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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

When President Donald Trump issued a warning Tuesday that North Korea “will be met with fire and fury” if the country continues to pose a nuclear threat, he was completely improvising, the New York Times reported Wednesday, citing unnamed sources familiar with the situation.

When Trump responded to reports that North Korea had produced a nuclear warhead small enough to fit into a missile, he appeared to be reading from a statement. The paper he held only listed talking points about the opioid crisis, however, according to the New York Times.

Trump did not run the language he used by advisers beforehand, according to the New York Times. Politico also reported that Trump did not run his statement through the State Department.

Addressing questions about who Trump consulted with before his “fire and fury” remarks, White House spokeswoman Lindsey Walters told reporters Wednesday that the President had been discussing North Korea with his advisers.

“The president and chief of staff Kelly are and have been in constant contact with members of the NSC team,” Walters said, according to a White House pool report.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said later on Wednesday that Trump had consulted with advisers about the “tone” of his comments on North Korea but not the exact language.

“General Kelly and others on the NSC team were well aware of the tone of the statement of the president Prior to delivery. The words were his own. The tone and strength of the message were discussed beforehand,” Sanders said, according to the pool report. “They were clear the president was going to respond to North Korea’s threats following the sanctions with a strong message in no uncertain terms.”

She did not say whether Trump consulted his advisers on the exact language he should use to address North Korea.

Trump’s fiery remarks set off an escalation in already strained tensions between the U.S. and North Korea, with North Korea threatening to attack the U.S. territory of Guam.

Since the President’s impromptu comments, administration officials have sought to temper his warning, with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson saying that the situation with North Korea has not changed dramatically and that “Americans should sleep well at night.”

This post has been updated.

Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-AK) on Tuesday evening warned that President Donald Trump would need approval from Congress if he wanted to preemptively go to war against North Korea.

“If one of the military options that the administration is looking at is a preemptive war on the Korean peninsula launched by the United States, that would require the authorization of Congress,” Sullivan said on Fox News. “Article I of the U.S. Constitution is very clear about that.”

But he noted that if North Korea acted against the U.S. first, Trump would not need Congress’ go-ahead to hit back.

“Obviously, as the commander in chief, the President can react to attacks on the country in a way that he has broader authority on that. I was mentioning the discussions of a preemptive war on the peninsula, that clearly goes in the realm of the authorization of Congress,” he said.

Sullivan’s comments on Fox News followed remarks Trump gave Tuesday afternoon at his golf course in Bedminster, New Jersey, warning North Korea against using a nuclear weapon.

“They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen,” Trump said. “He has been very threatening, beyond a normal state, and as I said they will be met with fire and fury and, frankly, power the likes of which this world has never seen before.”

The President followed up on Wednesday by touting the United States’ nuclear arsenal in a series of tweets.

After President Donald Trump warned North Korea on Tuesday that the United States would meet any new North Korean nuclear capabilities with “fire and fury,” the President on Wednesday morning touted the United States’ nuclear arsenal in a series of tweets.

He did not mention North Korea in either tweet on U.S. nuclear capabilities, but Trump declared that the United States’ nuclear capabilities are “far stronger and more powerful than ever before” in an apparent threat to North Korea.

Trump’s tweets were not entirely accurate: An executive order to update the nuclear arsenal was not his first act as President.Trump’s first executive order was one on “minimizing the economic burden” of Obamacare. He did sign an executive order to jumpstart a review of the country’s nuclear weapons about a week later.

Defense Secretary James Mattis did not announce until April that he would start that review, which typically occurs every eight years. The review is due to Trump by the end of the year, so it’s unlikely that any major changes have occurred yet. As for modernization, President Barack Obama had ordered an overhaul of the nuclear arsenal in the 2016 budget, a process that takes years to complete.

On Tuesday, following reports that North Korea has produced a nuclear warhead small enough for an intercontinental ballistic missile, Trump issued a warning to North Korea.

“They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen,” Trump said. “He has been very threatening, beyond a normal state, and as I said they will be met with fire and fury and, frankly, power the likes of which this world has never seen before.”

On Wednesday morning, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that in the Tuesday comments, Trump was simply “sending a message in language Kim Jong-un can understand.”

President Donald Trump on Tuesday night endorsed Sen. Luther Strange (R-AL) in the contentious special election to fill the Senate seat vacated by Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Strange is locked in a three-way GOP primary with Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) and former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore.

Strange was appointed to temporarily fill Sessions’ seat when he became attorney general, but now must run to serve a full term. He has tied himself to Trump in ads, and his allies have run ads highlighting Brooks’ past skepticism of Trump.

Brooks has attacked Strange as an ally of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), running an ad charging that Strange and McConnell are working to block Trump’s “America first” agenda.

As Brooks and Strange snipe at each other, Moore, who was suspended as the state Supreme Court’s chief justice for ordering clerks not to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples, has risen in the polls.

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) on Tuesday cautioned President Donald Trump against issuing threats to North Korea unless he is prepared to act.

“I take exception to the President’s comments because you got to be sure that you can do what you say you’re going to do,” he told Arizona radio station KTAR when asked about Trump’s comments earlier Tuesday.

Following reports that North Korea had produced a nuclear warhead small enough to fit on an intercontinental ballistic missile, Trump said that the country “will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.”

McCain told KTAR that Trump’s rhetoric could just bring the United States closer to confrontation with North Korea. He said that he does not believe past presidents would have reacted in the same way.

“That kind of rhetoric, I’m not sure how it helps,” McCain said of Trump’s comments.

Asked if Trump is just using “tough talk,” McCain said, “The great leaders that I’ve seen, they don’t threaten unless they’re ready to act, and I’m not sure President Trump is ready to act.”

“It’s not terrible in what he said,” McCain added when asked if he stands with Trump. “It’s kind of the classic Trump in that he overstates things.”

The senator also told KTAR that it is not entirely clear what message Trump was trying to send.

“I don’t know what he’s saying and I’ve long ago given up trying to interpret what he says,” McCain said.

 

Democrats on the House Oversight Committee on Tuesday asked all cabinet secretaries for documents on federal funds used to pay for products or services from businesses owned by President Donald Trump.

“The American people deserve to know how their tax dollars are spent, including the amount of federal funds that are being provided to private businesses owned by the President and the purposes of these expenditures,” the members wrote in the letters. “The President’s financial entanglements make it impossible to know whether he is making his decisions in the public interest or to benefit to him or his family members financially. The President’s continued ownership of private businesses also places federal employees in compromised positions when they work on official activities that potentially create financial benefits for the President or his family members.”

The Democrats cited several news reports indicating that the federal government has spent money at Trump-owned businesses, including a July Washington Post report that the State Department spent more than $15,000 on rooms at a Trump-branded hotel in Vancouver while members of the Trump family were there for the hotel’s grand opening.

The letters also note that the President has an ownership stake in Starrett City Associates, L.P., a property that receives federal housing subsidies.

Trump himself has visited his properties ,including his Mar-A-Lago estate in Florida and his golf club in New Jersey, several times since taking office. The Democratic members noted that the federal government has not disclosed the funds spent on these trips and that it is not clear “whether the President benefited financially from these expenditures.”

Trump did not divest from his companies, raising concerns about potential conflicts of interest while he is in office. The President faces multiple lawsuits over his Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C.: Two lawsuits charge that Trump has violated the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution, which states that the president cannot accept payments from a foreign government, while another lawsuit charges that Trump’s D.C. hotel unfairly pulls competition from local venues.

Read the letter Democrats sent to cabinet leaders below:

President Donald Trump, who constantly rants about “leakers” and warns his Twitter followers to be wary of anonymous sources, on Tuesday morning retweeted a Fox News report that cited anonymous intelligence community officials.

The report promoted by the “Fox and Friends” Twitter account cited unnamed U.S. officials with knowledge of intelligence in North Korea who said that spy agencies detected North Korea loading missiles onto a patrol boat.

It also appears that the report contained classified information. During an interview Tuesday morning on “Fox and Friends,” the hosts asked UN Ambassador Nikki Haley about the report. She would not discuss the report and indicated that it contained classified information.

“I can’t talk about anything that’s classified. And if that’s in the newspaper, that’s a shame,” Haley said.

After retweeting the report, Trump published his own tweet about addressing North Korea’s potential nuclear capabilities.

This post has been updated.

After the city of Chicago on Monday filed a lawsuit against the Justice Department over its new policy of withholding grant money from sanctuary cities, Attorney General Jeff Sessions lashed out at the city in a statement.

Sessions began by blasting the city of Chicago for “an open hostility” for enforcing laws.

“To a degree perhaps unsurpassed by any other jurisdiction, the political leadership of Chicago has chosen deliberately and intentionally to adopt a policy that obstructs this country’s lawful immigration system. They have demonstrated an open hostility to enforcing laws designed to protect law enforcement — Federal, state, and local — and reduce crime, and instead have adopted an official policy of protecting criminal aliens who prey on their own residents,” Sessions said in the statement. “This is astounding given the unprecedented violent crime surge in Chicago, with the number of murders in 2016 surpassing both New York and Los Angeles combined.”

Sessions then indicated that he will not be deterred by lawsuits.

“The Mayor complains that the federal government’s focus on enforcing the law would require a ‘reordering of law enforcement practice in Chicago.’ But that’s just what Chicago needs: a recommitment to the rule of law and to policies that rollback the culture of lawlessness that has beset the city,” he said. “This administration will not simply give away grant dollars to city governments that proudly violate the rule of law and protect criminal aliens at the expense of public safety. So it’s this simple: Comply with the law or forego taxpayer dollars.”

In July, Sessions announced that the Justice Department would withhold certain grant money from cities unless they give federal law enforcement access to local prisons and give the federal a heads up when they are going to release an undocumented immigrant from jail.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced on Sunday that he would sue the federal government over the new DOJ policy, arguing that it’s unconstitutional.

“Chicago will not be blackmailed into changing our values, and we are and will remain a welcoming city,” he said at a press conference. “The federal government should be working with cities to provide necessary resources to improve public safety, not concocting new schemes to reduce our crime-fighting resources.”

The average temperature in the United States has risen rapidly since 1980 as a result of climate change, according to a government report obtained by the New York Times.

The draft report is a section of the National Climate Assessment compiled by scientists from 13 agencies and has been approved by the National Science Foundation. But the Trump administration has yet to clear it for publication, according to the New York Times.

One scientist who worked on the report told the New York Times that some scientists wanted to leak the report out of concern that the report would be suppressed. President Donald Trump has repeatedly called climate change a “hoax” and pulled out of the Paris climate accord this year.

The report found that even if humans immediately stop greenhouse gas emissions, the average global temperature will still rise this century, according to the Times. The report also found a link between man made climate change and an uptick in extreme weather events, per the Times.

Read the New York Times’ full report here.

Officials at the Department of Agriculture (USDA) under the Trump administration have instructed employees to avoid using the terms “climate change” and “greenhouse gases,” according to emails obtained by The Guardian.

In a February email, an official at the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, Bianca Moebius-Clune, told employees to avoid using the term “climate change” and to employ the phrase “weather extremes” instead, according to the report. Moebius-Clune also told staff to avoid the phrase “reduce greenhouse gases” and instead use “build soil organic matter” or “increase nutrient use efficiency,” per The Guardian.

However, employees were told that mentions of economic growth should be “tolerated if not appreciated by all,” according to The Guardian.

In a statement, the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) denied that the USDA or the Trump administration ordered the division to change its messaging on climate change.

“The Natural Resources Conservation Service has not received direction from USDA or the Administration to modify its communications on climate change or any other topic.  The agency continuously evaluates its messaging to America’s farmers, ranchers, and foresters as they work to implement voluntary conservation on their operations to improve the health of our soil, air, water, and habitat,” the NRCS said in a statement.

The email to USDA employees appears to reflect a broader policy across several agencies when it comes to climate change. The Environmental Protection Agency has removed much of its information on climate change from its website, and the Interior Department has removed most mentions of climate change from its website as well.

Read The Guardian’s full report here.

This post has been updated.

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