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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

Despite the display of unity between President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) in a Monday press conference, it’s apparent that the White House is not happy with the Senate.

Office of Budget and Management Director Mick Mulvaney did not hide his frustration with the Senate in an interview published by Politico Monday evening.

“We look at the Senate and go: ‘What the hell is going on?’” Mulvaney told Politico on Friday.

“The House passed health care, the House has already passed its budget, which is the first step of tax reform. The Senate hasn’t done any of that. Hell, the Senate can’t pass any of our confirmations,” he added. “You ask me if the Republican-controlled Senate is an impediment to the administration’s agenda: All I can tell you is so far, the answer’s yes.”

Trump has been deeply frustrated with the Senate, publicly ridiculing McConnell and Senate Republicans on Twitter for their failure to repeal Obamacare over the summer. As Congress gears up to tackle tax cuts, Trump on Monday blamed the Senate for stalling his agenda.

“I’m not going to blame myself, I’ll be honest,” Trump told reporters. “They are not getting the job done.”

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During a speech Monday night accepting the National Constitution Center’s Liberty Medal, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) called on American leaders to reject “spurious nationalism” and maintain the United States’ role leading the world, in an apparent reference to President Donald Trump.

“To fear the world we have organized and led for three-quarters of a century, to abandon the ideals we have advanced around the globe, to refuse the obligations of international leadership and our duty to remain ‘the last best hope of earth’ for the sake of some half-baked, spurious nationalism cooked up by people who would rather find scapegoats than solve problems,” McCain said to applause in the crowd, “is as unpatriotic as an attachment to any other tired dogma of the past that Americans consigned to the ash heap of history.”

The senator called for the U.S. to defend the country’s ideals.

“We are the custodians of those ideals at home, and their champion abroad. We have done great good in the world. That leadership has had its costs, but we have become incomparably powerful and wealthy as we did. We have a moral obligation to continue in our just cause, and we would bring more than shame on ourselves if we don’t,” he said. “We will not thrive in a world where our leadership and ideals are absent. We wouldn’t deserve to.”

McCain did not mention Trump’s name, but his speech appeared to be aimed at the President’s “America first” approach, as Trump has withdrawn from the Paris climate agreement, threatened the Iran nuclear deal and pushed to nix international trade deals.

Watch a clip of McCain’s speech via CNN:

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During a press conference on Monday afternoon, President Donald Trump made the dubious claim that former President Barack Obama and other former presidents did not personally call the families of soldiers who died in combat.

Trump quickly walked back the claim when a reporter followed up.

The President first told reporters that he had written letters to the families of soldiers who died in the recent attack in Niger and said he would soon call the families as well. He then claimed that his approach was unique, and that not all past presidents made those calls.

“The traditional way, if you look at President Obama and other presidents, most of them didn’t make calls. A lot of them didn’t make calls,” he said. “I like to call when it’s appropriate, when I think I’m able to do it. They have made the ultimate sacrifice so generally I would say that I like to call. I’m going to be calling them.”

Former aides to Obama quickly pushed back on Trump’s claim, calling it a “lie.”

A reporter followed up with Trump later in the press conference, prompting Trump to walk back his claim and say that he “was told” that Obama didn’t call the families of fallen soldiers.

“I don’t know if he did. No, no. I was told that he didn’t often and a lot of presidents don’t. They write letters,” Trump said.

“President Obama I think probably did sometimes and maybe sometimes he didn’t. I don’t know. That’s what I was told. All I can do is ask my generals,” the President continued. “Other presidents did not call. They’d write letters and some presidents didn’t do anything.”

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President Donald Trump apparently has a tendency to mock Vice President Mike Pence over his religious views and political stance against abortion and LGBT rights, according to a Sunday report in the New Yorker.

Trump once asked a group of people who had just met with Pence, “Did Mike make you pray?” according to a campaign aide who spoke with the New Yorker.

The President also is said to poke fun at Pence’s views on abortion and LGBT rights. When a legal scholar told Trump and Pence that states would likely legalize abortion themselves if the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, Trump told the Vice President, “You’ve wasted all this time and energy on it, and it’s not going to end abortion anyway,” per the New Yorker.

When they started discussing LGBT rights, the New Yorker reported that Trump joked, “Don’t ask that guy—he wants to hang them all!”

Trump ran an outsider’s campaign and is at odds with many of Pence’s socially conservative views. One of the President’s allies, former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, told the New Yorker that he’s worried what kind of president Pence would be, noting his alignment with the conservative billionaire Koch brothers.

“I’m concerned he’d be a President that the Kochs would own,” Bannon said.

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As the Russia probes intensified over the summer, the Trump campaign spent more than $1 million on legal fees between the beginning of July and the end of September, according to a campaign finance report made public Sunday.

The campaign paid more than $800,000 to the Jones Day law firm, which represents the campaign. The Trump campaign paid more than 200,000 to lawyers representing President Donald Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr.

The Republican National Committee has also helped pay for legal fees incurred by the President and Trump Jr.

The filings made public Sunday show that the Trump campaign spent significantly more on legal fees in the third quarter than it did for the first half of the year.

 

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Attorney General Jeff Sessions sent a Justice Department lawyer to Iowa to help prosecute a man charged with the murder of a transgender teenager.

The unusual move was first reported by the New York Times on Sunday and later confirmed by the Associated Press and the Des Moines Register.

“This is just one example of the attorney general’s commitment to enforcing the laws enacted by Congress and to protecting the civil rights of all individuals,” DOJ spokesman Devin O’Malley told the New York Times.

It’s rare for the Justice Department to send a prosecutor to help with a local case, and Sessions’ decision shows he’s willing to fight violence against LGBT individuals even though he has rolled back protections for LGBT individuals as attorney general.

“The federal authorities are investigating the case as a federal hate crime, and so they would like to be part of the state case for seamless prosecution, should an indictment in federal court be handed down,” Des Moines County Attorney Amy Beavers, a prosecutor in the case, told the Des Moines Register of the Justice Department’s decision.

Christopher Perras, who works in the DOJ’s civil rights division’s criminal section, will help Beavers and another local prosecutor in the case against Jorge “Lumni” Sanders-Galvez, who has been accused of killing Kedarie Johnson.

Johnson did not identify as transgender and always used the pronoun “he,” his mother told the Des Moines Register. However, Johnson liked dressing in women’s clothing and sometimes went by the name Kandicee, his mom said.

Sessions “personally initiated” the move, according to the New York Times. He was prompted by a letter from six members of Congress asking him to look into the case, the Times said.

 

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After the Trump administration announced late Thursday night that it would end key Obamacare subsidies, a few Republican lawmakers spoke out against the move, warning that eliminating those subsidies could raise premiums and cost constituents their health coverage.

Rep. Charlie Dent (R-PA), a moderate Republican who is retiring at the end of his term, said on CNN that President Donald Trump’s move was “ill-advised.”

“I am fearful now that the President made this announcement that will destabilize the insurance markets, it will raise premiums for a lot of folks,” Dent said Friday morning on CNN, adding that it could also cause some Americans to lose their health insurance and prompt insurers to leave the Obamacare marketplace.

Dent argued that the Republican Party “will own this,” and said that the administration’s move will force Congress to act quickly to pass legislation in order to make cost-sharing reduction (CSR) payments.

“President Trump is the President. He is a Republican. And we control the Congress. We own the system now. So we are going to have to figure out a way to stabilize this situation,” Dent told CNN. “Barack Obama is no longer in the equation. So this is on us. And so I believe his action will force us to enter into some kind of bipartisan agreement on the cost-sharing reduction payments.”

“We have to send the bill to the President,” he added later. “Whether or not he signs it, I don’t know. I hope he would. Maybe that’s what he wants us to do. Maybe he is forcing us to take some action.”

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), another Republican retiring at the end of her term, also warned that Trump’s decision to cut off CSR payments could hurt her constituents.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), who opposed all of the Obamacare repeal plans proposed by Republicans, said Friday morning in a speech that she was “concerned” by the administration’s decision to end CSR payments, as well as by Thursday’s executive order.

Republican Nevada Gov Brian Sandoval also warned Friday that cutting off the payments will be “devastating” in his state.

“It’s going to hurt people. It’s going to hurt kids. It’s going to hurt families. It’s going to hurt individuals. It’s going to hurt people with mental health issues. It’s going to hurt veterans. It’s going to hurt everybody,” he told the Nevada Independent, referring to the CSR payments. “And so this is something that I’ve been very supportive during my administration in terms of expanding health care and making sure that people have access to affordable health care and I’m going to continue on that path.”

The Trump administration has repeatedly threatened to cut off these crucial payments for insurers who cover low-income Americans with significant health care needs. Over the summer, as the administration was weighing whether to make its August payment, several Republicans urged Trump to continue the subsidies, including Sen. John Thune (R-SD), a member of the Republican leadership team, and Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), the Republican leading bipartisan talks on legislation to make the CSR payments.

After the announcement, Trump on Friday morning urged Democrats to work with him on a legislative fix to Obamacare, but it’s not entirely clear what the administration would agree to.

Office of Management and Budget chief Mick Mulvaney on Friday told Politico that he is “pretty sure” the administration would not support “a clean Murray-Alexander bill.”

“The president has said pretty clearly that he’s willing to talk to just about anybody about repealing and replacing [Obamacare],” Mulvaney added, per Politico. “But if the straight-up question is: Is the president interested in continuing what he sees as corporate welfare and bailouts for the insurance companies? No.”

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The official who oversees background checks for most of the federal government told Congress on Wednesday that he has never seen as many mistakes on a background check form as Jared Kushner has made.

Charles Phelan, the director of the National Background Investigations Bureau (NBIB), oversees background checks for most of the federal government but did not handle President Trump’s son-in-law and adviser’s security clearance application.

During a Wednesday House Oversight subcommittee hearing, Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL) noted that Kushner had to submit an addendum to his SF-86 security clearance form four times after omitting contacts with foreign officials.

“Can you recall if there has ever been an applicant having to submit four addenda detailing over 100 errors and omissions being able to maintain their security clearance once those errors and omission have been identified?” Krishnamoorthi asked Phelan.

“I have not seen the breadth of all the applications, but I have never seen that level of mistakes,” Phelan replied.

Phelan added that the NBIB had not handled Kushner’s security clearance.

“I don’t know in the particular cases you’re talking about because we had no visibility in our organization into any of those activities. Those were done by other organizations,” he said.

Earlier in the hearing, Phelan also noted that the online form for security clearances is built in such a way that it’s easy for applicants to make mistakes.

In a statement Thursday, Jamie Gorelick, Kushner’s attorney, reiterated that his form “was prematurely submitted and, among other errors, did not list any contacts with foreign government officials,” and that it had been quickly updated.

H/t CNN

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President Donald Trump’s crusade against NBC News showed no signs of slowing down Friday morning, with the President continuing to lob attacks at the news outlet following two unflattering reports about Trump.

In tweets Thursday night and Friday morning, Trump labeled NBC “fake news” and claimed that the public is starting to agree with him.

Trump has been on a rampage since NBC News published a pair of reports about a meeting Trump had over the summer. The network reported that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called Trump a “moron.” NBC News later followed up with a report that Tillerson called Trump a “moron” after a meeting at which Trump said he wanted to significantly build up the U.S. nuclear arsenal.

The reports have sparked outrage from Trump through his Twitter feed. He then escalated his attacks on NBC News and the media on Wednesday by suggesting that networks’ broadcasting licenses be challenged.

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Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) said Thursday night that President Donald Trump told him he would extend the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program past March if Congress does not pass legislation restoring the protections by then, according to the Washington Post.

“The president’s comment to me was that, ‘We put a six-month deadline out there. Let’s work it out. If we can’t get it worked out in six months, we’ll give it some more time, but we’ve got to get this worked out legislatively,’” Lankford said at a town hall in Tulsa Thursday night, per the Washington Post.

Trump did not specify how long he would extend the DACA deadline, Lankford said. The President made the comments to Lankford over the phone in September, a spokesman for Lankford told the Washington Post.

When the end to DACA was announced, Trump suggested in a tweet that he could extend the program if Congress fails to act.

The Trump administration announced in September that it would end the DACA program in March and called on Congress to restore the protections through legislation. At first, Trump seemed very willing to work with Democrats on a bill to restore DACA. Following a mid-September meeting with Democratic leaders, Trump said they were “close” to a deal and suggested the bill would not need to include funding for a border wall.

However, chances that Congress would quickly pass a bill to restore DACA dropped this week when the Trump administration issued hard-line demands for any bill protecting young undocumented immigrants. The White House said that any deal should include funding for the border wall and curb legal immigration, demands that Democrats and likely some Republicans will oppose.

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