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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

Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-NJ) on Tuesday resigned as chairman of the moderate GOP Tuesday Group.

“It’s clear that some in the Tuesday Group have different objectives and a different sense of governing than I do,” MacArthur told members of the group at a weekly meeting, according to prepared remarks provided to TPM. “Effective immediately, I resign as co-chair of the Tuesday Group.”

The Hill reported earlier in May that members of the group were considering pushing MacArthur out because of his negotiations with hardline conservatives on the Republican bill to repeal and replace Obamacare.

MacArthur cited that conflict in his remarks on Tuesday, calling the debate over the health care legislation “illustrative” of the fact that some members of the group “seem unwilling to compromise.”

In an interview with Politico on Tuesday, MacArthur said he plans to remain a member of the group and is “not looking to be divisive.”

“I think some people in the group just have a different view of what governing is,” MacArthur said. “You can’t lead people where they don’t want to go.”

The Department of Justice announced Tuesday it has determined that former FBI Director Robert Mueller’s appointment as special counsel to oversee the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election is compliant with ethics rules.

“Department ethics experts have reviewed the matters and determined that Mr. Mueller’s participation in the matters assigned to him is appropriate,” the Justice Department told TPM in an emailed statement on Tuesday.

Reuters reported on Friday that the White House was reviewing federal ethics rules to see whether it could use the Code of Federal Regulations to limit the scope of the investigation Mueller now oversees. The rule prohibits executive branch appointees from being involved with matters regarding their former employees or clients for two years, a duration set by an executive order President Donald Trump signed in January.

Mueller’s former law firm reportedly represents Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner and former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, all of whom play large parts in any discussion of Trump’s campaign and administration. Without a waiver from the Justice Department, according to Reuters, Mueller would have been barred from investigating those individuals.

“Government ethics regulations permit the Department of Justice to authorize an employee to participate in a matter where their former employer represents a party,” the Justice Department told TPM.

The department said it “cannot confirm or deny that Mr. Mueller’s former firm represents an individual or individuals who are within the scope of the Special Counsel appointment” but has “considered the relevant issues and determined that Mr. Mueller’s appointment as Special Counsel is consistent with the Rules of Professional Responsibility.”

President Donald Trump on Tuesday said it was “so amazing” to visit Israel’s national Holocaust memorial with all of his friends.

“It is a great honor to be here with all of my friends — so amazing and will never forget!” Trump wrote in the guest book at Yad Vashem, Israel’s national Holocaust memorial.

During his visit, Trump lit an eternal flame and attended a wreath-laying ceremony at the memorial, according to a travel pool report. After signing the guest book, he spoke briefly, calling the Holocaust “history’s darkest hour.”

“It is our solemn duty to remember, to mourn, to grieve and to honor every single life that was so cruelly and viciously taken,” Trump said, per the pool report. “As long as we refuse to become bystanders to barbarity then we know that goodness, peace, and justice will ultimately prevail.”

President Donald Trump reached out to his former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski about working with the White House as a crisis manager, Politico reported on Monday.

Trump personally reached out to Lewandowski and former deputy campaign manager David Bossie, Politico reported, citing two unnamed sources familiar with the situation.

Lewandowski told Politico that he is not in “talks with anyone” to join Trump’s administration, while Bossie declined to comment.

A White House spokesman told Politico that there are no immediate plans to hire the two “inside the White House,” though an unnamed source familiar with the potential crisis management operation said it would likely be housed outside the West Wing.

Bossie is a veteran Republican strategist and president of Citizens United.

Lewandowski was a newcomer to national politics when he joined Trump’s campaign in 2015, and — far from exerting a moderating force on Trump’s candidacy — caused several crises of his own before leaving the campaign in June 2016.

He was charged with misdemeanor battery in March 2016 after a former Breitbart News reporter accused him of grabbing her by the arm and nearly pulling her to the ground. Florida prosecutors later announced that there was not enough evidence to support a criminal prosecution against him.

Lewandowski also reportedly clashed with Paul Manafort, his successor as campaign chief. Manafort is a key figure in the investigation into possible collusion between members of Trump’s campaign and Russian officials, one of the controversies that Lewandowski would likely be tapped to manage for Trump.

President Donald Trump in March asked the director of national intelligence and director of the National Security Agency to push back against the FBI’s investigation into whether members of his campaign colluded with Russian officials last year, the Washington Post reported on Monday.

The Washington Post reported, citing unnamed current and former officials, that Trump asked Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats and NSA Director Michael Rogers to publicly deny that any evidence of collusion existed.

He made that request after former FBI Director James Comey confirmed to the House Intelligence Committee that his bureau was conducting an investigation into whether there was any “coordination” between Russian officials and Trump’s associates during the campaign, according to the Washington Post.

Two unnamed current and two unnamed former officials cited in the report said that Coats and Rogers deemed Trump’s request inappropriate and refused to do so.

Trump made the request to Rogers in a phone call, according to the Washington Post, and a senior NSA official documented the conversation in an internal memo written at the time.

Senior officials in Trump’s administration also approached top intelligence officials about the possibility of asking Comey to shut down his bureau’s investigation into Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn, the Washington Post reported, citing unnamed sources familiar with the matter.

An unnamed official told the Washington Post that those officials wondered whether they could ask Comey “to shut down the investigation.”

The White House did not immediately respond to TPM’s request for comment, but told the Washington Post that it “does not confirm or deny unsubstantiated claims based on illegal leaks from anonymous individuals.”

The New York Times reported last week that Trump personally asked Comey in February to drop the FBI investigation into Flynn, a request that Comey also documented in a contemporaneous memo.

Also in February, CNN reported that White House officials — including chief of staff Reince Priebus — asked members of the FBI and other federal agencies to refute stories about contact between members of the Trump campaign and Russian nationals.

According to CNN, Comey was one of the officials approached, and refused to comment on the stories because of the ongoing FBI investigation.

President Donald Trump is lawyering up, according to a report published Monday by the Washington Post.

Trump and his advisers are “moving rapidly” to secure outside counsel to guide the President through ongoing investigations into possible collusion between members of his campaign and Russian officials, the Washington Post reported, citing four unnamed sources briefed on the discussions.

The administration has put together a list of finalists, according to the report, including Marc E. Kasowitz, Robert J. Giuffra Jr., Reid H. Weingarten and Theodore B. Olson.

Kasowitz has defended Trump in the past, and wrote a letter during Trump’s campaign last year demanding a retraction and apology from the New York Times for publishing a report that Trump groped women years earlier.

Weingarten is a high-profile D.C. defense attorney who represented former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-IL) against charges related to Jackson’s misuse of hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign funds.

Two unnamed sources “close to the search” told the Washington Post that Trump wants a team of lawyers to represent him rather than a single attorney.

The White House did not immediately respond to TPM’s request for comment.

Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ) said Monday that he repeatedly warned President Donald Trump against hiring former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.

“I didn’t think that he was someone who would bring benefit to the President or to the administration,” Christie said at a news conference, as quoted by the Washington Post. “I made that very clear to candidate Trump, and I made it very clear to President-elect Trump.”

Christie said he was “not going to get into specifics” regarding his misgivings about Flynn.

“Some of it involves classified information that I’m just not at liberty to discuss,” he said. “I was not informed in any way about him or anyone else being under investigation.”

Christie said he and Flynn “didn’t see eye-to-eye” and that the retired lieutenant general was not his “cup of tea.”

“If I were president-elect of the United States, I wouldn’t let General Flynn in the White House, let alone give him a job,” Christie said.

He reportedly had to calm Flynn down in September 2016 during one of Trump’s first intelligence briefings as president-elect, which Christie attended as an adviser. According to NBC News, Flynn interrupted intelligence officials so many times that Christie touched Flynn’s arm in an effort to calm him down.

At the time, Christie denied those reports. The embattled New Jersey governor, whose approval ratings hit an all-time low in January, has nevertheless become more critical of Trump’s administration as the last year of his own term as governor wears on.

In February, Christie said Trump’s staff would “develop experiences over time.”

“I don’t think you get the learning curve just by winning the election,” he said, responding to reports that members of Trump’s administration pushed the FBI to publicly dispute reports of contact between Trump’s aides and Russian officials before the election. “I can guarantee this, I don’t think the chief of staff will ever have that kind of conversation with the FBI, with FBI personnel, again.”

Indeed, the New York Times reported last week that Trump himself asked former FBI Director James Comey to shut down his bureau’s investigation into Flynn, part of its probe into possible contacts between Trump’s associates and Russia.

A sinkhole opened Monday in front of President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida, and the reaction was full of bad jokes.

The 4′ by 4′ sinkhole “appears to be in the vicinity of the newly installed water main,” according to an alert on the town’s website asking drivers to “please pay attention to signs.”

Observers on Twitter joked that the sudden subsidence might be another kind of sign entirely.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Monday said he does not see any reason President Donald Trump should apologize for reportedly sharing Israeli intelligence with top Russian diplomats.

“I don’t know that there’s anything to apologize for,” Tillerson told reporters on Air Force One, according to a travel pool report. “To the extent the Israelis have any questions, or clarification, I’m sure we’re happy to provide that.”

The Washington Post reported last week that Trump shared highly classified information about an Islamic State threat with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Ambassador Sergey Kislyak during a meeting in the Oval Office. On Tuesday, the New York Times reported that Israel was the source of that intelligence.

Standing next to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday for a photo op, Trump denied that he ever specifically mentioned Israel, though the Times did not claim that Trump explicitly named the source of the information.

“Just so you understand, I never mentioned the word or the name Israel,” he said. “Never mentioned it, during that conversation.”

“Intelligence cooperation is terrific, and it’s never been better,” Netanyahu added.

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