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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

President Donald Trump is scheduled to deliver his first State of the Union address on Tuesday at 9:10 p.m. ET. Watch live below:

Former Fox News anchor Andrea Tantaros on Monday alleged that Roger Ailes, the late ousted CEO of the network, used “hidden cameras” inside the network’s offices to record “female talent” as they changed clothes.

In a new filing as part of a lawsuit Tantaros filed last year against Fox News, Ailes and former Fox News co-president Bill Shine, among others, Tantaros alleged that Ailes “was recording female employees disrobe without their consent in their offices” and during a trunk show the network’s wardrobe department conducted bi-annually, “both through audio and with hidden cameras.”

“Fox News operates more like a rogue political campaign and cutthroat cult rife with rampant harassment, misogyny, and bullying than it does a news organization,” the lawsuit alleged. “Fox News is a company that isn’t afraid to spy, hack, bully or weaponize any tool or method at its disposal.”

Fox News said in a statement to TPM that it “moved for sanctions against the lawyer who filed Andrea Tantaros’ Original lawsuit and he has since withdrawn.”

“None of the four lawyers currently representing Tantaros in the action signed her new complaint, which she purports to have written herself,” Fox News said in its statement. “Her outlandish claims lack any factual basis.”

Tantaros is representing herself in the complaint, part of one of two lawsuits she filed in the last two years; in the first, filed in August 2016, Tantaros alleged that former Fox News star Bill O’Reilly (later ousted) and former Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA) contributed to sexual harassment and a culture of “misogyny” at the network.

In the second, filed in April 2017, Tantaros alleged that Fox News carried out a campaign of “illegal electronic surveillance and computer hacking” against her after she filed the first lawsuit. Read the amended complaint below:

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House Oversight Committee chair Trey Gowdy (R-SC) on Monday excoriated the Department of Health and Human Services for its “pattern of nonresponsiveness and wanton disregard” for information requests by the Oversight Committee.

In a letter to newly minted HHS Secretary Alex Azar, Gowdy cited the committee’s “well settled” and “broad” power to request information from executive branches.

“More often than not, agency respondents choose to cooperate voluntarily, expeditiously, and in good faith with our requests,” Gowdy said. “The Department, since October of last year, has departed from this cooperative posture.”

Gowdy said that the department has “missed mutually-agreed deadlines, produced meager and incomplete sets of information (much of which is available publicly), and taken a posture of nonchalance with respect to the Committee’s requests.”

He cited the committee’s requests for information regarding disaster preparedness in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, documents related to the federal response to the opioid epidemic, information regarding Obamacare’s cost-sharing reduction payments, agency guidance, a plan for compiling said guidance and information related to the HIPAA and HITECH health privacy and security rules.

According to Gowdy, in all cases, the department provided insufficient information and was slow to respond to requests or provide status updates, sometimes to the point of never responding at all.

With regard to the committee’s request for information related to HIPAA and HITECH, Gowdy noted that the department missed its own deadline to produce documents, and said, “If you have read this far, it will come as no surprise the Department has not done so.”

“The Department’s pattern of nonresponsiveness and wanton disregard for the Committee’s requests for information undermines our ability to perform our oversight duties of the Department and its programs,” Gowdy said. “Furthermore, the Department has provided no compelling reason-legal or otherwise-for withholding documents from the Committee. This creates the appearance the Department’s legislative affairs function has fallen into a state of permanent disrepair.”

He gave the department a deadline of Feb. 5 to produce all documents and information that the committee has requested.

“Otherwise, the Committee may use compulsory process to obtain those materials,” Gowdy said.

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TPM’s Tierney Sneed contributed reporting.

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, on Monday said that Republicans on the committee voted to release a memo by House Intelligence Committee Chair Devin Nunes (R-CA) against Democrats’ objections.

The document has been released to all members of the House, but will not be released to the public immediately. First, President Donald Trump will have up to five days to review the document and decide whether to make it public, though he could make that decision before that time has elapsed.

White House legislative aide Marc Short on Sunday said that Trump is “inclined” to release the memo, but does not know what it contains.

“I think we have crossed a deeply regrettable line in this committee where, for the first time in ten years or so I have been on the committee, there was a vote to politicize the declassification process of intelligence and compromise sources and methods,” Schiff told reporters Monday evening.

He said he made a secondary motion to have the FBI and Department of Justice “come and brief the entire House in a classified session on both memoranda on the underlying facts and underlying materials so that the committee could make a responsible judgment” before making the document public.

“That motion was voted down by the majority,” Schiff said.

He said the vote to release Nunes’ memo took place along party lines, and that a vote to release a Democratic memo countering Nunes’ document failed, also along party lines.

Rep. Tom Rooney (R-FL) said that the committee did not vote on releasing the Democratic memo to members, but said he would “absolutely” favor releasing it.

“I think that obviously we have gone through the process of letting our colleagues read our memo over the last several days, and I think that when the Democratic memo has gone through the same process, then it should have the same day in court, so to speak,” he said.

Schiff said that he moved for the transcript of the committee session to “be made available to the public tomorrow.”

“The chair committed that would happen as soon as possible,” he said.

According to Schiff, FBI Director Christopher Wray “asked for the opportunity to come before the committee and express” concerns about releasing the document, but Nunes denied his request.

“I should also mention it was disclosed to the minority today for the first time that the majority opened an investigation of the FBI and the Department of Justice,” Schiff said.

He said Democrats on the committee “learned about that for the first time here today.”

“This is a wholesale broadside against two of our respected institutions,” Schiff said. “We need to be concerned with not just what happens during this presidency, but the lasting damage done to these institutions. Unfortunately, that damage just became all the more greater today.”

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After he abruptly fired James Comey as head of the FBI in May 2017, President Donald Trump blasted the bureau’s former deputy director Andrew McCabe—who abruptly departed on Monday—and insulted McCabe’s wife when Comey flew back to Washington, D.C. on a FBI plane, NBC News reported Monday.

NBC News reported, citing multiple unnamed sources familiar with Trump’s call to McCabe, that Trump demanded to know why the newly terminated Comey was traveling on a government-funded plane.

McCabe told Trump that nobody had asked him to authorize Comey’s travel on an FBI plane, NBC News reported, citing three unnamed sources familiar with the call, but McCabe said that he would have given Comey the green light if they had.

According to the report, Trump then told McCabe to ask his wife what it felt like to be a loser. (Dr. Jill McCabe, the former deputy director’s wife, unsuccessfully ran for state office in Virginia in 2015.)

Per NBC News, McCabe replied, “OK, sir,” and Trump then hung up.

The White House and FBI did not comment to NBC News.

After Trump abruptly fired Comey in May 2017, news helicopters tracked his motorcade down the highway in Los Angeles, where Comey was scheduled to meet and speak to prospective FBI recruits. He cancelled the appearance and returned to Washington, D.C. after learning of his own termination from TV news.

It was not clear that Trump knew Comey was out of town, as his longtime aide Keith Schiller, who left the White House in November 2017, first attempted to hand-deliver a termination letter to the FBI’s headquarters in Washington, D.C.

“I don’t think anybody had thought about how he’d get home,” an unnamed senior White House official who was present for Comey’s dismissal told NBC News.

NBC News first reported on Monday that McCabe is stepping down as deputy director of the FBI, but will officially remain at the bureau until the middle of March, when he will be able to retire with full benefits.

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Former White House press secretary Sean Spicer on Monday said he regrets doing things during his time as part of President Donald Trump’s administration that “brought embarrassment” to himself, his family, his friends and the White House.

“You made some mistakes,” MSNBC’s Craig Melvin said to Spicer, after playing a tape of Spicer’s “greatest hits,” including his inflation of attendance numbers at Trump’s inauguration, his dismissal of the roles that Michael Flynn and Paul Manafort played in Trump’s campaign and his claim that Adolf Hitler did not use chemical weapons.

“Yes,” Spicer responded.

“Do you regret taking the job?” Melvin asked.

“No,” Spicer said. “I think in terms of net-net, I enjoyed having a front row seat to history, was an opportunity of a lifetime. Did I make mistakes? Thank you for taking me down memory lane. Absolutely. Do I hope I grow as a person, as a friend, as a stranger to do better? Absolutely.”

“But you’re giving me a diplomatic answer,” Melvin pressed. “Do you regret at all taking the job?”

“No, no, no,” Spicer said. “I regret things that I did that brought embarrassment to myself, my family, friends of mine who have been very big supporters, where I said, hey, that was a self-inflicted wound.”

Spicer said that part of being White House press secretary was “going in and having to tell the President of the United States, ‘Hey, I embarrassed myself, your administration, and in some cases I think, you know, did something the American people are probably not pleased with.'”

“It’s not just a mistake,” he said, and later added of his successor White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, “It’s much better being a viewer than a briefer.”

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White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders is scheduled to give a press briefing on Monday at 1:15 p.m. ET. Watch live below:

Rep. Pat Meehan (R-PA) ignored his aides’ advice against giving interviews last week after it became public that he settled a sexual harassment claim brought by a former staffer using taxpayer dollars, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported Saturday.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reported, citing two unnamed sources with direct knowledge of Meehan’s planning and three other unnamed sources briefed on the situation, that congressional and campaign aides to Meehan advised him not to give interviews.

Meehan did not heed that advice, according to the report. He told the Philadelphia Inquirer last week that he had “developed an affection” for the decades-younger aide, whose name has not been made public, and said he considered her “a soul mate.”

He later told the New York Times that the aide, who accused him of sexual harassment and retaliation, had “specifically invited” his communications and claimed he “didn’t do anything wrong.”

“This was a person who specifically invited communication with me so that she would be able to have the ability to be there for me,” Meehan told the New York Times. “That I would find later that that was not something that she was comfortable with, really hurts me.”

Meehan announced days later that he will retire at the end of his term.

One unnamed source involved in Meehan’s response to reporting on the allegations told the Philadelphia Inquirer that the personal interviews Meehan gave were “sort of a confessional.”

“He knew what he wanted to say and he said it,” the source told the Philadelphia Inquirer.

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Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) on Sunday said that Robert Mueller, the special counsel leading the federal investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, is a “fair” investigator and prosecutor, and urged colleagues to “leave him the hell alone.”

“He didn’t apply for the job. He’s where he is because we have an attorney general who had to recuse himself,” Gowdy said on “Fox News Sunday,” referring to Attorney General Jeff Sessions. “So Mueller didn’t raise his hand and say, hey, pick me. We, as a country, asked him to do this.”

Asked if he has confidence in Mueller, Gowdy said, “One hundred percent, particularly if he’s given the time, the resources and the independence to do his job.”

Gowdy said that he thinks Trump “has a fair investigator” in Mueller.

“I think he’s got a fair prosecutor in Bob Mueller, but he doesn’t have a fair jury,” Gowdy said, referring to Democratic members of Congress and in particular Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee.

Gowdy said there are “two components” to the purview of Mueller’s investigation.

“There is a criminal component. But there’s also a counterintelligence component that no one ever talks about because it’s not sexy and interesting. But he’s also going to tell us definitively what Russia tried to do in 2016,” Gowdy said. “So the last time you and I were together, I told my Republican colleagues, leave him the hell alone, and that’s still my advice.”

 

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White House Director of Legislative Affairs Marc Short on Sunday said that he is “not aware” that President Donald Trump’s “ever” suggested that he would fire Robert Mueller, the special counsel overseeing the federal investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, though Trump reportedly tried to do so last year.

“I’m not aware of the President ever intimating that he wanted to fire Robert Mueller,” Short said on “Fox News Sunday.” “I’m not familiar in any conversation with the President ever intimating that he wanted to fire Robert Mueller.”

Short says that Trump has “been frustrated by this investigation.”

“He feels like there’s been millions of dollars in taxpayer dollars spent, and no evidence yet of collusion,” Short said. “The White House continues to cooperate in every manner providing any document that the special counsel has asked for.”

The New York Times on Thursday reported that Trump tried to fire Mueller last summer, but backed off when White House counsel Don McGahn said he would resign rather than fire the special counsel.

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