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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

The lawyers for Stephanie Clifford, the porn actress who uses the stage name Stormy Daniels, and Michael Cohen, the longtime attorney for President Donald Trump who arranged a non-disclosure agreement with Daniels, appeared on CNN Tuesday night to debate Clifford’s lawsuit challenging the validity of the hush agreement.

The debate between Clifford’s lawyer, Michael Avenatti, and Cohen’s lawyer, Arthur Schwartz, got heated at times with the two attorneys arguing over the non-disclosure agreement barring Clifford from discussing her alleged sexual relationship with Trump.

Schwartz told Avenatti that he’s advising Clifford to “blatantly violate a contract.” But Avenatti dismissed those “bombastic comments.” Schwartz later told Avenatti that he is “going to go down in flames in this case.”

Toward the end of the interview, Avenatti questioned why Cohen wasn’t on television to defend himself, pulling out a picture of Cohen.

“If Michael Cohen is such a stand-up guy, where is he? Where is this guy? Why won’t he come and sit in this chair?” Avenatti asked Schwartz. “He’s been invited numerous times, he won’t come on the show, he’s dodging the questions!”

Schwartz noted that “there are other investigations going on,” but added, “Believe me, he can’t wait to come here.”

Watch the debate on CNN, which begins at the 4:15 mark:

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In his first interview on Fox News, Michael Avenatti, the attorney representing porn actress Stormy Daniels in her lawsuit against President Donald Trump, the lawyer faced questions about possible political motivation.

Fox News’ Shannon Bream mentioned that Avenatti’s website notes that he worked for Democratic campaigns through an opposition research firm owned by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and asked Avenatti if his work for Daniels was politically motivated.

“Absolutely not,” Avenatti replied. “That was 20-25 years ago and is laughable that people are pointing to that as the reason behind this.”

Avenatti said that he hasn’t spoken to Emanuel since 2007.

“This is about a search for the truth. I don’t care if you’re on the right, the left, or in the center. You deserve to know the facts. That’s what this is about. Period,” he added.

Avenatti’s appearance on Fox News came a little over 24 hours after he called out the network for not requesting an interview with him.

Watch the Tuesday night interview via Fox News:

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President Donald Trump’s national security advisers warned him not to congratulate Russian President Vladimir Putin on his electoral win, but Trump ignored them, the Washington Post reported Tuesday evening.

Trump’s briefing materials for his Tuesday call with Putin included a warning in all capital letters reading “DO NOT CONGRATULATE,” sources familiar with the call told the Washington Post. A senior White House adviser told the Washington Post that National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster did not warn Trump against congratulating Putin in the phone briefing ahead of the call, however. The written materials also prompted Trump to condemn the poisoning of a former spy in Great Britain, but Trump did not do so, according to the Washington Post.

The President’s applause of Putin’s win drew a rebuke from Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) on Tuesday.

“An American president does not lead the Free World by congratulating dictators on winning sham elections,” McCain said in a statement. “And by doing so with Vladimir Putin, President Trump insulted every Russian citizen who was denied the right to vote in a free and fair election to determine their country’s future, including the countless Russian patriots who have risked so much to protest and resist Putin’s regime.”

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders defended Trump’s remarks on the call, telling reporters that it’s “important to have a dialogue with Russia so we can focus on areas of shared interest.”

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A former Playboy model who allegedly had an affair with President Donald Trump in 2006 sued the media company that owns the National Enquirer on Tuesday, demanding to be released from her contract with the company, the New York Times reported.

Karen McDougal signed an agreement with American Media, Inc. (AMI), selling her story about her relationship with Trump in August 2016, as the Wall Street Journal has reported. The agreement reportedly keeps McDougal from sharing her story elsewhere and promised to run columns by McDougal and place her on two covers.

She told the New Yorker recently that her lawyer at the time, Keith Davidson, the same lawyer who represented porn actress Stormy Daniels, pushed her to sign the agreement. McDougal told the New Yorker that she did not fully understand the agreement at the time and that she regrets signing it.

“AMI lied to me, made empty promises, and repeatedly intimidated and manipulated me. I just want the opportunity to set the record straight and move on with my life, free from this company, its executives, and its lawyers,” McDougal said in a statement provided to TPM.

In the complaint, McDougal claims that Trump attorney Michael Cohen was involved in her agreement with AMI, and she argues that AMI and Davidson were misleading when urging her to sign the deal, according to the New York Times. McDougal also claims that she was not aware that AMI chief executive David Pecker, a close friend of Trump, often bought stories only to keep them under wraps, per the New York Times.

AMI told the New York Times that it spoke with Cohen about McDougal’s story, but only while trying to fact-check her story.

McDougal also claims in the complaint that AMI promised to run fitness columns by her and feature her on two covers but failed to live up to that agreement, per the Times.

Also on Tuesday, a judge in New York ruled that former “Apprentice” contestant Summer Zervos can proceed with her lawsuit against Trump. Zervos filed a defamation suit against Trump in January 2017 over Trump’s comments calling her a liar for coming forward with groping allegations. Trump’s lawyers attempted to dismiss the case by arguing that Zervos could not sue a sitting President in state court, an argument the judge dismissed.

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Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson on Tuesday morning defended his role in the purchase of a $31,000 dining set for his office suite, claiming that he had little involvement in the decision-making process.

Carson told members of the House Appropriations Committee that he was too busy running the department to keep track of plans to purchase a new dining set and that he wasn’t “concerned” about the furniture.

“If it was up to me, my office would probably look like a hospital waiting room,” he told the committee.

Carson said that when he was informed that the dining set needed to be replaced because a chair collapsed and someone was stuck with a nail, he asked his wife to help. When they were shown catalogues, Carson says he was unhappy with the options.

“The prices were beyond what I wanted to pay. I made it clear that that just didn’t seem right to me,” he said.

Carson said Tuesday that he was not involved in the rest of the process and delegated to his wife, Candy Carson.

“I left it with my wife,” he told the committee.

The next Carson heard about the dining set was that a $31,000 set had been ordered, he told the committee. He said he immediately had it cancelled.

“I thought that that was excessive,” Carson said.

Asked about a statement from his spokesman shortly after the story on the dining set broke that the Carsons were not involved in the purchase, Carson said he could not speak for others’ statements and argued that he has always been truthful about his involvement.

Carson also addressed brochures that include guidelines for homeless shelters on how to prevent discrimination against transgender individuals that were taken off the HUD website last year. Carson said that he and HUD general counsel were looking over the brochure to ensure the “equal rights for the women in the shelters and shelters where there are men and their equal rights.”

“We want to look at things that really provide for everybody and doesn’t impede the rights of one for the sake of the other. It’s a complex issue,” he said.

Asked how protecting the rights of transgender individuals could impact others’ rights, Carson said that “there are some women who said they were not comfortable with the idea of being in a shelter, being in a shower, and somebody who had a very different anatomy.”

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Late update: Michael Avenatti will appear on “Fox News @ Night” with Shannon Bream during the 11 p.m. ET hour on Tuesday, a Fox spokesperson told TPM Tuesday afternoon.

Original story:

Michael Avenatti, the lawyer representing Stormy Daniels in her lawsuit against President Donald Trump, told MSNBC on Monday night that he has not received an interview request from Fox News.

“What is shocking to me is, I haven’t received a single request, not one, from Fox News,” Avenatti said on MSNBC’s “The Beat” after noting that he’s done interviews with a slew of news outlets. “They’ve reached out to me for copies of documents and things of that nature, and I’ve cooperated with them, just like I have with other networks, and I’ve been prompt in attending to their requests. But I haven’t received a single interview request, not one, from Fox News.”

Avenatti has regularly appeared on several cable news networks to discuss his client, the porn actress Stormy Daniels who allegedly had a sexual relationship with Trump.

Last week, Avenatti sat down for an interview with “The Josh Marshall Podcast.”

Fox News did not immediately respond to TPM’s request for comment on Avenatti’s claims.

Watch Avenatti’s Monday night interview on MSNBC:

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Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Chuck Grassley (R-IA) on Monday said that the committee would hold a hearing on the Justice Department inspector general’s investigation into fired deputy FBI director Andrew McCabe after the inspector general releases the report.

“Both Democrats and Republicans asked the non-partisan, independent Inspector General appointed by President Obama to look into a whole range go issues involving the FBI’s involvement in controversial cases related to the 2016 presidential campaign,” Grassley wrote in a letter to Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT). “We are all eager to see the results of that review, and you can be certain that this Committee will hold hearings on that report’s findings once they become available.”

“As many on both sides of the aisle have said in the wake of the removal of the former Deputy Director, we need to see what the evidence shows before making any final judgments,” Grassley continued, adding that he’ll request documents on the decision to fire McCabe.

Grassley wrote the letter in response to a January letter from Leahy released on Saturday urging Grassley to hold hearings on the politicization of the FBI. Leahy asked for Grassley to bring in McCabe and current FBI director Christopher Wray.

“I believe the Federal Bureau of Investigation, as an institution – and as our nation’s premier law enforcement agency – is under attack,” Leahy wrote in his letter. “During my four decades in the Senate, I have never before seen career, apolitical law enforcement officials so relentlessly and publicly maligned by our own government.”

In his response, Grassley wrote that he is also “deeply concerned about politicization of the FBI,” but he focused on actions taken by the FBI before the 2016 election. The Judiciary chairman mentioned the Democratic campaign of McCabe’s wife, the text messages between two FBI officials during the 2016 election, and Bruce Ohr, a Justice Department officials whose wife worked for the firm that funded the so-called Trump dossier, Fusion GPS.

Read Grassley’s letter:

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President Donald Trump discussed with Gary Cohn, his former top economic adviser, the possibility of Cohn taking over CIA director, only to quickly change his mind, Politico reported Monday, citing three people close to Trump.

Trump “informally offered” Cohn the position and Cohn had agreed to take it, but the President later decided to nominate deputy CIA director Gina Haspel instead, according to Politico. Cohn resigned as Trump’s top economic adviser earlier in March but told associates that he would return to the Trump administration for “the right big job,” per Politico.

Cohn and Trump discussed other positions for Cohn when Cohn first told Trump that he planned to resign, and the two continued discussions after the White House announced Cohn’ departure, Politico reported.

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After bringing on a new attorney to his outside legal team, Joseph diGenova, on Monday, President Donald Trump is weighing additional changes for his team of attorneys handling the Russia investigations, the New York Times reported late Monday.

Trump has told associates recently that he is considering firing Ty Cobb, the White House lawyer who handles the Russia probes and the loudest voice urging Trump to cooperate with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, according to the New York Times. Trump told Cobb on Monday that he was not going to fire him, however, per the Times.

John Dowd, a member of Trump’s outside legal team, is considering resigning out of frustration that he cannot control the President, two people briefed on the matter told the New York Times. Dowd was angered by Trump’s decision to hire diGenova, viewing it as a move to minimize his role on Trump’s legal team, two sources told the Washington Post. Dowd told the Times that he has no plans to leave and told the Post that he was happy with diGenova’s hire.

Trump is also still considering hiring Emmet Flood, an attorney who represented Bill Clinton during the impeachment process, according to the Washington Post.

The potential for a shakeup on Trump’s legal team comes as the President escalates his attacks on the Russia investigation. Over the weekend, Trump fired off several angry tweets, using Mueller’s name for the first time. Dowd also called for Mueller’s firing over the weekend and was forced to clarify that he was not speaking for the President in making that statement after first stating that he was. The incident prompted Cobb to issue a statement ensuring that Trump was not considering firing Mueller.

Trump has been complaining recently that his lawyers are not doing enough to protect him, a person with knowledge of Trump’s actions told the Washington Post.

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President Donald Trump plans to hire a new attorney, Joseph E. diGenova, for his outside legal team handling the Russia investigations, the New York Times reported Monday afternoon, citing three people told about the decision.

DiGenova, a Washington, D.C. lawyer and former U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, has pushed the conspiracy theory that FBI officials framed Trump. He told the Daily Caller in January that the FBI “created false facts so that they could get surveillance warrants.” DiGenova also served as independent counsel in the Bill Clinton passport investigation in the 1990s.

DiGenova will not play a leading role on Trump’s legal team but will be a “more aggressive player,” according to the New York Times.

Victoria Toensing, DiGenova’s wife, represents former Trump campaign co-chair Sam Clovis; Erik Prince, the Blackwater CEO and informal Trump adviser who reportedly met with a Russian businessman in the Seychelles early last year; and and an informant in the Uranium One conspiracy theory pushed by conservatives.

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