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

White House Communications Director Hope Hicks is expected to sit with the House Intelligence Committee for an interview as part of the Russia probe, CNN reported Monday evening, citing people familiar with the matter.

Hicks, one of the Trump administration’s longest-serving staffers, could testify as early as this week, according to CNN. She has reportedly already sat for an interview with special counsel Robert Mueller’s team.

Congressional investigators will ask Hicks if she has any knowledge of contacts between Trump officials and Russia, per CNN. She may also face questions about briefings she reportedly received from the FBI earlier this year warning her that Russian operatives tried to make contact with her during the transition.

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


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In the same meeting during which President Donald Trump referred to African countries as “shithole countries,” he also told congressional lawmakers that he did not care about any demands from the Congressional Black Caucus, the Washington Post reported Monday evening.

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), who was at the Thursday meeting to promote a bipartisan plan to restore the protections from the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, told the President at one point that the Congressional Black Caucus would be more likely to back a deal that gave immigrants from certain countries protected status, the Washington Post reported, citing people familiar with the meeting. Trump told Durbin he was not interested in catering to the CBC, per the Post.

Trump’s combative and racially charged comments in last week’s meetings have endangered a deal on DACA. The President sided with immigration hardliners in his administration and in Congress, alienating the lawmakers working on a bipartisan proposal. In the wake of reports about his comments, Trump has attacked Democrats and specifically gone after Durbin, who confirmed that Trump said “shithole countries” during the meeting.

Read the Washington Post’s full report on the meeting here.


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U.S. counterintelligence officials told White House senior adviser Jared Kushner in early 2017 that Wendi Murdoch may be leveraging her relationship with him to help advance the interests of the Chinese government, the Wall Street Journal reported Monday night, citing people familiar with the matter.

Officials were worried that Wendi Murdoch was lobbying for a Chinese garden at the National arboretum in Washington, D.C., according to the Wall Street Journal. The Obama administration originally backed the plans for the garden, but changed its stance over concerns that a tower planned for the garden could be used for surveillance, per the Wall Street Journal.

A spokesman for Murdoch told the Wall Street Journal that she is unaware of the FBI having concerns about her and has no knowledge of the planned garden.

The officials who delivered the warned to Kushner did not give him details about their concerns about Murdoch, the Journal reported. Kushner’s wife, Ivanka Trump, was not present for the warning, according to the Journal. A spokesman for Kushner and Trump told the Wall Street Journal that the warning about Murdoch came as part of a “routine senior staff security briefing.”

Kushner and Trump have been friends with Murdoch for years. Wendi Murdoch used to be married to Rupert Murdoch, the chairman of News Corp.

Read the Wall Street Journal’s full report here.

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Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), one of the lawmakers in attendance at the Thursday meeting during which President Donald Trump referred to African countries as “shithole countries,” said Friday afternoon that he said his “piece” to the President following the comments.

Graham’s statement did not confirm that Trump used the phrase “shithole countries,” but it did not deny that either, and Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) already said that Graham confirmed the comments to him privately.

“Following comments by the President, I said my piece directly to him yesterday. The President and all those attending the meeting know what I said and how I feel. I’ve always believed that America is an idea, not defined by its people but by its ideals,” Graham said in the statement. “The American ideal is embraced by people all over the globe. It was best said a long time ago, E Pluribus Unum – Out of Many, One. Diversity has always been our strength, not our weakness. In reforming immigration we cannot lose these American Ideals.”

Though Graham did not directly confirm Trump’s remarks, his statement noting that he stood up to the President differs from a statement issued by other Republicans in the room. Sens. Tom Cotton (R-AR) and David Perdue (R-GA) claimed that they did “not recall” Trump using the phrase “shithole countries.”

Graham also thanked Durbin, who worked with Graham on a deal to restore the protections in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and who also told reporters Friday morning that Graham confronted Trump during the Thursday meeting over his remarks.

“I appreciate Senator Durbin’s statements and have enjoyed working with him and many others on this important issue,” Graham said in the statement. “I believe it is vitally important to come to a bipartisan solution to the immigration and border challenges we face today. I am committed to working with Republicans and Democrats to find common ground so we can move forward.”

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Nearly a day after reports surfaced that President Donald Trump referred to African countries as “shithole countries” in a White House meeting with lawmakers, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) called the remarks “unfortunate” and “unhelpful.”

“So, first thing that came to my mind, was, very unfortunate, unhelpful,” Ryan said when asked about Trump’s reported comments on Friday afternoon at an event in Milwaukee.

Ryan, who was not at the meeting where the remarks were allegedly made, said that Trump’s alleged comments made him think of his own family, who immigrated from Ireland when the Irish were not treated very well in the U.S. He said that immigration is “what makes this country so exceptional and unique in the first place” and said it’s “important that we celebrate that.”

Since the Washington Post and the New York Times first reported Trump’s derogatory comments on Thursday afternoon, few Republicans have offered criticism of the President, including the Republican lawmakers who were present at the meeting.

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After President Donald Trump on Thursday morning published a tweet mixing up domestic surveillance and foreign surveillance, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) had to explain the difference to Trump over the phone for 30 minutes, the Washington Post reported Thursday evening.

Trump’s first tweet about surveillance on Thursday mentioned a House vote on a section of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act that allows the FISA court to demand communications made by foreign persons not on U.S. soil from U.S. companies like Google and AT&T. However, in the tweet, Trump griped about surveillance of Americans, called the FISA Act “controversial,” and referenced his baseless claim that the Obama administration spied on him during the 2016 campaign.

About an hour later, he followed up with a tweet noting that the House was voting on “foreign surveillance of foreign bad guys on foreign lands” and endorsed that section of the law. However, his initial tweet raised questions about his grasp of the law, forcing Ryan to publicly defend Trump’s knowledge of the FISA Act.

“It is well-known that he has concerns about the domestic FISA law. That’s not what we’re doing today. Today was 702, a different part,” Ryan said during a press conference Thursday. “Today has to do with foreign terrorists on foreign soil. He knows that and he put out something that I think clarified that. His administration’s position has been clear from day one, which is 702 is really important, it’s gotta be renewed.”

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After reports in the Washington Post and the New York Times alleged Thursday that President Donald Trump referred to Haiti and African countries as “shithole countries,” a handful of Republicans quickly came out condemning Trump’s remarks.

But the initial rush by some Republicans to distance themselves from the President’s reported comments did not grow into a wave of GOP condemnation.

Neither House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) nor Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) have weighed in on the matter, and most of their rank-and-file members have also stayed mum.

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), who was present in the Thursday meeting with Trump, backed up reports that Trump referred to African countries as “shithole countries,” and Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) said that he heard second-hand that Trump made “abhorrent and repulsive” comments in the meeting. However, the Republican lawmakers present in the meeting have declined to acknowledge Trump’s remarks. Rep. Mario Diaz Balart (R-FL) issued a statement saying nothing will “divert” his focus from the DACA negotiations, and Sens. David Perdue (R-GA) and Tom Cotton (R-AR) issued a joint statement claiming that they “do not recall” Trump making the alleged comment about “shithole countries.”

One of the few Republicans to publicly denounce Trump’s comments was Rep. Mia Love (R-UT), who is of Haitian descent. She said in a Thursday statement that Trump’s remarks were “unkind, divisive, elitist, and fly in the face of out nation’s values,” and she called on the President to apologize.

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) also called for a “detailed explanation” of Trump’s reported remarks and defended America’s tradition of welcoming immigrants from all over the world, and Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) called Trump’s remarks “highly inappropriate & out of bounds.” Several Florida Republicans, including Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL), and GOP Gov. Rick Scott also criticized Trump’s comments.

Some conservatives also weighed in to defend Trump after his remarks were reported. Rep. Steve King (R-IA), known for his own racist remarks about immigrants, told Trump to “hang in there.”

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President Donald Trump on Friday morning appeared to deny a report that he referred to Haiti and African countries as “shithole countries” in a meeting with lawmakers about the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

Trump did not explicitly address his reported use of the term “shithole,” but mentioned his “tough” comments at a meeting about DACA and claimed that “this was not the language used.”

Trump followed up about an hour later to more explicitly deny making “derogatory comments about Haitians.” He did not address whether he specifically used the word “shithole” but did deny telling lawmakers to take Haitians out of the U.S.

When the comments were first reported by the Washington Post and New York Times on Thursday, the White House did not deny that Trump used those words.

During the meeting Thursday, Trump asked lawmakers why the U.S. allowed immigrants from Haiti and African countries.

“Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?” he asked, according to the Washington Post.

He also asked specifically why the U.S. wants Haitian immigrants, per the New York Times.

Trump’s apparent denial Friday morning came in a lengthy tweetstorm about negotiations to restore DACA’s protections. The President bashed a deal proposed on Thursday by a bipartisan group of senators and blamed Democrats for torpedoing a deal to restore DACA’s protections.

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President Donald Trump confirmed on Thursday night that he nixed a February trip to the United Kingdom, and blamed the cancellation on former President Barack Obama and a decision to move the United States’ London embassy.

However, the Obama administration did not make that decision — it was announced in 2008 when President George W. Bush was still in office.

The Bush administration said at the time that it decided to build a new embassy rather than renovate the existing one because it was the best way to achieve the “goal of a modern, secure and environmentally sustainable embassy.”

Trump was invited to London to celebrate the opening of the new embassy. His objections to its location, however, are likely a convenient excuse for him to skip a United Kingdom trip. The visit has been up in the air for about a year, as Trump was concerned about his potential reception there. Trump likely would have been met with protests.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan, who Trump has insulted in the past, said Friday that Trump “got the message” that Londoners didn’t want him to visit.

“It appears that President Trump got the message from the many Londoners who love and admire America and Americans but find his policies and actions the polar opposite of our city’s values of inclusion, diversity and tolerance,” Khan said. “His visit next month would without doubt have been met by mass peaceful protests. This just reinforces what a mistake it was for Theresa May to rush and extend an invitation of a state visit in the first place.”

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A day after an hour-long window into his meeting with congressional lawmakers, President Donald Trump treated the televised portion of his Wednesday meeting with cabinet leaders like just another episode in his reality television show.

When the news cameras entered the room, Trump greeted them: “Welcome back to the studio.” He then touted 2017 as a year of “tremendous” and “monumental” achievement. He offered his typical over-the-top assessment of his own work, and as any good entertainer would to, he teased the moves to come.

“I don’t think any administration has ever done, has done what we’ve done and what we’ve accomplished in its first year, which isn’t quite finished yet,” he said. “You never know what’s going to happen over the next few days.”

After listing Republicans’ achievements, such as confirming a new Supreme Court justice and passing tax cut legislation, Trump talked about the “reviews” for his “performance” at the unusually long media spray at his Tuesday meeting with lawmakers. Trump is known to obsess over his portrayal in the media, spending hours in front of cable news each day and reportedly demanding a folder with positive news about him.

“It was a tremendous meeting. Actually, it was reported as incredibly good, and my performance — some of them called it a performance; I consider it work — but got great reviews by everybody other than two networks who were phenomenal for about two hours,” Trump said in front of the cameras.

He then claimed that the anchors on the programs that aired his remarks sent the White House letters “saying that was one of the greatest meetings they’ve ever witnessed.”

“And they were great for about two hours. They were phenomenal,” he said of the cable news networks. “And then they went a little bit south on us but not that bad. It was fun. They probably wish they didn’t send us those letters of congratulations, but it was good.”

He then took credit for news networks’ ratings and for the fact that news outlets are still in business.

“I’m sure their ratings were fantastic. They always are. Which is why I think the media will ultimately support Trump in the end because they’re going to say if Trump doesn’t win in three years, they’re all out of business,” he said.

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