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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

The Environmental Protection Agency spent $45,000 to send two staffers and three security agents to Australia in August to conduct advance work for Administrator Scott Pruitt’s planned meetings with Australian officials, but the meetings were later cancelled due to Hurricane Harvey, Reuters reported Thursday.

The news of the EPA’s spending on the advance work comes as Pruitt is under fire for taking first class domestic flights, building an expensive sound booth in his office, and renting a room in a lobbyist’s condo.

The EPA staffers’ business class flights to Australia were permitted as aides can fly business class for long flights. EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox told Reuters that the flights were “not news” and that the staffers were “adhering to the federal government’s travel policy.” Wilcox told Reuters that they have not yet rescheduled the meetings because they must take place while the Australian parliament is in session.

Read Reuters’ full report on the trip here.

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The memos written by former FBI Director James Comey reveal just how hellbent President Donald Trump is on cracking down on leaks to the media from his administration.

Trump bashed the media throughout his campaign and has continued to try to delegitimize coverage of his administration now that he’s in the White House, but the memos released Thursday night show that Trump wanted to throw journalists in jail.

During a conversation with Comey in February 2017, Trump allegedly complained about leaks on his calls with foreign leaders and former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn’s conversations with Russian officials. Comey wrote in a memo that he told Trump he would like to go after leakers and “nail one to the door as a message.”

In response, Trump suggested the FBI go after reporters and noted that reporters used to go to jail, according to Comey’s memo. Trump returned to the topic of jailing reporters later in the conversation, and he suggested that investigators jail reporters in order to extract information from them, according to Comey.

“They spend a couple days in jail, make a new friend, and they are ready to talk,” Trump told Comey, according to the memo.

Comey wrote that he laughed in response to that comment from Trump.

Read part of the memo on jailing reporters:

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Following the release of ousted FBI Director James Comey’s memos Thursday night, President Donald Trump responded with indignation, insisting that that the memos vindicate him and complaining that former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn’s life was “destroyed.”

In a tweet published shortly after the memos were released Thursday night, Trump claimed that the memos show there was “NO COLLUSION and NO OBSTRUCTION” and called the Russia investigation a “witch hunt.”

Trump followed up Friday morning with a tweet suggesting that Flynn was treated unfairly while Comey faced few consequences for actions that angered Trump. The President tweeted his defense of Flynn even though the memos allege that Trump told Comey he believed Flynn had “serious judgment issues.”

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The Justice Department’s inspector general has referred his findings on former deputy director of the FBI Andrew McCabe to the U.S. attorney in Washington, D.C. for possible criminal charges, CNN and the Washington Post reported Thursday afternoon.

Inspector General Michael Horowitz found that McCabe misled investigators several times about his role in leaking information to the media. The inspector general sent the criminal referral to the U.S. attorney “some time ago,” according to the Washington Post.

The referral does not ensure that McCabe will face criminal charges, and it is not yet clear how the U.S. attorney’s office in D.C. responded to the referral.

McCabe’s attorney Michael R. Bromwich noted in a statement that the bar for an IG referral was “very low,” while arguing that the reported referral was nonetheless “unjustified.”

“We have already met with staff members from the U.S. Attorney’s Office,” said Bromwich, a former DOJ inspector general himself. “We are confident that, unless there is inappropriate pressure from high levels of the Administration, the US Attorney’s Office will conclude that it should decline to prosecute.”

The Justice Department’s Office of Inspector General released its report on McCabe’s conduct to Congress last week. The inspector general found that McCabe lacked candor in four separate conversations with investigators about his involvement in a Wall Street Journal story about the Hillary Clinton email investigation. Three of those conversations took place under oath.

McCabe was fired from the FBI shortly before he was eligible to retire, ostensibly over his conversations with investigators about the Clinton email investigation story. McCabe disputes some of the report’s findings, and his lawyer said in a statement last week that McCabe’s “treatment was far more harsh and far less fair than he deserved.”

This story has been updated to include a statement from McCabe’s attorney

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Former Playboy model Karen McDougal reached a settlement with the publisher of the National Enquirer on Wednesday releasing her from her hush agreement, but her lawyer said Thursday morning that McDougal will still defend herself if President Donald Trump goes after her credibility.

“If Donald Trump tweets tomorrow and starts saying that she’s a liar, I feel pretty confident that action will be taken. She is going to defend herself, but she also cares about her privacy and her life” McDougal’s lawyer, Peter Stris, told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” “Part of getting out of this contract is feeling like if she needs to defend herself, she can.”

Stris also said Wednesday night during Rachel Maddow’s MSNBC show that while McDougal has settled her issues with American Media, Inc. (AMI), he believes that Trump’s longtime personal attorney Michael Cohen and Keith Davidson, the lawyer who represented her while negotiating the contract with AMI, may still face consequences for their alleged involvement.

“Keith Davidson and Michael Cohen are carved out of this lawsuit. We’ll see where things go,” Stris told Maddow. “I’m very confidant that Michael Cohen and Keith Davidson will have to account for the things they have done.”

McDougal sued AMI in March demanding to be released from the contract she signed with the Trump-friendly media company shortly before the 2016 election. The agreement barred McDougal from sharing her story about her alleged affair with Trump in other publications, but AMI never ran a story on the alleged affair. In the lawsuit, McDougal alleged that Cohen was secretly involved in negotiating her contract with AMI. Cohen and Davidson were also involved in negotiating the hush agreement barring porn actress Stormy Daniels from discussing her alleged affair with Trump.

Watch Stris’ interview on MSNBC:

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Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Chuck Grassley (R-IA) on Thursday pledged to bring a bill to protect the special counsel up for a vote in committee despite Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) comment earlier in the week that he will not bring the bill up for a vote in the full Senate.

Grassley told the committee that McConnell’s views “do not govern what happens here in the Judiciary Committee.” He said that if a bill’s prospect in the full Senate always governed the committee’s actions, “we wouldn’t be probably moving any bills out of this committee.”

He also complained about media coverage of his plan to move forward with the bill.

“The press is always trying to put us between me and the President or me and the majority leader. I don’t care to be put in the middle of anything,” he said. “I just plan on doing the work that this committee ought to do.”

Though the committee was initially scheduled to consider the bill today, Grassley delayed the legislation’s markup until next week at the request of a few senators. The committee’s ranking member, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), had asked for the markup of the bill to be delayed until the committee can review a proposed amendment from Grassley, which would require the Justice Department to report to Congress ahead of major decisions regarding the special counsel. Feinstein has concerns about the amendment and said last week that she worried an amendment that the committee was unable to view could “undermine” the special counsel.

Grassley on Thursday rejected the “conspiracy theory” that he was trying to “junk the bill” with the amendment and said that he planned to share his amendment with the full committee later on Thursday.

One of the Republican sponsors of the bill, Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC), told the committee that since McConnell has not expressed interest in bringing the bill to the floor, it is up to the committee’s members to earn wider support for the legislation. He urged the committee to “dispense with the drama” and stress the bill’s “enduring value” rather than focus on the political ramifications. He said that that the bill should not be about President Donald Trump.

“I for one don’t think the President is going to fire the special counsel,” Tillis said. “I trust this President on this issue. What I don’t trust is future presidents who I don’t know yet.”

Most Republicans in the Senate have consistently seemed unconcerned that Trump could fire Mueller and believe a bill to protect the special counsel is unnecessary.

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Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s longtime personal attorney, on Wednesday dropped his defamation lawsuits against BuzzFeed News and Fusion GPS, apparently due to the federal criminal investigation he now faces.

“The decision to voluntarily discontinue these cases was a difficult one,” Cohen’s attorney David Schwartz told Politico in a statement Thursday morning. “We believe the defendants defamed my client, and vindicating Mr. Cohen’s rights was — and still remains — important. But given the events that have unfolded, and the time, attention, and resources needed to prosecute these matters, we have dismissed the matters, despite their merits.”

Cohen filed lawsuits against BuzzFeed News and Fusion GPS in January over the publication of the dossier compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele. The dossier alleged that Cohen met with Kremlin officials, a claim he has denied.

Trump’s longtime lawyer has been under grand jury investigation for several months for alleged “criminal conduct that largely centers on his personal business dealings. The investigation became public shortly after the FBI raided Cohen’s home, office, and hotel room last week.

In a Thursday morning statement, Buzzfeed News said that Cohen’s decision to drop the lawsuit shows that Cohen “no longer thinks an attack on the free press is worth his time.”

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The calendar for Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt’s trip to Morocco last year shared with ABC News in response to a Freedom of Information Act request appeared to black out most of Pruitt’s events during the trip.

But the EPA now says it publicized every meeting on the trip.

The December trip, which cost an estimated $40,000, has come under scrutiny along with Pruitt’s other expensive actions, like flying on first class domestic flights, hiring a round-the-clock security detail, building an expensive sound booth, and renting a room at a prominent lobbyist’s home. It was during this trip to Morocco that Pruitt promoted the energy company represented by the lobbyist who rented a room to Pruitt in Washington, D.C.

The calendar shared with ABC News showed that Pruitt met with Moroccan officials to discuss environmental issues, toured a green energy facility, and met with the leader of the state-owned mining company. However, the EPA redacted the rest of Pruitt’s schedule, leaving it unclear how much official business Pruitt conducted during his time in Morocco.

But on Friday afternoon, EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox sent over a copy of the un-redacted calendar, which showed that the redacted material was a senior staff meeting at EPA headquarters, not any events on Pruitt’s Morocco trip. 

“The four page redaction to the Morocco schedule is simply a calendar entry for a Senior Staff Meeting at EPA Headquarters in DC, which the Administrator did not attend because he was in Morocco,” Wilcox said. “The entry includes all attendees invited to the meeting, which is the reason for the extensive redaction. Every meeting that took place in Morocco has been publicized and included on the Administrator’s schedule.”

This story has been significantly updated based on a response from the EPA

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House Judiciary Committee Chair Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) plans to subpoena Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein for copies of the memos drafted by ousted FBI James Comey about his interactions with President Donald Trump.

Goodlatte’s plans were first reported by The Hill Wednesday evening, and Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), the Judiciary Committee’s ranking committee, later confirmed in a statement that Goodlatte informed him of the plans for a subpoena on Wednesday.

“Today, Chairman Goodlatte informed me that he intends to issue a subpoena to the Department of Justice—in this case, to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein—for former FBI Director James Comey’s memoranda,” Nadler said in a statement. “Although the Majority has shown little or no interest in conducting meaningful oversight of the Trump Administration so far, no matter what the Chairman’s motivations are today, I hope that we will now have an opportunity to review some of the evidence surrounding President Trump’s dismissal of Mr. Comey.”

Goodlatte, along with two other Republican chairmen in the House, sent a letter to Rosenstein last week asking for the memos by Monday, April 16. Rosenstein asked the committee leaders on Monday for more time to assess whether the Justice Department can share the memos given that they are evidence in an ongoing investigation. The committee leaders agreed to give Rosenstein a few more days.

In his statement Wednesday night, Nadler warned that the planned subpoena of Rosenstein may be another effort by House Republicans to undermine the Russia probe by hurting Rosenstein.

“If House Republicans refuse any accommodation short of the Department of Justice handing over custody of these documents—which it cannot do—I fear the Majority will have manufactured an excuse to hold the Deputy Attorney General in contempt of Congress. If they succeed in tarnishing the Deputy Attorney General, perhaps they will have given President Trump the pretext he has sought to replace Mr. Rosenstein with someone willing to do his bidding and end the Special Counsel’s investigation,” Nadler said in the statement.

Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) and Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) also met with Rosenstein about Republican document requests on Monday, as the Washington Post reported Wednesday night. They warned him that he could face impeachment proceedings or an effort to hold him in contempt of Congress if he does not satisfy requests for documents related to Justice Department officials conduct in the Russia probe and Hillary Clinton email probe, according to the Washington Post.

 

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President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign paid more than $66,000 to the law firm representing Trump’s former bodyguard Keith Schiller in the Russia investigation, new campaign spending filings show.

Stuart Sears of the law firm Schertler & Onorato law firm represents Schiller, who spoke to the House Intelligence Committee in November of last year. The Trump campaign paid Schertler & Onorato $66,459.12 in January 2018 for “legal consulting.”

The Trump campaign helps pay for the legal fees incurred by several Trump allies and family members, including Donald Trump Jr. and Michael Cohen, Trump’s longtime personal attorney who is now under criminal investigation.

Campaigns are allowed to pay for campaign staffers’ legal fees if the issue relates to their time on the campaign. Schiller told the House Intelligence Committee about Trump’s time in Moscow in 2013, though he may also have faced questions about his time on the Trump campaign, as NBC News noted.

Schiller himself started receiving $15,000 a month from the Republican National Committee for security consulting ahead of the 2020 Republican convention shortly after he left his White House role last year, as CNBC reported in February.

h/t NBC News

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