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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

President Donald Trump on Thursday affirmed that he would still like to speak with special counsel Robert Mueller’s team for the Russia investigation.

“Yes. I would like to,” Trump told reporters at the White House when asked if he would talk to Mueller, according to a White House pool report.

Trump has said before that he would like to talk to the special counsel’s investigators. In January, he said that he wanted to talk to Mueller’s team as soon as possible and that he would do so “under oath.”

Though Trump has shown willingness to talk with investigators, some members of his legal team have cautioned against it. John Dowd, who resigned from Trump’s outside legal team on Thursday, reportedly out of frustration that the President was not taking his advice, wanted Trump to avoid a sit-down interview.

Trump’s legal team has been engaged in informal negotiations with Mueller’s team about an interview with the President for weeks. They have given the special counsel office descriptions of key events pertinent to the probe, hoping that the information would help efforts to limit any in-person interview with Trump, according to the Washington Post.

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John Dowd, an attorney on President Donald Trump’s outside legal team handling the Russia investigation, resigned on Thursday, according to reports from the New York Times, the Washington Post, and NBC News.

Dowd had been considering leaving Trump’s legal team for a while and ultimately decided to resign because the President was ignoring his advice, a person briefed on the matter told the New York Times. Dowd was also frustrated by Trump’s decision to bring Joseph diGenova onto the legal team and felt the move meant he was sidelined, the Washington Post reported earlier this week.

The Washington Post described Dowd’s departure as a “mutual decision” made when Trump lost confidence in Dowd’s strategy and Dowd became frustrated with changes on the legal team. Dowd felt that it was a bad idea for Trump to sit for an in-person interview with special counsel Robert Mueller’s team, while Trump pushed for his ability to do so, as the New York Times noted. Dowd and Trump clashed on legal strategy in recent weeks, according to the Washington Post, though the paper did not specify the disagreement.

It’s not clear who will lead the legal team, which now consists of Jay Sekulow, the team’s spokesman, and diGenova.

Dowd’s resignation closely followed his statement on Saturday calling for Mueller to step down. He first said he was speaking on behalf of the president, only to walk it back and say that he was speaking only for himself.

Trump has also told associates that he is considering firing Ty Cobb, the White House lawyer in charge of the Russia investigation, the New York Times reported earlier in the week. The President has told Cobb that he is safe, however, per the Times.

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The New York Times obtained correspondence between George Nader, an adviser to the United Arab Emirates who met with Trump aides during the transition, and Elliott Broidy, the Republican National Committee’s deputy finance director and a top fundraiser for President Donald Trump.

In a story based on the correspondence published Wednesday evening, the New York Times detailed how Nader and Broidy worked to influence the Trump White House by advocating for the firing of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and pushing the interests of the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.

Nader is cooperating with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, as the New York Times first reported earlier in March. Mueller is looking at whether Nader funneled money from the UAE to the Trump campaign, per the New York Times. Nader met with a Russian fund manager and Erik Prince, the Blackwater founder and an informal Trump campaign adviser, according to the New York Times. Mueller’s team is also looking at a December 2016 meeting between Nader, UAE officials, and Trump associates, according to CNN.

Read the New York Times’ full report here.

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Rep. Claudia Tenney (R-NY) said on Wednesday that Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson is not to blame for the $31,000 dining set his agency purchased for the secretary’s suite.

Instead, Tenney blamed the “deep state,” a term paranoid Trump administration officials use to describe career government employees that Trump’s allies believe are working to undermine President Donald Trump.

“Somebody in the deep state ― it was not one of his people, apparently ― ordered a table, like a conference room table or whatever it was, for a room,” Tenney said on WUTQ radio’s “Talk of the Town.” “And that’s what the cost was. Ben Carson tried to — he said, ‘You know how hard it is to turn it back because of the way that the procurement happens?'”

HUD purchased a $31,000 dining set for Carson’s office suite, an order Carson cancelled once the media learned of the big purchase. Carson has said that he had little to do with the process and testified earlier this week that he left the task to his wife.

Asked about Carson’s testimony placing responsibility on his wife, Candy Carson, Tenney said, “I don’t know that he’s blaming his wife.”

H/t Huffington Post

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In his phone call earlier this week, President Donald Trump told Russian leader Vladimir Putin that the two should meet soon, a comment that caught aides by surprise since proposing a meeting was not in the President’s briefing materials, the Washington Post reported Wednesday evening.

Trump said on Tuesday that he and Putin will “probably be meeting in the not-too-distant future to discuss the arms race,” but officials told the Washington Post that administration aides have not been instructed to prepare for any such meeting. Trump and Putin are not scheduled to be in the same place until November, according to the Washington Post.

The White House did not mention Trump’s proposal to meet Putin in its official readout of the call, and administration officials have opposed a bilateral meeting with the Russian president in the past, according to the Washington Post.

The President also ignored a warning not to congratulate Putin on his election victory, as the Post reported on Tuesday.

Read the Washington Post’e entire report here.

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The “60 Minutes” interview with Stephanie Clifford, the porn actress who uses the name Stormy Daniels, will air Sunday evening, CBS News confirmed on Wednesday.

Anderson Cooper taped an interview with Clifford earlier in March, but CBS News has delayed airing the interview. The network’s president of news said that more work needed to be done on the story before it aired.

Clifford sued Trump over a nondisclosure agreement she signed barring her from discussing her alleged sexual relationship with Trump. Clifford claims that Trump never signed the agreement, rendering it invalid and allowing her to speak freely about her relationship with Trump that allegedly began in 2006. Lawyers for President Donald Trump reportedly considered taking legal action to prevent CBS from airing the interview with Clifford.

In the “60 Minutes” interview, Clifford will discuss her relationship with Trump, and the segment will also touch on “the potential legal and political ramifications” of Trump attorney Michael Cohen’s $130,000 payment to Clifford, according to CBS News.

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Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said Wednesday that the U.S. government needs to do more to punish Russia for election meddling and deter Russian officials from attempting to interfere again.

“We need to do more,” Nielsen said at a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing when asked what punishment would deter future meddling. Nielsen did not specify what future actions the U.S. should take.

Pressed by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) on whether the U.S. has successfully deterred Russia from interfering again, Nielsen replied that the U.S. has not and added that there is “no reason to believe” Russia will not attempt to meddle again.

Earlier in the hearing, former DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson said that sanctions imposed by the Obama administration were not an effective deterrent for Russia.

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Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said on Wednesday morning that President Donald Trump has supported her efforts to prepare for and combat future election meddling by Russia.

During a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on election security, Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM) asked Nielson whether she feels the White House has given her enough support to work with state and local officials on election security going forward.

“I do,” she responded.

Heinrich followed up to ask if it would be beneficial for President Donald Trump to recognize Russia’s election interference in 2016. In response, Nielson argued that Trump has acknowledged the meddling but that he has emphasized his belief that no votes were changed as a result.

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Former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said on Wednesday morning that looking back, he does not believe that the sanctions imposed on Russia in response to election meddling by the Obama administration were strong enough.

“The Russian effort has not been contained, it has not been deterred,” Johnson told the Senate Intelligence Committee in a hearing on election security. “With the benefit of hindsight, the sanctions we issued in late December have not worked as an effective deterrent.”

Johnson called on the Trump administration to build on those sanctions.

The former homeland security secretary also emphasized the challenge he faced in preparing states for election meddling ahead of the 2016 election. He noted that many states are resistant to the federal government designating election infrastructure as critical infrastructure, which would facilitate states’ ability to seek security help from the federal government.

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A new study from the Democracy Fund’s Voter Study Group found that Americans who back President Donald Trump show the highest level of skepticism for democracy.

The study found that 23 percent of Trump supporters do not prefer a democracy and that 32 percent favor a “strong leader.” By comparison, 20 percent of Hillary Clinton supporters said they prefer a “strong leader.”

Despite those findings, the study found that about three quarters of those surveyed showed “at least some support for democracy” and that more than half showed “support for the strongest pro-democratic option.” The study also found that support for a strong leader declined for the first time and fell to levels found in 1995.

The Democracy Fund’s study focused on 5,000 people who were interviewed in July 2017 — those respondents had also been interviewed several times since 2011.

Read the results from the study here.

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