Allegra Kirkland

Allegra Kirkland is a New York-based reporter for Talking Points Memo. She previously worked on The Nation’s web team and as the associate managing editor for AlterNet. Follow her on Twitter @allegrakirkland.

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Constituents requesting that Rep. Jimmy Duncan Jr. (R-TN) hold a town hall on repealing the Affordable Care Act aren't being met with a polite brushoff from staffers anymore. Instead, Duncan's office has started sending out a form letter telling them point-blank that he has no intention to hold any town hall meetings.

“I am not going to hold town hall meetings in this atmosphere, because they would very quickly turn into shouting opportunities for extremists, kooks and radicals,” the letter read, according to a copy obtained by the Maryville Daily Times. “Also, I do not intend to give more publicity to those on the far left who have so much hatred, anger and frustration in them.”

In the first weeks of the 115th Congress, elected officials dropping by their home districts were surprised to find town halls packed to the rafters with concerned constituents. Caught off guard and on camera, lawmakers were asked to defend President Donald Trump’s immigration policies and provide a timeline on repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act.

Now, many of them are skipping out on these events entirely. Some have said large meetings are an ineffective format for addressing individual concerns. Many others have, like the President himself, dismissed those questioning their agenda as “paid protesters” or radical activists who could pose a physical threat.

Voters turning out to town halls are pushing back hard on this characterization, arguing that they represent varied ideological backgrounds and have diverse issues to raise. Constituents unable to meet with their elected officials over the weekend told TPM that they’re not attending town hall events to make trouble. Instead, they say they want accountability from the people they pay to represent them.

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A recent addition to Donald Trump’s White House team is quickly becoming the new face of the administration’s foreign policy shop: Deputy Assistant to the President Sebastian Gorka.

Gorka, who formally joined the administration in late January and previously served as an editor at Breitbart News, has been deployed across the cable networks and airwaves this week to discuss Trump putting Iran “on notice” as well as the fallout from the President's executive order on immigration.

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In the thirteen days since President Donald Trump was sworn in, headlines have screamed about mass dismissals at federal agencies, tense phone calls with world leaders, and a commander-in-chief who stewed for days over coverage of his inauguration crowd size.

Many of these unflattering details about the turmoil at the White House and inner psychology of the President have come from a steady stream of anonymous leaks. Presidential historians and veteran political journalists agree they’re unlike anything they’ve seen before.

“I can’t recall having seen a situation where there appears to be so much leaking of such an intimate nature in such a short period of time,” Russell Riley, expert on presidential history at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center, told TPM.

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A Detroit man who told a local news station that his mother died in Iraq after President Donald Trump’s travel ban prevented her from reentering the U.S. actually died several days before those restrictions were imposed, his imam told WJBK.

Karbalaa Islamic Educational Center imam Husham Al-Hussainy told the news station that Mike Hager’s mother, Naimma, passed away on Jan. 22, five days before the ban was announced.

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LATE UPDATE 4:02 PM: Husham Al-Hussainy, iman of Karbalaa Islamic Educational Center, told WJBK that Mike Hager’s mother actually passed away on Jan. 22, five days before Trump’s ban was announced. It’s unclear from the follow-up story whether Hager’s mother was a green card holder. WJBK was unable to reach Hager to ask about the discrepancies in his account.

A Detroit business owner said his ailing mother, a green card holder, died this weekend after Iraqi officials refused to allow her to board a plane back to the United States because of President Donald Trump’s ban on immigration and travel from seven majority-Muslim countries.

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