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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

Former FBI Director James Comey on Thursday evening pushed back on President Donald Trump’s claim earlier in the day that he is “a leaker” and “a liar.”

“He’s just wrong,” Comey told Fox News’ Bret Baier when asked about Trump’s claim. “Facts really do matter, which is why I’m on the show to answer your questions. That memo was unclassified then. It’s still unclassified. It’s in my book. The FBI cleared that book before it could be published. That’s a false statement.”

In a Thursday morning interview on “Fox and Friends,” Trump accused Comey of leaking classified information when he had a friend send a memo on his interactions with Trump to someone in the media.

Comey contended that none of his memos were classified at the time he shared some of the information with a friend, and he said that the information that made it to the press remains unclassified.

Watch Comey’s Fox News interview:

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A former correspondent for NBC News accused retired NBC anchor Tom Brokaw of sexually harassing her during the 1990s in interviews with Variety and the Washington Post.

Linda Vester said Tom Brokaw made several unwanted advances despite her signals that she did not want to be involved with him romantically. She told the Washington Post that she is telling her story now because she’s frustrated with the way NBC News has handled the aftermath of Matt Lauer’s firing over sexual misconduct allegations.

“I am speaking out now because NBC has failed to hire outside counsel to investigate a genuine, long-standing problem of sexual misconduct in the news division,” she told the Washington Post.

Vester told Variety that Brokaw made his first unwanted advance in 1993 when she had just been brought on as a full-time correspondent. He grabbed her from behind and began tickling her waist in a conference room “out of the blue,” Vester said. At the time, she was not well-acquainted with Brokaw, who she described as “the most powerful man at the network.”

Then in early 1994, Brokaw invited himself to her hotel while she was in New York on assignment, despite her attempts to ward off his advances, Vester told Variety. When Brokaw showed up at her hotel room anyway, he tried to forcibly kiss her, Vester said. She resisted and told him she did not want that kind of relationship with him, prompting him to leave, Vester said.

Brokaw also invited himself to Vester’s apartment in London in 1995, she said. Seated on a couch, Brokaw put his hand behind her head to try to force her to kiss him, Vester told Variety. Vester said she broke away and told him to leave.

In a statement to the Washington Post, Brokaw denied Vester’s allegations.

“I met with Linda Vester on two occasions, both at her request, 23 years ago, because she wanted advice with respect to her career at NBC,” he said in a statement issued by NBC. “The meetings were brief, cordial and appropriate, and despite Linda’s allegations, I made no romantic overtures towards her, at that time or any other.”

Another woman who asked to remain anonymous told the Washington Post that Brokaw also acted inappropriately toward her in the 1990s. The woman was a production assistant at the time and looking for a promotion at the network. She told the Post that when she arrived to work one day during the winter, Brokaw took her hands.

“He put my hands under his jacket and against his chest and pulled me in so close and asked me, ‘How is your job search going?’ ” she said, adding that he then invited her to his office to discuss her job search. She did not go to his office and left the network soon after, she told the Post.

 

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Federal prosecutors argued in a Thursday morning letter that documents seized in an FBI raid on Michael Cohen’s home, office and hotel room are unlikely to contain a large percentage of material subject to attorney-client privilege because two of Cohen’s three clients have downplayed the legal work Cohen carried out for them.

Prosecutors noted that since Cohen revealed that one of his three clients was Sean Hannity, the Fox News host has since said that Cohen has never represented him in a legal matter. Attorneys for the government also cited an interview President Donald Trump, another Cohen client, gave on “Fox and Friends” just a couple hours before the letter was produced in which the President claimed that Cohen only managed “a tiny, tiny little fraction” of his legal work.

“These statements by two of Cohen’s three identified clients suggest that the seized materials are unlikely to contain voluminous privileged documents, further supporting the importance of efficiency here,” prosecutors wrote in the letter.

The argument came in a footnote on a letter notifying the judge in the case that the prosecution now supports the appointment of a third party “special master” to review the seized materials for potential privileged documents.

Cohen and the prosecutors in the case have been locked in a back and forth over the process investigators will employ to throw out any privileged materials seized in the FBI raid. Cohen’s lawyers have argued that prosecutors will not be able to fairly sort through the materials, and President Donald Trump pushed for his lawyers to review the seized materials before the government does. Prosecutors pushed back on this request, calling Trump’s position “extreme.”

Lawyers for Cohen and the prosecution will attend a hearing on Thursday to discuss the process for reviewing the seized materials.

Read the letter:

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President Donald Trump on Thursday morning distanced himself from the federal investigation into the business dealings of his longtime lawyer Michael Cohen, claiming that he knows “nothing” about Cohen’s business practices and that Cohen represented him in only a “fraction” of his legal matters.

“I don’t know his business, but this doesn’t have to do with me. Michael is a businessman. He’s got a business. He also practices law. I would say probably the big thing is his business, and they’re looking at something having to do with his business,” Trump said during a lengthy phone interview with “Fox and Friends.” “I have nothing to do with his business, I can tell you.”

Asked about Cohen’s work representing him, Trump claimed that Cohen only handled “a tiny, tiny little fraction” of his legal work.

“I have many attorneys,” Trump said.

“He represents me like with this crazy Stormy Daniels deal, he represented me,” the President continued, referencing Cohen’s payment to Daniels and work negotiating a hush agreement with the porn actress. “You know, from what I see, he did absolutely nothing wrong. There were no campaign funds going into this, which would have been a problem.”

Trump also shrugged off Cohen’s decision to plead the Fifth Amendment in the civil case filed by Daniels against him. During the campaign, Trump criticized Hillary Clinton staffers who pleaded the Fifth Amendment in the email probe.

“Because he has got other things. He has businesses,” Trump answered on “Fox and Friends” when asked why Cohen is pleading the Fifth. “I hope he’s in great shape. But he has got businesses, and his lawyers probably told him to do that. But I’m not involved.”

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White House physician Ronny Jackson withdrew as the nominee to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs on Thursday amid mounting scrutiny of his past behavior.

In a statement announcing his withdrawal, Jackson denied the allegations about his conduct but said that the attention created a “distraction.”

“The allegations against me are completely false and fabricated. If they had any merit, I would not have been selected, promoted and entrusted to serve in such a sensitive and important role as physician to three presidents over the past 12 years,” Jackson said. “Unfortunately, because of how Washington works, these false allegations have become a distraction for this President and the important issue we must be addressing – how we give the best care to our nation’s heroes.”

Jackson’s withdrawal as the VA nominee followed new allegations surfaced by Democrats on Wednesday afternoon. A report from Democrats in Congress included allegations that Jackson was prone to excessive drinking, crashed a government vehicle while drunk, prescribed medication without knowledge of patients’ medical history and mistreated his employees. Before the new report surfaced Wednesday, he was already facing allegations of drinking on the job and doling out prescription medications “like they were candy.”

In his Thursday morning statement, Jackson said he did not expect such scrutiny.

“Going into this process, I expected tough questions about how to best care for our veterans, but I did not expect to have to dignify baseless and anonymous attacks on my character and integrity,” he said. “In my role as a doctor, I have tirelessly worked to provide excellent care for all my patients. In doing so, I have always adhered to the highest ethical standards.”

Up until Jackson’s withdrawal on Thursday morning, the White House defended its choice to lead the VA. Wednesday morning, White House spokesman Hogan Gidley touted Jackson’s credentials in a statement defending the nominee. On Wednesday afternoon, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders defended the administration’s background investigation of Jackson, insisting that he “received more vetting than most nominees.”

Yet after the new allegations surfaced Wednesday afternoon, both Jackson and President Donald Trump began to consider more seriously whether Jackson should withdraw, according to reports from CNN and the Washington Post.

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A lawyer representing MSNBC host Joy Reid said Wednesday night that the FBI is investigating whether Reid’s blog was hacked.

“We have received confirmation the FBI has opened an investigation into potential criminal activities surrounding several online accounts, including personal email and blog accounts, belonging to Joy-Ann Reid. Our own investigation and monitoring of the situation will continue in parallel, and we are cooperating with law enforcement as their investigation proceeds,” attorney John H. Reichman said in a statement provided to TPM by MSNBC.

Reid’s team has alleged that newly surfaced homophobic blog posts were the result of a hack and were not actually written by Reid herself. The Internet Archive, the group that hosts the archive of Reid’s defunct blog, says that they did not find any evidence that their archived versions of Reid’s blog posts were tampered with. However, a cybersecurity expert working for Reid said that he found indications that her blog was tampered with in some way.

An MSNBC spokesperson said Wednesday that Reid will remain on air while any law enforcement investigations unfold and said that the network will let such an investigation play out, suggesting that the network itself is not reviewing the matter at this time.

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As scrutiny over his behavior as White House physician increased on Wednesday, Ronny Jackson began to consider withdrawing as the nominee to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs, two White House officials with knowledge of Jackson’s deliberations told the Washington Post.

The report that Jackson’s resolve was wavering came after Democrats released new allegations that Jackson was prone to excessive drinking and once crashed a government vehicle, wrote prescriptions without asking patients about their medical history, and mistreated those that worked for him. However, Jackson was considering stepping aside as the nominee before the new report surfaced, according to the Washington Post.

Jackson denied the allegation that he crashed a government vehicle while drunk on Wednesday evening and told reporters he would press on in the confirmation process. Yet behind closed doors, he has gone back and forth on whether he should pull out as the nominee or move forward and defend himself, per the Washington Post.

The White House defended Jackson throughout the day on Wednesday, touting his accomplishments as a military doctor and insisting that he had been properly vetted by the administration.

However, the new allegations on Wednesday afternoon left President Donald Trump and some aides in the White House less certain that the administration should continue to stand behind Jackson, CNN reported. Trump has started mulling out loud whether Jackson should take his name out of the running to lead the VA “before things get worse,” and aides in the White House have started preparing for the possibility that Jackson could withdraw, according to CNN.

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A spokesperson for MSNBC said on Wednesday that host Joy Reid will remain on air amid questions about homophobic posts that surfaced earlier this week on her now-defunct blog.

Reid has claimed she did not write the posts and that her team told law enforcement in December that they believe the blog was hacked.

Asked by TPM about Reid’s status, and about about whether MSNBC is conducting its own investigation, an MSNBC spokesperson, who asked to remain anonymous, noted that Reid’s team alerted the authorities and said that the network would let that process play out.

The newly surfaced blog posts that appeared to be written by Reid caused a stir this week. Reid apologized in December for past homophobic blog posts, but additional posts from the same time period surfaced on Monday. One declared that “most straight people cringe at the sight of two men kissing.”

The Internet Archive, which hosts the archive of Reid’s former blog, said Tuesday that it did not find any evidence that its archive was hacked. In response, MSNBC circulated a statement from a cybersecurity expert working for Reid, who argued that a hack had occurred.

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White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders grew agitated with CNN’s Jim Acosta on Wednesday as he peppered her with questions about embattled Veterans Affairs nominee Dr. Ronny Jackson.

Acosta began his line of questioning by asking about President Donald Trump’s comment Tuesday that there’s an “experience problem” with Jackson as he faces Senate confirmation. Acosta asked Sanders if it was fair to say Jackson lacks the proper experience to run the VA.

“That’s not what the President said. I think you’re taking some of his words out of context. I know you don’t appreciate when people take your words out of context. I’d appreciate it if you not do that to the President,” Sanders replied. “He said that had been one of the questions people had posed about him.”

The CNN reporter later asked if the Trump administration is a champion of the free press, referencing Sanders comment that context is important.

“We support a free press but we also for a fair press,” Sanders told Acosta.

When Acosta jumped in to ask if Trump has a responsibility to provide proper context, Sanders ignored the question and lamented that reporters ask questions “in a tone that’s completely unnecessary, unneeded, and frankly doesn’t help further the conversation or help the American people get any more information in a better way.”

“I’m going to move on,” Sanders then said.

Acosta tried to ask a question once more, but Sanders cut him off.

“Jim, I’m finished here.”

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Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson will propose changes to the country’s affordable housing program that would raise rents on low-income Americans and impose work requirements on those using subsidies, according a report out Wednesday afternoon from the Washington Post.

Currently, tenants pay 30 percent of their adjusted income toward rent, but under the new HUD plan, tenants would pay 35 percent of their gross income or 35 percent of their earnings from 15 hours per week at a minimum wage job, according to the Washington Post. Residents would have to pay three times more than the current minimum, the Post calculated.

The plan from Carson would also eliminate deductions tenants receive for medical and child care costs, per the Washington Post.

The proposal from Carson would need approval from Congress to be enacted. Carson plans to announce the proposal later on Wednesday, according to the Washington Post.

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