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

Federal prosecutors issued a subpoena in recent weeks to Deutsche Bank for records related to Jared Kushner’s family business, the New York Times reported Friday afternoon.

The New York Times reported, citing four unnamed sources briefed on the matter, that prosecutors from the office for the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York asked the bank to produce records about entities associated with the Kushner Companies.

Kushner, who is President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and a White House senior adviser, was the business’ chief executive until January, when he stepped down to join his father-in-law’s administration.

It was not clear, according to the New York Times, which records the prosecutors sought, whether they involve Kushner and, if so, to what degree.

A spokesperson for the Kushner Companies told the New York Times that the business is “unaware of any inquiry directed at Deutsche Bank from the E.D.N.Y. and have no reason to believe there is one,” though the subject of a subpoena would not necessarily be aware of one’s existence.

Reuters and Bloomberg reported earlier in December that special counsel Robert Mueller issued Deutsche Bank a subpoena for financial records related to Trump and his family, though Trump’s personal lawyer Jay Sekulow denied the accuracy of those reports.

As the New York Times noted, there was no indication that the subpoena regarding Kushner-related records was related to Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

While the U.S. attorney in question has been investigating the Kushner Companies’ use of a specific visa program, according to the report, there was also no indication that the subpoena was related to that probe, and Deutsche Bank does not appear to have been involved in activities related to the business’ use of that program.

Politico reported in October that Trump personally interviewed Ed McNally from law firm Kasowitz Benson Torres to fill the position of U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, which is currently held by acting U.S. attorney Bridget M. Rohde.

Read More →

The House Intelligence Committee is scheduled to interview President Donald Trump’s longtime personal secretary Rhona Graff on Friday, according to a report by NBC News.

NBC News reported that the committee will question Graff, who has worked for the Trump Organization for three decades and served as Trump’s personal gatekeeper, at an undisclosed location in New York.

In August, ABC News reported that congressional investigators were particularly interested in any information Graff might have about a meeting in June 2016 between Donald Trump Jr. and a Russian lawyer who Trump Jr. believed to have damaging information on Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

In a series of emails setting up the meeting, British music publicist Rob Goldstone, an acquaintance of the Trump family, suggested sending information to Trump “via Rhona,” reflecting her status as a conduit and gatekeeper to the senior Trump.

Graff is not the only member of Trump’s staff that congressional investigators have expressed interest in interviewing; Bloomberg reported on Friday, citing an unnamed source familiar with the House Intelligence Committee’s schedule, that the panel has also invited Trump’s former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski and his former campaign CEO and chief strategist Steve Bannon to testify before the committee.

Read More →

The Senate Rules Committee on Thursday revealed that, over the last 20 years, at least $600,000 of taxpayers’ money has been spent in settlement agreements involving misconduct allegations against senators’ offices, according to several reports.

Politico and NBC News reported, citing data the panel released jointly with the Senate Appropriations Committee, that the figure was paid out from the Office of Compliance’s fund that is designated for handling workplace misconduct. The total does not reflect any payments that lawmakers may have made from their office budgets, which are also funded by taxpayers.

According to Politico, two of the claims settled using the fund involved racial discrimination, three involved disability discrimination, eight involved age discrimination and one involved a claim of sex discrimination, though it was not clear whether harassment or other misconduct was involved.

The data also reflected settlements paid by Senate offices not led by a member, according to Politico. Those have totaled $853,225 for 10 claims since 1997, according to the data, and included three claims of sex discrimination.

Read More →

President Donald Trump on Friday tweeted his personal thanks to the head of a conservative nonprofit that former employees allege to have behaved in a way that was “crossing a legal line” with regard to campaign finance laws.

“Thank you Charlie Kirk of Turning Points USA,” Trump tweeted, attributing a quote about his achievements in his first year in office. “Sadly, the Fake Mainstream Media will NEVER talk about our accomplishments in their end of year reviews.”

Trump thanked Kirk, the executive director and founder of Turning Point USA, a day after the New Yorker reported that former employees allege the group “may have skirted campaign-finance laws that bar charitable organizations from participating in political activity.”

One former employee who worked for the group told the New Yorker that her supervisor used her work email to contact her and make arrangements for her to help Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-TX) presidential campaign. The employee said that hundreds of Cruz placards subsequently arrived at her private mailing address.

The employee told the New Yorker that she supported Cruz’s candidacy, but objected to the role Turning Point USA played in connecting the two: “We wanted to volunteer on our own terms, not to give in to pressure from a boss. I felt that if it wasn’t crossing a legal line, it was crossing a professional one.”

Another former employee told the New Yorker that a list she created with the names of hundreds of student supporters while working at Turning Point USA was then given to an employee of Sen. Marco Rubio’s (R-FL) campaign without her knowledge.

The employee said that the Rubio staffer “shouldn’t have had that list.”

“We were a charity, and he was on a political campaign,” she said.

Reached for comment by the New Yorker, Kirk referred to a statement by his lawyer claiming the group “works diligently to comply entirely with all relevant laws and regulations governing not-for-profit organizations.”

Turning Point USA is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, and as such cannot engage in “political campaign activity” without losing its tax-exempt status.

Read More →

Star Fox News host Sean Hannity on Thursday told NBC News to “read and learn” from a story that the network reported and published in the first place.

“Hey fake news @CNN and conspiracy tv @NBCNews read and learn,” Hannity tweeted, linking to a story about the Uranium One deal on NBCNews.com.

NBC News reporter Hallie Jackson pointed out the contradiction in Hannity’s advice.

The story Hannity cited, which NBC News published Thursday morning, cited unnamed law enforcement officials who said that Attorney General Jeff Sessions has directed federal prosecutors to seek more information from FBI agents about the closed investigation into a deal allowing Rosatom, Russia’s state nuclear energy agency, to acquire a stake in Canadian mining company Uranium One.

The White House, Republican elected officials and conservative media have argued that former secretary of state Hillary Clinton’s role in the deal merits further scrutiny. Their allegations have come amid increased attention on—and the apparent acceleration of—special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and whether President Donald Trump’s campaign had any hand in that foreign meddling.

Read More →

The New York Times on Wednesday announced that Glenn Thrush, who four women accused in November of sexual misconduct, will return to work at the company but will no longer serve as part of its team covering the White House.

“While we believe that Glenn has acted offensively, we have decided that he does not deserve to be fired,” Dean Baquet, the paper’s executive editor, said in a statement.

The New York Times reported that Baquet informed Thrush of the decision during a meeting on Wednesday.

The New York Times opened an investigation into the misconduct allegations against Thrush after Vox published a report in November by its editorial director Laura McGann, who was a reporter at TPM a decade ago. McGann accused Thrush of unexpectedly kissing her years earlier when they both worked at Politico. Three other women accused Thrush of misconduct.

Thrush did not deny the allegations against him, and said in November that he had “responded to a succession of personal and health crises by drinking heavily” and had “resumed counseling.”

Baquet on Wednesday said the New York Times has suspended Thrush “for two months and removed him from the White House beat.”

“He will receive training designed to improve his workplace conduct,” Baquet said. “In addition, Glenn is undergoing counseling and substance abuse rehabilitation on his own. We will reinstate him as a reporter on a new beat upon his return.”

Baquet said the New York Times’ investigation into Thrush’s behavior “included dozens of interviews with people both inside and outside the newsroom.”

“We understand that our colleagues and the public at large are grappling with what constitutes sexually offensive behavior in the workplace and what consequences are appropriate,” he said. “Each case has to be evaluated based on individual circumstances. We believe this is an appropriate response to Glenn’s situation.”

Read More →

President Donald Trump and congressional Republicans gathered on Wednesday on the White House’s South Lawn to celebrate the passage of a sweeping tax overhaul that was delayed Tuesday night by a handful of procedural snafus.

“We are making America great again,” Trump said, referring to his campaign slogan, from a podium where he stood surrounded by Republican leaders. He joked, “You haven’t heard that, have you?”

Trump thanked members of Congress who he said “worked so long” and “so hard” to get the tax bill to his desk.

“I want to have them get up and get the glamour and glory,” Trump said.

He thanked Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), who Trump said he worked with in “a little team.”

“What a job. It’s always a lot of fun when you win,” Trump said.

Though Trump’s relationship with Ryan was adversarial at best during the 2016 election, he lauded Ryan as “a great speaker.”

Though the tax overhaul would represent Trump’s first major legislative accomplishment after nearly a year in office, he painted it as a sign of acceleration rather than gridlock: “We haven’t even been a year.”

Read More →

President Donald Trump on Wednesday claimed the Republican tax overhaul has “essentially repealed Obamacare” but said officials “didn’t want to bring it up” until the legislation had already passed.

“The individual mandate is being repealed. When the individual mandate is being repealed, that means Obamacare is being repealed because they get their money from the individual mandate,” Trump said at the start of a cabinet meeting.

He said the tax bill has “essentially repealed Obamacare,” though the legislation has eliminated a key provision of the health care law but not repealed it entirely, and claimed Republicans will come up with something that will be much better, whether it’s block grants or whether it’s taking what we have and doing something terrific.”

“We didn’t want to bring it up. I told people specifically, ‘Be quiet with the fake news media because I don’t want them talking too much about it,'” Trump said. “Because I didn’t know how people would — but now that it’s approved I can say the individual mandate on health care, where you had to pay not to have insurance, okay, think of that one, you pay not to have insurance. The individual mandate has been repealed.”

The House on Wednesday was scheduled to vote again on the tax legislation it initially passed on Tuesday, after the Senate parliamentarian ruled some portions of the bill don’t pass muster with reconciliation rules.

Read More →

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Tuesday blamed the media’s focus on “negative coverage” for President Donald Trump’s poor approval rating, which is at a historic low for the December of a President’s first term.

“While the President and this administration has been very focused on how we can better help the American people, I think oftentimes the media is focused on other things,” Sanders said at her daily briefing.

She claimed that “90 percent of the coverage” about Trump “is negative” and claimed the media is “certainly not talking about the growing economy, certainly not talking about the crushing of ISIS, not talking about the creation of jobs.”

“If people were focused a lot more on those things in the media, I think that his numbers would be a lot higher,” Sanders said. “We anticipate that they’re going to go up as more and more of these things continue to happen.”

Read More →

The owner of a Dallas restaurant on Monday apologized after Donald Trump Jr. and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) celebrated a birthday at the restaurant with “an Obama cake” he said was not created by the restaurant.

Trump Jr. on Sunday posted photographs of himself and Cruz at the restaurant with a dessert resembling a cookie cake that featured a vague depiction of former President Barack Obama. He described the creation as “an early 40th birthday cake” given to him by “some good friends.”

In a statement, Stephan Courseau, the owner of Le Bilboquet Dallas, apologized for “the unfortunate circumstances” and called it “distasteful.”

“This morning a lot of you have been shocked and appalled to hear that Donald Trump Jr. and Ted Cruz celebrated a birthday of a friend at Le Bilboquet with a cake with our former president Barack Obama’s face on it,” Courseau said. “Let me be clear, I share your indignation without any reservation.”

He said Trump Jr. and Cruz “were attending a birthday celebration of one of our regular patrons who rented out our venue for a private event.”

“The party was not for either one of them nor was it any kind of partisan rally,” Courseau said. “Someone that attended the party brought in an outside cake for Donald Trump Jr.’s upcoming birthday and we are not sure who that was.”

Courseau said he was not working on Sunday “and could not intervene in the unfortunate circumstances that unfolded.”

“I believe I owe you an explanation and an apology,” he said. “We at Le Bilboquet feel betrayed and sad.”

Courseau said that the restaurant’s “friends and patrons represent a wide spectrum of American beliefs including: Republicans, Democrats, and Independents.”

“The fact that guests decided to use our restaurant as a platform to promote, disrespect, and spread hatred goes against everything we stand for,” he said. “I am truly sorry that such distasteful events happened at our venue and that these circumstances brought me to write this statement today.”

Corseau posted the statement on Instagram. Though the post is no longer available, D Magazine published its contents.

Courseau was not immediately available in response to TPM’s request for comment.

Read More →