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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

Office of Government Ethics acting Director David Apol, who oversees ethics in the executive branch, sent a memo to the heads of federal agencies last week admonishing some Cabinet officials for their actions and encouraging a greater focus on ethics.

The memo came as several Cabinet chiefs have come under scrutiny for their taxpayer-funded travel habits, although Apol did not explicitly mention officials’ use of non-commercial flights in his memo.

“I am deeply concerned that the actions of some in Government leadership have harmed perceptions about the importance of ethics and what conduct is, and is not, permissible,” he wrote.

Apol encouraged agency heads to “re-double” their commitment to ethics, telling Cabinet officials that it is “essential to the success of our republic that citizens can trust that your decisions and decisions made by your agency are motivated by the public good and not by personal interests.”

He then listed ways in which Cabinet officials could go about strengthening their focus on ethics. He told leaders to act with a “‘Should I do it?’ mentality,” as opposed to a “‘Can I do it?’ mentality.” He also encouraged agency chiefs to talk more about ethics at their departments, learn more about ethics policies and include ethics officials in more meetings.

Several Cabinet officials are under investigation by their departments’ inspectors general due to their use of non-commercial planes for official travel, including Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. Tom Price recently resigned as health and human services secretary due to his use of private planes.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin was also under review. The Treasury Department inspector general’s office found that his non-commercial air travel was legal, but warned Mnuchin to provide a more robust justification for those flights in the future.

Read Apol’s memo below:

President Donald Trump continued his Twitter tear on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, directing most of his fire at the media.

Trump has been up early several mornings in a row, venting to his supporters on Twitter. He has lashed out at Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), escalated his feud with NFL players and defended his administration’s immigration proposals.

He continued his tirade Tuesday night with tweets that appear to be a response to reports on tension with Chief of Staff John Kelly. Vanity Fair reported Tuesday that Trump has grown increasingly frustrated with Kelly recently. The Washington Post reported that investor Thomas Barrack, a longtime friend of Trump who often counsels the President, has been floated by Trump allies as a potential replacement to Kelly in the event that Trump’s anger with Kelly increases.

Wednesday morning, Trump continued his attacks on the media, complaining about coverage of the economy and Republicans’ plan to change the tax code.

Former President Barack Obama and former First Lady Michelle Obama on Tuesday afternoon released a statement condemning the behavior of Harvey Weinstein as more women came out accusing the movie mogul of sexual harassment and assault.

“Michelle and I have been disgusted by the recent reports of Harvey Weinstein. Any man who demeans and degrades women in such fashion needs to be condemned and held accountable, regardless of wealth or status,” Obama said in a statement. “We should celebrate the courage of women who have come forward to tell these painful stories. And we all need to build a culture, including by empowering our girls and teaching our boys decency and respect, so we can make such behavior less prevalent in the future.”

Weinstein was a prominent Democratic donor, and Democratic lawmakers have come under pressure to denounce the movie executive. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton condemned Westein’s actions earlier on Tuesday, and several Democratic lawmakers have donated campaign contributions from Weinstein to charity.

After waging a war of words against NFL players for several weeks, President Donald Trump on Wednesday morning celebrated the news that the NFL will consider requiring players to stand for the national anthem.

Trump claimed in an early-morning tweet that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is “demanding” that players stand for the national anthem, but the league has not yet decided on an official change to its policy.

The league will meet next week to discuss possible changes to its policy on the national anthem.

Trump began his feud with NFL players during a September rally in Alabama, where he said that any “son of a bitch” who kneels during the national anthem at an NFL game should be fired. The protests began as a way for players to protest police treatment of minorities.

The President has since continuously escalated his attacks on NFL players, regularly firing off tweets as more players join in on the protests. On Tuesday morning, Trump threatened the NFL’s tax breaks, even though the league gave up its tax-exempt status a couple of years ago.

During a July meeting with top national security advisers, President Donald Trump said that he wanted to significantly build up the United States’ nuclear arsenal, NBC News reported Wednesday morning, citing three unnamed officials in the room.

Trump said that he wanted a nearly tenfold increase in the country’s nuclear capabilities after seeing a presentation that showed how the U.S. has steadily worked to shrink the nuclear arsenal, according to NBC News. The officials in the room told Trump that it would be very challenging to build up the nuclear arsenal and explained that the U.S. is in a stronger military position than it was when the nuclear stockpile was larger, according to NBC News.

Officials told NBC News that there are no plans to build up the U.S. nuclear arsenal.

Some officials in the room told NBC News that they did not interpret Trump’s wish for more nuclear weapons as an order to build up the arsenal and said that the President also said during the meeting that he wanted a general military build-up with more troops and other equipment.

It was after this meeting on July 20 that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was overheard calling Trump a “moron,” per NBC News. However, it’s not clear what exactly prompted Tillerson to label Trump a moron, according to NBC News.

Trump on Wednesday morning denied that he asked for a tenfold increase in the nuclear arsenal and suggested that NBC’s broadcasting license be revoked.

Read NBC News’ full report here.

As more women came forward this week to accuse movie mogul Harvey Weinstein of sexual harassment or assault, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton released a statement on Tuesday condemning Weinstein’s behavior.

Weinstein is a big Democratic donor, contributing to both Clinton’s and Barack Obama’s presidential campaigns. Several Democratic lawmakers in Congress over the past week have pledged to donate campaign contributions from Weinstein to charity, given the spate of recent reports about his harassment and abuse of female employees, models and actresses.

Clinton said in the statement that she was “shocked” by the revelations.

The New York Times published a report last week detailing sexual harassment accusations from several women, including the actress Ashley Judd. The New Yorker followed up on Tuesday with additional accounts from women, three of whom accused Weinstein of rape. The New Yorker also made public an audio recording on which Weinstein can be heard confirming that he groped an actress.

Rep. Diane Black (R-TN), a candidate for governor in Tennessee, was not pleased with her fellow Tennessean Sen. Bob Corker’s comment that the White House is an “adult day care center.”

During a Tuesday morning interview with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt, Black said that Corker’s comments about the President were unhelpful and argued that the Senate is actually an adult day care center.

“I’m not sure that those kinds of things in the media really help us to get to where we need to be,” she said. “Look, if you talk about an adult day care center, I’m sorry but I think the Senate is an adult day care center. They can’t get anything done over there. we have been waiting for repeal and replace.”

Black added that such “conversations can take place behind closed doors” if they must take place.

Still reeling from reports that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called him a “moron,” President Donald Trump boasted on Friday that he would best Tillerson in an IQ test.

In an interview with Forbes published Tuesday morning, Trump denied that Tillerson did actually call him a “moron,” but said that if reports were true, he may have to compare IQs with his secretary of state.

“I think it’s fake news, but if he did that, I guess we’ll have to compare IQ tests. And I can tell you who is going to win,” Trump told Forbes.

NBC News reported last week that Tillerson called Trump a “moron,” setting off the President. Since the report, Trump has attacked NBC News and denied the outlet’s reporting on Tillerson’s comments.

The secretary of state held a press conference just to clarify his positive feelings about Trump, but did not directly deny calling the President a moron. A spokesperson for Tillerson later denied that he made the comment.

Trump’s anger did not subside after his secretary of state groveled via press conference, however. The president has reportedly been fuming over the report and continued to attack NBC over the weekend.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) indicated to the Washington Post on Monday that Democrats may consider withholding their votes for a spending bill in December unless they can reach an agreement with Republicans on legislation restoring the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) protections.

Pelosi told the Washington Post that she intends “to use every possibility” to reach a deal protecting undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as minors.

“We’re not at that place yet,” she added, per the Post. “Right now, we’re trying to get Republicans to vote on what we believe.”

The White House on Sunday announced a list of demands for any deal restoring some protections for DACA recipients that could tank a potential deal with Democrats. The Trump administration demanded that any agreement include funding for the border wall, curb legal immigration and limit the relatives that immigrants can bring to the U.S.

The list of hard-line immigration demands runs against the supposed tentative agreement that President Donald Trump reached with Democratic leaders. Pelosi told the Washington Post that she still believes Trump wants to protect DACA recipients, but that his staff proposed a list of demands that could threaten a DACA deal.

“I do believe the President when he says he wants to protect the dreamers. I do not think what his staff put forward is in furtherance of that. In fact, it’s endangering them,” Pelosi said.

Trump on Tuesday morning defended the hard-line immigration proposals issued by the White House, arguing that it would be challenging to work with Democrats on immigration.

Up early Tuesday morning, President Donald Trump fired off several tweets referring to his ongoing feud with NFL players protesting during the national anthem.

Trump escalated his tiff with the football league by suggesting the government nix the NFL’s tax breaks.

The NFL gave up its tax exempt status in 2015, leaving it unclear which tax breaks Trump would be looking to eliminate. The league does see tax breaks when building stadiums, but those are granted by local governments, not the federal government.

Trump also went after Jemele Hill, the ESPN anchor recently suspended from the network for tweets about the owner of the Dallas Cowboys.

Monday night, Trump defended Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who said recently that he would not allow any player who kneels during the national anthem to play.

Trump’s renewed interest in the NFL and players’ protests came after Vice President Mike Pence walked out on a football game over the weekend when players kneeled for the national anthem.

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