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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

White House officials believe that the personal cell phone of President Donald Trump’s chief of staff John Kelly was compromised, Politico reported late Thursday.

Politico reported, citing three unnamed U.S. government officials, that Kelly’s personal cell phone was compromised potentially as early as December 2016.

According to the report, tech support staff examined Kelly’s phone for several days this summer when he told them his phone would not update software properly and had not been working properly for months. The staff ultimately concluded that it should no longer be used and was compromised, according to Politico.

Aides in September prepared a one-page memo on the subject, according to the report, and circulated the document through the White House.

An unnamed White House official told Politico that Kelly “relied on his government-issued phone for most communications” and “hadn’t used the personal phone often” since joining Trump’s administration, but did not dispute other details.

According to Politico, the official said Kelly no longer had the phone but did not say where the device is.

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House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) on Thursday said he supports a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) review on the sale of bump stocks, devices found on several firearms in the hotel room of the alleged Las Vegas shooter.

“I know there are people that are asking the ATF to go back and review their 2010 decision to authorize it, and I think they should, and they are,” Scalise said in an interview with NBC News’ Chuck Todd.

Bump stocks are devices that enable semi-automatic rifles to fire at a rate comparable to fully automatic weapons. Police found several in the hotel room of the alleged gunman who killed more than 50 people and injured hundreds more at an outdoor concert in Las Vegas on Sunday.

Scalise returned to Congress last week more than three months after he was shot in the hip in June during a Republican congressional baseball practice, but said Tuesday that his own experience and the mass shooting in Las Vegas had only “fortified” his support for the Second Amendment.

“If you talked to anybody about a week ago, most people including myself didn’t even know what a bump stock was,” Scalise told Todd.

He said “there are people that want to rush to judgment” on the subject.

“They’ve got a bill written already and I mean, look, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi already said she wants it to be a slippery slope,” Scalise said. “She doesn’t want to stop at bump stocks. They want to go out and limit the rights of gun owners, and so I do think it’s a little bit early for people to say they know what to do to fix this problem.”

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President Donald Trump is expected to announce his intent next week to decertify the Iran nuclear deal, several outlets reported Thursday.

The Washington Post reported, citing unnamed sources briefed on “emerging” White House policy regarding Iran, that Trump plans to make the announcement next week, leaving the next steps in Congress’ hands.

CNN and Reuters confirmed the Washington Post report. Reuters reported, citing an unnamed senior administration official, that Trump’s announcement will be part of his rollout of the White House’s broader strategy for Iran.

Decertifying Iran’s compliance with the deal would not immediately end the accord, but would leave Congress to decide whether or not to reinstate economic sanctions on Iran that were suspended under the agreement.

In mid-September, amid the United Nationals General Assembly, Trump was noncommittal about the Iran nuclear deal. “You’ll see very soon,” the President told reporters, adding, “We are talking about plans constantly, we’ll see.”

Over the summer, Trump reportedly asked his aides to give him a rationale to declare Iran in violation of the historic pact.

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In the wake of the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history, the National Rifle Association on Thursday broke its days-long silence and called for a review of policy regarding bump stocks, devices that enable semi-automatic rifles to fire at a rate comparable to fully automatic weapons.

“The National Rifle Association is calling on the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE) to immediately review whether these devices comply with federal law,” the NRA said in a statement.

The association said such devices “should be subject to additional regulations.”

Police found bump stocks on several firearms in the hotel room of the alleged gunman who killed more than 50 people and injured hundreds more in Las Vegas on Sunday night.

In the wake of the shooting, conservatives have made a point of bringing up that the ATF decided to allow the sale of bump stocks in 2010, when former President Barack Obama was in office. The NRA also cited that approval in its statement.

Politico on Thursday reported that the NRA’s own shooting range does not allow bump stocks.

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Russian hackers stole information about how the National Security Agency gains access to foreign computer networks and protects those in the United States by exploiting an NSA contractor’s use of a popular antivirus program, the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday.

The Wall Street Journal reported, citing unnamed sources with knowledge of the matter, that hackers working for the Russian government stole the highly classified material in 2015 after an NSA contractor transferred it to his home computer. According to the report, that stolen material included the computer code the NSA uses to penetrate foreign computer networks.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Russian hackers identified the classified material by exploiting antivirus software the NSA contractor used made by Kaspersky Lab, a Russian cybersecurity company whose links to the Russian government have come under scrutiny.

The theft was not discovered until early in 2016, according to the report, and has still not been disclosed. It was not clear whether the NSA contractor was terminated or facing repercussions for removing classified information without permission, a violation of agency policy for which he could potentially face criminal charges.

According to the Wall Street Journal, members of Congress were informed about the serious breach, which was “given a classified code name and set off alarms among top national security officials.”

Kaspersky Lab told the Wall Street Journal that it “has not been provided any information or evidence substantiating this alleged incident” and said it “must assume that this is another example of a false accusation.”

“Whether the information is credible or not, NSA’s policy is never to comment on affiliate or personnel matters,” an NSA spokesman told the Wall Street Journal.

Read the full Wall Street Journal report here.

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Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) on Thursday announced that she will run to fill the Senate seat Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) will leave empty when he retires in 2018.

Blackburn announced her Senate candidacy in a nearly three-minute-long video released Thursday where she emphasized her criticism of the “totally dysfunctional” Republican Senate majority in the video.

“It’s enough to drive you nuts, and that’s why I’ve decided to do something about it,” Blackburn said. “I’m politically incorrect and proud of it.”

She claimed “too many Senate Republicans act like Democrats or worse.”

“I know the left calls me a wingnut or a knuckle-dragging conservative,” Blackburn said. “And you know what, I say that’s all right. Bring it on.”

She also emphasized her support for President Donald Trump.

“I believe in President Trump’s immigration ban, and I’ll fight with him every step of the way to build that wall,” Blackburn said. “And yes, I stand when I hear the Star-Spangled Banner.”

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Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-FL) on Thursday said that bump stocks, devices that make semi-automatic guns behave like fully automatic weapons, should face the “same restrictions” as the latter.

“Bump stocks generating automatic rates of fire should face the same restrictions as automatic weapons,” Buchanan tweeted.

Kansas Republican Rep. Kevin Yoder also said Thursday that he would support “measures to regulate or ban these types of devices.”

Yoder and Buchanan joined a chorus of Republican lawmakers who have said they would support measures to regulate or ban bump stocks, including Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-TX) and Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Dean Heller (R-NV), though none have yet proposed any legislation that would do so.

And Senate Judiciary Committee chair Chuck Grassley (R-IA), who would have jurisdiction over the matter, told reporters that the Senate is unlikely to move forward with any gun control legislation.

“We need to wait and see what the police reports say,” he said on Wednesday. “Were loopholes exploited? We need to study everything before we make some judgment.”

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Avoiding the tough issues raised by Sunday night’s massacre in Las Vegas, the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history, President Donald Trump on Wednesday continued his focus on the community’s first responders, praising them for their bravery and professionalism.

“On behalf of the grateful nation, we thank each and everyone of you in law enforcement,” he said after meeting with first responders in Las Vegas.

Trump praised medical professionals and members of law enforcement for responding to the “horror,” but never addressed the questions Sunday night’s massacre raised about gun control and mass violence in the United States.

Instead, he focused his remarks on heroism and hope in the wake of the killings.

“We struggle for the words to explain to our children how such evil can exist, how there can be such cruelty and suffering,” Trump said. “But we cannot be defined by the evil that threatens us or the violence that incites such terror. We are defined by our love, and courage, in the darkest moments what shines most brightly is the goodness that thrives in the hearts of our people.”

He said “words cannot describe the bravery that the whole world witnessed on Sunday night” and said “a grateful nation” thanks first responders for their actions.

“In the months ahead, we will all have to wrestle with the horror of what has unfolded this week. But we will struggle through it together,” he said. “We will endure the pain together. And we will overcome together as Americans.”

Trump’s remarks were a continuation of his remarks during a visit to the University Medical Center earlier in the day, where he called the medical response “an incredible tribute to professionalism.”

“The doctors, the nurses, all of the people at the hospital have done a job that’s indescribable,” he said during a visit to the University Medical Center in Las Vegas. “What they have done is incredible. And you never want to see it again. That I can tell you.”

The President said he and first lady Melania Trump “met patients that were absolutely terribly wounded,” whom Trump also praised for their “bravery.”

“Some were very, very badly wounded. And they were badly wounded because they refused to leave,” he said. “They wanted to help others because they saw people going down all over. And it’s an incredible thing to see.”

Trump lauded “the professionalism of the doctors and the medical staffs at this hospital and at other hospitals.”

“I have to tell you, it makes you very proud to be an American, when you see the job that they’ve done,” he said. “So I just want to congratulate everybody. It’s incredible. Incredible what you’ve done. We met quite a few people and believe me, they are very lucky to be here.”

Asked what message he had for survivors of the massacre, Trump said, “The only message I can say is that we’re with you 100 percent.”

“In fact, I invited a lot of them over to the White House,” he said. “And believe me, I’ll be there for them. The message that I have is we have a great country and we are there for you. And they’re there for us.”

“Do you think we have a gun violence problem?” a reporter called to Trump.

“We’re not going to talk about that today,” Trump replied. “We won’t talk about that.”

In a meeting with law enforcement officials shortly afterward, Trump again lauded their “professionalism” and said he was a “big fan.”

“I was a fan before this. You know that. Everyone in this room knows that. A big fan before this. And I guess if you can be more of a fan, I guess I’m even more of a fan now,” he said. “But you showed the world, and the world is watching. And you showed what professionalism is all about.”

This post has been updated.

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White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Wednesday that President Donald Trump still has confidence in Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, despite reports that an exasperated Tillerson referred to Trump as a “moron” over the summer.

Asked whether Trump still has confidence in his secretary of state, Sanders told reporters on Air Force One, “As we’ve said many times before, if the President doesn’t have confidence in somebody, they will no longer be in their position.”

Second-hand declarations of Trump’s allegedly enduring confidence did not save former Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price or former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

Trump on Wednesday claimed that Tillerson “totally refuted” reports that the two have clashed, though Tillerson only denied that he considered resigning, not that he openly disparaged the President.

In an unscheduled appearance before reporters, Tillerson claimed an NBC News report that Vice President Mike Pence convinced him not to resign was “erroneously reported” and said he “never considered leaving” Trump’s administration.

Tillerson declined to deny that he characterized Trump as a “moron,” however.

“I’m not going to deal with petty stuff like that,” he said.

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