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

President Donald Trump dictated the initial statement released by his son, Donald Trump Jr., claiming that his June 2016 meeting with a Kremlin-linked lawyer primarily addressed Russian adoption, the Washington Post reported Monday night, citing unnamed sources familiar with the situation.

It had previously been reported by the New York Times that Trump and his advisers drew up the statement aboard Air Force One, but the Washington Post report indicates that the President himself played a significant role in crafting the misleading statement.

In that initial statement on the meeting, Trump Jr. claimed that the discussion primarily centered on Russian adoption, even though the meeting was set up as a chance for Trump Jr. to receive damaging information on Hillary Clinton. Trump Jr. subsequently revised his characterization of the meeting, culminating in the release of emails revealing that the meeting was pitched as part of an effort by the Russian government to boost the Trump campaign.

Asked several questions about the President’s role in crafting the statement, Jay Sekulow, one of the President’s outside attorneys, told the Post, “Apart from being of no consequence, the characterizations are misinformed, inaccurate, and not pertinent.”

Alan Futerfas, a lawyer representing Trump Jr., told the Post that he had “no evidence to support that theory” when asked about the President’s role in writing the initial statement. He told the Post that the process to craft the statement was “a communal situation that involved communications people and various lawyers.”

Discussions on how to address the June 2016 meeting in Trump Tower, which was attended by Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, and Paul Manafort, began before any news outlets approached the Trump team about it, according to the Washington Post. Kushner’s lawyers discussed it while trying to complete his disclosure forms, prompting deliberations with the President’s aides, per the Washington Post.

Two White House aides, including Hope Hicks, worked with aides to Ivanka Trump and Kushner to push for a transparent approach, the Washington Post reported. Trump’s legal team wanted to provide the emails to Circa, a media outlet they hoped would be friendly to Trump, according to the Washington Post.

When the Times started asking the Trump team about the meeting while the President was in Germany for the G20 summit, Kushner’s team pushed for a transparent approach, the Post reported.

However, Trump overruled the aides and directed his team to craft a statement characterizing the June 2016 meeting as unimportant and claiming that the meeting was primarily focused on adoption, per the Post.

Read the Washington Post’s full report here.

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Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) will make another trip to the White House on Monday to discuss a possible path forward on Obamacare repeal with Trump administration aides, as the President continues to push the Senate to pass Obamacare repeal, according to a Politico report.

Cassidy is expected to meet with aides to both Trump and Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, Politico reported, citing an aide to Cassidy and other unnamed Republican officials.

The senator and a couple of his Republican colleagues also met with White House officials on Friday to discuss a proposal drafted by Cassidy and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC). However, it’s not yet clear that this bill has more potential to unite Senate Republicans than those that failed last week.

Over the weekend, Trump increased pressure on Senate Republicans to pass a bill repealing Obamacare despite their failure to do so late last week. Trump unleashed several tweets calling on GOP senators to pull together an Obamacare repeal proposal, and Office of Budget and Management Director Mick Mulvaney said Sunday that the Senate should not vote on any other legislation until it repeals Obamacare.

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Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke on Sunday brushed off reports that he issued threats to the senators representing Alaska ahead of a vote on Obamacare repeal, saying that such a characterization of his calls with the senators is laughable.

“I talk to Sen. Murkowski and Sen. Sullivan all the time,” Zinke said at a press conference when first asked about his phone calls with the senators, as quoted by E&E News. “A lot’s been said about a lot of things. But I talk to them all the time. We get along well.”

Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-AK) told the Alaska Dispatch News last week that Zinke called him and indicated opposition to Obamacare repeal could prompt the Trump administration to retaliate against Alaska when it comes to energy policy. Sullivan said that Zinke also spoke with Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK). Murkowski characterized the phone call differently, later telling reporters that Zinke had relayed to her that President Donald Trump was not happy with her vote against proceeding to an Obamacare repeal vote.

During the Sunday press conference, Zinke was asked if he issued a threat to Murkowski and Sullivan.

“The moon has been characterized as a threat, too, so I think it’s laughable,” he replied, according to E&E News.

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After he was ousted as White House chief of staff last week, Reince Priebus said on Sunday that he has “no regrets” about his support for President Donald Trump throughout the presidential campaign and for his first six months in office.

“We have a Republican president, a Republican Senate, and a Republican House,” Priebus told The Atlantic. “I have no regrets at all.”

Trump announced Friday evening that he had replaced Priebus with Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, a former Marine Corps. general. The announcement followed a tumultuous couple weeks in the White House, capped by a public humiliation campaign carried out by new White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci against Priebus.

Priebus endured six months of trying to wrangle a President prone to tweeting the first thoughts that pop into his head, ignoring advisers, and cheering on White House division. Priebus took on this role after begrudgingly backing Trump throughout the campaign as RNC chair, even as Trump made significant missteps.

But Priebus insisted to The Atlantic that it was all “absolutely worth it.”

“The president has accomplished an incredible amount of things in the last six months,” he said. “The future can be great, and the past has been pretty good.”

Read The Atlantic’s entire piece here.

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Ivanka Trump, daughter and aide to President Donald Trump, found out about her father’s proposed ban on transgender people serving in the military when everyone else did: when Trump tweeted it, Politico reported Sunday, citing unnamed White House officials.

Ivanka Trump, once known for supporting LGBT rights, was “blindsided” by her father’s decision, per Politico.

She was not alone, however. The Pentagon was also not informed of the President’s proposed policy until he announced the decision in a series of three tweets. Vice President Mike Pence was also out of the loop, Politico reported Sunday:

Inside the White House, the issue was so closely held — and resolved so quickly — that just a handful of West Wing aides were aware of what was transpiring. In addition to Kushner and Ivanka Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, a Catholic evangelical with a history of pushing religious liberty policies, had no inkling of what was underway.

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Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) on Sunday said that if Republicans don’t speak out against President Donald Trump’s inappropriate comments or behavior, they are “complicit” in his actions.

During an interview on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” host John Dickerson asked Flake if Republican officials are “complicit” if they do not call out the President when they disagree with him.

“I do think so,” Flake replied.

He said that Republicans “can’t respond to everything” but that there are certain things they cannot ignore.

“But there are times when you have to stand up and say, ‘I’m sorry, this is wrong,’” he said. “There are truths that are self-evident. And you’ve got to stand up and call—whether it’s the White House or other elected officials—to task when they’re not doing when they should. And I do think we bear the responsibility for elected officials to do that.”

Watch the interview via CBS:

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After Senate Republicans suffered a major setback when their bill to repeal Obamacare failed early Friday morning, a spokesman for former President Barack Obama called for Congress to improve the Affordable Care Act in a bipartisan manner.

In a statement, Obama spokesman Kevin Lewis said that Obamacare is “bigger than politics” and lauded the law for giving health insurance to millions of Americans.

“The Affordable Care Act has made American stronger and healthier, but there will always be more work to do,” Lewis added. “President Obama has always said we should build on this law, just as members of both parties worked together to improve Seocial Security, Medicare, and Medicaid over the years. President Obama still believes that it is possible for Congress to demonstrate the necessary bipartisanship and political courage to keep delivering on the promise of quality, affordable health insurance for every American.”

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After the Senate’s latest effort to repeal Obamacare sputtered out early Friday morning, blocking President Donald Trump from finally notching a legislative victory, the President suggested nuking the Senate rules.

Republicans control the Senate with a slim majority of 52 senators, and on most legislation, Democrats can force a 60-vote threshold, making it challenging for leaders to pass a purely partisan bill. For that reason, Senate leaders used the reconciliation process, which only requires a 51-vote majority, to craft their Obamacare repeal legislation. Even that strategy ran into some hurdles when the Senate parliamentarian ruled that certain key provisions in the Better Care Reconciliation Act could not be included in a reconciliation bill.

So with the Senate parliamentarian nixing provisions and GOP leaders unable to garner enough support for the bill anyway, the Senate turned to the bare-bones “skinny repeal,” which also went up in flames.

In response, Trump turned to his typical devices, calling for a major change in strategy in order for him to score one legislative victory. This is not the first time he’s called for a big change to Senate rules: He urged the GOP to nuke the legislative filibuster in the Senate twice before, once in early May and once in late May.

However, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has said he will not blow up the legislative filibuster, although he was willing to remove the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees earlier this year.

Earlier Friday morning, Trump suggested that Republicans just let Obamacare “implode” before eventually crafting a replacement. This is another strategy that Trump has turned to when Congress struggles on health care.

Yet, in his speech following the failed vote Friday morning, McConnell suggested Democrats come forward with their ideas next.

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After the Senate’s bare-bones bill to repeal Obamacare suddenly crashed and burned in the wee hours of Friday morning, conservative pundits went into full freak-out mode, blasting the Senate for its failure.

Some specifically aimed their ire at Sen. John McCain (R-AZ). McCain cast the final, decisive vote on Friday morning against the bill, bringing the Senate’s third stab at repealing Obamacare to a grinding halt. His vote against the measure shocked Republican senators standing in the chamber, especially since he returned to the Capitol earlier this week to cast a vote that allowed the Senate to proceed to debate on the legislation in the first place.

This last twist left conservative pundits reeling. Former Republican presidential candidate and Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee was so angry with the three senators who voted down the bill that he suggested changing the way senators are elected.

Fox News’ Eric Bolling also called for the ouster of the three Republicans who killed the bill.

Conservative radio host Dana Loesch took the failed vote as a sign that the “pathetic” GOP will never repeal Obamacare.

Other pundits specifically lashed out at McCain. Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Susan Collins (R-ME) also voted against the bill.

Later Friday, the conservative group FreedomWorks issued a statement blasting the three Republicans who voted down “skinny repeal,” calling them “frauds” who won’t keep their promise to repeal Obamacare now that there is a Republican president in the White House.

“Last night’s vote was a slap in the face to every conservative who has been promised that Republicans would repeal ObamaCare. Sens. John McCain, Lisa Murkowski, and Susan Collins voted against the ‘skinny repeal’ of ObamaCare, theoretically the least repeal that can be achieved because so many Republicans went back on their votes for a 2015-style repeal,” FreedomWorks President Adam Brandon said in a statement. “The Republican Party has been all about ObamaCare repeal for the better part of a decade, and now we see that they have been writing checks to voters that they knew the Bank of Obama wouldn’t cash. Now that President Trump would sign it, they have exposed themselves as frauds.”

This post has been updated.

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Before Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) cast the deciding vote to kill the Senate’s effort to repeal Obamacare early Friday morning, he put on a dramatic show for onlookers, willfully ignoring pleas from his Republican colleagues on the Senate floor.

As he walked to the Senate floor to vote, McCain said he’d made his decision but gave no indication of how he would vote, simply telling reporters to “watch the show.” Once on the floor, it became clearer that McCain was prepared to vote down the “skinny repeal” bill after voicing his concern about passing it Thursday evening.

On the Senate floor, McCain’s colleague from Arizona, Sen. Jeff Flake, was sent to chat with him first, and after that appeared to be useless, Vice President Mike Pence tried to win McCain’s support for the legislation.

McCain also spoke with a group of Democrats huddled on the Senate floor, reportedly telling them that he would vote down the bill.

“Let’s get this over with,” he told the Democrats, according to senators who spoke with Politico. “I really want to do NDAA.”

As the Senate waited for the vote to take place, McCain walked off the Senate floor to take a call from President Donald Trump himself, Politico reported.

After Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) already cast votes against the bill, McCain strode back into the Senate floor to reveal his final decision. McCain walked over to the Senate clerk, not far from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KU), gave a thumbs down, and said “no.” His vote was met with an audible gasp in the Senate chamber as the Republican effort to repeal Obamacare went down in flames.

McCain had returned to the Senate earlier in the week after being diagnosed with brain cancer to vote in favor of proceeding to debate on Obamacare repeal. Without his presence in the Capitol this week, the vote on Friday would never have taken place. But after he cast a vote allowing Senate Republicans to proceed, he delivered a blistering speech blasting GOP leaders’ process and calling for bipartisanship.

After his decisive vote, McCain released a statement echoing the concerns he laid out in his speech. He slammed the Senate’s rushed process to repeal Obamacare and calling for the Senate to consider repeal and replace through the regular process. He also said that House Speaker Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) comments on his chamber’s commitment to a conference committee were not enough to ease concerns that the House could just pass the Senate’s bare-bones bill without attempting to agree on comprehensive legislation.

Read McCain’s full statement:

From the beginning, I have believed that Obamacare should be repealed and replaced with a solution that increases competition, lowers costs, and improves care for the American people. The so-called ‘skinny repeal’ amendment the Senate voted on today would not accomplish those goals. While the amendment would have repealed some of Obamacare’s most burdensome regulations, it offered no replacement to actually reform our health care system and deliver affordable, quality health care to our citizens. The Speaker’s statement that the House would be ‘willing’ to go to conference does not ease my concern that this shell of a bill could be taken up and passed at any time.

I’ve stated time and time again that one of the major failures of Obamacare was that it was rammed through Congress by Democrats on a strict-party line basis without a single Republican vote. We should not make the mistakes of the past that has led to Obamacare’s collapse, including in my home state of Arizona where premiums are skyrocketing and health care providers are fleeing the marketplace. We must now return to the correct way of legislating and send the bill back to committee, hold hearings, receive input from both sides of aisle, heed the recommendations of nation’s governors, and produce a bill that finally delivers affordable health care for the American people. We must do the hard work our citizens expect of us and deserve.



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