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

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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In an op-ed published in the New York Times late on Wednesday, David Shulkin claimed that he was pushed out as Veterans Affairs secretary because he opposed some administration officials’ push to privatize health care for veterans.

Shulkin wrote that certain successes at the VA have prompted some within the agency to push harder for privatization. Shulkin said he opposed this, which earned him enemies.

“They saw me as an obstacle to privatization who had to be removed. That is because I am convinced that privatization is a political issue aimed at rewarding select people and companies with profits, even if it undermines care for veterans,” he wrote.

He also lamented that the department has become increasingly political.

“Unfortunately, the department has become entangled in a brutal power struggle, with some political appointees choosing to promote their agendas instead of what’s best for veterans,” he wrote. “These individuals, who seek to privatize veteran health care as an alternative to government-run V.A. care, unfortunately fail to engage in realistic plans regarding who will care for the more than 9 million veterans who rely on the department for life-sustaining care.”

President Donald Trump on Wednesday announced that Shulkin would be replaced by the White House physician Ronny Jackson.

Shulkin’s ouster had long been rumored. The VA secretary faced a report from an internal watchdog revealing that he improperly accepted Wimbledon tickets and that he had his wife fly with him to Europe at taxpayers’ expense. Shulkin was also scolded by the White House for bragging to Politico that he had permission to oust political appointees working to undermine him.

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President Donald Trump called Roseanne Barr on Wednesday to congratulate her on her new television show, New York Times reported.

Both Barr and the character she plays on the revival of “Roseanne” are Trump supporters. The show aired on Tuesday, and Trump was impressed by its ratings, according to the New York Times.

Trump follows ratings closely, and weighs in on cable news shows he loves or hates. He has applauded Fox News, bashed CNN’s ratings, and boasted that he helps television news ratings.

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A federal judge ruled on Wednesday that Maryland and Washington, D.C. have standing to sue President Donald Trump, allowing their lawsuit claiming that the President violated the Constitution’s Emoluments clause to move forward for now.

Maryland and D.C. have cleared one hurdle in their lawsuit against the President, but the judge has yet to issue a ruling on the meaning of the Emoluments clause, another factor that will determine whether the case can proceed. The judge, who is based in Maryland, will issue an opinion on the rest of Trump’s motion to dismiss the case at a later date.

The judge also ruled that Maryland and D.C. only have standing to sue over activities at the Trump International Hotel and the Trump Organization’s operations in Washington, D.C., not the Trump Organization’s operations outside the District.

The attorneys general in Maryland and D.C. argue in their lawsuit that Trump violated the Emolument’s clause by failing to sever financial ties with his hotel in Washington, D.C. The Emolument’s clause bars the President from accepting payments from a foreign government. It’s one of three lawsuits related to the Emoluments clause filed against the President, one of which was thrown out last year.

Foreign officials have patronized Trump’s hotel in Washington, D.C., and Maryland and D.C. argued in their lawsuit that the hotel’s connection to Trump drew people to that venue, as opposed to other event spaces in the area. In a January hearing on the lawsuit, a lawyer for the Trump hotel argued that the complaint was merely a “political” attempt to learn more about the President’s business. As for the debate over the meaning of the Emoluments clause, Trump’s legal team has argued that it does not apply to business transactions.

Asked about the ruling in the daily press briefing on Wednesday, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said she “can’t comment on ongoing litigation.”

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Michael Avenatti, the lawyer representing Stormy Daniels in her lawsuit against President Donald Trump, said on Wednesday morning that he would consider settling the case.

Though he did not rule out a settlement, Avenatti also suggested he would not be happy concluding the case until he gets more information about the hush agreement between Daniels and a business set up by Trump’s longtime personal attorney Michael Cohen.

“I think we would consider it, I would converse with my client. It would depend on the terms of the settlement,” Avenatti said on CBS’ “This Morning” when asked if he would consider settling. “But at this point, I don’t see how the case gets resolved short of the truth coming out.”

Avenatti also shared more detail about a March 21 meeting he had with Trump’s lawyer, which he first revealed in a Wednesday morning filing moving to depose Trump and Cohen.

“We asked Mr. Harder, Mr. Trump’s attorney, whether Mr. Trump was a party to this agreement. And we heard crickets. They don’t know,” Avenatti said on CBS. “He said they don’t know yet whether Mr. Trump was a party to this agreement. How do you not know whether you’re a party to an agreement unless you’re just trying to make it up as you go along?”

It’s not clear what Avenatti meant when he said “party to this agreement” — that Trump’s lawyer has not determined legally whether Trump needed to sign the agreement or that Trump’s lawyer is not sure whether Trump was aware of the agreement.

Watch the interview via CBS:

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Michael Avenatti, the attorney representing porn actress Stormy Daniels in her lawsuit against President Donald Tump and his personal attorney Michael Cohen, on Wednesday filed a motion to depose both Trump and Cohen.

Daniels sued Trump and Essential Consulting, a business set up by Cohen to pay Daniels, over an alleged hush agreement Daniels signed with Essential Consulting barring her from discussing her alleged relationship with Trump. She argued that because Trump never signed the agreement, it is invalid and she is free to speak about her encounter with Trump. Daniels this week added Cohen to the lawsuit, accusing him of defaming her.

In the filing, Avenatti said that he would like to depose Trump and Cohen each for no longer than two hours. He also asked for no more than 10 “targeted requests for production of documents directed to Mr. Trump and Mr. Cohen on various topics relating to the Hush Agreement.” He said that he would like to depose the two men within three weeks of the court approving the motion.

In a separate filing submitted to support the request for depositions and discovery, Avenatti said that he spoke with counsel for Essential Consulting on March 21 and that the defense argued that there should not be any discovery in the case and that the case should be sent to arbitration.

Avenatti argued that discovery is necessary to resolve factual disputes between Stormy Daniels, whose legal name is Stephanie Clifford, and Cohen, including whether Trump new about and consented to the hush agreement, how Trump may have communicated with Cohen about the agreement and where the money used to pay Daniels for her silence originated from.

A lawyer for Cohen rebuffed the motion on Wednesday morning, telling ABC News that the case will never reach the discover phase “because the contract is valid on its face and the defamation action against Cohen is frivolous on its face”

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A new filing from special counsel Robert Mueller’s team released Tuesday night alleges that Rick Gates communicated with a former Russian intelligence officer while he was working for the Trump campaign in the 2016 election.

The revelation came in a sentencing memorandum for Alex van der Zwann, who pleaded guilty to lying to investigators in February and has been cooperating with Mueller’s team. As a lawyer at the firm Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom LLC, van der Zwaan worked on a report for Gates and Paul Manafort on the Ukrainian government’s prosecution of Yulia Tymoshenko, a political adversary of Gates and Manafort’s client.

In documents previously released when van der Zwaan pleaded guilty, prosecutors said that van der Zwaan worked with a “Person A” on the report and that van der Zwaan was in communication with Gates and “Person A” in the fall of 2016.

In the Tuesday night filing, prosecutors said that “Person A” has “ties to the Russian intelligence service” and had those ties in 2016. Van der Zwaan told the special counsel’s office that Gates told him that “Person A” was a former Russian intelligence officer, according to the filing.

As van der Zwaan’s February guilty plea revealed, Gates called van der Zwaan in September 2016 and asked him to contact “Person A” — Gates was concerned about possibly facing criminal charges in Ukraine. Gates also sent van der Zwaan a preliminary criminal complaint in Ukraine, according to prosecutors. Van der Zwaan then called Person A, made a separate call to a senior partner at the law firm, and then followed up with Gates again, according to the guilty plea filings.

Person A is likely Konstantin Kilimnik, Manafort’s longtime Russian business partner in Ukraine, according to the Washington Post. Manafort communicated with Kilimnik in 2016 and worked with Kilimnik to ghost write an op-ed favorable to Manafort in December 2017.

Gates pleaded guilty to conspiracy and making a false statement in February and is cooperating with Mueller’s probe. The special counsel dropped all other charges against Gates when they reached a plea deal. Manafort has maintained his not guilty plea to two federal indictments against him stemming from his work in Ukraine.

Read Tuesday’s filing:

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FBI Director Christopher Wray announced on Tuesday that he is doubling the number of staff devoted to responding to record requests from Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), the chair of the House Judiciary Committee, on the Hillary Clinton email probe and surveillance of former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.

“Up until today, we have dedicated 27 FBI staff to review the records that are potentially responsive to Chairman Goodlatte’s requests. The actual number of documents responsive to this request is likely in the thousands. Regardless, I agree that the current pace of production is too slow,” Wray said in a statement. “Accordingly, I am doubling the number of assigned FBI staff, for a total of 54, to cover two shifts per day from 8 a.m. to midnight to expedite completion of this project.”

Goodlatte issued a subpoena to the Justice Department last week for the documents he previously requested, as well as new information, complaining that the department had so far been too slow in responding to his request for documents.

Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd also responded to Goodlatte’s subpoena in a Tuesday letter. Boyd noted that the Justice Department has been working to find the documents relevant to the request and sending them to the committee once they have gone through the review process. But he also noted that some of Goodlatte’s requests in the subpoena were new, specifically Goodlatte’s demand for documents related to Andrew McCabe’s firing.

“In the subpoena, certain categories of documents are requested for the first time, a significant deviation from the traditional method of accommodating congressional requests for information without compulsory process,” Boyd wrote.

Goodlatte’s subpoena and the Justice Department’s response on Tuesday come as Republicans in Congress ramp up their criticism of the DOJ and FBI. Goodlatte’s subpoena was just the latest attempt by Republicans on Capitol Hill to undermine investigations into President Donald Trump and his campaign by attempting to characterize the investigators as partisan hacks.

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