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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

While Senate Republican leaders work to whip enough votes for their Obamacare repeal bill, the White House and its allies have been meeting with potential primary challengers to one of the GOP caucus’ most vulnerable senators, Jeff Flake of Arizona, according to a Monday report in Politico.

Trump himself has spoken to Jeff DeWit, the Arizona state treasurer and former Trump campaign aide, who is considering a Senate bid, two sources told Politico. White House officials have also talked to former state Sen. Kelli Ward, who challenged Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) in his primary last year and has already announced a primary challenge to Flake, and met with potential primary challenger and former Arizona Republican Party Chairman Robert Graham, according to the report.

David Bossie, a former Trump campaign aide who runs Citizens United, told Graham that conservatives were likely to back either him or DeWit in a primary with Flake, three unnamed sources told Politico.

Flake has aired criticism of Trump before, calling on him to drop out of the presidential race after the notorious “Access Hollywood” tape and questioning his decision to fire James Comey as FBI director.

Read Politico’s entire report here.

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Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price on Sunday made a bold and questionable prediction about the Senate GOP bill to repeal and replace Obamacare: He argued that the legislation could actually provide health insurance to more individuals than the Affordable Care Act, a claim undermined by the Congressional Budget Office’s analysis of the bill.

Price made the comment while discussing how the Senate bill closes a gap that existed in certain states that chose not to expand Medicaid under Obamacare. In those states, there is a section of the population that does not qualify for traditional Medicaid, but makes too little to qualify for subsidies on the exchanges since Obamacare intended to cover it through Medicaid expansion. The Senate bill closes this gap, and Price used that provision to argue that more people would be covered under the new legislation.

“That also is one of the reasons we believe we’re gonna be able to cover more individuals on this bill than are currently covered. I know that’s counterintuitive to folks that have been reading other headlines, but the goal is to get every single American covered and have access to the kind of coverage that they want,” he said on Fox News’ “Sunday Morning Futures.”

The CBO has yet to release its score of the revised Senate repeal bill, but its analysis of the initial version of the bill shows that 22 million fewer people would have health insurance by 2026. It’s not clear that the revisions to the Senate bill would improve matters much.

Price on Sunday tried to delegitimize that CBO score, calling it an “opinion” and arguing that the CBO does not take into account people who purchase catastrophic plans.

Host Maria Bartiromo said she thought it was an “important point” that many people who would go without coverage under the Senate plan would do so by choice.

“Oh, it is an important point. It’s also CBO’s opinion,” Price said in response, noting people could purchase catastrophic plans under the Senate bill, which only cover three primary care visits a year and have high out-of-pocket costs. He claimed that “a health savings account with a high deductible catastrophic plan” does not “count in CBO’s formula.”

“So CBO doesn’t even capture those individuals who say to the federal government, ‘I don’t want the plan that you think I need, I want the plan that I know I need for myself and my family,'” Price said. “So those numbers are so flawed in terms of what actually happens in the real world when people act for themselves in an appropriate way and get that kind of coverage that they want.”

Price’s comments about the CBO’s methodology appear to be misleading, however. In a December blog post, the CBO said that it counts “catastrophic plans as private insurance coverage because they typically provide major medical coverage and are permitted under the ACA in limited circumstances.”

Watch Price’s interview via Fox News:

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Walter Shaub Jr., who will resign as director of the Office of Government Ethics on Tuesday, lamented in a New York Times interview published Monday that President Donald Trump has had a damaging attitude toward ethics, undermining the United States’ position as a role model on ethics.

“It’s hard for the United States to pursue international anticorruption and ethics initiatives when we’re not even keeping our own side of the street clean. It affects our credibility,” he told the New York Times over the weekend. “I think we are pretty close to a laughingstock at this point.”

He said that Trump’s frequent trips to his own properties has raised ethics concerns.

“It creates the appearance of profiting from the presidency,” he said. “Misuse of position is really the heart of the ethics program, and the internationally accepted definition of corruption is abuse of entrusted power. It undermines the government ethics program by casting doubt on the integrity of government decision making.”

The White House dismissed Shaub’s concerns in a statement to the New York Times.

“Mr. Schaub’s penchant for raising concerns on matters well outside his scope with the media before ever raising them with the White House — which happens to be his actual day job — is rather telling,” spokeswoman Lindsay Walters told the Times. “The truth is, Mr. Schaub is not interested in advising the executive branch on ethics. He’s interested in grandstanding and lobbying for more expansive powers in the office he holds.”

Shaub announced earlier this month that he will resign as director of OGE after challenging the White House on ethics issues for six months. In an interview with the Washington Post earlier this month, Shaub said he felt he couldn’t accomplish anything else from within the Trump administration.

He told the New York Times that he would like to push several changes to ethics procedures in the executive branch and argued that the ethics office should be strengthened. He specifically called for giving OGE some subpoena power and requiring that presidential candidates release their tax returns. Shaub also said that Congress should create new conflict of interest standards for the president and clarify the role of OGE.

Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC), the new chair of the House Oversight Committee, told the Times that he plans on meeting with Shaub before he leaves OGE. Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), the ranking member on that committee, will also meet with Shaub and is working on ethics reform legislation, per the New York Times.

Correction: The original post incorrectly identified Rep. Elijah Cummings as a Republican. He is a Democrat. We regret the error.

 

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As revelations about Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting with a Kremlin-linked lawyer during the 2016 campaign continue to dominate the news cycle, the White House on Sunday announced new theme weeks in an apparent attempt to redirect attention to other issues.

This week will be “Made in America” week, White House spokeswoman Helen Aguirre Ferre told the White House pool reporter on Sunday. The White House will then push an “American Heroes” themed week and an “American Dream” themed week, per Aguirre Ferre.

The White House has rolled out themes in the past in an attempt to direct the media’s attention to a specific policy matter, but the strategy has not kept the Russia probes out of the news.

Asked why there hasn’t been a week devoted to health care, a senior White House official told pool reporters, “Every day and every week, in a sense, is a health care week. It’s something that enormous White House and administration resources have been devoted to since day one.”

The administration’s decision to focus on American-made products has prompted discussion of Trump brand items. Many Trump products are not American-made, and as the Washington Post reported recently, Ivanka Trump brand items are also largely manufactured abroad.

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In a Washington Post op-ed published Sunday evening, Joe Scarborough slammed the GOP, declaring in the headline that President Donald Trump “is killing the Republican party.”

Scarborough, a former congressman and co-host of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” revealed last week that he is leaving the Republican Party, and in his Sunday op-ed he explained his reasoning.

“I did not leave the Republican Party. The Republican Party left its senses. The political movement that once stood athwart history resisting bloated government and military adventurism has been reduced to an amalgam of talk-radio resentments,” he wrote.

He criticized Trump and Republicans for accepting him as the leader of their party.

“The GOP president questioned America’s constitutional system of checks and balances. Republican leaders said nothing. He echoed Stalin and Mao by calling the free press ‘the enemy of the people.’ Republican leaders were silent. And as the commander in chief insulted allies while embracing autocratic thugs, Republicans who spent a decade supporting wars of choice remained quiet,” Scarborough wrote. “Meanwhile, their budget-busting proposals demonstrate a fiscal recklessness very much in line with the Bush years.”

“It is a dying party that I can no longer defend,” he declared.

Read the entire op-ed at the Washington Post.

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The White House solicited comments on its bogus “election integrity” commission that has so far faced nothing but setbacks and embarrassments, and the public feedback has been correspondingly negative—and hilarious.

The Trump administration this week posted public comments it received from the end of June through July 11, and it appears that the White House inbox has been flooded with angry Americans tearing into what the President himself has referred to as a “voter fraud panel.”

Some commenters expressed serious concern with the commission’s actions, including the worry that the commission’s request to states for the last four digits of voters’ social security numbers could open people up to bank fraud. Many states rejected the commission’s request for detailed data on voters, with some noting that sharing pieces of the requested data would violate state law.

Quite a few commenters politely urged the commission to withdraw its request for the data and offered suggestions for expanding voting rights and securing elections in the United States.

Others offered angry rebuttals and profanity-laden comments railing against the commission and its vice chair, Kris Kobach, the Republican Kansas secretary of state notorious for his efforts to restrict voting rights.

“You’re a disgusting fraud with no moral bearing whatsoever,” one commenter told Kobach.

The White House did not redact personal information, like home and email addresses, for those who submitted contacts. TPM only published screengrabs from the documents that do not include identifying information.

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The director of the Trump campaign’s digital operation on Friday morning said he was “unaware of any Russian involvement” in the campaign’s digital and data operations in 2016.

Brad Parscale’s statement came after the House Intelligence Committee requested to interview him, which he said he agreed to do. McClatchy reported Thursday that federal and congressional investigators were looking into whether the campaign’s digital team coordinated with Russia to disseminate fake news and target voters in swing states, down to certain key districts.

The investigators were specifically looking at Jared Kushner, who played a large role in the campaign’s digital operations, McClatchy reported.

Read Parscale’s statement below:

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During an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper on Thursday afternoon, White House aide Sebastian Gorka said that it’s time to “move on” from Russia’s interference in the 2016 election and suggested that the U.S. give “collaboration and cooperation” with Russia a chance.

At the top of the interview, Gorka would not say whether President Donald Trump would sign the Russia sanctions bill working its way through Congress now and instead claimed that the U.S. relationship with Russia is improving, citing the recent cease-fire in Syria.

Tapper then asked why the Trump administration is considering giving Russia back two diplomatic compounds in the U.S.

“Because we want to give collaboration and cooperation a chance,” Gorka replied. The fact is we may not share the same philosophy, we may not share the same type of statesman view of the world but the fact is there are some issues of common concern.”

“If we can see acts of good faith come out of the Kremlin with regards to things such as the cease-fire, then perhaps there is a chance for what Rex Tillerson wants to see happen, which is an improvement in relations between our two capitals,” he added.

As Gorka continued to push better relations with Russia, Tapper asked, “You don’t think it’s weak at all to let Russia go after having interfered in the 2016 election with no punishment at all?”

“The last thing you could say about Donald J. Trump after the last 25 weeks is that he’s weak,” Gorka responded.

Tapper then asked several times how the U.S. will punish Russia for election interference, prompting Gorka to note that Trump “pressed” Putin on the issue during a lengthy meeting at the G20 summit in Europe. Gorka said that Putin denied interfering in the U.S. election.

“At that point, you have to move on, because people are dying in Syria,” he said.

Watch the interview via CNN:

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In a series of tweets published early Friday morning from his trip abroad in Paris, President Donald Trump put pressure on Republican senators to pass their bill to repeal and replace Obamacare.

Trump, who has not been heavily involved the the negotiations surrounding the Senate bill, reminded the lawmakers that they promised they would repeal the Affordable Care Act and he said that “must happen.”

Trump’s tweets came the morning after Senate GOP leadership unveiled a revised version of their bill to repeal Obamacare after the first version failed to earn sufficient support. The new version of the bill also failed to immediately gain enough support from Republican senators to proceed in the Senate.

Two Republicans, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) and Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) said that they would not vote to move the bill forward in the Senate. Several others said they were not yet sure whether they would vote to proceed with the legislation, and just one more senator opposed to moving forward with the bill would ensure its demise.

The revisions to the legislation did not offer much for the more moderate Republicans in the Senate and those who represent states that expanded Medicaid. Senate leadership met with these moderate holdouts on Thursday afternoon, but it’s not yet clear if any of the hesitant Republicans will come around to back the bill.

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Rep. Chris Stewart (R-UT) on Thursday morning argued that President Donald Trump is right to question the intelligence community’s assessment that the Russian government tried to help Trump win the 2016 election.

During an appearance on CNN, host Alisyn Camerota asked Stewart to react to Trump’s argument in a Christian Broadcasting Network interview that Russian President Vladimir Putin likely wanted Hillary Clinton to win the election.

“I actually agree with him,” Stewart said.

Camerota tried to clarify Stewart’s response, asking if he believes Russia wanted Clinton to become President.

“No,” he replied, before moving on to argue that Trump made a good point that Clinton’s policies could have helped Putin.

“They have been dominating the previous administration in Crimea, they did it in Ukraine, they did it in Syria. The energy policy point is such an important point. The greatest sanction we could impose on Russia is cheap energy prices. Because as you know, it’s their most powerful and most successful export. It’s what they use to fund their government,” Stewart said. “I think those are fair points, that there’s lots of reasons why a Hillary presidency would have been more favorable to the Russians than a Trump presidency.”

Camerota noted that the intelligence community concluded that Russia tried to help Trump win the election.

Stewart said that he disagreed with the intelligence community’s analysis and noted that not all 17 intelligence agencies signed onto the assessment, peddling a favorite GOP talking point. None of the intelligence agencies dissented from the assessment, which Stewart acknowledged. However, he went on to try to discredit the U.S. intelligence agencies.

“The intel community is not perfect. They’ve missed meaningful events before,” the congressman said. “They said there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.”

Asked if he agrees with the assessment that Russia meddled in the U.S. election, Stewart said that he does.

“The thing I disagree with is that there’s this clarity that they preferred one candidate over the other,” he said.

On Wednesday, Stewart offered some praise for Donald Trump Jr. after the President’s son released emails showing that he attended a meeting with a Kremlin-linked lawyer pitched as part of an effort by the Russian government to help the Trump campaign. Stewart said that Trump Jr. deserves “credit” for releasing the emails, though he said the revelation “raises questions.”

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