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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

Back in February, President Donald Trump complained to newly-confirmed Secretary of State Rex Tillerson about laws preventing U.S. companies from paying bribes to foreign officials, according to a new report in the New Yorker.

Trump complained that the laws “unfairly penalized” businesses in the U.S., according to the New Yorker.

Tillerson disagreed, however, per the New Yorker. A source with knowledge of the conversation told the New Yorker that Tillerson told the President “that America didn’t need to pay bribes—that we could bring the world up to our own standards.”

Read the New Yorker’s full story on Tillerson’s relationship with Trump here.

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As is often the case on Saturday mornings, President Donald Trump woke up frustrated and turned to Twitter to vent, directing his anger at his favorite foil: the media.

In a series of tweets, Trump targeted the Washington Post, late night hosts, and NBC News.

It appears Trump was referencing a Friday Washington Post story about the increase in small-dollar donations to the Republican party thanks to Trump’s base.

He then criticized late night hosts for favoring Democrats and suggested Republicans should have equal time on late night shows.

Trump also continued to lash out at NBC News after the outlet reported that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called Trump a “moron” and considered resigning.

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President Donald Trump called Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) on Friday to discuss a possible deal with Democrats on health care, but it does not appear that the two leaders came to any kind of agreement.

The call was first reported by Axios Friday night, and Trump and Schumer both confirmed the call Saturday morning. Trump said he wanted test the waters for a “great HealthCare bill.”

Schumer said that Trump asked him about another attempt to repeal Obamacare but that he told the President that Democrats would not work with him on that.

This is not the first time Trump has tried to reach a deal with Democrats. He rankled Republicans in September when he agreed with Democrats on a bill linking a three-month government funding measure, a three-month debt limit hike, and hurricane aid. He also discussed a plan to restore the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) protections with Democrats, but it’s not clear that Trump and Democrats will ultimately agree on the matter.

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As Iowa worked with the Department of Health and Human Services on a waiver aimed at stabilizing the state’s Obamacare marketplace, President Donald Trump personally intervened in late August and asked the department to reject the waiver, the Washington Post reported Thursday evening.

An unnamed person familiar with the exchange told the newspaper that Trump saw an article in the Wall Street Journal about Iowa’s plan, prompting him to try to intervene. Trump first tried contacting then-Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, who was out of the country at the time, according to the report. He then reached Seema Verma, head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), which was working with Iowa on finessing its waiver request, and told her to reject Iowa’s proposal.

It’s unclear whether CMS will follow Trump’s directive. Some officials within the department are still pushing for approval of Iowa’s waiver, several unnamed Republicans told the Washington Post. Iowa has not yet heard from the federal government about whether the waiver will be approved, a spokesman for the state’s insurance commissioner told the Des Moines Register.

The Trump administration has made several moves to undermine the Affordable Care Act as the Republican-controlled Congress failed in its multiple attempts to repeal the law. HHS has slashed the budget for promoting and educating the public on Obamacare and reduced funding for navigators who help people sign up for health insurance through the marketplaces. The department also cancelled plans for regional directors to travel to states and help them prepare for open enrollment.

The President also has threatened to end cost-sharing reduction payments to help insurers who cover costs for low-income people with significant health needs. The uncertainty over the Trump administration’s plans for those payments has caused insurers to drop out of the marketplaces in some areas, while an end to the payments would likely cause premiums to skyrocket.

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After the National Rifle Association on Thursday called for the federal government to look into regulating bump stocks, NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre followed up Thursday night emphasizing that the gun rights group did not call for an outright ban.

“We didn’t say ban, we didn’t say confiscate,” LaPierre told Fox News’ Sean Hannity after noting that the NRA urged the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to review whether bump stocks comply with federal law.

“The other side has been so outright trying to politicize this tragedy that we did feel the need to speak out today on this whole bump stock issue,” LaPierre said of the NRA’s statement on bump stocks.

Several bump stocks — devices that make semi-automatic guns behave more like automatic weapons — were found on the Las Vegas shooter’s guns, prompting lawmakers to review why the devices are legally available for sale. Several Republicans in Congress have called for the devices to be banned or for the government to at least hold hearings on the devices.

Despite the NRA’s call for a review of bump stocks, LaPierre still argued on Fox New Thursday nights that gun control laws don’t work.

“If legislation worked, Boston massacre wouldn’t have happened, San Bernardino where California has every gun law on the books, that wouldn’t have happened,” he said.

 

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The Treasury Department’s office of the inspector general found this week that Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin did not violate any laws with his use of government planes, but it also criticized the agency for the skimpy justification offered for Mnuchin’s travel on government planes.

The inspector general’s office reviewed Mnuchin’s air travel following reports indicating that the treasury secretary may have planned a trip to Kentucky on a government plane around the opportunity to view the solar eclipse. The watchdog found that there was no evidence to suggest Mnuchin planned the trip around the solar eclipse.

Several other Cabinet leaders are also under review by inspectors general for their use of non-commercial planes, and Tom Price recently resigned as health and human services secretary over his extensive use of charter planes.

Mnuchin has used government planes seven times this year, with approved plans to use a government aircraft an eighth time, OIG Counsel Rich Delmar found. Mnuchin requested the use of a government plane a ninth time—for his honeymoon—but withdrew that request, Delmar said. The flights so far have cost taxpayers more than $800,000, the report found.

“I see no violation of law in these requests and uses,” Delmar wrote in a report obtained by several news outlets late Thursday.

However, Delmar warned the Treasury Department to offer a more thorough justification for future requests.

“What is of concern is a disconnect between the standard of proof called for in the Daley memo, and the actual amount of proof provided by Treasury and accepted by the White House in justifying these trip requests,” he wrote. “My summaries show that in almost all cases a single boilerplate statement constituted the whole analysis and justification for designation and use of military aircraft, despite the fact that the memo clearly calls for a more rigorous and complete provision of facts and arguments.”

Delmar was referring to a 2011 memo from William Daley, then the White House chief of staff, laying out the procedures for administration officials to request use of government planes for White House support missions. All of Mnuchin’s requests were classified as White House support missions, for which the President must have directed that the travel to occur. To be designated as a White House support mission, officials must also show that commercial options were not available, that a government plane would be more cost-effective, that a government plane is necessary for national security concerns, or that other “compelling operational considerations” make a government plane necessary.

Delmar added that the Office of Management and Budget last week issued a new memo calling for more rigorous justifications for non-commercial air travel and urged the Treasury Department to “be ready to justify government air in greater detail, especially regarding cost comparisons and needs for security and other special factors.”

Mnuchin used government planes for travel abroad and within the United States. One round-trip journey on a military plane to Miami cost $43,725.50, while commercial air would have cost $688, the inspector general’s report said. For that trip, the Treasury Department said that Mnuchin needed the plane to make a secure phone call, whereas for some of the other trips the department only said that the plane and secure communications were required “given the potential for developments during travel related to a number of issues.”

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While taking a photo with military leaders and their spouses during a dinner at the White House on Thursday, President Donald Trump made a bizarre, confusing comment to reporters.

He asked reporters if they knew “what this represents,” making a hand gesture that referred to those lined up for a photo.

“Maybe it’s the calm before the storm,” he then said, answering his own question.

Asked what “storm” he was talking about, Trump at first ignored the question and remarked that the “world’s great military leaders” were present in the room.

Asked again, he was equally unhelpful. “You’ll find out,” he replied.

It’s unclear what Trump was talking about. He may have been attempting to tease some administration news to come, or perhaps he was making a joke about his dinner with military leaders.

His cryptic comment came as reports dropped that he will announce next week his intent to decertify the Iran deal.

Watch a video of the moment via CNN:

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Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao has used government planes owned by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) seven times this year to attend official events both in the United States and abroad, the Washington Post reported Thursday.

The report comes after Tom Price stepped down from the Department of Health and Human Services over the revelation that he spent about $1 million in taxpayer dollars on private and government plane trips. Several other Cabinet heads are also under review for their travel on non-commercial planes.

Chao’s non-commercial air travel appears to be more typical than Price’s trips on private jets, however. The transportation secretary has used a government plane owned by the FAA seven times, and used them only when commercial flights could not accommodate her schedule or security needs, her office told the Washington Post.

Chao spokeswoman Marianne McInerney also told the Post that the previous transportation secretary, Anthony Foxx, used FAA planes on 116 trips over four years.

By contrast, Price had flown on a private plane 24 times between May and September. One of his predecessors, Kathleen Sebelius, said that she only took a charter flight once during her time as health and human services secretary under former President Barack Obama in order to fly to a remote area that was otherwise inaccessible.

Chao used FAA planes mostly for domestic travel, according to the Post. In one instance, she had plans to fly on a commercial airline to Detroit but had to unexpectedly remain in Washington, D.C. for part of the time she was scheduled to be traveling. She used a government plane in order to make it to the events in both Detroit and Washington, D.C., per the Post.

The transportation secretary also used government planes to fly to France for the Paris Air Show, then on to Italy for a conference with the Group of Seven, and back to the U.S., per the Washington Post.

The department was unable to estimate the cost of Chao’s travel on FAA planes since the transportation department does not have to reimburse the FAA for use of the planes like other agencies.

Read the Post’s full report here.

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Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), who oversees gun issues as chair of the House Judiciary Committee, said Thursday that Republicans will look into bump stocks, the mechanism found on some of the guns owned by the Las Vegas shooter that increases a weapon’s rate of fire.

“We’re going to look at the issue,” Goodlatte told the Washington Post.

“I have a personal concern about what happened,” he added when asked if he had concerns about the legality of bump stocks, according to the Washington Post.

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and several other Republican members of the House and Senate also said this week that Congress should hold hearings on bump stocks in the wake of the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history. The gunman killed 58 people and injured more than 515 others.

Rep. Bill Flores (R-TX) became the first Republican lawmaker Wednesday to call for Congress to ban bump stocks, and others since have have said they would be willing to consider a ban or restrictions on the sale of those devices.

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As Republicans in Congress voice increasing openness to reviewing bump stocks in the wake of the Las Vegas shooting, conservatives have sought to tie those gun add-ons back to the Obama administration.

Several conservatives have pointed out since Wednesday night that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) decided in 2010 that bump stocks would not be regulated under the Gun Control Act or the National Firearms Act.

Bump stocks are a legally available mechanism that, when attached to a semi-automatic weapon, increase the speed at which the weapon can fire, allowing the gun to shoot between 400 and 800 rounds in a minute. They were initially created as a way to help disabled people shoot guns. Police found bump stocks on 12 guns in the Las Vegas shooter’s hotel room, prompting lawmakers to take a closer look at the devices.

When asked Thursday morning on CNN about the potential for gun control legislation to move forward, White House adviser Kellyanne Conway mentioned twice that bump stocks had been approved by the ATF under the Obama administration.

Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), who said Wednesday he was open to reviewing bump stocks, also noted the ATF’s 2010 decision in a tweet Thursday morning.

Several conservative news outlets seized on that timeline, too. Breitbart News noted that the ATF approved bump stocks under Obama “because they do not convert a semiautomatic rifle into an automatic.”

The Resurgent went up with the headline, “Guess who approved the ‘bump stock’? That’s right, Obama’s ATF.” The article’s author, Steve Berman, wrote, “Liberals are all enraged that Stephen Paddock could transform two AR-15s into ‘machine guns’ using a simple ‘bump stock’ device. Now they know who to blame.”

National Rifle Association spokeswoman and conservative radio host Dana Loesch also noted the 2010 approval on Twitter:

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