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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

During a speech at the Latino Coalition Legislative Summit on Wednesday afternoon, President Donald Trump parroted his typical talking points about immigration and legislation to restore protections under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

Speaking to the group dedicated to Hispanic small business owners, Trump touted his efforts to cut taxes and reduce regulations before turning his sights on immigration. The President then touted his push for a “merit-based” immigration system and claimed that many Latinos believe that immigration to the U.S. should be determined by skill level.

“This is the mainstream view of all Americans, including Latinos,” Trump said.

He then blamed Congress’ failure to pass legislation to restore DACA — an executive action that he unwound as president — on Democrats.

He told the audience that Democrats “don’t care about our immigration system” and only want to used immigration issues to “get elected.” He then encouraged members of the Latino Coalition to push Democrats to pass DACA legislation.

“This is our moment. Go get DACA. Go push those Democrats,” he said.

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Progressive candidate Laura Moser advanced to a runoff in the Democratic primary for a congressional seat representing Texas on Tuesday night even after the national party came out against her.

Moser, an activist and journalist, came in second in the primary, and will face off against Lizzie Pannill Fletcher on May 22.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, House Democrats’ campaign committee, publicly sided against Moser in February by pushing damaging research noting that Moser once that she’d “rather have my teeth pulled out without anesthesia” than live in Texas. National Democrats are worried that Moser does not have a good shot at unseating incumbent Rep. John Culberson (R-TX).

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The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) this week removed language from its mission statement declaring that the department is committed to building communities free from discrimination, HuffPost reported Tuesday night.

In a March 5 memo obtained by HuffPost, Amy Thompson, the assistant secretary for public affairs at HUD, told political employees that the agency’s mission statement was updated “in an effort to align HUD’s mission with the Secretary’s priorities and that of the Administration.” It’s not clear that the statement sent to employees is the final version, according to HuffPost.

The new mission statement simply reads, “HUD’s mission is to ensure Americans have access to fair, affordable housing and opportunities to achieve self-sufficiency, thereby strengthening our communities and nation,” per HuffPost.

The old mission statement was longer and included a line that said HUD was committed to building “inclusive and sustainable communities free from discrimination.”

Thompson wrote in the memo that the new mission statement was drafted with input from HUD Secretary Ben Carson and his deputy, according to HuffPost.

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Two Republican House committee chairmen on Tuesday asked the Justice Department to appoint a special counsel to investigate any bias at the Justice Department and FBI in the latest attempt by conservatives to paint the Russia investigation as a witch hunt out to hurt President Donald Trump.

House Oversight Committee Chair Trey Gowdy (R-SC) and House Judiciary Committee Chair Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) told Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein in a letter that they are concerned about “decisions made and not made” at the DOJ and FBI in 2016 and 2017. They wrote that in the majority of cases, U.S. law enforcement officials have acted appropriately but claimed that there are “instances in which an actual or potential conflict of interest exists or appears to exist.”

Though they do not single out the Russia investigation or the so-called Trump dossier authored by former British spy Christopher Steele, it’s apparent that Gowdy and Goodlatte are concerned about exactly that.

“There is evidence of bias, trending toward animus, among those charged with investigating serious cases. There is evidence political opposition research was used in court filings. There is evidence this political opposition research was neither vetted before it was used nor fully revealed to the relevant tribunal,” Gowdy and Goodlatte wrote, adding that they also have concerns about the surveillance application process.

Conservatives in the House have drummed up concern over the process the Justice Department used to conduct surveillance of Carter Page, a former Trump campaign aide. The effort culminated recently in the release of a memo from Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee claiming that the Justice Department improperly used the Steele dossier to justify its surveillance of Page.

Democrats have dismissed these claims, charging in a rebuttal memo that the DOJ only used a small part of the dossier in its application to surveil Page and that the DOJ submitted information from independent sources corroborating parts of the Steele Dossier in renewal applications. Republicans have also claimed that the DOJ did not reveal to the court that the dossier was crafted as opposition research, but the Democratic memo counters that the DOJ told the court that the dossier had a political motive.

Conservatives in Congress have been calling for a special prosecutor for a while, but the letter from Gowdy and Goodlatte elevates the request

The letter also comes only about a week after President Donald Trump criticized Sessions on Twitter for directing the DOJ inspector general to investigate bias in the surveillance application process.

In their letter, Gowdy and Goodlatte argue that the inspector general is not the best individual to investigate the matter because he “does not have the authority to investigate other governmental entities or former employees of the Department, the Bureau, or other agencies.”

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Porn actress Stephanie Clifford, who uses the stage name Stormy Daniels, on Tuesday sued President Donald Trump, alleging that he never signed a non-disclosure agreement that prohibited Clifford from publicly discussing her alleged intimate relationship with Trump.

In the complaint, Clifford claims that the agreement is null because Trump never signed it. Clifford’s lawyer attached the “hush agreement” to the complaint. It names the LLC set up to pay Clifford, and refers to Clifford as “Peggy Peterson,” and Trump as “David Dennison,” per Clifford.

As has been previously reported by the Wall Street Journal, Clifford claims in the complaint that Trump’s longtime personal attorney Michael Cohen prepared the agreement and set up an LLC to pay Clifford $130,000 in exchange for her silence in October 2016. Cohen then admitted that he made the payment and claimed he made it out of his own pocket. Additional reporting from the Journal indicates that Cohen was expecting reimbursement from Trump for the payment to Clifford but never received it.

Clifford also claimed last month that she was free to discuss her alleged relationship with Trump because Cohen invalidated the agreement by acknowledging his payment to her, and she repeats this in the complaint.

Amid reports that Cohen paid hush money to Clifford, she released a statement at the end of January denying any relationship with Trump, only to later cast doubt on that denial. In the complaint filed on Tuesday, Clifford claims that Cohen used “intimidation and coercive tactics” to “force” her to sign the statement denying any intimate relationship with Trump.

Clifford also claims in the complaint that at the end of February, Cohen “initiated a bogus arbitration proceeding” against Clifford that was hidden from public view.

In the lawsuit, Clifford asks the court to declare that the agreement “invalid, unenforceable, and/or void,” freeing Clifford from the obligations laid out in the agreement.

The non-disclosure agreement attached by Clifford notes that she had “certain still images and/or text messages which were authored by or relate to” Dennison, the alleged stand-in name for Trump, and that she threatened to sell or make public certain images or information about Dennison without his consent. The agreement transfers Daniels’ rights to the information to Dennison and keeps her from disclosing any information about him or his sexual partners. The copies of the agreement included by Clifford shows a space for Dennison to sign but includes no signature.

In the lawsuit, Clifford claims that she began an intimate relationship with Trump in 2006 and that she met him at least once at the Beverly Hills Hotel, which lines up with her 2011 interview with In Touch magazine. Clifford also confirms in the complaint that she tried to publicize her relationship with Trump after the release of the “Access Hollywood” tape, which prompted Cohen to draw up a non-disclosure agreement.

 

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A lawyer who represents Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s longtime personal attorney, received information on a witness’ testimony to the House Intelligence Committee from someone in the House, the Daily Beast reported Tuesday, citing sources familiar with the matter.

David Kramer, a former staffer for Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) who was involved in alerting the FBI to former British spy Christopher Steele’s dossier on Trump, testified to the House panel on Dec. 19, 2017. A few days later, his lawyer, Larry Robbins, received a call from Stephen Ryan, a lawyer for Cohen, according to the Daily Beast.

Ryan told Robbins that someone in the House told him that Kramer had information about the dossier that could help Cohen, per the Daily Beast. Steele’s dossier alleges that Cohen met with Kremlin officials, which Cohen has vehemently denied, going so far as to sue Buzzfeed News for publishing the dossier.

Robbins declined to help Ryan, and he reported the conversation with Ryan to the House Intelligence Committee, the Daily Beast reported. CNN reported on the letter Robbins sent last month, but did not identify Robbins, Kramer, or Cohen and his lawyer.

A spokeswoman for Rep. Mike Conaway (R-TX), the congressman leading the House Intelligence Committee’s Russia investigation, told the Daily Beast that “any accusation that a witness’s testimony was shared with another witness or their lawyer is unequivocally false.”

Read the Daily Beast’s full report here.

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The U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) on Tuesday found that White House counselor Kellyanne Conway violated the Hatch Act during two separate television interviews about the Alabama special election last year.

In two cable news interviews late last year, Conway either advocated for Democratic Senate candidate Doug Jones to lose or for Republican Roy Moore to win, even though the Hatch Act prohibits federal officials from engaging in political activity, the OSC found.

During a Nov. 20 appearance on “Fox and Friends,” Conway charged that voting for Jones is “a vote against tax cuts.” Asked if people should vote for Moore, Conway followed up by saying, “I’m telling you that we want the votes in the Senate to get this tax bill through.”

Then on Dec. 6, Conway again offered reasons not to vote for Jones in a CNN interview, describing him as a “liberal Democrat” and warning that he would against tax cuts, border security, and the Second Amendment.

The OSC found that Conway used her official title as counselor to the president — which was noted in the chyron for both interviews — to engage in political activity in both interviews, which violates the Hatch Act.

The finding from the OSC notes that during the “Fox and Friends” interview, Conway brought up Jones on her own when asked about tax reform.

“Ms. Conway’s introduction of Doug Jones into the interview was unprompted, unresponsive to the question asked by the Fox & Friends host, and surprising given that she knew the four identified interview topics did not include Doug Jones, Roy Moore, or the Alabama special election. Her intentional partisan jabs against Doug Jones were made in her official capacity and meant to persuade voters” on the race, per the OSC.

OSC noted that Conway should have been well aware of the Hatch Act’s limitations and listed several trainings and memos Conway received on the matter before the interviews took place. White House Counsel Don McGahn also approached Conway on Nov. 20 after the “Fox and Friends” interview about Hatch Act concerns raised by the interview and gave her additional guidance. McGahn sent another warning to several White House employees on Dec. 4 reminding them about the Hatch Act, according to the OSC.

OSC referred Conway’s violations to President Donald Trump, and it is up to him whether Conway should be disciplined.

Conway’s comments during the Alabama special election were not the first time she got into hot water for her comments in a television interview. In February 2017, the Office of Government Ethics called on the White House to look into whether Conway’s comments promoting Ivanka Trump’s fashion line on Fox News violated ethics rules.

The White House on Tuesday dismissed the finding from OSC and claimed that Conway did not actually violate the Hatch Act.

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Former President George W. Bush has reportedly found the silver lining in Donald Trump’s presidency.

Bush has been overheard remarking that Trump’s run in the White House is going poorly and makes him look good as a result, the National Journal’s contributing editor Tom DeFrank reported on Monday.

“Sorta makes me look pretty good, doesn’t it?” Bush often says of Trump’s presidency, according to the National Journal.

Bush’s favorability rating was low when he left the White House in 2009, but has increased since then to 61 percent, higher than Trump’s 40 percent rating.

 

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During her announcement over the weekend that she would run for re-election, Rep. Claudia Tenney (R-NY) was not too pleased when she faced questions about her February comment that “many of these people that commit the mass murders end up being Democrats.”

Approached by a reporter about the comment during the event launching her re-election on Saturday, Tenney defended her remark and lashed out at the media, according to video captured by WKTV.

“I’m telling the truth,” she said. “It isn’t just Republicans who commit all these terrible crimes.”

“All I’m saying is everybody is guilty equally,” she added.

Tenney blasted media coverage of mass shootings, like the one last month at a high school in Florida, and charged that the media exploits mass shootings.

Pressed on her comments about many mass murderers being Democrats, Tenney decried “fake news” and abruptly ended the interview.

“It is fake news! I answered your question every which way, it is fake news,” she said. “Bye. Done. It’s ridiculous.”

Watch video of the exchange:

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A week before the Interior Department is set to auction off parcels of land in Montana for oil and gas leases, Secretary Ryan Zinke pulled a cluster of parcels from the auction on Monday evening.

Zinke, who used to represent Montana in Congress, first made the announcement on Twitter.

Zinke followed up in a statement to the Washington Post, saying that the department needed to study the area more before approving it for auction. Local environmental groups had protested the auction and warned that it could hurt the areas near the Yellowstone river, according to the Washington Post.

“Multiple use is about balance,” Zinke said in the statement. “I’ve always said there are places where it is appropriate to develop and where it’s not.”

Zinke also recently postponed the sale of land in the Chaco Culture National Historical Park in New Mexico, the Post noted.

The secretary made headlines earlier in the year when he exempted Florida from an offshore drilling plan after meeting with Republican Gov. Rick Scott. The move was seen as a political maneuver by the Trump administration since Scott is looking at a Senate bid.

 

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