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

In an interview about the Vietnam War taped last week, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) appeared to criticize President Donald Trump for receiving a draft deferment for bone spurs during the Vietnam War.

The Arizona senator did not mention the President by name but specifically called out “high-income Americans” who got doctors’ notes for a “bone spur.”

“One aspect of the conflict, by the way, that I will never ever countenance is that we drafted the lowest-income level of America, and the highest-income level found a doctor that would say that they had a bone spur,” McCain told C-SPAN in an interview that aired Sunday. “That is wrong. That is wrong. If we are going to ask every American to serve, every American should serve.”

Trump deferred the draft five times, four while he was in school and the fifth for bone spurs. He acknowledged in a 2016 New York Times interview that he visited a doctor who wrote him a letter for draft officials. Trump said that the bone spurs were “temporary” and “minor.”

“I had a doctor that gave me a letter — a very strong letter on the heels,” Trump told the Times.

McCain served in the Vietnam War and was tortured as a prisoner of war. During the 2016 campaign, Trump suggested he did not believe McCain was a true war hero because he was “captured.”

Watch a clip of McCain’s interview on C-SPAN. He makes the comment about bone spurs at the 1:55 mark.

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A video of Rep. Frederica Wilson’s (D-FL) speech at a 2015 FBI building dedication ceremony, taken by the Sun Sentinel newspaper and resurfaced on Friday, shows that the congresswoman did not brag about securing the funding for the building as White House Chief of Staff John Kelly claimed she had.

Kelly joined the White House press briefing Thursday to defend President Trump’s call to the widow of a fallen U.S. soldier who was close to Wilson. In defending Trump’s comments to the widow of Sgt. La David Johnson, which Wilson said were hurtful, Kelly criticized the congresswoman for being present for the call and then speaking out about it.

He also brought up a speech Wilson gave in 2015 for the FBI building dedication, claiming that she bragged about how she “got the money” for the building and calling her an “empty barrel.”

Wilson called Kelly’s description of her speech a “lie,” noting that funding for the building had been secured before she ever took office and that she only helped to pass legislation naming the building after two slain FBI agents. The video from the Sun Sentinel appears to support Wilson’s version of events.

In the speech, Wilson describes how she and congressional leaders worked together to pass legislation to name the FBI building, after the starting the process just four weeks prior to the dedication ceremony at the agency’s request. She said it was a “miracle” that the bill passed both chambers and was signed by President Barack Obama in time.

She said that her effort and that of her colleagues who also pushed for the bill “speaks to the respect that our Congress has for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the men and women who put their lives on the line every single day.”

She then honored FBI agents gathered in the room, as well as the two special agents who died in a gunfight in 1986, Benjamin Grogan and Jerry Dove, for whom the new building was named.

“We are proud of their sacrifice, the sacrifice for our nation. It is only fitting that their names be placed on the same mantel as the FBI,” she said in the speech.

Despite the release of the video, the White House stood by Kelly’s criticism of Wilson’s speech, again calling her an “empty barrel.”

“Gen. Kelly said he was ‘stunned’ that Rep. Wilson made comments at a building dedication honoring slain FBI agents about her own actions in Congress, including lobbying former President Obama on legislation. As Gen. Kelly pointed out, if you’re able to make a sacred act like honoring American heroes about yourself, you’re an empty barrel,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement.

Wilson did not note in the speech that she lobbied Obama. She only said that he signed the bill quickly.

After the Sun Sentinel released the video, Wilson touted on Twitter the “proof” for her account of the FBI building dedication speech.

Watch the video of Wilson’s 2015 speech at the Sun Sentinel.

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Lara Trump on Friday backed up Rep. Frederica Wilson’s (D-FL) account of President Donald Trump’s phone call to the widow of a fallen soldier, even as she said she believed the congresswoman and the press took a comment that Wilson said was hurtful to the widow out of context.

Fox News host Ainsley Earhardt revealed during an interview on “Fox and Friends” that Trump, the wife of the President’s son Eric, had seen the transcript of the call. Trump described her father-in-law’s remark as coming during a broader comment on Sgt. La David Johnson’s commitment to serving his country.

“From what I have seen, this is a clear case of the media not doing their job. Whenever you read exactly what he said, he said ‘your husband went in to battle, you know, knowing that he could be injured, knowing that he could be killed and he still did it because he loves his country and he did it for the American people,'” Trump told Earhardt. “I can’t think of a better way, quite frankly, to express my gratitude to someone than by saying something like that. And yet they conveniently leave off the last part of what was said.”

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders denied to reporters on Friday afternoon that there is a transcript of the call. She said she believes Lara Trump “was responding to reports and things that she had read” and directed additional questions to the Trump campaign.

Wilson said this week that when the President called Myeshia Johnson, the soldier’s widow, he told her that her husband “knew what he was signing up for.” Other people who heard the call confirmed that account, and White House Chief of Staff John Kelly backed it up Thursday when he told reporters that he’d advised Trump to tell Gold Star families that their lost loved ones knew what they had signed up for.

While Lara Trump argued that the President’s comments were simply made public without the full context, her father-in-law launched a far less nuanced attack on Wilson. He has repeatedly accused the congresswoman of lying, even after Kelly essentially confirmed Wilson’s story.

Eric Trump also took part in the interview, calling criticism of his father’s comments to Johnson “disgusting.”

“I think it shows the absolute worst of politics,” he said. “Here is the President of the United States calling to express his condolences on behalf of an incredibly grateful nation, and people turned it into a political item. To me, it’s disgusting.”

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An impromptu remark from President Donald Trump on Monday that he would make an announcement next week declaring the opioid crisis a national emergency sent staff at the White House scrambling, as they were unprepared for such a move, Politico reported Friday morning, citing White House and agency officials.

“We are going to have a major announcement, probably next week, on the drug crisis and on the opioid massive problem and I want to get that absolutely right,” Trump said on Monday.

Staffers were “blindsided” by the comments, according to Politico. Administration staff had yet to agree on the process for implementing an emergency declaration, White House and agency officials told Politico. Administration officials told Politico that it’s also not clear when the emergency declaration could actually be announced or whether the administration even has the right staff in place.

Read Politico’s full report here.

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After White House Chief of Staff John Kelly on Thursday afternoon offered a lengthy defense and explanation of President Donald Trump’s call to the widow of a fallen soldier, Trump yet again accused a Democratic congresswoman of lying about how the call went.

Kelly’s defense of Trump essentially confirmed Rep. Frederica Wilson’s (D-FL) account of the President’s comments to Myeshia Johnson, the widow of Sgt. La David Johnson, who was killed in Niger earlier this month.

Wilson said that Trump told Johnson that her husband “knew what he was signing up for,” and Kelly told reporters that he told Trump to say something along those lines. Kelly’s lengthy explanation at the White House press briefing was an apparent attempt to end the feud between Trump and Wilson.

However, Trump disregarded Kelly’s comments and attacked Wilson on Twitter Thursday night:

Trump accused Wilson of “secretly” listening to the phone call. However Johnson likely knew that the congresswoman could hear the conversation, since the phone was on speaker while they were in a car.

The President and Wilson have been engaged in a back and forth since Wilson revealed Trump’s comments to Johnson earlier this week. Trump has repeatedly accused the congresswoman of lying, even though other people present for the call confirmed her account of Trump’s remarks.

Asked about Trump’s tweet on CNN Friday morning, Wilson said that she is focused on her constituents and what happened when Sgt. La David Johnson and other U.S. soldiers were ambushed by Islamic State-linked fighters in Niger.

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After White House Chief of Staff John Kelly on Thursday afternoon criticized Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-FL) for her comments on President Donald Trump’s call to the widow of a fallen soldier and for her work naming a federal building in 2015, Wilson hit back, arguing that Kelly got his facts wrong.

Kelly made an impromptu appearance at the White House press briefing Thursday afternoon, where he defended Trump’s call to Myeshia Johnson, the widow of Sgt. La David Johnson. Trump told Johnson that her husband “knew what he was signing up for,” according to Wilson and others who heard the call. Kelly defended Trump’s comments and criticized Wilson for making the contents of the call public.

He then criticized Wilson over her role in the naming of a federal building, which was dedicated to two fallen FBI agents in 2015. Kelly said that during the ceremony, Wilson bragged that she “got the money” for the building.

However, Wilson told the Miami Herald that Kelly didn’t quite have his facts straight. She said that the money for the building had already been secured before she took office as a congresswoman, and that she only worked to name the building after the FBI agents.

“He shouldn’t be able to just say that, that is terrible,” Wilson told the Miami Herald. “This has become totally personal.”

She denied mentioning funding for the building during the ceremony.

“That is crazy that I got [the money] and Mr. Obama just gave it to me,” Wilson said. “That building was funded long before I got to Congress. I didn’t say that. I have staff, people who write the speeches. You can’t say that.”

Wilson followed up on CNN Friday morning, accusing Kelly of lying.

“I feel sorry for Gen. Kelly. He has my sympathy for the loss of his son. But he can’t just go on TV and lie on me,” she said. “I was not even in Congress in 2009 when the money for the building was secured. So that’s a lie. How dare he? However, I named the building at the behest of Director Comey, with the help of Speaker Boehner, working cross party lines. So he didn’t tell the truth, and he needs to stop telling lies on me.”

She also accused Kelly of making a “racist” comment when calling her an “empty barrel.”

A video released by the Sun Sentinel Friday with Wilson’s 2015 speech shows that the congresswoman did not brag about securing funding for the building. She talked about her effort, as well as the help she received from leaders in Congress, to rush legislation naming the building after two fallen FBI agents.

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Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) told reporters on Wednesday that the Trump administration has not given Congress enough information on the deadly attack on U.S. soldiers earlier this month in Niger.

Asked if the administration was being upfront with him about the attack, McCain replied, “No,” according to CNN.

But when asked if he would launch a probe into the matter as chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee, McCain said that he would first like all the information Congress “deserves and needs” before deciding whether to move forward with an investigation.

“That’s why we’re called the Senate Armed Services Committee. It’s because we have oversight of our military,” he told reporters, according to CNN. “So we deserve to have all the information.”

The Defense Department already has launched a review of the attack, looking at why soldiers were susceptible to the ambush attack by fighters affiliated with the Islamic State terror group.

The White House has not revealed much about the circumstances of the attack, and President Donald Trump has not issued a public statement on the ambush. Instead, Trump has stirred up a political fire storm by baselessly accusing his predecessors of failing to personally call the families of fallen soldiers in the past.

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President Donald Trump on Thursday morning suggested that Russia, the FBI and Democrats could have paid for the dossier tying him to Russia, even though there is no evidence to suggest the dossier was ordered by anyone other than his political rivals.

Trump described the dossier as “discredited and Fake,” suggesting that the FBI and Democrats may have colluded to surface false and damaging information about him.

The President also claimed that the firm that put together the dossier invoked their Fifth Amendment rights; however, the firm, Fusion GPS, has not refused outright to discuss its work on the dossier with Congress. Fusion GPS’ founder has already met with the Senate Judiciary Committee and reportedly spoke with investigators on special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe.

Trump is likely referring to the firm signaling it would not fulfill a subpoena from the House Intelligence Committee, accusing Chair Devin Nunes (R-CA), who’d stepped down from the panel’s Russia investigation, of a “pattern of unprofessional conduct.” Fusion GPS also said that if compelled to testify before the committee, staff at the firm would invoke their constitutional privileges, but they have yet to do so.

Fusion GPS has refused to say who payed for the dossier, which was compiled by retired British intelligence officer Christopher Steele. The Washington Post reported back in February that the FBI had planned to pay the Steele for the dossier but never ended up doing so; the FBI did not request that the dossier be compiled in the first place, as Trump suggests.

In his series of Thursday morning tweets on Russia matters, the President also falsely claimed that Hillary Clinton was involved in striking a uranium deal during former President Barack Obama’s tenure, as he did several times on the 2016 campaign trail, although there’s no evidence of her involvement.

Trump also claimed Russia sent millions to the Clinton Foundation. While individuals linked to the firms involved in the uranium deal did donate to the Clinton Foundation, but most of those came before Clinton’s 2008 presidential run — well before she served as secretary of state.

Trump returned to the uranium deal later in the day Thursday, telling reporters that it’s “one of the big stories of the decade.” Trump said that Russia holds 20 percent of the United States’ uranium, then later exaggerated that Russia has “a vast percentage” of American uranium. Russia’s nuclear energy agency does have control over about 20 percent of the United States’ uranium extracting capacity as the result of a 2010 deal.

“That’s your real Russia story,” Trump told reporters, referring to the uranium deal he’s tried to link to Clinton. “Not a story where they talk about collusion, and there was none. It was a hoax. Your real Russia story is uranium. And how they got all of that uranium, a vast percentage of what we have, that is to me, one of the big stories of the decade. Not just now. Of the decade.”

“The problem is that the mainstream media does not want to cover that story because that affects people that they protect. So they don’t like covering that story, but the big story is uranium and how Russia got 20 percent of it,” he continued. “And frankly, it’s a disgrace. It’s a disgrace. And it’s a disgrace that the fake news won’t cover it. It’s so sad.”

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In a Tuesday letter, House Oversight Committee Chair Trey Gowdy (R-SC) and Ranking Member Elijah Cummings (D-MD) threatened to subpoena the Department of Justice and the Department of Agriculture for the agencies’ air travel records.

The committee leaders wrote in a letter obtained by Politico that the DOJ and USDA had failed to comply with their request for agency officials’ air travel records. The committee asked for the documents to be turned over by Oct. 10, and Gowdy and Cummings said they will issue subpoenas to the two agencies if they do not comply by the end of October.

Gowdy and Cummings asked all federal agencies and the White House to turn over air travel records for their staff following reports that several Cabinet leaders used non-commercial airplanes for official travel. Tom Price resigned as Health and Human Services secretary after Politico revealed that he spent about $1 million of taxpayer money on charter and government planes. Several other Cabinet leaders have also come under scrutiny for their travel habits, including Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt.

Of the 24 agencies contacted by the committee, only ten were completely compliant with the request. The committee sent letters to 12 agencies and the White House, noting that they did not fully comply with the records request and asking that they provide the additional documents by the end of the month, per Politico. However, Gowdy and Cummings did not threaten a subpoena in those letters.

The committee also sent an additional request to all agencies for information on the travel options during the last few months of the Obama administration.

“This additional request is necessary to assess the frequency and nature of this issue to help determine whether new policies or regulations need to be enacted or perhaps to even change the nature of appropriations to your department,” they wrote in the letters.

The White House responded to the committee’s request, which was sent to chief of staff John Kelly, earlier this month and told the committee that Kelly was not in charge of travel requests from all components within the White House, per Politico. The White House told the committee to direct its request to the different components within the White House.

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A bipartisan group of governors on Wednesday night sent a letter to Congressional leaders urging them to pass legislation to stabilize Obamacare’s individual health market.

“We urge Congress to quickly pass legislation to stabilize our private health insurance markets and make quality health insurance more available and affordable,” the governors wrote in the letter.

The governors support the agreement reached by Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) to restore the subsidies to insurers cut off by the Trump administration this month. They called for the government to fund the cost sharing reduction (CSR) payments through 2019. The governors warned that nixing the CSR payments will raise premiums and cause insurers to leave the marketplace, citing a Congressional Budget Office report predicting a premium spike.

“With the elimination of the federal payments for the cost charing reduction program, insurers are faced with significant financial losses, which could force them to withdraw from the marketplace, or, in some states, request significant rate increases,” the governors wrote.

The Republican governors who signed the letter include Ohio Gov. John Kasich, Massachusetts Gov. Charles Baker, Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval, and Vermont Gov. Phil Scott. Independent Alaska Gov. Bill Walker and several Democratic governors also signed the letter.

Earlier this week, it appeared that Congress had a break-through when Alexander and Murray announced that they had reached an agreement on a bill to stabilize the individual market. But several Republican lawmakers are skeptical, and President Donald Trump has sent worrisome mixed signals on the bill, leaving it unclear whether Congress could pass it.

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