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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

Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee on Wednesday night accused Chair Devin Nunes (R-CA) of unilaterally making changes to the controversial memo before sending it to the White House for review.

Ranking Member Adam Schiff (D-CA), who has strongly criticized the memo and warned against its release to the public, penned a letter to Nunes Wednesday night calling out the chairman for making “material changes” to the memo after the committee voted to make it public and therefore deceiving the committee.

The House Intelligence Committee voted on Monday night, along party lines, to release the memo to the public. President Donald Trump now has five days to review the memo and either agree or object to the memo’s release.

The memo, which reportedly purports to prove that top officials at the Justice Department and FBI operated with anti-Trump bias, has pitted Trump and his Republican allies in Congress against Trump’s own Justice Department. The DOJ has warned publicly that releasing the memo would be “reckless” and the FBI said it had “grave concerns about material omissions of fact.”

In his Wednesday night letter, Schiff blasted Nunes for altering the document, calling the move “deeply troubling.’

“Upon our discovery that the document sent for public review had been secretly altered, the Majority belatedly afforded the Minority an opportunity this evening to compare the document transmitted on Monday night by the Majority to the White House with the document made available to all House Members since January 18. After reviewing both versions, it is clear that the Majority made material changes to the version it sent to the White House, which Committee Members were never apprised of, never had the opportunity to review, and never approved,” Schiff wrote in the letter.

“This is deeply troubling, because it means that the Committee Majority transmitted to the White House an altered version of its classified document that is materially different than the version on which the Committee voted. The White House has therefore been reviewing a document since Monday night that the Committee never approved for public release,” he added.

Schiff charged that Nunes’ decision to make the changes without informing the full committee shows that Republicans on the committee no longer stand by the original document and “felt it necessary to deceive” the full committee during Monday night’s vote to release the memo.

Rep. Jim Himes (D-CT), a member of the committee, pointed out on Twitter that he asked Nunes during the Monday night vote whether he would release the memo exactly as it appeared that evening. The transcript from the meeting shows Nunes replied in the affirmative.

Schiff called on Nunes to withdraw the memo from the White House and argued that the committee must vote on the new version of the memo.

A spokesman for Nunes dismissed Schiff’s concerns in a Wednesday night statement, claiming that the alterations were merely attempts to fix grammar and address changes requested by the FBI and Democrats.

“In its increasingly strange attempt to thwart publication of the memo, the Committee Minority is now complaining about minor edits to the memo, including grammatical fixes and two edits requested by the FBI and by the Minority themselves,” Nunes spokesman Jack Langer said in a statement. “The vote to release the memo was absolutely procedurally sound, and in accordance with House and Committee rules. To suggest otherwise is a bizarre distraction from the abuses detailed in the memo, which the public will hopefully soon be able to read for themselves.”

Read Schiff’s full letter to Nunes:

 

Read the latest reporter’s notebook (Prime access) on this story »

 

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This post has been updated.

A train carrying congressional Republicans to a GOP retreat collided with a trash truck in Virginia on Wednesday morning, leaving at least one person dead and at least one other critically injured, according to several news reports.

None of the passengers aboard the train sustained any major injuries, however.

Republican members of Congress were aboard a chartered Amtrak train headed for a retreat in West Virginia when the train hit the truck in Crozet, Virginia.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders confirmed in a statement that the incident resulted in one fatality and one serious injury, but she said that there were no serious injuries among members of Congress or their staff.

“The President has been fully briefed on the situation in Virginia and is receiving regular updates. There is one confirmed fatality and one serious injury. There are no serious injuries among members of Congress or their staff. Senior Administration officials are in regular contact with Amtrak and state and local authorities. Our thoughts and prayers are with everyone that has been affected by this incident,” Sanders said.

Five people who were aboard the train were taken to the hospital to treat minor injuries, according to Amtrak.

“An Amtrak train came into contact with a truck that was on the tracks at 11:20 a.m. in Crozet, Va. Two Amtrak crew members and three passengers were transported to a local hospital with minor injuries. The NTSB is investigating,” Amtrak said in the statement.

 

Shortly after news broke that the train had collided with the trash truck, Republican lawmakers began calling into cable news networks to describe the scene.

Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL), who was aboard the train when it collided with the truck, called into MSNBC Wednesday morning and said that most of the people on the train appeared to be alright.

“I have seen cuts and bruises,” he said.

A few members of Congress sustained some minor injuries. Rep. Chuck Fleshmann (R-TN) said he was standing when the train collided with the truck and sustained minor injuries.

Rep. Jason Lewis (R-MN) was sent to the hospital to be screened for a possible concussion after the crash, his staff told the Star Tribune.

Several Republican lawmakers aboard the train, some of whom were doctors, helped tend to those injured in the collision. Rep. Roger Marshall (R-KS) and Rep. Phil Roe (R-TN), both doctors, performed CPR on one of the truck drivers, according to updates published on Marshall’s twitter account.

Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA), and Rep. Brad Wenstrup (R-OH) helped tend to the injured truck drivers as well and helped carry one of the injured to an ambulance, Flake told MSNBC.

 

 

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CIA Director Mike Pompeo met with his Russian counterparts when they visited the United States last week, including the the chief of the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service, Sergey Naryshkin, who is included on a list of sanctioned Russian officials sanctioned by the U.S., CBS News reported Tuesday night.

Russian media also reported that Naryshkin and Pompeo met in the U.S. last week, and the Russian embassy in the U.S.  appeared to confirm the meeting in a tweet.

Jon Huntsman, the U.S. ambassador to Russia, told a Russia radio station on Tuesday that Pompeo met with his Russian counterparts, but Huntsman did not say exactly who attended the meeting.

The meeting took place in the same week that Pompeo told the BBC that he expects Russia to try to interfere in the 2018 U.S. elections.

I have every expectation that they will continue to try and do that,” Pompeo said in an interview that aired Monday. “But I am confident that America will be able to have a free and fair election, that we’ll push back in a way that is sufficiently robust, that the impact that they will have on our election won’t be great.”

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Brenda Fitzgerald stepped down as the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday morning following a Politico report on the conflicts of interest created by her financial holdings.

“This morning Secretary Azar accepted Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald’s resignation as Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  Dr. Fitzgerald owns certain complex financial interests that have imposed a broad recusal limiting her ability to complete all of her duties as the CDC Director. Due to the nature of these financial interests, Dr. Fitzgerald could not divest from them in a definitive time period,” Health and Human Services spokesman Matt Lloyd said in a statement.

“After advising Secretary Azar of both the status of the financial interests and the scope of her recusal, Dr. Fitzgerald tendered, and the Secretary accepted, her resignation.  The Secretary thanks Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald for her service and wishes her the best in all her endeavors,” Lloyd added.

The news of Fitzgerald’s resignation came less than 24 hours after Politico published a report on Fitzgerald’s stock trades. Fitzgerald purchased stock in a tobacco company about one month after she took over as director of the CDC, an agency that urges Americans to stop smoking tobacco products. She later sold stock in that company, but was unable to sell other stocks that presented conflicts.

Fitzgerald had been forced to recuse herself from a number of issues that the CDC addresses, but she said she was unable to quickly sell those stocks. This prevented her from testifying at a January hearing and prompted scrutiny in Congress.

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About one month after she took over as director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Brenda Fitzgerald purchased stock in a tobacco company, Politico reported Tuesday.

As CDC director, Fitzgerald oversees the agency’s efforts to push Americans to stop smoking tobacco products, so the purchase raised questions about conflicts of interest.

Documents obtained by Politico show that in August and September, Fitzgerald bought stock in several companies, including Japan Tobacco, a cigarette manufacturing company. She also purchased stock in pharmaceutical companies Merck & Co. and Bayer, and health insurance company Humana, Politico reported.

In a statement to Politico, a spokesperson for the Department of Health and Human Services acknowledged that Fitzgerald purchased “potentially conflicting” stocks but said that she has now sold them. Politico confirmed that Fitzgerald sold her stock in Japan Tobacco in October.

“Like all presidential personnel, Dr. Fitzgerald’s financial holdings were reviewed by the HHS Ethics Office, and she was instructed to divest of certain holdings that may pose a conflict of interest. During the divestiture process, her financial account manager purchased some potentially conflicting stock holdings. These additional purchases did not change the scope of Dr. Fitzgerald’s recusal obligations, and Dr. Fitzgerald has since also divested of these newly acquired potentially conflicting publicly traded stock holdings,” the spokesperson said.

Fitzgerald was already under scrutiny for her stock holdings. She was unable to testify before Congress in January because she had yet to address conflicts of interest created by stock she and her husband own.

Read Politico’s full report here.

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Shortly before the House Intelligence Committee voted to release the anti-FBI memo crafted by staff for Chair Devin Nunes (R-CA), Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and FBI Director Christopher Wray met with White House chief of staff John Kelly to make on final appeal for blocking the release of the memo, according to Tuesday reports in the New York Times and Washington Post.

Rosenstein and Wray tried to persuade Kelly to convince Nunes to delay the committee’s vote on releasing the memo, but were unsuccessful, a current and former official told the New York Times.

In the meeting with Kelly, Rosenstein did most of the talking and warned Kelly that releasing the memo to the public could jeopardize classified information, according to the Washington Post. Rosenstein also told Kelly that the Nunes memo did not provide an accurate description of the Justice Department’s investigative practices, per the Post. Kelly told Rosenstein and Wray that President Donald Trump is inclined to release the memo but that the White House would conduct a review of the document, the Post reported.

The meeting highlights the divide between Trump and his Republican allies on Capitol Hill and the officials he appointed to lead the Justice Department and FBI over the highly controversial memo.

Justice Department officials have repeatedly warned against releasing the memo, but Republicans have charged ahead with plans to make their allegations public.

The memo reportedly purports to show that the Justice Department and FBI abused the process used to conduct surveillance on a Trump campaign aide. The memo reportedly alleges that the FBI failed to reveal in its application for surveillance to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance court that one of its sources, dossier author Christopher Steele, was being paid by Democrats.

Democrats have slammed the memo as a mere vehicle for Republican attempts to undermine the FBI’s probe into the Trump campaign.

The House Intelligence Committee voted to released the memo on Monday night, and Trump now has five days to review the memo and decide whether he agrees that it should be made public.

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After FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe announced Monday that he would leave the bureau, the Virginia Republican Party pounced on the opportunity to remind everyone that McCabe’s wife lost her 2015 race for a state senate seat.

The tweet noting that Jill McCabe lost the race calls to mind President Donald Trump’s reported comment to Andrew McCabe when James Comey was allowed to fly on an FBI plane after he was fired as director of the bureau. Trump blasted McCabe over the flight and told him to ask his wife what it feels like to be a loser, per NBC News.

Jill McCabe’s Democratic campaign for public office and a campaign contribution from former Democratic Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s super PAC, have played a big role in the Trump administration’s pressure campaign to oust Andrew McCabe. Trump has publicly chastised the FBI official over his wife’s ties to Democrats, and the White House reportedly pressured FBI Director Christopher Wray to fire McCabe.

McCabe was expected to leave the FBI, but not until March, when he will be eligible for his pension. His early departure appears to be linked to a forthcoming report from the Justice Department inspector general looking at the FBI’s probes into Hillary Clinton and the Trump campaign during the 2016 election, as the New York Times and CNN both reported. Wray reportedly gave McCabe the choice of taking on a different position within the FBI or leaving.

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FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe’s sudden decision on Monday to leave the bureau appears to be linked to a forthcoming report from the Justice Department inspector general about the bureau’s investigations during the 2016 election, according to reports from the New York Times and CNN.

McCabe’s departure from the bureau was expected, but not until March, when he would qualify for his full government pension. His surprise decision to leave the FBI on Monday raised questions about pressure he faced to step away from his top position within the bureau.

A former law enforcement official close to McCabe told the New York Times that FBI Director Christopher Wray was concerned about the report from Inspector General Michael Horowitz and discussed moving McCabe to a different position within the FBI. McCabe instead chose to leave the bureau altogether, per the Times.

CNN reported that Wray suggested in a memo to FBI staff that the forthcoming inspector general report played a role in McCabe’s decision to leave, citing sources who saw Wray’s memo. Wray told McCabe that he would be bringing on a new team to lead the FBI, and that McCabe could move to a different position or leave, according to CNN.

The department’s inspector general is investigating several facets of the FBI’s investigations into Hillary Clinton’s email servers and possible collusion between the Trump campaign an Russia during the 2016 election. The inspector general is looking at whether McCabe should have recused himself from the Clinton investigation given that his wife ran a Democratic campaign for public office in 2015. The inspector general is also looking at text message exchanges between F.B.I. officials Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, who were involved in both the Clinton and Trump probes.

Past reporting indicates that McCabe was under pressure from the Trump administration to step down. President Donald Trump publicly chastised McCabe over a campaign contribution to his wife from a Clinton ally, and the White House reportedly pressured Wray to fire McCabe.

Read the latest editor’s backgrounder (Prime access) on this story »

 

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Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) lamented on Tuesday morning that the House Intelligence Committee’s Russia investigation has become partisan and warned against the release of an anti-FBI memo crafted by staff for the committee’s Republican chair, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA).

“I believe that he should follow the advice of his Justice Department which so far is to not release it,” Collins said on CNN when asked if President Donald Trump should approve the release of the memo, now that the House Intelligence Committee voted to make it public.

She said that the Justice Department has a “legitimate concern” in not wanting the memo released because it could “result in a compromise of sources and methods.”

Collins said that the House investigation has become too partisan and that House lawmakers are better off working together, along with the Justice Department, on a report everyone agrees can be released to the public.

“This issue is too important to break down along partisan lines,” she said.

The senator said that when the Senate Intelligence Committee encountered disagreement over a report on the use of torture, they worked with all parties on the final result.

“We sat down for months with the CIA and others from the intel community. We went through it, we redacted parts of it, and ultimately we released it. We released dissenting views at the same time,” she said. “It was a much better way to proceed.”

“It seems to me that what the House Intelligence Committee ought to do is sit down with the Justice Department, go through the report, see if there are issues that are contested or that would compromise our security, and come up with a redacted report. Now that’s not as satisfying to the press and the public, but there’s some underlying intelligence that will never be able to be released,” she added.

Collins also stressed that the public should pay attention to the final results in the Senate Intelligence Committee, special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe, and in the investigation by the Justice Department’s inspector general.

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Rep. Mark Walker (R-NC) has read the anti-FBI memo crafted by the House Intelligence Committee and wants the public to see it, but he told MSNBC Monday night that the memo is not exactly a “smoking gun.”

“If your audience or somebody is believing this is the end all smoking gun — it isn’t,” Walker told MSNBC’s Katy Tur when discussing the memo.

The House Intelligence Committee voted along party lines Monday night to release the memo to the public. President Donald Trump now has five days to review the memo and determine whether the public should view the document.

Republicans have not offered much detail on the memo since it is classified, but reports indicate that the memo purports to show that the FBI misled the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance court in its application to conduct surveillance of Trump aide Carter Page. The memo reportedly alleges that the FBI did not share that one of the sources cited in the application, Trump dossier author Christopher Steele, was being paid by Democrats.

Despite the lack of detail made available by Republicans, some have claimed that the information contained in the memo is “jaw-dropping” and “worse than Watergate.”

Walker said Monday evening that the memo may reveal bias within the FBI, as Republicans have alleged, and said that the memo’s revelations make “you ask even more questions.” He suggested that it was unclear whether the memo revealed mere “bias” or “intention of wrongdoing.” However, he cautioned that the memo is not all that shocking.

“But to make the case that this is the most shocking document in the history of mankind, I believe that’s a little hyperbole,” he said on MSNBC.

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