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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

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) suggested this week that President Donald Trump may not run for reelection in 2020, in an interview that aired Friday morning on NBC’s “Today.”

Matt Lauer asked Christie if he would back Trump in 2020. In response, Christie indicated that it’s not a sure thing that Trump will run again, though Christie did not say whether he had discussed this with the President.

“If he runs again I would support him, yes, but I’m not so sure what will happen,” Christie replied. “Four years is a long time, and especially for someone who has not spent a lifetime in politics, so I think those years affect him differently, so I’m sure the President will make whatever decision is best for him and his family and the county. If he runs again, absolutely I expect to be with him.”

Since he took office earlier this year, Trump’s reelection campaign has been somewhat active, raising money and releasing ads, suggesting that the President has plans to run again.

Watch Christie’s interview via NBC. Lauer asks Christie about Trump at the 3:50 mark.

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A spokesman for Whitefish Energy, the small Montana utility company that won a $300 million no-bid contract to help restore power to Puerto Rico, on Friday morning insisted that the company obtained the contract fairly.

The company is based in Whitefish, Montana, the hometown of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, which has prompted scrutiny of the contract. The company is also reportedly financed by major donors to the Trump campaign. Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello asked the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general to investigate how Whitefish Energy won the contract.

Whitefish Energy spokesman Ken Luce told MSNBC’s Stephanie Ruhle that the company won the contract because they were quick to travel to Puerto Rico to seek one.

“This is really a very simple effort by an entrepreneur to get on the plane, fly to Puerto Rico, talk to PREPA when no one else would,” Luce said, referring to the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority.

When Ruhle noted that other companies were interested in the contract, Luce acknowledged that just one other company had expressed interest in the bid when Whitefish traveled to Puerto Rico. He also said that Whitefish has managed projects of a similar size before — projects costing somewhere between $200 million and $250 million.

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Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), the chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said Thursday that the Trump administration has issued guidance for the implementation of new sanctions on Russia after the administration missed a deadline for moving forward with the sanctions by several weeks.

“The Senate and House spoke loud and clear by overwhelmingly passing this piece of legislation and sent a strong signal to Iran, Russia and North Korea that our country will stand firm and united in the face of destabilizing behavior,” Corker said in a statement. “The guidance provided today by the State Department is a good first step in responsibly implementing a very complex piece of legislation, and I appreciate Secretary Tillerson’s attention to this important issue. Congress will expect thorough and timely consultation until full implementation is complete.”

The guidance was issued after Corker spoke to Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan about the delay in implementing the sanctions, according to the Daily Beast.

Congress passed a bill to enact new sanctions on Russia in July, and President Donald Trump reluctantly signed it into law. The legislation set an Oct. 1 deadline for the administration to name which entities would be hit with the new sanctions. However, Corker told reporters earlier this week that the administration had let nearly a month go by since the deadline without naming the entities, noting that he was not sure whether the delay was intentional.

“We’re going to check into it,” he said, according to Vox. “I don’t have any way of evaluating whether it’s purposeful or not purposeful.”

Sens. John McCain (R-AZ) and Ben Cardin (D-MD), the chair and ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, respectively, confirmed in a Thursday statement that the administration had issued the guidance.

“The administration’s announcement is a step in the right direction toward holding Russia accountable for its attack on our election. By issuing guidance for the implementation of the sanctions legislation, the administration is slowly but surely carrying out the law that Congress passed overwhelmingly this summer,” the senators said in a statement. “We will conduct focused oversight on this issue and stand ready if appropriate and necessary to apply relevant provisions of the sanctions law related to congressional review.”

McCain and Cardin also urged the State Department to assign the proper staff to implementation of the sanctions. Foreign Policy reported Thursday evening that the State Department has closed its office dedicated to sanctions. David Tessler, the deputy director of the Policy Planning Office, will now oversee sanctions policy, Foreign policy reported, citing congressional staff and former diplomats.

“We also encourage the State Department to dedicate robust staffing and resources to the implementation effort, especially in light of reports that the sanctions office has been closed, a number of its staff have resigned, and the mandate for sanctions implementation has been shifted to the Policy Planning staff, which has not traditionally played an operational role,” the senators wrote in their statement. “Providing dedicated staffing and resources within the State Department will demonstrate the administration’s commitment to carrying out this vitally important law.”

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During an interview on CNN Friday morning, White House senior adviser Kellyanne Conway would not say whether she was comfortable with the revelation that a top staffer at a data firm employed by the Trump campaign reached out to Wikileaks during the campaign.

CNN’s Alisyn Camerota repeatedly asked Conway, who served as President Donald Trump’s campaign manager, if she was comfortable with the firm’s contact with Wikileaks, and Conway dodged the question several times.

The Daily Beast reported Wednesday that Alexander Nix, the head of the data firm Cambridge Analytica, which worked for the Trump campaign, reached out to Julian Assange and asked if the firm could help Wikileaks release Hillary Clinton’s emails. It’s the strongest reported link so far between the Trump campaign and Russia.

When first asked about this news, Conway told Camerota that she is only aware of what she’s read in the news about the interaction. She noted that Cambridge Analytica was not solely responsible for the Trump campaign’s data operation. Camerota followed up and asked Conway if she was uncomfortable with the firm’s interaction with Wikileaks.

“Any of that was completely unnecessary, for a very simple reason. We beat Hillary Clinton fairly and squarely,” Conway replied.

Camerota asked again if Conway was comfortable with the contact with Wikileaks.

“They didn’t have a connection to Wikileaks,” Conway responded.

“They reached out to help with the data,” Camerota retorted.

“No, not to help with the data. It’s something about releasing the emails. I know nothing about that because I was the campaign manager and I couldn’t be bothered with that,” Conway then replied.

Camerota then asked Conway if she is comfortable with the news that the firm reached out to Wikileaks about Clinton’s emails. Conway emphasized that one “individual reached out to Julian Assange” in an apparent attempt to distance the Trump campaign with the interaction.

The CNN host tried again to ask Conway if she was comfortable with the interaction, prompting Conway to respond, “I have already told you it’s completely unnecessary because we beat her on the issues and continue to.” Conway then bashed CNN for its coverage of Clinton, and after a back and forth with Camerota, the two agreed not to mention Clinton for the remainder of the interview.

However, Camerota asked Conway once more whether she was comfortable with Cambridge Analytica’s contact with Wikileaks.

“I’ve answered your questions. Uncomfortable with what? I told you it wasn’t necessary. I was focused on the issues,” Conway replied.

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After several women anonymously spoke to CNN and the Daily Beast this week to accuse journalist Mark Halperin of sexual misconduct, another woman came forward on the record Thursday to accuse Halperin of inappropriate behavior.

Dianna May told the Washington Post that while she was a researcher at ABC News in 1994, Halperin, who was the network’s political director at the time, had her sit on his lap on multiple occasions.

May said that she asked Halperin for information for a story, and he told her to come to his office. Halperin asked May to close the door and motioned for her to sit on his lap, she told the Post. She told the Washington Post that she did not want to sit on his lap but that she thought rejecting Halperin could hurt her career. When she sat on his lap, he had an erection, May told the Post. Similar incidents occurred three or four more times, she said.

“I didn’t know what to do,” May told the Post. “He was important. He wasn’t my superior, but he was certainly in a superior position to mine. I didn’t say anything. I didn’t know how to at the time. I knew it was wrong.”

“It was gross,” she added. “He’s gross. He’s gross.”

May’s accusation came after several women alleged sexual misconduct by Halperin while he was in a top position in the ABC News newsroom.

As women came forward with the allegations on Wednesday and Thursday, Halperin lost book and television deals. NBC News dropped him as a contributor, Penguin Press cancelled a planned book by Halperin and John Heilemann, and HBO nixed a project connected to Halperin’s forthcoming book. The Showtime network released a statement saying it would consider the allegations when deciding whether to produce a second season of “The Circus,” a series with Halperin about the election.

Halperin apologized for the incidents in a statement to CNN but merely described his behavior as pursuing “relationships with women that I worked with, including some junior to me.”

Five women told CNN for a story published Wednesday that Halperin sexually harassed them while at ABC News. Several of the women said that Halperin had propositioned them while reporting on the campaign trail. A few of the women accused Halperin of rubbing his genitals against them while clothed. Halperin denied these latter accusations in an interview with the Washington Post.

On Thursday morning, writer Emily Miller said she was also a victim of Halperin’s harassment. A woman then told the Daily Beast that Halperin made unwanted advances during a meeting in his office, “lunging” at her and backing her into a corner.

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House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) said on Thursday that the FBI has agreed to hand over documents related to the Trump dossier to the House, after the Washington Post reported that the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee helped fund the research that ended up in the explosive document.

After the Post’s report came out, Ryan on Wednesday complained that the FBI had been “stonewalling” the House’s requests for documents related to the dossier and called on the FBI to hand over the documents.

Ryan said Thursday that he was “frustrated to have learned through the media aspects about this investigation that we’ve been asking for documents from the FBI for months.” He then added that the FBI has agreed to share the documents.

“Since yesterday morning, the FBI got in touch with us yesterday afternoon and they have informed us that they will comply with our document request and that they will provide the documents Congress has been asking for next week,” Ryan told reporters at a press conference.

House Intelligence Committee Chair Devin Nunes (R-CA), who stepped aside from the committee’s Russia investigation, asked for documents from the FBI related to the Trump dossier. The committee subpoenaed the FBI for information on whether the FBI tried to independently confirm information in the dossier or paid former British spy Christopher Steele for the dossier. Nunes also asked for information on whether the federal government used the dossier to justify surveillance on Americans.

After the Washington Post report came out, Nunes on Wednesday complained that the FBI had not complied with a document request with information related to the dossier.

“We are continuing to get stonewalled not just by Fusion GPS, we’re also having problems, speaker of the House this morning called on the DOJ and the FBI to get us the information that we’ve been asking for, that we’ve subpoenaed for for over two months regarding this dossier,” he told Fox News.

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This post has been updated.

Prominent political journalist Mark Halperin apologized Wednesday night after five women told CNN that Halperin sexually harassed them while he was working at ABC News.

“During this period, I did pursue relationships with women that I worked with, including some junior to me,” Halperin said in a statement to CNN. “I now understand from these accounts that my behavior was inappropriate and caused others pain. For that, I am deeply sorry and I apologize. Under the circumstances, I’m going to take a step back from my day-to-day work while I properly deal with this situation.”

Halperin is a senior political analyst for NBC News and MSNBC, and a co-author of best-selling “Game Change” campaign books.

MSNBC told CNN that Halperin will leave his role as an analyst for the network given the allegations.

“We find the story and the allegations very troubling,” MSNBC said in a statement to CNN. “Mark Halperin is leaving his role as a contributor until the questions around his past conduct are fully understood.”

Showtime, which produced a series on the 2016 campaign with Halperin called “The Circus, said Thursday afternoon that Showtime has not received complaints about Halperin’s behavior and that the network will consider the allegations made this week as it evaluates whether to create a second season.

“During Mark’s time working with us, we have not seen nor have there been allegations of any untoward behavior. We are aware of these reports and will continue to evaluate all options should we decide to move forward with another season of THE CIRCUS. There is no tolerance for sexual harassment within SHOWTIME and its productions,” the company said in a statement.

Five women told CNN that Halperin sexually harassed them while at ABC News, with some accusing him of inappropriately propositioning him and pressing his genitals against them without consent. Halperin served in powerful positions at ABC, including as the network’s political director, though none of the women who spoke with CNN say Halperin threatened their careers or promised to help them in exchange for sex.

In a statement to CNN, ABC News said that Halperin has not worked at the network for a while and that “no complaints were filed during his tenure.”

The five women told CNN that they did not report the incidents to human resources because they feared retribution from Halperin. They spoke to CNN on the condition of anonymity because they know Halperin is an influential member of the media.

One woman told CNN that during the early 2000s, she went to meet Halperin in his office, where he allegedly proceeded to press his genitals against her, grab her breasts, and kiss her forcibly.

Another woman told CNN that during a meeting during the 2004 election cycle, she met with Halperin about her role in campaign coverage. During the meeting, Halperin pressed his genitals against her shoulder while she was sitting in a chair, she told CNN. He later propositioned her on the campaign trail, she told CNN.

Two other women also told CNN that Halperin propositioned her while on the road to cover a campaign. A fifth woman did not share many details, but told CNN that Halperin pressed his genitals against her while clothed.

Another woman on Thursday morning revealed that she was sexually harassed by Halperin, though she did not reveal the details of the incident. Emily Miller, a journalist and author of “Emily Gets Her Gun,” said she did not report the incident at the time.

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After speaking out about former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly’s behavior on her show earlier this week, Megyn Kelly on Wednesday night questioned why Fox News did not know the size of one of O’Reilly’s settlements.

The ousted Fox News host in January paid a $32 million settlement to a former Fox News analyst who accused him of sexual harassment and misconduct, and O’Reilly’s contract at Fox News was renewed not long after, the New York Times reported over the weekend. James Murdoch, the chief executive at 21st Century Fox, said that he had not previously been aware of the size of O’Reilly’s settlement.

“That’s not nuisance value,” Kelly told NBC’s “Late Night” host Seth Meyers of O’Reilly’s settlement. “Litigations happen all the time, a lot of them are nonsense and you pay some small amount to make them go away — $32 million is a different story.”

“And he was renewed at the company after he did that. And I know that Fox says it didn’t know,” she continued. “The question remains, why didn’t they? Why wouldn’t you know? Why wouldn’t you ask before you bring this man back into the workplace and unleash him on the workforce?”

Kelly told Meyers that she was moved to speak out about O’Reilly’s behavior and her decision to report it to the Fox News top brass earlier this week due to the size of O’Reilly’s settlement and his claim that he did not receive complaints about his behavior while he was at Fox. She said that she does not enjoy criticizing her former employer, but that she felt she needed to speak up about O’Reilly.

“They’ve got some great people,” she said. “He is not one of them.”

She also addressed the thank you notes that O’Reilly posted this week from Kelly and Gretchen Carlson, another former Fox News host who says she was sexually harassed at the network. O’Reilly argued that the notes prove he had a positive relationship with female employees at the network.

“Ask yourselves, who keeps thank you notes from nine years earlier and puts them in a file just in case they need them,” Kelly told Meyers before noting it’s possible for someone to have a good relationship with a coworker before obtaining new information that changes her mind.

Watch the clip via NBC:

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During an interview with Fox Business Network’s Lou Dobbs that aired Wednesday night, President Donald Trump spent several minutes complaining about news coverage of his presidency and bashing the media.

Trump’s rant came after Dobbs told the President that he was one of the most “reviled” presidents, but also one of the most “loved and respected.”

“How does that feel?” Dobbs asked.

In response, Trump lamented that he was “treated unfairly” by the media during the campaign, but that it “got much worse” after he was elected.

“They put on stories that are so false, they have so-called sources that in my opinion don’t exist,” he said. “They make it up. It is so dishonest. It is so fake.”

Trump then claimed credit for the phrase “fake news,” a term first used to describe incorrect news published on social media during the 2016 election, which was then appropriated by Trump when he took office.

“I’ve really started this whole fake news thing,” Trump told Dobbs. “What could be more fake than CBS and NBC and ABC and CNN when you look at some of these stories?”

The President then touted his ability to fight back against news coverage, claiming that he convinces his social media followers that news stories are false.

“At least I can put out the truth and put out the real word. And people agree,” he said. “If you look at it from the day I started running to now, I’m so proud I have been able to convince people how fake it is, because it has taken a nosedive. Except for your show and Sean and a few of them.”

Dobbs ended the interview after Trump’s “fake news” rant by praising the President.

“You are everything as advertised when you ran for president and I appreciate everything you are doing,” Dobbs told Trump.

Watch part of the interview via the Fox Business Network:

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Former Arizona state Sen. Kelli Ward, so far the leading Republican candidate to replace Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), on Wednesday afternoon declared Flake’s retirement a “victory” and pitched herself as the “cure” for an anemic Congress.

“Jeff Flake stepping down yesterday was a big victory for voters of Arizona and the citizens of this country. Because we have got an optimistic path forward,” Ward told MSNBC’s Katy Tur.

Tur asked Ward if she agreed with Flake’s assessment that Trump is dangerous to American democracy. “I don’t,” Ward replied.

“What I agree with Sen. Flake is that there is a serious illness in Washington, D.C., and it is contagious, but it is swampitis and thank goodness we have a doctor who’s going to be coming to Washington to heal those ills,” she added, later clarifying that she is that doctor.

Ward, known for her fierce support of Trump and her willingness to engage with chemtrail conspiracy theorists, touted herself as an outsider who will prioritize Trump’s agenda.

She said that the Senate has “become an obstructionary body” due to “problems with the D.C. insider crowd pandering to special interests rather than listening to voters.” Ward said voters want Republicans to secure the border, cut taxes and repeal Obamacare.

“The Republican Party has to get its act together and put those things on the President’s desk. That’s why 2018 will be a watershed election for strong conservatives, me included, as well as others across the country,” she said on MSNBC.

At one point described Ward also herself as an “Americanist,” though it’s not entirely clear what she meant by the term, which is typically used to describe an academic who studies American culture.

Ward has been backed by Steve Bannon, the former White House chief strategist now hell-bent on electing far-right conservatives to Congress. Now that Flake has dropped out of the race, however, Republicans will likely recruit a more established politician to run for the Senate seat against Ward.

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