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

Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore’s communications director resigned last week amid sexual misconduct allegations numerous women made against Moore, just over a month before the election.

“John Rogers served as communications director for the Roy Moore for U.S. Senate campaign for the last several weeks and we appreciate his valuable contributions to our team,” Moore’s campaign chairman Bill Armistead said in a statement to TPM on Wednesday.

Armistead said that “campaigns make changes throughout the duration of the campaign, as do those working in the campaign.”

“John made the decision to leave the campaign last Friday — any representations to the contrary are false — and we wish him well,” Armistead said.

Rogers confirmed to the Washingtonian by phone that he has resigned from Moore’s campaign, but declined to provide further comment. He did not respond to TPM’s requests for comment.

Numerous women have accused Moore of sexual misconduct, harassment and assault, and elected Republicans—with one notable exception—have called for Moore to drop out of the race.

The exception is President Donald Trump, who has four decades’ worth of sexual misconduct allegations to his own name, and who made it clear on Tuesday that he stands by his endorsement of Moore: “We don’t need a liberal Democrat in that seat.”

Moore has denied any wrongdoing and has painted the allegations against him as a media smear campaign.

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The Trump Organization on Wednesday announced that it has reached a buyout deal to end its management and license agreement regarding its Trump SoHo hotel and apartment building.

The New York Times first reported that the Trump Organization, the President’s former business handed over to his sons to manage while he’s in office, has reached a deal to walk away from the Manhattan property by the end of the year, a little more than a month away.

The Trump Organization said in a release that it has reached an agreement for “the buyout of the remaining term of the management and license agreement of the Trump SoHo Hotel,” which is “anticipated to take place by year-end.”

The project was troubled from the beginning. The SoHo development was also the subject of complaints from private investors who accused the Bayrock Group, a frequent Trump partner, of failing to disclose fraud convictions of two Bayrock partners. The New York Times reported that the development also took “financing from questionable sources in Russia and Kazakhstan.”

Buyers in the development were angry that the Trumps allegedly inflated claims of the project’s success, and the Trump Organization ultimately settled a civil suit in 2011, admitting no wrongdoing and agreeing to refund much of buyers’ deposits.

ProPublica, WNYC and The New Yorker reported in October that the Manhattan district attorney’s Major Economic Crimes Bureau had opened an investigation into Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump, Jr., the President’s eldest children, in 2010.

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr’s team reportedly acquired emails in which the Trump siblings discussed how to coordinate misleading information to give to people interested in condo units.

Marc Kasowitz, one of Trump’s longtime personal attorneys, donated $25,000 to Vance Jr.’s reelection campaign in 2012. According to the report, Vance Jr. returned the donation. He dropped the case against the elder Trump children several months later, and Kasowitz reportedly helped raise an additional $50,000 for his campaign.

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Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE) on Wednesday claimed that President Donald Trump’s top economic adviser Gary Cohn once faked a bad connection to boot the President off a phone call that was interrupting a conversation about taxes.

“We’d been having about a half an hour conversation with Gary, with Marc Short and with Shahira Knight,” Carper said on CNN, referring to Trump’s director of legislative affairs and his top assistant for tax and retirement policy, respectively.

Carper said it was a “great conversation,” albeit one with an unexpected interruption.

“About 30 minutes into the call, Gary gets up and takes a call on his cell phone, comes back into the room,” Carper said. “He says, we have somebody calling in from Asia.”

The disruption, according to Carper, “was the President, which was nice.”

“Nice of him to do that,” Carper said. “Fifteen minutes later, the President is still talking.”

Carper said he gave Cohn a suggestion for how to get Trump off the phone: “It was a room where we’re all sitting around this big square table, and I said, Gary, why don’t you do this, why don’t you just take the phone from, you know, your cell phone back and just say, Mr. President, you’re brilliant! But we’re losing contact, and I think we’re going to lose you now, so good-bye.”

“And that’s what he did, and he hung up,” Carper said. “And then we went back to having the kind of conversation that we needed to.”

“So you’re saying Gary Cohn faked a bad connection to get the president off the phone?” CNN’s John Berman asked Carper.

“Well, I wouldn’t — I don’t want to throw him under the bus,” Carper said. “But yes.”

The White House said Carper’s account was “completely false.”

“Gary Cohn took the phone off speaker and continued to speak with the President privately for several minutes before they concluded the call,” principal deputy press secretary Raj Shah said in a statement to TPM.

This post has been updated.

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Investigators working for Robert Mueller, the special counsel probing Russian interference in the 2016 election, are looking into contacts between White House adviser and President Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and foreign heads of state, the Wall Street Journal reported late Tuesday.

The Wall Street Journal reported, citing unnamed sources familiar with the matter, that Mueller’s investigators have questioned witnesses about Kushner’s involvement in a United Nations resolution condemning Israel’s settlements in disputed territories.

A day before the United Nations security council unanimously passed the resolution, Trump said it “should be vetoed.”

The Wall Street Journal reported that Kushner and Trump’s former chief adviser Steve Bannon were both involved in Israeli officials’ outreach to Trump’s administration regarding the resolution.

Investigators are also making inquiries about Kushner’s meeting in December 2016 with Sergey Gorkov, the head of a Russian state-owned bank that has deep connections to Russia’s intelligence agency, according to the report. The United States added the bank in question, Vnesheconombank, to its list of sanctioned entities in 2014.

As the Wall Street Journal noted, it was not immediately clear why Mueller’s investigators are looking into the matter, and such questions “don’t necessarily indicate suspicion.”

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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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