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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

A lawyer for the Trump Organization was involved in arbitration proceedings between Stephanie Clifford, the porn actress who uses the stage name Stormy Daniels, and the company created by Trump attorney Michael Cohen to pay Clifford, according to documents first reported by the Wall Street Journal.

Jill A. Martin is listed as counsel on a “demand for arbitration” document signed in February that claims a “breach of contract” by Peggy Petersen, the name used for Clifford in the “hush agreement” she allegedly agreed to with Cohen. The document, which was shared by Clifford’s lawyer with the Wall Street Journal, NBC News and CNN, links a lawyer for the Trump Organization to the “hush agreement” that bars Clifford from discussion her alleged intimate relationship with President Donald Trump.

Martin told the Wall Street Journal that she was representing Cohen’s company, Essential Consulting, LLC, “in her individual capacity” until the main lawyer on the arbitration received permission to practice in California.

The Trump Organization told NBC News that it had nothing to do with the arbitration.

“The Trump Organization is not representing anyone and, with the exception of one of its California-based attorneys in her individual capacity facilitating the initial filing pending the pro hac admission of Mr. Rosen, the company has had no involvement in the matter,” the company said in a statement.

Clifford allegedly had a sexual relationship with Trump that began back in 2006, and Clifford signed a non-disclosure agreement with Cohen in October 2016 that barred her from publicly discussing the alleged affair. Cohen paid her $130,000 through an LLC, and Trump has denied the affair and any involvement in the payment.

More than a year after she signed the agreement, Clifford is looking for ways to discuss her affair with Trump. She sued Trump, alleging that he never signed the hush agreement, rendering it invalid.

On the same day that Clifford sued Trump at the end of February, Cohen reportedly obtained a temporary restraining order against Clifford that bars her from discussing the matters laid out in the non-disclosure agreement she signed in 2016.

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After Republicans lost another special election to fill an open seat in Congress, President Donald Trump on Wednesday night offered his spin on the loss and suggested that the race was a fluke.

During a fundraiser in Missouri, Trump claimed that Conor Lamb, the Democrat who appears to have won a seat in Congress representing a conservative district in Pennsylvania, is “like Trump,” according to The Atlantic. The President suggested that Lamb won due to his similarities to himself, not because of a broader struggle Republicans face heading into the 2018 midterms.

“The young man last night that ran, he said, ‘Oh, I’m like Trump. Second Amendment, everything. I love the tax cuts, everything.’ He ran on that basis,” Trump said at the fundraiser, according to an audio recording obtained by The Atlantic. “He ran on a campaign that said very nice things about me. I said, ‘Is he a Republican? He sounds like a Republican to me.’”

While Lamb does not support new restrictions on guns beyond stronger background checks, he called the Republican tax law a “giveaway” to wealthy Americans and criticized attempts to repeal Obamacare.

Trump did later acknowledge that Lamb will likely “vote with Nancy Pelosi” once he reaches Congress, per The Atlantic.

Though it appears the Republican candidate, Rick Saccone, will lose the race, Trump claimed that his rally for Saccone lifted the candidate.

“We had an interesting time because we lifted [Saccone] seven points up. That’s a lot,” Trump said, according to The Atlantic. “And I was up 22 points, and we lifted seven, and seven normally would be enough, but we’ll see how it all comes out. It’s, like, virtually a tie.”

Read The Atlantic’s full report here.

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President Donald Trump will name Larry Kudlow as the next National Economic Council director, according to Wednesday afternoon reports from CNBC and the Washington Post.

Kudlow will replace Gary Cohn, who resigned as Trump’s top economic adviser last week.

Trump’s announcement naming Kudlow to the post could come as soon as Thursday, according to CNBC.

Kudlow served as an adviser to Trump during the 2016 campaign, but does not agree with the President on every issue. Kudlow will join the administration as Trump prepares to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, a plan Kudlow has vocally opposed.

Kudlow is currently a CNBC commentator and hosts his own radio show. Trump, an avid cable news viewer, is likely drawn to Kudlow’s television chops. Previously, Kudlow worked on economic policy for Ronald Reagan’s administration.

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Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), the ranking member on the House Oversight Committee, on Wednesday called on the committee’s chair, Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC), to subpoena the White House and 16 federal agencies for documents on Trump administration officials’ use of personal email.

Gowdy and Cummings asked the White House and other federal agencies in September to identify any staffers who used a personal email account to conduct official business. The request followed reports that several administration officials, including President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, had used their personal email accounts to conduct work for the White House.

The White House ignored the Oversight Committee leaders’ request, however, and 16 of the 25 agencies the congressmen contacted also failed to comply with the request, according to Cummings.

“Although we sent a joint request to the White House last September seeking a wide range of documents, you abruptly abandoned our investigation after the White House informed us that they had their own internal review underway,” Cummings wrote in the letter calling on Gowdy to subpoena the White House.

Cummings argued that Gowdy took a different approach when investigating former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s private email use.

“You demanded—and I supported—the production of all her emails related to Benghazi, and you did not wait for the Inspector General of the State Department to complete their own internal reviews. You repeatedly called for an independent security review of her emails, and you showcased her use of private email as a potentially serious breech of national security. As a result, many Republicans—including President Trump and his National Security Adviser Michael Flynn—used this as a rallying cry to call for criminal penalties,” Cummings wrote.

“In contrast, since President Trump assumed office, you have refused to insist on the production of documents we both requested five months ago, you have refused to request a security review of private emails, and you have refused to request even single email from Mr. Kushner or anyone else at the White House, despite the fact that they apparently violated federal law,” he added.

Read Cummings’ email calling for Gowdy to subpoena the White House:

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A few months before Rex Tillerson was ousted as secretary of state, President Donald Trump ordered Tillerson to eat a wilted salad during a trip to China, according to a Wall Street Journal report.

Trump was concerned about offending his guests in China and upon seeing plates of wilted Caesar salad delivered to U.S. officials, Trump singled out Tillerson, according to the Wall Street Journal.

“Rex,” Trump said, per the Journal, “eat the salad.”

At that time, tension had been building between Tillerson and Trump. The two disagreed on several issues, and a month prior, NBC News reported that Tillerson called Trump a “moron.”

Read the Wall Street Journal’s full report here.

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The $25,000 private phone booth Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt had built in his office actually cost $43,000 including costs to install the structure, the Washington Post reported Wednesday morning.

The booth itself cost $24,570, but the EPA paid more than $18,000 for the booth’s installation, which included removing closed-circuit television equipment, pouring concrete, adjusting a ceiling, and painting.

EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox defended the phone booth to the Washington Post on Tuesday when asked about the new estimate of costs.

“In September of 2017 we thoroughly discussed why this secure communications line was needed for the Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency,” Wilcox said.

The Post first reported on the booth back in September. A spokesperson said at the time that the booth would be a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility (SCIF), which is used to access classified materials.

Read the Washington Post’s full report here.

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Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson and his wife Candy Carson were involved in the process to select a $31,000 dining set for Carson’s office suite, according to emails obtained by watchdog group American Oversight through a Freedom of Information Act Request.

In an August email about the dining set, a HUD staffer referenced “printouts of the furniture the Secretary and Mrs. Carson picked out.” Another email to Carson’s chief of staff and executive assistant included a quote for the new dining set, which was originally listed at $24,666. The emails obtained by American Oversight were first reported by CNN.

Carson cancelled the order for the dining set following several reports on the agency’s order for new furniture. In a statement earlier this month, Carson said that he “made it known that I was not happy about the prices being charged and that my preference would be to find something more reasonable” and that he was “surprised” to learn that HUD ordered the $31,000 set. When the story first broke, a HUD spokesman said that Carson was unaware of the purchase.

Asked about the newly released emails, HUD spokesman Raffi Williams told CNN on Tuesday, “When presented with options by professional staff, Mrs. Carson participated in the selection of specific styles.”

 

 

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Secretary of State Rex Tillerson announced Tuesday afternoon that his last day in the role will be March 31, but that he will transfer most of his duties to his deputy, John Sullivan, on Tuesday.

Tillerson told reporters that President Donald Trump called him early Tuesday afternoon and that he also spoke with chief of staff John Kelly following the announcement that he was fired.

Ousted Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will deliver a statement at 2 p.m. ET on Tuesday, just a few hours after President Donald Trump announced that CIA Director Mike Pompeo would replace Tillerson as secretary of state.

Watch live via NBC News:

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The White House on Tuesday fired a state department official who released a statement revealing that Rex Tillerson did not speak to President Donald Trump about his firing on Tuesday morning and that he was unaware of the reasons for his ouster, according to reports from the Associated Press, NBC News and CNN.

Steve Goldstein, the undersecretary of state for public diplomacy, released the statement Tuesday morning, calling into question whether the White House gave Tillerson a heads up ahead of Trump’s tweet announcing his replacement.

Two unnamed officials told the Associated Press that Goldstein was informed by the White House that he was fired shortly after issuing the statement.

The statement contradicted the White House narrative that Tillerson was informed of the decision on Friday. Several reports have indicated that Tillerson was informed by the White House on Friday to expect announcement concerning him, though it’s unclear just how detailed the warning was.

Goldstein confirmed his firing in a statement Tuesday.

“I was proud to speak on behalf of the Secretary of State to the American people and allies throughout the world, and this has been the honor of a lifetime. It’s within the purview, you are appointed by the administration and you are appointed for the time being. That is what is listed on your commission and it is determined by the White House who they want in these roles,” he said. “I don’t have regret, other than you always want to try to do more, but I feel proud of what we achieved and I am so impressed by the Secretary of State. He is truly a great man. I look forward to getting more rest and hopefully winning an indoor rowing competition.”

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