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

Fox News commentator Andrew Napolitano on Monday said that Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting with a Russian lawyer was “a bumbling, foolish thing to do” and provides enough basis for a criminal investigation.

“The question is, is this enough to commence a criminal investigation? Answer, yes,” Napolitano said on Fox News. “Because it is suspicious that they met with these people, that they didn’t consult a lawyer, that one of these people was a former KGB, GRU, that’s the Russian intelligence arm, Russian military intelligence arm, and didn’t tell anybody about it.”

Trump Jr. published his emails arranging a meeting in June 2016 with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya after he was promised compromising information on Hillary Clinton as part of a Russian government effort to aid his father’s campaign.

Then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort and Trump Jr.’s brother-in-law Jared Kushner also attended the meeting, as did Rinat Akhmetshin, a registered lobbyist and former Soviet counterintelligence officer.

Napolitano’s aggressive stance toward investigating the meeting was at odds with his previous support for President Donald Trump’s outlandish claim that former President Barack Obama surveilled him at Trump Tower. In March, Napolitano claimed that Obama asked British intelligence service GCHQ to surveil Trump on his behalf, a claim White House press secretary Sean Spicer later cited from the podium as proof.

Napolitano on Monday questioned why Kushner initially omitted the meeting from his application for a security clearance (Kushner later amended the application three times and reportedly added more than 100 names to his list of foreign contacts).

“Why didn’t Jared Kushner tell the FBI about it when he filled out his FBI national security application unless he was trying to hide something?” he asked. “And if he was trying to hide something, was it that this was a bumbling, foolish thing to do or that this was the beginning of some steps in furtherance of acquiring this information?”

Napolitano said he would have advised Trump or his son to speak to White House counsel Don McGahn, who was general counsel to Trump’s campaign, about the meeting.

“He would have said, ‘You want to talk to an ex-KGB, GRU agent and a Russian person represented as a ‘Russian government lawyer,’ even though we now know she wasn’t, about research on Hillary? Tell the FBI! Don’t bring those guys in here,'” Napolitano said. (Trump has claimed he found out about the meeting recently and was not aware of it at the time.)

Napolitano said that an inquiry would be justified because “often these nonviolent criminal events don’t happen all at once, they happen in stages.”

“It is a crime to receive something of value when you are a campaign official from a foreign person or a foreign government,” he said, adding that if Trump Jr. received anything from the meeting, “That would have been a felony. That would have been the completion of a crime.”


As his eldest son faces questions about his eagerness to accept aid from an alleged Russian government effort to help his father’s campaign, President Donald Trump asked on Monday, “Where’s the fire?”

President Trump hopped into a fire truck manufactured by a Wisconsin company as part of “Made in America” week, an event his administration announced to promote U.S. manufacturing.

“Where’s the fire? Where is it? Where’s the fire?” Trump said, mugging for the camera. “Put it out fast.”

Last time Trump hopped into a big-rig for a photo opportunity his administration was trying to corral support for its first bill to repeal and replace Obamacare, which went down in flames.


White House press secretary Sean Spicer on Monday claimed there was no way for Donald Trump Jr. to know that a meeting where he was promised compromising information on Hillary Clinton as part of a Russian state effort to aid his father’s campaign was not, in fact, focused on adoption policy.

“There was nothing as far as we know that would lead anyone to believe that there was anything except for a discussion about adoption and the Magnitsky Act,” Spicer said, referring to a U.S. sanctions program enacted in 2012.

Donald Trump Jr. last week published his email messages arranging a meeting with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya after he was promised damaging information on Clinton.

The subject line of the email thread in question was “Re: Russia – Clinton – private and confidential.”

In the exchange, Trump family acquaintance Rob Goldstone said he could connect Trump Jr. with “Hillary info” he described as “very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.”

There was no discussion of adoption or the Magnitsky Act in the emails.

Spicer wrapped up his answer by dismissing Trump Jr.’s eagerness to attain compromising information from a foreign state as routine.

“I’m not going to get into the specifics of this, but I will say that it is quite often for people who are given information during the heat of a campaign to ask what that is,” he said. “That’s what, simply, he did.”

London Mayor Sadiq Khan on Monday said he isn’t sure the United Kingdom should “roll out the red carpet” for President Donald Trump when he makes his first state visit in 2018.

“State visits are different from a normal visit,” Khan told CNN. “At a time when the President of the USA has policies that many in our country disagree with, I am not sure it is appropriate for our government to roll out the red carpet.”

Trump met with British Prime Minister Theresa May earlier in July at the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany, and announced his plans to travel to London despite protests and debate in the British Parliament about the appropriateness of inviting Trump amid backlash over his travel ban.

“We’ll work that out. We’ll be going to London,” Trump said after meeting with May.

The White House later announced without explanation that Trump’s visit will be delayed until next year.

The Sun, a British supermarket tabloid analogous to the New York Post, reported on Saturday that Trump told May in a private conversation that he will not visit until he is sure of a warm reception.

Citing a transcript of their conversation available to senior diplomats, the Sun reported that Trump asked May to “fix it” and said he was in “no rush” to make the state visit.

“It would make things a lot easier,” he said, according to the Sun. “When I know I’m going to get a better reception, I’ll come and not before.”

Trump harshly criticized Khan in June in the wake of an attack in London that killed seven people and wounded dozens more.

“At least 7 dead and 48 wounded in terror attack and Mayor of London says there is ‘no reason to be alarmed!’” he tweeted.

A spokesperson for Khan fired back: “He has more important things to do than respond to Donald Trump’s ill-informed tweet that deliberately takes out of context his remarks.”

Khan, who is the first Muslim mayor of London, did not rule out meeting with Trump himself at some point.

“If you somehow think it is not possible to be a Muslim and a proud westerner I am happy to disabuse you of that idea, whether you are a reporter for CNN or Donald Trump,” he said. “If someone has views that I think can be changed I am ready to play my role.”

MSNBC host Joe Scarborough and Sean Hannity, his counterpart at Fox News, on Monday kicked off a virtual slapfight over Hannity’s boosterism for President Donald Trump and Scarborough’s musical hobbies.

Scarborough, the co-host of “Morning Joe,” kicked off the morning by criticizing Donald Trump Jr.’s changing accounts of his meeting with a Russian lawyer who promised damaging information on Hillary Clinton as part of a Russian government effort to aid his father’s campaign.

He accused Trump Jr. of “lying — lying to the New York Times, lying to the American people, saying this meeting was just about adoption, and then the next day lying about the people that were in it.”

“Then going on a TV show that basically is state-run television,” Scarborough, who announced last week that he is leaving the Republican Party, added. “These people keep getting caught in their lies, day after day after day.”

Trump Jr. appeared on Hannity’s show hours after he published email messages showing he was aware and willing to receive research as part of a Russian state effort to help his father win.

Hannity did not appear pleased to be called “state-run television,” an accusation Scarborough likely made due to Hannity’s strident and longstanding public support for Trump.

Hannity responded in a series of tweets mocking Scarborough for “singing bad songs on Colbert,” being “boring low rated establishment TV” and criticizing Trump in order “to please D.C. NYC elites & Mika” (Brzezinski, who is Scarborough’s co-host and fiancée).

“Liberal Joe is desperate for attention now,” Hannity tweeted. “I crushed him.”

Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) on Sunday said Senate Republicans’ bill to repeal Obamacare would make “sweeping and deep cuts” to Medicaid and endanger rural hospitals without “a single hearing” in the Senate to evaluate the proposal’s effects.

“This bill would make sweeping and deep cuts to the Medicaid program, which has been a safety net program on the books for more than 50 years, ensuring that some of our most vulnerable citizens, our disabled children, our low-income seniors, receive the health care that they need,” Collins said on ABC News’ “This Week.”

“It would also jeopardize the very existence of our rural hospitals and our nursing homes, which not only provide essential care to people in rural America, but also are major employers in the small communities in which they are located,” she added. “And worst of all, these changes would be made without the Senate having held a single hearing to evaluate their impact.”

“But the vote’s been delayed. Did McConnell have the votes to get it passed?” ABC’s Jon Karl asked, referring to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) decision to postpone a vote on the bill.

“I don’t know. I think it would be extremely close. There are many of us who have concerns about the bill,” Collins, who announced she will not vote for the proposal, replied. “On the Senate side, I would estimate that there about eight to ten Republicans senators who have deep concerns.”

“So you heard Vice President Pence say that this bill provides for the most vulnerable, improves Medicaid, and will lead to better outcome. Is he right?” Karl asked.

“I would tactfully disagree with the vice president,” Collins said.

President Donald Trump on Sunday praised a new poll listing his job approval as the lowest of any president in the last 70 years as “not bad at this time.”

“The ABC/Washington Post Poll, even though almost 40% is not bad at this time, was just about the most inaccurate poll around election time!” Trump tweeted.

Trump’s job approval is in fact the lowest approval rating of any president after their first six months in office over the last 70 years, according to the ABC News-Washington Post poll in question.

Trump was also generous with his rounding: According to the survey, only 36 percent of respondents approved of Trump’s job performance, while 58 percent disapproved.

The poll was conducted from a sample of 1,001 adults in English and Spanish via landline and cell phone from July 10–13, 2017, with a margin error of plus or minus 3.5 points.

Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA), the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, on Sunday said President Donald Trump’s administration has “clearly” not “been forthcoming on what they know and when they knew it” with regard to Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

“Clearly, this administration has not been forthcoming on what they know and when they knew it with regard to Russian interference in the elections,” Warner said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

He cited Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ and former national security adviser Michael Flynn’s denials (later retracted) that they met with Russian officials.

“What we’ve seen is a constant effort to hide contacts with Russians. We’ve seen this pattern repeat itself,” Warner said.

Warner cited Donald Trump Jr.’s publication of his emails arranging a meeting with a Russian lawyer after he was promised damaging information on Hillary Clinton as part of an effort by the Russian government to aid his father’s campaign.

“This is the first time that the public has seen in black and white, on the email thread, clear evidence that the Russians and particularly there was a Russian government effort to try to undermine Clinton, help Trump,” he said. “And what was remarkable was, you saw not only willingness but actually glee from the President’s son as well as involvement of the campaign manager and the President’s son-in-law to say, in effect, ‘Yes, bring it on.'”

Warner called it “very troubling” and said it “obviously moves our whole investigation to another level.”

“The President’s son has not been forthcoming about this meeting,” he added. “All of these denials over the past year really are now put in doubt as well.”

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, on Sunday called Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting with a Russian lawyer after he was promised alleged damaging information on Hillary Clinton “about as clear evidence” as it is possible to find of intent to collude with Russia to aid his father’s campaign.

“This is about as clear evidence you could find of intent by the campaign to collude with the Russians, to get useful information from the Russians,” Schiff said on ABC News’ “This Week.”

He said Trump Jr.’s emails arranging the meeting, which the President’s eldest son published Tuesday shortly before the New York Times reported them, demonstrated “a willingness not only to accept” information from the lawyer “but to indicate to Russia what the best timing was.”

Schiff dismissed claims by Jay Sekulow, a member of President Donald Trump’s legal team, that Trump did not know about the meeting and that nothing illegal took place.

“To believe that, though, we have to rely on two things. We have to rely on Don Jr.’s representation of what happened at that meeting, and we have already seen, many times, we can’t rely on that,” Schiff said. “So we can’t accept anything Don Jr. says. And of course we can’t accept much the President says about this either, because he has a similar record of not being forthcoming when it comes to Russia.”

A member of President Donald Trump’s legal team on Sunday insisted that Trump knew nothing about and did not attend his eldest son’s meeting with a Russian lawyer who promised alleged damaging information on Hillary Clinton as part of a Russian state effort to help Trump’s campaign.

Asked on NBC News’ “Meet the Press” if he knew the names of everyone who attended Trump Jr.’s meeting with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, Jay Sekulow said he did not and went on to insist unprompted that Trump was not among their number.

“I don’t represent Donald Trump Jr. and I do not know everyone for sure that was at that meeting and the President was not at the meeting,” Sekulow said. “I can tell you he was not there. The President was not aware of the meeting and did not attend it.”

Sekulow said Trump “became aware of it very recently” and that he learned of the meeting “about the same time, almost exactly the same time.”

Asked about the perception that Trump Jr. was trying to obfuscate what happened in the meeting by changing his story amid new reporting, Sekulow said, “There was nothing illegal to cover up.”

“That was information that was controlled not by my client, not by the President. It was controlled by Donald Trump Jr.,” he said. “The President was not involved in that decision.”