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

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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President Donald Trump fired off several tweets early Wednesday morning insisting that he is “calm and calculated” after several reports on Tuesday detailed Trump’s anger following the FBI raid on his longtime personal attorney Michael Cohen.

Trump publicly fumed over the raid on Cohen’s residences and office on Monday, calling the FBI’s move “an attack on our country,” and has reportedly continued to vent about the Cohen raid and special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe behind closed doors. Though Trump insisted in his tweets that he has been calmly going about his presidential duties, he again lashed out at the FBI for the “unthinkable” raid on Cohen and defended his need to “fight back” against the Russia probes.

Trump’s unhappiness with the Mueller investigation has long been simmering, and the news of the FBI raid on his longtime lawyer and fixer reportedly sent the President over the edge. Two people close to the West Wing told the New York Times that Trump was close to a “meltdown” on Tuesday. White House aides told the Times that they were worried Trump would fire Mueller.

The President told advisers over the weekend that he wanted to fire Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, and FBI Director Christopher Wray, according to the New York Times. His frustration with leadership at the Justice Department only grew after the Cohen raid, and he trained his ire on Rosenstein, the DOJ official who oversees the Mueller probe and who reportedly signed off on the Cohen raid.

Trump is now considering firing Rosenstein, a move he’s entertained before, sources told CNN. Aides also told the New York Times that they believe Trump is considering firing Rosenstein.

The President is also reconsidering whether he will sit for an interview with Mueller’s team, a White House official told CNN.

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President Donald Trump met with attorneys Marc Kasowitz and Jay Sekulow on Tuesday following the FBI’s raid of the office, home and hotel room of Michael Cohen, Trump’s longtime personal attorney, Bloomberg News reported Tuesday, citing a source familiar with the matter.

Though the raid was carried out by the U.S. attorney’s office in the Southern District of New York, the lawyers view the raid as an extension of special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe, according to Bloomberg News.

Kasowitz (pictured above) left Trump’s outside legal team in charge of the Russia investigations in July 2017, but traveled to Washington, D.C. to meet with Trump Tuesday, per Bloomberg News. Sekulow is the lead outside attorney responsible for the Russia probe now that John Dowd has bowed out.

Since the raid on Cohen’s residences and office, Trump has raged against Mueller and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who reportedly signed off on the raid.

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Special counsel Robert Mueller is looking at several other meetings that took place in early 2017, in addition to a previously reported meeting between a Trump adviser and foreign individuals, NJ Advance Media reported on Tuesday.

The report did not provide details on who attended the meeting or exactly when the meetings took place. Per NJ Advance Media:

The sources said several of those meetings took place around the same time as another meeting in the Seychelles between Erik Prince, founder of the security company Blackwater, Kirill Dmitriev, the director of one of Russia’s sovereign wealth funds, and Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, the effective ruler of the United Arab Emirates (also known as “MBZ”).

The Washington Post reported last year that Prince met with a Russian businessman close to Vladimir Putin in January 2017 in an apparent attempt to set up a backchannel between associates of incoming President Donald Trump and Moscow. One of the participants in that meeting, George Nader, is cooperating with Mueller’s investigation.

Read NJ Advance Media’s full report on the additional meetings here.

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After the FBI raided the home, office and hotel room of Michael Cohen, the longtime personal attorney to President Donald Trump, the lawyer representing porn actress Stormy Daniels in her lawsuit against Cohen and Trump said he felt sorry for Cohen.

“Part of me feels sorry for him,” Michael Avenatti told MSNBC on Monday evening.

Avenatti suggested that Cohen will have to take the fall for Trump and that he will “fold” when faced with federal investigators.

“He’s going to be expected to be the fall guy, the scapegoat. I don’t think he’s going to hold up,” Avenatti said. “I think, when push comes to shove, he’s going to fold like a cheap deck of cards.”

During appearances on several television shows following the raid, Avenatti speculated on the FBI raid and the Stormy Daniels lawsuit. He told MSNBC’s Ari Melber that he believes Cohen will plead the Fifth Amendment if faced with a deposition in the Stormy Daniels case in light of the raid.

He also speculated that Cohen may have lied to the First Republic Bank when he obtained a loan and set up bank accounts to pay Daniels $130,000 in exchange for her silence on her alleged affair with Trump.

“We have substantial reason to believe that when Michael Cohen opened the bank accounts at First Republic Bank for the purposes of wiring this money, that he was not truthful and honest with the bank as to the purpose of those accounts and what they were designed to be used for,” Avenatti said on CNN.

Avenatti also posted several tweets responding to Trump’s claim that the raid was part of a “witch hunt” and suggestion that the FBI ignored attorney-client privilege.

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