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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

Following a report in the New York Times that President Donald Trump has privately questioned the authenticity of the infamous “Access Hollywood” tape released last year, “Access Hollywood” host Natalie Morales made a point to tell viewers that the tape is authentic.

“We wanted to clear something up that has been reported across the media landscape,” Morales said Monday.

“Let us make this perfectly clear: The tape is very real,” she continued. “Remember his excuse at the time was ‘locker-room talk.’ He said every one of those words.”

The New York Times reported over the weekend that Trump suggested to a senator earlier this year that the “Access Hollywood” tape, in which Trump bragged about groping women, was fake. Trump made the same suggestion to an adviser recently, per the New York Times.

However, at the time the tape was released, Trump acknowledged that he made the comments and apologized.

Asked about the New York Times report Monday, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that Trump has not “changed his position” on the tape.

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House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said Monday evening that she met with a former staffer to Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), Melanie Sloane, who accused the congressman of sexual misconduct. Pelosi said she believes the woman.

“This afternoon, I spoke with Melanie Sloan, who worked for Congressman Conyers on the Judiciary Committee in the mid-1990s. Ms. Sloan told me that she had publicly discussed distressing experiences while on his staff. I find the behavior Ms. Sloan described unacceptable and disappointing. I believe what Ms. Sloan has told me,” Pelosi said in a Monday evening statement.

Sloan told the Washington Post last week that Conyers verbally abused her when she worked for the congressman on the House Judiciary Committee in the 1990s. Sloan said that she would not characterize Conyers’ actions toward her as sexual harassment but said that the congressman often berated her. She also told the Washington Post that on one occasion when Conyers summoned her to his office, she found Conyers dressed only in his underwear.

“I was pretty taken aback to see my boss half-dressed,” Sloan told the Washington Post. “I turned on my heel and I left.”

Sloan told the Washington Post that she reported Conyers’ behavior to her supervisor and told a senior staffer to then-House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt (D-MO) at the time. Sloan said her complaints were ignored.

“There was nothing I could do to stop it,” she told the Post. “Not going to leadership, not going to my boss, not going to a women’s group, not going to a reporter. I was dismissed and told I must be mentally unstable.”

Pelosi said Monday evening that Sloan gave her “valuable feedback into the substantive reforms many of us in Congress are advocating to foster a climate of respect and dignity, and to protect legislative branch employees.”

“I have not had the opportunity to speak with the other women, one of whom cannot speak publicly because of the secretive settlement process in place. That ridiculous system must be ended and victims who want to come forward to the Ethics Committee must be able to do so,” Pelosi added.

Pelosi has called for a House Ethics Committee investigation into the allegations against Conyers, but she has not called on the congressman to step down. Amid allegations of sexual misconduct from several former female staffers, Conyers has stepped down from his role as ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee.

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This post has been updated.

Another former staffer to Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) this week accused the powerful Democratic congressman of sexual misconduct, telling the Detroit News that Conyers made unwanted sexual advances on three separate occasions.

Deanna Maher, a former deputy chief of staff who worked for Conyers in his Michigan office from 1997 to 2005, said that the first incident occurred in September 1997 shortly after she was hired by Conyers. Maher told the Detroit News that she did not have her own hotel room for an event with the Congressional Black Caucus, and Conyers had her stay in his hotel suite. Maher said that she rejected the congressman’s offer to stay in his room and have sex.

Maher later described the incident to CNN, and said that Conyers walked into her room in the two-room suite and took off his clothes.

“So I got into bed and all of the sudden, John Conyers walked into my bedroom,” she told CNN. “If you can imagine how ridiculous I looked, I put on my suitcoat. I had a suit coat on in bed. I was shaking. I was absolutely shaking. And he took off his clothes and then I figured it out: ‘Oh my God. What did I do? How stupid. At my age, that I walked in and got myself into a situation like that.'”

Maher said she was silent and that Conyers then left the room.

“He didn’t touch me, so he just stormed out of the room because I didn’t say anything,” she told CNN.

Maher told the Detroit News that Conyers also touched her inappropriately in a car in 1998 while he was driving and she was in the passenger seat.

“He was trying to feel me up with his right hand,” Maher said. “I kept pushing his hand away. Then he put his hand on my neck and started trying to tickle me. We were on I-75, and he was driving erratically. I was saved by the bell because we got pulled over by the police for the way he was driving.”

She also said that during a meeting in 1999, Conyers “put his hand up my dress and whispered in my ear, ‘I didn’t know you had such great legs.'”

Responding to Maher’s claims, Conyers’ lawyer, Arnold Reed, questioned why Maher remained as a Conyers staffer if she faced unwanted sexual advances and denied that Conyers did anything wrong.

Maher told the Detroit News that she remained in the position because she needed the work.

“I needed to earn a living, and I was 57. How many people are going to hire you at that age?” she told the Detroit News.

Maher told former Detroit News reporters about the incidents on two previous occasions but did not want to go on the record then. She also said that she reported an assault by another Conyers staffer to the House Ethics Committee and  U.S. Attorney’s Office in 2001. Maher told the Detroit News that a male employee grabbed her and forcibly kissed her.

Maher is one of several former Conyers staffers who has accused the congressman of sexual misconduct recently. BuzzFeed News reported last week that Conyers reached a settlement with a former staffer who claimed she was fired for refusing Conyers’ sexual advances. Another former Conyers staffer, Melanie Sloan, later told the Washington Post that Conyers verbally abused her and once called her into his office where she found the congressman in his underwear.

Amid the allegations last week, Conyers stepped down as the ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee, but the congressman has denied any wrongdoing.

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Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) said on Sunday that he was unable to unequivocally deny that he has ever placed a hand on a woman’s butt.

“I can’t say that that hasn’t happened. I take thousands and thousands of pictures, sometimes in crowded chaotic situations, I can’t say that I haven’t done that. I am very sorry if these women experienced that,” Franken told Minnesota TV station WCCO when asked if he had ever placed a hand on a woman’s butt.

Franken’s answer came after a lengthy back-and-forth with WCCO’s Esme Murphy. When first asked about the allegations, Franken apologized for his behavior.

“I’m a warm person and I hug people, and in some of these encounters, the pictures or meetings, some women — and any is too many — have felt that I have crossed a line, and I am terribly sorry about that,” he said.

Murphy noted that women accused him of grabbing or cupping their butts and asked, “When you grab somebody’s butt, don’t you know it?”

“I understand that. And I am going to have to do everything I can going forward to be enormously sensitive. I apologize to these women,” Franken replied, adding that he wants to “better understand the woman’s experience.”

Murphy followed up, “Are they mistaken that their butt was grabbed? Is that what you are saying?”

“I am not saying that,” the senator responded. “As I said, I take thousands of photos, so I don’t remember these particular photos.”

Franken later said that he regrets that he made women “feel disrespected.”

Murphy then noted his use of the word “disrespected” and told Franken that he was accused of molesting a woman.

“I understand that, and again, I say that I respect her experience,” Franken replied.

Watch the full interview via WCCO:

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When President Donald Trump decided to fire James Comey as FBI director in the midst of the Russia probe, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) was stumped.

He told Esquire in an interview conducted in May and published on Sunday that he found Trump’s decision “hard to comprehend.” The senator said that the way the firing was handled was also bizarre.

Trump sent a staffer to hand deliver a letter to the FBI informing Comey that he was fired, but Comey was not in his office. Comey first learned the news when he saw it on a television in the background while he was giving a speech.

“It’s just a comedy of errors,” McCain told Esquire.

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Former White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci threatened to sue a student and the student-run newspaper at Tufts University over an op-ed published in the newspaper that Scaramucci claims is “defamatory,” the Boston Globe reported on Sunday.

In a letter, Scaramucci’s lawyer demanded that Camilo A. Caballero, a graduate student, and The Tufts Daily retract “false and defamatory allegations of fact” from an op-ed written by Caballero for the paper, according to the Boston Globe.

“Mr. Scaramucci is ready to take legal action to correct these false and defamatory statements — and to prevent any further damage to his reputation — but will refrain from litigation if you retract the false statements and issue a public apology,” Samuel J. Lieberman, Scaramucci’s lawyer, wrote a the letter last week, per the Boston Globe

Scaramucci also wrote an email to Caballero on Nov. 16, telling the student to “back it up or you will hear from my lawyer,” according to the Boston Globe.

“You may have a difference of opinion from me politically which I respect but you can’t make spurious claims about my reputation and integrity,” he wrote in the email, according to the Globe.

Caballero wrote in the op-ed that Scaramucci is “irresponsible, inconsistent” and “an unethical opportunist,” and he called for Scaramucci, a Tufts alum, to step down from his position on an advisory board for Tufts’ Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.

Since Scaramucci’s threat to sue Caballero and The Tufts Daily, Tufts University postponed a Monday event with Scaramucci. University spokesman Patrick Collins said that at the event, attendees were set to discuss Scaramucci’s background and a petition from students calling for his removal from the board, but that the school delayed the event until after the “legal matters” are settled.

“We’re disappointed that Mr. Scaramucci has taken this action,” Collins told the Boston Globe.

In a Sunday interview with the Boston Globe, Scaramucci said that he’s “shocked that a university that I love and have been a part of for 35 years is silencing that debate because of my request for an apology.”

Scaramucci then defended his reaction to the op-ed in a series of tweets Sunday night.

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The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s top lawyer wrote in a legal opinion on Saturday that President Donald Trump had the authority to name the interim director for the bureau upon the resignation of Richard Cordray, Politico reported Sunday night.

“It is my legal opinion that the president possesses the authority to designate an acting director for the bureau,” Mary McLeod, the top lawyer at the CFPB, wrote in the Nov. 25 memo obtained by Politico. “I advise all bureau personnel to act consistently with the understanding that Director Mulvaney is the acting director of the CFPB.”

Despite the legal opinion issued in favor of Trump, the CFPB’s deputy director, who was named by outgoing director Richard Cordray as the interim bureau chief, sued the Trump administration on Sunday.

Upon Cordray’s resignation, Trump named Mick Mulvaney, the director of the Office of Management and Budget, the interim director of the bureau. However, Cordray chose the bureau’s deputy director, Leandra English, to serve as director until the Senate approves a permanent bureau chief.

In a lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia Sunday, English argued that the Dodd-Frank Act allows her to take over as interim director.

In a statement to Politico, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that McLeod’s legal opinion shows Trump has the authority to name an interim director.

“Now that the CFPB’s own General Counsel – who was hired under Richard Cordray – has notified the Bureau’s leadership that she agrees with the Administration’s and DOJ’s reading of the law, there should be no question that Director Mulvaney is the Acting Director,” Sanders said. “It is unfortunate that Mr. Cordray decided to put his political ambition above the interests of consumers with this stunt.”

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House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) on Tuesday afternoon called on the House Ethics Committee to investigate the sexual harassment allegations against Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) that surfaced Monday night.

“As members of Congress, we each have a responsibility to uphold the integrity of the House of Representatives and to ensure a climate of dignity and respect, with zero tolerance for harassment, discrimination, bullying or abuse. As I have said before, any credible allegation of sexual harassment must be investigated by the Ethics Committee,” Pelosi said in a statement.

BuzzFeed News reported Monday night that Conyers’ office paid a settlement to a former staffer who alleged that she was fired after refusing the congressman’s sexual advances. In affidavits obtained by BuzzFeed, several Conyers staffers described the congressman’s behavior toward female employees, which allegedly included rubbing a staffer’s leg, rubbing a staffer’s hand and inviting female staffers to stay with him in his hotel room.

Conyers on Tuesday acknowledged that he paid the settlement to the staffer but denied the allegations.

“I expressly and vehemently denied the allegations made against me, and continue to do so,” he said in a statement. “My office resolved the allegations – with an express denial of liability – in order to save all involved from the rigors of protracted litigation. That should not be lost in the narrative.”

In her Tuesday afternoon statement, Pelosi also called for Congress to pass the Me Too Act, legislation sponsored by Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) in the House that would overhaul the system for filing and addressing complaints of sexual harassment in Congress.

Under the current system, staffers must undergo counseling before they can file a sexual harassment complaint, and the accusers are not provided legal counsel. Speier argues that these two factors make the process burdensome for victims. It was revealed recently that the Office of Compliance, which handles sexual misconduct complaints, has paid out more than $17 million in settlements over the past 20 years.

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Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s wife, Lolita Zinke, sent Interior Department staffers scrambling this year with two separate requests regarding travel plans with her husband on official trips, according to documents published Monday.

The travel itineraries and emails were obtained through a Freedom of Information act lawsuit filed by the Western Values Project and were first reported on by Politico. The documents were subsequently published by the Washington Post.

The documents confirm that Lolita Zinke accompanied her husband on at least two official trips, one to Norway and Alaska in May, and another to California in April. The department’s inspector general last week told Interior officials that they did not properly document the secretary’s travel and complained that the watchdog had been unable to determine which trips Lolita Zinke attended with the secretary.

Ryan Zinke, as well as other cabinet leaders, has come under scrutiny for his use of private and military planes to fly within the U.S. and abroad. Zinke has attended personal and political events during some of the trips for which he used a non-commercial plane, including attending a meeting with the Vegas Golden Knights hockey team, which is owned by a major donor to Zinke’s 2014 congressional campaign.

In May, staffers learned that Lolita Zinke would be staying in Alaska longer than expected and would join her husband for dinner with Gov. Bill Walker. Zinke offered to pay for his wife’s meal at the dinner, per the emails. The documents also indicate that staffers had to scramble at the last minute to accommodate the last-minute change in travel plans.

“We spent the whole day finalizing everything… and now all shot to hell,” one staffer wrote in an email upon hearing the change in Lolita Zinke’s plans.

The change in plans for Zinke’s wife came after a staffer warned that she would likely not be able to fly back to Washington, D.C., on a military plane if she was not accompanied by her husband, and would then need to fly commercial, the emails show.

Emails also show that Lolita Zinke helped craft the guest list of invitees to a Young America’s Foundation town hall at the Reagan Ranch in Santa Barbara, California, during the secretary’s April trip to California.

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Fox News’ parent company, 21st Century Fox, on Monday reached a settlement with company shareholders that requires third-party insurers to pay 21st Century Fox $90 million to help recoup financial damage cause by Fox News’ sexual harassment scandal.

The company also agreed to establish a committee at Fox News tasked with creating an inclusive workplace called the Fox News Workplace Professionalism and Inclusion Council as part of the settlement, 21st Century Fox announced on Monday.

“The Workplace Council gives our management team access to a brain trust of experts with deep and diverse experiences in workplace issues,” Fox News Channel Co-President Jack Abernethy said in a statement Monday.  “We look forward to benefiting from their collective guidance.”

The settlement reached Monday resolves a complaint filed by the City of Monroe Employees’ Retirement System, a 21st Century Fox shareholder.

The complaint filed by the City of Monroe Employees’ Retirement System notes that there was a “systematic, decades-long culture of sexual harassment, racial discrimination, and retaliation that led to a hostile work environment at Fox News Channel” and claims that executives did not do enough to address those issues. The complaint argues that the publicity about the sexual harassment at Fox News, as well as the large settlements paid to accusers, caused financial harm to the company.

The settlement requires insurers representing Roger Ailes’ estate and Fox News officers, including Rupert Murdoch, Lachlan Murdoch and James Murdoch, to pay $90 million to 21st Century Fox for the benefit of the company’s shareholders. It also mandates the establishment of the workplace council. The defendants did not admit to any wrongdoing in the settlement.

In its statement announcing the settlement, 21st Century Fox said that the council will “will advise Fox News and its senior management in its ongoing efforts to ensure a proper workplace environment for all employees and guests, strengthen reporting practices for wrongdoing, enhance HR training on workplace behavior, and further recruitment and advancement of women and minorities.”

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