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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

Up early Wednesday morning, President Donald Trump appeared angry about Stormy Daniels’ decision to release a forensic sketch of a man she says threatened her in 2011 to keep quiet about her alleged affair with Trump.

In a tweet published shortly after 6 a.m. ET, Trump said that the sketch depicted a “nonexistent man” and declared that the released of the sketch was a “con job.” Trump retweeted a tweet suggesting that the man in the sketch is Daniels’ ex-boyfriend Glendon Crain based on a photo.

Shortly after Trump tweeted that Daniels was attempting to pull off a “con job,” her lawyer, Michael Avenatti fired off several tweets hitting back at Trump. Avenatti argued that the real “con job” was orchestrated by Trump and his longtime personal attorney Michael Cohen, who is under federal criminal investigation. He also mocked Trump for constantly weighing in on the matter and suggested Trump’s tweets could create problems for him.

Daniels told CBS’ “60 Minutes” last month that she was approached by a man who threatened her to stay quiet about her affair with Trump back in 2011 after she gave an interview on her encounter with Trump. Daniels revealed a composite sketch of the man who allegedly threatened her, offering a reward for anyone who could help identify him.

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President Donald Trump’s new national economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, on Tuesday used Republicans’ go-to tactic for responding to the Congressional Budget Office’s analysis of the GOP tax cut law.

“Never believe the CBO. Very important: Never believe them,” Larry Kudlow said on “Fox & Friends” when asked about the nonpartisan analysis of the tax law. “They’re always wrong, especially with regard to tax cuts, which they never score properly.”

“The CBO people are professionals. This is not a personal attack,” he added. “But their record on tax cuts is not good.”

The CBO found earlier this month that the tax cuts enacted in the Republican bill, along with the spending package passed to fund the government, will balloon the deficit by $1 trillion.

Since Republicans began their attempt to repeal Obamacare at the beginning of Trump’s presidency, Republicans have ramped up attempts to undermine the CBO and cast doubt on its analysis. The CBO’s analysis of Republicans’ failed legislation to repeal the health care law was also not favorable to the GOP bills.

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Stormy Daniels and her lawyer Michael Avenatti on Tuesday released a sketch of the man that Daniels claims threatened her in a Las Vegas parking lot in 2011.

The sketch, drawn by well-known forensic artist Lois Gibson, was released on ABC’s “The View.”

Avenatti and Daniels are offering a reward for anyone who can help identify the man who allegedly issued the threat.

Daniels told CBS’ “60 Minutes” last month that shortly after she gave an interview about her alleged encounter with then-businessman Donald Trump in 2011, a man threatened her to stay quiet about the affair in a Las Vegas parking lot. She revisited the threat on “The View” on Tuesday, and she said she did not go to the police about the threat at the time because she was scared. She also said that she had not told her husband at the time about her alleged affair, which made her apprehensive to talk about the threat she received.

“I was embarrassed to say something,” she said.

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In the latest interview on his book tour, former FBI Director James Comey criticized President Donald Trump’s Sunday tweets suggesting that Comey should go to jail.

“The President of the United States just said that a private citizen should be jailed. And I think the reaction of most of us was, ‘Meh, that’s another one of those things.’ This is not normal. This is not OK,” Comey said in an interview with NPR. “There’s a danger that we will become numb to it, and we will stop noticing the threats to our norms, the threats to the rule of law, and the threats most of all to the truth.”

Comey said it’s not appropriate for Trump to call for his political enemies to be jailed.

“The rule of law involves the apolitical administration of justice. This is not some tin pot dictatorship where the leader of the country gets to say ‘the people I don’t like go to jail,'” Comey told NPR.

Trump on Sunday fired off several tweets Sunday morning reacting to Comey’s new book. Trump suggested that Comey should go to prison over his handling of classified information and his testimony to Congress.

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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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