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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

Under Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the Justice Department has removed language stressing the need to prevent racial gerrymandering from the manual used by federal prosecutors, Buzzfeed News reported Sunday.

Before the section was removed in March, it affirmed that DOJ would support redistricting plans that are drawn to help minority communities achieve meaningful representation, and would fight racially gerrymandered plans that undermine minority voting power.

“The Voting Section defends from unjustified attack redistricting plans designed to provide minority voters fair opportunities to elect candidates of their choice and endeavors to achieve racially fair results where courts find, following Shaw v. Reno, 113 S.Ct. 286 (1993), and Johnson v. Miller, 115 S.Ct. 2475 (1995), that redistricting plans constitute unconstitutional racial gerrymanders,” the section read, according to an archived version of the online manual.

Buzzfeed News discovered that the section no longer exists and that the current manual does not mention redistricting or racial gerrymandering elsewhere. The handbook does still mention some voting rights issues, such as bans on literacy tests and poll taxes, Buzzfeed News noted.

News of the change comes a week after the Supreme Court heard a challenge to a Texas redistricting plan that the courts have found to be a racial gerrymander aimed at undercutting Latino voting power. Under the Trump administration, the Justice Department has sided with Texas in defending the maps.

The Justice Department also removed a section on the need for a free press and public trial, Buzzfeed News reported.

Read Buzzfeed News’ full report on the changes here.

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President Donald Trump called for an end to the White House Correspondents’ Dinner after comedian Michelle Wolf’s comedy routine at the event upset the administration, conservatives and some members of the media.

In a Sunday night tweet, Trump said that Wolf was “filthy” and gave a “weak” performance and that the entire dinner was an “embarrassment.”

He then followed up Monday morning.

Wolf roasted several members of the administration and the media, as is customary for the headliner at the annual event. However, both conservatives and members of the media said that Wolf’s jokes about White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders went too far. Wolf defended her jokes about Sanders and argued that she was not mocking the press secretary’s looks, as some had charged.

Margaret Talev, the president of the White House Correspondents’ Association, which hosts the event, said that Wolf’s monologue was not in line with the organization’s mission.

“Last night’s program was meant to offer a unifying message about our common commitment to a vigorous and free press while honoring civility, great reporting and scholarship winners, not to divide people. Unfortunately, the entertainer’s monologue was not in the spirit of that mission,” Talev said in a statement Sunday.

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Ronny Jackson, who withdrew as the nominee to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs on Thursday, will not return to his role as personal physician to President Donald Trump, according to several reports.

Politico was first to report the news on Sunday evening, and the Washington Post and New York Times later confirmed.

Jackson will return to the White House medical unit, but will not personally serve the President, according to Politico and the Washington Post. Sean Conley, who took over as Trump’s personal physician a month ago, will remain in that role.

White House spokesman Raj Shah on Monday pushed back on reports that Jackson would not return to his position as Trump’s personal physician.

“Rear Admiral Ronny Jackson is currently on active duty, assigned to the White House as Deputy Assistant to the President. Despite published reports, there are no personnel announcements at this time,” Shah said in a statement.

Jackson withdrew as the VA nominee due to allegations that he drank on the job, irresponsibly handed out prescriptions for sleeping pills, and mistreated his employees. Both Jackson and Trump have insisted that the allegations are false, but Jackson bowed out anyway.

Since the allegations surfaced, Trump has attacked Sen. John Tester (D-MT), one of the lawmakers who publicized the accounts of Jackson’s behavior, and threatened to ruin Tester’s re-election chances at a rally Saturday night.

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Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), the ranking member on the House Intelligence Committee, told the Washington Post on Friday that Republicans on the committee blocked an effort by Democrats to learn more about a phone call Donald Trump Jr. made that may have been related to the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting with a Kremlin-linked lawyer.

Trump Jr. made three phone calls on June 6, 2016, three days before the meeting, two of which were with Emin Agalarov, the Russian pop star who helped arrange the Trump Tower meeting, according to Democrats’ official response to the Republican report from the House Intelligence Committee released on Friday. In between the two phone calls, Trump Jr. spoke with someone using a blocked phone number, which may have been his dad, Donald Trump, according to the Democrats.

Democrats wanted to subpoena the phone records to determine the identity of that person, but Republicans refused, Schiff told the Washington Post.

“We sought to determine whether that number belonged to the president, because we also ascertained that then-candidate Trump used a blocked number,” Schiff told the Post. “That would tell us whether Don Jr. sought his father’s permission to take the meeting, and [whether] that was the purpose of that call.”

“We asked Republicans to subpoena the records and they refused. They didn’t want to know whether he had informed his father and sought his permission to take that meeting with the Russians,” he added.

President Donald Trump has denied that he was aware of the meeting between Trump Jr., other campaign officials, and a Kremlin-linked promising damaging information on Hillary Clinton.

Read the full Washington Post report here.

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President Donald Trump on Friday afternoon called Ronny Jackson, the White House physician who withdrew as the nominee to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs, “an American hero” for exposing the Washington political system.

“In a very big way, you’re an American hero because you’ve exposed a system for some horrible things,” Trump said he told Jackson over the phone earlier on Friday.

“I’ve had it happen to me with the Russian collusion hoax,” Trump added.

Before calling Jackson a hero, Trump said that it was a “disgrace” to see Jackson’s record tarnished by “false accusations.”

Jackson withdrew his nomination following several reports from congressional Democrats alleging that Jackson drank excessively on the job, was lax in handing out prescriptions for sleeping aids and mistreated his employees. Both Jackson and Trump have insisted that the allegations are false, but Jackson nonetheless withdrew his name Thursday morning.

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The House Intelligence Committee’s report from its Russia investigation published on Friday revealed another meeting former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn had with the Russian ambassador before he joined the Trump campaign.

Flynn and his son, Michael Flynn, Jr., met with Ambassador Sergey Kislyak at his Washington, D.C. residence on December 2, 2015, according to emails reviewed by the House Intelligence Committee. Flynn’s son described the meeting as “very productive” in an email to the Russian embassy, according to the committee’s report. According to the report, “emails indicate that the meeting was arranged at the request of General Flynn or his son.” Neither Flynn sat with the committee for an interview, leaving congressional investigators with few details about the rendezvous.

The meeting with Kislyak took place about a week before Flynn traveled to Moscow to speak at the Kremlin RT news organization’s annual gala. Flynn sat next to Vladimir Putin at the dinner and was paid by RT to attend the event.

Flynn’s December 2015 meeting with Kislyak also came after he met with President Donald Trump for the first time, but Flynn did not formally join the campaign until 2016.

Flynn resigned as Trump’s first national security adviser in February 2017 after it became clear that he discussed Russian sanctions with Kislyak in late 2016 before Trump took office and allegedly lied to Vice President Mike Pence about it.

He then pleaded guilty in December 2017 to lying to the FBI about his conversations with Russian officials. Flynn is now cooperating with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.

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The Russian lawyer who attended the meeting with Trump campaign officials at Trump Tower in June 2016 finally acknowledged her ties to the Kremlin in a forthcoming NBC interview previewed by the New York Times.

Natalia Veselnitskaya, who attended the meeting promising damaging information on Hillary Clinton, previously denied that she had ties to the Russian government, calling herself a private lawyer. Her links to Russian government officials has been previously documented, but the New York Times revealed new ties on Friday.

In an interview that will air on NBC News on Friday, Veselnitskaya says she was an informant for Yuri Y. Chaika, the Kremlin’s prosecutor general, even though she previously denied ties to Chaika.

“I am a lawyer, and I am an informant,” she told NBC News. “Since 2013, I have been actively communicating with the office of the Russian prosecutor general.”

Newly released emails also show that Veselnitskaya worked with Chaika’s office to reject the U.S. Justice Department’s request to Russia for documents needed for a fraud case against a Russian real estate firm, according to the New York Times. Veselnitskaya helped draft the Russian government’s response to the record request rejecting the demand and defending the Russian firm, according to the emails.

Richard Engel’s interview with Veselnitskaya will air Friday night on“NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt” and on MSNBC’s “On Assignment with Richard Engel.”

Read the New York Times’ full account here.

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President Donald Trump on Thursday downplayed the amount of legal work his longtime personal attorney Michael Cohen carried out for him, but his description of Cohen’s role doesn’t line up with Cohen’s account of his work for Trump in early 2017.

“Let’s just say I have no shortage of work. It encompasses all aspects of his life from his business to the personal,” Cohen told the Wall Street Journal in a January 2017 interview, published in a profile of Cohen Thursday night. “It’s private between Mr. Trump and myself unless it’s made public because of a lawsuit or a news story.”

Cohen did not provide details, but his description gave the impression that he was kept very busy with his work for Trump before he took office. Cohen was known as Trump’s fixer and notable arranged a hush agreement with porn actress Stormy Daniels, paying her $130,000 in the fall of 2016 to keep silent about a past sexual encounter with Trump.

The President, however, tried to distance himself from Cohen on Thursday morning, now that his longtime attorney is under investigation for his business dealings. The President told “Fox and Friends” that Cohen managed “a tiny, tiny little fraction” of his legal work and that he has “many attorneys,” minimizing Cohen’s role on his legal team.

Before Trump took office in January 2017, Cohen was expecting a role in the White House, possibly as Trump’s chief of staff, but the offer never came, according to the Wall Street Journal. In the weeks leading up to the Inauguration, Cohen complained that he was still in the dark about a possible White House job, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Since Trump left for Washington, D.C., it seems Cohen felt left out. In a call with Trump in late 2017, he told his former boss that he missed him.

“Boss, I miss you so much,” Cohen told Trump, per the Wall Street Journal. “I wish I was down there with you. It’s really hard for me to be here.”

Read the Wall Street Journal’s full profile of Cohen here.

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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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