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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

In a statement marking Transgender Day of Remembrance Monday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that transgender people should not face discrimination, offering a contrast from President Donald Trump’s proposed policies regarding transgender people.

“On Transgender Day of Remembrance, the United States honors the memory of the many transgender individuals who have lost their lives to acts of violence,” Tillerson said in the statement. “Transgender individuals and their advocates, along with lesbian, gay, bisexual and intersex persons, are facing increasing physical attacks and arbitrary arrests in many parts of the world. Often these attacks are perpetrated by government officials, undermining the rule of law.”

“Transgender persons should not be subjected to violence or discrimination, and the human rights they share with all persons should be respected,” he added.

Tillerson’s statement comes months after Trump announced a ban on transgender people serving in the military. Trump claimed that allowing transgender people to join the military comes with “tremendous medical costs and disruption.” Trump’s proposed ban has been stalled in the courts — a federal judge in October blocked the ban.

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Another woman accused Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) of sexual misconduct Monday, telling CNN that the senator grabbed her butt while the two took a photo together at the Minnesota State Fair in 2010.

Lindsay Menz told CNN in an interview published Monday morning that she met Franken in the summer of 201o at the state fair and posed for a picture with him after a brief conversation. When her husband went to snap the photo, the senator “pulled me in really close, like awkward close, and as my husband took the picture, he put his hand full-fledged on my rear,” Menz said.

“It was wrapped tightly around my butt cheek,” she told CNN. “It wasn’t around my waist. It wasn’t around my hip or side. It was definitely on my butt.”

In a statement to CNN, Franken said he feels bad that Menz felt “disrespected” but said he did not recall taking the photo.

“I take thousands of photos at the state fair surrounded by hundreds of people, and I certainly don’t remember taking this picture,” Franken said in the statement. “I feel badly that Ms. Menz came away from our interaction feeling disrespected.”

Menz is the first woman to accused Franken of sexual misconduct while he was a sitting senator. Los Angeles radio host Leeann Tweeden accused Franken of forcibly kissing her and groping her in 2006, before he took office as a senator. Franken apologized to Tweeden but also said he didn’t remember the incident “in the same way.” The senator called for the Senate Ethics Committee to investigate that incident and said he would fully cooperate.

Menz’s family recalls her relaying the story to them immediately after the picture was taken. Both of her parents told CNN that Menz told them that Franken grabbed her butt while taking the picture. Her husband, who took the photo, told CNN that Franken pulled his wife close to him for the photo.

“He reached around her and kind of pulled her into him,” Jeremy Menz told CNN. “He pulled her in and pushed his head against her head. It was over pretty quick.”

Read CNN’s full report here.

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White House adviser Kellyanne Conway on Monday morning stopped short of explicitly encouraging voters to back GOP Senate candidate Roy Moore, but hinted that a Moore win would help President Donald Trump’s tax cut plans.

During an appearance on “Fox and Friends,” Conway touted Trump’s plans to cut taxes and bashed Democrats’ opposition to the Republican plan before emphasizing that the tax plan would likely be endangered if Doug Jones, the Democratic candidate, wins a Senate seat.

“Doug Jones in Alabama, folks, don’t be fooled. He’ll be a vote against tax cuts. He’s weak on crime, weak on borders. He’s strong on raising your taxes. He’s terrible for property owners. And Doug Jones is a doctrinaire liberal which is why he’s not saying anything and the media are trying to boost him,” Conway said.

Fox co-host Brian Kilmeade then asked, “So vote Roy Moore?”

“I’m telling you that we want the votes in the Senate to get this tax bill through,” Kellyanne replied.

She said that if the media were really concerned about the allegations that Moore made inappropriate sexual advances on teenage girls, then Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) “would be on the ash heap of bygone, half-funny comedians.”

“He still has his job,” she said, referring to Franken, who has been accused of sexual misconduct. “What’s Bob Menendez doing back here? That’s the best my state of New Jersey can do?”

The hosts of “Fox and Friends” then noted to Conway that several Republican leaders have pulled their support from Moore.

“I just want everybody to know Doug Jones, nobody ever says his name and they pretend he is some kind of conservative Democrat in Alabama. And he’s not,” Conway said in response.

Asked if Trump would campaign for Moore, Conway said he has no plans to do so.

As allegations of sexual misconduct pile up against Moore, the White House has refrained from completely pulling its support from the Republican Senate candidate. Trump has yet to publicly weigh in on the allegations, even though he quickly slammed Franken when the senator was accused of sexual misconduct. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Friday declined to say whether the President believes Moore’s accusers and said that it’s up to voters in Alabama to decide whether Moore is fit for office.

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After a border patrol officer died while working along the United States-Mexico border on Sunday, President Donald Trump responded with a tweet promoting his push for a wall along the southern border.

Two agents were injured while responding to unspecified activity along the southern border, and one later died in the hospital on Sunday morning, according to CNN. Following the agent’s death, acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke offered her thoughts and prayers to the agent’s family.

“On behalf of the quarter of a million front line officers and agents of DHS, my thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends of Agent Martinez and to the agent who is in serious condition,” she said in a statement.

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After Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) was caught worrying out loud that the GOP would become the party of Roy Moore and Donald Trump, the President lashed out at Flake on Twitter, calling the senator “unelectable.”

Trump claimed that Flake knew his comments were live but misspelled “mic,” a shorthand for microphone.

The President also suggested Flake would vote against the Republican tax cut legislation, though the senator has not come out against the bill. A spokesman for Flake, Jason Samuels, confirmed on Twitter Sunday night that Flake has not yet decided how he will vote on the bill.

On Friday night, Flake was caught on a live microphone telling Mesa Mayor John Giles, “If we become the party of Roy Moore and Donald Trump, we are toast.”

Flake’s comments should not come as a surprise, however. When he announced he would not seek re-election to his Senate seat, he tore into Trump and the Republican party in a speech on the Senate floor.

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As women continue to come forward to accuse Alabama GOP Senate candidate Roy Moore of making sexual or romantic advances while they were teenagers and he was in his 30s, Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill said Friday that it’s still not clear to him whether the accusations are true.

“I still am not sure whether or not the allegations are true. I know that they are very damning and damaging,” Merrill told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer when asked if he would call for Moore to step aside in the race.

Merrill previously said that it’s “possible” the accusers are “making it up.”

Though Merrill cast doubt on the accusers’ credibility, he was clear that the allegations reflect poorly on Moore and the state of Alabama.

“The thing that’s the most frustrating and the most disappointing is that these allegations reflect very poorly on Judge Moore and our state as a whole because Judge Moore is the Republican standard bearer in the Senate race,” he said. “Because of that, for more than a week, it put Alabama in a difficult position and a very damaging position nationwide as far as the spotlight is concerned. That’s not something that we’re very proud of.”

Merrill said that the Alabama voters will have to reach their own conclusions about the accusations and Moore’s behavior in the December election. He also said that there is no way for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to “save” the seat for Republicans ahead of the election, noting that the state does not allow for substitute candidates.

“Their position is try to save the seat and make sure the Republican majority is preserved, but that is only going to happen if judge Roy Moore wins the election,” he told CNN. “There is no way that a substitute can be provided. He is the standard bearer for the party at this particular time.”

Merrill said that party leaders’ commentary on Moore has been unhelpful.

“The information that continues to come in from the national commentators is not helping to clear up the situation,” he said. “In many ways it has intended to cloud up the situation. That has been very difficult.”

 

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As the Interior Department inspector general has carried out its investigation into Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s travel habits, the watchdog has discovered that the department has not properly documented Zinke’s travel, according to a letter obtained by the Washington Post.

In a letter to Interior officials, Deputy Inspector General Mary Kendall wrote that the probe has been delayed due to “absent or incomplete” records. She said that the department had yet to finalize vouchers and authorizations for Zinke’s travel, and that Interior officials have not provided sufficient documentation of the legal and ethical analysis required to distinguish between personal and official travel.

Zinke is one of several cabinet leaders in the Trump administration who has come under scrutiny for his travel on non-commercial planes. The inspector general is looking at Zinke’s reported use of a private plane to attend meeting with the Vegas Golden Knights hockey team, which is owned by a major donor to Zinke’s 2014 congressional campaign.

Zinke also used non-commercial planes on several occasions, including for trips between St. Thomas and St. Croix, Politico reported in September.

The inspector general’s office is also looking at the travel habits of Zinke’s wife, Lolita Zinke, according to the Wednesday letter. Kendall wrote that her office has been unable to determine how many trips Lolita Zinke went on with her husband and who paid for her travel.

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This post has been updated.

Florida Democratic Party Chair Stephen Bittel resigned on Friday after several women accused him of making inappropriate comments and leering at them, creating an uncomfortable work environment.

In a statement announcing his resignation, Bittel apologized to “all who have felt uncomfortable during my tenure.”

Six women who spoke with Politico said that Bittel made suggestive comments, invited women on his private plane, remarked that women were attractive and had stress balls in his office shaped like breasts.

“There was a lot of boob stuff in his office,” one woman who encountered Bittel while working as a fundraiser told Politico. “I was told by other women not to go into his bathroom. I was warned.”

Bittel initially apologized for his behavior in a Thursday statement to Politico before announcing his resignation Friday.

“Every person, regardless of their gender, race, age or sexuality should be treated with respect and valued for their hard work and contributions to our community and if any of my comments or actions did not reflect that belief I am deeply sorry,” Bittel said in a statement to Politico. “I have much to learn, but my goal is and has always been to make sure every member of our party has a safe environment in which to succeed. It seems I’ve not been successful in that goal, and I will do better.”

 

A spokesperson for Bittel did not dispute the women’s accounts and told Politico that the breast-shaped stress toys were a gift “from a former female general counsel of his company years ago as a joke for his birthday. He keeps them in a drawer with other gag gifts.”

One former party staffer told Politico that Bittel is “creepy.”

“He just leers at you, and stares. I don’t know if you know what that feels like, but he just leers at you. I don’t know how to describe the feeling,” she said.

A former staffer told Politico that she left her work with the party because of Bittel’s “demeaning” and “inappropriate” comments. She also said that Bittel would offer women rides on his private plane.

“The most suggestive thing he does is invite women on his plane or over to his home when his wife is not in town,” she told Politico. “It is not like these things are in the eye of the beholder, the suggestion is very clear … His reputation is very clear, and it has been there since before he was party chairman.”

Bittel is one of several prominent figures recently to face allegations of inappropriate behavior toward women. On Thursday, a Los Angeles news anchor accused Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) of sexual misconduct, and Alabama GOP candidate Roy Moore faces allegations of making inappropriate sexual advances with teenage girls.

Read Politico’s full report here.

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Jamie Johnson resigned as the director of the Department of Homeland Security’s Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships on Thursday following a CNN report revealing his past comments about black people and Muslims.

“His comments made prior to joining the Department of Homeland Security clearly do not reflect the values of DHS and the administration. The Department thanks him for his recent work assisting disaster victims and the interfaith community,” DHS spokesman Tyler Houlton said in a statement confirming Johnson’s resignation, which was first reported by The Hill.

In a Thursday report, CNN revealed comments Johnson made during radio appearances before his time at DHS.

In 2008, he explained why he felt black people are anti-Semitic in response to a question.

“I think one of the reasons why is because Jewish people from their coming to America in great waves in the early part of the 1800’s immediately rolled up their sleeves and began to work so hard and applied themselves to education and other means of improvement and other means of climbing the, I hate this phrase, but the social ladder if you will,” Johnson said. “And it’s an indictment of America’s black community that has turned America’s major cities into slums because of laziness, drug use and sexual promiscuity.”

In another radio appearance, he said that Muslims “are not our friends.”

“I never call it radical Islam, if anything, it is obedient Islam. It is faithful Islam,” Johnson said. “I agree with Dinesh D’Souza, your friend and mine, who says all that Islam has ever given us is oil and dead bodies over the last millennia and a half.”

Read CNN’s full report here.

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In the wake of sexual misconduct allegations against Sen. Al Franken (D-MN), Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) said Thursday that former President Bill Clinton should have resigned from office over his affair with Monica Lewinsky.

“Yes, I think that is the appropriate response,” Gillibrand told the New York Times when asked if Clinton should have stepped down.

Gillibrand suggested that such a relationship is viewed differently now than it was at the time.

“Things have changed today, and I think under those circumstances there should be a very different reaction,” she said. “And I think in light of this conversation, we should have a very different conversation about President Trump, and a very different conversation about allegations against him.”

A spokesperson for Gillibrand later told the Times that Gillibrand was trying to say that if Clinton’s affair with Lewinsky had happened today, he should have been compelled to step down. Gillibrand is a longtime supporter of Hillary Clinton and backed her 2016 campaign. Both Hillary and Bill Clinton also supported Gillibrand in her first bid for Congress in 2006.

Gillibrand said that the debate over sexual misconduct has transformed recently and that people are viewing misconduct differently.

“What the ‘Me Too’ movement has done is transform this debate,” Gillibrand told the Times. “I think because, when you have hundreds of thousands of people coming out every day about all industries saying, ‘This is what happened to me,’ I think a lot of people have finally realized, ‘Wow, I didn’t quite realize this.’”

The New York senator on Thursday said that the allegations against Franken are “deeply disturbing” and called for an ethics committee investigation. Los Angeles news anchor Leeann Tweeden accused Franken of forcibly kissing and groping her in 2006 while they were entertaining the troops abroad. Franken apologized for his behavior and called for a Senate Ethics Committee probe into the allegations, but he also said that he viewed the incident with Tweeden differently. The alleged incidents occurred before Franken held public office.

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