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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

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) on Thursday afternoon called for the Senate Ethics Committee to investigate the sexual misconduct allegations against Sen. Al Franken (D-MN).

“Sexual harassment is never acceptable and must not be tolerated,” Schumer said in a statement. “I hope and expect that the Ethics Committee will fully investigate this troubling incident, as they should with any credible allegation of sexual harassment.”

Los Angeles news anchor Leeann Tweeden on Thursday accused Franken of forcibly kissing and groping her in 2006 while the two were in the Middle East for a United Service Organizations tour.

Franken apologized in a statement on Thursday, but said he remembered the incident differently than Tweeden. The alleged incidents occurred before Frank held public office. Franken has asked for the Senate Ethics Committee to investigate the allegations. He said he would fully cooperate with a probe.

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A little over an hour after a Los Angeles news anchor accused Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) of sexual misconduct, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) postponed a press conference planned for 12:30 p.m. to talk about the Republican tax cut legislation.

Schumer’s office did not offer an explanation for the postponement of the press conference.

Leeann Tweeden, an anchor on Los Angeles station KABC, on Thursday accused Franken of forcibly kissing her and groping her in 2006 while the two were on a United Service Organizations tour to entertain the troops. Tweeden said that Franken insisted on rehearsing a skit in which the two would kiss until she agreed and then “aggressively stuck his tongue in my mouth.” She also shared a photo in which Franken is reaching toward her chest while she is asleep.

Franken on Thursday apologized for his behavior but also said he does not recall the incident “the same way.” The alleged incidents occurred before Franken was in office.

“I certainly don’t remember the rehearsal for the skit in the same way, but I send my sincerest apologies to Leeann. As to the photo, it was clearly intended to be funny but wasn’t. I shouldn’t have done it,” he said in the statement.

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A bipartisan group of senators on Thursday morning introduced a bill aimed at ensuring the proper criminal record information makes it to the background check system used to approve gun purchases.

“For years agencies and states haven’t complied with the law, failing to upload these critical records without consequence,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), one of the bill’s sponsors, said in a statement. “Just one record that’s not properly reported can lead to tragedy, as the country saw last week in Sutherland Springs, Texas. This bill aims to help fix what’s become a nationwide, systemic problem so we can better prevent criminals and domestic abusers from obtaining firearms.”

The legislation follows the deadly shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas, earlier in November. The Air Force failed to report past criminal conduct by the alleged gunman as was required.

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT), one of the most vocal gun control advocates in Congress, and Cornyn led the effort to craft the bill. Sens. Tim Scott (R-SC), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Dean Heller (R-NV), and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) have also signed onto the bill.

Despite the bipartisan support for the legislation, the bill likely faces an uphill battle in Congress, since many Republicans oppose any changes to gun laws. After the deadly Las Vegas shooting in October, some Republican senators expressed support for a ban on bump stocks, but that effort has since fizzled out.

The legislation, titled the Fix NICS Act, would require the head of each federal agency to certify twice a year that they have submitted the proper records to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) and would mandate that each agency develop an implementation plan for ensuring that all records are submitted. If the agency fails to certify which records it has submitted to NICS or fails to follow its implementation plan, political appointees in that agency will not be eligible to receive bonus pay.

The bill also allows the attorney general to use funds for NICS to provide assistance to agencies as they submit records and establishes a program run by the attorney general focused on making sure domestic violence information is reported to the NICS system.

Murphy acknowledged that he would like to see more gun control legislation passed in Congress, but he said that this bill is an important step.

“It’s no secret that I believe much more needs to be done. But this bill will make sure that thousands of dangerous people are prevented from buying guns. It represents the strongest update to the background checks system in a decade, and provides the foundation for more compromise in the future,” he said in a statement.

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After calling on Alabama GOP Senate candidate Roy Moore to explain inconsistencies in his denials of the allegations aired by several women, Fox News host Sean Hannity said Wednesday night that he was satisfied with an open letter from Moore.

“We demanded, rightly, answers from Judge Moore,” Hannity said on his show Wednesday night. “And he provided them to the specific questions we asked.”

On his show Tuesday night, Hannity pointed out that Moore gave inconsistent answers to Hannity when he asked the GOP candidate if he dated teenage girls while he was in his 30s. Hannity also noted that Moore denied knowing one of his accusers, Beverly Young Nelson, but that Nelson has a yearbook that appears to be signed by Moore. Hannity told Moore to explain the inconsistencies in 24 hours or drop out of the race.

In an open letter to Hannity published on Twitter Wednesday, Moore first painted the accusations as an attack from the liberal media and suggested that there’s reason to doubt the allegations since they are only coming to light now.

Moore also argued that the signature in Nelson’s yearbook could have been faked and said that he presided over Nelson’s divorce proceedings as a judge in 1999, which Nelson did not mention. Moore said that it did not appear to cause Nelson “distress” in 1999 when she appeared before Moore in court.

Later in the letter, Moore said that he “did not date underage girls” and specifically denied the allegations from Nelson and Leigh Corfman, who accused Moore of initiating a sexual encounter with her when she was 14 years old.

Hannity said that with this letter from Moore, the voters of Alabama now need to make their choice.

“The people of Alabama deserve to have a fair choice, especially in light of the new allegations tonight.” Hannity said. “We have told you everyone’s point of view. The accusers continue to have an open invitation to come on this show and share their story.”

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Yet another woman came forward this week with an accusation of sexual misconduct against Alabama GOP Senate candidate Roy Moore.

Gena Richardson told the Washington Post that Moore asked her out several times, twice at the Gadsden mall and once in a phone call to her high school. When she did eventually go on a date with Moore, he gave her an unwanted kiss at the end of the evening, she told the Post.

The Wednesday night report in the Washington Post with stories from Richardson and three other women followed a report from AL.com with allegations from two women earlier on Wednesday. One woman told AL.com that Moore asked her out when she was 17 years old and another said Moore groped her when she was 28 years old. These women join several others who have accused Moore of unwanted romantic or sexual advances while they were teenagers and he was in his 30s. The Washington Post first reported on the allegations last week.

Moore has denied all of the allegations against him, despite the steady stream of women now accusing him of inappropriate conduct. Republican leaders in Congress have called for him to drop out of the Senate race, but he has refused.

Richardson told the Washington Post that she first encountered Moore while working at the Gadsden mall, where Moore was known to roam and hit on teenage girls. Richardson said that in her first encounter with Moore, he asked her where she went to school and for her phone number. She declined to give him her number, but he called her at her high school and asked her out again just a few days later, she told the Post. On that call she told him that she would be at work on Friday and Saturday, telling the Post that she was “so naive, and so not worldly.”

That weekend, Moore approached Richardson at work and suggested they see a movie, she said. After the movie, Moore offered to drive Richardson to her car, which was parked further away in a different parking lot, Richardson said. When they got to her car, Moore chatted with her and then gave her an unwanted, “forceful” kiss, Richardson said.

“It was a man kiss — like really deep tongue. Like very forceful tongue. It was a surprise. I’d never been kissed like that,” she told the Washington Post. “And the minute that happened, I got scared then. I really did. Something came over me that scared me. And so I said, ‘I’ve got to go, because my curfew is now.’ ”

Kayla McLaughlin, Richardson’s co-worker at the mall at the time, told the Post that Richardson told her about the incident afterward. McLaughlin said that Moore would come into the mall regularly and that she would warn Richardson when Moore came into the store where they worked.

Two other women described Moore’s behavior at the mall to the Post. Becky Gray said that when she was 22, Moore repeatedly asked her out while she was working at the mall, and she repeatedly declined. She told the Post that his behavior made her uncomfortable, as he would linger near where she worked, and she complained about him to her manager.

Phyllis Smith, who worked at the mall as a teenager, told the Washington Post that Moore never approached her personally, but that she was very aware that he would hit on other teenage girls. She said the teen girls working there would tell each other “just make yourself scarce when Roy’s in here, he’s just here to bother you, don’t pay attention to him and he’ll go away.’ ”

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Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) on Wednesday afternoon introduced legislation that would overhaul the way Congress handles sexual harassment complaints, in addition to requiring members and staffers to undergo sexual harassment training.

Both chambers in Congress will now mandate that all members and staffers receive sexual harassment training, but Speier, Gillibrand and other members argue that training is not enough. Speier testified in a House hearing on Tuesday that the current process for filing complaints is confusing, insufficient and biased against victims.

She said in a press conference Wednesday introducing the bill that the legislation is about “bringing light to a very dark corner of our society.” Speier said that training is not enough, even though Congress “is quick to pat itself on the back” for “modest” accomplishments.

“Zero tolerance is meaningless unless it is backed up with enforcement and transparency,” Speier said.

Gillibrand said that the current process is “tilted against victims” and that Congress must change the way it handles sexual harassment complaints.

“We should be held to the highest standards, not the lowest,” she said.

The bill introduced Wednesday, the Member and Employee Training and Oversight On (ME TOO) Congress Act, would change the reporting process. Gillibrand and Speier are the lead sponsors of the partner bills, and Speier is joined by Reps. Ryan Costello (R-PA), Ann McLane Kuster (D-NH), and Bruce Poliquin (R-ME) on the House bill.

The new legislation would do away with requirements that staffers undergo counseling and mediation before filing a sexual harassment complaint and that staffers sign non-disclosure agreements before starting mediation, Speier said. The bill would also give interns and fellows in Congress the same protections when it comes to sexual harassment as paid staffers, according to Speier.

The congresswoman said that the current process only provides taxpayer-funded in-house counsel for the accused harasser and that the ME TOO bill would provide counsel for the victims as well. The legislation would designate someone in the Office of Compliance to work with victims, Gillibrand said.

The bill aims to increase transparency by requiring the Office of Compliance to publish the amount paid out in any sexual harassment settlement, as well as the office in which it occurred, Speier said. If Congress pays a settlement on behalf of a member of Congress accused of sexual harassment, the official will be required to pay the government back under this bill, Speier said. However, staffers would not have to pay back the government for settlements under the legislation.

Speier revealed Tuesday on MSNBC that the House has paid out more than $15 million in settlements on behalf of accused harassers over the past 10 to 15 years.

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After a shooting Tuesday in California left four people dead, President Donald Trump attempted to offer his condolences in a tweet on his way back from his Asia trip.

However, Trump tweeted a message about the shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas, which occurred earlier this month.

“May God be with the people of Sutherland Springs, Texas. The FBI and Law Enforcement has arrived,” the since-deleted tweet read.

The message was very similar to the Tweet he published right after the Texas shooting on November 5, suggesting that Trump or someone on his staff copied and pasted the last tweet and forgot to change the location of the shooting.

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Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Chuck Grassley (R-IA) seems unconcerned about this week’s revelation that Donald Trump Jr. responded to private Twitter messages from Wikileaks during the 2016 election.

“I read those emails. He only responded to two or three of them, and they were very innocuous,” Grassley told CNN on Tuesday. “So I don’t even know why you’d be asking about him if you read them.”

The Judiciary chair also said that he has yet to decide whether the committee will call Trump Jr. for a public hearing, a move Democrats on the committee have called for.

The Atlantic reported on Monday that the Wikileaks Twitter account sent private messages to Trump Jr. during the 2016 campaign and up until July 2017. Trump Jr. ignored many of the messages, but sometimes sent a response, per the Atlantic.

Trump Jr. once told the Wikileaks account that he would “ask around” when Wikileaks asked about a new anti-Trump website in September 2016, according to the Atlantic. Trump Jr. also asked the Twitter account about a potential leak he had been “reading about” in October 2016, the Atlantic reported.

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As more companies pulled ads from Sean Hannity’s Fox News show, Hannity on Tuesday night called on Alabama GOP Senate candidate Roy Moore to explain his inconsistent responses to allegations of inappropriate conduct with teenage girls or drop out of the race.

Since Hannity interviewed Moore on his radio program last week, the Fox host has faced pressure from advertisers. Several companies, including Green Mountain, Hebrew National, and Reddi Whip, have pulled their ads from “Hannity.” The Fox host on Monday night blamed the advertiser boycott on the liberal group Media Matters, who he accused of launching an unfair smear campaign against him.

However, on Tuesday night, Hannity came down harder on Moore, several days after his initial interview with the Republican candidate.

Hannity noted that Moore gave three different answers to him when asked if he dated teenage girls while he was in his 30s. Moore first told Hannity that he did “not generally” date teenage girls. He then said that he didn’t “remember dating any girl without the permission of her mother.” Moore finally denied he ever dated someone in their late teens. These answers were “inconsistent,” Hannity said.

Hannity also noted that Moore denied even knowing a fifth accuser, Beverly Young Nelson, who accused Moore of sexually assaulting her. However, Nelson presented a yearbook that appeared to be signed by Moore, Hannity noted.

“Between this interview that I did and the inconsistent answers; between him saying ‘I never knew this girl’ and then that yearbook comes out—for me, the judge has 24 hours,” Hannity said Tuesday night. “You must immediately and fully come up with a satisfactory explanation for your inconsistencies that I just showed. You must remove any doubt. If he can’t do this, then Judge Moore needs to get out of this race.”

Watch the clip via Fox News:

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) on Tuesday afternoon indicated he will not let Roy Moore serve in the U.S. Senate for long, if at all.

During a Wall Street Journal event, McConnell said that Moore would face a swift ethics probe if he wins the December election to fill the Alabama Senate seat.

“I think it’s safe to say that if he were to be sworn in, he would immediately be in a process before the Senate Ethics Committee,” McConnell said at the Wall Street Journal CEO Council when asked if he would try to expel Moore from the Senate. “He would be sworn in and be asked to testify under oath as well, and it would be a rather unusual beginning.”

McConnell and Republican leaders are also discussing ways to “salvage the seat” before the December election. McConnell said that a write-in campaign is the only option Republicans have to replace Moore before the election. He said that Attorney General Jeff Sessions likely has the best chance to pull off a write-in campaign but that he may not be “available.”

“The Alabamian who would fit that standard would be the attorney general,” Mr. McConnell said. “He’s totally well known and extremely popular in Alabama.”

Asked if a write-in campaign by Sessions is his preferred option, McConnell replied, “I’d like to save the seat, and it’s a heck of a dilemma when you’ve got a completely unacceptable candidate bearing the label of your party within a month of the election.”

Earlier on Tuesday, McConnell said that he and the White House were discussing the options for the race in the wake of allegations from several women that Moore pursued romantic or sexual relationships with them while they were teenagers. He said he would have further discussions with administration officials upon Trump’s return from his trip to Asia.

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