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Esme Cribb

Esme Cribb is a newswriter for TPM in New York City. She can be found on Twitter @emquiry and reached by email at esme@talkingpointsmemo.com.

Articles by Esme

President Donald Trump on Tuesday spoke to the families of four Green Berets killed in Niger earlier in October, according to the White House, almost two weeks after the soldiers died.

“President Trump spoke to all four of the families of those who were killed in action in Niger,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said, according to a pool report. “He offered condolences on behalf of a grateful nation and assured them their family’s extraordinary sacrifice to the country will never be forgotten.”

Trump on Monday acknowledged that he had not yet contacted the families of the soldiers who died in the attack on Oct. 4, but said he had “written them personal letters.”

“They’ve been sent, or they’re going out tonight,” Trump said. “I’m going to be calling them. I want a little time to pass.”

He also accused former President Barack Obama and other former presidents of not making calls to Gold Star families.

“I was told that he didn’t often and a lot of presidents don’t. They write letters,” Trump said. “President Obama I think probably did sometimes and maybe sometimes he didn’t. I don’t know. That’s what I was told. All I can do is ask my generals.”

Multiple former Obama administration officials swiftly denied Trump’s allegation, which the President escalated on Tuesday, suggesting that reporters ask his chief of staff John Kelly whether he got “a call from Obama” when Kelly’s son died in Afghanistan in 2010.

White House visitor records show that Obama hosted Kelly at a breakfast for Gold Star families in 2011, where Kelly reportedly sat at former first lady Michelle Obama’s table.

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Former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore (R) and former U.S. Attorney Doug Jones (D) are tied in their race for Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ vacated Senate seat, according to a poll released Tuesday by Fox News.

According to the survey, Moore and Jones are tied at 42 percent among registered voters in Alabama, a deep-red state.

The poll was conducted from Oct. 14–16, 2017, from a sample of 801 Alabama registered voters, by landline and mobile phone, with a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percent.

Other surveys released in September and October showed Moore leading Jones, but the single-digit margins in those polls, as well as the Fox News survey, suggest that Moore’s and Jones’ race for Sessions’ seat could be a competitive one.

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President Donald Trump took to Twitter late Tuesday afternon to complain about “fiction writers” at cable networks and “dying magazines and newspapers.” He also preemptively shifted blame to Democrats for “any rise in ObamaCare premiums.”

“So much Fake News being put in dying magazines and newspapers,” Trump tweeted. “Only place worse may be @NBCNews, @CBSNews, @ABC and @CNN. Fiction writers!”

It was unclear whether Trump was referring to any particular report of a number published recently that seemed likely to draw his ire.

The New Yorker on Tuesday said it stands by a report that Trump joked that Vice President Mike Pence wants to “hang” all gay people and mocked Pence for his religious observance, despite the White House’s denial.

Forbes on Tuesday called Trump “the most notable loser” on its “Richest Americans” list, estimating that his net worth fell $600 million since last year. CNN host Brian Stelter noted that the network also discussed the Forbes report.

Trump on Tuesday also said “any increase” in insurance premiums would be “the fault of the Democrats for giving us a ‘product’ that never had a chance of working.”

Trump on Monday began preemptively scapegoating Democrats for any turmoil in the insurance market caused by his own decision to end cost-sharing reduction (CSR) payments to insurers.

“I think the Democrats will be blamed for the mess. This is an Obamacare mess,” Trump said at a cabinet meeting. “When the premiums go up, that has nothing to do with anything other than the fact that we had poor health care delivered poorly, written poorly, approved by the Democrats.”

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The New Yorker on Tuesday said it stands by a report that President Donald Trump mocks Vice President Mike Pence for his religious views and joked that Pence wants to “hang” all gay people, though the White House denied Trump made those remarks.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told Politico that the New Yorker’s report “relied on fiction rather than facts.”

“The President has the highest level of respect for the vice president, and for his deeply held faith. The suggestion that he would make such outrageous remarks is offensive and untrue,” Sanders claimed to Politico. “The anecdote was meant to divide, not unite and is completely false.”

It was not clear which anecdote Sanders was referring to of the several included in the New Yorker’s report, and the White House did not immediately respond to TPM’s requests for comment.

According to the New Yorker’s report published Sunday, Trump once asked a group of people who had just met with Pence, “Did Mike make you pray?”

Trump also told Pence that he had “wasted all this time and energy” trying to end Roe v. Wade to no avail, according to the report, and during a discussion of LGBT rights, joked, “Don’t ask that guy—he wants to hang them all!”

A New Yorker spokesperson referred TPM to the magazine’s statement to Politico.

“In the course of fact-checking this piece, we talked to more than sixty people to confirm the reporting contained therein, including senior White House officials, a senior member of the Vice-President’s office, the RGA, Rep. Elijah Cummings, and multiple people who were in the room when President Trump joked that Vice-President Pence ‘wants to hang’ gay people,” a New Yorker spokesperson told Politico.

The spokesperson told Politico that Pence’s press office “declined to participate in this story for months, after multiple requests for interviews, comment, and fact-checking” and that the New Yorker only heard back from the office “after the piece had closed, late Thursday.”

“We stand by the story,” the spokesperson said.

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White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Tuesday said Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), who has been an outspoken critic of President Donald Trump, should “get out of the name calling and get back to work.”

“You’ve got some problems in the Senate,” conservative commentator Hugh Hewitt said to Sanders on his radio show. “Do you talk to Senator Corker’s press secretary and say, what is going on here?”

“You know, sadly, Senator Corker hasn’t called me, but if he’d like to visit, I’d be happy to talk to him and certainly see if we could get him back on board and do, frankly, what the people of Tennessee elected him to do,” Sanders said.

She said Corker should get to work fulfilling his campaign promises.

“Hopefully, he’ll get out of the name calling and get back to work here pretty soon,” Sanders said.

Corker has harshly criticized Trump in recent weeks, claiming that the White House has “become an adult day care center” and warning that Trump could set the United States “on the path to World War III.”

“I know for a fact that every single day at the White House, it’s a situation of trying to contain him,” Corker said of Trump to the New York Times. He added that the President “tweets out things that are not true.”

He also said Trump has undermined Secretary of State Rex Tillerson — “You cannot publicly castrate your own secretary of state” — though Tillerson denied that particular allegation with specific detail.

“I checked,” Tillerson said on Sunday. “I’m fully intact.”

In response to Corker’s remarks, Trump last week claimed the New York Times “set Liddle’ Bob Corker up by recording his conversation” and said Corker “was made to sound a fool.”

“My thoughts were well thought out,” Corker said on Monday. “Look, I didn’t just blurt them out.”

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Fox News reporter John Roberts on Monday called Hillary Clinton, who has said her career as a politician is over, the “shadow President” in a Twitter argument with a former Obama administration spokesman.

Roberts, Fox News’ chief White House correspondent, leveled the epithet in an argument with Crooked Media co-founder and former Obama national security spokesman Tommy Vietor.

During President Donald Trump’s press conference with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) on Monday, Roberts asked the President about Clinton’s remarks about NFL players who kneel during the national anthem as an act of protest, and Trump’s own tweet expressing his hope that Clinton would campaign for President again.

“Oh, I hope Hillary runs. Is she going to run? I hope. Hillary, please run again. Go ahead,” Trump replied. Speaking about Clinton’s remarks on NFL protests, Trump said: “I think she’s wrong.”

Vietor called Roberts’ query to Trump a “stupid, clickbait question and a wasted opportunity to push him on real issues.”

Roberts fired back, citing the other two questions he asked during the press conference about tax reform and the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, as well as his questions in previous White House briefings.

He then referred to Clinton as a “shadow President.”

Vietor criticized the epithet as Fox News “scare tactics” and a diversionary tactic from “Trump’s disastrous leadership.”

Roberts went on to explain what he meant by calling Clinton a “shadow president,” a reference to opposition politicians in British politics.

In British politics, the Shadow Cabinet is formed from members of the opposition party and develops alternative policies to those pushed by the largest party, that in power.

Conservative pundits in the United States have used similar language to imply that there is a covert opposition movement working within the government to sabotage Trump’s presidency.

Fox News’ star host Sean Hannity, a member of the network’s non-news staff who has identified himself as a “talk host” and “not a journalist,” has alleged that “sinister forces” and an anti-Trump “deep state” are working to undermine Trump’s presidency.

Hannity’s claims echoed rhetoric that former White House press secretary Sean Spicer pushed from the official podium in March, when Spicer claimed there were “people that burrowed into government during the eight years of the last administration” who “continue to espouse the agenda of the previous administration.”

While members of the British Shadow Cabinet are active politicians and frequently members of Parliament, Clinton in September said her career “as an active politician” is over and said she is “done with being a candidate.”

“But I am not done with politics, because I literally believe that our country’s future is at stake,” Clinton added.

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President Donald Trump on Monday said the wildfires that have devastated California wine country and other parts of the state over the last week, leaving at least 40 people dead and destroying thousands of homes, were “a very sad thing to watch.”

“It’s very sad to watch how fast, how rapidly they move and how people are caught in their houses. I mean, it’s an incredible thing. Caught in their houses,” Trump said at a cabinet meeting.

He said the White House has issued a disaster declaration in the state and has “made a lot of progress in the past couple of days.”

“We mourn the terrible loss of life. We have FEMA and first responders there. We have our military helping,” Trump said. “But we’re a little subject to winds and what happens with nature. But it’s been a very sad thing to watch.”

Trump pledged federal support last week for survivors of the devastating wildfires, but has not been particularly outspoken about them since. Hundreds of people remain unaccounted for, and nearly 11,000 firefighters were still working to douse 15 fires on Monday.

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President Donald Trump on Monday said he thinks Democratic lawmakers will be scapegoated for turmoil in the insurance market kicked off by Trump’s announcement last week that he would end cost-sharing reduction (CSR) payments to insurers.

“I think the Democrats will be blamed for the mess. This is an Obamacare mess,” Trump said at a cabinet meeting.

The President said Congress is working on a “short-term fix” for the turmoil caused by his own move to sabotage Obamacare.

“Obamacare is finished. It’s dead. It’s gone. It’s no longer — don’t — you shouldn’t even mention it. It’s gone. There is no such thing as Obamacare anymore,” Trump said. “When the premiums go up, that has nothing to do with anything other than the fact that we had poor health care delivered poorly, written poorly, approved by the Democrats.”

The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated in August, however, that ending CSR payments would drive up premiums for those who benefit from the subsidies.

The White House on Thursday night claimed it was ending the payments because former President Barack Obama’s administration “overstepped the legal boundaries drawn by our Constitution” by making them.

But Trump’s former strategist Steve Bannon on Saturday said the White House ended CSR payments to “blow up” Obamacare.

Bannon also said that his priority in the near future is “a season of war against the GOP establishment.”

Asked about his former top adviser’s remarks, Trump on Monday told reporters that Bannon “is very committed” and that he “can understand how Steve Bannon feels.”

“He’s a friend of mine and he’s very committed to getting things passed,” Trump said. “I mean, look. Despite what the press writes, I have great relationships with actually many senators, but in particular with most Republican senators. But we’re not getting the job done.”

“And I’m not going to blame myself, I’ll be honest,” he added. “They are not getting the job done.”

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Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and United Nations ambassador Nikki Haley on Sunday insisted that the United States will remain in the Iran nuclear deal.

President Donald Trump on Friday said he would likely pull the U.S. out of the deal unless Congress and the other nations in the seven-country accord made a handful of adjustments he demanded.

“Let’s see if we cannot address the flaws in the agreement by staying within the agreement, working with the other signatories, working with our European friends and allies within the agreement,” Tillerson said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

He said “that may come in a secondary agreement as well.”

“So we want to take the agreement as it exists today, as I said, fully enforce that agreement, be very demanding of Iran’s compliance under the agreement, and then begin the process of addressing these flaws that we see,” Tillerson said.

“Before the Senate not long ago, your counterpart at the Pentagon, Secretary Mattis, was asked if he thought staying in the agreement was in the best interests of the United States,” Jake Tapper said, referring to Secretary of Defense James Mattis. “It sounds like you agree with that as well.”

“I do agree with that,” Tillerson said. “And I think the President does as well.”

“I think what you’re going to see is the President’s going to work very closely with Congress to try and come up with something that is more proportionate,” Haley said on NBC News’ “Meet the Press.”

“I think right now, you’re going to see us stay in the deal. Because what we hope is that we can improve the situation,” she said. “We’re in the deal to see how we can make it better. And that’s the goal. It’s not that we’re getting out of the deal.”

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