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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

Democratic National Committee (DNC) chairman Tom Perez on Sunday said charges that Hillary Clinton was “incapacitated” by illness as the 2016 Democratic nominee are “ludicrous.”

“The charge that Hillary Clinton was somewhere incapacitated is quite frankly ludicrous,” Perez said on NBC News’ “Meet the Press.”

Donna Brazile, the former interim chair of the DNC, on Sunday said she “was under tremendous pressure after Secretary Clinton fainted to have a quote unquote plan B” to replace Clinton as the party’s nominee.

“I don’t know what Donna Brazile fell for. But all I know is under the rules and bylaws of the Democratic National Committee, she couldn’t have done this,” Perez said. “Hillary Clinton was anything but incapacitated. She was tireless. She was a work horse.”

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Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross owns holdings in a shipping company that has business ties to a Russian gas company part-owned by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s son-in-law, according to several reports published Sunday.

The Guardian reported, citing documents and public filings from the Paradise Papers, a trove of 13.4 million files leaked from offshore law firm Appleby, that Ross has a stake in the shipping company Navigator, which operates a partnership with Russian gas company Sibur.

Putin’s son-in-law Kirill Shamalov is Sibur’s second-largest shareholder.

NBC News reported, citing documents from the Paradise Papers, that Sibur is Navigator’s second-largest client.

According to the Guardian, Ross retained his holdings in Navigator after joining Trump’s cabinet.

Ross in February did not answer questions from six Democratic senators who asked him to disclose “the full extent” of his “connections to Russia.”

Hours after Trump nominated Ross to his cabinet in November 2016, Navigator’s CEO David Butters said Ross assured him their interests were aligned.

“Your interest is aligned to mine,” Ross said, according to Butters’ account to Bloomberg Businessweek. “The U.S. economy will grow, and Navigator will be a beneficiary.”

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President Donald Trump on Saturday said he will likely meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin during his 12-day trip to Asia.

“I think it’s expected we’ll meet with Putin, yeah,” Trump told reporters, according to a pool report. “We want Putin’s help on North Korea, and we’ll be meeting with a lot of different leaders.”

Asked whether he thinks North Korea will use his trip abroad as an opportunity to demonstrate a missile test, Trump said, “We’ll soon find out. Good luck!”

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House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) on Sunday said he doesn’t think special counsel Robert Mueller should step down from leading the federal investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

“Will you pledge that you will not allow the Mueller investigation to be curbed or stopped?” Chris Wallace asked Ryan on “Fox News Sunday.”

“Yeah, I’ve said all along, we need to let these career professionals do their jobs, see it through,” Ryan said. “So no, I don’t think he should be stepping down and I don’t think he should be fired, and the President’s made it clear he’s not going to do that.”

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Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, on Sunday said Attorney General Jeff Sessions should testify again before the Senate panel about communications between members of President Donald Trump’s campaign and Russia.

“I’m not going to say whether it was a lie or not,” Feinstein said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

“I think he should come back and clarify it,” she added. “At this stage, he’s got to narrow his recollections. When he comes before the committee again, he has to be precise, and it has to be accurate.”

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Donna Brazile, the former interim chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), on Sunday said she found no evidence “whatsoever” that the 2016 primary process was “rigged.”

“I found no evidence, none whatsoever,” Brazile said on ABC News’ “This Week.”

Brazile claimed the only thing she found “was this memorandum that prevented the DNC from running its own operation.”

In a piece in Politico on Tuesday, Brazile accused Hillary Clinton’s campaign of exerting improper financial and decision-making control over the DNC before she won the party’s nomination.

Asked on Sunday to comment on Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s (D-MA) claim that the 2016 Democratic primary was rigged for Clinton, Brazile said, “I don’t think she meant the word rigged.”

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House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi on Sunday said she doesn’t think Democrats should focus on impeaching President Donald Trump.

Asked on CNN’s “State of the Union” whether Democrats will try to impeach Trump if they win the House in the 2018 midterm elections, as Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) has claimed, Pelosi said, “No.”

“I believe that whatever we do, we have a responsibility first and foremost to unify the nation. Second of all, you can’t go down any path without the facts and the law,” she said. “If that’s there, perhaps it will come out in these investigations.”

She said if new facts “come forth” about Trump, then “let the chips fall where they may.”

“But it’s not someplace that I think we should go,” Pelosi said.

“Not a priority for you,” Jake Tapper pressed.

“No,” she replied. “That’s not what our election is about.”

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The White House had no idea that Sam Clovis testified before the grand jury in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, ABC News reported late Thursday.

ABC News reported, citing unnamed sources with knowledge of the probe, that the White House learned Clovis had met with the grand jury from media reports rather than from Clovis himself.

Clovis was a co-chair on President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign and served as the supervisor to George Papadopoulos, a former adviser on the campaign. Court documents unsealed on Monday revealed that Papadopoulos pleaded guilty earlier in October to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russian nationals.

“The White House was surprised to learn Mr. Clovis had been contacted by the Special Counsel’s office as part of their separate probe of Mr. Papadopoulos’ activities,” an unnamed White House source familiar with the probe told ABC News.

NBC News reported on Tuesday that Mueller questioned Clovis last week, and that Clovis testified before the grand jury in the same time period.

Clovis, a non-scientist, was the senior White House adviser to the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Trump’s former pick to serve as the department’s chief scientist.

He withdrew his nomination for the latter on Thursday after unsealed court documents revealed his correspondence with Papadopoulos during the campaign. Clovis told Papadopoulos he’d done “great work” with his initial outreach to Russians who wanted to set up a meeting between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin, and said he “would encourage” Papadopoulos to do so.

Clovis did not cite Papadopoulos’ guilty plea or those emails in a letter withdrawing his nomination, instead blaming “the political climate inside Washington.”

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President Donald Trump’s son-in-law White House adviser Jared Kushner recently gave documents from the 2016 campaign and transition to special counsel Robert Mueller, who is overseeing the federal Russia probe, CNN reported late Thursday.

CNN reported, citing an unnamed source familiar with the matter, that Kushner voluntarily gave Mueller documents from the campaign and the transition similar to the materials he gave to congressional investigators.

Mueller’s team has “expressed interest in Kushner,” CNN reported, citing to unnamed sources familiar with the matter.

Unnamed sources close to Trump’s administration told CNN that to their knowledge, Kushner is not a target in Mueller’s investigation.

That knowledge has not held up in the past; members of Trump’s administration have also made that claim, incorrectly, about the President himself.

According to CNN’s report, investigators have taken an interest in Kushner’s role in Trump’s abrupt termination of James Comey as director of the FBI, and have questioned other witnesses on the subject, among others:

Other points of focus that pertain to Kushner include the Trump campaign’s 2016 data analytics operation, his relationship with former national security adviser Michael Flynn and Kushner’s own contacts with Russians, according to sources briefed on the probe.

Politico reported on Tuesday that Mueller will interview White House communications director Hope Hicks and other current members of Trump’s administration after the President returns from his upcoming 12-day trip to Asia.

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Sen. Al Franken (D-MN), whose questioning of Attorney General Jeff Sessions in his January confirmation hearing kicked off a chain of events that ultimately led to the appointment of a special counsel, on Thursday had some more pointed questions for Sessions.

Franken included his questions in a scathing letter to Sessions after court documents unsealed Monday revealed that President Donald Trump’s former campaign adviser George Papadopoulos in March 2016 floated the idea of setting up a meeting between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

According to several reports, Sessions was present at the meeting when Papadopoulos made the suggestion, though Sessions previously denied being aware of any communications between members of Trump’s campaign and the Russian government. Papadopoulos claimed he had “connections” that could help arrange the meeting between Trump and Putin.

“Once again, developments in the ongoing investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election have brought to light evidence that you failed to tell the truth about your interactions with Russian operatives during the campaign, as well as your awareness of Russian contacts by other members of the Trump campaign team,” Franken wrote.

He called it “another example in an alarming pattern” in which Sessions “apparently failed to tell the truth, under oath, about the Trump team’s contacts with agents of Russia—a hostile foreign power that interfered in the 2016 election.”

“We must get to the bottom of what happened so that we can prevent it from happening again,” Franken wrote. “I am deeply troubled that this newest revelation strongly suggests that the Senate—and the American public—cannot trust your word.”

He asked Sessions to respond to his questions by next Friday, Nov. 10.

CNN reported on Wednesday that Sessions firmly rejected the idea of a meeting between Trump and Putin when it was floated during a campaign meeting in March 2016. At that time, Sessions was the chairman of Trump’s national security team and a Republican senator.

During his January confirmation hearing, however, Sessions claimed he was “not aware” of any communications between Trump’s campaign and the Russian government.

“I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign and I did not have communications with the Russians, and I’m unable to comment on that,” he claimed.

Sessions recused himself from the federal investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election after the Washington Post reported, and Sessions confirmed, that he actually met with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the 2016 campaign.

That recusal, and Trump’s decision to fire James Comey as head of the FBI, led directly to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s appointment of Robert Mueller as special counsel overseeing the Russia investigation.

NBC News reported on Thursday, citing an unnamed source familiar with Sessions’ thinking, that Sessions now similarly recalls that he rejected Papadopoulos’ proposal to set up a meeting between Trump and Putin.

“The March 31 comments by this Papadopoulos person did not leave a lasting impression,” the unnamed source told NBC News. “As far as Sessions seemed to be concerned, when he shut down this idea of Papadopoulos engaging with Russia, that was the end of it and he moved the meeting along to other issues.”

That same source later claimed to NBC News that it was not actually clear whether Sessions remembered anything.

 

Read Franken’s letter to Sessions:

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