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

The House Ethics Committee on Thursday announced that it will expand its investigation into Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-TX) to examine allegations that he lied to the committee and improperly used House resources for campaign work.

In a Thursday memo, the House Ethics Committee said it was looking into allegations that Farenthold’s staff “may have used House resources, including staff time, to benefit his congressional campaigns” and that Farenthold “may have required members of his congressional staff to work on his congressional campaigns.” The committee said it will also review allegations that the congressman “may have made false statements or omissions in testimony to the Committee.”

A former aide in Farenthold’s congressional office told the Ethics Committee last week that Farenthold and his chief of staff regularly asked her to perform campaign duties, CNN reported. She said that she was never paid by the campaign or volunteered for the campaign, per CNN. House rules prohibit members from using official House resources for campaign work.

The former aide, Elizabeth Peace, told lawyers with the House committee that she was pressured to do the campaign work despite complaining that it made her uncomfortable, per the report. Peace also told the panel that Farenthold’s chief of staff once yelled at her to do campaign work, a source familiar with the discussion told CNN.

The committee is already investigating sexual harassment allegations that several former staffers have made against Farenthold. Other former employees in recent weeks have accused the congressman of creating a hostile work environment and making sexually demeaning and other abusive remarks to his aides.

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Rick Dearborn, a deputy chief of staff and key aide to President Donald Trump, will leave the White House in early 2018.

The Wall Street Journal first reported Dearborn’s departure on Thursday night. White House spokesman Raj Shah confirmed to TPM on Friday that Dearborn will leave the administration.

“Rick loyally served the President for two and a half years and brought tremendous energy to the White House staff. He’s a super guy and it breaks my heart to see him leave, but I look forward to his continued personal friendship and support for the President’s agenda,” White House Chief of Staff John Kelly said in a statement about Dearborn’s departure.

Dearborn began working for Trump during his 2016 presidential campaign. Before that, he worked in Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ Senate office. At the White House, Dearborn was the top aide to Trump’s chief of staff and also worked on public and legislative affairs.

According to the Wall Street Journal and CNN, Dearborn told friends that he saw the Republican tax overhaul that cleared Congress on Wednesday as his cue to leave.

News of Dearborn’s departure followed the announcement that Deputy National Security Adviser Dina Powell will leave the White House early next year. More departures are expected at the beginning of Trump’s second year in office.

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In a farewell address on the Senate floor Thursday morning, Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) criticized the policies and political tactics of President Donald Trump and Republicans.

Franken will resign from his seat on Jan. 2 due to allegations from several women that he forcibly kissed or groped them. In his Thursday speech, Franken did not address the accusations against him. Instead he criticized Republicans and reflected on his time in the Senate.

The Minnesota senator walked through several major policy issues, starting with the tax cuts passed Wednesday by both chambers of Congress.

Franken also criticized Republicans’ climate change denialism, efforts to suppress minority voters and work to squash LGBT rights. He said that Trump and Republicans tell lies to push their policies that marginalize minority groups. Franken argued that Trump did not create those lies, but happily pushed them.

“As I leave the Senate, I have to admit that it feels like we’re losing the war for truth. And maybe it’s already lost,” Franken said. “If that’s what happens, then we have lost the ability to have the kinds of arguments that help build consensus.”

Franken said that ordinary Americans need to become better informed in order to “get this country back on track.”

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) on Thursday morning crushed House Speaker Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) dream of making cuts to programs like Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security in 2018 now that Congress has passed tax cuts.

McConnell said that the Senate would not be able to pass legislation making changes to those programs without support from Democrats, making it unlikely that his chamber would attempt to pass major legislation addressing those programs.

He made the comments during an interview with Axios’ Mike Allen, who asked McConnell where infrastructure and “entitlement reform” fall on his 2018 to-do list.

“I think the Democrats are not going to be interested in entitlement reform, so I would not expect to see that on the agenda,” McConnell replied. “And what the Democrats are willing to do is important because in the Senate, with rare exceptions, like the tax bill, we have to have Democratic involvement.”

He added that it’s more likely the Senate would tackle infrastructure since both parties are interested in such legislation.

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Attorney General Jeff Sessions has directed Justice Department prosecutors to ask FBI officials involved in a probe into the Uranium One deal for more information on the closed investigation, NBC News reported Thursday morning, citing unnamed law enforcement officials.

Led by President Donald Trump, Republicans have sought to deflect attention paid to special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe by questioning Hillary Clinton’s role in the Uranium One deal as secretary of state. The deal, which was approved by several agencies in the U.S. government, allowed the Russian nuclear energy agency to acquire a stake in Uranium One, a Canadian company with uranium extraction operations in the U.S. Conservatives have tried to link the approval of the deal to donations made to the Clinton Foundation despite the fact that Clinton’s state department was just one of nine agencies tasked with approving the deal.

Assistant Attorney General for Legislative Affairs Stephen Boyd previously told House Judiciary Chair Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) that DOJ lawyers would give Sessions recommendations on whether the Justice Department should appoint a special counsel to investigate the Uranium One deal, and the interviews are part of an effort to offer those recommendations.

The FBI previously investigated the deal but closed the probe without filing charges. A senior law enforcement official told NBC News that there were allegations of corruption surrounding the deal. Clinton has denied that she played any role in approving the deal.

Read NBC News’ full report here.

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A group of Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee have been conducting a secret investigation for weeks to search for evidence that top officials at the Justice Department and FBI improperly handled the so-called Trump dossier, Politico reported Wednesday evening, citing four people familiar with the GOP members’ plans.

The band of Republicans are concerned that officials at the Justice Department and FBI worked to hurt President Donald Trump or help his Democratic opponent in 2016, Hillary Clinton, according to Politico.

The group led by Intelligence Committee Chair Devin Nunes (R-CA) has not told Democrats on the committee about their probe but have spoken with the House general counsel about their work, per Politico. It’s not clear how many members of the committee are part of this group, but an aide with knowledge of the meetings told Politico that Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) is not involved. They are using documents and interviews with former Obama administration officials obtained as part of the committee’s main Russia probe, Politico reported.

News of the secret probe running parallel to the committee’s official Russia investigation comes as Republicans in Congress are increasingly critical of special counsel Robert Mueller’s team. Republicans pounced on the revelation that an FBI agent who worked on Mueller’s team sent text messages critical of Trump during the 2016 campaign. Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Chuck Grassley announced that he would investigate “bias” of the agent who sent those text messages, who was reportedly involved in the FBI’s questioning of former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

Donald Trump Jr. this week suggested that officials at the FBI have been working against his father. Also this week, two Republican committee chairs in the House asked the Justice Department to make three officials at the FBI available for interviews. The Republicans are seeking information on the decision-making surrounding the Hillary Clinton email probe and the Russia probe.

Read Politico’s full report here.



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Vice President Mike Pence on Wednesday night would not say whether he believes special counsel Robert Mueller’s team is conducting a fair investigation of President Donald Trump and his campaign’s potential collusion with Russia.

During an interview on Fox News, host Laura Ingraham asked Pence twice whether he thinks the Mueller team is impartial, and the vice president avoided answering both times.

Ingraham told Pence that it appears that there are “loyalists” to former President Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton on Mueller’s probe, likely a reference to newly revealed text messages from an FBI agent who used to work on Mueller’s team criticizing Trump.

“Knowing what you know and probably what you’ve seen about some of these investigators who are still working in this office, do you have faith that this will be a fair and impartial investigation going forward?” she asked Pence.

“Well let me say, we’re fully cooperating with the special counsel, and we’ll continue to. But I have to tell you, it’s just not been a focus of mine or of this president,” Pence replied before telling Ingraham that the administration is focused on tax cuts and improving the American economy. “So we’ll let the special counsel do their job and continue to cooperate.”

Ingraham pressed further, telling Pence that some Republicans believe that the Mueller team is operating “in an unfair manner.”

“I can just tell you and your viewers that we’re just going to continue to cooperate,” Pence responded before again touting Trump’s focus on boosting the military and the economy.

Pence also told Ingraham that he has not been interviewed by Mueller’s team.

Watch part of the interview via Fox News. Ingraham brings up the Mueller probe near the 4 minute mark.

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A Republican state lawmaker in Minnesota argued this week that she should not meet with a group of high school students because by doing so she would risk being falsely accused of sexual misconduct.

In a Facebook post explaining her refusal to meet with student members of the Alexandria Area High School Democrats, Franson alluded to Roy Moore, the Alabama GOP Senate candidate accused of initiating an inappropriate sexual relationship with a high school girl while he was in his 30s.

“A man’s life was destroyed in AL,” Franson wrote in a Facebook message seen by ThinkProgress. “40 years ago he met with minors alone and they recently accused him of horrendous actions. In the world of we must believe every sexual harassment claim, I would think my approach is beyond reasonable. All it takes is one perceived action and my life is destroyed. The life of my family is destroyed. That is a risk I will not take.”

Franson was not immediately available for comment to TPM.

Her explanation came after she initially refused to meet with the group in her office. She told the students on Twitter that she would not meet with partisan groups in her office.

Franson told Minneapolis television station KMSP on Monday that she offered to meet with the students in a public place but said she would not sit down with them in private. She said it has “nothing to do with me not wanting to meet with Democrats, it has everything to do with we all have to be careful in today’s world.”

Jack Ballou, the founder of the AAHS Democrats, told ThinkProgress that he was “shocked” by Franson’s Facebook post referencing Moore. He has been blocked by Franson on social media, but ThinkProgress told him about the Facebook post.

“If any of what she said was true, she could have just told us initially that she doesn’t meet with minors,” Ballou told ThinkProgress. “I’m also so confused how she started defending Roy Moore… last year I met with Mary through the student page program, one on one at her office. She had no issue then.”

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Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) on Tuesday lashed out at the media over the coverage of her decision to support the Republican tax bill, charging that the press has been “unbelievable sexist” while covering her negotiations with GOP leaders.

“I cannot believe that the press would have treated another senator with 20 years of experience as they have treated me,” Collins told reporters on Tuesday, according to Bloomberg News.

“They’ve ignored everything that I’ve gotten and written story after story about how I’m duped,” she added, per Politico. “How am I duped when all your amendments get accepted?”

She also said that a reporter, who she did not name, noted that she did not cry in a piece about the tax bill, according to Politico. Politico identified the report as a piece in the New York Times about a meeting Collins had with a group opposed to the tax plan. The Times later removed that reference, per Politico.

“I can’t imagine a reporter writing that about a male senator meeting with the same group, and, in fact, I have proof because they met with Jeff Flake,” Collins said, according to Politico. “So it’s been extremely discouraging to see the press coverage on this given the significant impact that I’ve had on this bill.”

After Collins rejected several bills proposed by Republican leaders to repeal Obamacare, reporters watched her closely as the GOP moved on to tax cuts.

Despite the fact that the tax bill includes a provision to repeal the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate, Collins announced on Monday that she would vote for the tax bill. She agreed to support the bill after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and President Donald Trump promised to back two bills aimed at lowering health insurance premiums.

However, it’s not clear that the two bills would pass in the House — several GOP members in the House said on Tuesday that they do not see their chamber backing the bills.

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During a speech Tuesday night in Palm Beach, Florida, Donald Trump Jr. suggested that there are top officials in the United States government working to undermine the Trump administration, feeding the conspiracy theory pushed by some Trump officials earlier in the year that the “deep state” is working against President Donald Trump.

Trump Jr. did not specifically mention the FBI and special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe, but he referenced text messages sent by a former member of Mueller’s team about his father, suggesting that he believes that investigators on the Russia probe are out to destroy his father.

Trump Jr. brought up the agent’s August 2016 mention of an “insurance policy,” which the Wall Street Journal reported was used to convey that the agent believed the FBI needed to aggressively investigate potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia in case Trump won the presidency.

Trump Jr. asked the audience to imagine if an agent in a bureau led by a conservative director had sent something similar about Barack Obama in 2008.

“What do you think would happen? Do you think the media would cover that? Yeah,” Trump Jr. said. “Do you think it would be brushed under the rug like, ‘Oh, thats nothing. It doesn’t mean anything.’ There’d be revolution in the streets. So I’m glad that this is coming out now, because it is good, because real people have to see this.”

He went on to suggest that the text messages suggest that the system is in fact rigged against his father.

“My father talked about a rigged system throughout the campaign, and people went, ‘Oh, what are you talking about?’ But it is,” Trump Jr. said. “There are people at the highest levels of government that don’t want to let America be America.”

Watch a clip of Trump Jr.’s speech via CNN:

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