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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

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, a climate denier, is launching an initiative at the agency to challenge scientists’ near-universal consensus on climate science by having experts debate scientific studies, E&E News reported Friday.

The initiative will include “red team, blue team” exercises to perform “at-length evaluation of U.S. climate science,” an anonymous administration official told E&E News. The term “red team, blue team” is used by the military to describe exercises aimed at finding vulnerabilities, and it was popularized as a way to debate climate science by Wall Street Journal columnist Steven Koonin.

“The administrator believes that we will be able to recruit the best in the fields which study climate and will organize a specific process in which these individuals … provide back-and-forth critique of specific new reports on climate science,” the official told E&E News.

Pruitt has previously said that he would support such a debate over climate science at the EPA, but this report is the first indication that he’s moving toward starting one. The agency did not immediately respond Friday to TPM’s request for comment.

He told Breitbart News earlier in June that he would like to facilitate this type of debate at the EPA.

“What the American people deserve, I think, is a true, legitimate, peer-reviewed, objective, transparent discussion about CO2,” he said.

Though Pruitt reportedly has started this initiative, it’s not clear that he’ll try to challenge the endangerment finding, the EPA determination that greenhouse gas emissions damage the climate, which the agency has used to justify regulation of greenhouse gases, per E&E News’ report. Pruitt vowed that he would not touch the endangerment finding during his confirmation hearing earlier this year.

 

 

In response to a letter from congressional Democrats, the Office of Government Ethics this week asked the White House Counsel’s office to review whether a top White House ethics official violated ethics rules himself.

Several Democrats sent a letter to OGE Director Walter Shaub in May that asked him to look into whether Stefan Passantino, the White House’s ethics official, violated ethics rules barring him from being involved in personnel matters for former clients who are executive branch appointees.

Democrats raised concerns to Shaub because Passantino shared with Bloomberg News the administration’s determination that Carl Icahn, who serves as an adviser to President Donald Trump, is not an official White House employee, according to Shaub’s letter. Passantino used to work at the law firm that provided services to Icahn.

Shaub wrote in his Wednesday letter to the Democrats that he did not have enough information to reach a conclusion on the matter.

“OGE lacks the information needed to assess this news report,” Shaub wrote, adding that he is not aware of whether Passantino was involved in forming the White House legal opinion that Icahn is not a White House employee.

Shaub said he has asked the White House counsel to look into the matter and determine “whether action is warranted.” He said that the White House “is in a position to ascertain the relevant facts and is responsible for monitoring its appointees’ compliance with ethics requirements.”

Alison Lundergan Grimes, the Kentucky secretary of state, on Thursday evening said she would not comply with a data request from President Donald Trump’s “election integrity” commission, joining several other states in rejecting the request.

In her statement, Grimes called out the bogus commission as an attempt to bolster conservative voter suppression efforts.

“The president created his election commission based on the false notion that ‘voter fraud’ is a widespread issue — it is not. Indeed, despite bipartisan objections and a lack of authority, the President has repeatedly  spread the lie that three to five million illegal votes were cast in the last election,” Grimes said in the statement. “Kentucky will not aid a commotion that is at best a waste of taxpayer money and at worst an attempt to legitimize voter suppression efforts across the country.”

A spokesman for the secretary of Massachusetts also said Thursday that the state would not comply with commission’s request.

“They’re not going to get it,” spokesman Brian McNiff told Commonwealth Magazine. “It’s not a public record.”

The Vermont secretary of state said Friday morning that the state will not give the commission all of the data it asked for.

Kris Kobach, vice chair of the commission and Kansas secretary of state known for his obsession with voter fraud, sent letters to states on Thursday asking them to turn over publicly-available data on the voters in their states.

Officials in California and Virginia quickly announced that they would not fulfill Kobach’s request.

As the Senate struggles to come up with a bill to repeal and replace Obamacare that wins the approval of 50 Republican senators, a Republican senator on Friday morning suggested repealing the Affordable Care Act now and devising a replacement later. President Donald Trump quickly jumped on board.

However, it’s not clear that Republican senators would back this approach given that some have previously opposed such a strategy. The fact that the Senate GOP leadership has yet to come up with a deal that at least 50 senators can agree upon may also make some senators wary of punting on a replacement, especially those who have concerns about the current draft bill now.

Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE), wrote a letter to Trump Friday morning suggesting a plan to repeal Obamacare now, with a year-long delay in implementation, setting up Congress to work on a replacement plan this summer.

“On the current path, it looks like Republicans will either fail to pass any meaningful bill at all, or will instead pass a bill that attempts to prop up much of the crumbling ObamaCare structures. We can and must do better than either of these – both because the American people deserve better, and because we promised better,” Sasse wrote in the letter.

He asked Trump to call on Republicans to repeal Obamacare in early July if they cannot reach an agreement on a comprehensive plan by then.

“We should include a year-long implementation delay to give comfort to Americans currently on ObamaCare that a replacement plan will be enacted before expiration,” Sasse added.

He then suggested Congress cancel its August recess to work on a replacement plan, passing that by Labor Day.

Trump quickly praised this plan.

Senate leaders pitched this approach in January. But the plan was quickly shelved when at least four senators opposed that strategy. It’s possible those Senate Republicans would raise concerns about that approach again, especially given that the caucus has been unable to reach agreement on a suitable replacement plan.

Yet, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), who initially opposed this strategy in January, threw his support behind the approach on Friday morning.

The co-hosts of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” Mika Brzezinksi and Joe Scarborough on Friday morning published an op-ed in the Washington Post declaring that President Donald Trump is “not well” and that he should stop watching their show.

Trump launched a vicious, personal attack on Brzezinksi Thursday morning, tweeting that she was “bleeding badly from a face-lift” at his Mar-a-Lago resort around New Year’s Eve. His tirade drew condemnation from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.

Brzezinski and Scarborough called out Trump for his “obsession” with their show.

“The president’s unhealthy obsession with ‘Morning Joe’ does not serve the best interests of either his mental state or the country he runs. Despite his constant claims that he no longer watches the show, the president’s closest advisers tell us otherwise. That is unfortunate. We believe it would be better for America and the rest of the world if he would keep his 60-inch-plus flat-screen TV tuned to ‘Fox & Friends,'” they wrote.

They also disputed Trump’s claim that they tried to see him at Mar-a-Lago around New Year’s Eve.

“Mr. Trump claims that we asked to join him at Mar-a-Lago three nights in a row. That is false. He also claimed that he refused to see us. That is laughable,” they wrote in the Washington Post, adding that Trump had actually invited them to join him.

The co-hosts ridiculed Trump for criticizing Brzezinski’s appearance and disputed that she had a face lift.

“Putting aside Mr. Trump’s never-ending obsession with women’s blood, Mika and her face were perfectly intact, as pictures from that night reveal. And though it is no one’s business, the president’s petulant personal attack against yet another woman’s looks compels us to report that Mika has never had a face-lift,” they wrote.

They also revealed that the White House at one point threatened them with a negative story in the National Enquirer.

“This year, top White House staff members warned that the National Enquirer was planning to publish a negative article about us unless we begged the president to have the story spiked. We ignored their desperate pleas,” the co-hosts wrote.

 

President Donald Trump on Wednesday night tweeted a chart showing that federal government spending on the Medicaid program will increase over time under the Senate’s draft bill to repeal Obamacare, but the chart is misleading since Medicaid spending would have grown at a faster rate under current law.

Medicaid spending will technically increase under the Senate bill, but with inflation, those dollars will not go as far over time. The Senate bill puts a cap on the federal government’s spending per Medicaid enrollee, and the Medicaid program will see a massive cut compared to spending under Obamacare.

A chart from Vox shows that by 2026, the federal government’s spending on Medicaid would be much lower under the Senate bill than it would be under current law.

President Donald Trump was particularly upset with the hosts of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” Thursday morning, publishing particularly nasty tweets attacking Mika Brzezinski for going to his Mar-a-Lago resort after what he said was a “face lift.”

Though Trump has continuously attacked the media now that he’s occupying the Oval Office, his Thursday morning attack on Brzezinksi was atypically personal and vicious.

It’s unclear exactly what prompted the tweets, but Trump has a longstanding feud with Brzezinski and “Morning Joe” co-host Joe Scarborough. The two spoke with Trump regularly during the 2016 campaign, forcing them to defend their initially cozy coverage of Trump. However, the co-hosts have become increasingly critical of the President since.

The Thursday tweets were somewhat reminiscent of Trump’s attack on former Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly. Trump blasted Kelly after a debate moderated by Fox News, saying he thought she must have had “blood coming out of her wherever.”

In an apparent response to Trump’s rage-fueled tweet, Brzezinski tweeted a picture of a Cheerios box with the tag line “made for little hands.”

A spokesperson for MSNBC also issued a statement to Trump’s attack on the “Morning Joe” co-hosts saying it’s a “sad day for America” when the President spends his time engaging in such attacks.

Mark Kornblau, a spokesman for NBC, also responded on Twitter.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) on Thursday morning said that it’s going to be “difficult” for Senate Republicans to reach a new agreement on the chamber’s bill to repeal and replace Obamacare by Friday, and that such a push may not be the best move.

During an interview on Maine radio station WVOM, Collins was asked if Republicans could agree on a revised bill by Friday.

“I don’t know. It’s going to be very difficult,” Collins replied, adding that she is “also not sure that it’s wise” to push for such a quick turnaround.

She criticized the Senate GOP’s rushed and secretive process for drafting the repeal bill, arguing that the Senate should have held hearings with experts while drafting a proposal.

“I think that would have produced a better bill and a much better process,” she said.

Collins was asked if she was frustrated by Senate GOP leaders’ decision to create a group of men to draft a bill that would decide the future of women’s health care.

“I truly don’t believe he’s sexist,” she said of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), but she added, “It certainly was not a good move.”

She said McConnell missed out on different expertise and perspectives that could have improved the bill.

President Donald Trump on Wednesday night held a fundraiser for his 2020 re-election campaign and the Republican National Committee at his own Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C.

Inside, closed off from the press, Trump raised about $10 million from the event at which tickets were $35,000 a piece, according to an estimate reported by the Associated Press. Reporters were initially told they could cover Trump’s remarks at the fundraiser, but the President’s team reversed on Wednesday.

“Unfortunately there was some confusion with the (Republican National Committee) and due to the logistical challenges bringing in the press at this late moment is not going to be possible,” White House Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters on Wednesday.

Trump used his speech at the fundraiser to blast CNN and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), according to a Politico report. Trump also touted Republicans’ recent victories in congressional special elections, two people who attended the event told Politico.

Outside the Trump hotel where the fundraiser were held, about 60 protesters gathered holding signs and shouting, per Politico. The demonstrators arrived before Trump’s speech and shouted phrases like “Your mother would be ashamed!” and “Get a better suit,” according to New York Magazine.

Sen. Shelly Moore Capito (R-WV), one of the GOPers who announced her opposition to the Senate Obamacare repeal bill yesterday after leadership delayed a vote on it, indicated Wednesday that a provision targeting opioid addiction in her state would not be enough to secure her support for the legislation.

During an interview on CNN’s “New Day,” co-host Chris Cuomo asked Capito if her concerns with the bill would be addressed if leaders offered her a carveout for opioid treatment in her state.

“No, they don’t. Because what happens if you just flood the money into treatment centers —and we welcome that, we’re asking for $45 billion for more opioid treatment —but you have to have the coverage, Chris, that goes along with it,” she replied. “You’re not going to access the treatment without the coverage, whether it’s through the exchanges or whether it’s Medicaid. You have to be able to have that coverage so that you can access the treatment that the extra dollars are going to be put in to provide. To me, it goes hand-in-hand.”

Earlier, Capito told Cuomo that Medicaid expansion helped those in her state struggling with opioid addiction. She did indicate that she could support a rollback of Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion, but said that the transition away from Medicaid in the Senate bill was too abrupt.

“I can see in my Medicaid expansion population the availability of treatment and how well it’s working, both how they’re accessing preventative care and their primary care doctors. I want to preserve that,” she said. “So I think Medicaid does preserve that. I’m not in opposition to making sure that those folks, if they move from Medicaid expansion into the market, that they have extremely good coverage like they do at Medicaid at an affordable price. That, I think, is the crux of what we have to make. If there is a transition it has to be seamless.”

The senator said that she promised West Virginia Medicaid recipients that she would not “drop you off a cliff.”

“And in my view the senate bill was too much of a cliff. So we’re working to try to close that gap to make sure that I’m satisfied,” she said.

Capito noted that President Donald Trump told Republican senators at a Tuesday afternoon meeting at the White House that the bill should include more funding.

“One of the main things he said was, ‘Put more money in it. Make it effective to the lower income, make it so it really works.’ And that jives with what I believe is one way to make this bill much more effective,” she told Cuomo.

Capito acknowledged the deep divides in her party and said that GOP senators “haven’t reached that critical point of compromise” yet.

“We’re edging towards a compromise. I don’t think we’re there yet,” she said.

She indicated that Republicans were looking to reach a new deal by Friday and said that if a deal isn’t reached by then, it might be time to work on a bipartisan solution.

“If for some reason it fails, I think we then— the floodgates would probably open to reach a bipartisan compromise. Really, Friday will be the most interesting day I think to see. I thought yesterday or today would be. Friday will be the most interesting day to see if we can reach that compromise,” she said on CNN.

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