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

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) on Tuesday afternoon made a plea to the Trump administration, calling on President Donald Trump and the secretary of homeland security to reset negotiations on immigration. Graham lamented that the debate over the issue had devolved into an “s-show.”

During a senate hearing with Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, Graham noted that early last week, Trump seemed open to a comprehensive deal to restore the protections in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program along with some measures to boost border security and change the legal immigration system. The President changed his tune on Thursday afternoon, however, when he reportedly made the infamous “shithole countries” remark in a meeting about a bipartisan DACA proposal.

Graham said that earlier in the week, Trump understood that he had to approach the DACA deal with “compassion.”

“Now, I don’t know where that guy went. I want him back,” Graham said.

Later, the senator noted that Trump was likely watching his televised remarks and asked Trump to call him.

“This has turned into an s-show and we need to get back to being a great country, where Democrats and Republicans will work together to do something that we should have done years ago,” Graham said.

Graham then pledged to help DACA recipients and include in any deal measures that change the immigration system. The senator called on Nielsen to help broker that deal.

After he left the hearing, Graham told reporters in the Capitol that Trump was not “well-served by his staff,” though he would not identify a specific administration aide. He then told reporters that he believes someone on Trump’s staff intervened between 10 a.m. on Thursday morning, when Sen. Dick Durbin (R-IL) called the President about a DACA deal, and noon on Thursday, when the actual meeting began. (Durbin and Graham arrived at the meeting to find two more conservative lawmakers, Sen. David Perdue (R-GA) and Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) also at the gathering.)

“I think somebody on his staff gave him really bad advice between 10 o’clock and  12 o’clock on Thursday. I think the president I saw on Tuesday is the guy I play golf with. I actually like the guy. He’s actually funny. I thought he commanded the room. And the conversation at 10 o’clock was pretty consistent. Something happened between 10 o’clock and 12 o’clock,” Graham told reporters.

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Special counsel Robert Mueller issued a subpoena to former White House adviser Steve Bannon last week, calling on him to testify before a grand jury, the New York Times reported Tuesday, citing an unnamed person familiar with the matter.

Mueller will likely let Bannon skip a grand jury testimony if the former Trump adviser agrees to sit for a less formal interview with Mueller’s team in their offices, the person familiar with the matter told the New York Times.

As the New York Times noted, Bannon does not appear to have much firsthand knowledge of the main incidents Mueller would be interested in for the Russia probe. However, as a one-time member of Trump’s inner circle, Bannon likely has information on some of the wheelings and dealings of the Trump team that could prove useful to Mueller’s team.

Bannon also sat for an interview with the House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday as part of the committee’s Russia probe.

Read the latest editor’s brief (Prime access) on this story »


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White House Communications Director Hope Hicks is expected to sit with the House Intelligence Committee for an interview as part of the Russia probe, CNN reported Monday evening, citing people familiar with the matter.

Hicks, one of the Trump administration’s longest-serving staffers, could testify as early as this week, according to CNN. She has reportedly already sat for an interview with special counsel Robert Mueller’s team.

Congressional investigators will ask Hicks if she has any knowledge of contacts between Trump officials and Russia, per CNN. She may also face questions about briefings she reportedly received from the FBI earlier this year warning her that Russian operatives tried to make contact with her during the transition.

Read the latest editor’s brief (Prime access) on this story »


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In the same meeting during which President Donald Trump referred to African countries as “shithole countries,” he also told congressional lawmakers that he did not care about any demands from the Congressional Black Caucus, the Washington Post reported Monday evening.

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), who was at the Thursday meeting to promote a bipartisan plan to restore the protections from the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, told the President at one point that the Congressional Black Caucus would be more likely to back a deal that gave immigrants from certain countries protected status, the Washington Post reported, citing people familiar with the meeting. Trump told Durbin he was not interested in catering to the CBC, per the Post.

Trump’s combative and racially charged comments in last week’s meetings have endangered a deal on DACA. The President sided with immigration hardliners in his administration and in Congress, alienating the lawmakers working on a bipartisan proposal. In the wake of reports about his comments, Trump has attacked Democrats and specifically gone after Durbin, who confirmed that Trump said “shithole countries” during the meeting.

Read the Washington Post’s full report on the meeting here.


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U.S. counterintelligence officials told White House senior adviser Jared Kushner in early 2017 that Wendi Murdoch may be leveraging her relationship with him to help advance the interests of the Chinese government, the Wall Street Journal reported Monday night, citing people familiar with the matter.

Officials were worried that Wendi Murdoch was lobbying for a Chinese garden at the National arboretum in Washington, D.C., according to the Wall Street Journal. The Obama administration originally backed the plans for the garden, but changed its stance over concerns that a tower planned for the garden could be used for surveillance, per the Wall Street Journal.

A spokesman for Murdoch told the Wall Street Journal that she is unaware of the FBI having concerns about her and has no knowledge of the planned garden.

The officials who delivered the warned to Kushner did not give him details about their concerns about Murdoch, the Journal reported. Kushner’s wife, Ivanka Trump, was not present for the warning, according to the Journal. A spokesman for Kushner and Trump told the Wall Street Journal that the warning about Murdoch came as part of a “routine senior staff security briefing.”

Kushner and Trump have been friends with Murdoch for years. Wendi Murdoch used to be married to Rupert Murdoch, the chairman of News Corp.

Read the Wall Street Journal’s full report here.

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Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), one of the lawmakers in attendance at the Thursday meeting during which President Donald Trump referred to African countries as “shithole countries,” said Friday afternoon that he said his “piece” to the President following the comments.

Graham’s statement did not confirm that Trump used the phrase “shithole countries,” but it did not deny that either, and Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) already said that Graham confirmed the comments to him privately.

“Following comments by the President, I said my piece directly to him yesterday. The President and all those attending the meeting know what I said and how I feel. I’ve always believed that America is an idea, not defined by its people but by its ideals,” Graham said in the statement. “The American ideal is embraced by people all over the globe. It was best said a long time ago, E Pluribus Unum – Out of Many, One. Diversity has always been our strength, not our weakness. In reforming immigration we cannot lose these American Ideals.”

Though Graham did not directly confirm Trump’s remarks, his statement noting that he stood up to the President differs from a statement issued by other Republicans in the room. Sens. Tom Cotton (R-AR) and David Perdue (R-GA) claimed that they did “not recall” Trump using the phrase “shithole countries.”

Graham also thanked Durbin, who worked with Graham on a deal to restore the protections in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and who also told reporters Friday morning that Graham confronted Trump during the Thursday meeting over his remarks.

“I appreciate Senator Durbin’s statements and have enjoyed working with him and many others on this important issue,” Graham said in the statement. “I believe it is vitally important to come to a bipartisan solution to the immigration and border challenges we face today. I am committed to working with Republicans and Democrats to find common ground so we can move forward.”

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Nearly a day after reports surfaced that President Donald Trump referred to African countries as “shithole countries” in a White House meeting with lawmakers, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) called the remarks “unfortunate” and “unhelpful.”

“So, first thing that came to my mind, was, very unfortunate, unhelpful,” Ryan said when asked about Trump’s reported comments on Friday afternoon at an event in Milwaukee.

Ryan, who was not at the meeting where the remarks were allegedly made, said that Trump’s alleged comments made him think of his own family, who immigrated from Ireland when the Irish were not treated very well in the U.S. He said that immigration is “what makes this country so exceptional and unique in the first place” and said it’s “important that we celebrate that.”

Since the Washington Post and the New York Times first reported Trump’s derogatory comments on Thursday afternoon, few Republicans have offered criticism of the President, including the Republican lawmakers who were present at the meeting.

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After President Donald Trump on Thursday morning published a tweet mixing up domestic surveillance and foreign surveillance, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) had to explain the difference to Trump over the phone for 30 minutes, the Washington Post reported Thursday evening.

Trump’s first tweet about surveillance on Thursday mentioned a House vote on a section of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act that allows the FISA court to demand communications made by foreign persons not on U.S. soil from U.S. companies like Google and AT&T. However, in the tweet, Trump griped about surveillance of Americans, called the FISA Act “controversial,” and referenced his baseless claim that the Obama administration spied on him during the 2016 campaign.

About an hour later, he followed up with a tweet noting that the House was voting on “foreign surveillance of foreign bad guys on foreign lands” and endorsed that section of the law. However, his initial tweet raised questions about his grasp of the law, forcing Ryan to publicly defend Trump’s knowledge of the FISA Act.

“It is well-known that he has concerns about the domestic FISA law. That’s not what we’re doing today. Today was 702, a different part,” Ryan said during a press conference Thursday. “Today has to do with foreign terrorists on foreign soil. He knows that and he put out something that I think clarified that. His administration’s position has been clear from day one, which is 702 is really important, it’s gotta be renewed.”

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After reports in the Washington Post and the New York Times alleged Thursday that President Donald Trump referred to Haiti and African countries as “shithole countries,” a handful of Republicans quickly came out condemning Trump’s remarks.

But the initial rush by some Republicans to distance themselves from the President’s reported comments did not grow into a wave of GOP condemnation.

Neither House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) nor Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) have weighed in on the matter, and most of their rank-and-file members have also stayed mum.

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), who was present in the Thursday meeting with Trump, backed up reports that Trump referred to African countries as “shithole countries,” and Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) said that he heard second-hand that Trump made “abhorrent and repulsive” comments in the meeting. However, the Republican lawmakers present in the meeting have declined to acknowledge Trump’s remarks. Rep. Mario Diaz Balart (R-FL) issued a statement saying nothing will “divert” his focus from the DACA negotiations, and Sens. David Perdue (R-GA) and Tom Cotton (R-AR) issued a joint statement claiming that they “do not recall” Trump making the alleged comment about “shithole countries.”

One of the few Republicans to publicly denounce Trump’s comments was Rep. Mia Love (R-UT), who is of Haitian descent. She said in a Thursday statement that Trump’s remarks were “unkind, divisive, elitist, and fly in the face of out nation’s values,” and she called on the President to apologize.

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) also called for a “detailed explanation” of Trump’s reported remarks and defended America’s tradition of welcoming immigrants from all over the world, and Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) called Trump’s remarks “highly inappropriate & out of bounds.” Several Florida Republicans, including Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL), and GOP Gov. Rick Scott also criticized Trump’s comments.

Some conservatives also weighed in to defend Trump after his remarks were reported. Rep. Steve King (R-IA), known for his own racist remarks about immigrants, told Trump to “hang in there.”

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President Donald Trump on Friday morning appeared to deny a report that he referred to Haiti and African countries as “shithole countries” in a meeting with lawmakers about the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

Trump did not explicitly address his reported use of the term “shithole,” but mentioned his “tough” comments at a meeting about DACA and claimed that “this was not the language used.”

Trump followed up about an hour later to more explicitly deny making “derogatory comments about Haitians.” He did not address whether he specifically used the word “shithole” but did deny telling lawmakers to take Haitians out of the U.S.

When the comments were first reported by the Washington Post and New York Times on Thursday, the White House did not deny that Trump used those words.

During the meeting Thursday, Trump asked lawmakers why the U.S. allowed immigrants from Haiti and African countries.

“Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?” he asked, according to the Washington Post.

He also asked specifically why the U.S. wants Haitian immigrants, per the New York Times.

Trump’s apparent denial Friday morning came in a lengthy tweetstorm about negotiations to restore DACA’s protections. The President bashed a deal proposed on Thursday by a bipartisan group of senators and blamed Democrats for torpedoing a deal to restore DACA’s protections.

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