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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

The White House’s rapid response director left his job on Monday, the latest in a swath of departures by high-ranking aides, Politico reported late Thursday.

Andy Hemming left the White House after what White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders called a “mutual decision that he could best help promote the president’s agenda on the outside.”

“Andy is smart and very talented and we wish him all the best,” Sanders told Politico in a statement.

Politico reported earlier in August that Hemming was responsible for seeking positive news stories to promote Trump’s administration even as the President railed against the press as “fake news.”

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Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) on Thursday harshly criticized President Donald Trump’s announced ban on letting transgender individuals serve in the U.S. military.

“When I was bleeding to death in my Black Hawk helicopter after I was shot down, I didn’t care if the American troops risking their lives to help save me were gay, straight, transgender, black, white or brown,” Duckworth, a U.S. Army veteran who lost both legs in the Iraq war, said in a statement. “All that mattered was they didn’t leave me behind.”

The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday night that the White House was prepared to send the Pentagon guidance on how to implement Trump’s announced ban.

Duckworth said that Trump’s announced ban on letting transgender individuals serve “would harm our military readiness” and called on Democratic and Republican lawmakers to “enact legislation that prevents it from taking effect” if Trump continues to push the policy.

“If you are willing to risk your life for our country and you can do the job, you should be able to serve—no matter your gender identity or sexual orientation,” she said. “Anything else is not just discriminatory, it is disruptive to our military and it is counterproductive to our national security.”

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One person was killed and an alleged gunman was shot and transported to the hospital several hours after police announced an “active shooter” situation Thursday in downtown Charleston, South Carolina, according to the city’s mayor.

“One person has been killed today,” Mayor John Tecklenburg told reporters in a press conference.

Tecklenburg said a “disgruntled employee” entered a restaurant downtown and “killed an individual in the restaurant” and “held another hostage for some time.”

“This was a tragic case of a disgruntled individual, I think with a history of some mental health challenges, who took his anger into his own hands,” the mayor said. “The situation did play out with the hostage being safe, he’s safe. The assailant has been shot and has been taken to a local hospital. He’s in critical condition.”

Interim Charleston police chief Jerome Taylor said the gunman was shot by police.

Local police on announced an “active shooter” situation in downtown Charleston on Thursday afternoon.

In a statement to the Charleston Post and Courier, police spokesman Charles Francis said there was “an active shooter situation within the 400 block of King Street” and said “police are asking people to leave the area.”

The Post and Courier and local Fox affiliate WTAT reported that the police bomb squad was on the scene.

In a brief press conference, Francis said “one shooting victim” was transported to the hospital when officers arrived on the scene.

“We know we have a couple of hostages in the building with the shooter,” he said. “So we have SWAT on scene, we have hostage negotiation.”

“The shooter is a disgruntled employee,” Tecklenburg told reporters. “This is not an act of terrorism. This is not a hate crime.”

This post has been updated.

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Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) on Wednesday said President Donald Trump is “inviting” a Republican contender to challenge him for the presidential nomination in 2020 with his present style of governing.

“The direction he’s headed right now, just kind of drilling down on the base rather than trying to expand the base, you know, I think he’s inviting one,” Flake said in an interview on Georgia Public Broadcasting’s “Political Rewind,” first surfaced by CNN’s KFILE.

Flake said whether a primary challenger comes forward or not “certainly depends on” Trump.

“I think he could govern in a way that he wouldn’t” invite such a challenge, Flake said. “You know, I don’t know. I don’t know. I think that certainly depends on him.”

Trump spent the last week publicly criticizing Flake and praising the senator’s own potential 2018 primary challengers. He called Flake “toxic” in a tweet and “weak on borders, crime and a non-factor in the Senate,” while applauding former Arizona state Sen. Kelli Ward (R) for running against him.

He continued to attack Flake after a rally in the senator’s home state Tuesday, where the President reportedly met with Flake’s potential challengers backstage to discuss getting rid of the senator.

Flake on Thursday morning brushed off Trump’s disapproval and said it was the President’s “prerogative” to act as he wishes.

“I just have to concern myself with my own campaign and my day job of being a senator,” Flake said on Fox News. “So what the President does or — that’s his prerogative.”

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President Donald Trump called Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) and expressed his unhappiness with a bill Tillis co-sponsored to shield Justice Department special counsels from political influence, Politico reported Wednesday evening.

Politico reported, citing an unnamed source familiar with the call, that Trump told Tillis that he was unhappy with the bill the senator co-sponsored with Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE), and did not want it to pass.

Trump called Tillis on Aug. 7, according to the report, a day after Tillis said on Fox News that there was “no question” the bill was partly directed at Trump.

Tillis said the bill reflected concern about Trump’s reaction to Robert Mueller, the special counsel overseeing the federal investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, and that he and Coons set its effective date to reflect that concern.

A Tillis spokesman confirmed the date of the call to Politico, but declined to comment on its contents.

White House spokeswoman Lindsay Walter told Politico, “We do not comment on private conversations the President has with members of Congress.”

Trump has repeatedly expressed his displeasure with the investigation, and has reportedly asked about his power to pardon his aides, family and himself.

 

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Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta on Wednesday said it’s hard to tell how President Donald Trump will behave from one day to the next, or whether he’s enjoying his job in the Oval Office.

“There is a sense that you’re not quite sure whether Donald Trump is really enjoying being President of the United States,” Panetta said on CNN. “And you’re not quite sure what Donald Trump is going to show up in the Oval Office.”

He said that “one day” Trump “is dividing the American people” and the next “he comes back and gives a speech to the American legion that I think, you know, obviously hit some very responsible issues,” referring to Trump’s remarks on Wednesday.

“He’s got to decide which one of these roles is he going to take as President,” Panetta said.

He said Trump will have to decide in “what direction” he wants to lead the country.

“If he’s going to take this divisive role, then you have to raise the question, is the President of the United States — does he really want that as his legacy, as President of the United States, or would it be better for him to move on?” Panetta said. “I think that’s a decision that this President is going to have to make.”

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The National Republican Senatorial Committee on Wednesday pushed a video using a Mariachi band to highlight a Democratic senator’s past positions on outsourcing jobs to Mexico.

The video, posted by NRSC communications director Jon Adams, features the band playing outside what appears to be Sen. Joe Donnelly’s (D-IN) campaign headquarters, along with the hashtag “#MexicoJoe.”

In the video, a text overlay refers to the band as “a special gift” for Donnelly.

The NRSC did not immediately respond to TPM’s requests for comment.

The Republican National Committee also pushed that moniker, with a discrete section of its website set up under the title “Mexico Joe” about his history on the subject.

Donnelly in 2016 criticized Carrier Corp. for outsourcing manufacturing jobs to Mexico, a practice the senator once called a “fancy term for ‘Someone in Indiana has just lost their job.'” In June, the Associated Press reported that Donnelly’s family business has a factory in Mexico.

The RNC cited that factory, as well as Donnelly’s previous criticism of outsourcing, as “hypocrisy.”

Indiana Democratic Party senior media strategist Will Baskin-Gerwitz told TPM by email, “Washington Republicans are resorting to cheap publicity stunts to distract from Joe’s stellar record on the issues that matter to Indiana’s economy.”

In a post-mortem on its defeat in the 2012 presidential election, the Republican National Committee concluded that it would “need to campaign among Hispanic, black, Asian, and gay Americans and demonstrate we care about them, too.”

President Donald Trump disregarded that admonition in 2015 when he announced his candidacy in a speech where he called Mexican immigrants “rapists” and accused them of “bringing drugs” and “bringing crime” to the United States.

The RNC nominally persisted in its efforts to reach out to Latino voters amid Trump’s escalating, incendiary candidacy and presidency, while apparently loath to issue any sort of forceful rebuke to the President’s nativist remarks. It appears to have switched strategies and taken a page out of Trump’s book in the lead-up to the 2018 midterm elections.

This post has been updated.

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) on Wednesday claimed that he and President Donald Trump are “in regular contact” and “working together,” pushing back on a report that their working relationship has descended into chilly hostility.

“The President and I, and our teams, have been and continue to be in regular contact about our shared goals,” McConnell said in a statement.

McConnell said he and the President “are working together” on numerous policy initiatives.

“We have a lot of work ahead of us, and we are committed to advancing our shared agenda together and anyone who suggests otherwise is clearly not part of the conversation,” he said.

The New York Times reported on Tuesday that relations between Trump and McConnell have descended into “a feud of mutual resentment and sometimes outright hostility.”

Though McConnell claimed that anyone questioning his apparently rosy working relationship with the President was out of the loop, one of the people casting aspersions on his competence was Trump himself, who lashed out after the Senate failed to pass a bill to repeal Obamacare.

Trump told reporters in August that McConnell’s failure to muster the votes to pass the proposal was “a disgrace” and tweeted, “Mitch, get back to work!”

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Monday said Trump and McConnell “remain united on many shared priorities.”

“They will hold previously scheduled meetings following the August recess to discuss these critical items with members of the congressional leadership and the President’s Cabinet,” Sanders said in a statement. “White House and leadership staff are coordinating regarding the details of those meetings.”

This post has been updated.

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House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) on Wednesday said he doesn’t “think a government shutdown is necessary,” though President Donald Trump has suggested he would be willing to threaten a shutdown to get funding for his proposed border wall.

“I don’t think a government shutdown is necessary, and I don’t think most people want to see a government shutdown, ourselves included,” Ryan said in a press conference in Hillsboro, Oregon.

Ryan said “Congress in the House has already done its work on this issue” and passed the buck to the Senate.

“Given the time of year it is, and the rest of the appropriations we have to do, we’re going to need more time to complete our appropriations process, particularly in the Senate,” he said.

Trump on Tuesday night suggested he would push to tie funding for his proposed border wall to a government spending bill Congress must pass in the fall to avert a shutdown.

“I don’t think anyone’s interested in having a shutdown. I don’t think it’s in our interest to do so,” Ryan said. “I don’t think you have to choose between the two.”

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