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

Top Democrats on Monday said charges against President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort show the importance of investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 election and the seriousness of the meddling.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said charges against Manafort and his business associate Rick Gates “show that the special counsel’s probe is ongoing in a very serious way.”

“The rule of law is paramount in America and the investigation must be allowed to proceed unimpeded,” Schumer said in a statement. “The President must not, under any circumstances, interfere with the special counsel’s work in any way. If he does so, Congress must respond swiftly, unequivocally, and in a bipartisan way to ensure that the investigation continues.”

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) called for “an outside, fully independent investigation” into Russian election meddling “and the involvement of Trump officials.”

“Even with an accelerating Special Counsel investigation inside the Justice Department, and investigations inside the Republican Congress, we still need an outside, fully independent investigation,” she said in a statement. “Defending the integrity of our democracy demands that Congress look forward to counter Russian aggression and prevent future meddling with our elections.”

Special counsel Robert Mueller, who is leading the federal investigation into Russian interference and any potential involvement by members of Trump’s campaign, on Friday filed the first official charges in his probe.

Manafort and Gates on Monday surrendered to the FBI. They face 12 counts, including conspiracy against the United States, conspiracy to launder money, false statements, false and misleading FARA (Foreign Agents Registration Act) statements and failure to file reports of foreign bank and financial accounts.

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Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) on Sunday said President Donald Trump is being “too defensive” with his remarks dismissing Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Asked on NBC News’ “Meet the Press” about Trump’s remarks calling Russian meddling a Democratic “excuse for losing an election” and a “hoax,” Portman said he does not agree with Trump.

“Too defensive. I mean, look, he won,” he said. “And we ought to instead focus on the outrage that the Russians meddled in our elections.”

Portman said Russia interfered “long before Donald Trump.”

“They’re going to do it long after Donald Trump, if we don’t do something about it,” he said. “So we need to get to the bottom of it. And we need to go where the facts lead us.”

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House Oversight Committee chairman Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) on Sunday said he would encourage Republican colleagues who are calling for an end to special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election to “give the guy a chance to do his job.”

“Do you support any effort to either curtail or end the Mueller investigation?” Chris Wallace asked Gowdy on “Fox News Sunday.”

“I don’t, and I readily concede I’m in an increasingly small group of Republicans,” Gowdy said. “I think Bob Mueller has a really distinguished career of service to our country.”

CNN reported Friday night that Mueller filed the first official charges in his investigation into the Trump campaign and administration’s dealings with Russia.

Gowdy said Mueller is “a pretty apolitical guy.”

“I would encourage my Republican friends, give the guy a chance to do his job,” he said. “The result will be known by the facts, by what he uncovers.”

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Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, on Sunday said that special counsel Robert Mueller likely filed charges against either President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser Mike Flynn or Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

CNN reported Friday night that Mueller filed the first charges in his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and the Trump campaign and administration’s dealings with Russia.

On ABC’s “This Week,” Schiff said those charges were likely against “either Mike Flynn or Paul Manafort,” respectively Trump’s former national security adviser and former campaign chairman.

He said his theory was based on “press reporting.”

“We haven’t been informed of who it is, and I don’t think it would been appropriate for Bob Mueller to tell us,” Schiff said.

Asked whether he thinks Trump is under investigation, he said, “I can’t answer that one way or the other.”

“You wouldn’t know whether Robert Mueller is investigating the President?” George Stephanopoulos pressed.

“I can’t comment on that at all,” Schiff said.

He said Trump’s presidential pardon power is not as “absolute as people have been suggesting.”

“The President cannot pardon people if it’s an effort to obstruct justice,” he said, “if it’s an effort to prevent Bob Mueller or others from learning about the President’s own conduct.”

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Puerto Rico’s Gov. Ricardo Rossello on Sunday called for the termination of a $300 million contract to repair Puerto Rico’s hurricane-damaged electricity infrastructure awarded to a tiny Montana utility company financed by major donors to President Donald Trump.

Rossello retweeted statements asking the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA, or AEE: Autoridad de Energia Electrica de Puerto Rico) to cancel its contract with Whitefish Energy Holdings.

“There cannot be any distraction that alters the commitment of raising the electric system as quickly as possible,” Rossello said.

Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke on Friday said he “had absolutely nothing to do” with the contract being awarded to Whitefish, which is based in his hometown.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Friday said the contract “was determined by the local authorities in Puerto Rico, not something that the federal government played a role in.”

Members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Thursday asked Whitefish for more details. The ranking Democrats on the House Committee on Natural Resources and House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure on Friday asked the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general to look into whether the contract is an “appropriate use of taxpayer dollars.”

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) on Friday said it “has significant concerns about how PREPA procured this contract” and is looking into how the contract was awarded.

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President Donald Trump’s approval ratings are at their lowest since he took office, according to a poll by NBC News and the Wall Street Journal released Sunday.

According to the survey, 38 percent of respondents—five points less than in September—approved of Trump’s job performance, while 58 percent disapproved.

The NBC/WSJ survey was conducted from Oct. 23-26 from a sample of 900 adults, with a margin of error of plus or minus 3.27 percentage points.


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Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, on Sunday said the “most important question” about the so-called Trump dossier isn’t who paid for it, but how many of the allegations it contains are true.

“I certainly would have liked to know who paid for it earlier, but nonetheless, that’s just one factor to be considered,” Schiff said on ABC’s “This Week.”

He said “the ultimate question” about the dossier containing allegations of President Donald Trump’s ties to Russia is, “How much of the work is accurate?”

Schiff said his “colleagues” seem less interested in the allegations the dossier contains.

“How much of it is true? And my colleagues don’t seem particularly interested in that question,” Schiff said. “But that is really the most important question for the American people.”

Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC), who is also a member of the House Intelligence Committee, on “Fox News Sunday” said he was “interested in who paid for the dossier.”

The Washington Post reported last week that the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s campaign partly funded research that resulted in the controversial document.

The editors of the Washington Free Beacon, a conservative news site, on Friday night said they first retained research firm Fusion GPS to research Donald Trump during the Republican primary, research that Clinton’s campaign and the DNC later stepped in to continue funding.

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New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) on Sunday said he has heard nothing to indicate that President Donald Trump is a target of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

“I think the good news, from the President’s perspective, is he’s not under investigation,” Christie said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

“How do you know that the President’s not under investigation?” Jake Tapper pressed.

“Well, the last news that we’ve received, Jake, publicly, is that the President was told he’s not under investigation. We’ve heard nothing to the contrary,” Christie said. “So I’m making that statement off of the public information that we’ve already been given.”

Christie made the same claim on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” and, pressed to support his claim, said that “no one has told” Trump that he is under investigation.

CNN reported Friday night that Mueller filed the first official charges in his investigation, approved by a federal grand jury.

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HBO on Thursday announced that it will not move forward with a project connected to prominent political journalist Mark Halperin’s co-authored book on the 2016 election, as another woman came forward to accuse Halperin of sexual misconduct.

“HBO is no longer proceeding with the project tied to the untitled book co-authored by Mark Halperin and John Heilemann on the 2016 Presidential election,” the network told CNN in a statement. “HBO has no tolerance for sexual harassment within the company or its productions.”

Five women on Wednesday told CNN that Halperin sexually harassed them while he was working at ABC News. Three of those women accused Halperin of pressing his genitals against them without consent.

Emily Miller, a conservative reporter, tweeted “#MeToo” of the allegations against Halperin.

Another unnamed journalist told the Daily Beast on Thursday that Halperin made unwanted advances to her while she worked at ABC News years ago.

The journalist told the Daily Beast that Halperin would give her the “occasional lecherous grin” and eventually invited her to his office where she expected to have a professional meeting.

“I was about to sit down to begin the meeting, and he closed the door, and all of the sudden was standing right in front of me—so close he was basically touching me,” the journalist told the Daily Beast. “He started lunging at me and I had nowhere to go. I told him something like, ‘Don’t do that,’ and said ‘I’m not comfortable with the door closed,’ but he had backed me into a corner. I opened the door and ran out.”

She said Halperin was “shameless” about the incident.

“It felt like it was normal for him,” the journalist told the Daily Beast. “You got the sense that it was like he’d get what he wanted if he tried enough.”

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Former Democratic National Committee chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) and Hillary Clinton campaign chair John Podesta recently told Senate investigators that they did not know who funded research that led to the so-called Trump dossier, CNN reported on Thursday.

CNN reported, citing three unnamed sources familiar with the matter, that Podesta and Wasserman Schultz made their denials before the Washington Post reported on Tuesday that Clinton’s campaign and the DNC partly paid for research firm Fusion GPS’ work that ended up in the dossier.

According to one source CNN cited, Podesta in September told the Senate Intelligence Committee that he was not aware of a contractual relationship between Clinton’s campaign and Fusion GPS.

Wasserman Schultz told CNN that she “didn’t have any awareness of the arrangement at all” and said she was “certainly” not going to confirm the subject of any discussion. According to CNN, Senate investigators interviewed Wasserman Schultz earlier in October.

According to the Washington Post’s report, Clinton campaign attorney Marc Elias and his law firm Perkins Coie retained Fusion GPS in April 2016. One source told the Washington Post that Perkins Coie did not inform Clinton’s campaign or the DNC of Fusion GPS’ role in conducting research into Donald Trump.

CNN reported, citing multiple unnamed sources, that Elias sat next to Podesta during his Senate interview, but was present as Podesta’s lawyer rather than as an additional witness.

Perkins Coie authorized Fusion GPS to disclose its role in partly funding that research in a letter CNN obtained dated Tuesday.

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