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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 Office of Government Ethics (OGE) revealed on Monday that the White House is investigating whether Jared Kushner broke any laws or regulations by reportedly taking White House meetings with businesses that later loaned money to his family’s business.

The New York Times reported in February that Kushner met with Joshua Harris, a founder of Apollo Global Management, several times at the White House while Harris was advising the administration and in talks for a job at the White House. In November, Apollo loaned the Kushner Companies $184 million. Kushner also met with Citigroup CEO Michael Corbat not long before Citigroup loaned the Kushner Companies $325 million, according to the New York Times.

Earlier in March, Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL) wrote to OGE asking whether Kushner’s meetings with companies who later loaned money to his family presented a ethics issues for the top White House aide.

In a March 22 letter responding to Krishnamoorthi made public on Monday, OGE Director David Apol said that Kushner’s loans and meetings were worth investigating and that the White House had already launched a probe.

“I have discussed this matter with the White House Counsel’s Office in order to ensure that they have begun the process of ascertaining the facts necessary to determine whether any law or regulation has been violated and whether any additional procedures are necessary to avoid violations in the future,” Apol wrote. “During that discussion, the White House informed me that they had already begun this process.”

Abbe Lowell, Kushner’s attorney, told the Wall Street Journal that “the White House counsel concluded there was were no issues involving Jared” and said that Jared Kushner had nothing to do with the loans.

Both Apollo and Citigroup have said that the loans went through the standard approval processes.

Read Apol’s letter:

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President Donald Trump is still in touch Rob Porter, the aide fired over allegations of domestic abuse, and wishes that he could return to the White House, the New York Times reported Monday night.

Trump speaks to Porter over the phone, and their conversations have increased over the past few weeks, people familiar with the calls told the New York Times. The President has told some advisers that he hopes Porter comes back to the White House, per the New York Times. However, Trump has also said that he knows he probably can’t bring Porter back on, the Times reported.

Porter served as the staff secretary and controlled the flow of paper to Trump’s desk. The President has said recently that he misses the structure that Porter enforced, according to the New York Times.

Porter left the White House in early February after reports surfaced alleging that he abused his two ex-wives. When the first report surfaced, top White House staff came to Porter’s defense, but as the accusations from his ex-wives intensified, the Trump administration walked back its support of Porter and he was forced to resign.

Read the New York Times’ full report here.

 

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White House Principal Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah said on Monday that President Donald Trump does not believe porn actress Stormy Daniels’ claim in a “60 Minutes” interview that she was threatened in 2011 not to share the details of her alleged relationship with Trump.

“The president doesn’t believe any of the claims that Ms Daniels made last night in the interview are accurate,” Shah said in the daily press briefing when asked about the alleged threat made against Daniels.

Asked for the basis of Trump’s belief, Shah said that “there’s nothing to corroborate her claim.”

Though Shah shared Trump’s thoughts on the interview, he would not confirm that the President watched the interview that aired on CBS Sunday evening.

Shah also argued that Daniels has been inconsistent in her claims, a reference to the signed statements from Clifford denying an affair with the President issued by Trump attorney Michael Cohen. Clifford said on “60 Minutes” that those statements were false and that she felt pressured to sign them.

“With respect to that interview, I will say the President strongly, clearly and has consistently denied these underlying claims. And the only person who has been inconsistent is the one making the claims,” Shah said Monday.

Watch a clip of Shah’s comments via CBS:

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Rep. Steve King’s (R-IA) campaign Facebook page on Sunday posted a meme criticizing Parkland student Emma Gonzalez for wearing a Cuban flag patch on her jacket at the “March for Our Lives” rally calling for gun control on Saturday.

“This is how you look when you claim Cuban heritage yet don’t speak Spanish and inure the fact that your ancestors fled the island when the dictatorship turned Cuba into a prison camp, after removing all the weapons from its citizens; hence their right to self defense,” the meme with a picture of Gonzalez reads.

Gonzalez, who has arguably become the face of the student movement for gun control in the wake of a deadly shooting at her school, was born in the U.S. but her father immigrated from Cuba in the 1960s.

On the King campaign Facebook page, Pulse night club shooting survivor Brandon Wolf responded to the meme with outrage.

“Are you SERIOUSLY mocking a school shooting survivor for her ethnic identity?!” he asked. “Do you losers have NOTHING else to do anymore? Have you lost the will to govern? Do you need a safe space from these teenagers?”

In response, the King campaign wrote, “Pointing out the irony of someone wearing the flag of a communist country while simultaneously calling for gun control isn’t ‘picking’ on anyone. It’s calling attention to the truth, but we understand that lefties find that offensive.”

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Cambridge Analytica, a firm that helped with the Trump campaign’s data operations, sent foreign workers to advise Republican campaigns in the U.S. for the 2014 elections, former employees told the Washington Post for a report published Sunday.

Election rules in the U.S. dictate that foreign nationals cannot partake in the “decision-making process” of a campaign and can only serve in a minor role. However, foreign nationals employed by Cambridge Analytica helped decide which voters to target and craft messages sent to those voters, according to the Washington Post.

Following the Washington Post’s report, progressive watchdog group Common Cause filed complaints with both the Federal Election Commission and the Justice Department, calling on both entities to investigate whether Cambridge Analytica violated election rules by employing foreign nationals to advise campaigns in the U.S.

Cambridge Analytica has come under fire recently due to reports that the firm improperly obtained data from Facebook for its election work. Special counsel Robert Mueller is examining links between the firm and President Donald Trump’s campaign, as well as the campaign’s use of voter data.

Read the Washington Post’s full report here.

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Elliott Broidy, a top fundraiser for President Donald Trump, told clients and possible clients, including foreign officials, that he could set up meetings with the White House, the New York Times reported on Sunday.

Broidy, the Republican National Committee’s deputy finance director, has ties to George Nader, the adviser to the United Arab Emirate who is cooperating with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. The New York Times obtained correspondence between Broidy and Nader last week that showed the two discussing how to push the interests of the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia with the White House.

Nader also paid Broidy millions of dollars last April as Broidy was donating to members of Congress involved in crafting legislation involving Qatar, according to a new report from the Associated Press.

Mueller’s team is looking at whether Nader funneled money from the United Arab Emirate to the Trump campaign. Nader met with a Russian fund manager and informal Trump adviser Erik Prince in the Seychelles in January 2017, which Mueller is looking at. The special counsel is also interested in a December 2016 meeting between Nader, UAE officials, and Trump associates.

Read the full New York Times piece here.

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A lawyer representing Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s longtime personal attorney, sent a cease and desist letter to the lawyer for Stephanie Clifford, the porn actress who uses the name Stormy Daniels, on Sunday night after Clifford appeared on CBS’ “60 Minutes” to discuss her alleged affair with Trump.

Cohen’s lawyer, Brent Blakely, charged that Clifford made “false and defamatory statements” during the “60 Minutes” interview, specifically when she claimed that she was threatened in a Las Vegas parking lot in 2011 not to discuss her relationship with Trump.

Blakely denied that Cohen has anything to do with the threat.

“In truth, Mr. Cohen had absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with any such person or incident, and does not even believe that any such person exists, or that such incident ever occurred,” Blakely wrote. “You and your client’s false statements about Mr. Cohen accuse him of criminal conduct and constitute, among other claims, libel per se and intentional infliction of emotional distress. It would appear that your statements of alleged criminal conduct are being made to obtain an advantage in a civil dispute, which is also improper.”

Blakely demanded that Daniels and Avenatti retract the statements made in the “60 Minutes” interview and apologize.

Asked about the letter on Monday morning, Clifford’s lawyer, Michael Avenatti told CNN, “Michael Cohen needs to stop hiding behind pieces of paper and come clean with the American public.”

In the “60 Minutes” interview, Clifford did not suggest that Cohen was behind the threat. However, after the interview, Avenatti said in a tweet that the threat “could only have come from one place.”

Asked about this Monday morning on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” Avenatti said that he does not have any evidence that the threat came from Cohen or Trump but said that he believes it came from a Trump associate.

“It had to have come from someone associated with Mr. Trump. There’s no other place for it to have come from,” Avenatti said.

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Rep. Ryan Costello (R-PA) revealed on Sunday that he will not seek re-election in his district in the suburbs of Philadelphia, which was redrawn to favor Democrats earlier this year.

Costello told the West Chester paper the Daily Local News that he was leaving Congress due to the current “political environment.”

“Whether it’s (President Trump’s rumored affair with porn start) Stormy Daniels, or passing an omnibus spending bill that the president threatens to veto after promising to sign, it’s very difficult to move forward in a constructive way today,” he said. “Plus I think there is a lot of hate out there, from the left especially, and it’s a very angry environment.”

Read the latest reporter’s sum-up (Prime access) on voting rights »

Costello’s decision comes after the state Supreme Court redrew the congressional map in Pennsylvania after ruling that the old map draw by Republicans was unconstitutional. Republicans have fought the decision and attempted to impeach state Supreme Court justices appointed by Democrats.

In an interview later on Sunday, Costello admitted to MSNBC’s Kasie Hunt that the new map was a factor in his decision to retire.

“The combination of what I’ve had to deal with, just in terms of having a young family, what the state Supreme Court did — which I think was obscene — along with the political environment has me — led me to the decision,” he said. “It’s been a very tough decision for me to make, but I think I’m making the right decision.”

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President Donald Trump begrudgingly signed the spending bill Congress passed this week, but he swore that he would never sign something like it again.

“I will never sign another bill like this again,” he said at press availability scheduled at the last minute Friday afternoon.

Trump said that he was only signing the massive spending bill because he wanted to ensure that the military has proper funding and expressed frustration that Democrats were able to secure funding for programs they favor.

“There are a lot of things I’m unhappy about in this bill,” he said.

The President also complained about the rushed nature of the spending deal, which was released Wednesday night, passed by the House on Thursday, and then passed by the Senate early Friday morning.

“You tell me who can read that quickly,” he said.

Trump’s announcement that he signed the bill came after he published a tweet Friday morning threatening to veto it, complaining that it lacked sufficient money for the border wall. Though the White House had stated earlier that Trump would sign the bill, his tweet put the spending bill in jeopardy for a few hours.

Trump also called for Congress to give him the ability to issue a line-item veto, a power that was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in the 1990s.

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White House Counsel Don McGahn is considering leaving President Donald Trump’s administration later this year, though nothing is set in stone, Politico reported on Friday morning.

Politico reported, citing sources familiar with McGahn’s thinking, that he has “signaled interest” in returning to the law firm Jones Day, which handles legal matters for Trump’s campaign.

McGahn is eager to leave but his departure may depend on whether he can find a replacement of whom Trump approves, according to Politico. He has expressed a desire to leave by this summer, but may wait until after the midterm elections in November, according to the report.

McGahn’s time in the White House, like the rest of Trump’s administration, has been marked by turmoil related to the federal Russia probe. He reportedly threatened to quit last summer after Trump ordered him to fire special counsel Robert Mueller (and subsequently backed off). He also engaged in a heated debate in September 2017 with White House lawyer Ty Cobb over how much the administration should cooperate with Mueller’s probe.

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