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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

Former NFL star Peyton Manning on Wednesday said he has no interest in becoming a politician, despite Sen. Bob Corker’s (R-TN) suggestion that Manning could run for his seat in the Senate after Corker retires.

“I certainly have an interest in politics and in our country,” Manning said on local Nashville radio station WGFX. “I just have zero interest in being a politician.”

Corker announced his retirement on Tuesday, and just a day later floated the possibility of Manning replacing him in the Senate.

“If he were to run nobody in their right mind would consider running against him,” Corker said.

He called Manning “the kind of guy that would be great in public office.”

“I think it’s possible,” Corker said. “Is it likely? I don’t think so.”

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Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) on Wednesday claimed that Russian “troll farms” and “Internet folks” played a part in amplifying the controversy surrounding NFL players and coaches who knelt during the national anthem as an act of protest.

“We watched even this weekend the Russians and their troll farms and their Internet folks start hashtagging out ‘take a knee’ and also hashtagging out ‘boycott NFL,'” Lankford said during a Senate Homeland Security Committee hearing (Lankford is a member of the panel). Lankford also sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election.

He said Russian actors “were taking both sides of the argument this weekend and pushing them out from their troll farms as much as they could to try to just raise the noise level in America and to make a big issue seem like an even bigger issue as they’re trying to push divisiveness in the country.”

“We’ve continued to be able to see that,” Lankford said. “We will see that again in our election time.”

Lankford on Monday compared players who knelt during the anthem in protest to high school coaches who he claimed were fired for kneeling “in silent prayer.”

“We can’t say to one football coach, ‘You’re fired if you kneel in silent prayer at the end of the game,’ but to a player, ‘If you kneel in protest at the game, you’re celebrated,’” he said. “If we’re going to honor all free speech and all free exercise of religion, we need to be able to honor that universally.”

President Donald Trump last week said that any “son of a bitch” protesting during the national anthem should be fired for doing so, but insisted on Tuesday that he was not “preoccupied” with the matter “at all.”

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Proofread or do not, there is no try.

Mohammed bin Attia Al-Harthi, the Saudi Arabian education ministry’s undersecretary for curriculum and education programs, was fired this week after an edited image of Yoda, the iconic “Star Wars” character, showed up in a history textbook, Saudi-owned television channel Al Arabiya reported on Monday.

Per the report, education minister Ahmed Al-Issa also fired “others responsible for the mishap who reviewed and approved” the image of the late King Faisal, then a prince, signing the United Nations charter in 1945 with Yoda by his side.

Al-Issa apologized for the error on Twitter.

Saudi artist Shaweesh created the image as part of a series superimposing “U.S. cultural symbols ranging from Captain America to Darth Vader onto famous historical events,” according to his website.

Shaweesh told the BBC it was not clear how his work ended up in the school textbook, but said he did not mean to offend with the edited image, and chose Yoda to accompany the monarch because their characters were both “wise, strong and always calm.”

“Everyone loves King Faisal here, even the younger generations,” he said. “Someone should have checked the image before printing.”

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Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Wednesday said he thinks the NFL should have a “formal rule” requiring players to stand for the national anthem.

“I think people should stand. I think it should be a formal rule of the league,” Sessions said on “Fox and Friends.”

He said the NFL would “have to make that decision.”

“But they should be able to say to the players, ‘If you’re on our field, in our game, paid by us, you should respect the flag and the national anthem,'” Sessions said.

President Donald Trump last week said that any “son of a bitch” who protests during the national anthem should be fired, and spent Monday and Tuesday tweeting attacks against players and teams who take a knee in protest.

On Tuesday, Trump nevertheless insisted that he was not “preoccupied” with the subject.

“Was I preoccupied? Not at all. I have plenty of time on my hands,” he said. “All I do is work.”

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Former Fox News star Bill O’Reilly, who left the network amid accusations of sexual harassment against him, on Tuesday returned as a “special guest” on Sean Hannity’s show, where he railed against the liberal media and pledged to “come back.”

“I’m here,” O’Reilly said at the beginning of the interview. “I’m alive.”

O’Reilly promoted his new book, “Killing England,” and said he “should have” fought back against a boycott by dozens of companies who pulled ad buys on his eponymous show amid the allegations before O’Reilly’s departure.

“You fought back when they came after you last spring,” O’Reilly said to Hannity, possibly referring to the Fox host’s unrelenting promotion of his baseless conspiracy theory about the murder of DNC staffer Seth Rich. “I didn’t.”

O’Reilly railed against “urban” newspapers that he claimed “coordinate” among themselves and employ “leftwing” journalists.

“These totalitarians want to wipe out any speech with which they disagree,” O’Reilly claimed.

O’Reilly specifically singled out liberal media watchdog group Media Matters, which championed advertiser boycotts of both Hannity’s and O’Reilly’s shows.

“Do you know they threatened you and me if we did this segment tonight? Media Matters threatened us,” O’Reilly said.

In a statement on O’Reilly’s appearance on Hannity’s show, Media Matters president Angelo Carusone called for advertisers to “to act again” and “cease sponsoring Hannity immediately.”

“If they don’t, then they are aligning their brands with and supporting sexual harassment,” Carusone said in a statement. “And I actually think some responsible companies will remove ads from Fox News as a whole over this.”

At the end of the interview, Hannity asked O’Reilly to return to his show.

“Come back. Will you come back?” Hannity said.

“Maybe. We’ve got to go fishing first,” O’Reilly joked, then added, “Yeah. I’ll come back. I’ve got to hawk this book, man.”

Fox News did not immediately respond to TPM’s request for comment.

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Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price traveled by private jet for trips where he combined official business travel with visits to colleagues and family members, Politico reported late Tuesday.

Politico reported that Price traveled to St. Simons Island in Georgia, where he and his wife own land, in a government-funded private plane and touched down more than a day before he was scheduled to speak at a medical conference.

Price also traveled in June via chartered jet to Nashville, where he “spoke to a local health summit organized by a longtime friend” and had lunch with his son, Politico reported, citing an unnamed HHS official.

A department official said both trips were paid for by HHS and that Price took both on official government business.

The HHS inspector general announced on Friday that it was requesting documents related to Price’s travel, after Politico reported that Price had used private planes for travel at least 24 times since May, racking up a travel cost of more than $300,000.

Read Politico’s full report here.

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Sean Spicer is the latest former official in President Trum’s orbit to retain a personal lawyer amid special counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, the Daily Beast reported on Tuesday.

The Daily Beast reported that Spicer, formerly White House press secretary, hired criminal defense attorney Chris Mead of Washington, D.C. firm London & Mead to handle matters related to Mueller’s investigation.

Spicer is in familiar company. Former White House chief of staff Reince Priebus, whose tenure overlapped with Spicer’s own, and White House counsel Don McGahn reportedly hired the same prominent white collar attorney to advise them navigate Mueller’s probe.

Other Trump associates who have retained personal attorneys include Vice President Mike Pence, Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner, Trump’s longtime personal attorney Michael Cohen, Trump’s former campaign adviser Michael Caputo and White House communications director Hope Hicks.

Axios reported last week that Spicer’s habit of taking detailed notes could be of interest to Mueller, though Spicer did not take kindly to Axios reporter Mike Allen’s line of questioning on the matter.

“From a legal standpoint I want to be clear: Do not email or text me again,” Spicer texted Allen. “Should you do again I will report to the appropriate authorities.”

Spicer did not immediately respond on Tuesday to TPM’s requests for comment.

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The Environmental Protection Agency is spending $24,570 to build a “privacy booth” for the agency’s chief, Scott Pruitt, the Washington Post reported on Tuesday.

The Washington Post reported, citing a contract the agency signed with Acoustical Solutions, LLC, that the EPA agreed to pay nearly $25,000 for a “privacy booth for the administrator,” scheduled to be completed Oct. 9, 2017.

According to Acoustical Solutions’ website, the company manufactures and distributes “acoustical products” that can be used for “office/conference room privacy, reduction in mechanical and equipment noise, secure rooms (SKIF) environments, scientific testing rooms, gun ranges and many other environments.”

The EPA, according to the Washington Post, requested a soundproof booth that cost considerably more than a standard model.

Steve Snider, a sales consultant with Acoustical Solutions, told the Washington Post that the EPA “had a lot of modifications” in its request.

“Their main goal was they wanted essentially a secure phone booth that couldn’t be breached from a data point of view or from someone standing outside eavesdropping,” he said.

An EPA spokeswoman told the Washington Post that the booth would be a SCIF, or Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility, and said it was “something which a number, if not all, Cabinet offices have and EPA needs to have updated.”

The Washington Post reported, however, citing unnamed EPA employees, that the agency already has such a facility, but that the agency did not specify what about it was due for an update.

Pruitt reportedly already has a round-the-clock security detail of unprecedented size, according to the Washington Post, which reported on Wednesday that Pruitt has 18 people on his security detail, though he has pushed for a 31 percent funding cut across the EPA.

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Rep. Mark Walker (R-NC), the chairman of the Republican Study Committee, on Tuesday said he would call his female colleagues “eye candy” if it were not “sexist” to do so.

Walker made the remark in a presentation outside the U.S. Capitol, according to video posted by The Hill, while praising the committee’s members.

“The accomplished men and women of the RSC, and women, if it wasn’t sexist I would say the RSC eye candy, but we’ll leave that out of the record, are not attention seekers,” he said.

A number of the men, and one of the women, standing behind Walker laughed at the remark; two other women, however, did not.

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President Donald Trump on Tuesday insisted that he was not “preoccupied” with NFL players and owners who protested by kneeling during the national anthem, though he has been on a tear against them since last week.

“I wasn’t preoccupied with the NFL. I was ashamed of what was taking place, because to me that was a very important moment,” Trump told reporters during a joint press conference with Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy at the White House.

Trump said the “NFL situation” is “very important” to him.

“I’ve heard that before, about, was I preoccupied? Not at all. I have plenty of time on my hands. All I do is work,” he said. “And to be honest with you, that’s an important function of working. It’s called respect for our country.”

“Many people have died,” he added, in an apparent pivot to defend his ongoing attacks on players who took a knee before the national anthem by citing U.S. military veterans. “Many, many people. Many people are so horribly injured.”

Trump said he recently visited the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and saw “so many great young people and their missing legs and their missing arms and they’ve been so badly injured.”

“And they were fighting for our country,” he said. “They were fighting for our flag. They were fighting for our national anthem. And for people to disrespect that by kneeling during the playing of our national anthem I think is disgraceful.”

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