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 Counsel Don McGahn suggested to Rob Porter in November that he resign from his position as staff secretary after Porter’s ex-girlfriend contacted McGahn about Porter’s behavior, the New York Times reported Tuesday night, citing people familiar with the discussion.

McGahn did not follow up on his suggestion to the since-ousted staff secretary, according to the New York Times.

Following the revelations last week that Porter’s ex-wives had accused him of domestic abuse in their interviews with the FBI for its background check process, the Trump administration’s handling of Porter’s case has come under scrutiny. FBI Director Christopher Wray said Tuesday that the FBI sent reports on Porter’s background check to the White House in March, July, and November of last year, and that the bureau completed its review of Porter in January. It’s not clear just how much top officials knew about the allegations, but reports have indicated that both McGahn and chief of staff John Kelly were aware of the domestic abuse allegations before Porter was fired.

According to previous reporting, McGahn learned in September that Porter’s security clearance had been delayed due to accusations of domestic violence, though it’s not clear how McGahn learned that and how much detail he had at that time. Porter’s ex-girlfriend then called McGahn in November. According to a previous Washington Post report, she told McGahn about the abuse allegations from Porter’s ex-wives. According to the Tuesday New York Times report, she told McGahn that Porter had cheated on her and that he had anger problems.

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The White House put in place a ban on new interim security clearances in November, but allowed those who had already received interim clearances to continue working with them, Politico reported Tuesday night.

A November 7 email obtained by Politico did not spell out the reasoning behind the new ban on interim security clearances.

The security clearance process in the White House has come under intense scrutiny recently following the revelation that staff secretary Rob Porter remained in a high-level position, even as the background check process turned up domestic abuse accusations from his ex-wives.

FBI Director Christopher Wray said on Tuesday that the FBI completed Porter’s background check in January, however, the White House security office had not yet completed its determination on Porter’s security clearance, according to the New York Times.

Jared Kushner, a White House adviser and President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, has also reportedly been working on an interim security clearance for a year, along with several others.

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Michael Cohen, the longtime lawyer for President Donald Trump, said on Tuesday that he paid $130,000 to porn star Stephanie Clifford, who uses the stage name Stormy Daniels, out of his own pocket.

Clifford once claimed that she had an affair with Trump, though she denies it now.

The Wall Street Journal previously reported in January that Cohen paid Clifford $130,000 as part of an agreement to keep her quiet on her affair with Trump. Cohen’s Tuesday statement is the first time he acknowledged making the payment, but he did not say why he made the payment to Clifford.

“Neither the Trump Organization nor the Trump campaign was a party to the transaction with Ms. Clifford, and neither reimbursed me for the payment, either directly or indirectly,” Cohen said in a statement first obtained by the New York Times. “The payment to Ms. Clifford was lawful, and was not a campaign contribution or a campaign expenditure by anyone.”

Cohen made the statement in response to a complaint from the group Common Cause that the payment was an in-kind contribution to the Trump campaign.

“The complaint alleges that I somehow violated campaign finance laws by facilitating an excess, in-kind contribution,” he said in the statement. “The allegations in the complaint are factually unsupported and without legal merit, and my counsel has submitted a response to the F.E.C.”

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Since Rob Porter announced last week that he would resign as White House staff secretary following allegations of domestic abuse from his ex-wives, chief of staff John Kelly came under scrutiny for the way he handled the allegations.

But Kelly told the Wall Street Journal on Monday that he’s satisfied with the way he handled the situation.

Asked if he should have approached the abuse allegations against Porter any differently, Kelly told the Wall Street Journal, “No.”

“It was all done right,” Kelly added.

Kelly reportedly knew about the abuse allegations from Porter’s two ex-wives before the women came forward with their accounts to the Daily Mail and the Intercept last week. However, the White House was slow to push Porter out of his position, first emphasizing that Porter made the decision to leave. As more details emerged, the White House moved up Porter’s exit.

White House officials suggested that they had been misled by Porter, who has denied the allegations in public and reportedly downplayed them to senior White House aides. White House spokesperson Raj Shah said Tuesday morning that Porter’s background check, which turned up the abuse allegations, was not completed as of Porter’s departure, suggesting that the administration was going through the proper procedures. However, FBI Director Christopher Wray undermined that narrative later on Tuesday when he said in a hearing that the FBI completed its background check in January, before the allegations against Porter became public.

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Former White House staff secretary Rob Porter told senior staffers in the White House that two of the alleged domestic abuse incidents described by his ex-wives were not as bad as the women made them out to be, ABC News reported Thursday evening, citing two sources with knowledge of Porter’s account.

Porter’s second wife, Jennifer Willoughby, sought a protective order against Porter in 2010 while the two were separating. She accused Porter of trying to break into her house by punching a glass door.

Porter told White House aides that it was an accident, per ABC News. Porter said he was tapping the door with his index finger when his knuckle went through the door, according to ABC News.

He also downplayed an incident that led to his first wife, Colbie Holderness, getting a black eye during a trip to Italy in 2005. Holderness accused Porter of punching her in the face during the incident. Porter told senior White House aides that he and Holderness were arguing over a glass vase, and that Holderness was poised to drop and break the glass vase, according to ABC News’ report. Both lunged for the vase, and Holderness fell and bruised her eye, Porter told White House staff, per ABC News.

The Washington Post previously reported that Porter told colleagues that Holderness was somehow hit in the face with the vase when they two were arguing over it.

Porter has denied the allegations against him.

Porter resigned from the White House last week after his ex-wives accused him of verbal and physical abuse in several news articles. The Trump administration has come under scrutiny for how it handled the revelations about Porter’s past. Some reports indicate that top officials, including chief of staff John Kelly and counsel Don McGahn, knew about the allegations before they became public. However, Kelly has told White House staff that he moved to fire Porter shortly after he learned the full extent of the allegations.

White House officials have since complained that Porter misled them by downplaying his ex-wives allegations and denying wrongdoing.

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Now that Omarosa Manigault has left the White House and joined the cast of “Celebrity Big Brother,” she has taken to gossiping about President Donald Trump’s administration.

In a video posted Monday night, Manigault warned her fellow “Big Brother” contestants not to pine for Trump’s impeachment because Vice President Mike Pence is “scary.”

“As bad as y’all think Trump is, you would be worried about Pence,” she said. “I’m just going to say that. So everybody that’s wishing for impeachment, might want to reconsider their life.”

“We would be begging for days of Trump back if Pence became President,” she added.

Manigault called Pence “extreme” and noted how religious he is.

“He thinks Jesus tells him to say things. And I’m like, Jesus ain’t saying that. He’s scary,” she said.

Manigault also weighed in on the Trump administration’s deportation plans and claimed that she had seen the plan.

“The roundup plan is getting more and more aggressive,” she said. “He’s a numbers guy. He wants to outdo his predecessors.”

Last week, Manigault said that she tried to be a force for good in the White House while working for Trump.

“I felt like it was a call to duty, I felt like I was serving my country, not serving him,” she said, before adding that she was “haunted” by Trump’s tweets.

Manigault was fired from the White House in December for improperly using the White House car service as an “office pick-up and drop-off service,” Politico reported Tuesday morning.

Watch the clip via CBS News:

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Omarosa Manigault left the White House in December, and while it was reported that Manigault’s departure from the White House grounds was dramatic, the exact reasons for her departure were unclear at the time.

Politico reported on Tuesday that White House chief of staff John Kelly fired Manigault for using the White House car service as “an office pick-up and drop-off service,” which is not allowed. Upon her firing, Manigualt tried to re-enter the White House to make a personal appeal to President Donald Trump, and in doing so she set off a Secret Service wire that monitors entry to the residence, according to Politico.

Back in December, reports indicated that Manigault was escorted off the White House campus when she was fired.

Since leaving the White House, Manigault has joined the cast of “Celebrity Big Brother,” where she recently said she was “haunted” by tweets while working for Trump in the White House.

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Colbie Holderness, the first wife of former White House staff secretary Rob Porter, spoke out in a Monday night Washington Post op-ed to criticize White House counselor Kellyanne Conway’s suggestion that Hope Hicks was too “strong” to become a victim of domestic abuse.

Holderness wrote that she was “dismayed” by Conway’s comments on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday, where Conway said that she was not worried about White House Communications Director Hope Hicks, who was reportedly dating Porter, facing abuse because she is “strong” and has “excellent instincts.”

Holderness said that Conway’s “statement implies that those who have been in abusive relationships are not strong.”

“I beg to differ,” she wrote. “Recognizing and surviving in an abusive relationship take strength. The abuse can be terrifying, life-threatening and almost constant. Or it can ebb and flow, with no violence for long periods. It’s often the subtler forms of abuse that inflict serious, persistent damage while making it hard for the victim to see the situation clearly.”

She argued that it took strength for her to leave her relationship with Porter and for her to tell others about her experience. She also charged that strength does not necessarily prevent someone from becoming a victim.

“Being strong — with excellent instincts and loyalty and smarts — does not inoculate a person against abuse. It doesn’t prevent her from entering into a relationship with an abuser,” Holderness wrote. “Abuse often doesn’t manifest itself early on — only later, when you’re in deep and behind closed doors. The really ugly side of Rob’s abuse only came out after we married, following three years of dating.”

Holderness came forward with her story last week and alleged that Porter punched her in 2005 while the two were on a trip in Italy. She provided pictures of herself with a black eye. Porter has denied the allegations and reportedly said that Holderness got the black eye when the two were arguing over a vase and the vase somehow hit Holderness.

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Shortly after the Daily Mail published a photo of Rob Porter’s wife with a black eye, the White House arranged an off-the-record briefing with Porter and four reporters, Politico reported Tuesday morning.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders arranged for Porter to tell his side of the story to the New York Times’ Maggie Haberman, the Washington Post’s Josh Dawsey, Axios’ Jonathan Swan, and the Wall Street Journal’s Michael Bender, according to Politico.

The Daily Mail published the photo of Porter’s first wife, Colbie Holderness, with a black eye on Wednesday of last week, after publishing an account of abuse from Porter’s second wife on Tuesday.

The news that Sanders arranged a briefing between Porter and several reporters on Wednesday calls into question chief of staff John Kelly’s reported claim that he asked for Porter’s resignation 40 minutes after he learned the extent of allegations against the former staff secretary. Several reports have indicated that Kelly and White House Counsel Don McGahn were aware of the allegations against Porter before the story went public.

Porter announced his resignation on Wednesday after both of his ex-wives accused him of verbal and physical abuse. Porter has denied the claims, and the White House at first publicly stood behind him when the allegations became public. After more details about the allegations surfaced, however, the White House changed its tune and pushed for Porter to depart the White House swiftly. The White House has since acknowledged that it could have handled the situation better, but President Donald Trump has continued to defend Porter.

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Rachel Brand, the third-ranking official at the Justice Department, decided to leave her post in part because she wanted to avoid any possibility that she would have to oversee the federal Russia investigation, NBC News reported on Monday.

NBC News reported, citing unnamed sources close to Associate Attorney General Rachel Brand, that Brand was also frustrated by continuing vacancies at the Justice Department.

President Donald Trump has reportedly grown increasingly frustrated with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, the Justice Department official who oversees special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, and has privately contemplated terminating Rosenstein.

According to NBC News, Brand was concerned that Trump would fire Rosenstein and leave her in charge of overseeing Mueller’s probe, a highly visible position that Brand did not want.

The Justice Department on Friday announced that Brand will leave the Justice Department in the next few weeks, and Walmart announced that she will take an executive job at the corporation. According to NBC News, her move to the private sector has been in the works for “some time.”

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