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

Scott Pruitt, the Environmental Protection Agency administrator, has spent more than $58,000 of taxpayer money on four trips using government and private planes to attend events throughout the United States, according to Thursday reports from CBS News and the Washington Post.

“Administrator Pruitt took one charter flight and three government flights,” EPA spokeswoman Liz Bowman confirmed to CBS News.

In June, the EPA spent about $36,000 to fly Pruitt and three staffers from Cincinnati to New York on a military plane so that they could catch a flight to Italy for meetings with environmental ministers. According to travel documents viewed by the Washington Post, the White House approved the flight and the EPA explained that it used the military plane because no commercial flight would have gotten Pruitt to New York in time for his flight to Italy.

In July, Pruitt and six staffers flew to Guymon, Oklahoma, spending more than $14,000 on an Interior Department plane. The EPA said that Pruitt was unable to make the 10-hour round-trip drive due to time constraints, per the Washington Post.

Pruitt and three staffers flew on a private plane costing more than $5,700 to an event in Colorado in August. The EPA charted the plane because the commercial flight Pruitt planned to take was delayed by eight hours, per the Washington Post. A few days later, Pruitt spent about $2,000 to fly on a North Dakota state plane to attend an event at the University of North Dakota’s Environmental Research Center, per CBS News.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) sent a letter to the EPA’s inspector general on Tuesday asking for the agency watchdog to review Pruitt’s use of non-commercial flights, according to the Washington Post.

Pruitt is the third Trump administration official to come under scrutiny for his use of non-commercial planes to attend official events. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price has spent more than $300,000 on non-commercial flights to attend events up and down the East Coast, often for short trips and events close to major airports. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s use of a government plane to fly to Kentucky to attend a local chamber of commerce event and to view the eclipse is also under review.

The use of non-commercial planes by these officials has prompted the House Oversight Committee to review the use of such flights by the Trump administration. The committee sent letters to the White House and 24 federal agencies on Tuesday, asking that they detail officials’ use of government-owned and private planes.

Pruitt was also already under investigation by the EPA inspector general for his travel in the first half of the year, following reports that Pruitt used taxpayer money to fly to his home state of Oklahoma several times.

The EPA chief’s spending on other items, while calling for drastic cuts across the agency, also has invited scrutiny. The EPA chief has assembled an 18-member 24/7 security detail, pulling agents from the agency’s criminal investigations unit. That level of security is unprecedented for an EPA chief. Pruitt is also building a private, sound-proof booth in his office, which will cost nearly $25,000.


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President Donald Trump on Wednesday insisted that Republicans are close to passing a bill to repeal Obamacare and dubiously predicted that Congress would manage to pull off the feat early next year.

“We have the votes for health care. We have one senator that’s in the hospital. He can’t vote because he’s in the hospital,” Trump told reporters outside the White House, echoing a claim he made earlier in the morning on Twitter. The President was likely referring to Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS), who is not in Washington, D.C. due to a health issue.

The President’s claim seems far-fetched, given how much the Senate has struggled on the issue this year and the fact that the chamber’s ability to pass a repeal bill with a simple majority expires at the end of this week.

Trump told reporters that Congress would tackle Obamacare repeal again in “January or February,” later amending that to January, February or March—a remarkably fast timeline given Congress’ plan to tackle tax reform next. It’s also not clear how Congress would pass the bill in early 2018 without the authority to do so through the reconciliation process.

The President complained that Republicans fell just short of earning enough support to repeal Obamacare this week, and alluded to Sen. John McCain’s (R-AZ) opposition to the latest health care bill and frustration with the partisan process.

“I feel we have the votes. I’m almost certain we have the votes. But with one man in the hospital, we cannot display that we have them,” Trump said Wednesday. “Plus, some people want to go through a process just to make themselves feel better. That’s okay.”

He that Republicans would be able to go through a process between now and early next year that would assuage concerns about the rushed process from some senators, like McCain and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK).

“What we’re going to do is, we will do the block grants, we will do the health care. We will get a longer process going for the couple of people that did want to see more process even though they’re a yes vote,” Trump said.

In the meantime Trump said he would try to negotiate with Democrats on health care and said he may sign executive orders on the subject.

“I am considering an executive order on associations and that will take care of a tremendous number of people with regard to health care,” he said. “And I’ll probably be signing a very major executive order where people can go out, cross state lines, do lots of things and buy their own health care, and that will be probably signed next week. It’s being finished now. It’s going to cover a lot of territory and a lot of people.”

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President Donald Trump on Wednesday signaled that he’s less than pleased with Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price’s use of private planes to fly up and down the East Coast.

“I will tell you personally, I’m not happy about it,” Trump told reporters outside the White House when asked about Price’s use of private planes. “I’m going to look at it. I am not happy about it, and I let him know it.”

Asked if Price is “in trouble,” Trump told reporters, “You’ll have to ask senators about that.”

It’s not clear what Trump meant: The House Oversight Committee did send letters to Price and other department heads on Tuesday asking for details on any officials’ use of private or government planes.

Asked later on if he would fire Price, Trump responded, “We’ll see,” as he turned away from reporters to board Marine One.

The White House previously had distanced itself from Price’s use of private planes. Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders noted last week that Price’s mode of transportation was not approved by the White House, and Trump also said last week that he was “looking into” Price’s travel, refraining from defending a member of his Cabinet.

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The House Oversight Committee on Tuesday sent letters to the White House and 24 federal agencies demanding details on the use of private and government planes by Trump administration officials.

Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-SC) and Ranking Member Elijah Cummings (D-MD) wrote in the letters that they are “examining the extent to which non-career officials at federal departments and agencies either use government-owned aircraft for personal travel or private non-commercial aircraft for official travel.” They noted that federal law requires officials to use the “most expeditious” mode of transportation possible and that official travel should not “include personal use.”

The letters follow reports from Politico about Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price’s use of private jets to fly around the country. He used private planes at least five times, costing taxpayers more than $300,000 since May, and Price visited family and friends on those trips as well.

HHS has defended Price’s use of private planes, arguing that he sometimes needs to use a private plane due to his busy schedule. The White House has not offered a full-throated defense of Price, however, noting that HHS and not it cleared the secretary’s use of private planes.

The HHS inspector general has already launched a probe into Price’s use of private planes, and Cummings previously sent a letter to Price asking for information on his flights.

The Tuesday letters mark involvement from the Republican chair of the oversight committee and an expansion of the inquiry about plane use to other federal agencies.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has also come under fire for his use of a government plane to attend a local chamber of commerce event in Kentucky, where he also watched the solar eclipse with his wife.

Read one of the letters the House Oversight Committee sent out Tuesday:

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President Donald Trump took a break Tuesday night from his presidential duties to court donors at a fundraising dinner in Manhattan, delivering a 40-minute speech covering a wide range of topics including his spat with the NFL.

The President proudly discussed the controversy with the NFL that he manufactured when he criticized players who protest during the national anthem at a Friday night rally in Alabama.

“They have a rule, you can’t dance in the end zone, you can’t wear pink socks, one guy’s mother had breast cancer and they wouldn’t let him, you can’t do anything! But you’re allowed to sit down for the national anthem,” Trump said at the dinner, according to an attendee who spoke to Politico.

Trump criticized Colin Kaepernick, the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback who started the trend of kneeling during the anthem as a way to protest police treatment of black people, and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, according to Politico.

“All Goodell had to do was say there’s rules and you can’t do it, suspend him for a couple games, you would never have had this,” Trump said, as quoted by Politico. “Now you have this whole thing going and it’s a very dangerous thing ‘cause we cannot let anyone disrespect our country like that.”

Trump made the remarks in front of about 150 people at the upscale restaurant Le Cirque to help fundraise for his re-election campaign and the Republican National Committee. Attendees paid between $35,000 and $100,000 to attend the swanky dinner.

The President also touched on health care and his communication with world leaders, CNN reported. Trump claimed that Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau incorrectly told him that the U.S. has a $11 billion trade surplus with Canada and told a staffer to leave the room and check the numbers, according to CNN’s source in the room. Trump said the staffer returned to say that Trudeau was correct on the number, but did not take into account how Canada benefits from the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

“With math like that, we’d all be broke,” Trump then said, according to CNN.

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After the Senate failed yet again on Tuesday to repeal Obamacare, President Donald Trump early Wednesday morning turned to his go-to solution for the Senate’s stalemates: nuking the filibuster.

As the Senate struggled to find consensus on a bill to repeal and replace Obamacare over the summer, Trump on several occasions urged Senate leaders to completely eliminate the filibuster, which allows the minority party to force a 60-vote threshold on legislation. Senate Republicans have been using a process called reconciliation to circumvent the filibuster on health care, but their authority to do so expires at the end of this month, leaving them unable to try to repeal Obamacare again any time soon.

Ending the filibuster would not likely solve Senate Republicans’ problem on health care. They have failed to earn the support of 50 Republican senators for any repeal bill they have tried to pass this year. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has also shot down Trump’s suggestion, noting that there is not enough support in the Senate to change the rules.

In another tweet Wednesday morning, Trump insisted that Republicans are close to the 50 votes they need to pass a repeal bill, despite the fact that three senators firmly stated they could not back the Graham-Cassidy legislation.

He also suggested that Republicans did not vote on the bill because one senator was in the hospital.

It was not entirely clear to whom Trump was referring, though he was likely talking about Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS). Cochran was away from Washington, D.C. for medical reasons early this week, but he was not in the hospital, the senator’s office told Politico reporter Seung Min Kim.


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The IRS has started sharing information about Trump aides with special counsel Robert Mueller after a disagreement earlier in the summer about which documents Mueller’s team should have access to, CNN reported Tuesday night, citing unnamed people brief on the matter.

Mueller’s team has received information from the IRS on former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort and former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, according to CNN. It’s not clear whether Mueller has obtained President Donald Trump’s tax returns.

The Daily Beast reported earlier this month that Mueller has enlisted help from agents in the IRS’ criminal investigations unit for the Russia probe, signaling Mueller’s focus on Trump allies’ potential financial crimes.

Mueller has a broad mandate in the Russia probe to investigate Russia’s election meddling and any matters that arise from that investigation. Manafort has been under federal investigation for his financial dealings abroad and work for a pro-Russia political party in Ukraine. Federal investigators are also looking into Flynn’s lobbying work for Turkey.

Read CNN’s full report here.

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After former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore defeated Sen. Luther Strange (R-AL) in the Republican primary Tuesday night, President Donald Trump was quick to ditch Strange and rally behind Moore.

After firing off a tweet congratulating Moore in his victory in the race, Trump deleted several tweets he sent earlier in the day urging Alabama voters to re-elect Strange to the Senate seat vacated by Attorney General Jeff Sessions. The deleted tweets were captured by Politwoops, a tool that collects politicians’ deleted tweets currently run by ProPublica.

Trump backed Strange, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) choice to hold the Senate seat, early on in the race, but several prominent Trump supporters, like Steve Bannon and Sebastian Gorka, campaigned for Moore, an ultra-conservative Republican who has been kicked off the Alabama supreme court twice.

After initially endorsing Strange, Trump appeared to hesitate and wavered on plans to hold a rally for Strange in Alabama after polls showed Moore in the lead. However, the President relented, holding a rally for Strange and sending out several since-deleted tweets urging Alabama voters to back Strange.

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After Senate Republicans officially gave up on the Graham-Cassidy Obamacare repeal bill Tuesday afternoon, some Republican senators and members of leadership suddenly warmed to reopening bipartisan talks on a bill to stabilize the Affordable Care Act markets.

The talks led by Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-TN, pictured above) and Patty Murray (D-WA), the leaders of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, were abruptly abandoned a week ago when Republican leaders decided to push the Graham-Cassidy bill through the Senate. Now that another week’s worth of desperate attempts to whip votes for an Obamacare repeal bill have failed, some Republicans pointed to Alexander as the next step on health care.

Sen. John Thune (R-SD), the No. 3 Republican in the Senate, told reporters that Alexander and Murray should continue their stabilization work.

“There are going to be some things that in the near-term may have to be done to stabilize markets, and that kind of thing can be done in a bipartisan way,” Thune said.

He noted that Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Bill Cassidy (R-LA) would continue to work on gaining support for their bill, but could not offer an exact timeline.

Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) also encouraged Alexander to continue with bipartisan talks, but seemed pessimistic about the outcome.

“Sen. Alexander’s going to continue with his meetings with Sen. Murray, so they are going to continue on the bipartisan discussions,” he told reporters.

“I want much more flexibility to the states than any Democrat has ever been willing to offer,” Barrasso said when asked if he supports those talks. “And if we can’t get the flexibility to the states, so that people can buy in their own home state what works for them personally, then I’m not supportive of a direct continuation of those payments.”

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), one of the co-sponsors of the Graham-Cassidy bill, said that the failure of the repeal bill would “give Democrats an opportunity to really step up to the plate” to work with Republicans on bipartisan legislation.

Two of the three senators who publicly opposed the bill, Susan Collins (R-ME) and John McCain (R-AZ), also called for bipartisan talks to resume.

“I very much want us to resume the work that the Health committee was doing under the leadership of Lamar Alexander and Patty Murray. I believe that that offers great promise for stabilizing insurance markets and helping to lower premiums,” Collins told reporters before Republican leaders announced they wouldn’t move forward with the Graham-Cassidy bill.

Alexander said in a statement Tuesday afternoon that he will work with Murray and Republicans on a bipartisan stabilization bill

“I will consult with Senator Murray and with other senators, both Republicans and Democrats, to see if senators can find consensus on a limited bipartisan plan that could be enacted into law to help lower premiums and make insurance available to the 18 million Americans in the individual market in 2018 and 2019,” the senator said in a statement.

But despite those lawmakers’ willingness to see Alexander and Murray work toward agreement, bipartisan talks will face some resistance in the Senate Republican caucus.

Sen. David Perdue (R-GA) told reporters Tuesday that bipartisan talks in the HELP Committee are a “sham” and predicted that the panel would not be able to come to any agreement.

“Talk to a Democrat and tell me where there’s any bipartisan agreement right now coming out of that committee,” he said.

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Former White House adviser Stephen Bannon on Monday night compared GOP Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore to Donald Trump, although the President has campaigned for Moore’s opponent in the race, Sen. Luther Strange (R-AL).

“A vote for Roy Moore is a vote for Donald J. Trump,” Bannon said at rally for Moore, a staunch conservative who is leading Strange in the polls.

Bannon, the chairman of Breitbart News, also railed against the Republican “establishment” and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). Outside groups have poured money into the state to support Strange’s bid.

“They think you’re a pack of morons. They think you’re nothing but rubes,” Bannon told the crowd.

Later, during an interview with Fox News’ Sean Hannity, Bannon emphasized that Moore would be an ally to Trump and that his decision to campaign for Moore was not born out of a desire to oppose Trump.

“We’re not here to defy President Trump, we’re here to praise and honor him,” Bannon said.

The former White House adviser said that establishment Republicans are “trying to destroy Roy Moore, just like they tried to destroy Donald J. Trump.”

Bannon also told Hannity that after Tuesday night’s election, “a real review has to be done of how President Trump got the wrong information and came down on the wrong side of the football here.”

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