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

The Cold War between President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has iced over into a nuclear winter, the New York Times reported on Tuesday.

The New York Times reported, citing more than a dozen unnamed sources briefed on McConnell’s and Trump’s working relationship, that the uneasy partnership has become “a feud of mutual resentment and sometimes outright hostility.”

According to the report, McConnell “has privately expressed uncertainty that Mr. Trump will be able to salvage his administration” after a tumultuous summer, and has not spoken to the President in weeks.

Before silence descended between the two Republican leaders, according to the New York Times, Trump and McConnell had a “profane shouting match” on a phone call earlier in August.

In that conversation, Trump accused McConnell of bungling Obamacare repeal and suggested that McConnell had not sufficiently protected him from the federal investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, unnamed Republicans briefed on the conversation told the New York Times.

On McConnell’s part, the New York Times reported, citing unnamed sources who have spoken with the Senate leader, he described the President as completely unwilling to learn how to govern and has questioned whether Trump is a fit leader for the Republican Party as it heads into the 2018 midterm elections.

Earlier in August, McConnell appeared to be battening down the hatches against Trump’s onslaught of tweets and public criticism. His office referred TPM to the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) amid a barrage of remarks from Trump, who said McConnell’s failure to pass an Obamacare repeal was “a disgrace.”

McConnell has strong support from his conference and is relatively secure in his position as a result, but some of his colleagues in the Senate are less lucky. Vulnerable Republicans like Sens. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and Dean Heller (R-NV) have drawn Trump’s ire, resulting in a presidential tantrum that could spill over into the 2018 midterm elections and have lasting consequences for the size of McConnell’s majority.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Tuesday said President Donald Trump will not discuss or act “today” on the possibility of pardoning former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

“There will be no discussion of that today at any point, and no action will be taken on that front at any point today,” Sanders told pool reporters on Air Force One.

Trump last week said he was “seriously” considering pardoning Arpaio, who was convicted in July of criminal contempt of court.

Arpaio on Monday said he had no idea whether Trump would act on that consideration.

“So what’s the scoop? Will he pardon me?” Arpaio said to NBC News. “Who knows, I don’t know.”

Trump is scheduled to host a reelection campaign rally for himself in Phoenix, Arizona, late Tuesday evening, but Arpaio told CNN he had not been invited.

The president of Pennsylvania State University on Tuesday announced that prominent white nationalist Richard Spencer “is not welcome to speak” on the college’s campus.

University president Eric J. Barron said in a statement that the college “evaluated a request” for Spencer to speak on campus in the fall and “determined that Mr. Spencer is not welcome.”

“The First Amendment does not require our University to risk imminent violence,” Barron said. “After critical assessment by campus police, in consultation with state and federal law enforcement officials, we have determined that Mr. Spencer is not welcome on our campus, as this event at this time presents a major security risk to students, faculty, staff and visitors to campus.”

Barron said he disagrees “profoundly with the content that has been presented publicly about this speaker’s views which are abhorrent and contradictory to our University’s values.”

“There is no place for hatred, bigotry or racism in our society and on our campuses,” he said. “It is the likelihood of disruption and violence, not the content, however odious, that drives our decision.”

Penn State director of news and media relations Lisa Powers told the Daily Collegian, the university’s student-operated newspaper, that the school received the request from “an individual who claims to be a student at Georgia State University, and an acolyte to Richard Spencer.”

“We’ve received no request from Spencer himself or any organization associated with him,” Powers told the Daily Collegian.

In response to violence that erupted on August 12 at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, Texas A&M University canceled a September rally where Spencer was scheduled to speak.

The colleges are among a wide swath of corporations, universities and localities pushing back against white nationalist groups in the aftermath of the rally.

Bret Stephens, a conservative opinion columnist for the New York Times, on Tuesday apologized for comparing Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to genocidal Cambodian dictator Pol Pot.

“I let rhetorical exuberance get the better of me,” Stephens tweeted.

He said Tillerson is “in no way” comparable to the Cambodian dictator.

“Not remotely or by analogy,” Stephens said. “I apologize.”

Stephens made the comparison on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” where he said Tillerson “really is up there as a nominee for worst secretary of state ever.”

He cited Tillerson’s management of the State Department, where a large number of senior positions remain unfilled.

“The State Department is also part of the machinery of government and that machinery has to run in order for normal things to happen, like having relationships with foreign countries or having consular services for U.S. people,” he said. “And Tillerson seems to be of a kind of Maoist school in which it’s like, maybe it’s Pol Pot.”

“Wow,” co-host Joe Scarborough said. “If that is in fact the case, that is like one of the worst secretary of states of all time.”

“I don’t mean the Killing Fields,” Stephens added, referring to the mass grave sites where more than a million people were killed and buried during the Communist regime Pol Pot led. “I mean the year zero mentality, which is blow it all up, see what happens, wait for a while and then try to arrange the pieces as you see fit.”

Vice President Mike Pence on Tuesday said he would rather build more monuments to “tell the whole story of America” than tear down Confederate monuments in public spaces.

On “Fox and Friends,” Pence said the decision to keep or take down the monuments “should always be a local decision, and with regard to the U.S. capital should be state decisions.”

“But I’m someone who believes in more monuments, not less monuments,” he said. “What we ought to do is we ought to remember our history. But we also ought to celebrate the progress that we’ve made since that history.”

Pence said “communities can have conversations about what displays happen.”

“We ought to be celebrating the men and women who have helped our nation move toward a more perfect union and tell the whole story of America,” he said. “What we have to walk away from is a desire by some to erase parts of our history just in the name of some contemporary political cause.”


President Donald Trump on Monday announced that his administration’s strategy for the war in Afghanistan would be predicated upon unannounced military operations, nondisclosure of troop numbers, unfixed schedules and “killing terrorists.”

In his first nationally televised prime-time speech since his address in January to a joint session of Congress, the President laid out a strategy with several “pillars” but very little specificity about the United States’ ongoing involvement in Afghanistan.

Trump said his “original instinct was to pull out” of that country, but that after studying the conflict he came to certain “fundamental conclusions about America’s core interests in Afghanistan.”

“First, our nation must seek an honorable and enduring outcome worthy of the tremendous sacrifices that have been made,” Trump said. “Second, the consequences of a rapid exit are both predictable and unacceptable.”

“A hasty withdrawal,” he said, “would create a vacuum that terrorists, including ISIS and Al Qaeda, would instantly fill just as happened before Sept. 11.”

Trump cited “the extraordinary sacrifice of blood and treasure” since the Sept. 11 attacks and said the United States “mistakenly withdrew from Iraq” in 2011.

“We cannot repeat in Afghanistan the mistake our leaders made in Iraq,” he said.

Trump claimed that when he became President, he “was given a bad and very complex hand” and so decided to move forward with a multi-pronged strategy.

“A core pillar of our new strategy is a shift from a time-based approach to one based on conditions,” he said.

To that end, Trump said the United States would no longer “announce in advance the dates we intend to begin or end military options” or “talk about numbers of troops or our plans for further military activities.”

“I will not say when we are going to attack, but attack we will,” he said.

Another strategy, according to Trump, would be “the integration of all instruments of American power, diplomatic, economic and military, toward a successful outcome.” He did not clarify how that would work.

Trump said the United States “will not dictate to the Afghan people how to live, or how to govern their own complex society,” and summed that prong of the strategy up tersely: “We are not nation building again. We are killing terrorists.”

He described “terrorists who slaughter innocent people” as “nothing but thugs and criminals and predators and, that’s right, losers.”

Trump also zeroed in on the role Pakistan plays in providing “safe haven” to terrorists in the region, saying the U.S. needs to “change the approach and how to deal with Pakistan.”

“It is time for Pakistan to demonstrate its commitment to civilization, order, and to peace,” he said.

The President declared that he had “already lifted restrictions the previous administration placed on our war fighters that prevented the secretary of defense and our commanders in the field from fully and swiftly waging battle against the enemy.”

“We will also expand authority for American armed forces to target the terrorist and criminal networks that sow violence and chaos throughout Afghanistan,” he said, but did not specify how.

The President opened those remarks with a nod to his statement about the violence that erupted at a white nationalist rally earlier this month in Charlottesville, Virginia. However, he did not mention the city or groups involved by name, as he had after two days of intensifying backlash to his initial comments blaming “many sides” for a car attack that killed one counter-protester and injured at least 19 others.

“The soldier understands what we as a nation too often forget, that a wound inflicted upon a single member of our community is a wound inflicted upon us all,” Trump said. “When we open our hearts to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice, no place for bigotry and no tolerance for hate.”

This post has been updated.

President Donald Trump on Monday acknowledged that his newly announced strategy for the war in Afghanistan was at odds with his previous statements on the subject.

“My original instinct was to pull out, and historically I like following my instincts,” Trump said in a nationally televised address at Fort Myer in Arlington, Virginia. “But all my life I’ve heard that decisions are much different when you sit behind the desk in the Oval Office.”

In 2013 and 2014, Trump called for a swift withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan and harshly criticized former President Barack Obama’s strategy.

Trump said in his address that in studying the conflict, he came to “three fundamental conclusions about America’s core interests in Afghanistan.”

“First, our nation must seek an honorable and enduring outcome worthy of the tremendous sacrifices that have been made,” Trump said.

His second conclusion, Trump said, was that “the consequences of a rapid exit” would be “both predictable and unacceptable.”

“A hasty withdrawal would create a vacuum that terrorists, including ISIS and al-Qaeda, would instantly fill just as happened before Sept. 11,” he said. “Third and finally, I concluded that the security threats we face in Afghanistan and the broader region are immense.”

Trump lamented that when he entered office, he “was given a bad and very complex hand,” and said his decisions would mean U.S. military strategy in Afghanistan would “change dramatically.”

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) on Monday announced that he will skip President Donald Trump’s scheduled campaign-style rally Tuesday in Trump’s first visit to the state since he won the presidency.

Ducey’s spokesman Daniel Scarpinato said in a statement to the Arizona Republic that the governor will instead be “working with law enforcement” to ensure security at the event in Phoenix.

“Gov. Ducey’s focus has been working with law enforcement toward a safe event in downtown Phoenix for all those involved and in the area,” Scarpinato said. “That will continue to be his priority during the event and afterwards.”

Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton (D) on Wednesday called on Trump to postpone the rally after violence erupted at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. Stanton criticized Trump’s reported plan to “announce a pardon for former Sheriff Joe Arpaio” at the rally.

“It will be clear that his true intent is to enflame emotions and further divide our nation,” Stanton said. “It is my hope that more sound judgment prevails and that he delays his visit.”

President Donald Trump’s administration on Monday took a moment in the afternoon to observe the first total solar eclipse to pass over the United States from one coast to the other since 1918.

White House pool reporter Ted Mann, from the Wall Street Journal, tweeted updates from the nation’s capital, which was not in the path of totality and saw a partial solar eclipse that peaked at 2:42 p.m ET.

Scientists warned during the lead-up to the eclipse that looking directly at the sun during the phenomenon could result in permanent eye damage, but according to Mann, Trump looked at the sun despite a shouted warning.

He and first lady Melania Trump appeared to don protective eyewear as the eclipse progressed.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, and National Counterintelligence and Security Center Director William Evanina hold a briefing at the Justice Department in Washington, Friday, Aug. 4, 2017, on leaks of classified material threatening national security, one week after President Donald Trump complained that he was weak on preventing such disclosures. (AP Andrew Harnik)
President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump wear protective glasses as they view the solar eclipse, Monday, Aug. 21, 2017, at the White House in Washington. (AP Andrew Harnik)