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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

Staff with the National Security Council wrote a statement for President Donald Trump addressing the deadly attack on American soldiers in Niger soon after the attack occurred earlier this month, but the President never released the statement, Politico reported on Wednesday.

The draft was circulated among staff at the National Security Council and the Defense Department but was never released, according to Politico.

“Melania and I are heartbroken at the news that three U.S. service members were killed in Niger on October 4 while providing guidance and assistance to Nigerien security force counter-terror operations. We offer our deepest condolences to the families and friends of these brave American soldiers and patriots. They will remain in our thoughts and prayers,” the draft statement obtained by Politico reads. “We are also praying for the two U.S. service members who were injured in the incident. We wish them a complete and swift recovery.”

Trump stirred up a political firestorm this week with his first comments on the attack. When asked why he had not addressed the ambush on U.S. soldiers for nearly two weeks, Trump said that he had written letters to their families and baselessly claimed that past presidents rarely called the families of fallen soldiers. Trump then escalated his criticisms of former President Barack Obama by suggesting that Obama did not call chief of staff John Kelly when his son was killed in action in 2010.

When Trump did call the widow of one of the fallen soldiers, Myeshia Johnson, he told her that her husband “knew what he was signing up for,” according to a congresswoman who was present for the call. Trump denied that he made those remarks, but the Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-FL) has stood by her account of the conversation.

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Attorney General Jeff Sessions refused to say on Wednesday whether he was aware of a draft of a letter that President Donald Trump reportedly wrote arguing that James Comey should be fired as FBI director because of the way he handled the Russia investigation.

Trump reportedly dictated a letter griping about Comey and the Russia probe before the White House publicly released a memo from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein that argued Comey should be fired due to the way he handled the Hillary Clinton email investigation. In that draft letter, which Sen. Pat Leahy (D-VT) brought up in a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, Trump allegedly argued that Comey should be fired for declining to say publicly that Trump himself was not under FBI investigation.

Leahy asked Sessions if he was aware of that reported draft letter when he signed off on Comey’s firing in May. Sessions would not say, invoking executive privilege.

“I also believe it considers and consumes a possible communication for the President of the United States and the same privilege would apply,” Sessions told Leahy.

Earlier in the hearing, Sessions declined to say whether Trump discussed with him that he wanted to fire Comey because of what was happening with the bureau’s probe of Russian interference in the 2016 election, invoking executive privilege in that instance as well.

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A document circulated within the White House in September claimed that the demise of the American manufacturing industry has led to an uptick in abortions, divorce, infertility and opioid abuse without offering any evidence, according to a Tuesday report in the Washington Post.

The document about a weakened manufacturing sector in the U.S. was prepared by Peter Navarro (pictured above), the director of the White House Office of Trade and Manufacturing Policy, according to the report. It asserted that a declining manufacturing sector has led to job loss and factory closures, but also included claims of socioeconomic impacts that the Post reported were “presented without any data or information to back up the assertions.”

One unnamed administration official told the Post that the document was distributed to White House staff, while a different administration official said that Cabinet leaders saw the document.

The Trump administration has repeatedly claimed that large trade deals like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) have hurt American manufacturing. Navarro has encouraged Trump to pull out of multilateral trade deals in favor of bilateral agreements.

Read the Washington Post’s full report here.

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President Donald Trump on Wednesday morning latched onto the release of a completely redacted early draft of former FBI Director James Comey’s statement on the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server.

Trump claimed that the documents, which appear to show that Comey began drafting his memo two months before he gave the statement publicly and before he interviewed Clinton herself, prove that Comey tried to protect Clinton.

Although it’s been nearly a year since Trump won the presidential election, he still enjoys bashing Clinton occasionally, reliving his time on the campaign trail. On Monday, Trump said that he hopes Clinton will run again, even though the former secretary of state has said she will not.

The FBI on Monday made public a document titled “Drafts of Director Comey’s July 5, 2016 Statement Regarding Email Server Investigation Part 01 of 01.” The documents suggest the FBI began drafting its statement on the email investigation in early May, even though Comey did not announce the conclusion of the probe until June. The draft statement itself is completely redacted, so it’s not at all clear what Comey was preparing to say about Clinton at that time.

The draft memo was accompanied by an email chain, which was also redacted for the most part. All that is visible is a comment from an FBI official asking for “any comments on this statement so we may roll it into a master doc for discussion with the Director at a future date.”

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The morning after a congresswoman said President Donald Trump made “insensitive” comments to the widow of a U.S. soldier killed in Niger, the President hit back on Twitter, accusing Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-FL) of fabricating his comments.

He added that he had “proof” the phone call with the widow didn’t go the way Wilson said it did.

On Tuesday, Wilson described to several news outlets Trump’s comments to Myeshia Johnson, the widow of Sgt. La David T. Johnson. Wilson said she was in the car with Johnson when Trump called her and heard their conversation on speaker phone.

Wilson told the Washington Post that Trump said to Johnson, “He knew what was signing up for, but I guess it hurts anyway.” The conversation left Johnson in tears, Wilson said.

Upon learning of Trump’s tweet Wednesday morning, Wilson told CNN that she too has proof of the conversation between Trump and Johnson.

“I’m not the only person that was in the car. I have proof too. This man is a sick man,” she told CNN.

Trump stirred up a political firestorm on Monday when he baselessly claimed that former President Barack Obama and other past presidents rarely called the family members of fallen soldiers. Aides to Obama quickly pushed back on the accusation.

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After baselessly accusing President Barack Obama of failing to call the families of fallen soldiers earlier this week, on Tuesday, President Donald Trump himself called the families of the U.S. soldiers who were killed in Niger earlier this month.

However, it appears Trump’s comments to one widow did not bring comfort and instead made her cry, according to an account from Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-FL).

Wilson was in a car with Myeshia Johnson, the widow of Sgt. La David T. Johnson, on Tuesday afternoon when Trump called and spoke to Johnson on speakerphone. The congresswoman told the Washington Post that Trump told Johnson, “He knew what was signing up for, but I guess it hurts anyway.”

“He made her cry,” Wilson told the Washington Post, describing Johnson’s reaction to Trump’s phone call.

Johnson was on the way to the airport to meet her husband’s remains, according to Miami television station WPLG.

The White House did not deny the account on Tuesday night, telling the Post, “The President’s conversations with the families of American heroes who have made the ultimate sacrifice are private.”

However, Trump responded Wednesday morning and claimed Wilson “fabricated” his comments.

Wilson told WPLG that Trump’s comments to the widow were inappropriate.

“It’s so insensitive. He should have not have said that. He shouldn’t have said it,” the congresswoman said.

The account of Trump’s phone call to the family of one of the fallen soldiers came after the President politicized the situation on Monday. When asked why he had not publicly addressed the death of four U.S. soldiers in Niger for nearly two weeks, Trump told reporters that he had written letters yet to be sent to the families, and that he would follow up with phone calls.

He then attacked Obama and other former presidents, baselessly claiming that they rarely called the families of fallen soldiers. Staff to former President Obama quickly pushed back on the accusation.

Trump then ramped up his criticisms, suggesting that Obama did not call chief of staff John Kelly when his son died in combat in 2010. Obama hosted Kelly at a dinner for Gold Star Families in 2011, six months after his son died.

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A Republican candidate for governor in Georgia on Monday suggested that bump stocks—devices that make semi-automatic weapons act more like automatic weapons, several of which were found on the Las Vegas shooter’s guns—may have prevented further casualties in what was the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.

The candidate, State Sen. Michael Williams, also announced that his gubernatorial campaign would give away a bump stock “as a show of support” for the Second Amendment.

“The tragedy in Las Vegas broke my heart, but any talk of banning or regulating bump stocks is merely cheap political lip service from career politicians,” Williams said in a statement. “In reality, the bump stock is the new, shiny object politicians are using to deceive voters into believing they are taking action against gun violence.”

“Many firearms experts determined the Las Vegas shooter’s use of a bump stock actually prevented more casualties and injures due to its inconsistency, inaccuracy, and lack of control,” he claimed. “There is zero evidence that banning bump stocks would prevent any gun violence deaths.”

Bump stocks increase the rate at which a weapon can fire, and do reduce the shooter’s accuracy, since they cause the gun to bounce. The Las Vegas shooter fired from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay hotel, raining bullets onto a crowd of about 22,000 people attending a country music festival.

Gun expert and former Army Ranger Frankie McRae told the Associated Press that while bump stocks do make guns less accurate, it did not matter in the Las Vegas shooting because the gunman was firing from an elevated position onto a large, confined crowd.

“Because he was firing down, he was able to use the inaccuracy of that to cover a larger area, which inflicted more damage,” McRae said.

In the wake of the shooting, which left 58 people dead and more than 500 others injured, many Republicans have questioned why bump stocks are legally available and pushed for a review of the devices.

However, Williams argued Monday that it’s wrong to go after bump stocks just because police say they were used in the shooting.

“Blaming guns or bump stocks for the actions of a lunatic, is the same as blaming McDonald’s for heart disease,” he said in his statement. “I will stand up for the Second Amendment against liberals and weak Republicans who wish to limit our freedoms. Not only that, I will continue to call out Democrats and Republicans who provide cheap talk and excuses rather than solutions.”

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President Donald Trump on Tuesday morning announced that Rep. Tom Marino (R-PA) withdrew his name from consideration to be Trump’s drug czar following a report from the Washington Post and CBS News revealing that Marino pushed legislation that made it harder for the DEA to stop shipments of opioids.

Following the weekend report, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) on Monday urged Trump to withdraw Marino as the nominee to lead the Office of National Drug Control Policy, citing the reporting from the Washington Post and CBS News. Manchin said that the revelation “calls into question Congressman Marino’s ability” to serve as the drug czar.

Trump told reporters Monday afternoon that he would look into the report on Marino’s role in pushing the legislation. Manchin quickly thanked Trump after the President announced that Marino withdrew from consideration.

An investigation by the Washington Post and CBS News revealed that Marino was the leading advocate for a bill passed in April 2016 that was backed by the pharmaceutical industry. The law makes it nearly impossible for the DEA to freeze shipments of harmful medications like opioids from companies with suspicious sales.

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The insurance commissioner in Pennsylvania announced Monday that premiums for health insurance plans available through the Obamacare market place would rise by an average of 30.6 percent due to President Donald Trump’s decision last week to end subsidies to insurance companies.

“It is with great regret that I must announce approved rates that are substantially higher than what companies initially requested,” Acting Insurance Commissioner Jessica Altman said in a statement. “This is not the situation I hoped we would be in, but due to President Trump’s refusal to make cost-sharing reduction payments for 2018 and Congress’s inaction to appropriate funds, it is the reality that state regulators must face and the reason rate increases will be higher than they should be across the country.”

Pennsylvania officials had initially projected rates would increase by 7.6 percent on average before Trump decided to end payments to insurance companies that help insurers cover low-income Americans with significant health needs. The 30 percent rise in premiums will only hit silver level plans, per the Pennsylvania insurance department.

In her statement, Altman made it clear that Trump’s decision to end the cost-sharing reduction (CSR) payments prompted the significant rate increase.

“The president’s deliberate action and Congress’s failure to appropriate these funds despite repeated requests is forcing large rate increases on consumers in Pennsylvania and around the country, but my department is doing what we can to help our consumers understand their options and hopefully shield them from these rate increases,” Altman said.

Trump’s decision last week to end the payments has caused premiums to rise in several states as insurers file for emergency rate hikes.

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Despite the display of unity between President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) in a Monday press conference, it’s apparent that the White House is not happy with the Senate.

Office of Budget and Management Director Mick Mulvaney did not hide his frustration with the Senate in an interview published by Politico Monday evening.

“We look at the Senate and go: ‘What the hell is going on?’” Mulvaney told Politico on Friday.

“The House passed health care, the House has already passed its budget, which is the first step of tax reform. The Senate hasn’t done any of that. Hell, the Senate can’t pass any of our confirmations,” he added. “You ask me if the Republican-controlled Senate is an impediment to the administration’s agenda: All I can tell you is so far, the answer’s yes.”

Trump has been deeply frustrated with the Senate, publicly ridiculing McConnell and Senate Republicans on Twitter for their failure to repeal Obamacare over the summer. As Congress gears up to tackle tax cuts, Trump on Monday blamed the Senate for stalling his agenda.

“I’m not going to blame myself, I’ll be honest,” Trump told reporters. “They are not getting the job done.”

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