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

After calling on Alabama GOP Senate candidate Roy Moore to explain inconsistencies in his denials of the allegations aired by several women, Fox News host Sean Hannity said Wednesday night that he was satisfied with an open letter from Moore.

“We demanded, rightly, answers from Judge Moore,” Hannity said on his show Wednesday night. “And he provided them to the specific questions we asked.”

On his show Tuesday night, Hannity pointed out that Moore gave inconsistent answers to Hannity when he asked the GOP candidate if he dated teenage girls while he was in his 30s. Hannity also noted that Moore denied knowing one of his accusers, Beverly Young Nelson, but that Nelson has a yearbook that appears to be signed by Moore. Hannity told Moore to explain the inconsistencies in 24 hours or drop out of the race.

In an open letter to Hannity published on Twitter Wednesday, Moore first painted the accusations as an attack from the liberal media and suggested that there’s reason to doubt the allegations since they are only coming to light now.

Moore also argued that the signature in Nelson’s yearbook could have been faked and said that he presided over Nelson’s divorce proceedings as a judge in 1999, which Nelson did not mention. Moore said that it did not appear to cause Nelson “distress” in 1999 when she appeared before Moore in court.

Later in the letter, Moore said that he “did not date underage girls” and specifically denied the allegations from Nelson and Leigh Corfman, who accused Moore of initiating a sexual encounter with her when she was 14 years old.

Hannity said that with this letter from Moore, the voters of Alabama now need to make their choice.

“The people of Alabama deserve to have a fair choice, especially in light of the new allegations tonight.” Hannity said. “We have told you everyone’s point of view. The accusers continue to have an open invitation to come on this show and share their story.”

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Yet another woman came forward this week with an accusation of sexual misconduct against Alabama GOP Senate candidate Roy Moore.

Gena Richardson told the Washington Post that Moore asked her out several times, twice at the Gadsden mall and once in a phone call to her high school. When she did eventually go on a date with Moore, he gave her an unwanted kiss at the end of the evening, she told the Post.

The Wednesday night report in the Washington Post with stories from Richardson and three other women followed a report from AL.com with allegations from two women earlier on Wednesday. One woman told AL.com that Moore asked her out when she was 17 years old and another said Moore groped her when she was 28 years old. These women join several others who have accused Moore of unwanted romantic or sexual advances while they were teenagers and he was in his 30s. The Washington Post first reported on the allegations last week.

Moore has denied all of the allegations against him, despite the steady stream of women now accusing him of inappropriate conduct. Republican leaders in Congress have called for him to drop out of the Senate race, but he has refused.

Richardson told the Washington Post that she first encountered Moore while working at the Gadsden mall, where Moore was known to roam and hit on teenage girls. Richardson said that in her first encounter with Moore, he asked her where she went to school and for her phone number. She declined to give him her number, but he called her at her high school and asked her out again just a few days later, she told the Post. On that call she told him that she would be at work on Friday and Saturday, telling the Post that she was “so naive, and so not worldly.”

That weekend, Moore approached Richardson at work and suggested they see a movie, she said. After the movie, Moore offered to drive Richardson to her car, which was parked further away in a different parking lot, Richardson said. When they got to her car, Moore chatted with her and then gave her an unwanted, “forceful” kiss, Richardson said.

“It was a man kiss — like really deep tongue. Like very forceful tongue. It was a surprise. I’d never been kissed like that,” she told the Washington Post. “And the minute that happened, I got scared then. I really did. Something came over me that scared me. And so I said, ‘I’ve got to go, because my curfew is now.’ ”

Kayla McLaughlin, Richardson’s co-worker at the mall at the time, told the Post that Richardson told her about the incident afterward. McLaughlin said that Moore would come into the mall regularly and that she would warn Richardson when Moore came into the store where they worked.

Two other women described Moore’s behavior at the mall to the Post. Becky Gray said that when she was 22, Moore repeatedly asked her out while she was working at the mall, and she repeatedly declined. She told the Post that his behavior made her uncomfortable, as he would linger near where she worked, and she complained about him to her manager.

Phyllis Smith, who worked at the mall as a teenager, told the Washington Post that Moore never approached her personally, but that she was very aware that he would hit on other teenage girls. She said the teen girls working there would tell each other “just make yourself scarce when Roy’s in here, he’s just here to bother you, don’t pay attention to him and he’ll go away.’ ”

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Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) on Wednesday afternoon introduced legislation that would overhaul the way Congress handles sexual harassment complaints, in addition to requiring members and staffers to undergo sexual harassment training.

Both chambers in Congress will now mandate that all members and staffers receive sexual harassment training, but Speier, Gillibrand and other members argue that training is not enough. Speier testified in a House hearing on Tuesday that the current process for filing complaints is confusing, insufficient and biased against victims.

She said in a press conference Wednesday introducing the bill that the legislation is about “bringing light to a very dark corner of our society.” Speier said that training is not enough, even though Congress “is quick to pat itself on the back” for “modest” accomplishments.

“Zero tolerance is meaningless unless it is backed up with enforcement and transparency,” Speier said.

Gillibrand said that the current process is “tilted against victims” and that Congress must change the way it handles sexual harassment complaints.

“We should be held to the highest standards, not the lowest,” she said.

The bill introduced Wednesday, the Member and Employee Training and Oversight On (ME TOO) Congress Act, would change the reporting process. Gillibrand and Speier are the lead sponsors of the partner bills, and Speier is joined by Reps. Ryan Costello (R-PA), Ann McLane Kuster (D-NH), and Bruce Poliquin (R-ME) on the House bill.

The new legislation would do away with requirements that staffers undergo counseling and mediation before filing a sexual harassment complaint and that staffers sign non-disclosure agreements before starting mediation, Speier said. The bill would also give interns and fellows in Congress the same protections when it comes to sexual harassment as paid staffers, according to Speier.

The congresswoman said that the current process only provides taxpayer-funded in-house counsel for the accused harasser and that the ME TOO bill would provide counsel for the victims as well. The legislation would designate someone in the Office of Compliance to work with victims, Gillibrand said.

The bill aims to increase transparency by requiring the Office of Compliance to publish the amount paid out in any sexual harassment settlement, as well as the office in which it occurred, Speier said. If Congress pays a settlement on behalf of a member of Congress accused of sexual harassment, the official will be required to pay the government back under this bill, Speier said. However, staffers would not have to pay back the government for settlements under the legislation.

Speier revealed Tuesday on MSNBC that the House has paid out more than $15 million in settlements on behalf of accused harassers over the past 10 to 15 years.

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After a shooting Tuesday in California left four people dead, President Donald Trump attempted to offer his condolences in a tweet on his way back from his Asia trip.

However, Trump tweeted a message about the shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas, which occurred earlier this month.

“May God be with the people of Sutherland Springs, Texas. The FBI and Law Enforcement has arrived,” the since-deleted tweet read.

The message was very similar to the Tweet he published right after the Texas shooting on November 5, suggesting that Trump or someone on his staff copied and pasted the last tweet and forgot to change the location of the shooting.

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Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Chuck Grassley (R-IA) seems unconcerned about this week’s revelation that Donald Trump Jr. responded to private Twitter messages from Wikileaks during the 2016 election.

“I read those emails. He only responded to two or three of them, and they were very innocuous,” Grassley told CNN on Tuesday. “So I don’t even know why you’d be asking about him if you read them.”

The Judiciary chair also said that he has yet to decide whether the committee will call Trump Jr. for a public hearing, a move Democrats on the committee have called for.

The Atlantic reported on Monday that the Wikileaks Twitter account sent private messages to Trump Jr. during the 2016 campaign and up until July 2017. Trump Jr. ignored many of the messages, but sometimes sent a response, per the Atlantic.

Trump Jr. once told the Wikileaks account that he would “ask around” when Wikileaks asked about a new anti-Trump website in September 2016, according to the Atlantic. Trump Jr. also asked the Twitter account about a potential leak he had been “reading about” in October 2016, the Atlantic reported.

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As more companies pulled ads from Sean Hannity’s Fox News show, Hannity on Tuesday night called on Alabama GOP Senate candidate Roy Moore to explain his inconsistent responses to allegations of inappropriate conduct with teenage girls or drop out of the race.

Since Hannity interviewed Moore on his radio program last week, the Fox host has faced pressure from advertisers. Several companies, including Green Mountain, Hebrew National, and Reddi Whip, have pulled their ads from “Hannity.” The Fox host on Monday night blamed the advertiser boycott on the liberal group Media Matters, who he accused of launching an unfair smear campaign against him.

However, on Tuesday night, Hannity came down harder on Moore, several days after his initial interview with the Republican candidate.

Hannity noted that Moore gave three different answers to him when asked if he dated teenage girls while he was in his 30s. Moore first told Hannity that he did “not generally” date teenage girls. He then said that he didn’t “remember dating any girl without the permission of her mother.” Moore finally denied he ever dated someone in their late teens. These answers were “inconsistent,” Hannity said.

Hannity also noted that Moore denied even knowing a fifth accuser, Beverly Young Nelson, who accused Moore of sexually assaulting her. However, Nelson presented a yearbook that appeared to be signed by Moore, Hannity noted.

“Between this interview that I did and the inconsistent answers; between him saying ‘I never knew this girl’ and then that yearbook comes out—for me, the judge has 24 hours,” Hannity said Tuesday night. “You must immediately and fully come up with a satisfactory explanation for your inconsistencies that I just showed. You must remove any doubt. If he can’t do this, then Judge Moore needs to get out of this race.”

Watch the clip via Fox News:

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) on Tuesday afternoon indicated he will not let Roy Moore serve in the U.S. Senate for long, if at all.

During a Wall Street Journal event, McConnell said that Moore would face a swift ethics probe if he wins the December election to fill the Alabama Senate seat.

“I think it’s safe to say that if he were to be sworn in, he would immediately be in a process before the Senate Ethics Committee,” McConnell said at the Wall Street Journal CEO Council when asked if he would try to expel Moore from the Senate. “He would be sworn in and be asked to testify under oath as well, and it would be a rather unusual beginning.”

McConnell and Republican leaders are also discussing ways to “salvage the seat” before the December election. McConnell said that a write-in campaign is the only option Republicans have to replace Moore before the election. He said that Attorney General Jeff Sessions likely has the best chance to pull off a write-in campaign but that he may not be “available.”

“The Alabamian who would fit that standard would be the attorney general,” Mr. McConnell said. “He’s totally well known and extremely popular in Alabama.”

Asked if a write-in campaign by Sessions is his preferred option, McConnell replied, “I’d like to save the seat, and it’s a heck of a dilemma when you’ve got a completely unacceptable candidate bearing the label of your party within a month of the election.”

Earlier on Tuesday, McConnell said that he and the White House were discussing the options for the race in the wake of allegations from several women that Moore pursued romantic or sexual relationships with them while they were teenagers. He said he would have further discussions with administration officials upon Trump’s return from his trip to Asia.

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said Tuesday afternoon that he and the White House have “looked at all the options” available for keeping Roy Moore out of the Senate in the wake of allegations from several women that Moore pursued them sexually or romantically when they were teenagers.

“There’s no question that there’s a deep concern here,” McConnell said at a brief press conference on Capitol Hill. “He’s obviously not fit to be in the United States Senate.”

McConnell has already unequivocally called for Moore to drop out of the race.

He told reporters Tuesday that he has spoken with President Donald Trump, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and Vice President Mike Pence about Moore over the past few days. McConnell said that once Trump returns from his Asia trip on Wednesday, he will speak with the White House more about the possibilities.

McConnell’s comments on his discussions with the White House came when asked if he would support an effort in the Senate to expel Moore if he wins the December election. McConnell would not answer directly and instead told reporters that Republicans are looking at all options. He added later that backing a write-in candidate is among the options being discussed.

The Senate leader was also asked whether he believes the women who accused Trump of sexual harassment given that he has said the women voicing allegations against Moore are credible.

McConnell dodged, saying, “We’re talking about the situation in Alabama.”

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Upon taking office, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke looked into redesigning the department’s flag and making it bigger, emails surfaced by the Huffington Post on Tuesday show.

Zinke started inquiring about making the changes just one week after he became the department’s secretary, according to the Huffington Post. In an email one week after Zinke took office, an Interior Department staffer said that Zinke would be able to make the department’s flag and the interior secretary’s flag bigger, so long as they are not larger than the American flag that flies atop the building, according to an email obtained by the Huffington Post. The staffer said it was unclear whether Zinke could change the flags’ design, per the report.

As secretary, Zinke has started a new tradition of raising a secretarial flag atop the department’s Washington, D.C., headquarters when he is in the building, and raising the deputy secretary’s flag when Zinke is out of town.

He has also redecorated his office in the Interior Department with the heads of an elk and a bison mounted on the wall, the Huffington Post reported. He also brought in a taxidermy grizzly bear and bobcat, per the Huffington Post.

Zinke is one of several cabinet leaders to come under scrutiny for his spending, particularly on air travel. He used military and private planes to attend events in Montana and the Caribbean islands.

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Alabama GOP Senate candidate Roy Moore was a regular at the mall in Gadsden, Alabama in the late 1970s and early 1980s, where he was known to flirt with teenage girls, according to several locals who spoke with the New Yorker and AL.com.

Moore would often go to the mall alone, where he would flirt with teenage girls, and employees at the mall were told to keep an eye on him, according to Wednesday reports from the New Yorker and AL.com.

Greg Legat told both outlets that he worked at the mall in the 19080s and that an off-duty police officer, J.D. Thomas, told him to keep an eye out for Moore. Legat told the New Yorker that Thomas said Moore was banned for the mall but did not specify a reason. Thomas would not discuss Moore with the New Yorker when reached by phone.

Jason Nelms, who regularly visited Gadsden Mall as a teenager in the 1980s, told both outlets that he was told that workers had to keep an eye out for an older man who tried to pick up girls at the mall. Nelms said that he was later told the man was Moore, per the New Yorker and AL.com.

Two of the women who spoke to the Washington Post and alleged that Moore pursued them while they were teenagers said that they met Moore at the mall. The Washington Post reported last week that Moore often walked around the Gadsden Mall alone, citing several women who worked there at the time.

The New Yorker was not able to confirm on the record that Moore was banned from the Gadsden Mall, but several unnamed locals told the magazine that Moore was not allowed at the mall. However, more than a dozen people told the New Yorker that they had heard that Moore was banned from the mall, including former law enforcement officers.

Etowah County, Alabama resident Sheryl Porter told AL.com that it was widely known in the area that Moore liked to date teenage girls.

“Him liking and dating young girls was never a secret in Gadsden when we were all in high school,” Porter said. “In our neighborhoods up by Noccalula Falls we heard it all the time. Even people at the courthouse know it was a well-known secret.”

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