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

Angered by a story in Politico using his publicly available financial disclosure form, White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci waged an all-out war on “leakers” Wednesday night and Thursday morning, appearing to specifically blame Chief of Staff Reince Priebus for the Politico report.

Likely upset that someone in the administration was looking to take him down a peg, Scaramucci threatened to sic the FBI and Justice Department on the supposed leaker, even though those agencies are supposed to operate independently from the White House. Scaramucci denied that he was trying to blame Priebus for the Politico story. But he later followed up with cryptic comments about Priebus suggesting that the chief of staff has been behind leaks from the White House.

Scaramucci started on a tear against “leakers” the very moment he accepted the communications director position, pledging to root out traitors in the White House and other parts of the administration who leak juicy tidbits and sensitive information to the press. On Wednesday morning he complained on Fox News about the backstabbing within the White House and said that he is “more of a front-stabbing person.”

The 12-hour saga began with a tweet from Scaramucci Wednesday night — which he deleted two hours later — that appeared to blame Chief of Staff Reince Priebus for the “leak” of his financial disclosure form to Politico.

Scaramucci said he would talk to the FBI and the Justice Department about the “leak,” which he erroneously claimed was a felony. During a CNN interview Thursday morning, Scaramucci denied that he was blaming Priebus for the Politico story on his disclosure form.

“In light of the leak of my financial disclosure info which is a felony. I will be contacting @FBI and the #TheJusticeDept #swamp @Reince45,” Scaramucci said in a tweet screen captured by several news outlets.

After Scaramucci’s initial tweet, New Yorker reporter Ryan Lizza reported on Twitter Wednesday night that Scaramucci wants the FBI to look into whether Priebus is behind leaks to the press.

The Justice Department also chimed in with a statement pledging to “aggressively pursue leak cases.”

Scaramucci, who has been at odds with Priebus, denied on Twitter Wednesday night that he was trying to blame Priebus for the “leak,” but Lizza told CNN Thursday morning that he spoke to a senior White House official who said Scaramucci wanted Priebus investigated for leaks.

The White House communications director then joined CNN’s “New Day” for a lengthy interview about the tweet and leaks from the White House.

Scaramucci said on CNN that he spoke to Lizza on Wednesday night, but did not say that he discussed his anger with Priebus about the disclosure form. He instead told CNN that he has interviewed White House staff and that he has “a very, very good idea of who the leakers are, who the senior leakers are in the White House.” He acknowledged that it was not illegal to send a reporter his disclosure form, but said he had an issue with the political games.

“I know that there was a public disclosure mechanism in my financial forms. What I’m upset about is the process and the junk pool, the dirty pool, Chris, in terms of the way this stuff is being done, and the leaking won’t stop,” he told CNN’s Chris Cuomo.

He then offered a confusing explanation for his tweet tagging Priebus, suggesting that he was not blaming Priebus for the leaks while also suggesting that journalists’ assumptions about the tweet may show that Priebus is behind the leaks.

“When I put out a tweet, I put Reince’s name in a tweet, they are all making the assumption that it’s him because journalists know who the leakers are. So if Reince wants to explain he’s not a leaker, let him do that,” Scaramucci said.

Later in the interview, Cuomo asked Scaramucci if he really believes the Politico story on his financial disclosure form warranted contacting the FBI.

Scaramucci said that he has contacted Attorney General Jeff Sessions and that he’s “got buddies of mine in the FBI that I’ll be calling.”

Asked again if the FBI should really be investigating the leak of his disclosure form, Scaramucci explained that he mentioned the FBI and Justice Department in order to make leakers “nervous.”

“When the iceberg hits the boat, the rats start flying up from steerage,” he said.

Scaramucci said that he does not want the FBI to investigate “dirty politics.”

“But I like mentioning them because I know knee-knockers when I see them and their knees will start knocking,” Scaramucci added.

Cuomo then asked Scaramucci if he has concerns about Priebus.

“Reince Priebus can speak to you about that and he can address that himself,” Scaramucci replied. “People know my history between me and Reince. I can speak for my own actions. He’s going to need to speak for his own actions.”


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A bipartisan group of ten governors, including four Republicans, on Wednesday sent a letter to Senate leaders warning them against passing “skinny repeal,” which would just nix some of Obamacare’s taxes and mandates.

“The Senate should also reject efforts to amend the bill to a ‘skinny repeal,’ which is expected to accelerate health plans leaving the individual market increase premiums, and result in fewer Americans having access to coverage,” the governors wrote in the letter after telling Senate leaders to oppose the House replacement bill as well.

Senate GOP leaders are pushing for their caucus to approve “skinny repeal” so that they can move to a conference committee with the House and hammer out a comprehensive deal between both chambers.

The governors argued in their letter that instead of rushing a repeal bill through Congress now, the Senate should hold hearings and work with Democrats on a bipartisan bill.

“True, lasting reforms can only be achieved in an open, bipartisan fashion,” they wrote. “We agree with Senator John McCain that the Senate should ‘return to regular order,’ working across the aisle to ‘provide workable solutions to problems Americans are struggling with today.’”

The Republicans who signed the letter include Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, and Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker.

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Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) on Wednesday defended Attorney General Jeff Sessions from President Donald Trump’s public attacks and offered up a plan to help the attorney general retake his old Senate seat, should he want it.

Brooks, who’s a candidate in the special election to fill Sessions’ old seat, said that he would be willing to withdraw from the race if the other Republican candidates also agree to do so.

“If all Republican candidates collectively agree to simultaneously withdraw from this race, then we clear the way for the Republican Party of Alabama to nominate Jeff Sessions to be the Republican nominee for the December 12, 2017 general election,” Brooks said in a statement issued by his Senate campaign. “He can return to the Senate where he has served us so well. President can then appoint whomever he wants as Attorney General.”

In the statement, Brooks defended Sessions as a “patriot” and one of the “greatest public servants I have ever personally met.” He called on Trump to end his “public waterboarding” of the attorney general.

“I cannot remain silent about the treatment Jeff Sessions is receiving from President Trump,” Brooks said in the statement. “If the President has reservations about Attorney General Jeff Sessions, that is okay. No two people agree all the time. But President Trump should raise his reservations with Attorney General Sessions privately, man to man, one on one, not publicly scorn a great man like this.”

“I support President Trump’s policies, but this public waterboarding of one of the greatest people Alabama has ever produced is inappropriate and insulting to the people of Alabama who know Jeff Sessions so well and elected him so often by overwhelming margins,” he added.

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A federal judge on Tuesday denied Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s (R) request to reconsider a court-imposed sanction over his deceptive statements in a voting rights case, arguing that the Kobach has a “pattern” of misleading the court.

Kobach, who leads President Donald Trump’s sketchy “election integrity” commission, was sanctioned in late June by U.S. Magistrate James P. O’Hara for “deceptive conduct and lack of candor.” The sanction stemmed from a case brought against Kobach by the ACLU over the secretary of state’s push for proof-of-citizenship voter registration in Kansas. As part of its lawsuit, the ACLU sought to view two documents Kobach drew up about proposed amendments to the National Voter Registration Act, one of which the secretary of state was seen holding while meeting with Trump in December.

O’Hara ruled at the time that the arguments Kobach’s attorneys employed to keep the ACLU from seeing those documents included “patently misleading representations” of the documents.

In her Tuesday decision rejecting Kobach’s request to reconsider the sanction, U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson agreed that Kobach’s descriptions of the documents were misleading. She noted and swiftly dismissed Kobach’s new argument that his muddied descriptions were merely the result of “last-minute editing mistakes.”

“Defendant did not mention editing, page-limitations, or issues with deadlines in his thirty-three page response brief to the motion for sanctions, so his assertion that this is an ‘expanded explanation’ is not well taken,” she wrote.

Robinson added in a footnote that Kobach’s statements about the two documents sought by the ACLU were not the only statements “that have called his credibility into question.” She listed examples that she said demonstrated the Kansas secretary of state had a “pattern” of misleading the court.

“While these examples do not form the basis for any sanctions award imposed by Judge O’Hara, they do demonstrate a pattern, which gives further credence to Judge O’Hara’s conclusion that a sanctions award is necessary to deter defense counsel in this case from misleading the court about the facts and record in the future,” Robinson wrote.

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The official tapped by President Donald Trump last week to serve as the interim director of the Office of Government Ethics has pushed for the agency to consult with the White House before responding to congressional inquiries or issuing new policies, according to a Wednesday New York Times report.

Walter Shaub, who resigned as director of OGE earlier this month, had slammed the White House’s decision to appoint David Apol last week in a statement that suggested the Trump administration chose someone who would favor the White House.

Per the Times:

Already, according to staff members at the Office of Government Ethics, Mr. Apol has advocated consulting with the White House before he issues certain policies — like one establishing rules related to legal defense funds that some Trump administration officials are setting up. He also wants to check with the White House before the office sends letters to members of Congress who have raised questions about White House ethics matters.

Apol formerly served as the general counsel at the agency. Had the White House not intervened to appoint an interim director, the chief of staff at OGE would have automatically taken over that role.

“It’s unfortunate that the White House decided to play politics with the interim director role,” Shaub said in his statement. “This sort of political interference creates the appearance that the White House may be hoping to engineer looser oversight by reaching down and leapfrogging a career employee over his own supervisor temporarily.”

Apol has a history of pushing the boundaries at OGE, according staffers who spoke with the newspaper. Shaub told the Times that while he was still director, Apol pushed to allow an executive at Lyft to maintain his stock in the company when he took a position at the Department of Transportation. Apol told the Times that he did question whether divestment was warranted in that case, but that he ultimately agreed with Shaub that the Lyft executive sell his stock.

As interim director, Apol will be tasked with deciding whether Anthony Scaramucci, the new White House communications director, receives a tax break for selling his share of the investment firm SkyBridge Capital. Administration appointees are sometimes granted certificates of divestiture, giving them a tax break on the sale of stock, to make it easier for them to take an administration job. However, Scaramucci initiated the sale of his share in SkyBridge before he was named to the position, raising questions about whether he should be granted the tax breaks.

Apol told the New York Times that he has yet to make a decision on that point.

“The test whether we issue a CD is whether or not it meets the requirements in the law,” he said. “If it does, we will; if it doesn’t, we won’t.”


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Attorney General Jeff Sessions plans to announce criminal investigations into leaks soon, according to reports from the Washington Post and Fox News, citing unnamed officials.

The probes are expected to be based on news reports that included sensitive intelligence, per the Washington Post and Fox News.

Asked about the reports on “Fox and Friends” Wednesday morning, White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci acknowledged that plans to launch the probes exist, but did not provide much more detail.

“I think he has got a plan that he has put together and at some point, I don’t know if it will be today, tomorrow or next week, he will announce that plan,” he said.

The reports came as President Donald Trump has engaged in a days-long public humiliation campaign against Sessions by repeatedly bashing the attorney general on Twitter and in interviews. Trump has suggested that Sessions may soon be out of a job, but Sessions has so far refused to quit.

The administration also has intensified its focus on leaks with the appointment of Scaramucci as communications director. He has pledged to reduce the leaks coming out of the White House, threatening to fire members of the communications department if the leaks do not decrease.

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As his administration struggled to persuade Republican senators to fall in line behind a bill to repeal Obamacare, President Donald Trump on Tuesday night returned to the comfort of a campaign speech, promising a crowd in Youngstown, Ohio, that he would push forward with his agenda.

Trump responded to his critics, as he so often does, mentioning that pundits often lament that he is not “presidential.”

“It’s so easy to act presidential, but that’s not going to get it done,” Trump said. “It is much easier, by the way, to act presidential than what we are doing here tonight, believe me.”

He then ranked himself right behind Abraham Lincoln.

“With the exception of the late, great Abraham Lincoln, I can be more presidential than any president that’s ever held this office,” he said.

His comments at the rally come amid a public campaign by the President to tear down Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Still fuming over Sessions’ decision to recuse himself from the Russia probe, Trump has relentlessly, publicly attacked Sessions this week, calling him “beleaguered” and suggesting he could let the attorney general go.

Trump treated the rally like a campaign stump speech, hitting on his usual topics of immigration, job creation, and infrastructure. He also threw in a few lines pressuring Republican senators to vote for a bill to repeal Obamacare.

As the President made promises to bring back jobs in the United States, Republican senators were back in Washington struggling to move forward on a plan to repeal Obamacare. After squeaking through a motion to proceed to debate on repeal, nine Republicans voted down the Senate GOP’s replacement plan, defeating the comprehensive bill. Now senators are left to vote on on a straight repeal bill and a “skinny repeal” bill that would punt negotiations back to the House.

Watch clips from Trump’s Tuesday rally via CNN:

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President Donald Trump on Wednesday morning singled out Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) for her votes against debate on a Obamacare repeal bill and against the Senate’s replacement bill, saying the senator let Republicans down.

Murkowski was one of two Republican senators who voted Tuesday against a motion to proceed to debate on Obamacare repeal, though her defection did not prevent Republicans from clearing that procedural hurdle. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) also voted against the motion to proceed, but her opposition to beginning debate had long been solidified. It was an open question going into the vote Tuesday afternoon which lawmakers and how many would vote against moving to debate.

After voting against the motion to proceed, Murkowski released a statement calling on Republicans to hold hearings on health care.

“I have repeatedly said that healthcare reform, and especially major entitlement reform, should go through the committee process where stakeholders can weigh in and ideas can be vetted in a bipartisan forum,” she said in the statement. “I voted ‘no’ today to give the Senate another chance to take this to the committee process.”

Murkowski also voted against the Senate Obamacare replacement bill, the Better Care Reconciliation Act, on Tuesday night, but she was joined by eight other Republican senators in doing so.

Trump has not played a large role in the Senate’s process to repeal and replace Obamacare. He has only weighed in occasionally and has tried to threaten and guilt Republicans into passing a bill. As he has attempted to persuade Republicans to hammer out a deal, he has waffled on which approach would make the most sense.

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As President Donald Trump escalated his public attacks on Attorney General Jeff Sessions this week, the two have not spoken, but Sessions has signaled to the White House through aides that he will not step down, according to reports in Politico and the Washington Post.

Sessions’ chief of staff told White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus that the attorney general would not resign as Trump and Sessions avoid talking to each other, the Washington Post reported. Per the Post:

In a recent conversation, Sessions’s chief of staff, Jody Hunt, told White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus that the attorney general had no intention of stepping down. Hunt, according to people familiar with the conversation, made it clear to Priebus that Sessions “plans to move forward with his agenda in the department and he has no plans for resigning,’’ according to one person familiar with the exchange. Priebus, for his part, did not say Trump planned to fire Sessions if he did not leave, these people said.

While Trump refuses to speak with Sessions and instead hints at letting him go in public remarks, White House aides have been urging Trump to end his attack on his own attorney general, per Politico and CNN. Steve Bannon in particular has pleaded with Trump to stop going after Sessions, Politico and CNN reported.

After publishing tweets earlier in the week calling Sessions “beleaguered” and “weak,” Trump on Tuesday said he was “disappointed” in the attorney general and was looking into letting Sessions go. He has reportedly talked with staff about potential replacements for Sessions, and White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci said that Trump “probably” wants Sessions gone.

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After Senate Republicans voted to proceed Tuesday afternoon on the repeal of Obamacare, GOP leaders touted the move as the “beginning” of a long, open process to repeal and replace the health care law.

“This is just the beginning,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) told reporters during a brief press conference after the vote. “We’re not out here to spike the football.”

McConnell said he expects the Senate to finish debating on the legislation by the end of the week, but he would not provide details about which bills or amendments would be offered on the floor. He said that it’s “impossible to predict” what will happen in such a process.

Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), the No. 2 Republican in the Senate, referenced what he said was an “important message” in Sen. John McCain’s (R-AZ) speech after the motion to proceed vote, in which he called for bipartisanship. Cornyn called on Democrats to help build a bipartisan health care bill, arguing that “could be the beginning of that healing process” for a “polarized” institution.


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