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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

A federal judge ruled on Wednesday that Maryland and Washington, D.C. have standing to sue President Donald Trump, allowing their lawsuit claiming that the President violated the Constitution’s Emoluments clause to move forward for now.

Maryland and D.C. have cleared one hurdle in their lawsuit against the President, but the judge has yet to issue a ruling on the meaning of the Emoluments clause, another factor that will determine whether the case can proceed. The judge, who is based in Maryland, will issue an opinion on the rest of Trump’s motion to dismiss the case at a later date.

The judge also ruled that Maryland and D.C. only have standing to sue over activities at the Trump International Hotel and the Trump Organization’s operations in Washington, D.C., not the Trump Organization’s operations outside the District.

The attorneys general in Maryland and D.C. argue in their lawsuit that Trump violated the Emolument’s clause by failing to sever financial ties with his hotel in Washington, D.C. The Emolument’s clause bars the President from accepting payments from a foreign government. It’s one of three lawsuits related to the Emoluments clause filed against the President, one of which was thrown out last year.

Foreign officials have patronized Trump’s hotel in Washington, D.C., and Maryland and D.C. argued in their lawsuit that the hotel’s connection to Trump drew people to that venue, as opposed to other event spaces in the area. In a January hearing on the lawsuit, a lawyer for the Trump hotel argued that the complaint was merely a “political” attempt to learn more about the President’s business. As for the debate over the meaning of the Emoluments clause, Trump’s legal team has argued that it does not apply to business transactions.

Asked about the ruling in the daily press briefing on Wednesday, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said she “can’t comment on ongoing litigation.”

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Michael Avenatti, the lawyer representing Stormy Daniels in her lawsuit against President Donald Trump, said on Wednesday morning that he would consider settling the case.

Though he did not rule out a settlement, Avenatti also suggested he would not be happy concluding the case until he gets more information about the hush agreement between Daniels and a business set up by Trump’s longtime personal attorney Michael Cohen.

“I think we would consider it, I would converse with my client. It would depend on the terms of the settlement,” Avenatti said on CBS’ “This Morning” when asked if he would consider settling. “But at this point, I don’t see how the case gets resolved short of the truth coming out.”

Avenatti also shared more detail about a March 21 meeting he had with Trump’s lawyer, which he first revealed in a Wednesday morning filing moving to depose Trump and Cohen.

“We asked Mr. Harder, Mr. Trump’s attorney, whether Mr. Trump was a party to this agreement. And we heard crickets. They don’t know,” Avenatti said on CBS. “He said they don’t know yet whether Mr. Trump was a party to this agreement. How do you not know whether you’re a party to an agreement unless you’re just trying to make it up as you go along?”

It’s not clear what Avenatti meant when he said “party to this agreement” — that Trump’s lawyer has not determined legally whether Trump needed to sign the agreement or that Trump’s lawyer is not sure whether Trump was aware of the agreement.

Watch the interview via CBS:

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Michael Avenatti, the attorney representing porn actress Stormy Daniels in her lawsuit against President Donald Tump and his personal attorney Michael Cohen, on Wednesday filed a motion to depose both Trump and Cohen.

Daniels sued Trump and Essential Consulting, a business set up by Cohen to pay Daniels, over an alleged hush agreement Daniels signed with Essential Consulting barring her from discussing her alleged relationship with Trump. She argued that because Trump never signed the agreement, it is invalid and she is free to speak about her encounter with Trump. Daniels this week added Cohen to the lawsuit, accusing him of defaming her.

In the filing, Avenatti said that he would like to depose Trump and Cohen each for no longer than two hours. He also asked for no more than 10 “targeted requests for production of documents directed to Mr. Trump and Mr. Cohen on various topics relating to the Hush Agreement.” He said that he would like to depose the two men within three weeks of the court approving the motion.

In a separate filing submitted to support the request for depositions and discovery, Avenatti said that he spoke with counsel for Essential Consulting on March 21 and that the defense argued that there should not be any discovery in the case and that the case should be sent to arbitration.

Avenatti argued that discovery is necessary to resolve factual disputes between Stormy Daniels, whose legal name is Stephanie Clifford, and Cohen, including whether Trump new about and consented to the hush agreement, how Trump may have communicated with Cohen about the agreement and where the money used to pay Daniels for her silence originated from.

A lawyer for Cohen rebuffed the motion on Wednesday morning, telling ABC News that the case will never reach the discover phase “because the contract is valid on its face and the defamation action against Cohen is frivolous on its face”

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A new filing from special counsel Robert Mueller’s team released Tuesday night alleges that Rick Gates communicated with a former Russian intelligence officer while he was working for the Trump campaign in the 2016 election.

The revelation came in a sentencing memorandum for Alex van der Zwann, who pleaded guilty to lying to investigators in February and has been cooperating with Mueller’s team. As a lawyer at the firm Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom LLC, van der Zwaan worked on a report for Gates and Paul Manafort on the Ukrainian government’s prosecution of Yulia Tymoshenko, a political adversary of Gates and Manafort’s client.

In documents previously released when van der Zwaan pleaded guilty, prosecutors said that van der Zwaan worked with a “Person A” on the report and that van der Zwaan was in communication with Gates and “Person A” in the fall of 2016.

In the Tuesday night filing, prosecutors said that “Person A” has “ties to the Russian intelligence service” and had those ties in 2016. Van der Zwaan told the special counsel’s office that Gates told him that “Person A” was a former Russian intelligence officer, according to the filing.

As van der Zwaan’s February guilty plea revealed, Gates called van der Zwaan in September 2016 and asked him to contact “Person A” — Gates was concerned about possibly facing criminal charges in Ukraine. Gates also sent van der Zwaan a preliminary criminal complaint in Ukraine, according to prosecutors. Van der Zwaan then called Person A, made a separate call to a senior partner at the law firm, and then followed up with Gates again, according to the guilty plea filings.

Person A is likely Konstantin Kilimnik, Manafort’s longtime Russian business partner in Ukraine, according to the Washington Post. Manafort communicated with Kilimnik in 2016 and worked with Kilimnik to ghost write an op-ed favorable to Manafort in December 2017.

Gates pleaded guilty to conspiracy and making a false statement in February and is cooperating with Mueller’s probe. The special counsel dropped all other charges against Gates when they reached a plea deal. Manafort has maintained his not guilty plea to two federal indictments against him stemming from his work in Ukraine.

Read Tuesday’s filing:

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FBI Director Christopher Wray announced on Tuesday that he is doubling the number of staff devoted to responding to record requests from Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), the chair of the House Judiciary Committee, on the Hillary Clinton email probe and surveillance of former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.

“Up until today, we have dedicated 27 FBI staff to review the records that are potentially responsive to Chairman Goodlatte’s requests. The actual number of documents responsive to this request is likely in the thousands. Regardless, I agree that the current pace of production is too slow,” Wray said in a statement. “Accordingly, I am doubling the number of assigned FBI staff, for a total of 54, to cover two shifts per day from 8 a.m. to midnight to expedite completion of this project.”

Goodlatte issued a subpoena to the Justice Department last week for the documents he previously requested, as well as new information, complaining that the department had so far been too slow in responding to his request for documents.

Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd also responded to Goodlatte’s subpoena in a Tuesday letter. Boyd noted that the Justice Department has been working to find the documents relevant to the request and sending them to the committee once they have gone through the review process. But he also noted that some of Goodlatte’s requests in the subpoena were new, specifically Goodlatte’s demand for documents related to Andrew McCabe’s firing.

“In the subpoena, certain categories of documents are requested for the first time, a significant deviation from the traditional method of accommodating congressional requests for information without compulsory process,” Boyd wrote.

Goodlatte’s subpoena and the Justice Department’s response on Tuesday come as Republicans in Congress ramp up their criticism of the DOJ and FBI. Goodlatte’s subpoena was just the latest attempt by Republicans on Capitol Hill to undermine investigations into President Donald Trump and his campaign by attempting to characterize the investigators as partisan hacks.

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Paul Manafort on Tuesday filed a motion to dismiss special counsel Robert Mueller’s indictment against him in Virginia, arguing that Mueller overstepped his authority by indicting Manafort with crimes unrelated to Russian election meddling.

Manafort has filed a similar motion to dismiss in his case in Washington, D.C., and he also filed a civil lawsuit against Mueller and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein in Washington, D.C., arguing that the special counsel did not have the authority to bring the indictments against Manafort.

When Rosenstein appointed Mueller, he gave him the authority to investigate links between the Russian government and the Trump campaign, as well as “any
matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation,” as the motion from Manafort notes. Manafort’s lawyers argue that Rosenstein did not have the authority to give Mueller the broad power to investigate anything that may arise from the Russia probe. They also argue that even if Rosenstein did have that authority, Mueller overstepped the boundaries laid out by the deputy attorney general because the Justice Department knew about some of Manafort’s activities before the special counsel was appointed.

The motion to dismiss describes Rosenstein’s order appointing Mueller as a “blank check.”

“And it is one the Special Counsel has cashed, repeatedly,” the complaint reads.

In the Virginia indictment, Manafort faces charges of making false statements on tax returns, failing to report foreign bank accounts and bank fraud. In Washington, D.C., he faces charges of money laundering, tax evasion, and failure to disclose foreign lobbying. He has pleaded not guilty to both indictments.

Read the motion to dismiss:

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After facing several questions about a payment from Trump attorney Michael Cohen to porn actress Stormy Daniels, and President Donald Trump’s silence on Daniels’ allegation of an affair, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders complained on Tuesday that reporters asked “the same question over and over and over again.”

“I don’t think it’s silent when the President has addressed this. We’ve addressed it extensively. There’s just nothing else to add,” Sanders said when asked about Trump’s silence on the allegations. “Just because you guys continue to ask the same question over and over and over again doesn’t mean that we have to keep coming up with new things to say. We’ve addressed it. We’ve addressed it extensively. And there’s nothing new to add to this conversation.”

Earlier in the briefing, Sanders declined to answer reporters’ questions, simply repeating that Trump has denied Daniels’ allegations and referring further questions to Cohen.

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Aaron Rich, the brother of murdered Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich, on Tuesday filed a defamation lawsuit against several individuals who pushed a conspiracy theory about the brothers.

“This lawsuit is about accountability,” the law firm representing Rich, Michael Gottlieb, Partner, Boies Schiller Flexner LLP, said in a statement. “Those who defame and harass decent American citizens in an effort to advance their personal financial and partisan gain will be held accountable in court.”

The lawsuit names Ed Butowsky, an ally of President Donald Trump; conservative activist Matt Couch and his media group America First Media; and the Washington Examiner. In the complaint, Rich alleges that Butowsky, Couch and the Washington Times furthered a conspiracy theory that Aaron Rich helped his brother Seth Rich leak DNC emails to Wikileaks.

“There is no proof that Aaron engaged in any of the alleged conduct—nor could there be, because none of it happened. But Defendants are not interested in the truth. Instead, Defendants are motivated by personal notoriety, financial gain, and naked partisan aims—namely, a desire to discredit allegations that the Trump campaign colluded with the Russian Government in the 2016 hack of the DNC and the subsequent dissemination of DNC documents on Wikileaks,” the complaint reads. “In their blind pursuit of these objectives, Defendants have willfully trampled on Aaron’s reputation and emotional wellbeing.”

The complaint alleges that Butowsky and Couch in the summer of 2017 made several claims that Aaron Rich was involved in the leak of DNC emails during the 2016 election and that Aaron Rich knew his brother would be murdered. The lawsuit also cites a Washington Times piece in March alleging that Aaron Rich helped Seth Rich download the DNC’s emails.

There is no evidence to support fringe conservatives’ conspiracy theory that Seth Rich’s murder and the DNC hack were linked, and those involved in pushing the false narrative are facing several lawsuits. A former detective and Fox News contributor claimed in a lawsuit that Ed Butowsky recruited him and a Fox News reporter to work on a story pushing the conspiracy theory, which was later retracted. Seth Rich’s parents have also sued Fox News over the retracted story.

Read the lawsuit:

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Michael Avenatti, the lawyer representing porn actress Stormy Daniels in her lawsuit against President Donald Trump, said on Tuesday morning that they do not have evidence of Trump’s relationship with Daniels in the form of a dress, as a friend of Daniels suggested on Monday.

Alana Evans, a friend of Daniels, told CNN on Monday that Daniels still has the dress she wore during her encounter with Trump, but she did not state for a fact that the dress could be used as evidence.

“I am unaware about text messages or pictures or any type of evidence she might have that would fit on a disc. All I know is that Stormy still has the dress that she wore from that night,” Evans said on CNN.

Asked why Daniels still had the dress, Evans replied, “Maybe a keepsake, maybe it’s because it’s actual proof. I can only speculate the things that may be on that dress, especially if it’s never been washed.”

Avenatti sought to dismiss any indication that there was evidence of a tryst with Trump on Stormy Daniels dress, as was the case with Monica Lewinsky’s dress.

He also said that he was “making progress on the assault/stalking” in 2011. It appears he was referring to the threat Daniels said she received in a Las Vegas parking lot in 2011. However, in her interview that aired Sunday on CBS’ “60 Minutes,” Daniels did not describe the threat as “stalking” or an “assault.”

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President Donald Trump has refrained from publicly addressing allegations from porn actress Stormy Daniels that she had an intimate affair with him. In private, however, Trump has complained and worried about the allegations, the Washington Post reported Monday.

Trump has called Daniels’ claims a “hoax,” asked if her allegations hurt him in the polls, and claimed that he does not find her attractive, the Washington Post reported.

Though he’s asked associates if the allegations from Daniels, whose legal name is Stephanie Clifford, are hurting him, he has made the general calculation that the episode will blow over and leave him largely undamaged, per the Post. This calculation has prompted him to remain silent.

Read the Washington Post’s full report here.

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