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 Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced earlier this month that Florida would be exempted from the Trump administration’s new offshore drilling program, he did so without giving President Donald Trump a heads up, irking the President, Axios reported Sunday evening.

The White House was caught off guard by the announcement, and Zinke’s decision to exempt Florida without input from the White House angered the President, per Axios. Trump has signaled to Zinke that he’s unhappy with him, two people with knowledge of the situation told Axios.

Zinke announced his decision after meeting with GOP Florida Gov. Rick Scott in Tallahassee. Since Republicans are lobbying Scott to run for Senate in 2018, the overture was seen as a political move to help Scott’s standing with Florida voters. In his announcement, Zinke credited Scott for convincing him that “Florida is unique and its coasts are heavily reliant on tourism as an economic driver” and that drilling could hurt the state’s economy.

Both Democratic and Republican lawmakers in coastal states balked at Zinke’s decision to exempt Florida and called for their states to be spared from the offshore drilling expansion as well.

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White House officials on Sunday night denied a report in Axios that Trump is not pleased with Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross’ performance.

“Secretary Ross is leading the administration’s approach on steel, aluminum, intellectual property and trade. Far from souring on his performance, since taking office, the President has expanded his responsibilities,” White House spokesperson Raj Shah told Axios in a statement.

Axios reported on Sunday that Trump is unhappy with Ross’ trade negotiations with China and is also perturbed that Ross regularly dozes off during meetings, Axios reported.

The President made his unhappiness clear to Ross during meetings about six months into his presidency, per Axios.

“These trade deals, they’re terrible,” Trump told Ross, according to a person in the room for one of the meetings who spoke with Axios. “Your understanding of trade is terrible. Your deals are no good. No good.”


Read Axios full report here.

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President Donald Trump over the weekend largely stayed out of negotiations to reopen the federal government, tasking Republican and Democratic leaders in Congress with reaching a deal.

Trump left the negotiations to Congress at the direction of his advisers, who argued that Democrats were to blame for the shutdown and therefore Democrats needed to come around on an agreement to open the government, the Washington Post reported on Sunday. The President did speak with Republican leaders over the phone to strategize, the New York Times reported, but he mostly refrained from weighing in on the negotiations publicly, save for a few tweets blaming Democrats for the shutdown.

Instead of inserting himself into the negotiations, Trump spent much of the weekend glued to his television. On Saturday, he watched old clips of him criticizing President Barack Obama during the 2013 shutdown, a White House aide told the New York Times. Throughout the weekend Trump watched the cable news coverage of the shutdown and offered critiques to his aides who went on television to blame Democrats for the shutdown, according to the Washington Post.

Indeed, Trump tweeted praise for Fox News on Sunday night, presumably while watching his favorite cable news network.

On Sunday, Trump did not leave his private residence on the third floor of the White House, according to CNN. From there, he called some Republican leaders in Congress, urging them to reach a deal with Democrats to open the government, per CNN.

Though he ultimately kept a low profile, Trump told aides that he was concerned he would be blamed for the shutdown and wondered if he should be working to end it, per the Washington Post. In an attempt to show that he was working hard during the shutdown, the President posed for a photo of him on the phone in the Oval Office on Satueday, wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat.

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House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) on Friday afternoon blamed Republicans for the potential federal government shutdown and took a swing at President Donald Trump’s leadership during the negotiations.

Pelosi said that Trump is “failing to lead,” noting that Trump blamed President Barack Obama for the shutdown in 2013. She also hit Trump for a tweet last year positing that a shutdown could be “good.”

“There’s no such thing as a good shutdown,” she told reporters in a press conference on Capitol Hill.

Democratic House leaders pledged to remain in Washington, D.C. while they wait for the Senate to act on a deal to keep the government open. Pelosi seemed pleased that Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) was headed to the White House to talk about a funding deal with Trump.

“I’m optimistic that that overture was made, hopefully to be constructive,” she said.

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Carl Higbie, the head of external affairs for the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), resigned from the Trump administration on Thursday after CNN uncovered derogatory comments he made about black people, women, LGBT people and Muslims.

Effective immediately, Carl Higbie has resigned as Chief of External Affairs at CNCS,” CNCS spokesperson Samantha Jo Warfield told CNN in a statement Thursday.

Higbie, who oversaw public relations for government service organizations like AmeriCorps, has made several degrading comments about minorities in the past on talk radio.

In 2013, he said that black people have a “lax of morality” and said that black people on welfare “think that breeding is a form of employment,” according to a clip uncovered by CNN. In 2013, he openly said that he does not “like” Muslim people.

“People always rip me a new one for that. Carl, you’re racist, you can’t, you’re sexist. I’m like Jesus Christ. I just don’t like Muslim people because their ideology sucks,” Higbie said on an online talk radio show, “Sound of Freedom.”

Higbie also said that he does not “like” gay people while lamenting the legalization of gay marriage and called Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) a “bitch.”

Read CNN’s full report on Higbie’s offensive comments here.

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This post has been updated.

President Donald Trump was initially scheduled to fly to Mar-a-Lago Friday afternoon, but given the tough odds the Senate faces in keeping the government open, it appears Trump will not leave for his Palm Beach estate until the Senate passes a funding bill.

A White House spokesperson told reporters at the White House that the President would delay his trip until a shutdown is averted, according to CNN.

As of Thursday night, the odds of the Senate easily passing the spending bill passed by the House on Thursday looked poor. Democrats remained staunchly opposed to the deal, and a few Republicans signaled opposition as well.

On Friday morning, Trump continued to lay the groundwork to blame a potential government shutdown on Democrats, as a shutdown looks more and more likely.

A government shutdown could put a serious damper on Trump’s plans to celebrate his first year in office at Mar-a-Lago on Saturday. Trump is set to attend a fundraiser on Saturday night to benefit the Republican National Committee and his presidential campaign.

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With about a day left to negotiate a deal to keep the federal government open, Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) on Thursday night signaled that he will not back Republicans’ current plan to temporarily fund the government.

Flake joins a couple of other Republicans and the Democratic caucus in the Senate in opposing the bill passed by the House Thursday night, increasing the threat that the government will shut down on Friday night. Flake, an outspoken Trump critic who is not seeking re-election in 2018, did not pledge outright that he would oppose the bill, but told reporters he was “not inclined” to back the deal. He said that he would prefer passing a spending bill to fund the government for just a few days, a proposal pitched by the Democrats, in order to give Congress more time to finalize a deal to restore the protections in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

In an interview with the Daily Beast Thursday night, Flake complained that leaders in Congress were giving President Donald Trump too much power in steering negotiations on DACA. He argued that since Trump seems to constantly change his mind on what kind of deal he would back, Congress just needs to negotiate on its own and see if Trump will sign the bill.

“We’re not going to get any better, particularly on the [immigration] issue, by waiting three weeks,” Flake told The Daily Beast. “It just gives the White House time to agree, disagree, and go back and forth. We just need to pass a bill and put it either on the president’s desk… or just pass a Senate bill and see what the House does with it.”

“There’s an institutional prerogative here. We pass legislation. The president either signs it or vetoes it. We shouldn’t be beholden to everything the president wants,” the senator added. “Obviously you take that into account, but you can’t just wait. Particularly when the White House has been going back and forth and back and forth for a long time now.”

Flake is not the only Republican in the Senate who has threatened to buck GOP leaders on the House spending deal, which would fund the federal government for another month and fund the Children’s Health Insurance Program for six years. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) have also signaled they may oppose the spending deal.

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Cameron Joseph contributed reporting.

After a local outlet reported that Sen. Tom Cotton’s (R-AR) office sent cease and desist letters to constituents, demanding that they stop any communications with the senator’s office, Cotton’s office explained that it does send such letters. His office said they are sent rarely and only “under extreme circumstances,” but it’s unclear how often they are used.

“Senator Cotton is always happy to hear from Arkansans and encourages everyone to contact his offices to express their thoughts, concerns, and opinions. In order to maintain a safe work environment, if an employee of Senator Cotton receives repeated communications that are harassing and vulgar, or any communication that contains a threat, our policy is to notify the U.S. Capitol Police’s Threat Assessment Section and, in accordance with their guidance, send a cease and desist letter to the individual making the harassing or threatening communication. These letters are rare and only used under extreme circumstances,” Caroline Rabbitt Tabler, Cotton’s communications director, told TPM in an email when asked about the reports.

Tabler did not respond to TPM’s inquiry as to how recently such letters have been sent.

Cotton twice said “no comment” as he entered a Senate elevator when TPM asked him about the letters.

A staffer for Cotton, John Noonan, on Thursday afternoon sent several tweets defending the decision to send the letter. Noonan said that Cotton’s office only sent the cease and desist letter to one constituent, and that the constituent called an intern a “c***.”

Activists with Ozark Indivisible published a tweet Wednesday night revealing what appeared to be a cease and desist letter from Cotton’s office. The exact recipient of the letter and the circumstances leading up to the letter are unclear.

The Arkansas Times also reported that Cotton’s office sent the letters to several people, citing a contributor to the Arkansas Times, Bill Fleming. One person who received the letter said that it came after “calling and expressing my grave concerns over his actions and support of this administration’s agenda concerning a wide variety of subjects.”


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As Republican leaders in Congress scramble to avoid a federal government shutdown by the end of the week, President Donald Trump on Thursday tried to blame Democrats for a potential shutdown and claim that a shutdown would have the gravest effect on the U.S. military.

However, Trump’s declaration as he entered the Pentagon Thursday morning that “the worst thing” that happens during a shutdown “is what happens to our military” is an exaggeration.

“The group that loses big would be the military, and we’re never letting our military lose at any point. We’re going to fund our military,” Trump said.

It’s true that a federal government shutdown could hurt employees of the federal government, including those serving in the military and working in the Pentagon. A shutdown could delay paychecks for those deemed essential and could jeopardize pay for workers told not to work while the federal government is closed.

However, much of the Defense Department’s work is prioritized over that of other agencies in the event of a shutdown. Active duty troops will not leave their posts, and other key Pentagon employees will continue to work. Some civilian workers at the Defense Department would likely have to stop working temporarily, but so will employees in other federal government departments.

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Ty Cobb, a White House attorney representing President Donald Trump in matters related to the Russia probe, told CBS News this week that Trump’s legal team is engaged in “active discussions” with special counsel Robert Mueller’s team about a potential interview with the President.

Cobb told CBS that Mueller has yet to formally request an interview with Trump, but he added that it seems likely the special counsel will request one. He made the comments in an interview for CBS correspondent Major Garrett’s podcast “The Takeout,” set to publish in full on Friday.

His comments confirm reports from last week that Trump’s legal team had discussed a potential interview with Mueller. The President’s lawyers are also reportedly discussing strategies for avoiding a sit-down interview with Trump or limiting the interview in some way.

Cobb told CBS that Trump is “very eager” to speak with Mueller and offer “whatever responses are required in connection with wrapping up this investigation.”

He predicted that the special counsel probe should wrap up in four to six weeks, however, that estimate may be optimistic. In November, Cobb said that the probe should end by late 2017 or early 2018. However, he had to adjust his projected timeline this week, as the special counsel team is still conducting interviews.

Cobb also addressed former White House adviser Steve Bannon’s comment in the book “Fire and Fury” that the Trump Tower meeting between campaign officials and a Kremlin-linked lawyer was “treasonous.”

“I don’t think you should take anything from the Michael Wolff book seriously,” Cobb told CBS News.

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