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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

During a press conference on Monday afternoon, President Donald Trump made the dubious claim that former President Barack Obama and other former presidents did not personally call the families of soldiers who died in combat.

Trump quickly walked back the claim when a reporter followed up.

The President first told reporters that he had written letters to the families of soldiers who died in the recent attack in Niger and said he would soon call the families as well. He then claimed that his approach was unique, and that not all past presidents made those calls.

“The traditional way, if you look at President Obama and other presidents, most of them didn’t make calls. A lot of them didn’t make calls,” he said. “I like to call when it’s appropriate, when I think I’m able to do it. They have made the ultimate sacrifice so generally I would say that I like to call. I’m going to be calling them.”

Former aides to Obama quickly pushed back on Trump’s claim, calling it a “lie.”

A reporter followed up with Trump later in the press conference, prompting Trump to walk back his claim and say that he “was told” that Obama didn’t call the families of fallen soldiers.

“I don’t know if he did. No, no. I was told that he didn’t often and a lot of presidents don’t. They write letters,” Trump said.

“President Obama I think probably did sometimes and maybe sometimes he didn’t. I don’t know. That’s what I was told. All I can do is ask my generals,” the President continued. “Other presidents did not call. They’d write letters and some presidents didn’t do anything.”

President Donald Trump apparently has a tendency to mock Vice President Mike Pence over his religious views and political stance against abortion and LGBT rights, according to a Sunday report in the New Yorker.

Trump once asked a group of people who had just met with Pence, “Did Mike make you pray?” according to a campaign aide who spoke with the New Yorker.

The President also is said to poke fun at Pence’s views on abortion and LGBT rights. When a legal scholar told Trump and Pence that states would likely legalize abortion themselves if the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, Trump told the Vice President, “You’ve wasted all this time and energy on it, and it’s not going to end abortion anyway,” per the New Yorker.

When they started discussing LGBT rights, the New Yorker reported that Trump joked, “Don’t ask that guy—he wants to hang them all!”

Trump ran an outsider’s campaign and is at odds with many of Pence’s socially conservative views. One of the President’s allies, former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, told the New Yorker that he’s worried what kind of president Pence would be, noting his alignment with the conservative billionaire Koch brothers.

“I’m concerned he’d be a President that the Kochs would own,” Bannon said.

As the Russia probes intensified over the summer, the Trump campaign spent more than $1 million on legal fees between the beginning of July and the end of September, according to a campaign finance report made public Sunday.

The campaign paid more than $800,000 to the Jones Day law firm, which represents the campaign. The Trump campaign paid more than 200,000 to lawyers representing President Donald Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr.

The Republican National Committee has also helped pay for legal fees incurred by the President and Trump Jr.

The filings made public Sunday show that the Trump campaign spent significantly more on legal fees in the third quarter than it did for the first half of the year.

 

Attorney General Jeff Sessions sent a Justice Department lawyer to Iowa to help prosecute a man charged with the murder of a transgender teenager.

The unusual move was first reported by the New York Times on Sunday and later confirmed by the Associated Press and the Des Moines Register.

“This is just one example of the attorney general’s commitment to enforcing the laws enacted by Congress and to protecting the civil rights of all individuals,” DOJ spokesman Devin O’Malley told the New York Times.

It’s rare for the Justice Department to send a prosecutor to help with a local case, and Sessions’ decision shows he’s willing to fight violence against LGBT individuals even though he has rolled back protections for LGBT individuals as attorney general.

“The federal authorities are investigating the case as a federal hate crime, and so they would like to be part of the state case for seamless prosecution, should an indictment in federal court be handed down,” Des Moines County Attorney Amy Beavers, a prosecutor in the case, told the Des Moines Register of the Justice Department’s decision.

Christopher Perras, who works in the DOJ’s civil rights division’s criminal section, will help Beavers and another local prosecutor in the case against Jorge “Lumni” Sanders-Galvez, who has been accused of killing Kedarie Johnson.

Johnson did not identify as transgender and always used the pronoun “he,” his mother told the Des Moines Register. However, Johnson liked dressing in women’s clothing and sometimes went by the name Kandicee, his mom said.

Sessions “personally initiated” the move, according to the New York Times. He was prompted by a letter from six members of Congress asking him to look into the case, the Times said.

 

After the Trump administration announced late Thursday night that it would end key Obamacare subsidies, a few Republican lawmakers spoke out against the move, warning that eliminating those subsidies could raise premiums and cost constituents their health coverage.

Rep. Charlie Dent (R-PA), a moderate Republican who is retiring at the end of his term, said on CNN that President Donald Trump’s move was “ill-advised.”

“I am fearful now that the President made this announcement that will destabilize the insurance markets, it will raise premiums for a lot of folks,” Dent said Friday morning on CNN, adding that it could also cause some Americans to lose their health insurance and prompt insurers to leave the Obamacare marketplace.

Dent argued that the Republican Party “will own this,” and said that the administration’s move will force Congress to act quickly to pass legislation in order to make cost-sharing reduction (CSR) payments.

“President Trump is the President. He is a Republican. And we control the Congress. We own the system now. So we are going to have to figure out a way to stabilize this situation,” Dent told CNN. “Barack Obama is no longer in the equation. So this is on us. And so I believe his action will force us to enter into some kind of bipartisan agreement on the cost-sharing reduction payments.”

“We have to send the bill to the President,” he added later. “Whether or not he signs it, I don’t know. I hope he would. Maybe that’s what he wants us to do. Maybe he is forcing us to take some action.”

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), another Republican retiring at the end of her term, also warned that Trump’s decision to cut off CSR payments could hurt her constituents.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), who opposed all of the Obamacare repeal plans proposed by Republicans, said Friday morning in a speech that she was “concerned” by the administration’s decision to end CSR payments, as well as by Thursday’s executive order.

Republican Nevada Gov Brian Sandoval also warned Friday that cutting off the payments will be “devastating” in his state.

“It’s going to hurt people. It’s going to hurt kids. It’s going to hurt families. It’s going to hurt individuals. It’s going to hurt people with mental health issues. It’s going to hurt veterans. It’s going to hurt everybody,” he told the Nevada Independent, referring to the CSR payments. “And so this is something that I’ve been very supportive during my administration in terms of expanding health care and making sure that people have access to affordable health care and I’m going to continue on that path.”

The Trump administration has repeatedly threatened to cut off these crucial payments for insurers who cover low-income Americans with significant health care needs. Over the summer, as the administration was weighing whether to make its August payment, several Republicans urged Trump to continue the subsidies, including Sen. John Thune (R-SD), a member of the Republican leadership team, and Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), the Republican leading bipartisan talks on legislation to make the CSR payments.

After the announcement, Trump on Friday morning urged Democrats to work with him on a legislative fix to Obamacare, but it’s not entirely clear what the administration would agree to.

Office of Management and Budget chief Mick Mulvaney on Friday told Politico that he is “pretty sure” the administration would not support “a clean Murray-Alexander bill.”

“The president has said pretty clearly that he’s willing to talk to just about anybody about repealing and replacing [Obamacare],” Mulvaney added, per Politico. “But if the straight-up question is: Is the president interested in continuing what he sees as corporate welfare and bailouts for the insurance companies? No.”

The official who oversees background checks for most of the federal government told Congress on Wednesday that he has never seen as many mistakes on a background check form as Jared Kushner has made.

Charles Phelan, the director of the National Background Investigations Bureau (NBIB), oversees background checks for most of the federal government but did not handle President Trump’s son-in-law and adviser’s security clearance application.

During a Wednesday House Oversight subcommittee hearing, Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL) noted that Kushner had to submit an addendum to his SF-86 security clearance form four times after omitting contacts with foreign officials.

“Can you recall if there has ever been an applicant having to submit four addenda detailing over 100 errors and omissions being able to maintain their security clearance once those errors and omission have been identified?” Krishnamoorthi asked Phelan.

“I have not seen the breadth of all the applications, but I have never seen that level of mistakes,” Phelan replied.

Phelan added that the NBIB had not handled Kushner’s security clearance.

“I don’t know in the particular cases you’re talking about because we had no visibility in our organization into any of those activities. Those were done by other organizations,” he said.

Earlier in the hearing, Phelan also noted that the online form for security clearances is built in such a way that it’s easy for applicants to make mistakes.

In a statement Thursday, Jamie Gorelick, Kushner’s attorney, reiterated that his form “was prematurely submitted and, among other errors, did not list any contacts with foreign government officials,” and that it had been quickly updated.

H/t CNN

President Donald Trump’s crusade against NBC News showed no signs of slowing down Friday morning, with the President continuing to lob attacks at the news outlet following two unflattering reports about Trump.

In tweets Thursday night and Friday morning, Trump labeled NBC “fake news” and claimed that the public is starting to agree with him.

Trump has been on a rampage since NBC News published a pair of reports about a meeting Trump had over the summer. The network reported that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called Trump a “moron.” NBC News later followed up with a report that Tillerson called Trump a “moron” after a meeting at which Trump said he wanted to significantly build up the U.S. nuclear arsenal.

The reports have sparked outrage from Trump through his Twitter feed. He then escalated his attacks on NBC News and the media on Wednesday by suggesting that networks’ broadcasting licenses be challenged.

Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) said Thursday night that President Donald Trump told him he would extend the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program past March if Congress does not pass legislation restoring the protections by then, according to the Washington Post.

“The president’s comment to me was that, ‘We put a six-month deadline out there. Let’s work it out. If we can’t get it worked out in six months, we’ll give it some more time, but we’ve got to get this worked out legislatively,’” Lankford said at a town hall in Tulsa Thursday night, per the Washington Post.

Trump did not specify how long he would extend the DACA deadline, Lankford said. The President made the comments to Lankford over the phone in September, a spokesman for Lankford told the Washington Post.

When the end to DACA was announced, Trump suggested in a tweet that he could extend the program if Congress fails to act.

The Trump administration announced in September that it would end the DACA program in March and called on Congress to restore the protections through legislation. At first, Trump seemed very willing to work with Democrats on a bill to restore DACA. Following a mid-September meeting with Democratic leaders, Trump said they were “close” to a deal and suggested the bill would not need to include funding for a border wall.

However, chances that Congress would quickly pass a bill to restore DACA dropped this week when the Trump administration issued hard-line demands for any bill protecting young undocumented immigrants. The White House said that any deal should include funding for the border wall and curb legal immigration, demands that Democrats and likely some Republicans will oppose.

The Trump administration announced late Thursday night that the federal government will cut off key payments to insurers in a move that will undermine the Affordable Care Act and likely cause premiums on the Obamacare exchanges to increase.

The decision to end the cost-sharing reduction (CSR) payments, which subsidize insurers that help low-income Americans with significant health care needs afford coverage, is the latest move by President Donald Trump and his administration to undermine Obamacare. It came the same day that Trump announced an executive order that will make it easier for young, healthy Americans to buy cheap plans that don’t comply with Obamacare requirements, causing premiums for less healthy Americans on the ACA exchanges to rise.

The decision to end the payments comes after the administration threatened to cut off the subsidies for months. The constant threat has caused instability in the health care marketplaces as insurers raised their rates or left areas altogether out of fear that Trump would cut off the crucial subsidies.

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated in an August report that ending the CSR payments would cause premiums for those who benefit from the payments to rise by 20 percent by 2018 and 25 percent by 2020. The CBO also found that ending the payments would add $194 billion dollars to the federal deficit by 2026.

In a statement issued after 11 p.m. Thursday night, the Department of Health and Human Services bashed Obamacare and argued that the administration cannot legally make the CSR payments without approval from Congress.

“It has been clear for many years that Obamacare is bad policy.  It is also bad law,” Health and Human Services Acting Secretary Eric Hargan and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma began in a statement about the decision.

In the statement, Hargan and Verma argued that the Obama administration never received the proper authority from Congress to set aside funds for the CSR payments. House Republicans sued the Obama administration over the payments, and a federal court ruled that the payments were illegal. The federal government appealed the decision to an appeals court.

“The Obama Administration unfortunately went ahead and made CSR payments to insurance companies after requesting – but never ultimately receiving – an appropriation from Congress as required by law,” Hargan and Verma said in the statement. “After a thorough legal review by HHS, Treasury, OMB, and an opinion from the Attorney General, we believe that the last Administration overstepped the legal boundaries drawn by our Constitution. Congress has not appropriated money for CSRs, and we will discontinue these payments immediately.”

In a statement on the end to CSR payments, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) said that the Trump administration would drop the federal government’s appeal of the court ruling, but HHS did not mention the appeal in its statement.

Trump touted the administration’s decision in a tweet early Friday morning and called on Democrats to work with him to “fix” the law.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) on Thursday night blasted the administration’s decision to end the key payments, describing the move as “sabotage.”

“Sadly, instead of working to lower health costs for Americans, it seems President Trump will singlehandedly hike Americans’ health premiums. It is a spiteful act of vast, pointless sabotage leveled at working families and the middle class in every corner of America. Make no mistake about it, Trump will try to blame the Affordable Care Act, but this will fall on his back and he will pay the price for it,” they said in a joint statement.

 “President Trump has apparently decided to punish the American people for his inability to improve our health care system. Trumpcare collapsed because Americans overwhelmingly recognized the cruelty and higher costs it meant for them and their loved ones.  Now, millions of hard-working American families will suffer just because President Trump wants them to,” they added.

Schumer and Pelosi said that the administration has signaled it will not back bipartisan negotiations led by Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) on legislation to continue the CSR payments and give states more flexibility under Obamacare.

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman pledged Thursday night to sue the administration over the decision to end the payments. Schneiderman and several other attorneys general intervened in the court case over the payments over the summer, and were granted the ability to defend the payments.

 

 

 

A congressional ethics watchdog released a report Thursday that found Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY) may have broken ethics rules and federal law with actions he took as a board member of the biotech firm Innate Immunotherapeutics.

The independent Office for Congressional Ethics (OCE), which may investigate allegations against lawmakers and refer its findings to the House Ethics Committee, found there is “substantial reason to believe” Collins shared nonpublic information about the purchase of Innate stock with investors and that he took official actions to help Innate: two National Institutes of Health employees told OCE that Collins asked an NIH employee to help Innate with a clinical trial.

It asked that the House Ethics Committee further review those two actions. The watchdog said it did not find substantial reason to believe that Collins purchased discounted stock, however.

The House Ethics panel said Thursday that it was again extending a review of the allegations against Collins.

The committee first extended its review following a report that Collins purchased Innate stock while the Food and Drug Administration was considering whether to approve a drug made by the company. Collins also introduced an amendment to a House bill related to FDA drug approval that would impact Innate, according to the Daily Beast’s reporting.

Former Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price did not cooperate with the OCE investigation, according to the watchdog’s report. The watchdog recommended the House Ethics Committee subpoena Price, who said in his confirmation hearing that he purchased Innate stock after hearing about it from Collins.

Correction: The initial version of this post incorrectly referred to the Food and Drug Administration as the Federal Drug Administration.

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