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Esme Cribb

Esme Cribb is social media editor for TPM in New York City. She graduated from City College, where she was editor-in-chief of The Campus, and has previously interned and written for MSF and Contently. She can be found on Twitter @emquiry and reached by email at esme@talkingpointsmemo.com

Articles by Esme

Republican National Committee chair Ronna Romney McDaniel on Wednesday said that voters will hold the GOP accountable in the 2018 midterm elections if President Donald Trump fails to keep one of his most consistent campaign promises and build a wall on the U.S. border with Mexico.

“Let’s talk about the wall, because it was a little confusing yesterday,” conservative talk radio host Laura Ingraham asked McDaniel in an interview flagged by CNN’s KFILE.

Ingraham cited an interview Tuesday in which Mick Mulvaney, the director of the Office of Management and Budget, said that Trump would be willing to sign a temporary funding measure that did not include funding for his proposed wall.

“But the President comes out yesterday and says there’s going to be a wall,” she said. “So what is the RNC doing specifically to push the Trump agenda and help it get traction in Congress?”

“I know that our voters are going to hold us accountable in 2018 if we do not keep the campaign promises that were made,” McDaniel replied.

“That wall was, that promise is just something, that’s not something there’s a lot of wiggle room on, or any wiggle room,” Ingraham said. “That thing doesn’t get built for whatever reason, and I can see the campaign commercials already being cut.”

McDaniel said that members of Congress who don’t vote to advance Trump’s agenda will “lose the trust of our base.”

“If we don’t keep our promises, our base is going to walk away,” she said. “They’re going to feel like, ‘Hey, you said one thing on the campaign trail to get elected and you didn’t act on it.'”

President Donald Trump’s administration is considering a draft executive order that would withdraw the United States from the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), according to reports published Wednesday by Politico and Reuters.

A White House official told TPM by email that NAFTA remains a priority for Trump and that his administration has been working on it since he took office.

Politico first reported, citing two unnamed White House officials, that a draft of the order has entered the final stages of review and could be announced by early next week.

White House chief strategist Steve Bannon and Peter Navarro, the head of Trump’s newly formed National Trade Council, drafted the executive order “in close cooperation,” according to Politico’s report.

Reuters cited an unnamed senior administration official who said the order is “under consideration” and confirmed Politico’s report.

On the campaign trail, Trump called NAFTA “one of the worst economic deals ever made by our country” and pledged to renegotiate it “to get a much better deal for America.”

CNN reported in November, citing a draft memo from Trump’s transition team, that he would look at formally withdrawing from NAFTA by day 200 of his presidency. Trump will mark 100 days in office on Saturday.

Fox News personality Jesse Watters, who last got into hot water for a racist segment set in Chinatown, denied on Wednesday that his remarks on the way Ivanka Trump spoke into a microphone were any kind of innuendo.

“During the break we were commenting on Ivanka’s voice and how it was low and steady and resonates like a smooth jazz radio DJ,” Watters said in a statement obtained by TPM. “This was in no way a joke about anything else.”

He posted a similar statement on Twitter on Wednesday morning.

Fox News did not respond to questions from TPM about whether it plans to address criticism of Watters’ comments as inappropriate.

Watters did not in fact refer to the quality of Trump’s voice in the original segment on Fox News’ “The Five” broadcast Tuesday night, which opened with a discussion of the chilly reception Trump received at an international women’s summit in Germany when she tried to promote her father as a great advocate for women and families.

“You know, the left says they really respect women and then when given an opportunity to respect a woman like that, they boo and hiss,” Watters said.

He did not specify what he meant by “a woman like that” but appeared to defend Trump’s comments, saying that her father “has probably hired a ton of fathers and mothers and children.”

“So I don’t really get what’s going on here but I really liked how she was speaking into that microphone,” Watters continued with a smirk, making a fist and holding it in front of his face.

Former President Barack Obama has agreed to speak at an investment bank’s annual health care conference for a fee of $400,000, according to several reports.

Fox Business reported Monday, citing unnamed senior people at Wall Street firm Cantor Fitzgerald, L.P., that Obama agreed to speak for $400,000 at a conference run by the firm. According to those sources, Fox reported, Obama signed the contract but can back out based on scheduling or personal concerns.

According to a report by the Financial Times published Tuesday, an unnamed source familiar with the arrangement confirmed that Obama agreed to give a keynote speech at the conference but declined to say what he might do with the fee.

“Regardless of venue or sponsor, President Obama will be true to his values, his vision, and his record,” Obama spokesman Eric Schultz said in an email to TPM. “I’d just point out that in 2008, Barack Obama raised more money from Wall Street than any candidate in history — and still went on to successfully pass and implement the toughest reforms on Wall Street since FDR.”

An auction in February for rights to books by Barack and Michelle Obama exceeded $65 million, according to a report by the Financial Times, setting a new record for U.S. presidential memoirs.

Sen. Tex Cruz (R-TX) on Wednesday claimed that Democrats are trying to provoke a government shutdown by refusing to pass a spending bill by midnight Friday to keep the lights on.

“I think Chuck Schumer and the Democrats want a shutdown, I think they’re trying to provoke a fight,” Cruz said on “Fox and Friends,” referring to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY).

He said Senate Democrats are “terrified” of “a radical left base.”

“Schumer’s just trying to put more and more unreasonable demands, trying to force a shutdown to appease those who want total resistance, total opposition, who don’t want the Trump administration to succeed,” Cruz claimed.

House Oversight Committee Chair Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) on Tuesday agreed that President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser Mike Flynn is in big trouble for accepting payments from foreign governments as a former military officer.

“Would you say after what you reviewed today that General Flynn is in a heap of trouble?” MSNBC’s Greta Van Susteren asked Chaffetz.

“Yes, yes. Clearly — you can’t do this,” Chaffetz replied. “It’s nothing specifically with Mr. Flynn, or Gen. Flynn. It has everything to do with former military officers. They can’t go and take money from a foreign government.”

Earlier Tuesday, Chaffetz and Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) told reporters there was “no evidence” that Flynn made the appropriate disclosures about those payments.

“It was inappropriate,” Chaffetz said at a press conference. “And there are repercussions for the violation of law.”

Chaffetz said Tuesday evening that the House Oversight Committee has “pretty much exhausted” its capacity to evaluate Flynn’s actions.

“Now the Department of Defense, and specifically the army, they’ve got to make this final determination,” he said.

He questioned how Flynn got a security clearance given that the committee “could easily figure out” that he took the payments.

“I do have some questions for the DIA,” Chaffetz said, referring to the Defense Intelligence Agency. “But certainly I wouldn’t fault the Trump administration.”

White House press secretary Sean Spicer on Tuesday also argued that Trump’s transition and administration were not responsible for vetting Flynn, who served as a top campaign adviser and was a named national security adviser during the transition.

“You fill out the forms and do a background check,” Spicer said. “I don’t know what he filled out or what he did or did not do.”

President Donald Trump on Tuesday took on his next international challenge: retaliating against Canada, whose leaders have apparently “outsmarted” U.S. politicians for years.

The U.S. Commerce Department announced late Monday that Trump’s administration will impose new tariffs on softwood lumber imports from Canada.

Early Tuesday morning, Trump tweeted that Canada “has made business” for dairy farmers “very difficult” as well.

“We will not stand for this. Watch!” he posted.

“People don’t realize Canada’s been very rough on the United States,” Trump said during a White House roundtable with farmers Tuesday afternoon. “Everyone thinks of Canada as being wonderful and so do I, I love Canada, but they’ve outsmarted our politicians for many years.”

“Do you fear a trade war with Canada?” a reporter asked.

“No, not at all,” Trump said. “They have a tremendous surplus with the United States. Whenever they have a surplus, I have no fear.”

He went on to claim “virtually every country” has a trade surplus with the United States.

“We have massive trade deficits,” Trump said. “So when we’re the country with the deficits, we have no fear.”

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Tuesday that his country’s economic connection to the United States is “not just a one-way relationship,” according to a report by Canadian broadcaster CTV.

“There are millions of good U.S. jobs that depend on smooth flow of goods, services and people back and forth across our border,” he said. “You cannot thicken this border without hurting people on both sides of it.”

President Donald Trump on Tuesday said that construction will “100 percent” begin on his proposed wall on the U.S.-Mexico border “soon.”

“The wall’s going to get built, folks. In case anybody has any questions, the wall’s going to get built,” Trump told reporters at a photo opportunity during a roundtable with farmers. “The wall is going to get built.”

Trump said Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly told him “we definitely, desperately need the wall.”

“And we’re going to have the wall built. I mean, I don’t know what people are talking — I watch these shows, and the pundits in the morning, they don’t know what they’re talking about,” he said. “The wall gets built, 100 percent.”

Asked when construction would begin, Trump said: “Soon.”

“We’re already preparing. We’re doing plans, we’re doing specifications, we’re doing a lot of work on the wall,” he said. “The wall is very, very important.”

“In your first term?” a reporter asked.

“Well, it’s certainly going to — yeah, yeah, sure,” Trump said. “We have plenty of time. Got a lot of time.”

White House press secretary Sean Spicer on Tuesday fervently denied that funding and the beginning of construction on President Donald Trump’s proposed wall on the United States’ border with Mexico will be delayed.

“Yesterday, President Trump reportedly said that he’s going to delay pushing the wall through. Can you just clarify what the status is?” Associated Press reporter Vivian Salama asked Spicer at his daily briefing.

“I think he tweeted about this earlier,” Spicer replied. “His priorities have not changed. There will be a wall built.”

Spicer said that there is “plenty of planning that can be done” in the current fiscal year.

“Our priorities are clear going into FY17, the remainder of budgeting for that, and we’ll continue to ask for more in FY18,” he said, referring to fiscal years 2017 and 2018.

“So it’s delayed for now,” Salama pressed.

“No, I didn’t — no, no, no, no. I never — no one said delayed. No, no,” Spicer said.

White House officials over the weekend signaled uncertainty as to whether Trump would be willing to sign a must-pass spending bill to avert a government shutdown if it did not include funding for his proposed border wall.

The Washington Post reported on Monday, citing an unnamed White House official, that Trump privately told conservative journalists he “was open to delaying funding for wall construction.”

White House senior adviser Kellyanne Conway said Tuesday morning that funding the wall “can happen later this year and into next year.”

Spicer appeared to remain adamant, however, telling ABC’s Jon Karl that Trump has not backed down.

Trump himself took to Twitter to exhort followers: “Don’t let the fake media tell you that I have changed my position on the WALL.”

“So is the President no longer insisting that there is money for the wall in this current appropriations bill?” Karl asked Spicer during the briefing.

“The President’s priorities are clear for FY17. There’s a lot of things that we can do in the remaining months,” Spicer said again. “And then as we go into FY18 we’ll continue to ask for more.”

“So the President is not insisting that he has money for actual construction of the wall?” Karl asked.

“Look, I’m not going to get — we are still in discussions with the House and Senate leadership. But I think the President’s been very clear that he wants a wall,” Spicer said. “He wants it done as soon as we can do it.”

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