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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

President Donald Trump on Sunday continued to deny Rep. Frederica Wilson’s (D-FL) account of his call to the widow of a U.S. soldier killed in Niger.

“I was so nice. Look, I’ve called many people. And I would think that every one of them appreciated it. I was very surprised to see this to be honest with you,” Trump said on Fox News’ “Sunday Morning Futures with Maria Bartiromo.”

He claimed the call “was a very nice call.”

“And by the way, I spoke of the name of the young man, and I — it was a really — it’s a very tough call. Those are the toughest calls,” Trump said. “These are tougher than dealing with the heads of countries, believe me. These are very, very hard calls. They’re sad and sometimes, you know, the grieving is so incredible.”

Wilson last week said she was in a car with Sgt. La David T. Johnson’s widow, Myeshia Johnson, when Trump called.

“She was in tears. She was in tears. And she said, ‘He didn’t even remember his name,’” Wilson told the Washington Post.

Trump denied Wilson’s account of events, though the congresswoman’s account was corroborated by Johnson’s mother, Cowanda Jones-Johnson, and continued to attack Wilson through the weekend.

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Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) on Sunday said President Donald Trump’s administration has a “blind spot” when it comes to Russia.

“I think that the Trump administration is slow when it comes to Russia. They have a blind spot on Russia I still can’t figure out,” Graham said on NBC News’ “Meet the Press.”

Trump in August signed legislation imposing tough new sanctions on Russia but in October blew past the legislation’s deadline for issuing “regulations or other guidance” on the subject.

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) on Sunday said he is “waiting” to find out what kind of health care bill President Donald Trump would be willing to sign.

“If there’s a need for some kind of interim step here to stabilize the market, we need a bill the President will actually sign, and I’m not certain yet what the President is looking for here,” McConnell said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

He said he’s “waiting” to “hear from” Trump about what kind of legislation he would be willing to sign.

“I’ll be happy to bring a bill to the floor if I know President Trump would sign it,” McConnell said.

Asked about Trump’s comment that he would not blame himself for legislative inaction, McConnell said, “Well, I think he’s getting a lot more done than he’s giving everybody credit for.”

“I think the President ought to give himself a little more credit,” he added.

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President Donald Trump on Saturday afternoon claimed a controversial dossier alleging ties between himself and Russia has been “discredited” (it hasn’t) and claimed a Russian firm spent a “tiny” amount of money on political Facebook ads.

Lawyers representing the firm that assembled the so-called Trump dossier on Friday asked a judge to block House Intelligence Committee chairman Devin Nunes’ (R-CA) subpoena to the firm’s bank for the identity of the client who commissioned the document.

Trump attacked the dossier on Thursday as well. While much of the information it contains has not been substantiated, a number of the claims in the document have been reinforced by new information.

The “tiny” amount of money Trump referred to that was spent on Facebook ads during the 2016 election by a Russian “troll farm” was $100,000.

Facebook in October said an “estimated 10 million people” saw those ads.

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A Montana Republican official on Thursday said she “would have shot” the reporter Rep. Greg Gianforte (R-MT) body-slammed a day before he was elected to office.

“If that kid had done to me what he did to Greg, I would have shot him,” Karen Marshall, the vice president of programs for Gallatin County Republican Women, said on the “Voices of Montana” radio program.

Jon Arneson, the show’s host, confirmed Marshall’s identity on Friday to the Helena Independent Record.

“I was there. I’m a friend of Greg’s,” Marshall said. “It wasn’t a body-slam.”

She claimed that Ben Jacobs, the reporter Gianforte attacked, “came on private property, came into a private building and went into a very private room that I would not even have gone into.”

“It was a setup,” Marshall claimed. “He just pushed a little too hard.”

Jacobs in May said Gianforte “body-slammed” him and broke his glasses after Jacobs tried to ask Gianforte a question at a campaign event where Gianforte was preparing for an interview with local reporters.

Through a spokesperson, Gianforte told the Helena Independent Record that he disagreed with Marshall’s remarks and “repudiates them.”

Gianforte in June pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault and was sentenced to 40 hours of community service and 20 hours of anger management. He pledged to donate $50,000 to the Committee to Protect Journalists and formally apologized to Jacobs.

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Former top Fox News host Bill O’Reilly, who left the network in April amid accusations of sexual harassment, in January struck a $32 million settlement agreement with a former analyst for Fox News, months before his contract was extended, the New York Times reported on Saturday.

The New York Times reported, citing two unnamed sources briefed on the matter, that O’Reilly made the agreement to settle allegations “of repeated harassment, a nonconsensual sexual relationship and the sending of gay pornography and other sexually explicit material” to the analyst.

Despite the settlement, and others the New York Times reported in April totaled $13 million to five women over the last 15 years, 21st Century Fox extended O’Reilly’s contract in February, according to the report.

21st Century Fox said in a statement to the New York Times that O’Reilly’s settlement with Lis Wiehl, a former legal analyst at Fox News, was a personal matter between the two, and said O’Reilly “was the biggest star in cable TV.”

O’Reilly claimed to the New York Times that he “never mistreated anyone” and claimed he could “prove it.”

Fox News referred TPM’s request for comment to 21st Century Fox, who did not immediately respond.

Read the full report here.

This report has been updated.

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Lawyers representing the firm that assembled a controversial dossier alleging ties between President Donald Trump and Russia on Friday asked a judge to block the firm’s bank from disclosing the identify of the client who commissioned the dossier.

Fusion GPS said House Intelligence Committee chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA), who claimed he recused himself from the panel’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, “unilaterally issued” a subpoena to Fusion GPS’ bank “in violation of his recusal.”

“Although the bank submitted objections, Mr. Nunes — through staff — rejected them. In light of that communication, the bank then informed its customer that the bank was going to timely comply,” Fusion GPS’ lawyers wrote in the complaint.

The firm asked the judge for “a declaratory judgment and injunction” preventing the bank from complying with Nunes’ subpoena, and claimed Nunes’ signature on subpoenas related to the investigation “was another sign of his rogue inquiry.”

Fusion GPS’ lawyers last week accused Nunes and his staff of operating with a “pattern of unprofessional conduct.”

Read the complaint:

h/t The Daily Beast

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The White House on Tuesday asked the Pentagon for the identities and contact information of family members of military personnel killed after President Donald Trump’s inauguration, Roll Call reported late Friday.

Trump on Tuesday claimed he had personally contacted “virtually” every family of a soldier killed since his inauguration.

“I have called, I believe, everybody, but certainly I’ll use the word virtually everybody,” Trump claimed.

Roll Call reported, citing an internal Defense Department email, that Capt. Hallock Mohler, Secretary of Defense James Mattis’ executive secretary, subsequently gave the White House information about how each servicemember had died and contact information for their families.

Mohler indicated in the email, according to the report, that he provided the information in response to a request from White House staff.

“The White House ensured that the President had contacted all families of soldiers killed in action that had been presented to him through existing protocols,” a White House spokesman told Roll Call on Friday.

The Associated Press reported Friday that several Gold Star families never heard from Trump at all.

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President Donald Trump on Saturday complained about the “Fake News Media” and said he would allow the release of files related to former President John F. Kennedy’s assassination.

Trump complained that the “MSM barely covered” Senate passage of his budget plan or the stock market’s “all time high” last week.

“I hope the Fake News Media keeps talking about Wacky Congresswoman Wilson in that she, as a representative, is killing the Democrat Party!” Trump tweeted, referring to Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-FL).

And, Trump tweeted, “Subject to the receipt of further information, I will be allowing, as President, the long blocked and classified JFK FILES to be opened.”

The federal government is required, under the President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act of 1992, to release in full documents related to Kennedy’s assassination in Nov. 1963 by next Thursday unless Trump intervenes.

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President Donald Trump personally interviewed at least two possible candidates to fill U.S. attorney positions with New York jurisdictions, Politico reported late Thursday.

Politico reported, citing two unnamed sources familiar with the matter, that Trump personally interviewed Geoffrey Berman from law firm Greenburg Traurig as a candidate for U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, as well as Ed McNally from law firm Kasowitz Benson Torres for a position in the Eastern District.

The White House did not deny that Trump personally interviewed Berman and McNally, according to Politico, but a White House official said Trump “and other presidents before him and after may talk to individuals nominated to positions within the executive branch.”

The U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York has jurisdiction over an area that includes Trump Tower.

Preet Bharara, who was fired from the Southern District position in March, tweeted Tuesday that it would be “neither normal nor advisable for Trump to personally interview candidates for US Attorney positions, especially the one in Manhattan.”

Bharara made the remark in the context of Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, where Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) said he spoke to colleagues about “potentially blocking any nominees who have been interviewed by the President.”

“I’m not sure I remember whether he had interviewed for New York but if you say so I assume so, and he has the right to for sure because he has to make an appointment and I assume everybody would understand that,” Sessions replied.

“I understand that he’s personally interviewed the potential applicants for US attorney in Manhattan and Brooklyn and one in Washington, D.C., which happen to be places where Donald Trump has property and assets and companies, and not interviewed personally US attorneys for other positions,” Bharara told CNN on Wednesday. “I think that reasonably raises a number of questions.”

U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia Jessie Liu in July told the Senate Judiciary Committee that she “met the President with the White House counsel” while she was interviewing for the position but said she did not keep “detailed records” of the selection process.

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