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

Up early Monday morning stewing over Republicans’ loss in the Alabama special election, President Donald Trump tried to return focus to the five special elections Republicans won since November 2016.

Trump issued a “reminder” that the GOP is “5-0 in Congressional Races this year,” an apparent reference to the House races Republicans successfully defended after Trump named members to his cabinet. Republican Roy Moore, a staunchly conservative former judge who was accused of sexual misconduct, was defeated by Democrat Doug Jones in the race to fill the Senate seat vacated by Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Though Trump now says that he predicted GOP Virginia gubernatorial candidate Ed Gillespie and Moore would lose, he endorsed both candidates who went on to lose key races in 2017.

The President has been uncharacteristically quiet in the wake of Republicans’ stunning loss in Alabama. Typically moved to fire off angry tweets in the face of defeat, Trump has only published a few items about the race since Moore lost last week. He distanced himself from Moore’s loss and blamed others for the way the race turned out, but aides were reportedly surprised at Trump’s relative calm last week.


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President Donald Trump told reporters Sunday evening that he does not have plans to fire special counsel Robert Mueller after Trump’s transition team accused Mueller of improperly obtaining emails.

“No, I’m not,” the President replied when asked if he intends to fire Mueller.

A lawyer representing Trump’s transition team wrote a letter to the Senate Homeland Security Committee and House Oversight Committee accusing the General Services Administration (GSA) of illegally turning over documents.

Asked about the accusation on Sunday evening, Trump told reporters that it’s “not looking good.”

“It’s quite sad to see that. My people are very upset about it. I can’t imagine there’s anything on ‘em, frankly, because as we said, there’s no collusion. There’s no collusion whatsoever. A lot of lawyers thought that was pretty sad,” Trump said.

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Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) returned to Arizona for rehabilitation as he undergoes cancer treatment and will not return to Washington, D.C. until January, the senator’s office announced Sunday evening.

McCain will not be present for the vote on the Republican tax cut bill, though the GOP appears to have enough support for the legislation to pass the measure without McCain’s vote.

President Donald Trump told reporters Sunday evening that he spoke with McCain’s wife and that he understands McCain would return to Washington, D.C. if Republicans need his vote.

“I wished her well. I wish John well. They’ve headed back. But I understand he’ll come if we ever needed his vote, which hopefully we won’t. But the word is John will come back if we need his vote,” Trump said. “It’s too bad. He’s going through very tough time, there’s no question about it. But he will come back if we need his vote.”

The senator, who was diagnosed with cancer earlier this year, was treated for a viral infection at Walter Reed Medical Center in Washington, D.C. last week, his doctor said in a statement released by McCain’s office. He then returned to Arizona to recover, his office said.

“Senator McCain has returned to Arizona and will undergo physical therapy and rehabilitation at Mayo Clinic. He is grateful for the excellent care he continues to receive, and appreciates the outpouring of support from people all over the country. He looks forward to returning to Washington in January,” McCain’s office said in the statement.

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The House Ethics Committee announced Friday afternoon that it would investigate allegations that Rep. Ruben Kihuen (D-NV) sexually harassed a campaign staffer during the 2016 election cycle.

A former campaign staffer came forward earlier this month and told BuzzFeed News that she left her job on the Kihuen campaign because Kihuen asked her on dates and to have sex despite her repeated rejections and touched her legs without consent twice. She told BuzzFeed that she complained to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee about Kihuen’s behavior, and Buzzfeed reported that a DCCC staffer approached Kihuen’s campaign manager about the complaint. A DCCC employee spoke to Kihuen’s campaign manager, who confronted Kihuen.

Kihuen denied wrongdoing at the time, per BuzzFeed News, and he has refused to step down now that the allegation has been made public.

In refusing to step down, he said this month that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM), the chair of the DCCC, both knew about the allegation during the campaign. He claimed that the DCCC investigated the matter and found nothing.

Pelosi and Lujan both denied that they knew about the allegation before it was made public by Buzzfeed News. Pelosi has since called on Kihuen to resign.

Read the House Ethics Committee’s memo:

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President Donald Trump offered nothing but praise for the law enforcement officers graduating from a 10-week course at the FBI on Friday morning, just an hour after he complained about the state of the FBI.

Speaking at the FBI National Academy, the President ensured the law enforcement officers in the audience that he is a “true friend” of the police, claiming that he’s “more loyal than anyone else can be.” He called for Americans to show more respect to law enforcement officers and told them to tell their colleagues when they return to their local precincts, “The President of the United States has your back 100 percent.”

His effusive praise for law enforcement officers across the country during a ceremony at the FBI came not long after he dissed the bureau. He told reporters outside the White House on Friday morning that “it’s a shame what’s happened to the FBI, but we’re going to rebuild the FBI.” Trump has been hostile toward the FBI since before his presidency and fired James Comey as the bureau’s director last spring. Recently, conservatives have obsessed over text messages criticizing Trump during the 2016 election from a FBI employee who worked on Mueller’s probe.

After offering praise and support for law enforcement in his speech at the FBI, Trump lamented the state of crime in America, focusing on Chicago, as he often does. Trump asked the audience, “What the hell is going on in Chicago?”

He also repeated his calls for people who kill police officers to receive the death penalty and for Congress to end “chain migration,” complaining that foreign countries send the U.S. their “worst people.”

Trump was unable to make it through his speech without attacking the media, mentioning toward the end of his remarks that members of the “fake news” were present in the room.

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During a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing earlier this week, one of President Donald Trump’s judicial nominees struggled to answer basic questions from a Republican senator about legal terms.

Matthew Spencer Petersen, who was nominated to serve as a district court judge for the District of Columbia, formerly served on the Federal Election Commission and as Republican chief counsel to the U.S. Senate Committee on Rules and Administration.

Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) quizzed Petersen on his legal background and knowledge on Wednesday, beginning by asking if he had ever tried a case in court. Petersen replied that he had not. Petersen also said that he has never taken a deposition on his own, though he helped while working as an associate at a law firm after he finished law school.

Kennedy then started on legal terminology, asking Petersen if he knows what the Daubert standard is.

“Sen. Kennedy, I don’t have that readily at my disposal, but I would be happy to take a closer look at that. That is not something I’ve had to contend with,” Petersen replied.

Similarly, Petersen said he did not have a deep understanding of a motion to limine. The nominee then touted his experience at the FEC, which he argued has prepared him to be a judge.

“Yes, I’ve read your resume,” Kennedy interjected before asking again about a motion to limine. “Just for the record, do you know what a motion in limine is?”

“I would probably not be able to give you a good definition right here at the table,” Petersen replied.

Watch a video of the exchange shared by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) Thursday night:

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Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) on Thursday introduced a bill along with eight Republican co-sponsors in the Senate to change the way Congress deals with harassment and discrimination claims.

The recent spate of sexual misconduct claims against lawmakers on Capitol Hill has prompted Congress to scrutinize the current laborious, secretive process for reporting and addressing sexual misconduct on the Hill. Several lawmakers have introduced proposals to change the system, and Gillibrand’s is the latest to do so. Her bill has the distinction of having eight Republican co-sponsors, including Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), the No. 2 Republican in the senate.

“Congress should never be above the law or play by their own set of rules,” said Gillibrand said in a statement Thursday announcing the bill. “There are real costs to sexual harassment in the workplace. We now know that many people quit their jobs because of it, or miss out on promotions or raises, all of which can throw off the entire trajectory in their careers. We must ensure that Congress handles complaints to create an environment where staffers can come forward if something happens to them without having to fear that it will ruin their careers. This bipartisan legislation would bring us much closer to that goal.”

The legislation, titled the Congressional Harassment Reform Act, would have victims decide how to resolve their complaint, according to Gillibrand’s office. The current system requires victims to go through counseling before filing a formal complaint, an aspect that has been widely criticized by Democrats.

The bill would also mandate that members of Congress pay any settlements out of their own pockets and that any settlements for a member must be approved by the House or Senate ethics committee, Gillibrand’s office said in a press release about the legislation. It would also require Congress to publicly disclose any settlements unless the victim asks for the settlement to remain private.

The legislation also includes provisions mandating sexual harassment training, creates the position of a confidential adviser to help those filing reports of harassment or discrimination, and would change the name of the office that handles these issues from the Office of Compliance to the Office of Congressional Workplace Rights, per Gillibrand’s office.

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Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced on Thursday that he has fired four top officials in the department for “inappropriate behavior” on the same day that the department released a survey showing that about a third of staffers at Interior have experienced harassment or discrimination over the course of the last year.

“I’m speaking today to make it clear that the culture of harassment and intimidation, which this administration inherited, has come to an end. I’ve already removed four senior leaders that were guilty of inappropriate behavior, and I will remove 400 more if necessary,” Zinke said in a video published on the Interior Department website. “Intimidation, harassment and discrimination is a cancer to any organization. However deep it goes, we will remove it from Interior.”

Zinke did not detail the “inappropriate behavior” exhibited by the four fired employees, leaving unclear the nature of the harassment or discrimination. The secretary also suggested that the Obama administration was to blame for allowing a culture of harassment, portraying himself as the harbinger of change.

“In the past, the words ‘zero tolerance’ have been an empty promise. While past leaders at Interior have said the right things, there was very little if any action,” he said in the video. “To be clear, Interior will no longer protect predators or accept inappropriate behavior.”

Asked for details Thursday on any staffers fired as a result of the survey, Interior Department spokeswoman Heather Swift would not say much to the Associated Press, but she did say that those terminated abused their authority, including with sexual harassment.

“Generally speaking, those terminated abused their authority to intimidate or harass fellow employees. This includes but is not limited to sexual harassment,” Swift told the AP in a statement.

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President Donald Trump spoke with Vladimir Putin over the phone on Thursday and thanked the Russian leader for lauding U.S. economic performance during his annual press conference, the White House said Thursday evening.

Putin specifically praised Trump’s “quite serious achievements” when it comes to economic growth during the press conference. The Russian leader also dismissed the notion that Russia worked with the Trump campaign to influence the 2016 election.

As special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe intensifies, Trump has continued to deny that his campaign colluded with Russia. The President has also avoided affirming the wide-held belief that Russia was behind the 2016 election hacking, so much so that his aides avoid mentioning it to him, according to the Washington Post.

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Following reports indicating that House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) is seriously considering retiring from Congress, a spokeswoman for the speaker said that he is “not going anywhere anytime soon.”

Strong indicated that Brendan Buck, a counselor to Ryan, would have additional comment, but he had not yet weighed in early Thursday afternoon.

Ryan also addressed speculation that he is thinking about retiring on Thursday. Asked as he was leaving his weekly press briefing whether he was quitting any time soon, Ryan replied, “I’m not.”

Two recent reports sparked the speculation.

The Huffington Post reported on Wednesday night that Republicans in Congress have been hearing rumors and speculation that Ryan will step aside soon now that he’s on the cusp of passing tax cuts, a long-held dream of his.

Politico followed up Thursday afternoon reporting that Ryan has told confidants that this will be his final term as speaker and that he’s considering retiring from Congress altogether at the end of this congress. Per Politico:

More recently, over closely held conversations with his kitchen cabinet, Ryan’s preference has become clear: He would like to serve through Election Day 2018 and retire ahead of the next Congress.

After the Politico report dropped, CNN published a report that Ryan has been “soul searching” about his future with close friends, and that those friends think it’s possible Ryan could leave Congress after the 2018 election.

Asked about the reports that Ryan is considering retirement, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Thursday afternoon that Trump spoke with Ryan recently and that the speaker assured him that the reports were not accurate.

“The President did speak to the speaker not too long ago, and made sure that the speaker knew very clearly, in no uncertain terms, that if that news was true he was very unhappy with it. The speaker has assured the President that those were not accurate reports, and they look forward to working together for a long time to come,” Sanders told reporters at the daily press briefing.

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