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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

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Thursday night insisted that National Security Adviser H. R. McMaster will not be leaving the administration anytime soon despite several reports indicating he is on his way out.

Sanders’ tweet followed a Washington Post report that Trump has decided to remove McMaster. Trump has been discussing possible replacements for the national security adviser, the Washington Post reported, citing five sources familiar with the plans.

According to the Post, Trump will take his time ousting McMaster because he doesn’t want McMaster to be “humiliated” and wants to choose a replacement. Some in the White House also want to wait to oust McMaster until they have a position lined up for him elsewhere, per the Post.

After Sanders’ tweet denying the Washington Post report, CNN published a report that Trump is ready to fire McMaster and wants to have a replacement in place before talks with North Korea in May.

Trump has been eyeing John Bolton, a former ambassador to the United Nations who makes frequent appearances on Fox News, and Keith Kellogg, the chief of staff of the National Security Council, according to the Washington Post.

Reports that Trump will move to replace McMaster have been swirling for weeks. Several other members of the administration are also in danger of being dismissed by Trump, including Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson and Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin, according to the Post and the New York Times.

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Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) on Thursday morning called on the CIA to release documents related to CIA director nominee Gina Haspel’s involvement in the agency’s torture program.

“As we move forward with the nomination process for Ms. Haspel, my fellow Senators and I must have the complete picture of Ms. Haspel’s involvement in the program in order to fully and fairly review her record and qualifications. I also believe the American people deserve to know the actual role the person nominated to be the director of the CIA played in what I consider to be one of the darkest chapters in American history,” Feinstein wrote in a letter to CIA Director Mike Pompeo.

Haspel played a large role in the CIA’s secret torture program. She oversaw the torture of two terror suspects in a secret prison in Thailand in 2002 and helped destroy video of the interrogations.

Feinstein played a key role in publicizing the CIA’s torture practices following the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks in 2014 when she served as chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee. The committee’s torture report outlined the gruesome tactics the CIA used to interrogate terror suspects and concluded that the tactics were not effective in gaining information.

Feinstein blocked Haspel’s promotion to lead the CIA’s clandestine operations in 2013 over her involvement in the torture program.

When Haspel was first nominated to lead the CIA earlier this week, Feinstein praised Haspel’s work as deputy director but said she had not yet decided whether she would support Haspel’s confirmation.

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Paul Manafort on Wednesday night asked the judge overseeing his case in Washington, D.C., to dismiss special counsel Robert Mueller’s indictment against him, arguing that Mueller did not have the authority to bring charges.

This is Manafort’s second attempt to throw out Mueller’s indictment in Washington, D.C. — Manafort’s lawyers filed a civil lawsuit in January against Mueller, the Justice Department and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, claiming that Mueller overstepped his authority by indicting Manafort.

Manafort’s lawyers filed two additional motions to dismiss on Wednesday night, one calling for the judge to dismiss the money laundering count and another calling for the judge to dismiss one of two counts that accuses Manafort of making false statements.

In the complaint filed Wednesday night, Manafort’s lawyers note that when Rosenstein appointed Mueller as special counsel, he gave Mueller the authority to “investigate any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump” as well as “any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation.” Manafort’s lawyer’s argue that Rosenstein did not have the authority to grant Mueller the broad authority to investigate any matter that arises from the probe.

“The Superseding Indictment’s allegations have nothing to do with alleged coordination between the 2016 Trump campaign and the Russian government. They instead concern alleged conduct that long pre-dates the Trump campaign—and which prosecutors knew about but declined to pursue long ago,” Manafort’s lawyers wrote, arguing that the indictment against Manafort should not fall within Mueller’s purview.

Manafort’s lawyers further argued that even if Rosenstein had the authority to grant Mueller the ability to investigate any matters that arise from the Russia probe, the indictment against Manafort still does not fall within the special counsel’s investigative authority. They argue that Mueller’s authority to investigate “any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation” should only include matters Mueller learns “because of” the original Russia investigation.

“None of the charges before this Court were discovered because of the Special Counsel’s investigation into alleged coordination; nor are any of them ‘demonstrably related to’ that investigation,” Manafort’s lawyers wrote.

Manafort’s attorneys noted that the tax and financial crimes alleged in the indictment took place before the Trump campaign began and that the Justice Department was aware of certain activities before Mueller was appointed.

“Given that the DOJ was aware of Mr. Manafort’s activities years before the Special Counsel was appointed, the Special Counsel cannot credibly claim that he discovered the alleged conduct because of his investigation into unrelated claims about Russian involvement in the 2016 campaign,” they wrote.

In a separate motion to dismiss, Manafort’s lawyers asked the judge to throw out the money laundering charge. The money laundering count alleges that Manafort made financial transactions through foreign bank accounts using proceeds from unlawful activity and to “promote” illegal activity, which Mueller’s team identified as Manafort’s failure to register as a foreign lobbyist. Manafort’s attorneys argued that Manafort’s work as a foreign lobbyist was not in itself illegal, and that his alleged failure to register and false statements were not related to the financial transactions. In the filing, Manafort’s lawyers also asked the judge to dismiss the indictment’s forfeiture allegation, which would require Manafort to forfeit property involved in the alleged money laundering scheme if convicted. A new attorney on Manafort’s legal team, Richard Westling, signed onto this motion.

In yet another motion to dismiss, Manafort’s lawyers argued that two counts alleging that Mueller lied to investigators were duplicative and asked the judge to dismiss one of the counts.

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

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A lawyer for the Trump Organization was involved in arbitration proceedings between Stephanie Clifford, the porn actress who uses the stage name Stormy Daniels, and the company created by Trump attorney Michael Cohen to pay Clifford, according to documents first reported by the Wall Street Journal.

Jill A. Martin is listed as counsel on a “demand for arbitration” document signed in February that claims a “breach of contract” by Peggy Petersen, the name used for Clifford in the “hush agreement” she allegedly agreed to with Cohen. The document, which was shared by Clifford’s lawyer with the Wall Street Journal, NBC News and CNN, links a lawyer for the Trump Organization to the “hush agreement” that bars Clifford from discussion her alleged intimate relationship with President Donald Trump.

Martin told the Wall Street Journal that she was representing Cohen’s company, Essential Consulting, LLC, “in her individual capacity” until the main lawyer on the arbitration received permission to practice in California.

The Trump Organization told NBC News that it had nothing to do with the arbitration.

“The Trump Organization is not representing anyone and, with the exception of one of its California-based attorneys in her individual capacity facilitating the initial filing pending the pro hac admission of Mr. Rosen, the company has had no involvement in the matter,” the company said in a statement.

Clifford allegedly had a sexual relationship with Trump that began back in 2006, and Clifford signed a non-disclosure agreement with Cohen in October 2016 that barred her from publicly discussing the alleged affair. Cohen paid her $130,000 through an LLC, and Trump has denied the affair and any involvement in the payment.

More than a year after she signed the agreement, Clifford is looking for ways to discuss her affair with Trump. She sued Trump, alleging that he never signed the hush agreement, rendering it invalid.

On the same day that Clifford sued Trump at the end of February, Cohen reportedly obtained a temporary restraining order against Clifford that bars her from discussing the matters laid out in the non-disclosure agreement she signed in 2016.

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After Republicans lost another special election to fill an open seat in Congress, President Donald Trump on Wednesday night offered his spin on the loss and suggested that the race was a fluke.

During a fundraiser in Missouri, Trump claimed that Conor Lamb, the Democrat who appears to have won a seat in Congress representing a conservative district in Pennsylvania, is “like Trump,” according to The Atlantic. The President suggested that Lamb won due to his similarities to himself, not because of a broader struggle Republicans face heading into the 2018 midterms.

“The young man last night that ran, he said, ‘Oh, I’m like Trump. Second Amendment, everything. I love the tax cuts, everything.’ He ran on that basis,” Trump said at the fundraiser, according to an audio recording obtained by The Atlantic. “He ran on a campaign that said very nice things about me. I said, ‘Is he a Republican? He sounds like a Republican to me.’”

While Lamb does not support new restrictions on guns beyond stronger background checks, he called the Republican tax law a “giveaway” to wealthy Americans and criticized attempts to repeal Obamacare.

Trump did later acknowledge that Lamb will likely “vote with Nancy Pelosi” once he reaches Congress, per The Atlantic.

Though it appears the Republican candidate, Rick Saccone, will lose the race, Trump claimed that his rally for Saccone lifted the candidate.

“We had an interesting time because we lifted [Saccone] seven points up. That’s a lot,” Trump said, according to The Atlantic. “And I was up 22 points, and we lifted seven, and seven normally would be enough, but we’ll see how it all comes out. It’s, like, virtually a tie.”

Read The Atlantic’s full report here.

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President Donald Trump will name Larry Kudlow as the next National Economic Council director, according to Wednesday afternoon reports from CNBC and the Washington Post.

Kudlow will replace Gary Cohn, who resigned as Trump’s top economic adviser last week.

Trump’s announcement naming Kudlow to the post could come as soon as Thursday, according to CNBC.

Kudlow served as an adviser to Trump during the 2016 campaign, but does not agree with the President on every issue. Kudlow will join the administration as Trump prepares to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, a plan Kudlow has vocally opposed.

Kudlow is currently a CNBC commentator and hosts his own radio show. Trump, an avid cable news viewer, is likely drawn to Kudlow’s television chops. Previously, Kudlow worked on economic policy for Ronald Reagan’s administration.

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Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), the ranking member on the House Oversight Committee, on Wednesday called on the committee’s chair, Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC), to subpoena the White House and 16 federal agencies for documents on Trump administration officials’ use of personal email.

Gowdy and Cummings asked the White House and other federal agencies in September to identify any staffers who used a personal email account to conduct official business. The request followed reports that several administration officials, including President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, had used their personal email accounts to conduct work for the White House.

The White House ignored the Oversight Committee leaders’ request, however, and 16 of the 25 agencies the congressmen contacted also failed to comply with the request, according to Cummings.

“Although we sent a joint request to the White House last September seeking a wide range of documents, you abruptly abandoned our investigation after the White House informed us that they had their own internal review underway,” Cummings wrote in the letter calling on Gowdy to subpoena the White House.

Cummings argued that Gowdy took a different approach when investigating former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s private email use.

“You demanded—and I supported—the production of all her emails related to Benghazi, and you did not wait for the Inspector General of the State Department to complete their own internal reviews. You repeatedly called for an independent security review of her emails, and you showcased her use of private email as a potentially serious breech of national security. As a result, many Republicans—including President Trump and his National Security Adviser Michael Flynn—used this as a rallying cry to call for criminal penalties,” Cummings wrote.

“In contrast, since President Trump assumed office, you have refused to insist on the production of documents we both requested five months ago, you have refused to request a security review of private emails, and you have refused to request even single email from Mr. Kushner or anyone else at the White House, despite the fact that they apparently violated federal law,” he added.

Read Cummings’ email calling for Gowdy to subpoena the White House:

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A few months before Rex Tillerson was ousted as secretary of state, President Donald Trump ordered Tillerson to eat a wilted salad during a trip to China, according to a Wall Street Journal report.

Trump was concerned about offending his guests in China and upon seeing plates of wilted Caesar salad delivered to U.S. officials, Trump singled out Tillerson, according to the Wall Street Journal.

“Rex,” Trump said, per the Journal, “eat the salad.”

At that time, tension had been building between Tillerson and Trump. The two disagreed on several issues, and a month prior, NBC News reported that Tillerson called Trump a “moron.”

Read the Wall Street Journal’s full report here.

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The $25,000 private phone booth Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt had built in his office actually cost $43,000 including costs to install the structure, the Washington Post reported Wednesday morning.

The booth itself cost $24,570, but the EPA paid more than $18,000 for the booth’s installation, which included removing closed-circuit television equipment, pouring concrete, adjusting a ceiling, and painting.

EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox defended the phone booth to the Washington Post on Tuesday when asked about the new estimate of costs.

“In September of 2017 we thoroughly discussed why this secure communications line was needed for the Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency,” Wilcox said.

The Post first reported on the booth back in September. A spokesperson said at the time that the booth would be a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility (SCIF), which is used to access classified materials.

Read the Washington Post’s full report here.

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Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson and his wife Candy Carson were involved in the process to select a $31,000 dining set for Carson’s office suite, according to emails obtained by watchdog group American Oversight through a Freedom of Information Act Request.

In an August email about the dining set, a HUD staffer referenced “printouts of the furniture the Secretary and Mrs. Carson picked out.” Another email to Carson’s chief of staff and executive assistant included a quote for the new dining set, which was originally listed at $24,666. The emails obtained by American Oversight were first reported by CNN.

Carson cancelled the order for the dining set following several reports on the agency’s order for new furniture. In a statement earlier this month, Carson said that he “made it known that I was not happy about the prices being charged and that my preference would be to find something more reasonable” and that he was “surprised” to learn that HUD ordered the $31,000 set. When the story first broke, a HUD spokesman said that Carson was unaware of the purchase.

Asked about the newly released emails, HUD spokesman Raffi Williams told CNN on Tuesday, “When presented with options by professional staff, Mrs. Carson participated in the selection of specific styles.”

 

 

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