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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

During a May 2016 meeting in the Oval Office shortly after James Comey was fired as FBI director, President Donald Trump asked the new acting FBI director, Andrew McCabe, who he voted for in the 2016 election, according to new reports in the Washington Post and New York Times.

The Washington Post was first to report on the meeting Tuesday night, and the New York Times followed up with a confirmation.

McCabe and Trump met more than once in the week after Comey was fired, according to the New York Times. In one of those meetings, Trump asked who McCabe voted for, to which McCabe replied that he did not vote, current and former officials told the Washington Post.

Trump then brought up the fact that McCabe’s wife received a campaign contribution from a super PAC associated with former Democratic Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe in 2015 for her Virginia state senate race, according to the Post.

The topics Trump discussed in that meeting with McCabe were atypically political, given that the FBI is not supposed to be a political agency and that the bureau’s director is supposed to act independently from the president.

Trump similarly tried to gain a pledge of loyalty from Comey before he was fired. Comey testified to congress that the President asked him to reveal to the public that he was not under FBI investigation several times and told Comey that he wanted “loyalty” from the FBI director.

McCabe has been the focus of Trump’s ire for a while, stemming from the Democratic campaign of McCabe’s wife. Attorney General Jeff Sessions reportedly began pressuring new FBI Director Christopher Wray to fire McCabe in December, as Axios first reported this week. Wray threatened to resign if Sessions continued to push for McCable’s departure, per Axios. Trump on Tuesday denied to reporters that Wray has threatened to leave.

Sessions’ pressure on Wray came as Trump publicly criticized McCabe and questioned why McCabe was still employed by the FBI.

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After the Senate on Monday afternoon passed a measure to keep the government open until Feb. 8, President Donald Trump said in a statement that he was “pleased that Democrats in Congress have come to their senses.”

White House Press Secretary read the statement from Trump aloud to reporters during the daily press briefing.

“I am pleased that Democrats in Congress have come to their senses and are willing to fund our great military, border patrol, first responders, and insurance for vulnerable children. As I’ve always said, once the government is funded my administration will work towards solving the problem of very unfair illegal immigration. We will make a long term deal on immigration if and only if it’s got good for our country,” Trump said in the statement read by Sanders.

Sanders said that the White House was happy that Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) accepted “the deal that President Trump put on the table from the beginning, which was to responsibly fund the government and debate immigration as a separate issue,” before turning to Trump’s statement on the vote.

The President’s statement did not address exactly what would need to be included in a proposal to restore the protections of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program in in order to earn his support for the deal.

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The White House on Monday afternoon pushed back on a Sunday report in the New York Times that two top White House aides have overruled President Donald Trump as the administration negotiates with Congress on a deal to restore the protections from the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

“Those charges are frankly ridiculous and they’re a little insulting,” White House spokesperson Raj Shah said on CNN when asked about reporting that Chief of Staff John Kelly and White House adviser Stephen Miller have intervened in the negotiations between Trump and congressional leaders.

The New York Times reported on Sunday that Kelly and Miller have intervened twice after Trump told congressional lawmakers that he was willing to strike a deal to restore DACA’s protections. Kelly and Miller would follow up with a list of demands favored by conservatives, like funding for the border wall and measures that change the legal immigration system, according to the New York Times.

Shah told CNN on Monday that Trump alone is setting the immigration agenda, and he cast Kelly and Miller as experienced advisers that the President consults on immigration policy.

“This is the President of the United States. He’s setting the agenda, these are his policy views and, frankly, exactly what he ran on for over a year and a half during the campaign. In the chief of staff, in Stephen Miller, you have people who are really experienced in this debate, bring great ideas,” Shah said on CNN. “If you look at John Kelly, he was the general in charge of the southern command before becoming secretary of homeland security. Of course the President is going to listen to his views and he’s going to inform the debate, but the terms we’re setting and the views the President is endorsing are his and his alone.”

Appearing on CNN after the Senate voted to open the federal government based on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) promise to bring a DACA bill to the floor in February, Shah did offer one stance from the President. He said that Trump would not sign the bipartisan proposal crafted by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) restoring DACA.

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When Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced earlier this month that Florida would be exempted from the Trump administration’s new offshore drilling program, he did so without giving President Donald Trump a heads up, irking the President, Axios reported Sunday evening.

The White House was caught off guard by the announcement, and Zinke’s decision to exempt Florida without input from the White House angered the President, per Axios. Trump has signaled to Zinke that he’s unhappy with him, two people with knowledge of the situation told Axios.

Zinke announced his decision after meeting with GOP Florida Gov. Rick Scott in Tallahassee. Since Republicans are lobbying Scott to run for Senate in 2018, the overture was seen as a political move to help Scott’s standing with Florida voters. In his announcement, Zinke credited Scott for convincing him that “Florida is unique and its coasts are heavily reliant on tourism as an economic driver” and that drilling could hurt the state’s economy.

Both Democratic and Republican lawmakers in coastal states balked at Zinke’s decision to exempt Florida and called for their states to be spared from the offshore drilling expansion as well.

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White House officials on Sunday night denied a report in Axios that Trump is not pleased with Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross’ performance.

“Secretary Ross is leading the administration’s approach on steel, aluminum, intellectual property and trade. Far from souring on his performance, since taking office, the President has expanded his responsibilities,” White House spokesperson Raj Shah told Axios in a statement.

Axios reported on Sunday that Trump is unhappy with Ross’ trade negotiations with China and is also perturbed that Ross regularly dozes off during meetings, Axios reported.

The President made his unhappiness clear to Ross during meetings about six months into his presidency, per Axios.

“These trade deals, they’re terrible,” Trump told Ross, according to a person in the room for one of the meetings who spoke with Axios. “Your understanding of trade is terrible. Your deals are no good. No good.”

 

Read Axios full report here.

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President Donald Trump over the weekend largely stayed out of negotiations to reopen the federal government, tasking Republican and Democratic leaders in Congress with reaching a deal.

Trump left the negotiations to Congress at the direction of his advisers, who argued that Democrats were to blame for the shutdown and therefore Democrats needed to come around on an agreement to open the government, the Washington Post reported on Sunday. The President did speak with Republican leaders over the phone to strategize, the New York Times reported, but he mostly refrained from weighing in on the negotiations publicly, save for a few tweets blaming Democrats for the shutdown.

Instead of inserting himself into the negotiations, Trump spent much of the weekend glued to his television. On Saturday, he watched old clips of him criticizing President Barack Obama during the 2013 shutdown, a White House aide told the New York Times. Throughout the weekend Trump watched the cable news coverage of the shutdown and offered critiques to his aides who went on television to blame Democrats for the shutdown, according to the Washington Post.

Indeed, Trump tweeted praise for Fox News on Sunday night, presumably while watching his favorite cable news network.

On Sunday, Trump did not leave his private residence on the third floor of the White House, according to CNN. From there, he called some Republican leaders in Congress, urging them to reach a deal with Democrats to open the government, per CNN.

Though he ultimately kept a low profile, Trump told aides that he was concerned he would be blamed for the shutdown and wondered if he should be working to end it, per the Washington Post. In an attempt to show that he was working hard during the shutdown, the President posed for a photo of him on the phone in the Oval Office on Satueday, wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat.

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House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) on Friday afternoon blamed Republicans for the potential federal government shutdown and took a swing at President Donald Trump’s leadership during the negotiations.

Pelosi said that Trump is “failing to lead,” noting that Trump blamed President Barack Obama for the shutdown in 2013. She also hit Trump for a tweet last year positing that a shutdown could be “good.”

“There’s no such thing as a good shutdown,” she told reporters in a press conference on Capitol Hill.

Democratic House leaders pledged to remain in Washington, D.C. while they wait for the Senate to act on a deal to keep the government open. Pelosi seemed pleased that Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) was headed to the White House to talk about a funding deal with Trump.

“I’m optimistic that that overture was made, hopefully to be constructive,” she said.

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Carl Higbie, the head of external affairs for the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), resigned from the Trump administration on Thursday after CNN uncovered derogatory comments he made about black people, women, LGBT people and Muslims.

Effective immediately, Carl Higbie has resigned as Chief of External Affairs at CNCS,” CNCS spokesperson Samantha Jo Warfield told CNN in a statement Thursday.

Higbie, who oversaw public relations for government service organizations like AmeriCorps, has made several degrading comments about minorities in the past on talk radio.

In 2013, he said that black people have a “lax of morality” and said that black people on welfare “think that breeding is a form of employment,” according to a clip uncovered by CNN. In 2013, he openly said that he does not “like” Muslim people.

“People always rip me a new one for that. Carl, you’re racist, you can’t, you’re sexist. I’m like Jesus Christ. I just don’t like Muslim people because their ideology sucks,” Higbie said on an online talk radio show, “Sound of Freedom.”

Higbie also said that he does not “like” gay people while lamenting the legalization of gay marriage and called Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) a “bitch.”

Read CNN’s full report on Higbie’s offensive comments here.

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This post has been updated.

President Donald Trump was initially scheduled to fly to Mar-a-Lago Friday afternoon, but given the tough odds the Senate faces in keeping the government open, it appears Trump will not leave for his Palm Beach estate until the Senate passes a funding bill.

A White House spokesperson told reporters at the White House that the President would delay his trip until a shutdown is averted, according to CNN.

As of Thursday night, the odds of the Senate easily passing the spending bill passed by the House on Thursday looked poor. Democrats remained staunchly opposed to the deal, and a few Republicans signaled opposition as well.

On Friday morning, Trump continued to lay the groundwork to blame a potential government shutdown on Democrats, as a shutdown looks more and more likely.

A government shutdown could put a serious damper on Trump’s plans to celebrate his first year in office at Mar-a-Lago on Saturday. Trump is set to attend a fundraiser on Saturday night to benefit the Republican National Committee and his presidential campaign.

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With about a day left to negotiate a deal to keep the federal government open, Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) on Thursday night signaled that he will not back Republicans’ current plan to temporarily fund the government.

Flake joins a couple of other Republicans and the Democratic caucus in the Senate in opposing the bill passed by the House Thursday night, increasing the threat that the government will shut down on Friday night. Flake, an outspoken Trump critic who is not seeking re-election in 2018, did not pledge outright that he would oppose the bill, but told reporters he was “not inclined” to back the deal. He said that he would prefer passing a spending bill to fund the government for just a few days, a proposal pitched by the Democrats, in order to give Congress more time to finalize a deal to restore the protections in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

In an interview with the Daily Beast Thursday night, Flake complained that leaders in Congress were giving President Donald Trump too much power in steering negotiations on DACA. He argued that since Trump seems to constantly change his mind on what kind of deal he would back, Congress just needs to negotiate on its own and see if Trump will sign the bill.

“We’re not going to get any better, particularly on the [immigration] issue, by waiting three weeks,” Flake told The Daily Beast. “It just gives the White House time to agree, disagree, and go back and forth. We just need to pass a bill and put it either on the president’s desk… or just pass a Senate bill and see what the House does with it.”

“There’s an institutional prerogative here. We pass legislation. The president either signs it or vetoes it. We shouldn’t be beholden to everything the president wants,” the senator added. “Obviously you take that into account, but you can’t just wait. Particularly when the White House has been going back and forth and back and forth for a long time now.”

Flake is not the only Republican in the Senate who has threatened to buck GOP leaders on the House spending deal, which would fund the federal government for another month and fund the Children’s Health Insurance Program for six years. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) have also signaled they may oppose the spending deal.

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