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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

A Twitter account that posted under the Tennessee Republican Party’s name was actually run by the St. Petersburg-based Russian troll farm that purchased ads on Facebook and recruited as many as 100 unwitting activists in the United States, according to a new Russian report.

Russian business magazine RBC reported Tuesday that @TEN_GOP was created by the Federal News Agency (FAN), the troll farm formerly known as the Internet Research Agency.

Twitter deactivated @TEN_GOP’s account in August, though a snapshot of the page from that month remains visible via the Internet Archive.

@TEN_GOP had at least 143,552 followers when it was shut down, more than 10 times the number of people following the Tennessee Republican Party’s actual Twitter account (13,369), according to that snapshot.

The Tennessee Republican Party’s communications director Candice Dawkins told BuzzFeed News that the party reported the fake account to Twitter in Sept. 2016, 11 months before Twitter finally took action.

As ThinkProgress noted in a report Wednesday, President Donald Trump personally thanked an account that claimed to be associated with @TEN_GOP in September for tweeting “We love you, Mr. President!”

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President Donald Trump on Wednesday again denied Rep. Frederica Wilson’s (D-FL) account of his conversation with the widow of a U.S. soldier killed in Niger earlier in October, and demanded that Wilson “make her statement again.”

“I didn’t say what that congresswoman said, didn’t say it at all,” Trump said during a meeting with the Senate Finance Committee.

He claimed that Wilson was no longer giving her account of events, though as recently as Wednesday morning Wilson told CNN that she had “proof” of her account.

“She knows it, and she now is not saying it. I did not say what she said. And I’d like her to make the statement again because I did not say what she said,” Trump said. “I had a very nice conversation with the woman, with the wife, who sounded like a lovely woman. Did not say what the congresswoman said, and most people aren’t too surprised to hear that.”

Wilson’s office did not immediately respond to TPM’s request for comment, but Wilson said on Twitter that she stood by her words.

Wilson on Tuesday said she was in a car with Myeshia Johnson, Sgt. La David T. Johnson’s widow, when Trump called. Wilson said Trump told Johnson’s widow, “He knew what was signing up for, but I guess it hurts anyway.”

On Wednesday, Wilson told MSNBC that Myeshia Johnson cried throughout the phone call.

“And when she hung up the phone, she looked at me and said, ‘He didn’t even remember his name.’ That’s the hurting part,” Wilson said. “It was horrible. It was insensitive. It was absolutely crazy.”

Trump on Wednesday claimed Wilson’s account was “totally fabricated,” and claimed he had “proof.”

“What was the proof, Mr. President?” a reporter asked Trump.

“Let her make her statement again and you’ll find out,” he replied, and, pressed again, repeated, “Let her make her statement again and you’ll find out.”

Cowanda Jones-Johnson, Johnson’s mother, told the Washington Post on Wednesday that Trump “did disrespect” her son, her daughter, herself and her husband. Asked whether Wilson’s account of Trump’s conversation with Myeshia Johnson was accurate, Jones-Johnson said, “Yes.”

The White House did not immediately respond to TPM’s request for comment on Johnson-Jones’ corroboration of Wilson’s account.

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The mother of a U.S. soldier killed in Niger said on Wednesday that President Donald Trump “did disrespect” her son, Sgt. La David T. Johnson, and her family in a call to Johnson’s widow.

“President Trump did disrespect my son and my daughter and also me and my husband,” Cowanda Jones-Johnson, Johnson’s mother, told the Washington Post.

She said she was riding with Myeshia Johnson, her son’s widow, in a car when Trump called.

Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-FL) on Tuesday said she was also in the car with Johnson’s widow. She said Trump’s call made Myeshia Johnson cry.

According to Wilson, Trump told Johnson’s widow, “He knew what was signing up for, but I guess it hurts anyway.”

“She was crying the whole time, and when she hung up the phone, she looked at me and said, ‘He didn’t even remember his name.’ That’s the hurting part,” Wilson told MSNBC on Wednesday. “It was horrible. It was insensitive. It was absolutely crazy, unnecessary. I was livid.”

Trump on Wednesday claimed Wilson “totally fabricated” his comments, and claimed he had “proof.”

“I’m not the only person that was in the car. I have proof too. This man is a sick man,” Wilson told CNN, responding to Trump’s tweet.

Asked whether Wilson’s account of Trump’s conversation with Johnson’s family was accurate, Jones-Johnson told the Washington Post, “Yes.”

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President Donald Trump on Tuesday spoke to the families of four Green Berets killed in Niger earlier in October, according to the White House, almost two weeks after the soldiers died.

“President Trump spoke to all four of the families of those who were killed in action in Niger,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said, according to a pool report. “He offered condolences on behalf of a grateful nation and assured them their family’s extraordinary sacrifice to the country will never be forgotten.”

Trump on Monday acknowledged that he had not yet contacted the families of the soldiers who died in the attack on Oct. 4, but said he had “written them personal letters.”

“They’ve been sent, or they’re going out tonight,” Trump said. “I’m going to be calling them. I want a little time to pass.”

He also accused former President Barack Obama and other former presidents of not making calls to Gold Star families.

“I was told that he didn’t often and a lot of presidents don’t. They write letters,” Trump said. “President Obama I think probably did sometimes and maybe sometimes he didn’t. I don’t know. That’s what I was told. All I can do is ask my generals.”

Multiple former Obama administration officials swiftly denied Trump’s allegation, which the President escalated on Tuesday, suggesting that reporters ask his chief of staff John Kelly whether he got “a call from Obama” when Kelly’s son died in Afghanistan in 2010.

White House visitor records show that Obama hosted Kelly at a breakfast for Gold Star families in 2011, where Kelly reportedly sat at former first lady Michelle Obama’s table.

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Former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore (R) and former U.S. Attorney Doug Jones (D) are tied in their race for Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ vacated Senate seat, according to a poll released Tuesday by Fox News.

According to the survey, Moore and Jones are tied at 42 percent among registered voters in Alabama, a deep-red state.

The poll was conducted from Oct. 14–16, 2017, from a sample of 801 Alabama registered voters, by landline and mobile phone, with a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percent.

Other surveys released in September and October showed Moore leading Jones, but the single-digit margins in those polls, as well as the Fox News survey, suggest that Moore’s and Jones’ race for Sessions’ seat could be a competitive one.

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President Donald Trump took to Twitter late Tuesday afternon to complain about “fiction writers” at cable networks and “dying magazines and newspapers.” He also preemptively shifted blame to Democrats for “any rise in ObamaCare premiums.”

“So much Fake News being put in dying magazines and newspapers,” Trump tweeted. “Only place worse may be @NBCNews, @CBSNews, @ABC and @CNN. Fiction writers!”

It was unclear whether Trump was referring to any particular report of a number published recently that seemed likely to draw his ire.

The New Yorker on Tuesday said it stands by a report that Trump joked that Vice President Mike Pence wants to “hang” all gay people and mocked Pence for his religious observance, despite the White House’s denial.

Forbes on Tuesday called Trump “the most notable loser” on its “Richest Americans” list, estimating that his net worth fell $600 million since last year. CNN host Brian Stelter noted that the network also discussed the Forbes report.

Trump on Tuesday also said “any increase” in insurance premiums would be “the fault of the Democrats for giving us a ‘product’ that never had a chance of working.”

Trump on Monday began preemptively scapegoating Democrats for any turmoil in the insurance market caused by his own decision to end cost-sharing reduction (CSR) payments to insurers.

“I think the Democrats will be blamed for the mess. This is an Obamacare mess,” Trump said at a cabinet meeting. “When the premiums go up, that has nothing to do with anything other than the fact that we had poor health care delivered poorly, written poorly, approved by the Democrats.”

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The New Yorker on Tuesday said it stands by a report that President Donald Trump mocks Vice President Mike Pence for his religious views and joked that Pence wants to “hang” all gay people, though the White House denied Trump made those remarks.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told Politico that the New Yorker’s report “relied on fiction rather than facts.”

“The President has the highest level of respect for the vice president, and for his deeply held faith. The suggestion that he would make such outrageous remarks is offensive and untrue,” Sanders claimed to Politico. “The anecdote was meant to divide, not unite and is completely false.”

It was not clear which anecdote Sanders was referring to of the several included in the New Yorker’s report, and the White House did not immediately respond to TPM’s requests for comment.

According to the New Yorker’s report published Sunday, Trump once asked a group of people who had just met with Pence, “Did Mike make you pray?”

Trump also told Pence that he had “wasted all this time and energy” trying to end Roe v. Wade to no avail, according to the report, and during a discussion of LGBT rights, joked, “Don’t ask that guy—he wants to hang them all!”

A New Yorker spokesperson referred TPM to the magazine’s statement to Politico.

“In the course of fact-checking this piece, we talked to more than sixty people to confirm the reporting contained therein, including senior White House officials, a senior member of the Vice-President’s office, the RGA, Rep. Elijah Cummings, and multiple people who were in the room when President Trump joked that Vice-President Pence ‘wants to hang’ gay people,” a New Yorker spokesperson told Politico.

The spokesperson told Politico that Pence’s press office “declined to participate in this story for months, after multiple requests for interviews, comment, and fact-checking” and that the New Yorker only heard back from the office “after the piece had closed, late Thursday.”

“We stand by the story,” the spokesperson said.

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White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Tuesday said Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), who has been an outspoken critic of President Donald Trump, should “get out of the name calling and get back to work.”

“You’ve got some problems in the Senate,” conservative commentator Hugh Hewitt said to Sanders on his radio show. “Do you talk to Senator Corker’s press secretary and say, what is going on here?”

“You know, sadly, Senator Corker hasn’t called me, but if he’d like to visit, I’d be happy to talk to him and certainly see if we could get him back on board and do, frankly, what the people of Tennessee elected him to do,” Sanders said.

She said Corker should get to work fulfilling his campaign promises.

“Hopefully, he’ll get out of the name calling and get back to work here pretty soon,” Sanders said.

Corker has harshly criticized Trump in recent weeks, claiming that the White House has “become an adult day care center” and warning that Trump could set the United States “on the path to World War III.”

“I know for a fact that every single day at the White House, it’s a situation of trying to contain him,” Corker said of Trump to the New York Times. He added that the President “tweets out things that are not true.”

He also said Trump has undermined Secretary of State Rex Tillerson — “You cannot publicly castrate your own secretary of state” — though Tillerson denied that particular allegation with specific detail.

“I checked,” Tillerson said on Sunday. “I’m fully intact.”

In response to Corker’s remarks, Trump last week claimed the New York Times “set Liddle’ Bob Corker up by recording his conversation” and said Corker “was made to sound a fool.”

“My thoughts were well thought out,” Corker said on Monday. “Look, I didn’t just blurt them out.”

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