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

President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort on Friday insisted that he is innocent after his business associate Rick Gates pled guilty to two charges and took a plea deal in special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe.

“Notwithstanding that Rick Gates pled today, I continue to maintain my innocence,” Manafort said in a statement via his spokesman, Jason Maloni.

Manafort said he “hoped and expected” that Gates “would have had the strength to continue the battle to prove our innocence.”

“For reasons yet to surface he chose to do otherwise,” Manafort said. “This does not alter my commitment to defend myself against the untrue piled up charges contained in the indictments against me.”

Gates on Friday pleaded guilty to one count of making a false statement to the special counsel and one count of conspiracy against the United States, and agreed to cooperate with Mueller’s investigation as part of a plea deal.

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Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) on Friday said that special counsel Robert Mueller’s indictment of 13 Russian nationals and three Russian entities was “a positive first step toward deterring future Russian meddling in our elections.”

“Today’s indictments clearly demonstrates that Vladimir Putin is neither a Democrat nor a Republican — this is not a partisan issue, and we cannot allow a foreign country to actively interfere in our political dialogue and divide us as a nation against each other,” Rubio said in a statement.

According to the indictment, the individuals and entities named as defendants “engaged in operations primarily intended to communicate derogatory information about Hillary Clinton” but also worked “to denigrate other candidates such as Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio.”

Read Rubio’s full statement:

“Today’s indictments of 13 Russian nationals by the Department of Justice Special Counsel is a positive first step toward deterring future Russian meddling in our elections. Russian active measures against the U.S. are not new, and their principal purpose is to sow discord in our society. As a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, I have joined my colleagues in demonstrating through open hearings Russian efforts to use social media and other mechanisms to orchestrate chaos in our political discourse. Today’s indictments clearly demonstrates that Vladimir Putin is neither a Democrat nor a Republican – this is not a partisan issue, and we cannot allow a foreign country to actively interfere in our political dialogue and divide us as a nation against each other.”

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House Intelligence Committee Chair Devin Nunes (R-CA) on Friday said it was “gratifying to see” special counsel Robert Mueller’s indictment of “Russian agents” who allegedly interfered with the 2016 election.

“The Putin regime presents a pressing threat to American interests, including through Moscow’s long-running influence operations against the United States,” Nunes said in a statement. “Although the Obama Administration failed to act on the Committee’s warnings, it’s gratifying to see that Russian agents involved in these operations have now been identified and indicted.”

Nunes said that his panel “has been investigating these threats for many years.”

“In 2014—the year the Russians began their operation targeting the 2016 elections—I warned about Russia’s worldwide influence operations,” he said. “In April 2016 I stated that the United States’ failure to predict Putin’s plans and intentions is ‘the biggest intelligence failure that we’ve had since 9/11.’”

Mueller on Friday announced an indictment against 13 Russian nationals and three Russian entities as part of the federal investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

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President Donald Trump on Friday insisted that special counsel Robert Mueller’s indictment of 13 Russians and three Russian entities supported his claim that there was “no collusion” between members of his campaign and Russia.

“Russia started their anti-US campaign in 2014, long before I announced that I would run for President,” he tweeted. “The Trump campaign did nothing wrong – no collusion!”

The White House also claimed in an emailed statement that the indictment exculpated Trump and his campaign of any suspicion of collusion.

“President Donald J. Trump has been fully briefed on this matter and is glad to see the Special Counsel’s investigation further indicates—that there was NO COLLUSION between the Trump campaign and Russia and that the outcome of the election was not changed or affected,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in the statement.

In the same statement, Trump said, “It’s time we stop the outlandish partisan attacks, wild and false allegations, and far-fetched theories, which only serve to further the agendas of bad actors, like Russia, and do nothing to protect the principles of our institutions.”

“We must unite as Americans to protect the integrity of our democracy and our elections,” he went on.

But a person with knowledge of Mueller’s probe told Bloomberg Friday afternoon that the special counsel haven’t finished investigating whether Trump or members of his campaign colluded with Russia.

And despite the intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia will attempt to interfere again in this year’s midterm elections, Trump has done little to address such potential disruption efforts.

FBI Director Christopher Wray on Tuesday testified that, while the bureau is undertaking “a lot of specific activities” against the possibility of interference, Trump did “not specifically” direct the FBI to do so.

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Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein on Friday announced that a grand jury working with special counsel Robert Mueller has indicted 13 Russian nationals and three Russian entities as part of the federal investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Watch:

A former student activist for conservative nonprofit Turning Point USA on Monday called the organization a “shithole” with “increasing levels of drama” and “some of the most incompetent, lazy, and downright dishonest people I have ever encountered.”

“The following is the resignation letter I handed into my bosses earlier this morning,” Kaitlin Bennett, formerly the president of Kent State University’s chapter of Turning Point USA, wrote.

She addressed her resignation to Frankie O’Laughlin and Alana Mastrangelo. A Facebook page under O’Laughlin’s name lists him as a field director at Turning Point USA, and a Twitter page under Mastrangelo’s name lists her as a regional manager for the organization.

Bennett posted her resignation on Liberty Hangout, a website that bills itself as a “libertarian media outlet and alternative news source” that seeks to promote “Austrian economics and property rights.” The letter appears to be her only post on the website.

In her resignation, Bennett said she was “highly disappointed” in the organization’s leadership for taking “zero responsibility ” in the aftermath of a widely mocked event in October 2017 where members of the university’s Turning Point USA chapter dressed up in diapers to protest “safe spaces.”

According to Bennett, O’Laughlin and Mastrangelo “approved the event” but “failed to show any leadership” when the chapter faced “the consequences of online harassment.”

“I was embarrassed to have been left alone to deal with the aftermath of the safe space event,” Bennett wrote. “Although I thought the safe space event was funny and have zero remorse for holding it, I took full responsibility for it when Turning Point failed to show any leadership.”

Bennett said she was “deeply saddened that Turning Point USA did not turn out to be the organization I thought it was.”

“I have realized how much of a shithole organization Turning Point USA is, and am glad I got out of this bullshit before I invested my whole life into it, let alone just my senior year of college,” Bennett wrote. “I expect to be paid in full for my hours worked, since the organization is also too incompetent to multiply 10 by 12.50 every week.”

She advised the group’s leaders to find “real” jobs.

“Maybe answering to business professionals rather than college dropouts, egotistic enough to put their face on stupid memes, will give you the leadership skills you desperately need for your positions,” she wrote. “Maybe after this is published on Liberty Hangout and Occupy Democrats Logic, to audiences that reach 17 million people on a bad week, I too can be verified on Twitter like you, Alana.”

Bennett signed off with “good riddance,” and added, “If you need a safe space after everyone hears about this, I still have the diapers.”

The Twitter account for the university’s chapter of Turning Point USA tweeted at Charlie Kirk, the nonprofit’s executive director and founder, several hours after Bennett posted her resignation.

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White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Monday said that President Donald Trump expressed well-wishes to a former aide who resigned amid spousal abuse accusations because Trump “hopes that all Americans can be successful.”

“I think the President of the United States hopes that all Americans can be successful in whatever they do and if they’ve had any issues in the past, I’m not confirming or denying one way or the other, but if they do, the President wants success for all Americans,” Sanders said at her daily briefing.

Former staff secretary Rob Porter resigned last week after his two ex-wives publicly accused him of domestic abuse. In the immediate aftermath of Porter’s departure, Trump wished Porter “well” and said “he worked very hard.”

“We found out about it recently and I was surprised by it, but we certainly wish him well and it’s a tough time for him,” Trump told reporters. “It was very sad when we heard about it.”

Trump on Saturday complained that “there is no recovery for someone falsely accused.” He did not specifically refer to Porter, but claimed that people’s “lives are being shattered and destroyed by a mere allegation.”

He has not expressed similar well-wishes to Colbie Holderness and Jennie Willoughby, Porter’s ex-wives.

Trump is no stranger to misconduct accusations: During his 2016 campaign, multiple women accused Trump — variously — of inappropriately touching them, groping them, grabbing them, entering rooms where they were changing clothes, forcibly kissing them and making other inappropriate and unwanted advances.

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White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders is scheduled to give a press briefing on Monday at 3:30 p.m. ET. Watch live below:

White House chief of staff John Kelly expressed to President Donald Trump that he is willing to resign over his handling of domestic abuse allegations against former staff secretary Rob Porter, a scandal which has overtaken the White House in just two days, ABC News reported on Friday.

CNN reported that White House spokesman J. Hogan Gidley pushed back on the story and said that Kelly has not offered his resignation, though the ABC News report only addressed Kelly’s willingness to do so.

ABC News reported, citing unnamed sources who have spoken to Trump and Kelly, that Kelly told Trump in the last 24 hours that he is willing to step down over the ongoing situation. Unnamed sources familiar with the matter told ABC News that Kelly’s departure does not appear imminent, however.

Longtime Trump friend and confidante Tom Barrack was approached about filling the job of chief of staff, according to ABC News, but said he will not take the position.

Since the allegations against Porter first surfaced on Tuesday, Kelly has offered wildly differing responses and has become a center of attention: He first defended Porter as “a man of true integrity and honor,” and reportedly urged Porter to stay in his job, then claimed to be “shocked by the allegations.”

According to several reports, however, Kelly learned about the allegations against Porter last fall, and became aware several weeks ago that Porter could not obtain a full security clearance because one of his ex-wives had obtained a protective order against him in 2010.

On Friday morning, according to the Washington Post, Kelly told senior staffers to push a more flattering account of his response to the allegations, though staff members expressed disbelief in the narrative Kelly instructed them to communicate.

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