowledge of the near transaction.” Kushner and his father, Charles, were in negotiations with HBJ throughout 2015 and 2016, according to the report.

The Kushners’ office building at 666 Fifth Avenue in Manhattan is in significant financial trouble, as the tower does not bring in enough revenue to pay off the family’s debts. The family has sought several deals to refinance the property, with a major deal with Chinese insurance giant Anbang falling through in March. Federal investigators are also looking into whether Kushner sought Russian financing for the building when he met with the CEO of a Russian state-owned bank in December.

Recently, Trump sided with four Gulf states who broke off ties with Qatar, a longtime ally of the United States. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson believed that United Arab Emirates ambassador Yousef Al Otaiba, a friend of Kushner’s, was behind Trump’s statement opposing Qatar, according to a report from The American Conservative.

The White House referred The Intercept’s questions to Kushner Companies. Kushner Companies and HBJ both declined to comment to The Intercept.

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Vice President Mike Pence has been hosting major Republican donors at his private taxpayer-funded residence in Washington, D.C., according to a Sunday report in the New York Times.

The dinners were attended by donors who helped Pence and President Donald Trump win the 2016 election, as well as by company executives and fundraisers who could be key to the pair’s re-election.

Pence’s press secretary, Marc Lotter, told the New York Times that Pence has not used the dinners to fundraise, which would break campaign finance laws. He’s also not the first to invite donors to the White House or the Vice President’s residence.

Aides to Pence who helped found America First Policies and America First Action, two groups that support Trump’s presidency, helped the Vice President organize the dinners. Katie Walsh, an adviser to America First Policies, told the Times that the group has not used the dinners to solicit fundraisers.

Read the full report here.

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President Donald Trump on Monday morning defended his decision to duck out of a meeting of G20 leaders over the weekend and have his daughter, Ivanka Trump, take his place at the summit temporarily.

Trump’s eldest daughter was photographed sitting in between British Prime Minister Theresa May and Chinese President Xi Jinping. Trump and his daughter were quickly criticized for the move.

Chelsea Clinton on Monday morning pushed back against Trump’s argument that people would not mind if it were her sitting in for her mother:

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