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

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) on Tuesday said Donald Trump Jr.’s emails setting up a meeting with a Kremlin-connected lawyer who promised to have compromising information on Hillary Clinton are “disturbing” and “very problematic.”

“That email is disturbing,” Graham said on MSNBC. “I know Donald Trump Jr. is new to politics, I know that Jared Kushner is new to politics, but this is going to require a lot of questions to be asked and answered.”

Though Trump Jr. and Kushner, who both attended the meeting in June 2016, were political naïfs, veteran Republican operative Paul Manafort was also present at the meeting with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya.

Trump Jr. on Tuesday released what he said was the entire email chain leading up to his meeting with Veselnitskaya, whom Trump family acquaintance Rob Goldstone identified as a “Russian government attorney” with information that was “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.”

Graham said Trump Jr. will “definitely” need to testify about the meeting.

“Any time you’re in a campaign and you get offered from a foreign government to help your campaign, the answer is no,” he said. “So I don’t know what Mr. Trump Jr.’s version of the facts are. Definitely he has to testify.”

Graham said he found it “odd” that Veselnitskaya apparently had “absolutely nothing” in terms of the alleged damaging information Trump Jr. was promised.

“I don’t know why they would pick somebody for him to meet with who didn’t have any information about the Clinton campaign, but on its face, this is very problematic,” he said. “We cannot allow foreign governments to reach out to anybody’s campaign and say, ‘We’d like to help you.’ That is a nonstarter.”

Asked about the veracity of the White House’s accounts of meetings between President Donald Trump’s associates and Russians, Graham added: “It’s very frustrating for every couple of weeks to find out about a new meeting.”

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) on Tuesday said the federal investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and whether members of President Donald Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia may turn toward “potentially treason.”

“We’re now beyond obstruction of justice, in terms of what’s being investigated,” the former vice presidential nominee said on MSNBC. “This is moving into perjury, false statements, and even into potentially treason.”

Donald Trump Jr. on Sunday admitted he met with a Kremlin-linked lawyer in June 2016 because he was told the lawyer had damaging information about Hillary Clinton that could help Trump’s campaign.

The New York Times on Monday reported that publicist Rob Goldstone, who contacted Trump Jr. about the alleged compromising information, suggested to Trump Jr. that the Russian government was behind the alleged “helpful” information.

Trump Jr. on Tuesday released the emails he and Goldstone exchanged, including a reference to a “Russian government attorney” flying from Moscow for the meeting.

President Donald Trump’s sketchy “election integrity” commission on Monday suspended its request for states to submit sensitive voter data in response to a lawsuit filed by a privacy advocacy group.

The panel’s vice chair Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R) announced in a court filing that the commission “sent the states a follow-up communication requesting the states not submit any data” until a judge rules on the Electronic Privacy Information Center’s (EPIC) lawsuit against the panel’s original request for voter data.

In its lawsuit, EPIC called the commission’s request for voters’ personal information — including partial Social Security numbers — “both without precedent and crazy.”

The privacy advocacy group requested a temporary injunction against the commission’s data collection activities and accused the commission of violating the E-Government Act of 2002 by not completing a publicly available privacy impact assessment before collecting voter information.

Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA), the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said Monday that his panel “absolutely” wants to interview Donald Trump Jr. after the President’s son admitted he met with a Kremlin-connected lawyer during the 2016 election after promises that the lawyer would provide him damaging information on Hillary Clinton.

“Rest assured Donald Trump Jr. will be somebody that we want to talk to,” Warner told reporters. “Absolutely. Absolutely.”

He said Trump Jr.’s admission that he met with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya was part of a “pattern” of Trump associates and aides only acknowledging contacts with Russian representatives after news reports on those meetings.

“What continues to bother me is that this pattern, and I think we’re up to 20-plus examples, of where senior-level Trump officials, and even you could argue the President himself, continues to deny that they’ve had any kind of contacts with Russians until the proof comes out that there were contacts, multiple contacts, and then these senior officials recant or amend their filings,” Warner said.

“I think a rational person would ask, why didn’t they remember these particular meetings?” he added. “I think many of these meetings are pretty important.”

Trump Jr. on Monday said he would be “happy to work with” the Senate Intelligence Committee to “pass on” what he knows.

Deputy White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Monday said the United States “should be proud” that Ivanka Trump took her father’s place at a meeting of G20 leaders over the weekend, a decision which quickly drew criticism.

“I think that we should be proud to have Ivanka sitting in that seat, considering particularly the topic at hand was part of her portfolio,” Sanders said at an off-camera White House briefing.

An unnamed senior administration official told CNN that when Ivanka Trump stepped in “the topic involved areas such as African development — areas that will benefit from the facility just announced by the World Bank,” an initiative Ivanka Trump helped develop.

President Donald Trump on Monday defended his decision to step away and have his daughter, a senior White House adviser, take his place at the meeting of world leaders.

“Very standard,” he tweeted, and claimed that if Chelsea Clinton did the same “the Fake News” would endorse her for president.

Asked when the President will stop re-litigating issues from the 2016 election, when he attacked not just his opponent Hillary Clinton but her daughter and husband as well, Sanders said his tweet “wasn’t about putting them in the front.”

“This was about responding to an outrageous attack against a White House senior adviser,” she said. “And it’s a pretty standard protocol that when the leader gets up, someone takes their seat.”

Donald Trump Jr. on Monday said he is willing to work with the Senate Intelligence Committee after a Republican senator called for the panel to interview Trump Jr. amid reports about his meeting in June 2016 with a Kremlin-connected lawyer.

“Happy to work with the committee to pass on what I know,” Trump Jr. tweeted Monday.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), who sits on the panel, said Monday that “our intelligence committee needs to interview him and others who attended the meeting” with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya as part of the committee’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Trump Jr.’s brother-in-law Jared Kushner, a senior White House adviser, and his father’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, were also present at the meeting, which Trump Jr. took after promises that Veselnitskaya would give him compromising information on Hillary Clinton.

White House chief strategist Steve Bannon in 2015 called former Fox News host Megyn Kelly “pure evil” during a vitriolic exchange with former network CEO Roger Ailes, according to a book excerpt published Monday by New York Magazine.

Bannon, who later became President Donald Trump’s campaign CEO, had several contentious exchanges with Ailes after their respective news outlets clashed over then-candidate Trump, according to the report adapted from an upcoming book by reporter Joshua Green.

Then the chairman of conservative outlet Breitbart News, Bannon published a series of articles critical of Kelly after she asked Trump difficult questions during the first Republican primary debate.

According to Green, Ailes asked Bannon to relent.

“Steve, this isn’t fair, and it’s killing us,” Ailes said, as quoted in the report. “You have to stop it.”

“Fuck that,” Bannon replied, according to Green.

Bannon’s adversarial approach to all news outlets except his own is well-documented. In a January interview with the New York Times, Bannon called the media “the opposition party” and said it “should be embarrassed and humiliated and keep its mouth shut and just listen for a while.”

“I want you to quote this,” he added.

When Bannon continued to attack Kelly after the debate, Ailes sent his personal attorney Peter Johnson Jr. to Breitbart’s Washington, D.C. headquarters with an ultimatum, according to Green: If Bannon refused to call off Breitbart’s attacks, he would never appear on Fox News again.

Bannon responded with more attacks on Kelly, who he said would “turn on” Ailes “one day,” according to the report.

“She’s pure evil,” he said, as quoted by Green.

Bannon also promised to intensify his attacks. “We’re going full-bore. We’re not going to stop. I’m gonna unchain the dogs,” he said.

He told Johnson Jr. to “quote” his response to Ailes in person: “Go fuck yourself.”

More than a year later, neither Ailes nor Kelly remain at Fox News; Ailes was ousted from the network in July 2016 amid dozens of allegations of sexual harassment, and died less than a year later. Kelly announced in January that she was leaving Fox News after working there for 12 years for a new position at NBC News.

Chief White House strategist Steve Bannon warned President Donald Trump that backlash would ensue if he fired James Comey as head of the FBI, according to a book excerpt published by New York Magazine.

“You can’t fire the FBI,” Bannon told Trump, according to an unnamed White House official cited in the report (adapted from an upcoming book by journalist Joshua Green).

According to Green, senior White House adviser and Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner disagreed with Bannon and pushed for Comey’s termination.

Trump’s abrupt firing of Comey in May led to former FBI director Robert Mueller’s appointment as special counsel to investigate Russian election meddling.

Bannon was prominent in the White House’s efforts to build a “war room” to keep up with and respond to the investigation.

According to Green, Bannon was responsible for skewing hiring toward lawyers rather than Trump’s favored publicists, and set the team up outside the White House so it would be free to “throw some fucking haymakers.”

Senior White House adviser Kellyanne Conway on Monday said Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting in 2016 with a Kremlin-connected lawyer who promised damaging information about Hillary Clinton was actually not a big deal because, according to Conway, nothing came of it.

“Some of the disclosure forms have been amended since that time, and to reflect other meetings, including this one,” Conway said. “No information was received that was meaningful or helpful, and no action was taken. There was no follow-up whatsoever.”

She said Trump Jr.’s pursuit of the meeting with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya was not an attempt at collusion.

Conway cited remarks by ABC News’ Cecilia Vega and other press reports diminishing the significance of the meeting, though she has previously complained about “unfair and incomplete” coverage of Trump’s administration.

“There’s no evidence of collusion,” Conway claimed.

“That is not what Cecilia Vega said. Cecilia Vega was asked about that yesterday morning. That was before Don Jr. admitted that he sought the meeting to get damaging information on Hillary Clinton,” Stephanopoulos interrupted. “He changed his story.”

“Are you saying that there’s evidence of collusion? Because everybody’s trying to convert wishful thinking into hard evidence and they haven’t been able to do that,” Conway retorted.

“Why did the administration allow these denials to stand for so many months?” Stephanopoulos pressed, referring to the White House’s denial that any members of Trump’s campaign were in contact with Russian officials or representatives.

“The people involved in the meeting could answer those questions better for you,” Conway said. “Don Jr. came forth this weekend and gave more information about the meeting.”

“After denying it!” Stephanopoulos shot back.

“We have many different meetings in a campaign. Some of them are unhelpful and not particularly meaningful. I’m sure you can relate to that,” Conway replied.

“He was seeking the damaging information,” Stephanopoulos pressed. “How was that appropriate?”

“He was told that there would be information that may be helpful to the campaign. There was no such information,” Conway repeated.

“I wasn’t in the meeting,” she added at the end of the interview. “I wasn’t in the meeting.”

President Donald Trump on Monday accused former FBI Director James Comey of illegally leaking classified information to the media, going on the defensive amid reports that during the 2016 campaign his son Donald Trump Jr. met with a Kremlin-connected lawyer who promised him damaging information on Hillary Clinton.

Trump claimed Comey “leaked CLASSIFIED INFORMATION to the media” in a tweet early Monday morning.

“That is so illegal!” the President tweeted.

He also retweeted a “Fox and Friends” interview with former House Oversight Committee chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) about his attempts to acquire Comey’s personal memos about his conversations with Trump.

In the interview, Chaffetz said Comey “got silent” when he asked the former FBI director for the location of the memos.

“He said he wouldn’t talk about it, he wouldn’t tell me where they were,” Chaffetz said. “And it really raised a lot of eyebrows as I went back and talked to the staff and other members and said, look, he’s not going to give this up easily. We’re going to have to fight.”

The Hill reported Sunday, citing unnamed officials familiar with Comey’s documents, that more than half the former FBI director’s memos contain classified information.

Trump took aim at Comey, who went public about his documentation of their conversations after the President abruptly fired him in May, amid reports that his eldest son Trump Jr. met with Russian attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya in June 2016 after she promised him compromising information on Clinton.