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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

Days after firing Michael Flynn as national security adviser, President Donald Trump regretted that decision, and continues to support Flynn, according to several reports.

Politico on Friday reported, citing several unnamed sources close to Trump, that after Flynn left the White House in February, the President said he should have kept Flynn on.

“I was kind of stunned,” one source told Politico. “You fired him already. What are you going to do?”

An unnamed adviser close to the President told Politico that Trump called Flynn a “good man” and defended him using the precise wording the New York Times reported fired FBI Director James Comey described in a memo documenting a meeting in February between Trump and himself.

According to the New York Times, Trump asked Comey in that meeting to shut down the FBI’s investigation into Flynn, a request Comey documented as “part of a paper trail” regarding what he saw as Trump’s improper attempts to influence the probe.

“I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go,” Trump said, as quoted in the report. “He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.”

Trump on Thursday categorically denied pressuring Comey to drop the FBI’s probe. As recently as May, however, he continued to defend Flynn as “a very good person.”

An unnamed White House official told Politico that Trump “loves” Flynn and thinks “everyone is out to get him.”

Politico also reported, citing unnamed White House officials, that Trump has instructed people to pass on “warm messages” to Flynn if they talk to him.

According to a report by Yahoo News, Flynn announced at a dinner in late April that he had “just got a message from the President to stay strong.” It was not known whether that message was a direct communication or how Flynn received it.

The Daily Beast reported on Thursday, citing a source close to Flynn, that he has maintained communication with Trump to “protect the President,” though Trump’s lawyers have repeatedly warned him not to contact Flynn, reportedly citing fears that any such contact could look like witness tampering or coordination.

“Supposedly they’ve spoken since Flynn was fired,” an unnamed White House staffer told the Daily Beast, saying that Trump “clearly feels bad about how things went down.”

The Daily Beast also cited an unnamed longtime Trump confidant who said the President mentioned he’s been in contact with Flynn “in the past few weeks.”

One White House official even told the Daily Beast that Trump “feels really, really, really bad about firing him, and he genuinely thinks if the investigation is over Flynn can come back.”

President Donald Trump’s aides organized an “intervention” to urge the tweet-happy President to exercise restraint in posting, the Wall Street Journal reported on Friday.

Aides warned the President that certain posts on Twitter could “paint him into a corner” in legal and political terms, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing an unnamed official.

In November 2016, the New York Times reported that aides mounted a similar effort to moderate Trump’s posting habits, and “wrested away” his Twitter account in a last-ditch effort to rehabilitate the candidate’s image.

While Trump has been notably quiet on Twitter in the past week, his administration has already suffered several self-inflicted wounds in 140 characters or fewer.

In March, he claimed — without offering any evidence to support the allegation — that President Barack Obama was “wire tapping” his phones at Trump Tower ahead of the November election. Two months later, Trump abruptly ended an interview when asked about the still-unsubstantiated allegation.

And most recently, Trump suggested that he recorded conversations with former FBI Director James Comey.

“James Comey better hope that there are no “tapes” of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!” the President tweeted, sparking calls for the White House to turn over any recordings.

Russian officials bragged during the 2016 presidential campaign that they could use a cultivated relationship with Michael Flynn, then one of Donald Trump’s top advisers, to influence Trump, CNN reported on Saturday.

Russian officials claimed they had cultivated a strong relationship with Flynn and thought they could use it to influence the GOP candidate and his team, according to CNN’s report, which cited unnamed current and former government officials.

One unnamed former official in President Barack Obama’s administration told CNN that “the way the Russians were talking about” Flynn was a “five-alarm fire from early on.”

Another former administration official told CNN that Flynn was regarded as a “potential national security problem,” though officials noted that Russian officials may have overstated their influence over Trump’s team.

Flynn’s lawyer declined to comment to CNN.

 

The New York Times reported on Tuesday that Trump asked former FBI Director James Comey to shut down his bureau’s investigation into Flynn, a request that Comey documented in a memo.

“I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go,” Trump told Comey, according to the report. “He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.”

On Thursday, to further complicate matters, Yahoo News reported that Flynn announced at a dinner in late April — months after he left the White House — that he “just got a message from the President to stay strong.”

Trump’s lawyers have repeatedly warned him not to contact Flynn, and have reportedly expressed fears that any contact with the former national security adviser could look like witness tampering or coordination.

Trump on Thursday categorically denied pressuring former FBI director James Comey to end the FBI’s investigation into Flynn.

“No. No. Next question,” he told a reporter.

The White House also issued a statement Thursday pushing back on the New York Times’ report, nearly a day after it was published.

Former FBI Director James Comey believes President Donald Trump was trying to influence his thinking about the investigation into alleged ties between members of Trump’s campaign and Russian officials, CNN reported on Saturday.

CNN reported, citing a source familiar with Comey’s thinking, that the fired FBI head now thinks Trump was trying to influence his judgment regarding the investigation.

The source told CNN that “intent is hard to prove” with regard to Trump’s motivation for doing so, since “you have to have intent in order to obstruct justice in the criminal sense.”

The New York Times reported on Wednesday that in February, Trump asked Comey to shut down his bureau’s investigation into Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn, a request that Comey documented in a memo.

On Thursday, Benjamin Wittes, the editor of the blog Lawfare and a self-described “friend” of Comey, said the former FBI director described two instances when Trump attempted “personally to compromise him or implicate him with either shows of closeness or actual chumminess.”

One of those instances took place during a January meeting of law enforcement officials at the White House, when Trump called Comey over from across the room — where Wittes said the FBI director was trying to “blend into” the drapes — and tried to pull Comey in for a hug.

Trump himself revealed earlier in May that he was thinking about “this Russia thing” when he decided to fire Comey. The New York Times reported Wednesday that Trump told Russian officials he was relieved to be rid of Comey, who he called a “real nut job,” and said the investigation had put him under “great pressure.”

On Friday, the chair and ranking member of the Senate Intelligence Committee announced that Comey agreed to testify in an open session.

The White House is looking at whether it can use a federal ethics rule to limit the scope of the special counsel investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and alleged ties between members of President Donald Trump’s campaign and Russia, Reuters reported on Friday.

Trump’s administration began reviewing the Code of Federal Regulations on Wednesday shortly after the Justice Department announced its hiring of a special counsel, according to Reuters’ report, which cited two unnamed sources “familiar with White House thinking.”

That code previously prohibited executive branch appointees from involvement in matters regarding their former employers or clients for one year after their appointment. Trump signed an executive order in January extending that time period to two years.

Former FBI Director Robert Mueller, who the Justice Department named as special counsel in the probe, resigned his position at law firm WilmerHale to lead the investigation. Clients of the firm include Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner and Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, Politico reported on Wednesday.

Reuters reported that without a waiver from the Justice Department, Mueller would be barred by the rule from investigating those members of Trump’s administration.

Even if Mueller is granted a waiver, those sources told Reuters, the White House may use the rule as part of a press strategy to “create doubt about Mueller’s ability to do his job fairly.”

And if Mueller’s findings lead to a prosecution, Reuters reported, the White House may use the rule as part of its legal strategy.

Former FBI Director James Comey has agreed to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee in an open session, the panel’s chair and ranking member announced on Friday.

Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC), chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA), the panel’s co-chair, announced that Comey will testify in a hearing scheduled sometime after Memorial Day.

“I am hopeful that he will clarify for the American people recent events that have been broadly reported in the media,” Burr said in the statement.

Warner said he hopes Comey’s testimony “will help answer some of the questions that have arisen” since President Donald Trump abruptly terminated Comey as head of the FBI.

“He deserves an opportunity to tell his story,” Warner said. “Moreover, the American people deserve an opportunity to hear it.”

The White House on Thursday pushed back on a report that President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn told the transition team he was under federal investigation for serving as a paid lobbyist for Turkey while working on Trump’s campaign.

“The New York Times story is flat wrong,” a White House spokesman said in a statement to NBC News’ Peter Alexander.

That denial came nearly a day after the New York Times first reported, citing two unnamed sources familiar with the case, that Flynn told lawyers on Trump’s transition — including Don McGahn, who now serves as White House counsel — that he was under investigation by the Justice Department.

McClatchy reported Wednesday that days before Trump’s inauguration, Flynn declined to approve a military operation against the Islamic State opposed by Turkey, which he was paid some $600,000 to represent.

Vice President Mike Pence, who led Trump’s transition, on Thursday nevertheless stood behind his claim that he did not learn about Flynn’s lobbying work for the Turkish government until March.

President Donald Trump on Thursday said the appointment of a special counsel to oversee the investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election reflects poorly on national unity.

“I believe it hurts our country terribly, because it shows we’re a divided, mixed-up, not-unified country,” Trump said, according to ABC’s David Muir. Trump’s comments came in a luncheon at the White House with network anchors.

Trump said, according to Muir, that the Russia probe is “a pure excuse for the Democrats having lost an election that they should have easily won.”

“That’s all this is. I think it shows division, and it shows that we’re not together as a country,” he said. “And I think it’s a very, very negative thing. And hopefully, this can go quickly.”

The Justice Department announced on Wednesday the appointment of former FBI Director Robert Mueller as special counsel in the investigation into Russian election meddling.

Trump’s initial response was measured.

“As I have stated many times, a thorough investigation will confirm what we already know – there was no collusion between my campaign and any foreign entity,” he said in a statement Wednesday evening. “I look forward to this matter concluding quickly.”

On Thursday morning, however, Trump dispelled that illusion in one of his trademark morning tweet storms.

“This is the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history!” he tweeted.

President Donald Trump canceled a planned speech at the historic mountain fortress of Masada in Israel after learning that he could not land a helicopter at the site, Newsweek reported on Thursday.

Israeli media outlets reported that Trump had been scheduled to give his main speech on the Israeli leg of his upcoming trip abroad at the UNESCO World Heritage site. But he is now slated to speak at the Israel Museum instead, according to Newsweek.

The Jerusalem Post reported on Monday that Trump would not be able to land a helicopter on top of the fortress and would need to take a cable car up the mountain instead, as former President George W. Bush did when he visited.

“The Americans will land in the Bar Yehuda landing strip,” the director of Masada National Park, Eitan Campbell, told the Jerusalem Post prior to Trump’s reported change of plans. “They will go up to the mountain by cable car.”

Trump’s interest in the site appears to predate his political career: According to a report in the Atlantic citing Eran Sidis, a spokesman for the speaker of the Knesset, Trump made inquiries six years ago to see if he could host the Miss Universe pageant at the historical site.

Campbell told the Jerusalem Post that helicopters have been barred from landing atop Masada since the 1990s, as sand and gusts of wind thrown up by the propellers cause “damage to the antiquities.”

Former President Bill Clinton had an even more arduous trek to the summit, according to Campbell: “He came up with the old cable car and walked up 100 steps.”

Given that Trump’s idea of exercise is holding campaign rallies, as he told the New York Times in 2015, the cancellation may be for the best.

House Oversight Committee Chair Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) announced on Thursday he plans to resign from Congress on June 30.

“This week I sent a letter to Governor Herbert indicating my intention to resign from Congress effective June 30, 2017,” Chaffetz said in a letter to constituents, referring to Utah Gov. Gary Herbert (R).

Politico first reported Chaffetz’s plans to make the announcement on Thursday, citing three unnamed sources familiar with the lawmaker’s plans.

The House Oversight chairman announced in April that he would not seek another term in 2018 and had “made a personal decision to return to the private sector.” He later cited his lifestyle as one of the reasons he plans to leave Congress, saying, “I just turned 50. I’m sleeping on a cot in my office.”

His lifestyle may be about to get a lot cushier.

The Washingtonian reported in May that Chaffetz told colleagues he planned to take an on-air role at Fox News as early as July. Politico also reported, citing several unnamed “sources in the Capitol,” that Chaffetz has told colleagues that he will appear on Fox News.

And the report of Chaffetz’s sooner-than-expected departure from Congress comes at a time when he just got his powerful oversight panel a piece of the investigatory action around the growing scandals coming out of the White House.

In the wake of a bombshell New York Times report that then-FBI Director James Comey reportedly documented a request from President Donald Trump to shut down his bureau’s investigation into ousted National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, Chaffetz said he had his “subpoena pen ready” to get Comey’s memo.

Chaffetz announced on Twitter Wednesday that he had scheduled a hearing for next week and was trying to get Comey to testify, but apparently could not reach the former FBI director.

“I still need to speak with him,” Chaffetz tweeted, speculating that Comey “evidently has a new” phone number.

Less than 24 hours later, however, he expressed doubt that the memo actually existed.

“I question whether or not they’re actually there,” Chaffetz said of the memos Comey reportedly took down. “Nobody’s seen them.”

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