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

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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The talent agency whose literary division represented Bill O’Reilly on Thursday said it will not work with the former Fox News host on any future deals.

O’Reilly, who is also a best-selling author, left his cable news position in April amid accusations of sexual harassment.

“We no longer represent Bill O’Reilly for future deals,” William Morris Endeavor chief communications officer Christian Muirhead told TPM in an email. “It is our fiduciary responsibility to service the existing deals we have under contract, but we will not be working with him moving forward.”

The New York Times reported in April that at least five women took a total of $13 million in settlements from O’Reilly or 21st Century Fox related to allegations against him, and in October reported that O’Reilly struck a $32 million settlement agreement with a former Fox News legal analyst over allegations of similar misconduct.

Deadline on Tuesday reported that United Talent Agency, O’Reilly’s longtime representation, dropped the former Fox host.

“Bill has already lined up alternative representation,” an O’Reilly spokesperson told Deadline.

NBC News reported on Wednesday that the conservative media company Sinclair Broadcast Group is continuing its negotiations with O’Reilly despite the allegations against him.

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Whitefish Energy Holdings, a tiny Montana utility company financed by major donors to President Donald Trump, apologized late Wednesday for threatening to withdraw its workers from San Juan in response to remarks by the city’s mayor.

“On behalf of our employees, we would like to apologize for our comments earlier today,” the company tweeted at San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz. “Our goal is to continue to do all we can to help everyone in Puerto Rico in this time of need.”

Cruz on Tuesday called on the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority to immediately void its $300 million contract with Whitefish Energy Holdings.

“The contract should be voided right away and a proper process which is clear, transparent, legal, moral, and ethical should take place,” Cruz said. “It seems like what the Puerto Rican people are going to be paying for, or the American people are going to be paying for, is an intermediary that doesn’t know what is at stake here and that really has to subcontract everything.”

The firm said Cruz’s remarks were “misplaced” and “very disappointing and demoralizing.”

“What are they afraid we will find?” Cruz responded.

“We’ve got 44 linemen rebuilding power lines in your city & 40 more men just arrived,” Whitefish Energy Holdings replied to Cruz’s tweet. “Do you want us to send them back or keep working?”

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President Donald Trump on Thursday said that Ed Gillespie, the Republican nominee in Virginia’s race for governor, is “strong on crime” and may protect Southern “statues” and “heritage.”

“Ed Gillespie will be a great Governor of Virginia,” Trump tweeted. “Strong on crime, he might even save our great statues/heritage.”

“Don’t talk to me about showing up,” Virginia Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam (D), Gillespie’s opponent, responded.

Gillespie has accused Northam of wanting to tear down Virginia’s Confederate monuments. One Democratic strategist characterized Gillespie’s campaign to TPM as “full Donald Trump primal scream racism.”

One person died in August after white nationalists gathered in Charlottesville, Virginia, to protest the removal of a Robert E. Lee statue in a public park.

Trump in August was hesitant to formally condemn white nationalism in the wake of the violence in Charlottesville, and claimed there were “fine people” on both sides of the issue.

He also defended Confederate statues, and claimed they bring “beauty” to public parks and are symbolic of the “history and culture” of the United States.

At a rally in Phoenix in August, Trump went further and claimed those calling for the statues’ removal are “trying to take away our culture.”

“They’re trying to take away our history,” Trump said. “These things have been there for 150 years, for a hundred years.”

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Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson on Wednesday said some people “were just looking for something to complain about” in President Donald Trump’s remarks to the widow of a U.S. soldier killed in Niger earlier in October.

Asked about Sgt. La David T. Johnson’s family, who criticized Trump’s remarks, Carson said, “I think there were people who were just looking for something to complain about.”

“I mean, if he had said, you know, ‘I’m sorry, this is sure a dark day for you,’ they would have said ‘See, he’s a racist, he said a dark day,'” Carson, who is black, said, apparently referring to Johnson and his widow Myeshia Johnson, who are also black.

Carson made the remarks during an event hosted by the Hill on Wednesday morning, in response to a question posted by the Hill’s editor-in-chief Bob Cusack. Democratic research group American Bridge flagged the remarks to TPM in an email.

“The video clearly shows Secretary Carson channeling Donald Trump and maligning a Gold Star family’s sacrifice,” American Bridge spokesperson Harrell Kirstein told TPM by email. “This is just another example of the lack of sympathy from the Trump Administration for families of American service men and women killed in action.”

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President Donald Trump on Wednesday said Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) “did the smart thing” by announcing that he will not run for reelection because “he would never have won.”

Trump told reporters as he walked to Marine One that Flake’s “poll numbers in Arizona are so low that he couldn’t win.”

“And I don’t blame him for leaving. I think he did the right thing for himself,” Trump said. “He was against me from before he ever knew me.”

In his announcement on Tuesday, Flake condemned the degradation of political civility in the age of Trump, the “coarseness of our leadership” and the “regular and casual undermining of our democratic norms and ideals.”

Trump on Wednesday said he mistook Flake for a Democratic politician the first time he saw the Republican senator on television.

“The first time I saw him on television, I said, ‘I assume he’s a Democrat. Is he a Democrat?’ They said, ‘He’s a Republican,'” Trump said. “I said, ‘That’s impossible.'”

He said Flake has “terrible” poll numbers and has “done terribly for the great people of Arizona.”

“He would have never won. In fact, even in the primary, he’s way down in the primary. So he did the smart thing for himself,” Trump said. “This way he can get out somewhat gracefully.”

Trump also swiped at Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), whose criticism of the President has become increasingly blunt since Corker announced he will not run for reelection in 2018.

“You know what?” Trump said. “I really believe that Bob Corker’s going to do the right thing also.”

Trump’s remarks about Corker and Flake appeared at odds with his earlier claim that there is “great unity in the Republican party.”

“We have great unity,” he said. “I think the Republican Party has a pretty good unity.”

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Sinclair Broadcast Group is continuing talks with former Fox News star host Bill O’Reilly despite news that the former host struck a $32 million settlement agreement related to accusations of sexual harassment, NBC News reported Wednesday.

NBC News reported, citing two unnamed sources familiar with negotiations between O’Reilly and Sinclair, that O’Reilly has been negotiating for a position at the conservative media company.

O’Reilly left Fox News in April amid accusations of sexual harassment. The New York Times reported in April that at least five women took a total of $13 million in settlements from O’Reilly or 21st Century Fox related to allegations of such misconduct.

On Saturday, the New York Times reported that O’Reilly in January struck a $32 million settlement agreement with former Fox News legal analyst Lis Wiehl over allegations “of repeated harassment, a nonconsensual sexual relationship and the sending of gay pornography and other sexually explicit material” to Wiehl.

According to NBC News, one source said that Sinclair and O’Reilly “took a pause” but the allegations against the former Fox host “didn’t really change anything for them.”

One source said, according to the report, that O’Reilly and the conservative broadcasting company are “about midway” through their talks.

“They want to do something anti-CNN, anti-MSNBC,” one source told NBC News.

Sinclair in May denied that the network was courting O’Reilly or Fox News anchor Sean Hannity. The company did not respond to NBC News’ requests for comment about any negotiations with O’Reilly.

Sinclair is one of the few networks, along with Fox News, that has not come under attack by President Donald Trump, who often criticizes CNN and NBC News.

Politico in December 2016 reported that Trump’s campaign struck a deal with Sinclair to exchange access for uncritical coverage. Affiliate station WJLA in February was one of the few outlets Trump called on during a series of press conferences where he exclusively took questions from conservative news outlets, and in April, Sinclair announced it had hired former White House aide Boris Epshteyn.

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San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz on Tuesday said the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority should cancel its “alarming” $300 million contract with a tiny Montana utility company financed by major donors to President Donald Trump “right away.”

“The contract should be voided right away and a proper process which is clear, transparent, legal, moral, and ethical should take place,” Cruz told Yahoo News.

She said the $300 million contract between the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority and Whitefish Energy Holdings, a tiny Montana company run by a CEO friendly with Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, is “alarming.”

“It seems like what the Puerto Rican people are going to be paying for, or the American people are going to be paying for, is an intermediary that doesn’t know what is at stake here and that really has to subcontract everything,” Cruz said.

Cruz has been a vocal critic of the federal response in Puerto Rico, drawing attacks from Trump and other members of his administration. In the Yahoo interview, she suggested the slow response was “because we’re a colony of the United States to begin with.”

“Yes, there is racism. There is discrimination,” she said. “Mr. Trump may have the most powerful job in the world, but that does not make him a respectful person.”

The Daily Beast reported on Tuesday that Whitefish Energy Holdings’ general partner donated the maximum amounts permitted to Trump’s Republican primary campaign and his presidential campaign, gave $20,000 to the Trump Victory PAC and donated a total of $30,700 to the Republican National Committee in 2016.

Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), the top Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee, on Tuesday called for an investigation into “why the Whitefish contract was awarded and whether other, more cost-effective options were available.”

“We share the mayor’s frustration with the situation on Puerto Rico, but her comments are misplaced,” Whitefish Energy Holdings told TPM in a statement.

The company told TPM it has “more than 300 workers on the island and that number is growing daily.”

“We find her comments to be very disappointing and demoralizing to the hundreds of people on our team that have left their homes and families and have come here to help the people of Puerto Rico,” Whitefish Energy Holdings said.

Cruz on Wednesday afternoon questioned the company’s statement that called her remarks “misplaced.”

“If @WhitefishEnergy feels that asking for transparency is ”misplaced”, what are they afraid we will find,” she tweeted.

In response, Whitefish Energy Holdings appeared to threaten to withdraw its workers from San Juan.

This post has been updated.

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White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Tuesday claimed the “real Russia scandal” was that Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee partly paid for the research that led to the so-called Trump dossier.

“The real Russia scandal?” Sanders tweeted. “Clinton campaign paid for the fake Russia dossier, then lied about it & covered it up.”

Hours earlier, Sanders told a reporter, “I wouldn’t use the Washington Post as my source.”

Sanders linked to a tweet by New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman, who in turn linked to a report by the Washington Post on the DNC’s and Clinton campaign’s funding of research firm Fusion GPS’ work.

New York Times reporter Kenneth Vogel on Tuesday said Clinton campaign attorney Marc Elias, who, with his law firm Perkins Coie, retained Fusion GPS, “pushed back vigorously” when Vogel tried to report on the connection.

The Washington Post reported that Elias’ firm did not inform Clinton’s campaign or the DNC of the research firm’s role, and noted it is “standard practice” for political campaigns to hire researchers using law firms in order to guarantee the protection of “attorney-client and work product privileges.”

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The Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s campaign partly funded research that resulted in the controversial dossier alleging ties between President Donald Trump and Russia, the Washington Post reported late Tuesday.

The Washington Post reported, citing unnamed sources familiar with the matter, that Clinton campaign attorney Marc Elias retained research firm Fusion GPS in April 2016 to conduct research into Trump.

Prior to that date, the firm’s research was funded during the Republican primary by an unknown Republican client, according to the report.

The Washington Post reported that Fusion GPS gave research documents and reports by former MI6 officer Christopher Steele, who was not directed by the DNC or Clinton’s campaign, to Elias.

One unnamed source told the Washington Post that Elias’ firm did not inform Clinton’s campaign or the DNC of the research firm’s role.

According to the report, multiple sources told the Washington Post it is “standard practice for political campaigns to use law firms to hire outside researchers in order to ensure their work is protected by attorney-client and work product privileges.”

Clinton’s campaign and the DNC, via Elias’ law firm Perkins Coie, split the cost of Fusion GPS’ research, according to the Washington Post, which the firm continued through the end of Oct. 2016.

A Democratic official told TPM that “it doesn’t matter who paid for the research.”

“What matters is there’s a serious, ongoing investigation into these issues being conducted by the Special Prosecutor and multiple Congressional committees,” the official told TPM.

DNC communications director Xochitl Hinojosa told TPM by email, “Tom Perez and the new leadership of the DNC were not involved in any decision-making regarding Fusion GPS, nor were they aware that Perkins Coie was working with the organization.”

“But let’s be clear,” Hinojosa said. “There is a serious federal investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia, and the American public deserves to know what happened.”


Trump last week suggested that “Russia, the FBI or the Dems (or all)” could have paid for the document, which he incorrectly claimed was “discredited.”

While many of the claims in the dossier have not been substantiated, a number of the claims it contains have been reinforced by new information.

Lawyers representing Fusion GPS last week 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 research leading to the so-called Trump dossier.

This post has been updated.

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