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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

Leaders on the Senate Intelligence Committee concluded recently that Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee leaked Sen. Mark Warner’s (D-VA) text messages to Fox News in February, the New York Times reported Thursday, citing two congressional officials briefed on the matter.

Fox News in February published text messages that Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, exchanged with Adam Waldman, a lawyer for a Russian oligarch, in an attempt to set up an interview with Christopher Steele, the former British spy who authored the so-called Trump dossier. Republicans on the Senate Intelligence Committee quickly downplayed the text messages and indicated they had no problem with Warner’s attempts to reach Steele.

In January, the House Intelligence Committee requested copies of the text messages from the Senate committee, and days later Fox News published the texts, a person familiar with the matter told the New York Times.

Markings on the text messages published by Fox News indicated they came from the House committee, according to the New York Times. A lawyer for Waldman also concluded that the leak likely came from House Republicans, per the Times.

The lawyer for Waldman complained to the House committee, and Burr, apparently frustrated by the leak, requested a meeting with House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) about the matter, per the New York Times. Ryan told Burr that he heard the complaints but noted he did not run the committee, the congressional officials briefed on the matter told the New York Times.

Burr and Warner told the Times in a joint statement that they did meet with Ryan but did not request any specific action. Burr denied to CNN on Thursday that the committee concluded that their counterparts in the House were behind the leak or that he raised the issue with Ryan.

Nunes spokesman Jack Langer did not deny that the House committee majority was behind the leak in a statement to the Times.

“The New York Times, a prominent purveyor of leaks, is highlighting anonymous sources leaking information that accuses Republicans of leaking information,” Langer said. “I’m not sure if this coverage could possibly get more absurd.”

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After President Donald Trump concerned Republicans on Capitol Hill by floating the possibility of raising the age to purchase rifles to 21 years old and seizing guns from those who may post a threat, White House adviser Kellyanne Conway insisted that Trump’s meeting Wednesday was “not about gun control.”

During an interview on “Fox and Friends” Thursday morning, Conway described Trump’s meeting with lawmakers about addressing gun violence in the wake of the deadly school shooting in Florida.

“This meeting was not about gun control. This meeting — let’s not forget — is about school safety,” Conway said. “We’re talking about all of this in the context of the tragedy that occurred in Parkland, Florida.”

Co-host Steve Doocy then noted that the National Rifle Association took issue with some of the comments Trump made at the meeting and put out a statement charging that the “the gun control proposals discussed would make for bad policy that would not keep our children safe.” Doocy asked how the NRA should be involved in Trump’s efforts to enact policy following the shooting.

Conway said that the NRA is “at the table,” noting that Trump met recently with officials from the gun group. She reiterated that the meeting was “about school safety” and emphasized that Trump previously called for some teachers to be armed.

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President Donald Trump continues to stew in his anger with Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who Trump believes has not properly defended him or gone after the FBI corruption alleged by conservatives, according to a Wednesday evening Washington Post report.

Trump has referred to Sessions as Mr. Magoo, a cartoon elderly man with poor vision, people who have spoken with Trump told the Washington Post.

For Sessions’ one year anniversary of his confirmation as attorney general, his colleagues gave him a bulletproof vest, a person familiar with the matter told the Post.

The details about Trump’s strained relationship with Sessions surfaced in a report from the Post that Mueller’s team is looking at Trump’s pressure on Sessions to resign over the summer and whether Trump was looking for more control over the Russia probe by attempting to push out Sessions.

Though Trump’s broadsides against Sessions peaked over the summer, Trump has not stopped criticizing his own attorney general, often over Twitter. Just this week, Trump said that it was “disgraceful” that Sessions did not launch a separate investigation into the way the Justice Department handled surveillance orders.

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Two major loans to the Kushner Companies for real estate projects came after Jared Kushner, a senior adviser in the Trump administration, met with officials from those financial institutions at the White House, the New York Times reported Wednesday night.

Kushner, who left his role at the family company upon taking a job in the White House, met with Joshua Harris, one of the founders of Apollo Global Management, several times at the White House early last year as Harris was advising the administration on infrastructure, according to the New York Times. In November, Apollo lent the Kushner Companies $184 million to refinance a mortgage on a building in Chicago, per the New York Times. The loan was larger than the average loan Apollo typically approves, according to the New York Times.

Kushner met with Michael Corbat, chief executive at Citigroup, in the spring of 2017 at the White House, where the two talked about financial and trade policy, per the Times. A source told the New York Times that they did not talk about Kushner’s family business. After that meeting, Citigroup lent Kushner Companies $325 million to finance buildings in Brooklyn, the Times reported.

A spokesman for Kushner’s lawyer Abbe Lowell, Peter Mirijanian, told the New York Times that Kushner “has taken no part of any business, loans or projects with or for” Kushner Companies since he started as a White House staffer. Kushner Companies spokeswoman Christine Taylor also denied that Kushner played a role in obtaining the loans.

Charles V. Zehren, a spokesman for Apollo Global Management, told the New York Times that Harris was not involved in the loan approval process for the Kushner Companies loan and that the loan application “went through the firm’s standard approval process.”

Citigroup spokeswoman Danielle Romero-Apsilos told the Times that its loan to Kushner Companies had nothing to do with Jared Kushner and that Citigroup worked on the loan with the Kushner Companies’ business partner.

The New York Times story is just the latest story to break about Kushner’s role in the White House recently. He had his security clearance downgraded, and a Washington Post report revealed that several foreign officials discussed ways to manipulate Kushner, in part through his financial woes.

The Washington Post report’s timing just after Kushner’s security clearance downgrade has left Kushner paranoid that people are out to get him, according to a Wednesday night CNN report.

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Hope Hicks’ resignation as White House communications director has been brewing for a while as the longtime aide to President Donald Trump grew tired and stressed by her prominent role in the administration, according to several reports out Wednesday.

The announcement that Hicks would leave the White House in the coming weeks directly followed her testimony to the House Intelligence Committee that she sometimes tells “white lies” for the President, but multiple reports indicate that those comments were not the sole impetus for her resignation.

Both CBS News and CNN reported that Trump was angry with Hicks for acknowledging the white lies and that he made that known to his communications director, though the White House denied the CNN report that Trump berated Hicks over her testimony.

However, previous scandals and general White House turmoil led Hicks to her decision to resign before that testimony.

Hicks was swept up in the White House scandal surrounding Rob Porter, the former aide who remained in the administration despite trouble with his security clearance due to accusations of domestic abuse from his ex-wives. Hicks was reportedly dating Porter when the allegations became public, prompting scrutiny over her role in the White House’s initial effort to back Porter. Hicks felt pressure from the attention she garnered during the scandal, according to New York magazine and CBS News.

A friend of Hicks told Politico that Hicks was prompted to leave due to the stress of the job, the Russia investigation and the Porter scandal.

“This was a case of, ‘I’m done. Physically. Emotionally. Just drained,’” the friend told Politico. “Three years in that kind of environment is a lifetime.”

Though it seems the Porter scandal played a role in Hicks’ departure, she was discussing plans to leave before then, according to NBC News.

If she had stayed on, Hicks would have continued without one of her closest allies in the White House, Josh Raffel, who will leave his role as deputy communications director soon as well. Raffel’s departure, as well as the apparent diminished roles of Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump may have contributed to Hicks’ decision as well.

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The Housing and Urban Development Department (HUD) spent $31,000 on a new dining set for Secretary Ben Carson’s office suite, the New York Times and CNN reported late Tuesday, citing federal records.

The revelation follows a Tuesday morning report with a HUD official alleging that she was demoted when she pushed back on a request to spend more than the allotted $5,000 on redecorating Carson’s office.

HUD spokesman Raffi Williams told the New York Times that Carson was not previously aware that the dining room set had been purchased, but that the secretary thinks that the cost was not unreasonable and does not plan to return it. Williams also said that the decision to purchase the new set was made by a career HUD official.

A department official told CNN that the table was replaced because it was in a state of disrepair and has been in the secretary’s office suite since the 1960s.

HUD did not ask for Congress approval for the purchase exceeding $5,000. Williams said that the department did not do so because the dining set served a “building-wide need.”

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White House Communications Director Hope Hicks would not say much in her interview with the House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday, but she did admit that she sometimes tells “white lies” for President Donald Trump, the New York Times and CNN reported Tuesday night.

Though Hicks acknowledged that her job required her to tell white lies, she told the committee that she did not lie about any matters related to the Russia investigations, three sources familiar with the matter told the New York Times. A source with direct knowledge of her testimony told CNN that Hicks said she did not lie about substantive matters.

Hicks followed in the footsteps of other Trump aides, like Steve Bannon and Corey Lewandowski, and refused to answer most of the committee’s questions about her time on the presidential transition or in the White House, lawmakers told reporters after the interview.

She did tell the committee that she first learned of the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting with Jared Kushner, Donald Trump Jr., and a Kremlin-linked lawyer in June 2017, according to CNN.

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A senior official at the Housing and Urban Development Department (HUD) alleges that she was demoted after pushing back on requests to spend more than was allowed on the redecoration of Secretary Ben Carson’s office, The Guardian reported Tuesday morning.

The official, Helen Foster, filed a complaint to the Office of the Special Counsel (OSC), a government watchdog, and The Guardian obtained the complaint.

In the complaint, Foster alleged that acting HUD director Craig Clemmensen directed her to help Carson’s wife, Candy Carson, access funds to redecorate Ben Carson’s office in January 2017. When Foster informed Clemmensen that there was a $5,000 budget cap on redecorating, Clemmensen told her that past administrations “always found ways around that” and later told her to “to ‘find money’ for Mrs Carson,” according to the complaint. Clemmensen also told Foster in February that “$5,000 will not even buy a decent chair,” per the complaint.

Foster said in the complaint that she was demoted after pushing back on Clemmenson’s demands. She also alleged that she was blocked from handling a Freedom of Information Act Request related to Trump appointee Lynne Patton.

Read The Guardian’s full report here.

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President Donald Trump fired off several tweets about the Russia investigation early Tuesday morning, ostensibly while catching up on Fox News’ coverage of the matter.

In a tweetstorm capped with a tweet that only read “WITCH HUNT!” in all capital letters, Trump quoted several people who have appeared on Fox News recently to discuss Trump and special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. Trump used the quotes to defend himself from the Russia probe and point a finger at Hillary Clinton instead.

Trump first quoted Fox News contributor Andrew Napolitano, who appeared on a Fox News show Monday evening. He then mentioned a quote from a law professor before jumping back to Ken Starr’s appearance on “Fox and Friends” Monday morning. The President often publishes angry tweets while catching up on cable news coverage in the early morning hours while he is still in the White House residence.

 

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Sen. John Thune (R-SD), who chairs the Senate Commerce Committee, told Politico on Monday evening that he would prefer the White House nominate someone other than President Donald Trump’s personal pilot to lead the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in order to make the confirmation process easier.

“I’d prefer that they send somebody up that we can confirm easily. I’ve conveyed that to them,” Thune told Politico. “I’m sure that the Democrats would probably want to make it challenging.”

Both Axios and the Washington Post reported Sunday that John Duncan, who flew Trump’s personal plane during the 2016 campaign, is under consideration to lead the FAA.

Thune did not raise any issues with Duncan’s qualifications but suggested that there are other qualified candidates that would be easier to confirm in the Senate, a process Thune would oversee as Commerce chair.

“They say he’s got good qualifications and all that,” Thune told Politico. “But there are other people that I’m aware of that they’ve been vetting that would be very good in that position.”

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