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

This post has been updated.

After the White House on Friday partially walked back the abrupt announcement that President Donald Trump had accepted North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s invitation to meet for talks, Trump touted his decision to meet with Kim in tweets on Saturday morning.

Trump told his Twitter followers that he had discussed his plans to meet Kim Jong Un with both Chinese President Xi Jinping and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. He said that both leaders were happy with his plans to meet the North Korean leader.

A couple of hours later, Trump defended himself from critical media coverage of the administration’s quick acceptance of Kim Jong Un’s offer to meet.

The President also said Saturday that he believes Kim will “honor” his pledge not to conduct missile tests.

Trump’s enthusiasm for the potential meeting came after the White House made a concerted effort to exercise caution about the meeting. Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters on Friday that the administration will not “have this meeting take place until we see concrete actions that match the words and the rhetoric of North Korea.”

Facing questions from reporters about Trump’s decision to agree to the meeting without clear actions from the North Korean regime, Sanders pointed out that Kim did commit to stop testing nuclear missiles and allow the U.S. and South Korea to conduct joint military exercises.

“Let’s not forget that the North Koreans did promise something,” she told reporters in Friday’s daily press briefing.


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The White House held meetings last month with four cabinet officials who have been the subjects of reports highlighting ethics questions, CNN reported Friday night, citing unnamed officials familiar with the meetings.

Officials in the White House counsel’s office and the cabinet liaison met with Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt, according to CNN.

The White House officials warned the cabinet leaders that even if their behavior is technically legal, it could still create bad optics, per CNN.

Zinke has come under scrutiny for his plane travel and reported spending on a $139,000 office door. Pruitt also faces scrutiny of his expensive travel habits, most recently his decision to fly first class for security reasons.

Carson cancelled an order for a $30,000 dining set for his office suite following reports revealing that the agency purchased the expensive new furniture, and he has faced allegations from HUD employees who are fearful that they will face retribution if they push back on agency orders.

Shulkin was scolded for telling Politico that he had permission to purge employees who he felt were out to get him, according to CNN.

Read the full report at CNN.



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White House chief of staff John Kelly thwarted an effort by Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt to hold public debates challenging climate science, the New York Times reported Friday, citing unnamed people familiar with the deliberations.

Pruitt proposed the debates last year, calling for a “red team, blue team” exercise that would evaluate the science behind climate change. Trump was interested in the idea, according to the New York Times.

However, Kelly and other officials opposed Pruitt’s idea and set out to quash the effort, per the New York Times. At a meeting in December, Kelly’s deputy at the time, Rick Dearborn, told officials at a White House meeting that Kelly considered the idea “dead,” and other aides in the meeting were also opposed to the debates, according to the New York Times.

Read the full New York Times report here.

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Trump attorney Michael Cohen used his official Trump Organization email address while arranging a payment for Stephanie Clifford, the porn star who uses the name Stormy Daniels, as well as during negotiations with Clifford, NBC News reported on Friday.

Michael Avenatti, Clifford’s current attorney, gave NBC News an email Cohen received from the First Republic Bank about a transfer.

The emails came just two days before Clifford alleges she signed the “hush agreement” barring her from publicly discussing her alleged sexual relationship with President Donald Trump. The email did not indicate which accounts were involved in the transfer and did not specify the amount. The Wall Street Journal has reported that Cohen used First Republic Bank to make the transfer to Clifford’s lawyer at the time.

Cohen acknowledged that he personally paid Clifford $130,000 after reports surfaced that Clifford received money in exchange for her silence just before the 2016 election.

Cohen also used his Trump Organization email for negotiations with Clifford before she signed the non disclosure agreement, a source familiar with the discussions told NBC News.

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President Donald Trump’s longtime personal attorney, Michael Cohen, has brought on New York attorney Lawrence S. Rosen to help with the handling of Stormy Daniels’ non disclosure agreement, ABC News reported Friday morning.

Rosen’s bio on the website for the firm at which he is a partner, LaRocca, Hornick, Rosen, Greenberg & Blaha, describes him as a “pit bull” known for “aggressively fighting and using his rhetorical and writing skills to get you a win.” Cohen has also been described as a “pit bull.”

Rosen’s law firm is based out of the Trump building on Wall Street in Manhattan.

Stephanie Clifford, who uses the stage name Stormy Daniels, filed a lawsuit against Trump this week, alleging that Trump failed to sign a non-disclosure agreement barring Clifford from speaking about her alleged sexual relationship with Trump. Clifford argues that without Trump’s signature, the agreement is invalid, and she is free to discuss her affair with Trump.

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A woman listed on the non-disclosure agreement that porn actress Stephanie Clifford claims President Donald Trump failed to sign is porn actress Jessica Drake, who accused Trump of sexual misconduct in October 2016, according to reports from the New York Daily News and CNN.

The agreement attached to the lawsuit filed by Clifford, who uses the stage name Stormy Daniels, listed four individuals that Clifford had spoken to about the information the NDA barred her from publicizing. One of those individuals listed is Angel Ryan.

Drake’s lawyer, Gloria Allred, confirmed to the Daily News and CNN that Drake is Angel Ryan — Jessica Drake is Ryan’s stage name.

In October 2016, after the release of the “Access Hollywood” tape, Drake came forward and alleged that Trump forcibly kissed her in 2006 during a charity golf event. Trump invited her to his private suite at the event in Lake Tahoe — the same event where Clifford says she first met Trump. Drake alleged that when she arrived at Trump’s room with two other women, Trump hugged them and kissed each of them.

Clifford this week filed a lawsuit against Trump, alleging that he never signed the non-disclosure agreement, making it invalid. Clifford has also said that Trump attorney Michael Cohen’s acknowledgement that he arranged a $130,000 payment to Clifford violated the agreement and freed her to speak out about her alleged affair with Trump.

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Former President Barack Obama is in discussions with Netflix to produce a series of shows, the New York Times reported Thursday night.

The deal is not yet final, and the New York Times had limited details on what the shows would entail. Obama would not use the series to respond to President Donald Trump, but Obama and his wife, Michelle Obama, have discussed using the shows to tell inspirational stories, according to the New York Times.

Barack Obama could spend one show discussing issues he addressed as President, such as health care, and Michelle Obama may use a show to discuss nutrition, according to the New York Times.

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Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV) predicted last week that Justice Anthony Kennedy will retire from the Supreme Court this summer, allowing Republicans to fill that seat before the 2018 midterm elections.

“I think Kennedy is going to retire around sometime early summer,” Heller said at an event in Las Vegas last week, according to audio of an event obtained by POLITICO. “Which I’m hoping will get our base a little motivated because right now they’re not very motivated. But I think a new Supreme Court justice will get them motivated.”

Kennedy was appointed by President Ronald Reagan is often a swing vote on the Supreme Court and will sometimes vote with the justices appointed by Democratic presidents. If he retires while President Donald Trump is in office, he could be replaced by a more conservative justice.

Heller told the audience at the event held by the J. Reuben Clark Law Society that he believes Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) would be considered for the Supreme Court slot.

“Mike Lee from Utah is probably on that short list of the next Supreme Court justice in our courts,” he said, according to Politico.

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After South Korea’s national security announced from the White House Thursday evening that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is “committed to denuclearization” and wanted to meet with President Donald Trump, the White House confirmed Thursday night that Trump had accepted the invitation.

“He will accept the invitation to meet with Kim Jong-un at a place and time to be determined. We look forward to the denuclearization of North Korea. In the meantime, all sanctions and maximum pressure must remain,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement.

Trump himself also confirmed that the meeting was “being planned” in a tweet. He said that Kim Jong Un talked about denuclearization with South Korean officials and indicated that North Korea will stop testing missiles.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson emphasized Friday morning that Trump and Kim will meet for “talks,” not “negotiations.”

Tillerson told reporters in Djibouti that they saw a shift with North Korea when South Korean officials visited Pyongyang, according to the Associated Press. Tillerson said that South Korea’s message to the White House about talks with North Korea was the “most forward-leaning” message from Kim Jong Un they have seen.

“What changed was his posture in a fairly dramatic way,” Tillerson said, per the AP. “In all honesty, that came as a little bit of a surprise to us as well.”

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ALEXANDRIA, Virginia — Former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort pleaded not guilty Thursday to the federal grand jury indictment brought against him in Virginia in his first appearance in that case. The trial for the case is set to begin July 10.

Manafort will continue to be on home confinement with electronic monitoring. He can leave the house to consult with his lawyers, go to the doctor and go to church. Because Manafort’s attorney’s have declined to combine the two cases brought against him, Manafort will be forced to wear two monitoring devices.

“He wears two bracelets now,” the judge overseeing the case, Judge T.S. Ellis III told the courtroom as he finalized Manafort’s conditions of release.

The 32-count indictment includes charges of making false statements on tax returns, failing to report foreign bank accounts, and bank fraud.

Manafort pleaded not guilty last week to a separate superseding indictment brought against him in Washington, D.C., which includes charges of conspiracy against the United States, money laundering, failure to register as a foreign agent, and making false statements. That trial is set to begin Sept. 17.

One of the attorneys for the prosecution, Andrew Weissmann, said that the special counsel’s team would prefer a trial starting around May 17. However, Manafort attorney Kevin Downing argued that with a complicated case along with another in Washington, D.C., the trial should take place later than that.

Ellis then proposed a June date, and adjusted it to July after Downing argued that it is a complicated case. Downing later told the judge that in his “rosy glasses” view, the trial would not take place until November.

“You need to go back to the optometrist,” Ellis retorted before finalizing that the trial will begin on July 10.

The cases brought against Manafort in Virginia and Washington, D.C. will remain separate for now. Ellis asked the prosecution if there was discussion with Manafort’s legal team about combining the cases or dealing with any overlap. Weissmann, the lawyer speaking for the special counsel’s team, told the judge that they gave Manafort’s attorneys the option of bringing the charges in one case, but that Manafort’s legal team opted not to. The prosecution indicated as much in Manafort’s hearing in Washington, D.C. last week.

The separate cases in Virginia and Washington, D.C. use overlapping evidence, but prosecutors do not have venue to bring certain charges included in the Virginia case against Manafort in Washington, D.C. Manafort could choose to waive venue and combine the cases, but he has not.

Special counsel Robert Mueller’s team brought 32 counts against Manafort and Rick Gates in the Virginia indictment. Weissmann told the judge on Thursday that he plans to slim down the indictment to just 18 counts against Manafort now that Gates has pleaded guilty. Weissmann also said that as of right now, prosecutors plan to bring somewhere between 20 and 25 witnesses during the trial. But he said that they plan to work with the defense on stipulations, which would help reduce the number of witnesses the prosecution calls.

Downing, the attorney representing Manafort, told the judge that he plans to bring motions to dismiss in both cases against Manafort, noting that the deadline to do so in the Washington, D.C. case is March 14. Manafort’s attorneys have already filed a civil lawsuit against the Justice Department, Mueller, and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, arguing that the special counsel overstepped his authority.

Though Manafort will be subject to home confinement and electronic monitoring for the time being, his conditions of release could change down the road, as Ellis told Manafort’s lawyers that he is happy to return to the subject at a later time. Downing told the judge that he plans to submit the bond package he is working on in the Washington, D.C., case to Ellis, and Ellis indicated that he could be willing to change the conditions of Manafort’s release if the judge in the Washington, D.C. case is satisfied with that bond package.

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