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

Shortly after Scott Pruitt began as the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, Pruitt had his office in the agency’s Washington, D.C., headquarters checked for covert surveillance devices, The Hill reported Monday evening.

The EPA paid $3,000 to Edwin Steinmetz Associates to conduct the sweep in March, according to documents obtained and reviewed by The Hill. The person at the EPA who gave the documents to The Hill said that the search did not uncover any devices.

Pruitt has taken unprecedented steps to secure himself and his conversations as EPA administrator. He has a 24/7 security details with 18 agents, perhaps in part due to the high number of threats he has received. The EPA also spent $25,000 to build a sound-proof booth for Pruitt.

Asked about the sweep for surveillance devices, EPA spokesperson Jahan Wilcox stressed in a statement security decisions are made by the EPA’s Protective Service Detail and that at least one previous administrator had a similar sweep done.

“Administrator Pruitt has received an unprecedented amount of threats against him and security decisions are made by EPA’s Protective Service Detail,” Wilcox said in a statement to TPM. “A similar security sweep was done for EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson.”

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Sen. Pat Leahy (D-VT) said on Monday that he regrets not waiting for the Senate Ethics Committee to investigate sexual misconduct allegations made against Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) before calling on Franken to resign.

“I have stood for due process throughout my years as a prosecutor and in chairing the Judiciary Committee.  I regret not doing that this time.  The Ethics Committee should have been allowed to investigate and make its recommendation,” Leahy said in a statement.

Leahy initially urged Franken to step down on the same day that several female Democrats led a wave of senators to call on Franken to step down over the allegations that he groped or forcibly kissed several women.

“While the facts from case to case can differ, and while there are sound reasons for weighing evidence in such cases in a deliberate and carefully considered process, Senator Franken’s situation has become untenable,” Leahy said at the time. “I am concerned that even a prompt Ethics Committee investigation and recommendations will not come soon enough. He has to step aside.”

The day after several Democratic senators called on Franken to resign, he announced that he would step down, though he has yet to set an exact date.

Leahy’s public statement on Monday followed a comment from Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) that it was premature to push Franken to resign and a Politico report that Leahy told Franken in private that he regretted calling on him to resign.

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The Senate Intelligence Committee has asked the Jill Stein campaign to turn over documents for the committee’s Russia probe, committee Chair Richard Burr (R-NC) confirmed to reporters on Monday.

“I think it’s safe to say we have two other campaigns we are just starting on,” Burr told reporters, identifying one of those campaigns as Stein’s, according to CNN. Burr did not reveal the second campaign that the committee has started looking at, per CNN.

When asked what his committee is looking for by investigating the Stein campaign, Burr said he was looking for potential “collusion with the Russians,” per the Washington Post.

Dennis Trainor Jr., who worked as Stein’s communications director and acting manager from January 2015 to August 2015, told Buzzfeed News on Monday that Stein contacted him last week to tell him that the Senate committee had asked the campaign to turn over documents. Trainor told Buzzfeed that while he worked on the campaign, he used his cell phone as his primary point of contact and that he spoke with producers from the Kremlin-backed RT News about booking Stein on their programs. Trainor said he was waiting for additional instructions from the committee.

Trainor told Buzzfeed that as of right now, he plans to cooperate with the probe and that he believes Stein will publish any documents they turn over to the committee to her website.

Stein was present at the December 2015 dinner in Moscow for RT also attended by Michael Flynn, the former national security adviser who recently pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI.

In a statement Monday night, Stein said that she was not paid to attend the dinner.

“Our communications with Russian individuals regarding an invitation to speak on international relations at the RT 10th anniversary media conference will confirm what we stated publicly at that time and since: that we did not accept any payment or even reimbursement for the trip,” Stein said in a statement, per the Washington Post.

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Earlier this year, President Donald Trump talked about reversing his decision to nominate Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court following reports that Gorsuch was critical of Tump during a private meeting with a senator, the Washington Post reported Monday night, citing people with knowledge of the discussions.

Trump was irked by reports that Gorsuch told Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) that the President’s attack on a federal judge was “demoralizing” and “disheartening,” according to the Washington Post. Trump told at least one person that he was concerned Gorsuch was not “loyal” to him, according to the Washington Post. The President told several aides that he was tempted to nix Gorsuch’s nomination.

Trump also complained in a meeting with Republican leaders in Congress that Gorsuch may end up being a “liberal” judge, per the Washington Post. A senior White House official disputed that description of the meeting to the Post.

In a Tuesday morning tweet, Trump denied that he considered nixing Gorsuch.

Marc Short, the director of legislative affairs, and White House spokesman Raj Shah also both denied to the Washington Post that Trump ever considered pulling Gorsuch’s nomination.

Read the Washington Post’s full report here.

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Matthew Petersen, who was nominated by President Donald Trump to serve on the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, withdrew from consideration, a White House official confirmed to TPM on Monday afternoon.

The President has accepted Petersen’s withdrawal, the official said.

Petersen pulled out just a few days after a video of him struggling to answer questions about the law at his confirmation hearing went viral.

In a letter obtained by ABC News, Petersen argued that he is qualified to be a judge but said that his nomination had become a distraction.

“I had hoped that my nearly two decades of public service might carry more weight than my two worst minutes on television. However, I am no stranger to political realities, and I do not wish to be a continued distraction from the important work of your Administration and the Senate,” he wrote in the letter.

Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) quizzed Petersen on his legal background, prompting Petersen to reveal that he has never before tried a case in court. Kennedy then asked Petersen about several legal terms, which Petersen was unable to define.

Kennedy told New Orleans television station WWL-TV on Monday morning  that he was concerned about Petersen’s qualifications.

“He has no litigation experience,” Kennedy said.

The senator also said that he spoke with Trump by phone on Saturday and that the President has told him that he does not vet his nominees himself.

“The president and I get along fine, and he has told me, he said, ‘Kennedy, when some of my guys send somebody over who’s not qualified, you do your job,’” Kennedy told WWL-TV. “And I said, ‘Thank you, Mr. President.’ And I intend to do that.”

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Twitter on Monday suspended the account of Jayda Fransen, a leader of a far-right British group who posted anti-Muslim videos that President Donald Trump retweeted in November.

As of late Monday morning Twitter showed that the account belonging to Fransen, @JaydaBF, had been suspended. Fransen is the deputy leader of the group Britain First. The account for Britain First leader Paul Golding, @GoldingBF, was also suspended.

Fransen in November tweeted three videos supposedly showing Muslim people committing acts of violence, at least two of which have been debunked. Trump then retweeted the videos, drawing criticism from British Prime Minister Theresa May and from Republican lawmakers in the United States.

The account suspensions came on the same day that Twitter began enforcing new rules on hate speech announced in November. With the new rules, Twitter will begin to penalize accounts with hateful imagery in their profiles and display names, as well as accounts that abuse or threaten others through their profile information.

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Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) said Monday morning that his fellow Democrats in the Senate should not have pressured Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) to resign over sexual misconduct allegations before the Ethics Committee conducts an investigation.

“I think that Al Franken should go through the process of what he’s asked for, due process,” Manchin said on CNN’s “New Day,” adding that women deserve to be heard and that the accused deserve a formal investigation.

Manchin first aired his opinion to Politico in a podcast interview published Monday morning. He told Politico that the pressure from Democratic senators for Franken to resign was “atrocious.”

Asked on CNN whether he thinks it was premature for Franken to announce that he will resign, Manchin replied, “Most certainly.”

“The political rancor in here is just unbelievable to me, how you can destroy a human’s life and his family and everything that they stand for without giving him a chance,” Manchin added. “It’s just ridiculous.”

CNN’s Alisyn Camerota then asked Manchin if he thinks President Donald Trump  should resign over sexual misconduct claims made against him.

“I’m not going to make that determination because he went through an election process,” Manchin responded before Camerota cut him off to note that an election is different from an investigation.

Camerota asked Manchin again if Trump should be investigated or if the senator has “moved on.”

“I’ve moved on. I really have moved on,” Manchin replied.

At least two other senators also believe that it was premature for Franken to announce his resignation, according to Politico. Sen. Pat Leahy (D-VT) called for Franken to resign but has told Franken that he regrets doing so, two unnamed people familiar with the conversation told Politico. Another unnamed senator who called for Franken to resign told Politico that senators “prematurely” called on Franken to step down.

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Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) said on Sunday that while he is concerned about the text messages critical of President Donald Trump sent during the 2016 election by an FBI agent who worked on special counsel Robert Mueller’s team, the messages do not undermine the entire Russia probe.

“Obviously I don’t think it taints the entire process, but it certainly taints that season of it,” Lankford said Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

Lankford said that the text messages are “very serious” and that it must be determined whether the agent, Peter Strzok, had any influence over the direction of the Russia probe.

In text messages sent in 2016 but made public last week, Strzok and another FBI employee exchanged messages criticizing Trump and his campaign. Republicans were quick to pounce on the texts, arguing that it shows members of Mueller’s team were operating with anti-Trump bias. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said he would investigate the matter.

Watch Lankford’s interview via CBS:

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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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