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 prematurely declaring victory in his war of words with NFL players Wednesday morning, President Donald Trump was not done harping on the issue.

During an interview with Fox News’ Sean Hannity on Wednesday, Trump criticized Colin Kaepernick, the player who protested police treatment of minorities in 2016 by kneeling during the national anthem.

“I watched Colin Kaepernick and I thought it was terrible. And then it got bigger and bigger and started mushrooming,” Trump told Hannity.

“And frankly the NFL should have suspended him for one game and he would have never done it again,” he continued. “They could have then suspended him for two games and they could have suspended him again if he did it a third time for the season, and you would never have had a problem.  But I will tell you — you cannot disrespect our country, our flag, our anthem, you cannot do that.”

Trump later told Hannity that minorities “want” and “need” police protection more than others and lamented that police would be able to do stop crime in cities if “if they were allowed to do their job.” Trump claimed that police are unable to do their jobs because “they have to be politically correct.”

The President has been attacking NFL players for weeks as more and more players kneel during the national anthem before games. The league said Tuesday that it will discuss next week whether to change the rules and require players to stand during the national anthem.

Though no decision has been made, Trump praised the NFL on Twitter Wednesday morning for “finally demanding that all players STAND for our great National Anthem.”

Trump also brought up the topic during a speech on Republicans’ tax proposal in Pennsylvania.

“Do we love our American flag?” Trump asked during the speech. “I think people forgot how patriotic we are. I think people forgot how much we love our country.”

He then appeared to reference NFL players’ protests and the league’s decision to discuss a new rule.

“They’ve learned over the last week, haven’t they?” he asked.

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After suggesting Wednesday morning that television networks’ broadcasting licenses should be challenged, President Donald Trump ramped up his threat to news outlets, arguing that their broadcasting licenses “must be challenged” or even “revoked.”

Trump has long bashed the media and and targeted specific outlets after they publish unfavorable reports. However, Trump escalated his tiff with NBC News Wednesday morning. He had already bashed the outlet following a report that Secretary of State Tillerson called him a “moron.” Trump’s frustration with NBC then grew when the outlet then reported that he told officials over the summer that he wanted to significantly increase the United States’ nuclear capabilities.

He asked on Twitter Wednesday morning, “With all of the Fake News coming out of NBC and the Networks, at what point is it appropriate to challenge their License?” Trump followed up later in the day to say that “it’s frankly disgusting the way the press is able to write whatever they want.”

Despite the threats Trump has issued on Twitter, there’s not much he can do to challenge networks’ broadcasting licenses.

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In a blistering letter to Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) on Wednesday, several prominent conservative groups called on the Senate majority leader to step down from his role, calling him and his leadership team “abject failures.”

“2017 has been a disappointing year for millions of Americans who fully expected, and had every right to expect real change in Washington, Republicans were given full control of the federal government. They — you — have done nothing,” the groups began in their letter.

After listing grievances with McConnell and his leadership team, the six conservative group leaders called on the majority leader to step down.

“It is time for you and your leadership team to step aside, for new leadership that is committed to the promises made to the American people. America is too good for you lead it,” they wrote.

The letter was signed by Ken Cuccinelli, president of the Senate Conservatives Fund, which backed McConnell’s primary challenger a few years ago; Brent Bozell, a tea party activist and conservative columnist; Jenny Beth Martin, a co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots; David Bozell, president of the conservative group For America; Adam Brandon, president of the Tea Party group FreedomWorks; and Richard Viguerie, an established GOP political consultant who has backed President Donald Trump and his allies.

Missing from the letter were representatives from other prominent conservative groups like the Heritage Foundation and Club for Growth.

In the letter, the group leaders outlined issues that Republicans in the Senate have yet to move forward with, such as curbing illegal immigration, reducing the size of government and spending, and enacting tax reform. They also placed a lot of emphasis on the Senate’s failure to pass a bill repealing Obamacare.

“Perhaps the the greatest betrayal —and that is what it is — is your failure to repeal Obamacare, the single most devastating piece of legislation against freedom ever crafted,” they wrote, adding that the House and Trump did their part.

They said that the legislative failures “come on top of your vicious, continuous, merciless attacks on grassroots Republicans, but most especially conservatives.” The conservative leaders also accused McConnell of blackballing certain GOP candidates.

“You and your leadership team — Senators John Cornyn, Roy Blunt, John Thune and John Barrasso — have made war with your own grassroots while cynically refusing to honor one solemn pledge to the American people,” they wrote.

Read the letter below:

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During official trips throughout the U.S. on taxpayer-funded flights, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke also attended fundraisers for Republican lawmakers in Montana and Alaska, Politico reported Tuesday evening.

The report raises additional questions about Zinke’s travel habits as the Office of Government Ethics scolds Cabinet officials for their recent actions.

Zinke is one of several agency chiefs who’ve come under scrutiny in recent weeks for taking trips on non-commercial planes. Zinke has used both charter planes and government planes for official travel.

The Interior Department’s inspector general is reviewing one trip to Nevada and Las Vegas in particular. Zinke attended a meeting with the Vegas Golden Knights hockey team, which is owned by a major donor to his congressional campaign, before taking a late-night flight to Montana. Democrats argue that Zinke could have flown commercial to his official events in Montana had he not attended the hockey meeting.

It’s also been previously reported that Zinke attended a Republican fundraiser in the U.S. Virgin Islands — an official trip for which he used a non-commercial plane.

In March, Zinke attended a fundraiser in Big Sky, Montana for a committee affiliated with Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT), according to Politico’s new report. Records show the Interior secretary was reimbursed for 75 percent of his per diem the day before, when he toured Yellowstone National Park, and he did not seek reimbursement for his lodging for the trip.

The Hatch Act bars government officials from participating in political events while acting in their official role, but it’s not clear that Zinke violated any rules on that March trip.

In May, Zinke attended a fundraiser for Rep. Don Young (R-AK) while he was in the state for the Alaska Oil and Gas Association, per Politico. Zinke was not listed on the official invitation for the fundraiser but did give brief remarks. For that trip, Zinke took a military plane from Europe to Alaska.

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Office of Government Ethics acting Director David Apol, who oversees ethics in the executive branch, sent a memo to the heads of federal agencies last week admonishing some Cabinet officials for their actions and encouraging a greater focus on ethics.

The memo came as several Cabinet chiefs have come under scrutiny for their taxpayer-funded travel habits, although Apol did not explicitly mention officials’ use of non-commercial flights in his memo.

“I am deeply concerned that the actions of some in Government leadership have harmed perceptions about the importance of ethics and what conduct is, and is not, permissible,” he wrote.

Apol encouraged agency heads to “re-double” their commitment to ethics, telling Cabinet officials that it is “essential to the success of our republic that citizens can trust that your decisions and decisions made by your agency are motivated by the public good and not by personal interests.”

He then listed ways in which Cabinet officials could go about strengthening their focus on ethics. He told leaders to act with a “‘Should I do it?’ mentality,” as opposed to a “‘Can I do it?’ mentality.” He also encouraged agency chiefs to talk more about ethics at their departments, learn more about ethics policies and include ethics officials in more meetings.

Several Cabinet officials are under investigation by their departments’ inspectors general due to their use of non-commercial planes for official travel, including Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. Tom Price recently resigned as health and human services secretary due to his use of private planes.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin was also under review. The Treasury Department inspector general’s office found that his non-commercial air travel was legal, but warned Mnuchin to provide a more robust justification for those flights in the future.

Read Apol’s memo below:

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President Donald Trump continued his Twitter tear on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, directing most of his fire at the media.

Trump has been up early several mornings in a row, venting to his supporters on Twitter. He has lashed out at Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), escalated his feud with NFL players and defended his administration’s immigration proposals.

He continued his tirade Tuesday night with tweets that appear to be a response to reports on tension with Chief of Staff John Kelly. Vanity Fair reported Tuesday that Trump has grown increasingly frustrated with Kelly recently. The Washington Post reported that investor Thomas Barrack, a longtime friend of Trump who often counsels the President, has been floated by Trump allies as a potential replacement to Kelly in the event that Trump’s anger with Kelly increases.

Wednesday morning, Trump continued his attacks on the media, complaining about coverage of the economy and Republicans’ plan to change the tax code.

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Former President Barack Obama and former First Lady Michelle Obama on Tuesday afternoon released a statement condemning the behavior of Harvey Weinstein as more women came out accusing the movie mogul of sexual harassment and assault.

“Michelle and I have been disgusted by the recent reports of Harvey Weinstein. Any man who demeans and degrades women in such fashion needs to be condemned and held accountable, regardless of wealth or status,” Obama said in a statement. “We should celebrate the courage of women who have come forward to tell these painful stories. And we all need to build a culture, including by empowering our girls and teaching our boys decency and respect, so we can make such behavior less prevalent in the future.”

Weinstein was a prominent Democratic donor, and Democratic lawmakers have come under pressure to denounce the movie executive. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton condemned Westein’s actions earlier on Tuesday, and several Democratic lawmakers have donated campaign contributions from Weinstein to charity.

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After waging a war of words against NFL players for several weeks, President Donald Trump on Wednesday morning celebrated the news that the NFL will consider requiring players to stand for the national anthem.

Trump claimed in an early-morning tweet that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is “demanding” that players stand for the national anthem, but the league has not yet decided on an official change to its policy.

The league will meet next week to discuss possible changes to its policy on the national anthem.

Trump began his feud with NFL players during a September rally in Alabama, where he said that any “son of a bitch” who kneels during the national anthem at an NFL game should be fired. The protests began as a way for players to protest police treatment of minorities.

The President has since continuously escalated his attacks on NFL players, regularly firing off tweets as more players join in on the protests. On Tuesday morning, Trump threatened the NFL’s tax breaks, even though the league gave up its tax-exempt status a couple of years ago.

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During a July meeting with top national security advisers, President Donald Trump said that he wanted to significantly build up the United States’ nuclear arsenal, NBC News reported Wednesday morning, citing three unnamed officials in the room.

Trump said that he wanted a nearly tenfold increase in the country’s nuclear capabilities after seeing a presentation that showed how the U.S. has steadily worked to shrink the nuclear arsenal, according to NBC News. The officials in the room told Trump that it would be very challenging to build up the nuclear arsenal and explained that the U.S. is in a stronger military position than it was when the nuclear stockpile was larger, according to NBC News.

Officials told NBC News that there are no plans to build up the U.S. nuclear arsenal.

Some officials in the room told NBC News that they did not interpret Trump’s wish for more nuclear weapons as an order to build up the arsenal and said that the President also said during the meeting that he wanted a general military build-up with more troops and other equipment.

It was after this meeting on July 20 that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was overheard calling Trump a “moron,” per NBC News. However, it’s not clear what exactly prompted Tillerson to label Trump a moron, according to NBC News.

Trump on Wednesday morning denied that he asked for a tenfold increase in the nuclear arsenal and suggested that NBC’s broadcasting license be revoked.

Read NBC News’ full report here.

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As more women came forward this week to accuse movie mogul Harvey Weinstein of sexual harassment or assault, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton released a statement on Tuesday condemning Weinstein’s behavior.

Weinstein is a big Democratic donor, contributing to both Clinton’s and Barack Obama’s presidential campaigns. Several Democratic lawmakers in Congress over the past week have pledged to donate campaign contributions from Weinstein to charity, given the spate of recent reports about his harassment and abuse of female employees, models and actresses.

Clinton said in the statement that she was “shocked” by the revelations.

The New York Times published a report last week detailing sexual harassment accusations from several women, including the actress Ashley Judd. The New Yorker followed up on Tuesday with additional accounts from women, three of whom accused Weinstein of rape. The New Yorker also made public an audio recording on which Weinstein can be heard confirming that he groped an actress.

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