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

Harvard professor Alan Dershowitz, a Fox News contributor who regularly defends President Donald Trump, on Monday night confronted Fox host Sean Hannity over his relationship with Michael Cohen.

During a conversation on former FBI Director James Comey and the Russia probe, Dershowitz brought up the revelation that Trump’s longtime personal attorney Michael Cohen named Hannity as a client and told Hannity that he should have told viewers about that relationship.

“I really think that you should have disclosed your relationship with Cohen when you talked about him on this show,” Dershowitz told Hannity.  “You could’ve said just that you asked him for advice or whatever, but I think it would’ve been much, much better had you disclosed that relationship.”

Hannity told Dershowitz that his interaction with Cohen was “minimal.”

“That would’ve been fair to say, that it was minimal,” Dershowitz said. “You were in a tough position because A: You had to talk about Cohen and B: You didn’t want the fact that you had spoken with him to be revealed. And you had the right, by the way, not to have your identity be revealed.”

“I have a right to privacy,” Hannity said in response.

“But, you know, it’s a complex situation when you’re speaking to millions of people…” Dershowitz began to reply before Hannity interjected and said he had only a “minor relationship” with Cohen.

At the end of his show Monday night, Hannity lamented the “wild speculation” from the “mainstream media” about his interactions with Cohen before playing a lengthy montage of cable news hosts and reporters saying Hannity’s name. He then echoed his statement from earlier in the day, telling Fox News viewers that he had “occasional brief conversations” with Cohen about legal questions, mostly involving real estate.

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Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL) on Wednesday asked the Treasury Department to investigate whether a Florida gun manufacturer with ties to Russia violated U.S. sanctions.

Deutch, who represents the Florida district in which the company, Kalashnikov USA, has a facility, cited public reports on the company’s plan to manufacture Kalashnikov-branded AK-47 shotguns, rather than import them, after the Russian company that produced them was hit with U.S. sanctions in 2014.

As TPM previously reported, Republican Florida Gov. Rick Scott lured Kalashnikov USA to Florida with a tax break offer in 2011, but the deal fell through when the company did not submit the proper paperwork. Kalashnikov USA opened a facility in Florida anyway, and began producing AK-47s in May 2017, according to Bloomberg News.

Kalashnikov USA ostensibly opened the facility to manufacture AK-47s, rather than import them from Russian company Kalashnikov Concern, as it had done before the 2014 sanctions. Kalashnikov USA claims it has cut ties with the Russian company, but a Bloomberg News report from March lays out ties that still remain between the two companies.

Documents submitted to Florida state officials in 2015 showed that Kalashnikov USA planned to use gun parts imported from the Russian factory to manufacture guns in the U.S., according to Bloomberg News.

Michael Tiraturian, the senior vice president of Kalashnikov USA is a longtime business partner of Alexey Krivoruchko, the majority shareholder and CEO of the Russian company Kalashnikov Concern, as Bloomberg News noted. Tiraturian insisted to Bloomberg News that the two have never done business together. But  the Bloomberg News report details Tiraturian management of shell companies initially founded by Krivoruchko in the U.S.

Deutch wrote in his letter that these revelations may show that Kalashnikov Concern or Kalashnikov USA are violating U.S. sanctions, and asked the Treasury Department to look into the matter.

“If these reports are accurate and Kalashnikov USA is using Russian parts from a sanctioned Russian company to assemble weapons of war, and Kalashnikov Russia is using Florida shell companies to generate profits in Russia, then a determination must be made into whether any violations of sanctions occurred or continue to occur,” he wrote.

Read Deutch’s letter to the Treasury Department below:

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During his Thursday confirmation hearing to be secretary of state, CIA Director Mike Pompeo refused to speak about a reported conversation he had with President Donald Trump and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats about the Russia investigation in March 2017.

Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) asked Pompeo about a Washington Post report on a briefing at the White House, after which Trump asked Coats and Pompeo to stay behind. Coats told associates that Trump complained about then-FBI Director James Comey’s work overseeing the Russia probe and asked if him if he could get Comey to back off the investigation into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, according to the Washington Post.

“I’m not going to talk about the conversations the President and I had,” Pompeo told Menendez on Thursday. “But I will tell you this: The article’s suggestion that he asked me to do anything that was improper is false.”

Pressed on whether Trump asked him anything related to the Russia probe, Pompeo said, “I don’t recall what he asked me that day precisely, but, I have to tell you, I’m with the president an awful lot. He’s never asked me to do anything that I considered remotely improper.”

Pompeo also confirmed that he has spoken to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team, and investigators on the House and Senate Intelligence Committees. But he wouldn’t offer details about what his testimony covered.

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During his first few months as Environmental Protection Agency administrator, Scott Pruitt proposed removing the EPA’s logo of a flower from the agency’s souvenir coin, the New York Times reported on Wednesday, citing former EPA official Ron Slotkin and two unnamed EPA officials.

Pruitt offered a few different replacements for the logo. He suggested using the image of a buffalo, a symbol of his state Oklahoma, and at one point pitched using a Bible verse on the coin, according to the New York Times. He also suggested using the Great Seal of the United States on the “challenge coin,” a keepsake typically given as gifts to agency employees or guests, per the Times.

“These coins represent the agency,” Slotkin told the New York Times. “But Pruitt wanted his coin to be bigger than everyone else’s and he wanted it in a way that represented him.”

EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox told the New York Times that the agency never ordered new challenge coins.

The coin currently features the agency’s logo, a flower with four leaves, a design Pruitt complained looked like a marijuana leaf, according to the Times. Staff worried that removing the logo would break protocol and that changes would cost too much, the Time reported.

Pruitt has come under fire recently for his spending habits. He is protected by a large security detail, took several first class flights, and also faces scrutiny for the condo room he rented from a lobbyist.

Read the entire New York Times report here.

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Former White House adviser Steve Bannon has been quietly pitching White House aides and Trump confidants on a plan to better insulate President Donald Trump from special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, the Washington Post reported Wednesday night, citing people familiar with the discussions.

Bannon’s plan would involve firing Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, the Justice Department official who oversees the Russia probe and who signed off on an FBI raid on Trump’s longtime personal attorney, Michael Cohen, according to the Washington Post. Bannon also believes Trump should fire Ty Cobb, the White House lawyer tasked with overseeing the response to the Russia probe, and stop cooperating with Mueller’s probe, according to the Washington Post.

Bloomberg Businessweek’s Josh Green confirmed the outline of Bannon’s advice for Trump.

Bannon, who angered Trump with his remarks in the book “Fire and Fury,” has not presented this plan directly to the President, according to the Washington Post. Instead, he has told White House aides and others who speak with Trump about his proposal. Bannon hopes that his plan would help Trump and may also be looking to restore his image with the President, as Green noted.

Bannon has proposed that Trump should assert executive privilege retroactively on interviews his aides have already given to Mueller’s team, an idea that some White House aides are wary of, according to the Washington Post. Bannon believes that Trump could argue he received poor legal advice as justification for the retroactive move, per the Post.

The FBI’s raid on Cohen earlier this week has renewed Trump’s anger toward Rosenstein and Mueller, and he has reportedly floated firing Rosenstein this week. He has also reportedly expressed less willingness to sit for an interview with Mueller’s team since the raid.

Read the Washington Post’s full report here.

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The publisher of the National Enquirer, a Trump-friendly tabloid, paid a former Trump Tower doorman $30,000 in late 2015 for his story about a rumor that President Donald Trump had a child with a Trump Tower resident, according to new reports from the Associated Press and the New Yorker.

The former doorman, Dino Sajudin, signed an agreement similar to that signed by former Playboy model Karen McDougal barring him from going public with the rumor, and the publisher, American Media, Inc., never ran his story, according to the reports.

The agreement signed by Sajudin first became public on Wednesday when Radar Online, an AMI publication, acknowledged in an article that the publisher paid Sajudin $30,000 for his story during the 2016 campaign but that National Enquirer reporters determined that the rumor about Trump was not true.

The New Yorker was unable to verify that Sajudin’s story was accurate, and National Enquirer reporters who spoke to the New Yorker had doubts that the rumor was true. However, National Enquirer reporters who spoke with the New Yorker and the AP said that they were told to stop investigating the story abruptly before they had followed all leads. They said that AMI made a concerted effort to shut down the story, despite the publisher’s claim that they were simply unable to verify the rumors peddled by Sajudin.

Michael Cohen, Trump’s longtime personal attorney and fixer, acknowledged to the AP that he was in contact with AMI while they were talking to Sajudin about the rumor. He told the AP that he was only acting as a spokesman for Trump at the time, but AMI reporters told the New Yorker that Cohen received frequent updates on their work related to Sajudin.

The reports on AMI’s “catch and kill” agreement with Sajudin place Cohen near another hush agreement during the 2016 presidential campaign. Cohen was reportedly in the loop on AMI’s agreement with Karen McDougal purchasing the rights to her story about an alleged affair with Trump, and he paid porn actress Stormy Daniels $130,000 to keep quiet about her alleged affair with Trump.

Federal investigators are looking into Cohen’s involvement in suppressing stories about Trump during the 2016 campaign. The FBI raided Cohen’s home, hotel room, and office on Monday, reportedly looking for documents on the McDougal and Daniels agreements, as well as information on the “Access Hollywood” tape that was released a month before the election.

The Associated Press has been working on the story about Sajudin’s rumor for a while. When the outlet began investigating the story in the summer of 2017, AMI threatened legal action against them, as both the AP and the New Yorker reported. The AP did not publish at the time.

Read the extensive reports from the Associated Press and the New Yorker.

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During Monday’s raids of Michael Cohen’s home, hotel room, and office, FBI agents were looking for records related to the “Access Hollywood” tape released a month before the 2016 election, the New York Times reported Wednesday, citing people who had been briefed on the search warrant.

It’s not clear what information Cohen, President Donald Trump’s longtime personal attorney and fixer, would have on the tape, which featured Trump making vulgar comments about groping women.

The FBI was also looking for evidence that Cohen tried to suppress damaging information about Trump during the 2o16 campaign, the Times reported.

Reports on Tuesday indicated that the FBI was looking for documents related to the payment to porn actress Stormy Daniels, the hush agreement between a media company and Playboy model Karen McDougal, and Cohen’s taxi medallion business. Cohen paid Daniels $130,000 shortly before the 2016 election when she signed an agreement barring her from talking about her alleged affair with Trump. The publisher of the National Enquirer paid McDougal for the rights to her story of an alleged affair with Trump, also right before the election.

Both women recently filed lawsuits over the deals.

Read the New York Times full report here.

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House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) has decided not to run for re-election in 2018, his office confirmed in a Wednesday morning statement.

“This morning Speaker Ryan shared with his colleagues that this will be his last year as a member of the House. He will serve out his full term, run through the tape, and then retire in January,” Brendan Buck, counselor to Ryan, said in the statement.

“After nearly twenty years in the House, the speaker is proud of all that has been accomplished and is ready to devote more of his time to being a husband and a father. While he did not seek the position, he told his colleagues that serving as speaker has been the professional honor of his life, and he thanked them for the trust they placed in him,” Buck continued. “He will discuss his decision at a press conference immediately following the member meeting.”

Ryan told a few confidants and colleagues about his decision to retire before sharing the news with the House Republican conference Wednesday morning.

In a press conference Wednesday morning, Ryan told reporters that he decided to retire from Congress in order to spend more time with his family. He noted that his children are all in their teens now and that he no longer wants to be a “weekend dad.”

“You all know that I did not seek this job, I took it reluctantly. But I have given this job everything that I have. And I have no regrets whatsoever for having accepted this responsibility. This has been one of the two greatest honors of my life,” he said. “The job provides incredible opportunities, but the truth is, it’s easy for it to take over everything in your life, and you can’t just let that happen, because there are other things in life that can be fleeting as well. Mainly your time as a husband and a dad, which is the other great honor of my life.”

Ryan touted the new tax law passed by Republicans last year and Republican efforts to increase funding for the military, insisting that Republicans accomplished a lot under his leadership and during Trump’s presidency so far.

Faced with questions from reporters, the speaker denied that he has decided not to run again because of the chance that Democrats could win back the House in the 2018 elections. He also said that President Donald Trump was not a factor in his decision to leave Congress.

Following confirmation from Ryan’s office, President Donald Trump wished Ryan well on Twitter.

Rumors that Ryan will retire at the end of his current term have been swirling for months. When reports surfaced in December that Ryan was considering stepping aside as speaker and leaving Congress, Ryan’s office pushed back on the reports and said Ryan was “not going anywhere anytime soon.” Rumors surfaced again late last month, prompting Former House Speaker John Boehner and former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor to publicly dismiss reports that Ryan could leave Congress.

Ryan’s decision to retire will be a blow to Republicans as they head into the 2018 midterms. As speaker, he is a key fundraiser for House Republicans and his decision to call it quits could hurt morale. Several Republicans in the House have already announced plans to retire in 2018, and Ryan’s decision could prompt more to leave Capitol Hill.

Asked if his decision to leave Congress would have an impact on Republicans in 2018, Ryan said that he does not believe his retirement should impact Republicans individual races. Ryan said he considered running again and then retiring shortly after the 2018 election, but he said his “conscience could not handle going out that way.”

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Dana Boente, the former acting attorney general and acting deputy attorney general who now serves as the FBI’s general counsel, spoke to special counsel Robert Mueller’s team several months ago, the Washington Post reported Tuesday night.

Boente told Mueller’s team about his conversations with former FBI Director James Comey about his interactions with Trump and also gave Mueller’s team handwritten notes, per the Washington Post. Boente’s notes and interview with Mueller’s team could help to corroborate Comey’s memos about his interactions with the President, though Boente did not witness the interactions directly.

Notes obtained by MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow appear to show notes from Boente saying that Comey told him Trump spoke about the “cloud” of the Russia probe.

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Following reports in December that special counsel Robert Mueller’s team had subpoenaed a bank for records on President Donald Trump, the President told advisers that he wanted to shut down Mueller’s investigation, the New York Times reported late Tuesday.

Reports at the time indicated that Deutsche Bank received subpoenas for records related to Trump and his family. This set Trump off, and he pushed for Mueller to go, according to the New York Times.

Trump backed down off his plan to quash the Mueller probe after his lawyers scrambled to find out more about the subpoenas and learned from the special counsel’s office that the reports were incorrect, according to the New York Times. After the reports were released in early December, Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow told the press that the reports were inaccurate.

The President also reportedly tried to fire Mueller in June 2017 until White House Counsel Don McGahn threatened to quit.

Read the entire New York Times story here.

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