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

Kansas state Rep. Steve Alford (R) apologized on Monday for claiming that black people respond “the worst” to recreational drugs “because of their character makeup” and “genetics.”

“I was wrong, I regret my comments and I sincerely apologize to anyone whom I have hurt,” Alford said in a statement to the Topeka Capital-Journal.

Alford said he has “seen firsthand how drug abuse destroys lives,” including in his own family, and said he is “committed to fighting the spread of addiction in our state.”

Alford announced later Tuesday, according to the Wichita Eagle, that he had resigned his positions as chairman of the House Children and Seniors Committee and vice-chairman of the Child Welfare Task Force in the Kansas state legislature.

The Garden City Telegram first reported Alford’s remarks about marijuana use, which he made at a public event on Saturday.

“My wife is a magistrate judge and she says basically anyway you say it, marijuana is an entry drug into the higher drugs,” Alford said.

“What you really need to do is go back in the ’30s and when they outlawed all types of drugs in Kansas and across the United States,” he added. “One of the reasons why, I hate to say it, was that the African Americans, they were basically users and they basically responded the worst off of those drugs just because of their character makeup, their genetics and that.”

According to the Garden City Telegram, Alford was referring to Harry Anslinger’s tenure as the founding commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics (FBN). Anslinger campaigned for marijuana prohibition because of what he called “its effect on the degenerate races” and claimed that “reefer makes darkies think they’re as good as white men.”

“There are 100,000 total marijuana smokers in the U.S., and most are Negroes, Hispanics, Filipinos and entertainers. Their Satanic music, jazz and swing result from marijuana use,” Anslinger also said. “This marijuana causes white women to seek sexual relations with Negroes, entertainers and any others.”

Before apologizing, according to the Capital-Journal’s report, Alford claimed his remarks had nothing to do with race.

“Basically, the question of marijuana was coming up, and basically, what I’m really saying is that I’m against marijuana because it’s an entry drug into everything else,” he said to the Capital-Journal.

Alford said somebody at the event called him a racist, but claimed, “I’m about as far from being a racist as I could get.”

Alford did not immediately respond to TPM’s request for comment.

This post has been updated.

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The White House on Monday made it clear: President Donald Trump’s former chief strategist Steve Bannon is in Trump’s bad books for good, after criticizing his eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., for meeting with a Russian lawyer in June 2016.

“I don’t believe there is any way back for Mr. Bannon at this point,” deputy White House press secretary J. Hogan Gidley told reporters aboard Air Force One, according to a pool report. “I just don’t think there’s any way back.”

Gidley called Bannon’s remarks “repugnant” and “grotesque,” and claimed it was “very obvious” he worked with Michael Wolff, the author of “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House,” where Wolff first reported Bannon’s comments.

“When you go after somebody’s family in the matter which he did, two of the President’s children are serving this nation, sacrificing in their service, it is repugnant,” Gidley said. “It is grotesque and I challenge anybody to go and talk about somebody’s family and see if that person doesn’t come back and comes back hard.”

Bannon on Sunday said his remarks calling Trump Jr.’s meeting with the Russian lawyer “treasonous” and “unpatriotic” were actually directed at Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chair.

He did not apologize to Trump Jr., but said he has “regret” regarding his two-day delay in responding to initial reports on his remarks.

On Monday, Wolff pushed back on Bannon’s denial.

“I don’t want to put him in more hot water than he is already in, but that statement is false,” Wolff said. “It was not directed at Manafort. It was directed directly at Don Jr.”

Read an editor’s backgrounder (Prime access) on this story »


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The CEO of Macmillan, the parent company of the publisher behind Michael Wolff’s “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House,” on Monday said the company will not acquiesce to a demand from President Donald Trump’s lawyer to cease distributing the book.

In a memo to employees, obtained by TPM, Macmillan CEO John Sargent said the letter from Trump’s lawyer Charles Harder was “a clear effort by the President of the United States to intimidate a publisher into halting publication of an important book on the workings of the government.”

“That is something that no American court would order as it is flagrantly unconstitutional,” Sargent said.

He cited the Pentagon Papers case, which involved the leak of a secret Defense Department report on U.S. involvement in Vietnam, The New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, a case which established the actual malice standard for libel claims, and The Nebraska Press Association v. Stuart, a case where the Supreme Court ruled prior restraint unconstitutional.

Sargent said Harder’s cease-and-desist letter was “an attempt to achieve” prior restraint, or government action that prohibits certain kinds of speech or expression, and said the publisher will send a legal response to Trump later Monday.

“There is no ambiguity here. This is an underlying principle of our democracy. We cannot stand silent,” Sargent said. “We need to respond strongly for Michael Wolff and his book, but also for all authors and all their books, now and in the future. And as citizens we must demand that President Trump understand and abide by the First Amendment of our Constitution.”

Read Sargent’s memo:

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Michael Wolff, the author of “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House,” on Monday said former White House strategist Steve Bannon’s claim that he meant to criticize Paul Manafort rather than Donald Trump Jr. for a 2016 meeting with a Russian lawyer they both attended was “false.”

“Listen, I like Steve. I’m grateful for the time he gave me, the insights he gave me, and I don’t want to put him in more hot water than he is already in, but that statement is false,” Wolff said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

The Guardian last week reported, based on Wolff’s book, that Bannon called Trump Jr.’s meeting with a Russian lawyer “treasonous” and “unpatriotic” and said that special counsel Robert Mueller, whose team is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election, was “going to crack Don Junior like an egg on national TV.”

On Sunday, Bannon said his remarks were actually aimed at Manafort, who was Trump’s campaign chair during the 2016 election. He did not apologize to Trump Jr.

Wolff on Monday said that Bannon’s claim was untrue, and that Trump Jr. was the true target of Bannon’s original remarks.

“It was not directed at Manafort,” Wolff said. “It was directed directly at Don Jr.”

In response to Bannon’s comments in the book, President Donald Trump claimed that Bannon “lost his mind” after he left the White House, and said Bannon had “nothing to do” with his administration.

The White House and conservative mega-donor Rebekah Mercer both denounced Bannon’s remarks. According to several reports, board members at conservative outlet Breitbart News, where Bannon serves as executive chairman and Mercer is a member of the board and part owner, also discussed whether to part ways with Bannon.

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Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon on Sunday said his comments calling a meeting between Donald Trump Jr., the President’s eldest son, and a Russian lawyer in June 2016 “treasonous” and “unpatriotic” were actually aimed at President Donald Trump’s former campaign chair Paul Manafort.

Bannon did not apologize to Trump Jr. but called him “a patriot and a good man” who has “been relentless in his advocacy for his father” and the President’s political agenda.

“My comments were aimed at Paul Manafort, a seasoned campaign professional with experience and knowledge of how the Russians operate,” Bannon said in a statement to Axios. “He should have known they are duplicitous, cunning and not our friends. To reiterate, those comments were not aimed at Don Jr.”

Manafort in October pleaded not guilty to 12 counts including conspiracy against the U.S., conspiracy to launder money and making false statements, the first charges to come from special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Bannon on Sunday said that his support for Trump “is also unwavering.”

“I regret that my delay in responding to the inaccurate reporting regarding Don Jr has diverted attention from the president’s historical accomplishments in the first year of his presidency,” he said.

After the Guardian on Wednesday reported Bannon’s alleged remarks criticizing Trump Jr’s 2016 meeting, which Michael Wolf first reported in his book “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House,” Trump tore into his former strategist.

“Steve Bannon has nothing to do with me or my Presidency. When he was fired, he not only lost his job, he lost his mind,” Trump said in a statement. “Steve pretends to be at war with the media, which he calls the opposition party, yet he spent his time at the White House leaking false information to the media to make himself seem far more important than he was.”

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders subsequently claimed on Thursday that she was “not aware” that Trump and Bannon “were ever particularly close.”

Sanders also suggested that conservative media outlet Breitbart News, where Bannon serves as executive chairman, “should look at and consider” parting ways with him.

Conservative megadonor Rebekah Mercer, a part owner of Breitbart News and member of its board, also said on Thursday that her family did not support Bannon’s “recent actions and statements.”

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President Donald Trump on Sunday continued to compare his detractors to those who questioned former President Ronald Reagan’s fitness to serve.

“I’ve had to put up with the Fake News from the first day I announced that I would be running for President,” Trump tweeted. “Ronald Reagan had the same problem and handled it well. So will I!”

He called Michael Wolff’s book “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House” a “Fake Book, written by a totally discredited author.”

It was not immediately clear what element of former President Ronald Reagan’s time in office Trump was referring to, but on Saturday Trump claimed that Democrats and the media were “taking out the old Ronald Reagan playbook and screaming mental stability and intelligence.”

While Reagan was in office, White House doctors said he was mentally fit to serve as president. Five years after the end of his term, however, Reagan was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.

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President Donald Trump on Sunday attacked CNN host Jake Tapper after Tapper ended a contentious interview with White House aide Stephen Miller by telling Miller that he had “wasted” the audience’s time with a performance for “one viewer.”

“Jake Tapper of Fake News CNN just got destroyed in his interview with Stephen Miller of the Trump Administration,” Trump tweeted. “Watch the hatred and unfairness of this CNN flunky!”

“Judge for yourself,” Tapper replied.

Tapper on Sunday ended his interview with Miller after the White House aide refused to answer his questions and instead demanded “three minutes” to tout Trump’s accomplishments and base.

“I get it. There’s one viewer that you care about right now and you’re being obsequious, you’re being a factotum in order to please him, okay?” Tapper said, as Miller continued to speak over him. “And I think I’ve wasted enough of my viewers’ time.”

He then ended the interview.

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Michael Wolff, the author of “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House,” a book which has since drawn its eponymous response from its equally eponymous subject, on Sunday said that President Donald Trump’s administration is constantly aware of the 25th Amendment.

On NBC News’ “Meet the Press,” Wolff said that staff members brought up the 25th Amendment, which allows for the president’s removal from office if he is unable to do his job, “all the time.”

“Actually, they would say, sort of in the mid-period, ‘We’re not at a 25th Amendment level yet,'” Wolff said. “And then this went on: ‘Okay, this is a little 25th Amendment.’ The 25th Amendment is a concept that is alive every day in the White House.”

Asked whether he violated journalistic off-the-record agreements with sources quoted or cited in his book, Wolff said, “I did not. I absolutely did not.”

With regard to his access to members of Trump’s administration, Wolff said, “I literally kind of knocked on the door and said ‘Can I come in?” and they said, ‘Okay’. And I came in. I sat on the couch.”

Wolff said he “went into this with absolutely no agenda whatsoever.”

“I tried to be inobtrusive,” he said. “My goal was to keep going until somebody said, ‘Go away.'”

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CNN host Jake Tapper on Sunday ended an interview with White House aide Stephen Miller after Miller dodged Tapper’s questions about the White House’s irate response to Michael Wolff’s book “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House.”

Miller on CNN’s “State of the Union” said former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, who Wolff quoted criticizing Donald Trump Jr. for meeting with a Russian lawyer in June 2016, was “vindictive” and “out of touch with reality.”

Miller also called Bannon’s comments “grotesque” and defended President Donald Trump’s claim that he is a “genius.”

“Which happens to be a true statement,” Miller said.

“And I’m sure he’s watching and he’s happy that you said that,” Tapper replied.

“Jake, you can be — no, no. You can be condescending,” Miller shot back.

“I’m not being condescending. I’m trying to get to the point that Steve Bannon—” Tapper said, before Miller interrupted.

“That was a snide remark,” he said.

“Why is that snide?” Tapper remarked, as Miller continued to speak over him.

“You get 24 hours of negative anti-Trump hysterical coverage on this network,” Miller said.

“I think the viewers right now can ascertain who is being hysterical,” Tapper replied.

Miller ducked Tapper’s other questions about Trump’s recent tweets, Bannon’s influence on Trump’s presidency and policy and a New York Times report in September 2017 that Miller in May helped compose a list of reasons to fire James Comey as director of the FBI.

“I get it. There’s one viewer that you care about right now and you’re being obsequious, you’re being a factotum in order to please him, okay?” Tapper finally interjected. “And I think I’ve wasted enough of my viewers’ time.”

He then ended the interview as Miller continued to try to speak over him.

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Conservative megadonor Rebekah Mercer on Thursday said her family does not support former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon’s “recent actions and statements,” a rare but blunt rebuke of her former associate.

“My family and I have not communicated with Steve Bannon in many months and have provided no financial support to his political agenda, nor do we support his recent actions and statements,” Mercer said in a statement to the Washington Post.

Mercer, who helped finance and advise President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign, said she supports “President Trump and the platform upon which he was elected.”

Mercer and her father Robert Mercer are part owners of Breitbart News, the conservative news organization where Bannon served as chairman before joining Trump’s campaign and where he returned to his position after leaving the White House.

Bannon allegedly accused Donald Trump Jr., the President’s eldest son, of being “treasonous” and “unpatriotic,” the Guardian reported on Wednesday, citing journalist Michael Wolff’s upcoming book “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House.”

The Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday, citing an unnamed source familiar with conversations between members of Breitbart’s board, that the Mercers and other members were discussing whether to give Bannon the boot after Wolff’s reporting on his alleged remarks.

The Washington Post also reported, citing unnamed sources familiar with Breitbart News, that discussions have begun there about the possibility of removing Bannon from the role.

Mercer told the Washington Post that she is still committed to supporting the right-wing news organization, though it was not clear from the report whether that support extended to Bannon.

In another report published Thursday, the Washington Post cited an unnamed source familiar with Bannon’s exchanges who said Bannon had alienated Mercer by telling other conservative donors that he was certain she would support him if he decided to run for president.

The White House on Thursday appeared to encourage Breitbart News to consider the possibility of ousting its chairman.

“I certainly think that it’s something they should look at and consider,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said at her daily briefing.

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