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

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said Wednesday that the U.S. government needs to do more to punish Russia for election meddling and deter Russian officials from attempting to interfere again.

“We need to do more,” Nielsen said at a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing when asked what punishment would deter future meddling. Nielsen did not specify what future actions the U.S. should take.

Pressed by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) on whether the U.S. has successfully deterred Russia from interfering again, Nielsen replied that the U.S. has not and added that there is “no reason to believe” Russia will not attempt to meddle again.

Earlier in the hearing, former DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson said that sanctions imposed by the Obama administration were not an effective deterrent for Russia.

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Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said on Wednesday morning that President Donald Trump has supported her efforts to prepare for and combat future election meddling by Russia.

During a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on election security, Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM) asked Nielson whether she feels the White House has given her enough support to work with state and local officials on election security going forward.

“I do,” she responded.

Heinrich followed up to ask if it would be beneficial for President Donald Trump to recognize Russia’s election interference in 2016. In response, Nielson argued that Trump has acknowledged the meddling but that he has emphasized his belief that no votes were changed as a result.

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Former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said on Wednesday morning that looking back, he does not believe that the sanctions imposed on Russia in response to election meddling by the Obama administration were strong enough.

“The Russian effort has not been contained, it has not been deterred,” Johnson told the Senate Intelligence Committee in a hearing on election security. “With the benefit of hindsight, the sanctions we issued in late December have not worked as an effective deterrent.”

Johnson called on the Trump administration to build on those sanctions.

The former homeland security secretary also emphasized the challenge he faced in preparing states for election meddling ahead of the 2016 election. He noted that many states are resistant to the federal government designating election infrastructure as critical infrastructure, which would facilitate states’ ability to seek security help from the federal government.

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A new study from the Democracy Fund’s Voter Study Group found that Americans who back President Donald Trump show the highest level of skepticism for democracy.

The study found that 23 percent of Trump supporters do not prefer a democracy and that 32 percent favor a “strong leader.” By comparison, 20 percent of Hillary Clinton supporters said they prefer a “strong leader.”

Despite those findings, the study found that about three quarters of those surveyed showed “at least some support for democracy” and that more than half showed “support for the strongest pro-democratic option.” The study also found that support for a strong leader declined for the first time and fell to levels found in 1995.

The Democracy Fund’s study focused on 5,000 people who were interviewed in July 2017 — those respondents had also been interviewed several times since 2011.

Read the results from the study here.

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FBI Director Christopher Wray declined to say whether he threatened to resign over pressure to fire Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe in an NBC News interview that aired Tuesday night.

NBC’s Pete Williams asked Wray if reports that he threatened to resign over pressure from President Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

“You know, I have been very clear from the minute I was nominated to the minute I walked in the door to countless opportunities since then that I am unwaveringly committed to doing this job by the book, independently,” Wray replied. “Following our rules, our processes, free from political or partisan influence.”

Williams pressed Wray, asking him if he was saying that the reports were true.

““I’m not going to talk about specific conversations,” Wray said in response.

Earlier on, Wray said that he does feel political pressure from the White House and that Trump has “never asked me to do anything with the Russia investigation.”

Watch the clip via NBC:

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The lawyers for Stephanie Clifford, the porn actress who uses the stage name Stormy Daniels, and Michael Cohen, the longtime attorney for President Donald Trump who arranged a non-disclosure agreement with Daniels, appeared on CNN Tuesday night to debate Clifford’s lawsuit challenging the validity of the hush agreement.

The debate between Clifford’s lawyer, Michael Avenatti, and Cohen’s lawyer, Arthur Schwartz, got heated at times with the two attorneys arguing over the non-disclosure agreement barring Clifford from discussing her alleged sexual relationship with Trump.

Schwartz told Avenatti that he’s advising Clifford to “blatantly violate a contract.” But Avenatti dismissed those “bombastic comments.” Schwartz later told Avenatti that he is “going to go down in flames in this case.”

Toward the end of the interview, Avenatti questioned why Cohen wasn’t on television to defend himself, pulling out a picture of Cohen.

“If Michael Cohen is such a stand-up guy, where is he? Where is this guy? Why won’t he come and sit in this chair?” Avenatti asked Schwartz. “He’s been invited numerous times, he won’t come on the show, he’s dodging the questions!”

Schwartz noted that “there are other investigations going on,” but added, “Believe me, he can’t wait to come here.”

Watch the debate on CNN, which begins at the 4:15 mark:

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In his first interview on Fox News, Michael Avenatti, the attorney representing porn actress Stormy Daniels in her lawsuit against President Donald Trump, the lawyer faced questions about possible political motivation.

Fox News’ Shannon Bream mentioned that Avenatti’s website notes that he worked for Democratic campaigns through an opposition research firm owned by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and asked Avenatti if his work for Daniels was politically motivated.

“Absolutely not,” Avenatti replied. “That was 20-25 years ago and is laughable that people are pointing to that as the reason behind this.”

Avenatti said that he hasn’t spoken to Emanuel since 2007.

“This is about a search for the truth. I don’t care if you’re on the right, the left, or in the center. You deserve to know the facts. That’s what this is about. Period,” he added.

Avenatti’s appearance on Fox News came a little over 24 hours after he called out the network for not requesting an interview with him.

Watch the Tuesday night interview via Fox News:

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President Donald Trump’s national security advisers warned him not to congratulate Russian President Vladimir Putin on his electoral win, but Trump ignored them, the Washington Post reported Tuesday evening.

Trump’s briefing materials for his Tuesday call with Putin included a warning in all capital letters reading “DO NOT CONGRATULATE,” sources familiar with the call told the Washington Post. A senior White House adviser told the Washington Post that National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster did not warn Trump against congratulating Putin in the phone briefing ahead of the call, however. The written materials also prompted Trump to condemn the poisoning of a former spy in Great Britain, but Trump did not do so, according to the Washington Post.

The President’s applause of Putin’s win drew a rebuke from Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) on Tuesday.

“An American president does not lead the Free World by congratulating dictators on winning sham elections,” McCain said in a statement. “And by doing so with Vladimir Putin, President Trump insulted every Russian citizen who was denied the right to vote in a free and fair election to determine their country’s future, including the countless Russian patriots who have risked so much to protest and resist Putin’s regime.”

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders defended Trump’s remarks on the call, telling reporters that it’s “important to have a dialogue with Russia so we can focus on areas of shared interest.”

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A former Playboy model who allegedly had an affair with President Donald Trump in 2006 sued the media company that owns the National Enquirer on Tuesday, demanding to be released from her contract with the company, the New York Times reported.

Karen McDougal signed an agreement with American Media, Inc. (AMI), selling her story about her relationship with Trump in August 2016, as the Wall Street Journal has reported. The agreement reportedly keeps McDougal from sharing her story elsewhere and promised to run columns by McDougal and place her on two covers.

She told the New Yorker recently that her lawyer at the time, Keith Davidson, the same lawyer who represented porn actress Stormy Daniels, pushed her to sign the agreement. McDougal told the New Yorker that she did not fully understand the agreement at the time and that she regrets signing it.

“AMI lied to me, made empty promises, and repeatedly intimidated and manipulated me. I just want the opportunity to set the record straight and move on with my life, free from this company, its executives, and its lawyers,” McDougal said in a statement provided to TPM.

In the complaint, McDougal claims that Trump attorney Michael Cohen was involved in her agreement with AMI, and she argues that AMI and Davidson were misleading when urging her to sign the deal, according to the New York Times. McDougal also claims that she was not aware that AMI chief executive David Pecker, a close friend of Trump, often bought stories only to keep them under wraps, per the New York Times.

AMI told the New York Times that it spoke with Cohen about McDougal’s story, but only while trying to fact-check her story.

McDougal also claims in the complaint that AMI promised to run fitness columns by her and feature her on two covers but failed to live up to that agreement, per the Times.

Also on Tuesday, a judge in New York ruled that former “Apprentice” contestant Summer Zervos can proceed with her lawsuit against Trump. Zervos filed a defamation suit against Trump in January 2017 over Trump’s comments calling her a liar for coming forward with groping allegations. Trump’s lawyers attempted to dismiss the case by arguing that Zervos could not sue a sitting President in state court, an argument the judge dismissed.

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Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson on Tuesday morning defended his role in the purchase of a $31,000 dining set for his office suite, claiming that he had little involvement in the decision-making process.

Carson told members of the House Appropriations Committee that he was too busy running the department to keep track of plans to purchase a new dining set and that he wasn’t “concerned” about the furniture.

“If it was up to me, my office would probably look like a hospital waiting room,” he told the committee.

Carson said that when he was informed that the dining set needed to be replaced because a chair collapsed and someone was stuck with a nail, he asked his wife to help. When they were shown catalogues, Carson says he was unhappy with the options.

“The prices were beyond what I wanted to pay. I made it clear that that just didn’t seem right to me,” he said.

Carson said Tuesday that he was not involved in the rest of the process and delegated to his wife, Candy Carson.

“I left it with my wife,” he told the committee.

The next Carson heard about the dining set was that a $31,000 set had been ordered, he told the committee. He said he immediately had it cancelled.

“I thought that that was excessive,” Carson said.

Asked about a statement from his spokesman shortly after the story on the dining set broke that the Carsons were not involved in the purchase, Carson said he could not speak for others’ statements and argued that he has always been truthful about his involvement.

Carson also addressed brochures that include guidelines for homeless shelters on how to prevent discrimination against transgender individuals that were taken off the HUD website last year. Carson said that he and HUD general counsel were looking over the brochure to ensure the “equal rights for the women in the shelters and shelters where there are men and their equal rights.”

“We want to look at things that really provide for everybody and doesn’t impede the rights of one for the sake of the other. It’s a complex issue,” he said.

Asked how protecting the rights of transgender individuals could impact others’ rights, Carson said that “there are some women who said they were not comfortable with the idea of being in a shelter, being in a shower, and somebody who had a very different anatomy.”

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