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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 dismissed the idea of releasing his tax returns in return for Democratic support for his proposed tax cuts, an idea floated by an interviewer in a story published Thursday.

“Nobody cares about my tax return except for the reporters,” Trump told the Economist in an interview conducted last week. “Oh, at some point I’ll release them. Maybe I’ll release them after I’m finished.”

Trump said he is “very proud” of his tax returns because he “did a good job.”

“I might release them after I’m out of office,” he said. “But I would never consider it as part of a deal.”

He claimed it would “be unfair” to the bargain.

“I would never do it,” Trump said. “It would be disrespectful of the importance of this deal. Because the only people that find that important are the reporters.”

According to a Bloomberg-Morning Consult poll released in April, 53 percent of registered voters believe Trump should be required to release his tax returns.

The survey was conducted online on Apr. 4–5 from a sample of 2,353 registered voters nationally, with a margin of error of plus or minus 2.0 percent.

The chairman and vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee on Wednesday  issued a subpoena to President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn as part of their investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

In a statement, Sens. Richard Burr (R-NC) and Mark Warner (D-VA) said the committee issued a subpoena for “documents relevant to the Committee’s investigation into Russian interference with the 2016 election.”

They said the panel first requested those materials from Flynn in April, but that he “declined, through counsel, to cooperate with the Committee’s request.”

CNN reported on Tuesday that U.S. Attorney Dana Boente’s office issued subpoenas to Flynn’s associates seeking business records from the period after his 2014 ouster as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency.

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) on Wednesday expressed support for President Donald Trump’s shock decision to fire James Comey as director of the FBI.

“Obviously firing an FBI director is no small thing and quite a serious matter,” Ryan said on Fox News. “He lost the confidence of the President, and it’s entirely within the President’s role and authority to relieve him, and that’s what he did.”

He called Comey “a worthwhile and dedicated public servant” but said he lost the confidence of Republicans and Democrats “based upon his conduct, his actions, and some of the comments that he had made.”

“Were you given a heads up?” host Bret Baier asked.

“Right before it happened,” Ryan said. “He basically called me when I got off a flight to tell me that he had made this decision.”

“It’s not just Democrats who are raising a lot of concerns about this and about the timing of it. It’s also Republicans,” Baier pressed.

“I think the President lost patience and I think people in the Justice Department lost confidence in Director Comey himself,” Ryan said. “It is obviously within the President’s authority and role to do this. I think he made an important command decision.”

That was the same explanation White House deputy press secretary Sarah Sanders offered earlier Wednesday when she said Comey was terminated because “no longer had the confidence of the President.”

Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday asked the deputy attorney general and acting director of the FBI to preserve materials related to the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election in the wake of former FBI Director James Comey’s abrupt termination.

“In light of today’s shocking decision by the President to fire FBI Director Comey, it is imperative that you take several immediate steps to protect the integrity of your investigations into Russian efforts to influence our recent election and related matters,” Democratic lawmakers wrote to deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe.

They asked Rosenstein and McCabe that “any and all files, documents, memoranda and other materials” regarding their investigations into election inteference “be preserved and placed off limits to any and all White House officials and staff,” as well as other individuals who have recused themselves, like Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

The White House on Wednesday outlined additional reasons for President Donald Trump’s shock termination of former FBI Director James Comey, who led the bureau’s investigation into possible connections between Trump’s campaign and Russian election meddling, after a chaotic night and morning of backlash and mixed messages.

White House deputy press secretary Sarah Sanders faced reporters on Wednesday for the first daily White House press briefing after Trump’s abrupt firing of Comey, where she drew on the former director’s testimony last week before the Senate Judiciary Committee to explain his termination.

“I think one of the big catalysts that we saw was last week on Wednesday,” Sanders said. “Director Comey made a pretty startling revelation that he had essentially taken a stick of dynamite and thrown it into the Department of Justice by going around the chain of command when he decided to take steps without talking to the attorney general or the deputy attorney general.”

Sanders cited Comey’s decision to hold a surprise press conference in July 2016 announcing that he would not recommend charges against Hillary Clinton for her use of a private email server.

“He would not let them know what he was going to say, and that is simply not allowed,” she said.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, in a memo on Tuesday, accused Comey of causing “substantial damage” to the FBI’s “reputation and credibility” through his handling of the investigation.

The White House cited “clear recommendations” from Rosenstein and Attorney General Jeff Sessions in its statement Tuesday on Comey’s termination, though Trump at times praised Comey’s work on the probe.

According to several reports on Tuesday, Trump’s administration spent at least a week before Comey’s termination looking for a reason to fire him.

Sanders on Wednesday gave those reports some credence by saying that Comey was on thin ice since the day Trump won the 2016 election, though Trump was vocal with his support for Comey just days after his inauguration in January.

As another reason for Comey’s firing, Sanders pointed to his inaccurate testimony before the Senate panel about “hundreds and thousands” of emails he incorrectly claimed top Clinton aide Huma Abedin forwarded to her husband, Anthony Weiner. The FBI sent Congress a letter on Tuesday correcting Comey’s testimony just 30 minutes before Trump fired him.

“That, along with the corrections that had to take place over the last 48 hours, those are all big problems and another, I think, kind of final piece that pushed the President to make the decision that he did,” Sanders said.

She also suggested that rampant leaking from sources within the FBI contributed to Comey falling out of favor with Trump.

“How important was the FBI director’s failure to stop the leaks coming out of the FBI to the President?” Breitbart reporter Charlie Spiering asked.

“I think that’s probably one of the many factors,” Sanders said. “I think that was just another one of the many reasons that he no longer had the confidence of the President or the rest of the FBI.”

The White House’s response to backlash over Comey’s firing was uncertain at best, and Trump’s administration appeared surprised at — and unprepared for — the criticism it received from Republicans and Democrats alike over the decision.

Trump himself stepped in to explain the White House’s decision-making process, though his remarks did little to clear up the conflicts between his administration’s narrative and press reports about Comey’s firing. He defended Comey’s termination in one of his signature early morning tweetstorms and told reporters only that the former director “was not doing a good job.”

“Can we expect more firings from the Justice Department?” Spiering asked Sanders on Wednesday.

“Not that I’m aware of today,” Sanders replied, to laughter from reporters perhaps recalling White House press secretary Sean Spicer’s comment on Tuesday that Trump retained confidence in Comey.

Spicer missed Wednesday’s briefing in favor of U.S. Navy Reserve duty.

White House deputy press secretary Sarah Sanders on Wednesday expressed surprise that Democrats are not celebrating President Donald Trump’s firing of former FBI Director James Comey, who led the bureau’s investigation into election meddling.

“Frankly, I think it’s startling that Democrats aren’t celebrating this since they’ve been calling for it for so long,” Sanders said at the daily White House press briefing.

She said Comey made “a lot of missteps and mistakes” over the last year.

“Certainly I think that, as you’ve seen from many of the comments from Democrat members, including Sen. Schumer, they didn’t think he should be there,” Sanders said. “They thought he should be gone.”

Trump’s administration appeared wholly unprepared for the massive backlash following Comey’s surprise termination Tuesday night. White House press secretary Sean Spicer shouted a statement to reporters from his office door, which his staff then locked, and later spent several minutes hiding from cameras in shrubbery on the White House grounds before taking further questions.

The White House reportedly believed that Democrats’ previous criticism of Comey would insulate the decision from condemnation, but instead several Republicans joined the fray to question Trump’s decision.

As for Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), who Sanders cited as a Democratic lawmaker critical of Comey’s “missteps and mistakes,” he had some particularly pointed questions for Trump about Comey’s termination.

“Why now? Why did it happen today?” Schumer said on Tuesday. “Were these investigations getting too close to home for the President?”

White House deputy press secretary Sarah Sanders on Wednesday said that President Donald Trump has considered pushing out former FBI Director James Comey, who was abruptly fired Tuesday night, since the day Trump won the 2016 election.

“He’d lost confidence in Director Comey, and frankly, he’d been considering letting Director Comey go since the day he was elected,” Sanders said at the daily White House briefing. “The President had lost confidence in Comey from the day he was elected.”

NBC News reporter Hallie Jackson pointed out that White House press secretary Sean Spicer on Tuesday signaled Trump’s support for Comey, hours before the former director’s surprise termination.

“On May 3rd, Sean came out and said the President has full confidence in his FBI director,” she said. “Why did he say that?”

Sanders said Trump spoke to members of the FBI and “questioned Director Comey’s reason for needing to stay” at the bureau, which is investigating possible ties between members of Trump’s campaign and Russian officials.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Wednesday laughed off questions about President Donald Trump’s abrupt firing of former FBI Director James Comey, who was leading an investigation into possible ties between Trump’s campaign and Russia.

“You just found out that FBI Director Comey was fired,” Yahoo News reporter Hunter Walker asked Lavrov at a press conference. “Given his accusations against you, his agency’s accusations, were you glad to hear this news?”

Lavrov laughed. “Well, you seem to be all grown-ups,” he said, speaking through a translator. “I never thought that I would have to answer such questions, particularly being in the U.S. taking into account your highly developed democratic political system.”

Asked if Trump gave Lavrov any private assurances that he does not believe Russia meddled in the 2016 election, Lavrov cited Trump’s public statements on the matter.

“President Trump publicly stated on a number of occasions what he thinks about accusations and allegations regarding Russia’s meddling into your domestic affairs,” Lavrov said. “That is why there is no need for him to tell us anything or to give assurance behind closed doors.”

He said there is “no compelling evidence” that Russia interfered in the election.

“And that’s it,” Lavrov said. “If you are talking about international affairs and traditional affairs in the life of your country, why don’t you try to find out the truth and get those facts?”

Lavrov also joked about Comey’s abrupt termination earlier Wednesday before going into a meeting with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

“Does the Comey firing cast a shadow over your talks?” a reporter called out.

“Was he fired? You are kidding!” Lavrov responded, deadpan. “You are kidding.”

Caught rinkside on Wednesday by CBS News’ Elizabeth Palmer, Russian President Vladimir Putin appeared equally unconcerned, and replied to questions about how Comey’s termination will affect U.S.-Russia relations with a shrug.

“Your question looks very funny from here,” Putin said, speaking through a translator. “Don’t be angry with me. We have nothing to do with it. President Trump is acting in accordance with his competence and in accordance with his law, the Constitution.”

He then invited the reporter to play hockey.

Tierney Sneed contributed reporting.

Former FBI Director James Comey will not testify in an open session of the Senate Intelligence Committee that was scheduled for Thursday.

“Comey was terminated last night,” the panel’s chair Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) told reporters on Wednesday. “The chair will be filled by the acting director of the FBI.”

Andrew G. McCabe became acting director of the bureau after President Donald Trump abruptly terminated Comey on Tuesday, a development Burr said “troubled” him.

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