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

A local Alabama police chief was suspended without pay after making remarks he later claimed were “sarcasm,” accusing Democratic Senate candidate Doug Jones of inappropriately touching him decades earlier.

Killen Police Chief Bryan Hammond was suspended for 15 days without pay, AL.com reported, after posting on Facebook that “silence is consent.”

“On another note, Doug Jones fondled me on a Boy Scout camping trip in 1978,” Hammond wrote in a comment, according to AL.com. “I wasn’t gonna say anything, but I just couldn’t stand the thought of him being a senator. I was ok with it until now. By the way, you can’t see me right now but I’m crying as I type this.”

Hammond told AL.com in a phone interview that none of his claims were true and that he was joking.

“That was sarcasm,” Hammond said.

In a statement to local station WHNT, Hammond said he made the remark about silence being equivalent to consent (it isn’t) “in reference to people ignoring accusations from the opposing side” of political debates.

“One of the others misunderstood the intent of that phrase, so I clarified what my intent was immediately after,” Hammond claimed. “After explaining that it was in reference to the shoe being on the other foot, I gave an example by producing a similar example using the other candidate in my example.”

He said a reporter contacted him about the comment, and said he explained “that the example was in no way true and I had never even met the candidate.”

“I am truly sorry for any of my comments that may have been offensive to anyone,” Hammond said. “I never meant for the comments to be taken seriously, they were meant only as a joke with a friend.”

WHNT captured screenshots of the conversation, which show Hammond’s remarks in limited context. Hammond also made the untrue claim that Jones signed his yearbook, an apparent reference to a similar claim one of Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore’s accusers made in a press conference.

Beverly Young Nelson, one of several women who have come forward with allegations of sexual misconduct against Moore, claimed Moore signed her yearbook when she was in high school, and has offered to hand over the yearbook to Congress so she and Moore can testify under oath on the subject.

Moore has denied all the allegations against him.

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President Donald Trump’s charity, which Trump promised to close last December after the foundation admitted it had violated rules on so-called “self-dealing,” is in the process of dissolving, according to federal filings.

NBC News first reported, citing the Donald J. Trump Foundation’s 2016 Internal Revenue Service filing, that the charity is in the process of closing.

“The foundation announced its intent to dissolve and is seeking approval to distribute its remaining funds” to other charities, according to the filing.

The New York Attorney General’s office in September 2016 ordered the Donald J. Trump foundation to stop fundraising after it found that the charitable foundation had been raising outside money without being properly registered to do so under state law. Trump promised in December 2016 to shut down the charitable foundation to avoid conflicts of interest.

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AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson on Monday said that forfeiting CNN as part of his company’s acquisition of Time Warner, the cable network’s parent company, is off the table. Stephenson said his company would not consider anything else that would look like an abdication of the First Amendment.

“There has been a lot of reporting and speculation whether this is all about CNN,” Stephenson said in a press conference after the Department of Justice filed a complaint to block the merger.

Stephenson said that he doesn’t “know” whether the network, for which President Donald Trump has demonstrated a deep, abiding and vocal enmity, has played any part in the administration’s move to block the acquisition.

“But nobody should be surprised that the question keeps coming up, because we’ve witnessed such an abrupt change in the application of antitrust law here,” he said.

Stephenson said that such a compromise with the Justice Department would be “a nonstarter.”

“The bottom line is that we cannot and we will not be party to any agreement that would even give the perception of compromising the First Amendment protections of the press,” he said. “So any agreement that results in us forfeiting control of CNN, whether directly or indirectly, is a nonstarter.”

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The Department of Justice on Monday filed a lawsuit to block AT&T’s merger with Time Warner, the parent company of President Donald Trump’s longtime cable network enemy CNN.

Makan Delrahim, who leads the antitrust division at the Department of Justice, said in a statement that the merger “would greatly harm American consumers.”

“AT&T/DirecTV’s combination with Time Warner is unlawful,” Delrahim said. “Absent an adequate remedy that would fully prevent the harms this merger would cause, the only appropriate action for the Department of Justice is to seek an injunction from a federal judge blocking the entire transaction.”

Politico first reported Monday afternoon, citing an unnamed source familiar with the matter, that the Justice Department planned to file a lawsuit blocking the merger. CNN also reported the potential lawsuit, citing an unnamed source, as did the Associated Press.

According to CNN, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson said last week that the company would seek an expedited hearing if the Justice Department legally challenged the merger.

The Financial Times and Politico reported earlier in November that the Justice Department told AT&T that it would need to sell off CNN or make other concessions in order to obtain the department’s approval for the merger.

Trump has directed his ire at CNN since he was a candidate, in the early days before he expanded the definition of “fake news” beyond the one network to encompass others he also dislikes.

Read the Justice Department’s filing:

This post has been updated.

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White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Monday told reporters that before they could ask her a question, they would have to list things for which they are thankful.

“This will be our last press briefing before the Thanksgiving holiday in this room,” Sanders said at the start of the daily briefing. “So I want to share a few things that I’m thankful for and I think it would be nice for you guys to do so as well before asking your questions.”

Sanders said it is “no secret” that she is “clearly very thankful” for the White House press corps, as well as her family, faith, first responders, members of the U.S. military and “the incredible privilege of serving this president and the American people.”

“So this is how it’s going to work today, since I’m here and I get to call on you,” she said. “If you want to ask a question, I think it’s only fair, since I’ve shared what I’m thankful for, that you start off with what you’re thankful for. So anybody want to be first on what they’re thankful for?”

Sanders called on American Urban Radio Networks reporter April Ryan first.

“I’m thankful for life. I’m thankful for my children. I’m thankful for 20 years in this job,” Ryan said. “I’m thankful to be able to talk to and question you every single day.”

“I feel the gratefulness there,” Sanders replied.

“Now my question,” Ryan pressed on. “I hope you felt the passion of my thankfulness.”

Later in the briefing, another reporter offered, “I’m very thankful for you calling on me regularly.”

“I am thankful for the First Amendment,” ABC News’ Cecilia Vega added before her question.

“Ooh, yes! We’re thankful for that,” a different reporter chimed in.

Some reporters not in the Brady briefing room also made contributions.

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National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster was unsparingly critical of President Donald Trump at a July dinner with Oracle CEO Safra Catz, according to a report BuzzFeed News published on Monday.

McMaster called Trump an “idiot,” a “dope” and said he has the intelligence of a “kindergartner,” BuzzFeed reported, citing five unnamed sources with knowledge of McMaster’s and Catz’s conversation.

A sixth unnamed source told BuzzFeed News that McMaster made similar comments directly to the source in private, and said Trump did not have the smarts to understand the subjects the National Security Council deals with.

The White House referred TPM’s request for comment to the National Security Council, which did not immediately reply. Michael Anton, a spokesman for the council, told BuzzFeed News that “actual participants in the dinner deny that General McMaster made any of the comments attributed to him by anonymous sources.”

“Those false comments represent the diametric opposite of General McMaster’s actual views,” Anton told BuzzFeed News.

Oracle also vehemently denied that McMaster made any such remarks.

“None of the statements attributed to General McMaster were said,” Oracle senior VP for government affairs Ken Glueck told BuzzFeed News.

Two unnamed sources with knowledge of the situation told BuzzFeed News that members of Trump’s administration threatened retaliation against “several figures with knowledge of the July dinner” if they spoke to BuzzFeed News.

Glueck, however, denied that Oracle issued its response under pressure from the White House: “Ridiculous.”

McMaster would not be the first high-ranking member of Trump’s administration to call his boss’ intelligence into question: Secretary of State Rex Tillerson reportedly called Trump a “moron” at a meeting in July with Trump’s national security team and other members of the administration.

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The New York Times has suspended White House correspondent Glenn Thrush amid allegations of sexual misconduct made in a report Vox published on Monday.

“The behavior attributed to Glenn in this Vox story is very concerning and not in keeping with the standards and values of The New York Times,” Eileen Murphy, the senior vice president of communications for the New York Times, told Vox in a statement. “We intend to fully investigate and while we do, Glenn will be suspended.”

Murphy said the New York Times supports Thrush’s “decision to enter a substance abuse program” and “will not be commenting further” in the meantime.

One 23-year-old woman, who Vox did not name in its report, said Thrush “left her in tears” on a street corner in Washington, D.C., after they shared a few drinks and “she resisted his advances.”

The woman said Thrush tried to hold her hand after they left a bar for a stroll, and led to her to a dimly lit path where he kissed her, causing her to panic. The woman’s friend, fellow journalist Bianca Padró Ocasio, called her and ordered her an Uber.

According to the woman, while she waited for the car, Thrush began kissing her again, but walked off when he noticed that she had started to cry.

Vox’s editorial director Laura McGann, who authored the report, also accused Thrush of unexpectedly kissing her five years ago when they both worked for Politico.

McGann said she “joined Thrush and a handful of other reporters for a few rounds at the Continental, a Politico hangout in Rosslyn, Virginia.”

“At first, nothing seemed strange, until the crowd had dwindled down to Thrush, me, and one other female colleague,” she wrote. “Thrush tossed a $20 bill at her and told her to take a cab and leave us, ‘the grown-ups,’ alone.”

McGann said Thrush “slid into my side of the booth, blocking me in.”

“I was wearing a skirt, and he put his hand on my thigh. He started kissing me,” she wrote. “I pulled myself together and got out of there, shoving him on my way out.”

McGann said Thrush sent her an “apologetic email” in the morning. A male reporter told her recently, McGann said, that Thrush “told him about the incident, except with the roles reversed.”

“I had come onto him, the reporter said Thrush told him, and he had gently shut it down,” McGann, who was a reporter at TPM a decade ago, said. “The source said that Thrush frequently told versions of this story with different young women as the subject.”

Another unnamed Politico staffer said she and Thrush talked for most of the night at a Politico party, where she had a lot to drink before Thrush offered her a ride home, and both of them somehow ended up at her home instead.

“I remember stopping him at one point and saying, ‘Wait, you’re married,'” the staffer said. “I remember that by the time he left, I didn’t have much clothes on.”

The staffer said she did not believe she was pressured or “a victim,” but said she regrets not telling more women—she spoke to two—about Thrush’s behavior.

Another unnamed woman told Vox that Thrush kissed her ear at a Politico party in 2013.

“It all happened very quickly. And he leaned in very quickly,” she told Vox. “At the time, I remember thinking … adults sometimes kiss each other on the cheek. Then sometimes they miss and slobber on your ear. It was my way of thinking this wasn’t as weird as I thought.”

Thrush did not deny the allegations in a response to McGann on Sunday.

“I apologize to any woman who felt uncomfortable in my presence, and for any situation where I behaved inappropriately. Any behavior that makes a woman feel disrespected or uncomfortable is unacceptable,” he said in a statement.

He said the incident with the 23-year-old woman “was a life-changing event” for him.

“The woman involved was upset by my actions and for that I am deeply sorry,” Thrush said. “Over the past several years, I have responded to a succession of personal and health crises by drinking heavily. During that period, I have done things that I am ashamed of, actions that have brought great hurt to my family and friends.”

Thrush said he has “resumed counseling and will soon begin out-patient treatment for alcoholism.”

“I am working hard to repair the damage I have done,” he said.

Thrush and his New York Times colleague and frequent writing partner Maggie Haberman in September announced a book deal with Random House for a book on President Donald Trump’s administration. A Random House spokesperson told Politico, “This matter recently came to our attention and we are looking at it closely and seriously.”

A spokesperson for MSNBC, where Thrush is a contributor, told Politico that the network is “awaiting the outcome of the Times’ investigation.”

“He currently has no scheduled appearances,” the spokesperson told Politico, of Thrush.

This post has been updated.

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Marc Short, the White House’s director of legislative affairs, on Sunday said that if allegations of sexual misconduct against Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore were not “credible,” President Donald Trump would be actively campaigning for him.

“You work for the President. Does the President believe the women or not?” George Stephanopoulos asked Short on ABC News’ “This Week.”

“Obviously, George, if he did not believe that the women’s accusations were credible he would be down campaigning for Roy Moore. He has not done that,” Short replied.

He said Trump “has concerns about the accusations, but he is also concerned that these accusations are 38 years old.”

The earliest accusations of sexual misconduct against Trump himself are barely older than that; one woman told the New York Times in October 2016 that Trump groped her on a flight “more than three decades earlier.”

“I don’t think you have seen him go down there and campaign for him. I don’t think you have seen him issue an endorsement. You have not seen him issue robocalls,” Short said. “You should certainly be able to infer by the fact that he has not gone down to support Roy Moore his discomfort in doing so.”

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President Donald Trump on Sunday said he “should have left” three UCLA basketball players in custody in China because one of the player’s fathers suggested Trump did not have much to do with his son’s release.

“Now that the three basketball players are out of China and saved from years in jail, LaVar Ball, the father of LiAngelo, is unaccepting of what I did for his son and that shoplifting is no big deal,” Trump tweeted. “I should have left them in jail!”

LaVar Ball, the father of LiAngelo Ball, a UCLA freshman who was detained in Hangzhou following allegations of shoplifting, on Friday said “Who?” when asked about Trump’s involvement in his son’s release from custody.

“What was he over there for? Don’t tell me nothing,” LaVar Ball told ESPN. “Everybody wants to make it seem like he helped me out.”

Trump on Wednesday tweeted, “Do you think the three UCLA Basketball Players will say thank you President Trump? They were headed for 10 years in jail!”

All three players thanked Trump and publicly apologized on Wednesday, a day after they returend to Los Angeles.

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Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) has no plans to resign after a radio host accused him of forcibly kissing and groping her years ago, according to a spokesperson.

“No,” a spokesperson for Franken told the Star Tribune on Saturday. “He is spending time with his family in Washington, D.C., and will be through the Thanksgiving holiday.”

According to the spokesperson, Franken is “doing a lot of reflecting.”

Leeann Tweeden, a Los Angeles anchor, on Thursday alleged that Franken “aggressively” kissed her while they were rehearsing for an USO tour in 2006 and later groped her while she was sleeping, an act documented in a photograph she posted.

Franken apologized to Tweeden in two separate statements, asked the Senate for an ethics investigation into himself and said he will “gladly cooperate” with such a probe. Senators in both parties joined his call for an investigation.

Tweeden said she did not come forward “to have him step down.”

“I think Al Franken does a lot of good things in the Senate, you know, I think that’s for the people of Minnesota to decide,” she said on Friday. “I just wanted him to understand what he did was wrong.”

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