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

Secretary of Defense James Mattis announced Tuesday that he will hold off on implementing a ban of transgender troops ordered by President Donald Trump while the Defense Department and experts study the issue.

Mattis will convene a panel to devise a plan for implementing Trump’s order, which bars the military from accepting new transgender recruits and from paying for sexual reassignment surgeries and medications, but leaves it up to Mattis how to address transgender troops already serving in the military. Trump’s memorandum gives Mattis until February to develop a plan to carry out the order.

“Our focus must always be on what is best for the military’s combat effectiveness leading to victory on the battlefield,” Mattis said in a Tuesday evening statement. “To that end, I will establish a panel of experts serving within the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security to provide advice and recommendations on the implementation of the president’s direction.”

While the panel studies the issue, the U.S. military’s current policy regarding transgender troops will remain in place.

Trump issued the memorandum directing Mattis to carry out the new policy last week, which came about a month after Trump initially announced the policy in a series of tweets. Trump’s announcement took military leaders by surprise, and drew opposition from members of the Defense Department and Republican lawmakers.

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The parent company of Fox News announced on Tuesday that it will no longer air its programs in the United Kingdom via Sky News, a move that comes just as the British government weighs whether to allow a merger between 21st Century Fox and Sky News.

The company owned by media tycoon Rupert Murdoch said it made the decision because Fox News is geared toward U.S. markets and was not viewed by many people in the U.K.

“21CF has decided to cease providing a feed of Fox News Channel in the UK. Fox News is focused on the US market and designed for a US audience and, accordingly, it averages only a few thousand viewers across the day in the UK,” 21st Century Fox said in a statement. “We have concluded that it is not in our commercial interest to continue providing Fox News in the UK.”

The British culture secretary is currently reviewing a report the country’s communications regulator, Ofcom, submitted last week. The culture secretary ordered a review from Ofcom after a lawsuit from a former Fox News contributor claimed that the network had worked with the White House and others to push a conspiracy theory about the murder of Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich, prompting concern in the U.K. over the potential merger with Sky News. Ofcom was also looking at accusations of sexual harassment at the network.

Fox News and Rupert Murdoch have run afoul of British regulators in the past. Ofcom ruled in 2015 that the news channel broke U.K. laws with misleading interviews about so-called Muslim “no-go zones” in Europe. A British parliament committee in 2012 also issued a damning report about Murdoch’s News Corporation, arguing that Murdoch “is not a fit person to exercise the stewardship of a major international company.”

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After conservative commentator Laura Ingraham on Tuesday criticized the Trump administration for letting key posts go unfilled, President Donald Trump fired back on Twitter, claiming that those positions had been left vacant on purpose.

During a segment on “Fox and Friends,” Ingraham said that the devastation of Hurricane Harvey in Texas shows how desperately Trump needs to fill open posts at agencies that help with disaster recovery.

“I think we can all look at these horrific pictures, and we can conclude a federal government does need staff. We see it acutely in need of staff in a situation like this,” she said after noting that the new FEMA director was just confirmed in June.

“We’re also facing a huge crisis with North Korea,” she continued. “We’re facing a crisis of confidence across the country where people wonder—even with President Trump in, he said he was going to drain the swamp—can we have a government that works for the people and not just have a people enslaved to the government?”

Trump often blames Democrats for obstructing the administration’s lagging efforts to fill key posts in the federal government. But as “Fox and Friends” co-host Brian Kilmeade noted on Tuesday morning, Trump has yet to even nominate people to fill a few hundred open positions.

Ingraham said that the White House should be scrutinized for the slow pace of nominations.

“This is a question that has to be posed to the administration. I know they have a lot on their hands, but we have to have people in place,” she said. “If there’s a plan to not staff and cause the ultimate shrinkage of government, then let’s hear about that as well.”

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After the crowd at the rally in Phoenix, Arizona, was less robust than expected, President Donald Trump took out his frustration on a former White House aide who organized the event as a contract worker for the Republican National Committee, Bloomberg News reported Monday night.

Once the rally had ended, Trump had an aide inform George Gigicos that he would never do work for the White House again, three unnamed sources told Bloomberg News. Gigicos formerly served as the White House director of scheduling and advance, and he also had worked for the Trump campaign planning rallies. He left the White House earlier in August to return to his consulting firm, and he was helping plan the Phoenix rally last week as a contractor for the RNC.

As Bloomberg News noted, the rally venue was not entirely full when Trump took the stage, an issue for a President obsessed with crowd size and who feeds off the energy of his most loyal supporters. And as Trump droned on through his speech, rallygoers began to filter out and appeared to be uninterested, according to the Washington Post.

The apparent disinterest in his rally—a comfort zone for the President whose White House is roiled by constant internal scandals—clearly bothered Trump. Following the event, Trump claimed that 15,000 people attended the rally, even though a local official estimated that just 10,000 came to the event. He mentioned the rally size again during a press conference Monday, claiming that a “massive crowd” turned out to watch him speak in Arizona.

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After North Korea launched a missile over Japan early Tuesday, President Donald Trump issued a statement declaring that “all options are on the table.”

“The world has received North Korea’s latest message loud and clear: this regime has signaled its contempt for its neighbors, for all members of the United Nations, and for minimum standards of acceptable international behavior,” Trump said in a statement.

“Threatening and destabilizing actions only increase the North Korean regime’s isolation in the region and among all nations of the world,” the President continued. “All options are on the table.”

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has spoken with Trump and both agreed that an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council is necessary, Abe said.

Earlier in August, following reports that North Korea has produced a nuclear warhead small enough to fit on an intercontinental ballistic missile, Trump issued fiery statements directed at North Korea.

He pledged that North Korea’s threats would be “met with fire and fury like the world has never seen,” later following up with a tweet touting the United States’ nuclear capabilities.

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Federal investigators on special counsel Robert Mueller’s team are probing whether President Donald Trump tried to hide the nature of Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting with a Kremlin-linked lawyer in crafting his son’s initial statement on the meeting, NBC News reported Monday evening, citing three unnamed sources familiar with the matter.

Investigators want to know what Trump knew about the meeting before crafting the statement and whether he knowingly issued an incorrect statement, sources told NBC News.

In June 2016, Donald Trump Jr., along with Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort, met with a Kremlin-linked lawyer after being promised incriminating information on Hillary Clinton as part of a Russian government effort to help Trump’s campaign. The meeting came to light in July 2017 in a New York Times report.

Though Trump Jr. eventually acknowledged that the meeting was pitched as an opportunity to gain damaging information on his father’s opponent, his initial statement claimed that the meeting was largely about Russian adoption.

The President reportedly played a large role in crafting that initial misleading statement, aboard Air Force One on his way back from a trip to Europe. Mueller’s team now reportedly wants to know how much Trump knew when he helped write that misleading statement.

Ty Cobb, a spokesman for the legal team representing the President on Russia matters, told NBC News that he assumes “the statement issued after the G20 is of interest, but I’m not aware of any crime associated with that. It was true at the time it was written and true now.” He added that the President’s involvement in writing the statement was “minimal.”

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Just a few days after President Donald Trump issued a pardon for Joe Arpaio, the former Maricopa County sheriff hinted that he could mount a primary challenge to Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), who’s up for re-election next year.

Arpaio, who was convicted of contempt of court for ignoring a court order to stop holding people solely on suspicion of being undocumented, told the Washington Examiner on Monday that he may run for office again.

“I could run for mayor, I could run for legislator, I could run for Senate,” he said.

“I’m sure getting a lot of people around the state asking me” to run against Flake, he added. “All I’m saying is the door is open and we’ll see what happens. I’ve got support. I know what support I have.”

It’s not clear how serious Arpaio is about challenging Flake. He lost his bid for a seventh term as sheriff of Maricopa County last year, and was later convicted of contempt of court. The sheriff was notorious for holding inmates in “tent city,” an open air jail he once referred to as a “concentration camp.”

Arpaio, who is now 85 years old, told the Washington Examiner that despite his age, he does not plan to fully retire yet.

“I’m proud to be my age. I work 14 hours a day. If anyone thinks my age is going to hold me back, I’ve got news for them,” he said. “The bottom line is there’s no way I’m going to go fishing. I have no hobbies.”

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Kris Kobach, the Kansas secretary of state and vice chair of President Trump’s bogus “election integrity” commission, is not happy with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s (D-NY) attempt to tie the panel to Trump’s failure to swiftly condemn white nationalists in the wake of Charlottesville.

“It’s a pathetic, partisan attempt to wrap Charlottesville around every issue he can think of,” Kobach told Roll Call in an interview published Monday. “It’s complete nonsense.”

Schumer on Thursday called for Trump to disband the voter fraud commission, saying that by doing so the President would gain Demcorats’ support for a September government funding bill. In a Medium post, Schumer drew a line from the commission to the violence in Charlottesville.

“The Ku Klux Klan and its sympathizers at all levels of government denied black Americans the right to vote for decades. Today, voting rights are once again under assault,” Schumer wrote, arguing that the commission is a “ruse” meant to “disenfranchise voters.”

“This is how the appalling failure to use the right words and stand up to hate in the aftermath of Charlottesville is made real in the form of policy; they are two edges of the same sword,” the senator added.

Kobach said that Schumer’s claim that the commission’s request for state voter roll data was an attempt to intimidate voters is “false.”

“Usually he makes an intelligent point and doesn’t say something ridiculous,” he told Roll Call. “This was surprising. Because I expect him to be partisan, but I also, in the past, have expected him to be smart. And this was poorly informed and ridiculous in trying to tie photo I.D. laws — or the commission — to Charlottesville.”

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Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX) on Monday morning defended his 2013 vote against a disaster relief package to help New York and New Jersey recover from the devastation of Hurricane Sandy as his own home state of Texas deals with catastrophic flooding from Hurricane Harvey.

Sessions said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” that in terms of aid for Hurricane Sandy, he supported an initial, short-term $17 billion package, but opposed a long-term package that he argued had been bloated.

“I felt like we could have been more careful in that process. Once again, it’s not really a matter of whether you vote against it or not,” he said, adding that disaster aid packages need to be “tailored” to the needs of the region.

“The package needs to represent the real need,” Sessions said of any upcoming aid package for the Lone Star State. “If the package is in any way bloated, it will have problems.”

Sessions and other Texas Republicans came under scrutiny over the weekend given that many of them opposed the aid package for Hurricane Sandy years ago, but now will likely be supporting federal help for their state in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.

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Two top officials in the State Department announced they would be leaving their posts last week, according to a Sunday Foreign Policy report.

Tracey Ann Jacobson, a career diplomat currently who leads the Bureau for International Organization Affairs, told her staff on Friday that she would be retiring early in October, according to Foreign Policy. William Rivington Brownfield, the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs also said Friday that he would leave his post by the end of September, per Foreign Policy. A spokesperson for the State Department told Foreign Policy that Brownfield had not announced his retirement, however.

The departures of top State Department officials comes amid signs that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s position in the State Department could be in trouble. Axios reported Sunday that Trump is increasingly frustrated with Tillerson.

And Tillerson on Sunday distanced himself from Trump’s response to the violence in Charlottesville. The secretary of state said that the President “speaks for himself” when asked about Trump’s values and his failure to condemn white nationalists.

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