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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

Just a few minutes after NBC’s “Today” co-host Savannah Guthrie announced live on air that the network had fired Matt Lauer due to a complaint of “inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace,” President Donald Trump fired off a tweet reacting to the revelation.

Trump, who has been accused himself of sexual misconduct by several women, simply reacted with “Wow” before accusing the NBC of producing “fake news.” The President also suggested that something in NBC News Chair Any Lack’s past warrants further scrutiny, though it’s not clear if Trump was accusing Lack of peddling lies or of inappropriate behavior.

Trump followed up later to suggest that Phil Griffin and Joe Scarborough also be fired from NBC News, again not offering specifics on why they should be let go.

His tweet about Lauer and NBC News came after a tweet celebrating CNN’s decision not to attend the White House Christmas party.

Trump has pounced on sexual misconduct allegations against Lauer and Sen. Al Franken (D-MN), but he has stood by Republican Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore as he faces allegations of sexual misconduct from several women. Trump has questioned whether Moore’s accusers are telling the truth in public statements, but he has not reacted to the revelations on Twitter.

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NBC News announced Wednesday morning that the network fired “Today” host Matt Lauer following a complaint of “inappropriate sexual behavior” filed on Monday night.

“Today” co-host Savannah Guthrie read aloud a memo from NBC News Chair Andy Lack on air explaining the decision to terminate Lauer’s contract with the network.

“On Monday night, we received a detailed complaint from a colleague about inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace by Matt Lauer. It represented, after serious review, a clear violation of our company’s standards. As a result, we’ve decided to terminate his employment,” Lack said in the memo. “While it is the first complaint about his behavior in the over twenty years he’s been at NBC News, we were also presented with reason to believe this may not have been an isolated incident.”

Guthrie said that NBC employees learned of the news on Wednesday morning and said that they are “devastated” and still “processing” the news. She said she is “heartbroken” for both Lauer and the colleague who came forward with the complaint.

“We are grappling with a dilemma that so many people have faced these past few weeks. How do you reconcile your love for someone with the revelation that they have behaved badly? And I don’t know the answer to that,” Guthrie continued. “But I do know that this reckoning that so many organizations have been going through is important, it’s long overdue, and it must result in workplaces where all women, all people feel safe and respected.”

In the memo, Lack added that NBC News is “deeply saddened by this turn of events.”

“But we will face it together as a news organization – and do it in as transparent a manner as we can,” he said.

NBC News terminated Lauer before any allegations became public. However, CNN’s Brian Stelter reported on “New Day” that the New York Times and Variety have been investigating Lauer.

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House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and members of the Congressional Black Caucus have privately urged Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) to resign from Congress given the recent allegations of sexual misconduct aired by several former Conyers staffers, according to several reports out Tuesday evening.

Pelosi has not publicly called on Conyers to step down, though she said Monday that she met with one of his accusers and that she believes her. Yet, she has urged him in private to step down, according to the Washington Post and the Associated Press.

Conyers also met with the Congressional Black Caucus, which he helped found, on Tuesday, and some CBC members encouraged him to step aside, according to several reports. The AP reported that CBC members explained to Conyers why he should resign but told the congressman that the decision was up to him, citing an unnamed senior House aide. The Detroit News reported that leaders of the caucus urged Conyers to resign, citing a Democratic source on Capitol Hill.

In a statement after the meeting, CBC Chair Cedric Richmond (D-LA) said that he supports Conyers’ decision to step down as the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee and that a decision to resign from Conyers should be left up to Conyers.

“Today I met with John and we had a very candid conversation about the seriousness of the allegations against him, which he vehemently denies. I told him that I agreed with his decision to step down as ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee at this time. I also told him that I encourage and expect him to fully cooperate with the ethics investigation. He said he would,” Richmond said in the statement. “Any decision to resign from office before the ethics investigation is complete is John’s decision to make.”

Going into the Tuesday afternoon meeting, members of the CBC were split on how Conyers should approach the allegations, according to Politico. Some wanted Conyers to resign, while others would like to wait for the House Ethics Committee to investigate the allegations, per Politico.

Conyers was spotted on a flight back to Michigan Tuesday night, per the AP, and he was not spotted at evening votes in the House, per the Washington Post.

Conyers faces allegations of sexual misconduct from several former female staffers. Buzzfeed News first reported last week that Conyers reached a settlement with a former staffer who alleged she was fired for rejecting his sexual advances. Since that report, other women have come forward to describe Conyers’ inappropriate behavior. Deanna Maher, who served as Conyers’ deputy chief of staff in his Michigan office, described to the Detroit News in a report published Monday several incidents during which Conyers made unwanted advances or touched her inappropriately.

 

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The day after news broke that a top State Department staffer tasked with carrying out a reorganization of the agency had resigned, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Tuesday defended his plan to overhaul the department.

During a question and answer session following a speech Tillerson gave at the Wilson Center, the think tank’s director, former Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA), asked Tillerson about the proposed budget cuts at the State Department and reports that there is a “hollowing out” at the agency.

Tillerson rejected the characterization.

“There is no hollowing out. These numbers that people are throwing around are just false. They’re wrong,” he said.

“I’m offended on their behalf when people say somehow we don’t have a State Department that functions,” he added later, referring to State Department employees. “Because I can tell you it’s functioning very well from my perspective.”

Tillerson said that the State Department’s budget is “just not sustainable” and argued that by slashing the agency’s budget, the Trump administration would be returning funding closer to historic levels.

He also defended his plans to restructure the agency, which has come under scrutiny recently. After a group of senators sent a letter to the State Department warning that Tillerson’s staffing decisions “threaten to undermine the long-term health and effectiveness of American diplomacy,” a spokeswoman for the department acknowledged that there is a “morale issue.”

Tillerson said on Tuesday that State Department staff has been highly involved in the effort to restructure the agency, and he said that he simply wants to help State Department staffers operate efficiently. He also said that while he instated a hiring freeze, he has made a significant number of exceptions, and he argued that the department has not seen as significant of a drop in staff as some reports suggest.

 

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Former White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci resigned from his position on the advisory board for the Tufts University Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy on Tuesday after threatening to sue a student and student-run newspaper over a critical op-ed.

“This morning, Anthony Scaramucci informed The Fletcher School that he is resigning his position on the school’s Board of Advisors, effective immediately. We thank Mr. Scaramucci for his past service to Tufts and wish him well,” Admiral James Stavridis, the dean of the Fletcher School, said in a statement Tuesday.

More than 300 students and faculty members have signed a petition urging the school to remove Scaramucci from the advisory board. The school was set to discuss the petition with Scaramucci at a public event Monday, University spokesman Patrick Collins told the Boston Globe Monday.

However, the school postponed the event when Scaramucci threatened to sue The Tufts Daily, the student newspaper at the university, and Camilo A. Caballero, a graduate student who wrote an op-ed criticizing Scaramucci.

Scaramucci’s lawyer claimed that the op-ed included “false and defamatory allegations of fact” and threatened to sue The Tufts Daily and Caballero unless the op-ed was retracted.

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A senior official at the State Department tasked with reorganizing the agency has left the position just three months after she was appointed to the position.

Bloomberg News was first to report Maliz Beams’ departure from her role as counselor on Monday night, and several outlets later confirmed that she has resigned. Deputy chief of staff Christine Ciccone will take over Beams’ efforts to restructure the agency, per Bloomberg News.

Beams’ resignation follows acknowledgement from the State Department that the plans to restructure the agency have caused morale to plummet.

“Admittedly, the department could do a better job of communicating every single step along the way of the redesign process,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said earlier in November. “There is a morale issue and the department realizes that we need to say more.”

The State Department also had to defend its plans to reorganize the agency in a letter to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee following a letter from senators. The lawmakers expressed concern about Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s staffing decisions, writing that his staffing patterns “threaten to undermine the long-term health and effectiveness of American diplomacy.”

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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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