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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

President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign paid more than $66,000 to the law firm representing Trump’s former bodyguard Keith Schiller in the Russia investigation, new campaign spending filings show.

Stuart Sears of the law firm Schertler & Onorato law firm represents Schiller, who spoke to the House Intelligence Committee in November of last year. The Trump campaign paid Schertler & Onorato $66,459.12 in January 2018 for “legal consulting.”

The Trump campaign helps pay for the legal fees incurred by several Trump allies and family members, including Donald Trump Jr. and Michael Cohen, Trump’s longtime personal attorney who is now under criminal investigation.

Campaigns are allowed to pay for campaign staffers’ legal fees if the issue relates to their time on the campaign. Schiller told the House Intelligence Committee about Trump’s time in Moscow in 2013, though he may also have faced questions about his time on the Trump campaign, as NBC News noted.

Schiller himself started receiving $15,000 a month from the Republican National Committee for security consulting ahead of the 2020 Republican convention shortly after he left his White House role last year, as CNBC reported in February.

h/t NBC News

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Though President Donald Trump previously said he was willing to sit down with special counsel Robert Mueller’s team for an interview, the FBI raid on Michael Cohen has the President reconsidering the move, the Washington Post reported Tuesday night.

Trump is now leaning against an interview with Mueller’s team, but he and his legal team have yet to make a final decision, according to the Washington Post. NBC News reported last week that following the Cohen raid, both Mueller’s team and Trump’s legal team were operating under the assumption that the interview would not take place.

The President has also ramped up efforts to add attorneys to his outside legal team, according to the Washington Post. In the Russia probe, Trump is currently only represented by White House lawyer Ty Cobb and personal attorney Jay Sekulow. Since John Dowd resigned from Trump’s outside legal team, Trump has struggled to find a new attorney to help represent him.

Trump’s legal team has reached out to Robert Bonner, a former federal judge and staffer to President George W. Bush, about representing Trump, the Washington Post reported. The President has even reached out to candidates himself, per the Post.

Read the Washington Post’s full report here.

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President Donald Trump on Wednesday morning claimed that he did not fire James Comey as FBI director over his handling of the Russia investigation, even though the President admitted as much last year.

Trump’s tweet contradicts comments he made to NBC’s Lester Holt in May of last year. The President said he was thinking about the Russia investigation when he decided to fire Comey and said he would have fired the FBI director regardless of any recommendation from the Justice Department.

“And in fact, when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said, you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made up story, it’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won,” Trump told NBC at the time. “This was an excuse for having lost an election.”

Trump’s rage for Comey has been renewed recently with the publication of the former FBI director’s book and subsequent media interviews. The President fired off several angry tweets directed at Comey over the weekend, going so far as to suggest that Comey should be in jail.

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President Donald Trump speaks with Fox News host Sean Hannity several times each week to discuss the news, Hannity’s show, the Russia investigation, and the President’s tweets, among other topics, the Washington Post reported Tuesday night.

Hannity is one of a few Trump confidants who gets patched through to Trump immediately when he calls the White House, according to the Washington Post. Some administration aides refer to Hannity as Trump’s unofficial chief of staff, per the Post.

The constant communication between Hannity and Trump, paired with the revelation that the Fox News host is a client of Trump’s longtime personal attorney Michael Cohen, shows how close the two have become since the campaign.

Hannity was also previously represented by Jay Sekulow, now Trump’s personal attorney in charge of the Russia probe, and by Victoria Toensing, who had been in talks to join Trump’s outside legal team. Hannity’s work with both lawyers actually contributed to Trump’s consideration of them as members of his legal team, the Post reported on Tuesday night.

Read the full Washington Post piece on Hannity here.

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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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