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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

Deputy White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Wednesday deflected questions about any potential Trump campaign collusion in the 2016 election by accusing the Democratic National Committee of colluding with the Ukrainian government, though the situations have marked differences.

“If there’s been any evidence of collusion in 2016 that’s come out at all or been discussed that’s actually happened it would be between the DNC and the Ukrainian government,” Sanders said Wednesday in an off-camera, audio-only White House briefing.

She cited an unnamed New York Times reporter who Sanders claimed tweeted that “Ukrainian actions to coordinate with the DNC was actually successful” and “directly targeted members of the Trump campaign in an attempt to undermine it.”

Sanders appeared to be referring to a report Politico published in January about Alexandra Chalupa, a Ukrainian-American consultant for the DNC.

Politico reported, citing unnamed sources with direct knowledge of the situation, that Chalupa met with officials in Ukraine’s Washington, D.C. embassy about Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort’s ties to Ukraine and any connections between then-candidate Donald Trump and Russia.

Chalupa told then-DNC communications director Luis Miranda in an email later released by Wikileaks that she wanted to share sensitive information about Manafort “offline” with Miranda and Lauren Dillon, the committee’s research director, including “a big Trump component.”

An unnamed DNC official told Politico that Chalupa conducted her research into Manafort, Trump and Russia independently, and that the committee did not use her findings in its own dossiers on Trump and his connections to Russia.

Donald Trump Jr., the President’s eldest son, was by contrast enthusiastic about the prospect of receiving supposedly compromising information on Hillary Clinton from a lawyer described as a “Russian government attorney” who offered the information as part of a Russian government effort to aid his father’s campaign.

“If it’s what you say I love it especially later in the summer,” Trump Jr. replied in a bombshell email chain he released Tuesday.

President Donald Trump on Wednesday morning claimed he has “very little time” for watching television, his favored method of news and opinion consumption, though his public schedule has been almost empty for days.

Trump insisted in a tweet that his administration is “functioning perfectly” amid Senate Republicans’ ongoing failure to pass an Obamacare repeal bill and a marked escalation of the federal investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, which has abruptly focused on his eldest son Donald Trump Jr.

“I have very little time for watching T.V.,” he tweeted.

“CNN Newsroom” co-hosts John Berman and Poppy Harlow discussed the White House’s apparent disconnect from Republican lawmakers’ efforts on their show about 10 minutes before Trump posted the tweet, a juxtaposition Berman pointed out.

Far from being too busy for his cable-watching habit, Trump has turned to television for solace as his administration’s agenda vanishes into disarray, according to recent reports by the New York Times and Politico.

New York Times Magazine reporter Mark Leibovich in early June visited Trump in the West Wing and discovered the President watching a recording of “Fox and Friends” (in a May interview with Time Magazine, Trump called TiVo “one of the great inventions of all time”).

On Tuesday, unnamed officials gave Politico differing explanations for Trump’s empty schedule, which has been largely blank since the President returned on Saturday from the G20 summit in Hamburg.

One unnamed White House aide cited Trump’s upcoming trip to France and said it “makes sense” for him to take “a couple days off between the one last week and this one.”

Another unnamed official, however, told Politico that Trump has spent his increased downtime watching TV and venting about the federal investigation into whether members of his campaign colluded with Russia to influence the election in his favor.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), ranking member of the Senate Judiciary subcommittee investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election, on Tuesday said Donald Trump Jr.’s emails arranging a meeting with a Kremlin-linked lawyer “clearly show intent to collude.”

“This email chain, and particularly connecting in both Manafort and Kushner, shows clearly an intent by the leadership of the Trump campaign to try to collude with Russians to get opposition research,” Whitehouse said on CNN.

Trump Jr. on Tuesday morning published his email exchange with Trump family acquaintance Rob Goldstone, who told him a “Russian government attorney” could give Trump Jr. alleged compromising information on Hillary Clinton as as “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.”

Whitehouse said there is “a good case to be made” that opposition research is “actually a thing of value under the American campaign finance laws, which makes this a potential conspiracy to violate the campaign finance laws’ prohibition on receiving a thing of value from a foreign government.”

“It clearly shows intent to collude. Going in, they knew that this was Russian information, that a Russian attorney was flying over to deliver it, that it was intended for political purposes, that the campaign was going to be involved,” he said. “They even talked about the timing of it, that it would be better to come out later in the summer, presumably closer to the election.”

Trump Jr. on Tuesday night offered his first defense of his decision to hold the meeting: He wanted to “play it out.”

Donald Trump Jr. on Tuesday offered his first defense since releasing his emails arranging a meeting with a Kremlin-linked lawyer in June 2016 to receive damaging information on Hillary Clinton as part of what he was told was a Russian government effort to aide Donald Trump’s campaign: He just wanted to see what would happen.

“These are going a million miles an hour again,” Trump Jr. said in a preview of an interview with Fox News’ Sean Hannity set to air Tuesday night. “And, hey, wait a minute, I’ve heard about all these things, but maybe this is something, I should hear them out.”

Trump Jr. on Tuesday morning published what he said was the entire email chain leading to his meeting with Natalia Veselnitskaya.

In the exchange, Trump family acquaintance Rob Goldstone, a publicist who booked Russian pop star Emin Agalarov on Miss Universe, said a “Russian government attorney” could give Trump Jr. “documents and information that would incriminate Hillary” as “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.”

Trump Jr. said he expected “just basic information that was going to be possibly there” at his meeting with Veselnitskaya.

“I didn’t know these guys well enough to understand that if this talent manager from Miss Universe had this kind of thing,” he said. “So I wanted to hear him out and play it out.”

 

A conservative blogger for the Washington Post on Tuesday revised his opinion on Donald Trump Jr.’s admission that he attended a meeting in June 2016 with the knowledge that he would be offered damaging information about Hillary Clinton as part of a Russian government effort to help the Trump campaign.

The writer, Ed Rogers, initially dismissed reports on Trump Jr.’s meeting with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya as “mass hysteria” by the media.

Rogers revised his estimation of Trump Jr.’s actions to “a rookie, amateur mistake” after Trump Jr. released emails where he arranged the meeting, and finally settled on “Hard to see how this ends well” as his summary of the situation.

He tweeted out updated versions of his column with each revision, with minor changes between the version published at 12:46 p.m. and the update at 2:49 p.m., except one key addition.

“It is easy to see that the meeting should have never happened. Period,” Rogers wrote in the most recent iteration.

In previous drafts, that was apparently not the case.

Deputy White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Tuesday said she stands by her claim that nobody in President Donald Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia to influence the 2016 election.

Donald Trump Jr. has admitted he attended a meeting he was told was part of Russian state efforts to help his father’s campaign.

“Do you stand by a statement you made yesterday when you said that ‘Our position is that no one within the Trump campaign colluded in order to influence the election’?” a reporter asked Sanders during an off-camera, audio-only White House briefing.

“I do, and again, I don’t have – beyond the statements yesterday and what I read today, I don’t have anything else to add,” Sanders said.

Trump Jr. on Tuesday morning published an email chain that detailed his arrangements for a meeting with a Kremlin-connected lawyer who Trump family acquaintance Rob Goldstone said had damaging information about Hillary Clinton as part of the Russian government’s effort to help Trump’s campaign.

The President remained largely silent about his embattled son, releasing only a brief statement that Sanders read at the briefing calling Trump Jr. a “high-quality person” and praising his “transparency.”

Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA), the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said Tuesday that there are “no excuses” for Donald Trump, Jr.’s shifting story about a meeting he attended during the 2016 campaign with the knowledge that he would be offered damaging information about his father’s likely presidential opponent as part of a Russian government effort to help the Trump campaign.

“This is black and white: Trump officials at the highest levels knew Russia was working to aid Donald Trump & welcomed Russia’s interference,” Warner tweeted.

He added that “there are no excuses for what we’ve seen in the last 24 hours.” Warner did not mention Trump Jr. by name, but appeared to be referring to reports published over the weekend about the eldest Trump son’s meeting with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya.

“Lying is not a rookie mistake,” Warner wrote. “We now know the denials of contacts with Russians that we’ve heard during the campaign, transition & administration are all patently false.”

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) on Tuesday said there is “no longer a question” as to whether President Donald Trump’s campaign tried to collude with Russia to influence the 2016 election in his favor.

“The highest levels of the Trump campaign walked, eyes open, into a meeting designed to advance the Russian government’s support for Donald Trump,” Wyden said in a statement, citing emails Donald Trump Jr. released on Tuesday morning.

Wyden is a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, one of several congressional panels investigating Russian election meddling and any potential collusion by the Trump campaign.

In Trump Jr.’s email exchange, which led up to a June 2016 meeting with Trump Jr., Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner, Trump family acquaintance Rob Goldstone discussed a “Russian government attorney” with alleged damaging information on Hillary Clinton as “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.”

“These emails show there is no longer a question of whether this campaign sought to collude with a hostile foreign power to subvert America’s democracy,” Wyden said. “The question is how far the coordination goes. It is now up to elected officials of both parties to stand up and do their duty: protect and defend the Constitution.”

Are you old enough to remember when top officials on President Donald Trump’s campaign denied any contact with or connections to Russia?

“There are not. That’s absurd and, you know, there’s no base to it,” Paul Manafort said in July 2016, a month after he attended a meeting between Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner and a Kremlin-linked lawyer who was supposed to provide them compromising information about Hillary Clinton.

Trump family acquaintance Rob Goldstone referred to the lawyer as a “Russian government attorney” who had “documents and information that would incriminate Hillary.” The information would “be very useful” to Trump and was “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump,” Goldstone added.

“Absolutely not,” Kellyanne Conway said in December 2016. “Those conversations never happened.”

“I joined this campaign in the summer and I can tell you that all the contact by the Trump campaign and associates was with the American people,” Mike Pence, then vice president-elect, said in January. “Of course not. Why would there be any contacts?”

“I did not have communications with the Russians,” Jeff Sessions, then nominee for attorney general, said unprompted in January at his confirmation hearing. (He did have communications.)

Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn resigned in February after it was revealed that he spoke to Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. about sanctions despite denying that he did so.

Trump claimed three days later that besides Flynn, “no, nobody that I know of” had contact with Russia during the election.

While earlier this week Trump was quick to jump to the defense of his eldest child, first daughter Ivanka Trump, he has remained silent about his embattled eldest son.

Watch the various statements, collected by NBC News’ Bradd Jaffy:

Rep. Chris Stewart (R-UT) said on Tuesday that Donald Trump Jr. deserves “credit” for releasing emails leading up to his June 2016 meeting with a Kremlin-linked lawyer with alleged damaging information on Hillary Clinton.

“Does it raise new questions for you?” CNN’s Kate Bolduan asked.

“I think so. I mean, any one of these things raises questions,” Stewart, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, said.

Stewart said it was “too soon” for him to comment on the emails and that his panel will “want to question” Trump Jr.’s intent in attending the meeting.

He said it would be “obviously concerning” if Trump Jr. knew beforehand that the Russian government wanted to help his father’s campaign.

In the email chain, Trump family acquaintance Rob Goldstone identified the lawyer as as a “Russian government attorney” with “ultra sensitive” information that was “part of Russia and it’s government’s support for Mr. Trump.”

Stewart said Trump Jr. deserved praise for releasing the emails, which he posted on Twitter shortly before the New York Times published a story on their content.

“I have to give him credit and I thank him, you know, thank you for releasing these emails, for doing it, you know, very quickly. It gives you and I and the media and those of us on the committee a chance to really digest them. I think that was a good, positive step.”

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