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

This post has been updated.

Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday called on the committee’s Republican chair to hold a hearing scrutinizing President Donald Trump’s decision to pardon former Maricopa County, Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

“The pardon sends an unequivocal signal that institutionalized racial profiling as practiced by Sheriff Arpaio is acceptable; the pardon is disrespectful to the rule of law in general and to the federal courts in particular,” the Democrats wrote in a letter to, Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA).

A Republican aide on the House Judiciary Committee told TPM that the committee does not currently have plans to hold a hearing on this issue.

Trump pardoned Arpaio as a hurricane bore down on Texas late Friday, after teasing that he would help out the notorious Arizona sheriff in the weeks leading up to his final decision. Arpaio had been convicted of contempt of court last month for ignoring a court order to stop detaining people based on the suspicion that they are undocumented immigrants.

In their letter to Goodlatte, committee Democrats argued that the pardon “represents a gross injustice” given Arpaio’s history of racial discrimination and the infamous “tent city” open-air jail he ran.

They also noted that Trump did not go through the Justice Department’s Office of the Pardon Attorney to vet his pardon of Arpaio, as has been customary.

“President Trump chose to work around this mechanism and ignore DOJ policy calling for a waiting period of five years or more before considering a pardon application and the expression of regret or remorse by the applicant,” the Democrats wrote.

They warned that Trump’s dismissal of the norms for presidential pardons suggests he “may soon be tempted to issue pardons that stem from matters under investigation by Special Counsel Bob Mueller.”

“We should be certain that the right structures are in place to temper those decisions well before they reach the President’s desk,” Democrats argued in the letter.

They also noted that Trump reportedly asked Attorney General Jeff Sessions to drop the federal case against Arpaio before he pardoned the former sheriff. Committee Democrats gave Sessions credit for telling Trump that dropping the case wouldn’t have been appropriate, but they argued that Trump’s conversation with Sessions shows the President continues to improperly contact the Justice Department.

The Democrats pointed out that they were not alone in their concern over the Arpaio pardon, noting opposition from House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), and urged Goodlatte to take up the issue with the committee.

They also criticized the chairman for declining to hold an oversight hearing during the Trump administration so far.

“We note that this letter represents the fifth time we have written to ask you to conduct oversight of the Trump administration,” they wrote. “Given that our Committee created an entire task force to examine ‘executive overreach’ last Congress during President Obama’s term, it is somewhat disturbing that we have not engaged in any comparable oversight of the Trump Administration.”

Read the letter below:

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In an apparent reversal from his Tuesday statement on North Korea, President Donald Trump on Wednesday morning indicated he is no longer willing to engage in diplomatic talks with the isolated nation.

The President complained on Twitter about the state of talks with North Korea and declared that “talking is not the answer!”

Trump’s tweet follows a more measured statement issued by the White House on Tuesday, after North Korea fired a missile over Japan. In that statement, Trump said that “all options are on the table,” but he’s now suggesting that he’s against talks.

Over the past month, Trump has escalated his rhetoric regarding North Korea as the country signals that it’s making progress toward becoming a nuclear power. Trump’s own fiery comments on North Korea often have been countered by more measured statements form other members of his administration, only to be reversed by Trump again shortly afterward.

Following reports earlier in August that North Korea had developed a nuclear warhead small enough to fit on an intercontinental ballistic missile, Trump warned in off-the-cuff remarks that advancements in North Korea’s nuclear capabilities would “be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.” Trump reportedly improvised those comments and had not run the language by his advisers beforehand.

Following the “fire and fury” remarks, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson tried to downplay Trump’s aggressive rhetoric and North Korea’s subsequent threat, telling Americans that the situation between the two countries had not changed.

Reports also surfaced around that time that the U.S. had been engaged in quiet talks with North Korea for several months. Trump’s Wednesday morning tweet indicates that if he has it his way, however, those talks would not continue.

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Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) on Tuesday claimed that a meeting between himself and President Donald Trump was being set up so that the congressman could brief the President on a recent meeting he had with Wikileaks founder Julian Assange.

“It is my understanding from other parties who are trying to arrange the rendezvous, that a rendezvous with myself and the President, it is being arranged for me to give him the firsthand information,” Rohrabacher said on Sean Hannity’s radio show, according to a clip highlighted by CNN.

Rohrabacher, who has been described as “Putin’s favorite congressman,” met with Assange earlier in August and returned to relay Assange’s claim that Russia did not orchestrate the leak of emails damaging to Hillary Clinton. At the time, Rohrabacher pledged to give Assange’s message to Trump, and he now claims that the wheels are in motion to set up that meeting.

It’s not clear, based on the congressman’s claims, that any such meeting is being arranged. The White House declined to comment to TPM on Rohrabacher’s comments.

The congressman also recently promoted a report claiming that the hack into the Demcoratic National Committee’s server was an inside job.

He echoed this in his interview with Hannity on Tuesday, claiming that the DNC hack was not carried out by the Russians and that the narrative of Russian interference was crafted by the liberal “establishment” to distract from Hillary Clinton’s scandals.

“If the information comes out, there will be an outrage among the American people that their time has been wasted,” he told Hannity. “They’ve had this story over and over and again shoved down their throats as if the Russians colluded with Donald Trump, and this is an attempt, as I say, to negate their vote in the ballot booth. When the American people realize that this is a con job and a power grab, they’ll be upset.”

“I’m trying to get this out in the public now where we can get this Julian Assange thing straightened out so that people know that it wasn’t the Russians that hacked into the system, and that’s not how this information was released,” Rohrabacher added.

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Secretary of Defense James Mattis announced Tuesday that he will hold off on implementing a ban of transgender troops ordered by President Donald Trump while the Defense Department and experts study the issue.

Mattis will convene a panel to devise a plan for implementing Trump’s order, which bars the military from accepting new transgender recruits and from paying for sexual reassignment surgeries and medications, but leaves it up to Mattis how to address transgender troops already serving in the military. Trump’s memorandum gives Mattis until February to develop a plan to carry out the order.

“Our focus must always be on what is best for the military’s combat effectiveness leading to victory on the battlefield,” Mattis said in a Tuesday evening statement. “To that end, I will establish a panel of experts serving within the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security to provide advice and recommendations on the implementation of the president’s direction.”

While the panel studies the issue, the U.S. military’s current policy regarding transgender troops will remain in place.

Trump issued the memorandum directing Mattis to carry out the new policy last week, which came about a month after Trump initially announced the policy in a series of tweets. Trump’s announcement took military leaders by surprise, and drew opposition from members of the Defense Department and Republican lawmakers.

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The parent company of Fox News announced on Tuesday that it will no longer air its programs in the United Kingdom via Sky News, a move that comes just as the British government weighs whether to allow a merger between 21st Century Fox and Sky News.

The company owned by media tycoon Rupert Murdoch said it made the decision because Fox News is geared toward U.S. markets and was not viewed by many people in the U.K.

“21CF has decided to cease providing a feed of Fox News Channel in the UK. Fox News is focused on the US market and designed for a US audience and, accordingly, it averages only a few thousand viewers across the day in the UK,” 21st Century Fox said in a statement. “We have concluded that it is not in our commercial interest to continue providing Fox News in the UK.”

The British culture secretary is currently reviewing a report the country’s communications regulator, Ofcom, submitted last week. The culture secretary ordered a review from Ofcom after a lawsuit from a former Fox News contributor claimed that the network had worked with the White House and others to push a conspiracy theory about the murder of Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich, prompting concern in the U.K. over the potential merger with Sky News. Ofcom was also looking at accusations of sexual harassment at the network.

Fox News and Rupert Murdoch have run afoul of British regulators in the past. Ofcom ruled in 2015 that the news channel broke U.K. laws with misleading interviews about so-called Muslim “no-go zones” in Europe. A British parliament committee in 2012 also issued a damning report about Murdoch’s News Corporation, arguing that Murdoch “is not a fit person to exercise the stewardship of a major international company.”

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After conservative commentator Laura Ingraham on Tuesday criticized the Trump administration for letting key posts go unfilled, President Donald Trump fired back on Twitter, claiming that those positions had been left vacant on purpose.

During a segment on “Fox and Friends,” Ingraham said that the devastation of Hurricane Harvey in Texas shows how desperately Trump needs to fill open posts at agencies that help with disaster recovery.

“I think we can all look at these horrific pictures, and we can conclude a federal government does need staff. We see it acutely in need of staff in a situation like this,” she said after noting that the new FEMA director was just confirmed in June.

“We’re also facing a huge crisis with North Korea,” she continued. “We’re facing a crisis of confidence across the country where people wonder—even with President Trump in, he said he was going to drain the swamp—can we have a government that works for the people and not just have a people enslaved to the government?”

Trump often blames Democrats for obstructing the administration’s lagging efforts to fill key posts in the federal government. But as “Fox and Friends” co-host Brian Kilmeade noted on Tuesday morning, Trump has yet to even nominate people to fill a few hundred open positions.

Ingraham said that the White House should be scrutinized for the slow pace of nominations.

“This is a question that has to be posed to the administration. I know they have a lot on their hands, but we have to have people in place,” she said. “If there’s a plan to not staff and cause the ultimate shrinkage of government, then let’s hear about that as well.”

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After the crowd at the rally in Phoenix, Arizona, was less robust than expected, President Donald Trump took out his frustration on a former White House aide who organized the event as a contract worker for the Republican National Committee, Bloomberg News reported Monday night.

Once the rally had ended, Trump had an aide inform George Gigicos that he would never do work for the White House again, three unnamed sources told Bloomberg News. Gigicos formerly served as the White House director of scheduling and advance, and he also had worked for the Trump campaign planning rallies. He left the White House earlier in August to return to his consulting firm, and he was helping plan the Phoenix rally last week as a contractor for the RNC.

As Bloomberg News noted, the rally venue was not entirely full when Trump took the stage, an issue for a President obsessed with crowd size and who feeds off the energy of his most loyal supporters. And as Trump droned on through his speech, rallygoers began to filter out and appeared to be uninterested, according to the Washington Post.

The apparent disinterest in his rally—a comfort zone for the President whose White House is roiled by constant internal scandals—clearly bothered Trump. Following the event, Trump claimed that 15,000 people attended the rally, even though a local official estimated that just 10,000 came to the event. He mentioned the rally size again during a press conference Monday, claiming that a “massive crowd” turned out to watch him speak in Arizona.

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After North Korea launched a missile over Japan early Tuesday, President Donald Trump issued a statement declaring that “all options are on the table.”

“The world has received North Korea’s latest message loud and clear: this regime has signaled its contempt for its neighbors, for all members of the United Nations, and for minimum standards of acceptable international behavior,” Trump said in a statement.

“Threatening and destabilizing actions only increase the North Korean regime’s isolation in the region and among all nations of the world,” the President continued. “All options are on the table.”

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has spoken with Trump and both agreed that an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council is necessary, Abe said.

Earlier in August, following reports that North Korea has produced a nuclear warhead small enough to fit on an intercontinental ballistic missile, Trump issued fiery statements directed at North Korea.

He pledged that North Korea’s threats would be “met with fire and fury like the world has never seen,” later following up with a tweet touting the United States’ nuclear capabilities.

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Federal investigators on special counsel Robert Mueller’s team are probing whether President Donald Trump tried to hide the nature of Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting with a Kremlin-linked lawyer in crafting his son’s initial statement on the meeting, NBC News reported Monday evening, citing three unnamed sources familiar with the matter.

Investigators want to know what Trump knew about the meeting before crafting the statement and whether he knowingly issued an incorrect statement, sources told NBC News.

In June 2016, Donald Trump Jr., along with Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort, met with a Kremlin-linked lawyer after being promised incriminating information on Hillary Clinton as part of a Russian government effort to help Trump’s campaign. The meeting came to light in July 2017 in a New York Times report.

Though Trump Jr. eventually acknowledged that the meeting was pitched as an opportunity to gain damaging information on his father’s opponent, his initial statement claimed that the meeting was largely about Russian adoption.

The President reportedly played a large role in crafting that initial misleading statement, aboard Air Force One on his way back from a trip to Europe. Mueller’s team now reportedly wants to know how much Trump knew when he helped write that misleading statement.

Ty Cobb, a spokesman for the legal team representing the President on Russia matters, told NBC News that he assumes “the statement issued after the G20 is of interest, but I’m not aware of any crime associated with that. It was true at the time it was written and true now.” He added that the President’s involvement in writing the statement was “minimal.”

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Just a few days after President Donald Trump issued a pardon for Joe Arpaio, the former Maricopa County sheriff hinted that he could mount a primary challenge to Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), who’s up for re-election next year.

Arpaio, who was convicted of contempt of court for ignoring a court order to stop holding people solely on suspicion of being undocumented, told the Washington Examiner on Monday that he may run for office again.

“I could run for mayor, I could run for legislator, I could run for Senate,” he said.

“I’m sure getting a lot of people around the state asking me” to run against Flake, he added. “All I’m saying is the door is open and we’ll see what happens. I’ve got support. I know what support I have.”

It’s not clear how serious Arpaio is about challenging Flake. He lost his bid for a seventh term as sheriff of Maricopa County last year, and was later convicted of contempt of court. The sheriff was notorious for holding inmates in “tent city,” an open air jail he once referred to as a “concentration camp.”

Arpaio, who is now 85 years old, told the Washington Examiner that despite his age, he does not plan to fully retire yet.

“I’m proud to be my age. I work 14 hours a day. If anyone thinks my age is going to hold me back, I’ve got news for them,” he said. “The bottom line is there’s no way I’m going to go fishing. I have no hobbies.”

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