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

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has employed a security detail through the U.S. Marshal Service, which could cost taxpayers up to $6.54 million over the next year, Politico reported Monday evening.

Education Department spokeswoman Liz Hill told Politico that $6.54 is the “high water mark” for the cost of DeVos’ security detail and that the department doesn’t plan to spend more than that on security.

DeVos’ use of the U.S. Marshals Service is unusual. Past education secretaries have used security staff within the department for protection. As of April, the Education Department still employed those security officials but had not assigned them new roles, the Washington Post reported in April.

From February through the end of September, the Education Department spent $5.28 million for Marshal Service protection for DeVos, according to Politico. Hill told Politico that DeVos spent less than the projected $8 million for her security this year in part because she pays for the marshals to fly on her private jet.

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt also has an unprecedented 24/7 security detail. Pruitt has an 18-member security detail, which has forced the department to pull agents from the criminal investigations unit to help protect Pruitt.

The report on DeVos’ spending on security comes as several cabinet members are under investigation for their use of private and government planes for official travel.


Read More →

The gunman who opened fire on a music festival Sunday night, killing 59 people and injuring more than 500 others, had 23 firearms in his hotel room at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, Las Vegas police department Assistant Sheriff Todd Fasulo told reporters Monday night.

Fasulo also said that the alleged shooter, Stephen Paddock, had 19 firearms in his home in Mesquite, Nevada. Police said earlier on Monday that authorities found firearms, explosives, and several rounds of ammunition in the Mesquite home as well.

Police had executed a search warrant of another home Paddock owned in Reno, Nevada, as of Monday night, Fasulo said. However, he could not yet provide details on what authorities found in that residence.

Earlier in the day, Clark County Sheriff Joseph Lombardo told reporters that law enforcement found several rifles, at least one handgun, and ammunition in the gunman’s hotel room, as well as ammonia nitrate in a vehicle associated with the suspect. Authorities also found more than 10 suitcases in the shooter’s hotel room, suggesting the gunman used the suitcases to transport the weapons.

Lombardo did not have many details on the types of rifles in the hotel room, but said that some could be described as “assault weapons.” The shooter had scopes on some of the rifles as well, per Lombardo. Police believe that the gunman used several firearms when he opened fire on the music festival, but it’s not clear just how many he used, Lombardo said.

The Wall Street Journal reported Monday afternoon that at least one of the gunman’s firearms was fully automatic and that his arsenal of weapons in the hotel room included AR-15-style and AK-47-style rifles.

Read More →

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) on Monday urged House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) to move forward on gun control legislation and form a committee to address gun violence after a gunman opened fire on a country music festival from high up in a hotel on the Las Vegas strip, killing at least 58 people.

“Congress has a moral duty to address this horrific and heartbreaking epidemic. Charged with the solemn duty to protect and defend the American people, we must respond to these tragedies with courage, unity and decisive action,” Pelosi wrote in a letter to Ryan.

“Today is a day for prayer, mourning and love, but it must also be a day for action. As Members of Congress, our words of comfort to the families of the victims of the Las Vegas massacre will ring hollow unless we take long overdue action to ensure that no other family is forces to endure such an unimaginable tragedy,” she added.

Pelosi called on Ryan to pass legislation to strengthen background checks for gun purchases and to create a select committee to study gun violence and recommend policy to prevent future mass shootings.

Read the letter:

Read More →

President Donald Trump called Las Vegas police department Sheriff Joseph Lombardo on Monday morning after a gunman opened fire on a music festival in Las Vegas, killing at least 58 people and wounding more than 500 others.

Lombardo thanked the President for his phone call in a tweet.

Lombardo has been overseeing the local law enforcement response to the mass shooting and providing the public with regular updates on the shooting and ensuing investigation. His tweet thanking Trump for his support came after the President gave public remarks calling the shooting “an act of pure evil.”

Read More →

This post has been updated throughout.

On Sunday night, a gunman opened fire over a crowd of thousands at a country music festival in Las Vegas, raining bullets down from the 32nd floor of a nearby hotel.

The gunman died before law enforcement entered his hotel room from what police believe was a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Authorities believe the suspect, identified as Stephen Paddock, acted alone in the shooting.

Here’s everything we know so far about what is now the deadliest mass shooting in United States history, leaving at least 58 people dead and more than 500 others injured.

The gunman fired on a country music festival from a room in the Mandalay Bay hotel

The suspected gunman was perched on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino. Shortly after 10 p.m. PT on Sunday, he opened fire on the 22,000 people attending the Route 91 Harvest Festival in Las Vegas.

The gunman had reserved two hotel rooms, one facing east and the other north, Clark County Commission Chair Steve Sisolak told the Nevada Independent. The gunman used a device similar to a hammer to break the windows from which he fired onto the crowd, police said.

Country singer Jason Aldean was performing at the time. Aldean ran off the stage after several rounds of gunfire rung out, video of the concert shows.

Police officers at the concert were able to roughly identify where the shots were coming from. Law enforcement then entered the Mandalay Bay Hotel, moving up toward the 32nd floor, Las Vegas Police Undersheriff Kevin McMahill told CNN.

The LVMPD SWAT team breached the hotel room where the suspect was holed up and found him dead there, per the police department. Clark County Sheriff Joseph Lombardo said that police believe the gunman killed himself before the SWAT team entered the room.

Members of the SWAT team did discharge their weapons at the location of the gunman’s hotel room, but it’s not yet clear if they fired their weapons before or after the gunman died, Lombardo said.

At least 58 people died and more than 500 were injured

At least 58 people died in the shooting and at least 515 people have been transported to area hospitals with injuries, police said.

As of Monday morning, police had declined to identify any of the victims.

Las Vegas police did confirm that an off-duty police officer was among those killed. Two on-duty Las Vegas police officers also were injured in the shooting, the department said. One sustained minor injuries while the other now is in stable condition after surgery.

Police ID’d the gunman as Stephen Paddock, 64

Police identified the suspected gunman as Stephen Paddock, a 64-year-old white man who was living in Mesquite, Nevada.

Lombardo told reporters that police had yet to find any “derogatory” background information on Paddock. Lombardo noted that Paddock had a citation several years ago that was resolved in court, but he did not describe that citation. Mesquite police officer Quinn Averett told reporters Monday morning that the Mesquite police had not had any recorded interactions with Paddock.

Paddock checked into the Mandalay Bay hotel on Sept. 28, Lombardo said. Hotel staff entered the room between the time when he checked in and the time of the shooting, but police have not yet learned that hotel staff noticed anything “nefarious,” Lombardo said.

Police searched for Marilou Danley, believed to be Paddock’s roommate, and initially identified her as a person of interest in the case. Lombardo told reporters Monday morning that authorities found Danley abroad, and believe at this time that she was not involved in the incident. Lombardo said that Danley was not with the suspect when he checked into the hotel, although the suspect had been using her ID. Lombardo didn’t specify why the suspect used Danley’s ID. Clark County Commission Chair Steve Sisolak later told the Nevada Independent that Paddock was using Danley’s slot machine card, which is how police identified her as a person of interest.

Paddock had more than 10 rifles

The suspected gunman had more than 10 rifles in his hotel room, Lombardo told reporters in a press conference. McMahill had previously told CNN that the gunman had several long rifles in the room.

While several rounds of automatic gun fire can be heard in videos of the shooting, police have yet to identify the weapons used by the gunman.

Lombardo said that it appears the gunman brought the firearms to the hotel himself.

Police are searching Paddock’s home—and searching for a motive

As of about 11:30 a.m. ET, law enforcement had completed their search of Paddock’s home in Mesquite but had not yet evaluated any evidence recovered from the residence. Lombardo told reporters that he was not aware of any new “derogatory” information that law enforcement has discovered about the suspect.

Authorities also discovered another residence belonging to the suspect in northern Nevada, and they will execute a search warrant there, Lombardo said.

Lombardo said that law enforcement had not yet identified a motive for the mass shooting. Police have not labeled the incident as terrorism, either.

The FBI has determined that the gunman had no connection to an international terror group. This came after the Islamic State claimed responsibility for the shooting but did not provide any evidence to support that claim.

Asked at a press conference whether he had thought the incident was linked to the Islamic State, Lombardo replied, “No, ma’am. I can’t get into the mind of a psychopath at this time.”

Mesquite police officer Quinn Averett updated reporters on the search through Paddock’s home, located in a retirement community, later Monday morning. Averett said that police found guns and possibly ammunition in the residence, but otherwise found “nothing out of the ordinary.”

Read More →

In a tweet published shortly after 7 a.m. on Monday, President Donald Trump gave his “warmest condolences and sympathies” to the victims in the deadly Las Vegas shooting.

The President has been briefed on the shooting, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a Monday morning statement.

At least 50 people were killed and more than 200 were injured when a gunman opened fire on a music festival in Las Vegas Sunday night. The suspect, identified by the Clark County sheriff as Stephen Paddock, has died, police said.

Vice President Mike Pence followed up with a series of tweets offering his condolences to the victims of the shooting.

Read More →

Updated at 8:42 a.m. ET 

Clark County Sheriff Joseph Lombardo on Monday morning identified the suspect in the Las Vegas shooting that left at least 50 people dead as Stephen Paddock.

Paddock is a 64 year old white male, but Lombardo did not provide reporters with any more details on the suspect. The suspect in the shooting has died.

Lombardo said that he’s confident that law enforcement has located a female person of interest, who was previously identified as Marilou Danley.

CBS News reported that Paddock was a resident of Mesquite, Nevada, where he lived in a retirement community. He had no previous run-ins with law enforcement, CBS News reported, citing the Mesquite police. Las Vegas Police Undersheriff Kevin McMahill also said that law enforcement had not yet confirmed a previous criminal history.

“All of the checks that we have been able to do other than a routine traffic violation here in Nevada and nationwide working with our local FBI partners have been able to find no derogatory history on that individual,” McMahill said of the suspect.

However, NBC’s Pete Williams reported that Paddock had been known to law enforcement.

Lombardo told reporters around 6:30 a.m. Monday that police do not yet have a sense of a motive for the shooting, though authorities said they believe that the suspect acted alone.

The shooter opened fired on a music festival on the Las Vegas strip from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino, killing at least 50 and injuring more than 200. Lombardo told reporters Monday morning that they do not know the exact weapons used, but that the shooter had rifles.

Las Vegas Police Undersheriff Kevin McMahill later told CNN that the suspect had several firearms in his hotel room, including long rifles. McMahill was not clear on the exact number of weapons but said there were at least eight guns.

McMahill said that the suspect died from a gunshot wound but that it was unclear whether it was self-inflicted or from a law enforcement officer. The Las Vegas police department said that the suspect was found dead when they breached his hotel room.

Read More →

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke on Friday dismissed scrutiny of his use of private and government planes for trips within the U.S. and abroad as “a little BS.”

Politico reported Thursday evening that Zinke used a private or military plane for travel in at least four instances. The revelation followed news that Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin all spent taxpayer money on private or government planes for travel within the continental U.S. as well.

Before giving a speech at a Heritage Foundation event, Zinke addressed his travel.

“Before we get started, I’d just like to address, in the words of General Schwarzkopf, a little BS on travel,” he told the audience.

Zinke defended his use of private and government planes, arguing that they were the only options that would allow him to meet his schedule.

“Using tax dollars wisely and ethically is a greatest responsibility and it is at the heart of a good government,” he said. “And there are times, however, when we have to utilize charter services because we often travel in areas and under circumstances that we don’t have other flight options.”

He listed the three occasions on which he took a charter plane, and noted that he took a military plane to view wild fires in the U.S. with the agriculture secretary.

“All this travel was done only after it was determined by multiple career professionals at the department that no commercial options existed to meet the promulgated schedule,” Zinke told the audience on Friday. “The flights were only booked after extensive due diligence by the career professionals in the department’s general law and ethics division. Every time I travel, I submit the travel plan to the ethics department, that evaluates it line by line to make sure that I am above the law, and I follow the law.”

In one of the instances reported by Politico and the Washington Post, and mentioned by Zinke on Friday, the interior secretary took a flight from Las Vegas to the Kalispell, Montana. The plane, rented through a charter service, was owned by the executives of an oil and gas company and cost taxpayers $12,375. The night of that flight, he spoke at an event for Las Vegas’ new hockey team; he then flew to Montana, arriving at 1:30 a.m., where he spent the night at his private residence. Zinke spoke at a Western Governors’ Association event the next day.

Read More →

President Donald Trump has made it clear, both in private and to reporters, that he is not pleased Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price spent more than $400,000 of taxpayer money to travel around the country on private jets.

The President told reporters this week that he is “not happy” with Price, and when asked if he would fire the health secretary, Trump replied, “We’ll see.” Behind closed doors, Trump has fumed for days; according to several reports out Thursday, the possibility of firing Price has been floated, but Trump hasn’t indicated he will actually dismiss the health secretary.

Since the reports on Trump’s anger came out, Politico revealed that Price and his aides also spent more than $500,000 to travel abroad on military planes.

Trump’s anger with Price has grown in the last day or so, according to a New York Times report out Thursday night. The President told a person close to him that he reserves the right to fire Price, and that the health secretary’s pledge to pay for his seats on the planes would not necessarily save him his job, according to the Times.

Some advisers to Trump have suggested he fire Price, although the President indicated he’s not ready to ask for Price’s resignation, per CNN’s Thursday evening report.

The New York Times reported that Trump was “incensed” by Price’s spending on charter planes, complaining to aides and lamenting that Price’s travel practices do not align with his “drain the swamp” campaign message.

Names are already being floated for Price’s replacement in case the story worsens, according to CNN and Axios. The two outlets reported that Food and Drug Administration commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services administrator Seema Verma both have been mentioned. Axios also reported that former Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal has been floated.

In addition to the frustration over Price’s private plane usage, Trump is likely disappointed that the HHS head was not able to sell Congress on a plan to repeal and replace Obamacare. Back in July, Trump joked that he would fire Price if he didn’t secure the votes for a repeal bill.

“By the way, you’re going to get the votes?” Trump said to Price at a July speech for the Boy Scouts in West Virginia.

“He better get ’em. He better get ’em. Oh, he better,” Trump added. “Otherwise I’ll say, Tom, you’re fired. I’ll get somebody.”

Read More →

Senate Judiciary Chair Chuck Grassley (R-IA) on Thursday urged President Donald Trump to implore his Cabinet secretaries to stick to the most cost-effective modes of travel possible.

Grassley wrote a stern letter to the President amid a slew of reports revealing that members of Trump’s Cabinet have spent thousands on private and government planes to attend official events.

“Federal regulations specifically prohibit official travel by chartered jet when it is not the most cost-effective mode of travel ‘because the taxpayers should pay no more than necessary for your transportation,'” Grassley wrote in the letter to Trump. “Considering the many travel options to and from Washington, D.C., I’m urging you to emphasize to Cabinet secretaries the necessity of using reasonable and cost-effective modes of travel in accordance with federal restrictions.”

He noted that Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price has spent more than $400,000 on private planes, and that both EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin are under investigation for their own use of non-commercial flights. Since Grassley sent his letter to Trump, it has also been revealed that Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke took private and government flights this year.

Price has said that he will pay the government back for his seats on the charter planes—not for the full cost of the flights—and he has halted his use of charter planes while the HHS inspector general reviews his travel.

Grassley urged Trump to issue a hold on non-commercial flights for all departments under review. Grassley also asked the President to share with the steps the administration has taken to make sure that Cabinet officials are using the most cost-effective modes of transportation possible.

Read the letter below:

Read More →