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

In the opening statement for the Virginia trial of former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort, a federal prosecutor painted Manafort as a man who knowingly lied to the government and acted as though he were above the law.

“A man in this courtroom believed the law did not apply to him,” said Uzo Asonye, a member of special counsel Robert Mueller’s prosecution team, referring to Manafort.

Asonye told the jury that the special counsel’s case will prove that Manafort failed to report $15 million in income to the U.S. government by funneling money directly from foreign bank accounts to vendors, misleading his bookkeeper and tax preparers, and by claiming the income was a loan. Asonye said that the government’s case will also show that Manafort misled financial institutions in order to obtain loans after his work in Ukraine dried up.

“All of these charges boil down to one simple issue: Did Paul Manafort lie,” Asonye told the jury.

Manafort was indicted on multiple counts of bank and tax fraud arising from his work for the former pro-Russian regime in Ukraine. He has pleaded not guilty. Manafort is the first person to be tried as part of Mueller’s sprawling investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 elections.

Before laying out the government’s case in more detail, Asonye described Manafort’s lifestyle while he was working for Ukrainian political leaders until 2014, noting that Manafort spent the millions he earned on luxury items. Among the goods Manafort allegedly bought with this money, according to Asonye, was a $21,000 watch and a $15,000 jacket made out of ostrich.

At this point, U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis jumped in to note that it’s not a crime to be rich and implored Asonye to focus on how Manafort allegedly broke the law.

Asonye then noted that Manafort did not “pay the taxes he owed” to the government by filing false tax returns and began to give the jury more detail on Manafort’s alleged actions.

“The evidence will show that Paul Manafort placed himself and his money above the law,” Asonye said.

He alleged that Manafort had more than 30 foreign bank accounts but knowingly lied to the government about the accounts. Asonye said that the jury will hear from vendors who received wire transfers directly from the foreign accounts and from Manafort’s bookkeeper who allegedly did not receive the correct information on Manafort’s finances.

The prosecutor accused Manafort of disguising his income as if it were loans. These “sham” or “bogus” loans helped Manafort avoid paying taxes on it, Asonye said.

After laying out the government’s case for tax fraud, Asonye moved on to the bank fraud charges, alleging that Manafort lied on loan applications when he started running out of cash.

“He literally created cash out of thin air,” Asonye said, referring to Manafort’s loan applications and allegedly doctored financial statements.

Asonye emphasized that while Manafort delegated much of the work in furthering this alleged scheme to his associates, Manafort gave constant directions and received regular updates.

“None of this happened by accident,” Asonye said, adding that the government’s evidence “will establish that Paul Manafort” lied to his bookkeeper, his tax preparer, the IRS, and financial institutions.

Jury selection in the case began Tuesday morning and moved swiftly. By early afternoon, a jury was seated and opening statements began. The prosecution is now expected to begin putting on its case before the end of the day.

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On Tuesday morning, not long before jury selection began in former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort’s Virginia trial, lawyers for special counsel Robert Mueller filed an updated exhibit list.

The list of more than 400 exhibits remains largely unchanged from the original list filed earlier in July, and Mueller’s team will likely not use all of the exhibits listed, but the special counsel’s lawyers added new exhibits for a few of the key storylines laid out in the lead-up to the trial.

Mueller’s team added a few new items related to the loan Manafort allegedly obtained from Federal Savings Bank, run by Steve Calk, the banker interested in a Trump administration position. Those items include the journal of a former bank employee granted immunity to testify and an email with the subject line “Nervousness is setting in.”

The exhibit list also includes new documents related to the purchase of Yankees season tickets, a photograph of the outdoor kitchen at one of Manafort’s homes, and an email from Manafort to his longtime deputy Rick Gates about “DOD Service secretaries.”

Read the new exhibit list:

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Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), an ally of President Trump and prominent member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, announced Thursday that he will run for speaker of the House when Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) retires from Congress.

“Should the American people entrust us with the majority again in the 116th Congress, our clear mandate will be to continue working with President Trump to keep the promises we made, to stand up for the rule of law and the Constitution, and to put the interests of the people before those of the swamp. I want to help keep us on this track and shape bold, visionary policy that will improve the lives of the people we have the honor to represent,” Jordan wrote in a letter to his colleagues in the House.

In his efforts to protect Trump, Jordan has been a thorn in the side of special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe. Jordan has called for Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s resignation and targeted FBI agent Peter Strozk in his attempt to paint the Mueller probe as a bipartisan witch hunt. He also led a push to impeach Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, filing articles of impeachment on Wednesday, over the Justice Department’s hesitance to turn over troves of classified documents to Congress.

Jordan has forged ahead as a conservative rabble-rouser on Capitol Hill even as he faces allegations that he knew about sexual abuse faced by Ohio State wrestlers by the team doctor while Jordan served as a coach. Jordan has denied the allegations that he had any knowledge of the alleged abuse.

Read Jordan’s letter announcing his bid for speaker:

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After threatening to impose tariffs on European auto imports and repeatedly bashing Europe’s trade relationship with the U.S., President Donald Trump struck a different tone on Wednesday when he announced a plan to work with Europe to reduce tariffs imposed by both parties.

Trump offered few details on the plan and stopped short of announcing an agreement that would require the European Union and U.S. to change their tariff policies.

“We met right here at the White House to launch a new phase in the relationship between the United States and the European union, a phase of close friendship, of strong trade relations in which both of us will win,” Trump said during a brief press conference with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.

Trump said that the U.S. and Europe would work to “further strengthen” their trade relationship and aim to impose zero tariffs on each other.

“It will make trade fairer and more reciprocal. My favorite word: reciprocal,” Trump said.

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Tomorrow, my colleague Tierney and I will take on the enormous task of covering former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort’s first federal trial in Virginia, where he faces charges of tax fraud and bank fraud.

Not only will the case present the challenge of sifting through tedious documents and long witness testimony, but we will also face logistical challenges in covering a trial at the federal courthouse in Alexandria, Virginia.

Federal courts throughout the U.S. have different policies on the presence of electronics in the courtroom, but the rules are exceptionally strict in the Eastern District of Virginia. We will not be able to bring electronics of any kind into the courthouse, and there’s no place on premises to store our belongings.

So far, for hearings leading up to the trial, we have participated in the sketchy practice of paying the nearby deli $2 per item to store our computers and phones while we duck into the courthouse. I applaud the deli’s owners for this genius move to monetize the courthouse’s draconian policy. After the hearing, reporters make a mad dash from the courthouse to retrieve their phones and computers.

Though this strategy works for hearings that last only a few hours, covering a weeks-long trial presents a particular challenge, given that on some days, both of us will head to the courthouse and will alternate running in and out of the trial. For that time period, TPM has rented a hotel room so that Tierney and I have a home base at which to store our computers (and food) and from which we can file stories. This will involve us commuting a couple of blocks between the courthouse and the hotel, perhaps in a full sprint, to deliver news from the trial.

In between our jaunts outside, in the 21st century, our editors will wait anxiously back at the office for us to emerge without any way to reach us.

Without our beloved smartphones in the courthouse, we’ll have one old school saving grace to reach our editors from the building itself — a single payphone. On breaks in the trial, competition could be fierce to reach the payphone first to fill in our editors on the proceedings. We’ll be sure to pack quarters along with pad and pen.

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Russian gun activist Mariia Butina was arrested on Sunday and charged with “conspiracy to act as an agent of a foreign government” over her alleged effort to promote Russia’s interests by establishing relationships with political figures in the U.S.

Though the affidavit made public on Monday does not name the National Rifle Association (NRA), it appears that references to “Gun Rights Organization” in the document refer to the NRA.

Indeed, photos found on Butina’s Facebook page and elsewhere show that she mixed and mingled with NRA leaders and American politicians. Check out the photo opportunities Butina managed below:

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Conservatives in the House are preparing a document to impeach Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and could file the document as early as Monday, Politico reported Friday afternoon, citing conservative sources on Capitol Hill.

Though it appears House conservatives are seriously ramping up their efforts to boot Rosenstein, the timing of the impeachment filing and the level of support for it among the rest of the GOP caucus are not entirely clear. House Freedom Caucus members Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) and Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), two of Rosenstein’s most vocal critics, are leading the effort

Rosenstein has long been a target of conservatives in Congress unhappy with special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe. Most recently, House Republicans have balked at the Justice Department’s pace in turning over sensitive documents related to the Russia probe to Republicans on Capitol Hill. The FBI has at times tried to limit who sees sensitive info, but as the New York Times reported on Thursday, the White House recently overruled cabinet leaders and ordered that all members of the House be able to see classified material about an FBI informant.

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A grand jury indictment stemming from special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe accuses 12 Russian intelligence officers of planning and carrying out the hacks into several Democratic campaign organizations in the 2016 election.

The Russian nationals listed in the indictment worked in two units of the Russian intelligence agency known as GRU to release stolen documents from the Democratic groups, according to the indictment.

Read the allegations made in the indictment about the the 12 officers:

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Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein briefed President Trump earlier this week on the new indictment of 12 Russian nationals announced on Friday.

“I briefed President Trump about these allegations earlier this week. The President is fully aware of the department’s actions today,” Rosenstein said in a press conference announcing the new indictment.

The indictment from a grand jury, part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe, accused 12 members of the Russian intelligence agency of hacking the Democratic National Committee, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the Hillary Clinton campaign during the 2016 election.

After noting that Trump was aware of the indictment, Rosenstein emphasized that the government should not focus on the victims of the attack.

“In my remarks I have not identified the victims. We confront foreign interference in American elections. It’s important for us to avoid thinking politically, as Republicans or Democrats, and instead to think patriotically as Americans. Our response must not depend on which side was victimized. The internet allows foreign adversaries to attack America in new and unexpected ways,” Rosenstein said.

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