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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

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) on Sunday argued that the Justice Department named Robert Mueller as the special counsel overseeing the Russia investigation to quickly because it’s hampering the congressional probes.

“The special counsel was named far too soon. I would’ve much rather had the Senate and House Intelligence Committees complete their report,” Johnson said on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” adding that the special counsel investigation makes it hard for Congress to obtain information.

“There, there are completely different goals of a special counsel versus congressional oversight. I think, in this case, the most important thing is public disclosure,” he said. “And that is harmed when you start having special counsels, and all the information is, is gathered and is held close and sometimes never disclosed.”

The House Intelligence Committee has already completed its investigation, though that probe was mired in partisanship from the start. The Senate Intelligence Committee is still investigating possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russia.

Watch a clip of Johnson via NBC:

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The office in the White House tasked with vetting and selecting candidates for key administration posts has struggled to recruit top candidates at a quick pace due to a small team and top staff with little experience, according to a new report from the Washington Post.

Two young staffers with top positions at the Presidential Personnel Office (PPO) have records of previous arrests for drunk driving and assault, the Post reported Friday.

Caroline Wiles, the daughter of a Florida lobbyist, started work on the Trump campaign when she was 30 years old, according to the Washington Post. She originally joined the Trump administration as a deputy assistant to the president but had to leave that job when she failed the background check. She was then moved to the PPO as a special assistant to the president, per the Washington Post. Wiles never completed her college degree and had her license suspended for drunk driving and was arrested over a bad check, according to the Washington Post.

Max Miller, a 29-year-old former Trump campaign staffer, is also a special assistant to the president at PPO. He has previously been charged with assault, resisting arrest, and disorderly conduct, according to the Washington Post.

The Washington Post’s report also described the culture of the office as social, noting that it has become a gathering place for White House staff. From the Post’s report:

Even as the demands to fill government mounted, the PPO offices on the first floor of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building became something of a social hub, where young staffers from throughout the administration stopped by to hang out on couches and smoke electronic cigarettes, known as vaping, current and former White House officials said.

PPO leaders hosted happy hours last year in their offices that included beer, wine and snacks for dozens of PPO employees and White House liaisons who work in federal agencies, White House officials confirmed. In January, they played a drinking game in the office called “Icing” to celebrate the deputy director’s 30th birthday. Icing involves hiding a bottle of Smirnoff Ice, a flavored malt liquor, and demanding that the person who discovers it, in this case the deputy director, guzzle it.

Read the entire Washington Post report here.

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George Conway, a lawyer and husband to White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, this week deleted a few tweets critical of the Trump administration.

In one since-deleted tweet, he agreed with a CNN reporter’s assessment that White House employees are hesitant to speak for President Donald Trump because he changes his mind frequently. Conway suggested this issue made it challenging for Trump to find a communications director.

In another deleted tweet captured by CNN, Conway retweeted a Washington Post piece titled “The White House’s brutally dishonest denials on McMaster and Dowd.”

“depends on what the meaning of the word ‘are’ is,” Conway wrote in the retweet, per CNN, a reference to former President Bill Clinton’s grand jury testimony.

Asked by CNN why he deleted the tweets, Conway said, “No reason.”

His wife, Kellyanne Conway, is under consideration to be the next communications director at the White House, which may have led George Conway to cull through his twitter feed.

One tweet about the Trump administration still remains — Conway called the report that Trump’s personal lawyer, John Dowd, discussed pardoning Paul Manafort and Michael Flynn “flabbergasting.”

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Rep. Elizabeth Esty (D-CT) did not immediately move to fire her chief of staff, who was accused of abusing another staffer, and recommended the chief of staff for another job, a decision Esty says she now regrets.

“I was conflicted at (that) time, but less so now,” Esty told the Connecticut Post on Thursday. “He had made efforts to get counseling and treatment. I believe in second chances for people.”

She also said that she wished staff had come to her sooner with allegations of abuse.

“I certainly regret that people didn’t come to me sooner,” she said. “It continues to trouble me that they felt they couldn’t. We need to change that. I am changing that.”

On May 5, 2016, Esty’s then-chief of staff, Tony Baker, left a threatening voicemail for fellow staffer Anna Klein, according to the Washington Post.

“You better f—–g reply to me or I will f—–g kill you,” Baker said in the recording obtained by the Washington Post.

Baker had also allegedly punched Kain at Esty’s Washington, D.C. office and screamed at her, telling her that if she reported his behavior he would keep her from getting a new job, according to an affidavit obtained by the Connecticut Post.

Esty found out about Baker’s threatening May 5 voicemail about a week after he left it, according to emails obtained by the Washington Post. Esty then spoke to Kain, who detailed Baker’s behavior, and Esty asked a friend to investigate Baker’s background, according to the Washington Post.

The investigation uncovered a pattern of abusive behavior, and Esty fired Baker on July 20, 2016, according to the Connecticut Post. He was barred from being at the office as of July 24, 2016, but accompanied Esty to the Democratic convention before his final departure, according to the Washington Post.

Esty told the Washington Post she consulted with the Office of House Employment to negotiate Baker’s departure. She said she felt pressured to sign a nondisclosure agreement with Baker. The agreement had secrecy provisions, gave Baker a severance and included a draft recommendation letter from Esty, according to the Washington Post, which obtained a copy of the agreement.

Baker went on to work at Sandy Hook Promise, though he has since left. Esty told the Connecticut Post that she did not try to find Baker a job at the group but supplied him with a recommendation as was dictated by the nondisclosure agreement.

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Former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page told MSNBC’s Chris Hayes Thursday night that he spoke to the FBI about his time at the 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland.

“I told them, you know, a lot of everything I’ve essentially been doing for quite a long time, including, obviously, you know, everything in Cleveland,” Page said.

Page’s comment came after Reuters reported earlier on Thursday that special counsel Robert Mueller’s team is looking at Trump campaign contacts with Russian officials in Cleveland during the convention.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Page both encountered Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak while in Cleveland for the convention.

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Ousted Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin said Thursday night that he did get a call from President Donald Trump on the day of his firing but that the President didn’t mention he would be fired.

“We spoke about the progress that I was making, what I needed to do from a policy perspective,” Shulkin told MSNBC’s Chris Hayes about his Wednesday phone call with Trump. “He was very inquisitive about the things that we were working on, making sure that we were focused on the job at hand.”

“He made no mention of the fact that he was about to terminate you?” Hayes then asked.

“That’s correct,” Shulkin replied.

Shulkin said that chief of staff John Kelly called him to let him know that he would be fired “right before” Trump announced it on Twitter.

Trump also avoided personally telling Rex Tillerson that he would be fired as secretary of state. White House officials said that Kelly gave Tillerson a heads up about his firing, but State Department officials contended that Kelly’s call was merely a vague warning and that Tillerson found out from Trump’s tweet.

Watch Shulkin’s comments via MSNBC:

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A California judge on Thursday denied Stormy Daniels’ request to depose President Donald Trump and his longtime personal attorney, Michael Cohen, for her lawsuit arguing that the hush agreement barring her from discussing her alleged relationship with Trump is invalid.

In the ruling, the judge wrote that Daniels’ motion to depose Trump and Cohen was “premature,” suggesting that her lawyer, Michael Avenatti, could refile the motion at a later date. The judge wrote that Daniels cannot seek to depose Trump and Cohen until Cohen files a petition to move the case to arbitration. Lawyers representing Trump and Cohen have said that they will push to move the case to private arbitration, but have not yet submitted the filing.

Avenatti said that he will refile his motion to depose Trump and Cohen after they file their petition to move to arbitration.

Though Avenatti will have to wait to refile the motion to depose Trump and Cohen and to hold a jury trial, he told CNN that the language in the ruling was encouraging.

“We’re very, very encouraged by language in the order not just suggesting, but basically finding, that we’re correct in the application of the law and the facts to this matter. This does not bode well for the President or Mr. Cohen, and all indications are that when this motion is heard on the merits, we’re going to get the discovery and we’re going to get the trial we’ve asked for,” he said.

In the ruling, the judge noted that Daniels is allowed to ask for a jury trial, but said that a petition to compel arbitration must come first and that the petition may answer some questions that Daniels seeks to find through discovery.

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In a sign that chief of staff John Kelly’s grip on White House operations is loosening, President Donald Trump did not include Kelly in two major recent events for the administration, Bloomberg News reported Thursday.

When Trump made the final decision to replace National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster with John Bolton, Kelly was not in the room, according to Bloomberg. And when Trump spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin recently, Kelly was not on the phone for the conversation, per Bloomberg News.

Though Kelly was left out of those decisions, there’s no indication that Trump is gearing up to fire Kelly soon, according to Bloomberg News. The chief of staff was included in the move to replace David Shulkin as Veterans Affairs secretary, and he has been working to implement a new policy process, per Bloomberg News.

Read the entire Bloomberg News report here.

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David Schwartz, the attorney for Michael Cohen, told CNN Wednesday night that President Donald Trump did not know about the hush agreement Cohen pushed Stormy Daniels to sign in October 2016.

“The President was not aware of the agreement — at least Michael Cohen never told him about the agreement. I can tell you that,” Schwartz told CNN’s Erin Burnett, adding later that Trump was also unaware of Cohen’s $130,000 payment to Daniels.

Daniels filed a lawsuit against Trump and the company set up by his longtime attorney Cohen to pay her for her silence on her alleged affair with Trump. She argues that Trump never signed the agreement, making it invalid. However, Cohen has argued that Trump did not need to sign the agreement.

Watch Schwartz’s comment via CNN:

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After a federal judge in Maryland cited Maine Gov. Paul LePage’s stay at President Donald Trump’s hotel in Washington, D.C. in a ruling allowing a lawsuit against the president to proceed, the Republican governor lashed out at the judge on Wednesday.

“I didn’t realize that I could buy the President so cheap, a night in his hotel and he’s in my back pocket,” LePage told Portland television station WGME.

“The judge that did that is an imbecile. He’s a complete imbecile. That’s all I can tell you,” he continued. “Any district court judge, whether it’s state or federal, puts that in the paper because I stayed in the hotel is an absolute imbecile. And I hope that goes national. And I hope he hears it because he’s an absolute imbecile.”

A federal judge ruled on Wednesday that Maryland and Washington, D.C. have standing to sue Trump in their case arguing that he violated the Constitution’s Emoluments clause by failing to cut financial ties with his hotel in Washington, D.C.

In the ruling, the judge noted a visit to Trump’s hotel by LePage, as well as reported visits from foreign officials.

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