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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

After President Donald Trump won the presidential election in November, then-President Barack Obama asked Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg to address the uptick in fake news on the social media website, the Washington Post reported Sunday night, citing unnamed people brief on the conversation.

As federal investigators and reporters dig deeper into Russia’s attempt to interfere in the 2016 presidential election, Facebook has come under scrutiny for the amount of fake news that flourished on the social platform. Reports this month revealed that a Russian troll farm spent $100,000 on Facebook ads during the 2016 election and that a Russian-linked Facebook group promoted pro-Trump rallies.

After the 2016 election, amid concerns that Russia tried to interfere in the election, Zuckerberg said it was “crazy” to think that fake content on Facebook influenced the outcome of the 2016 race.

After those comments, on Nov. 19, Obama spoke to Zuckerberg about fake news and Facebook on the sidelines of a meeting with world leaders in Peru, according to the Washington Post. Obama told Zuckerberg that he needed to do more to address fake news and its influence on elections, per the Post.

However, Zuckerberg was resistant and told Obama that fake news was not widespread on Facebook and that it would be hard to address, according to the Washington Post.

Read the Washington Post’s full report here.

As Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) indicated on Sunday that they could vote against Senate Republicans’ latest Obamacare repeal bill, the legislation’s authors prepared to release changes to the bill in an apparent attempt to win over key senators.

Collins, who has been publicly wary of the bill, has yet to come out firmly against the Graham-Cassidy bill. However, she made clear on Sunday that there’s a very small chance she could support the legislation.

“It’s very difficult for me to envision a scenario where I would end up voting for this bill,” Collins said on CNN’s “State of the Union,” adding that she will wait for the Congressional Budget Office’s analysis of the bill before making a final decision.

During an appearance at the Texas Tribune Festival, Cruz said that Republican senators had yet to win his support for the bill, and that Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) was also apprehensive about the legislation.

“Right now they don’t have my vote, and I don’t think they have Mike Lee’s either,” Cruz said Sunday.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) have already come out firmly against the bill, so Republican leaders cannot afford to lose another member of their caucus.

With the bill on its last legs, its authors are preparing to release a new draft of the bill on Monday in a final attempt to win over the remaining holdouts. The bill would target Maine and Alaska, the home states of Collins and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), another senator likely to oppose the bill, according to reports from Politico and the Washington Post.

The revised legislation provides more funding to both Maine and Alaska compared to previous versions of the bill, according to a summary obtained by the Washington Post. The bill would also send more funds to Arizona and Kentucky, the home states of McCain and Paul, according to a draft of the bill obtained by Politico.

Before revisions to the bill were leaked to the press Sunday night, President Donald Trump took a break from tweeting about the NFL to push GOP senators to back the legislation.

 

With the Senate’s latest Obamacare repeal bill on its last legs Friday afternoon thanks to Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) coming out against the bill, the No. 3 Republican in the Senate argued that there’s still hope for the GOP to pass the bill.

During an interview on Fox News shortly after McCain’s announcement, Sen. John Thune (R-SD) said it was “certainly not a good development for passage of the bill.” But he argued that there’s still a chance it could pass.

“There are a couple of uncommitted members and there is an opportunity between now and September 30th, the end of next week, to get a vote on this, an affirmative vote. We know this issue is not going away,” Thune said.

McCain became the second Republican to definitively oppose the Graham-Cassidy bill, joining Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY). Just one more Republican senator opposing the bill would kill any hopes of its passage, and Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) has sent strong signals that she will not support it.

Asked what comes next, Thune noted that the leaders on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Sen. Patty Murray (R-WA), had been working on a bipartisan measure to issue fixes to Obamacare before Senate Republicans made their long-shot, last-ditch attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Thune suggested that Democrats’ beliefs about the health care system made those negotiations difficult.

“The problem with this issue is we are going in fundamentally different directions,” Thune said. “The Democrats want to double down on Obamacare and ultimately, if you take a look at last week the bill introduced by Senator Sanders and 15 other Senate Democrats moves us to single-payer.”

Murray issued a statement after McCain’s announcement on Friday afternoon telling Republicans that she is “still at the table ready to keep working” on a bipartisan bill.

Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt has an unprecedented round-the-clock security detail that now includes 18 people, the Washington Post reported on Wednesday, citing unnamed people briefed on the situation.

Pruitt’s request for such a large security detail has required the EPA to pull special agents who typically investigate environmental crimes onto his detail, according to the Washington Post and CNN.

The EPA administrator reportedly requested a 24/7 security detail of 10 agents when he first assumed his post earlier this year. These latest stories confirm that Pruitt has had a round-the-clock security detail, a first for an EPA administrator.

The agency’s inspector general told the Washington Post and CNN that the EPA has seen an uptick in threats this year, many of them directed at Pruitt himself.

“We have at least four times — four to five times the number of threats against Mr. Pruitt than we had against Ms. [Gina] McCarthy,” Patrick Sullivan, the EPA’s assistant inspector general for investigations, told CNN.

“They run the variety of direct death threats — ‘I’m going to put a bullet in your brain’ — to implied threats — ‘if you don’t classify this particular chemical in this particular way, I’m going to hurt you,'” Sullivan added. “Then there’s implied threats — like they say in New York, with the mafia: ‘If you come after me and my family, I’ll come after you and your family.'”

According to documents obtained by E&E News through a Freedom of Information Act request in July, the EPA spent nearly double the amount previous administrations spent on security in its first three months under Pruitt.

Pruitt’s request for a large security detail comes as he pushes for a 31 percent funding cut across the agency.

 

Amid the news that Facebook plans to arrange to turn over ads bought by Kremlin-linked entities during the 2016 campaign to Congress, President Donald Trump lashed out and dismissed the belief held by U.S. intelligence agencies that Russia interfered in the 2016 election as a “hoax.”

Trump claimed that the real issues with the 2016 election were Hillary Clinton and the “fake news media” instead:

Facebook announced Thursday it would turn over Russian ads from the 2016 election to Congress. A Kremlin-linked troll farm spent about $100,000 on political ads during the 2016 election, which Facebook has begun to remove.

Trump has long dismissed the Russia probe as a “hoax” and denied that his campaign tried to collude with Russia. In July, when news broke that Donald Trump, Jr. and other campaign aides met with a Kremlin-linked lawyer who promised dirt on Hillary Clinton, Trump called the investigation a “witch hunt.” At a rally in August, he called the probe a “total fabrication.”

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) sent a letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray on Wednesday asking if the bureau ever warned the Trump campaign about ties between Russian officials and aides to the campaign.

In the letter, which Grassley released on Thursday, he noted that the Russia probe began in July 2016 and that recent reports show that former Trump campaign aide Paul Manafort was under investigation by federal investigators before the election.

“This raises the question of whether the FBI ever alerted Mr. Trump to the FBI’s counter-intelligence concerns regarding his campaign manager and others associated with the campaign — so that he could take defensive action to prevent the campaign from being infiltrated,” Grassley wrote in the letter.

The senator cited a June piece from Circa reporting that federal authorities warned Sen. John McCain’s (R-AZ) 2008 presidential campaign about ties between Paul Manafort and Russia. McCain’s campaign manager, Rick Davis, was Manafort’s business partner, and McCain met with Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska during the campaign. Manafort reportedly offered Deripaska private briefings on Trump’s campaign in 2016.

However, McCain’s office said that he does not recall any such warnings from federal officials.

“Neither Senator McCain nor anyone on his staff recalls receiving such warnings from the intelligence community. Senator McCain had two interactions with Mr. Deripaska in 2006, and both were social occasions and entirely incidental,” McCain spokeswoman Julie Tarallo told CNN.

Tarallo said that any attempts to link McCain to Russian officials serve as a distraction from special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe.

“Facts are stubborn things, and the fact is no member of Congress has done more to push back on Russian aggression, human rights abuses, and corruption than Senator John McCain,” she said in the statement. “Any suggestion to the contrary is clearly intended to distract from the serious ongoing investigations into Russia’s interference in our election system.”

Grassley told the FBI that, given reports that the McCain campaign received a briefing on Manafort, he would like to know whether the Trump campaign received a similar warning about Manafort or other aides.

“If the FBI did provide a defensive briefing or similar warning to the campaign, then that would raise important questions about how the Trump campaign responded,” the senator wrote. “On the other hand, if the FBI did not alert the campaign, then that would raise serious questions about what factors contributed to its decision and why it appears to have been handled differently in a very similar circumstance involving a previous campaign.”

Grassley asked Wray to respond by Oct. 4.

After North Korean leader Kim Jong Un issued a rare statement on Thursday responding to President Donald Trump’s speech at the United Nations, Trump hit back at Kim in an early-morning tweet Friday.

Trump called the North Korean leader a “madman” and warned that he “will be tested like never before.”

Kim Jong Un called Trump “deranged” in his statement Thursday and warned that Trump will “pay dearly” for his threats to North Korea.

“I will make the man holding the prerogative of the supreme command in the U.S. pay dearly for his speech calling for totally destroying the DPRK,” he said in the statement.

During his speech at the UN on Tuesday, Trump called Kim Jong Un “rocket man” and threatened to “totally destroy North Korea” if Kim did not stop with his threats.

“The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself for its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea,” Trump said in his speech. “The United States is ready, willing, and able, but hopefully this will not be necessary.”

 

Up early Friday morning to fire off warnings on Twitter, President Donald Trump targeted Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) for the second time this week over his opposition to the Senate’s latest attempt to repeal Obamacare.

Trump warned that Paul will go down in history as one of the Republicans who saved the Affordable Care Act if the bill tanks next week.

The President also called out Paul on Twitter Wednesday morning, calling him a “negative force” in the bid to repeal Obamacare.

But the senator has not backed down. He responded to Trump in several tweets on Wednesday, standing by his opposition to the bill and pledging to work with the White House on repeal.

Sean Spicer, on a press tour now that he’s left the Trump administration, told ABC’s “Good Morning America” on Thursday that he never “knowingly” lied as White House press secretary.

“I don’t think so,” Spicer told ABC News when asked if he lied during his White House tenure.

“I have not knowingly done anything to do that, no,” he added when pressed again.

He also said that President Donald Trump never asked him to lie.

Spicer notoriously berated reporters in January for reporting that fewer people attended Trump’s inauguration than in past years, based on aerial photographs showing larger crowds at former President Obama’s inauguration.

“This was the largest audience ever to witness an inauguration, period,” Spicer said at the time.

“I think it might’ve been better to be a lot more specific with what we were talking about in terms of the universe, not focus so much on photographic evidence, et cetera,” Spicer told ABC when asked about his declaration about the crowds at Trump’s inauguration. “I could’ve probably had more facts at hand and been more articulate.”

Former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer blew up at Axios reporter Mike Allen this week when asked about his note-taking practices, threatening to call the police over Allen’s “harassment.”

Allen wrote in Axios Thursday morning that when he had learned Spicer has a propensity for taking detailed notes—something that could be of interest to special counsel Robert Mueller as he investigates President Donald Trump’s actions—he sent Spicer a text message asking about his note-taking practices at the White House.

Spicer refused to answer Allen’s questions, though.

“Mike, please stop texting/emailing me unsolicited anymore,” Spicer responded, per Allen.

Pressed by the reporter, Spicer sent another text message reading, “From a legal standpoint I want to be clear: Do not email or text me again. Should you do again I will report to the appropriate authorities.”

The former press secretary followed up with a similar email, threatening to “contact the appropriate legal authorities to address your harassment,” according to Allen.

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