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

White House chief of staff John Kelly expressed to President Donald Trump that he is willing to resign over his handling of domestic abuse allegations against former staff secretary Rob Porter, a scandal which has overtaken the White House in just two days, ABC News reported on Friday.

CNN reported that White House spokesman J. Hogan Gidley pushed back on the story and said that Kelly has not offered his resignation, though the ABC News report only addressed Kelly’s willingness to do so.

ABC News reported, citing unnamed sources who have spoken to Trump and Kelly, that Kelly told Trump in the last 24 hours that he is willing to step down over the ongoing situation. Unnamed sources familiar with the matter told ABC News that Kelly’s departure does not appear imminent, however.

Longtime Trump friend and confidante Tom Barrack was approached about filling the job of chief of staff, according to ABC News, but said he will not take the position.

Since the allegations against Porter first surfaced on Tuesday, Kelly has offered wildly differing responses and has become a center of attention: He first defended Porter as “a man of true integrity and honor,” and reportedly urged Porter to stay in his job, then claimed to be “shocked by the allegations.”

According to several reports, however, Kelly learned about the allegations against Porter last fall, and became aware several weeks ago that Porter could not obtain a full security clearance because one of his ex-wives had obtained a protective order against him in 2010.

On Friday morning, according to the Washington Post, Kelly told senior staffers to push a more flattering account of his response to the allegations, though staff members expressed disbelief in the narrative Kelly instructed them to communicate.

Read More →

White House chief of staff John Kelly on Friday told senior staff to push yet another account of the events leading up to former staff secretary Rob Porter’s ouster amid abuse allegations, though staffers found his story at odds with the facts, the Washington Post reported.

The Washington Post reported, citing two unnamed senior officials, that Kelly told senior staff to communicate that he acted to oust Porter within 40 minutes after he learned that the allegations against Porter were credible.

“He told the staff he took immediate and direct action,” one official told the Washington Post, but said that after the meeting, staff members expressed disbelief at Kelly’s account.

The officials also told the Washington Post that Kelly instructed staffers to communicate that he cares about domestic violence.

The White House declined to comment to the Washington Post.

After the Daily Mail on Tuesday reported that both of Porter’s ex-wives, Jennifer Willoughby and Colbie Holderness, alleged that Porter was abusive, Kelly defended Porter as “a man of true integrity and honor.”

“I can’t say enough good things about him,” Kelly said. “He is a friend, a confidante and a trusted professional. I am proud to serve alongside him.”

The Washington Post and Axios reported that Kelly urged Porter to stay in his job, and indicated that he believed Porter’s vehement denial of both women’s accounts.

A day later, after the Daily Mail published a photo of Holderness with a black eye she said Porter gave her, Porter resigned. In a new statement, Kelly claimed he was “shocked by the new allegations,” but continued to defend Porter.

I stand by my previous comments of the Rob Porter that I have come to know since becoming Chief of Staff, and believe every individual deserves the right to defend their reputation,” he said.

Read More →

FBI Director Chris Wray on Friday told bureau employees to “stay laser focused on doing great work” after the release of a dud memo that House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes’ (R-CA) staff wrote accusing the FBI and Department of Justice of acting improperly.

“While there’s no shortage of opinions about us right now, nobody has the same vantage point on the FBI that I do,” Wray wrote in a memo to FBI employees, according to NBC News. “I wish every American could see what I see.”

He praised employees for having “the highest level of integrity, the strongest work ethic, the greatest consideration and kindness for your FBI family, and a level of fiercely focused professionalism that is unrivaled anywhere in the world.”

“In the end, actions speak louder than words,” Wray wrote. “Talk is cheap; the work you do is what will endure.”

He said there is “real strength in remembering that,” and advised employees to “remember: keep calm and tackle hard.”

Read More →

President Donald Trump in December asked Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein whether he was on Trump’s “team,” CNN reported Wednesday.

The reported comments are the latest example in a troubling pattern of Trump appearing to request loyalty from Justice Department or FBI officials, who have traditionally operated independently of the White House’s political agenda.

Citing unnamed sources familiar with a meeting between Trump and Rosenstein, the network reported that Trump wanted to know the direction of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

According to CNN, Trump also asked Rosenstein whether he was “on my team.”

“Of course, we’re all on your team, Mr. President,” Rosenstein responded, according to the report. On the subject of Mueller’s investigation, CNN reported, Rosenstein demurred.

Trump also brought up Rosenstein’s upcoming testimony before the House Judiciary Committee, CNN reported, citing an unnamed source briefed on the matter.

Another source told CNN that Trump made suggestions to members of Congress regarding what they should ask Rosenstein during the hearing.

News outlets have previously reported that Trump has pressed members of his administration about whether they are loyal supporters of his. He reportedly asked former FBI director James Comey in January 2017 whether he would pledge loyalty. In June 2017, Comey said he “got the sense” from Trump during a private dinner that his “job would be contingent” on whether he “demonstrated loyalty.”

The Washington Post and New York Times reported last week that in May 2016, after he abruptly terminated Comey, Trump asked the new acting FBI director Andrew McCabe, now also ousted, who he voted for in the 2016 election.

Trump has turned his frustration with Mueller’s ongoing investigation toward Rosenstein in recent weeks, CNN reported last week. Trump has even floated the idea of firing him as well, though advisers have so far convinced him otherwise.

Legal experts told TPM on Monday that if during his investigation Mueller finds that Trump broke the law, he would need Rosenstein’s approval to act on that finding.

Read More →

Missouri attorney general Josh Hawley (R) last month blamed the state’s “human trafficking crisis” on the sexual revolution of the 1960s, the Kansas City Star reported Wednesday.

Citing audio it obtained of Hawley’s remarks at a “Pastors and Pews” event in December 2017, the Kansas City Star reported that Hawley said “the sexual revolution has led to exploitation of women on a scale that we would never have imagined, never have imagined.”

“We have a human trafficking crisis in our state and in this city and in our country because people are willing to purchase women, young women, and treat them like commodities,” Hawley said, according to the report. “There is a market for it. Why is there? Because our culture has completely lost its way.”

Hawley claimed that “the false gospel of ‘anything goes’ ends in this road of slavery.”

“It ends in the slavery and the exploitation of the most vulnerable among us. It ends in the slavery and exploitation of young women. It will destroy our families,” he said, per the Kansas City Star. “You know what I’m talking about, the 1960s, 1970s, it became commonplace in our culture among our cultural elites, Hollywood, and the media, to talk about, to denigrate the biblical truth about husband and wife, man and woman.”

Hawley is running for the Republican nomination to challenge incumbent Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) in the state’s 2018 Senate election.

One of his opponents for the party nomination, Courtland Sykes, has already made waves on the gender and sexual politics front by claiming that feminists have “nasty, snake-filled heads” and are “career-obsessed banshees” and “nail-biting manophobic hell-bent feminist she-devils.”

Read More →

Donald Trump Jr., President Donald Trump’s eldest son, on Tuesday claimed he “got a leg workout” from standing up in agreement so often during his father’s first official State of the Union address.

“I think it was phenomenal,” Trump Jr., who watched the speech from the gallery, told Fox News’ Sean Hannity. “I mean, and you could see it, not just from the Republicans. I mean, I got a leg workout just standing up every five seconds because he hit every point.”

While Trump got his share of standing ovations during the speech, which clocked in at one hour and 20 minutes and was the third-longest of its kind in the last 50 years, they did not come every five seconds.

Read More →

President Donald Trump on Tuesday made a point of noting the patriotism of those who “proudly stand for the national anthem” in his first State of the Union address, apparently reviving his enmity with NFL players who knelt during the anthem as an act of protest.

“Young patriots like Preston teach all of us about our civic duty as Americans,” Trump said, referring to a young guest who organized the placement of American flags and red carnations on U.S. military graves. “Preston’s reverence for those who have served our Nation reminds us why we salute our flag, why we put our hands on our hearts for the pledge of allegiance, and why we proudly stand for the national anthem.”

Trump in September 2017 went on an extended tear against NFL players who knelt during the national anthem, many of whom did so to protest racism and police brutality. During a rally in Alabama, he said that any “son of a bitch” who protests during the national anthem should be fired.

Read More →

President Donald Trump boasted on Tuesday, during his first State of the Union address, that the U.S. stock market “has smashed one record after another.”

Trump has often cited the stock market as a marker of his presidency’s success, and during the official address he claimed it has gained “$8 trillion and more in value in just this short period of time.”

“The great news for Americans’ 401k, retirement, pension, and college savings accounts have gone through the roof,” Trump said.

His remarks appeared at odds with current market data; the Dow Jones industrial average closed Tuesday nearly 363 points down after its biggest two-day drop since the Brexit vote in June 2016 sparked uncertainty.

Read More →

The White House on Tuesday released excerpts of President Donald Trump’s first State of the Union address, scheduled for later in the evening, to pool reporters.

  • Together, we are building a SAFE, STRONG, and PROUD America.
  • We want every American to know the dignity of a hard day’s work; we want every child to be safe in their home at night, and we want every citizen to be proud of this land that we love.
  • Just as I promised the American People from this podium 11 months ago, we enacted the biggest tax cuts and reform in American history.
  • Our massive tax cuts provide tremendous relief for the Middle Class and small businesses.
  • Since we passed tax cuts, roughly 3 million workers have already gotten tax cut bonuses – many of them thousands of dollars per worker.
  • This is our New American Moment. There has never been a better time to start living the American dream.
  • Tonight, I want to talk about what kind of future we are going to have, and what kind of nation we are going to be. All of us, together, as one team, one people, and one American family.
  • Americans love their country. And they deserve a government that shows them the same love and loyalty in return.
  • For the last year we have sought to restore the bonds of trust between our citizens and their government.
  • In our drive to make Washington accountable, we have eliminated more regulations in our first year than any administration in history.
  • We have ENDED the war on American Energy – and we have ENDED the War on CLEAN COAL. We are now an exporter of energy to the world.
  • America has also finally turned the page on decades of unfair trade deals that sacrificed our prosperity and shipped away our companies, our jobs and our nation’s wealth.
  • America is a nation of builders. We built the Empire State Building in just one year – isn’t it a disgrace that it can now take ten years just to get a permit approved for a simple road?
  • I am asking both parties to come together to give us the safe, fast, reliable, and modern infrastructure our economy needs and our people deserve.
  • Struggling communities, especially immigrant communities, will also be helped by immigration policies that focus on the best interests of American Workers and American Families.
  • So tonight I am extending an open hand to work with members of both parties, Democrats and Republicans, to protect our citizens, of every background, color, and creed.
  • As we rebuild America’s strength and confidence at home, we are also restoring our strength and standing abroad.
  • Last year I pledged that we would work with our allies to extinguish ISIS from the face of the earth. One year later, I’m proud to report that the coalition to defeat ISIS has liberated almost 100 percent of the territory once held by these killers in Iraq and Syria. But there is much more work to be done. We will continue our fight until ISIS is defeated.
  • Past experience has taught us that complacency and concessions only invite aggression and provocation. I will not repeat the mistakes of the past Administrations that got us into this dangerous position.