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

Brett J. Talley, a lawyer with no trial experience who is nevertheless President Donald Trump’s pick for a lifetime federal district judgeship, did not disclose to the Senate that he is married to a senior lawyer who is chief of staff to the White House counsel.

The New York Times reported on Monday that Talley did not disclose his marriage to Ann Donaldson, chief of staff to top White House lawyer Don McGahn, either in his Senate questionnaire or during his nomination process.

Talley did not name Donaldson in response to a question on the questionnaire asking him to list any “family members or other persons, parties, categories of litigation, and financial arrangements that are likely to present potential conflicts-of-interest.”

Democratic lawmakers have harshly criticized Donaldson’s nomination to a lifetime position, based on the 36-year-old lawyer’s total lack of trial experience and the fact that the American Bar Association has rated him “not qualified.”

“How can you claim to be qualified for a lifetime appointment to supervise federal trials on a daily basis when you have never yourself tried a single case?” Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, asked Talley in another written questionnaire.

In response, Talley cited his other legal work and said, “If I am confirmed, I will work diligently to supplement that experience in areas where I have less familiarity.”

In response to a question about the judicial offices he has held, Talley responded on his Senate questionnaire, “I have never held judicial office.”

In the questionnaire’s subsection on trial experience, he left all further questions unanswered.

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Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) on Monday said he will return to work in Washington, D.C. after a neighbor allegedly assaulted him earlier this month.

“While I’m still in a good deal of pain, I will be returning to work in the Senate today, ready to fight for liberty and help move forward with tax cuts in the coming days and weeks,” Paul tweeted.

Police last week charged one of Paul’s Kentucky neighbors, Rene Boucher, with misdemeanor fourth-degree assault with a minor injury. Paul said the assault left him with six broken ribs and a pleural effusion, or a buildup of fluid in the chest cavity around the lungs.

Initial reports suggested Paul and Boucher had disputes over landscaping, but the senator last week shared articles suggesting that their disagreements on the subject did not cause the alleged assault.

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Senior White House adviser Kellyanne Conway on Sunday said President Donald Trump wants to “deal with” Russian President Vladimir Putin on “major issues,” not including Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election.

“The President is not the chairman of the board of elections in this country,” Conway said on ABC News’ “This Week. “He’s the President of the United States.”

She said Trump “wants to deal with President Putin” and other heads of state “on major issues like global security, on trade, perhaps in other countries, on combating ISIS, on a nuclearized North Korea.”

Trump on Saturday said he “really” believed that Putin “means it” when the Russian leader tells Trump that Russia “did not meddle in our election.”

“Every time he sees me, he said: ‘I didn’t do that.’ And I believe, I really believe that when he tells me that, he means it,” Trump said.

The U.S. intelligence community has concluded that Russia did interfere in the U.S. election to aid Trump’s campaign.

“What the President believes is most important here. He believes the assessment of the intelligence communities,” Conway said Sunday, though Trump has questioned their conclusions. “And he stands by that.”

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White House chief of staff John Kelly on Sunday said that he does not keep track of the medium his boss, President Donald Trump, uses to share his unfiltered thoughts, announce policy and issue marching orders.

“Believe it or not, I do not follow the tweets,” Kelly told reporters in Vietnam, according to the Los Angeles Times, where he is accompanying Trump on a 12-day trip to Asia. “I find out about them.”

Trump has used Twitter to insult people, places and things on the campaign trail, to ratchet up his rhetoric about North Korea’s nuclear program, to announce an impromptu, unvetted blanket ban on letting transgender individuals serve in the U.S. military, to attack members of the media and news outlets that publish unflattering coverage, and to alternately endorse and undercut members of his own caucus.

“Someone, I read the other day, said we all just react to the tweets,” Kelly said, according to the report. “We don’t. I don’t. I don’t allow the staff to. We know what we’re doing.”

According to the Los Angeles Times, Kelly insisted he does not need to keep the President’s posts in mind when it comes to policy development.

“We develop policy in the normal traditional staff way,” he said. “They are what they are.”

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President Donald Trump on Sunday praised his own restraint for not calling North Korean leader Kim Jong Un “short and fat,” but claimed he tries “so hard” to be Kim’s friend.

“Why would Kim Jong-un insult me by calling me ‘old,’ when I would NEVER call him ‘short and fat?'” Trump tweeted. “Oh well, I try so hard to be his friend – and maybe someday that will happen!”

Trump posted the tweet while on a 12-day trip to Asia, a sudden digital outburst amid formal appearances.

Asked whether she thinks “name calling is helpful,” senior White House adviser Kellyanne Conway on Sunday claimed Trump was responding to an insult from Kim.

“I think that that was the President just responding the way he does to somebody who insulted him first,” she said on ABC News’ “This Week.”

Trump’s and Kim’s war of words is not new; Trump in September called Kim a “Rocket Man” on a “suicide mission” in a speech at the United Nations.

Kim responded by calling Trump a “mentally deranged U.S. dotard,” another jab at his age: Trump is 71 years old.

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Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) on Sunday said the allegations against Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore are more credible than Moore’s denial that he ever pursued sexual relationships with teenagers.

“I don’t know this is going to turn out. You know, this is a terrible situation,” Toomey said on NBC News’ “Meet the Press.”

He suggested that Republicans “should consider a write-in” candidate for the Alabama Senate race but said there’s “no easy solution.”

“I have to say, I think the accusations have more credibility than the denial,” Toomey said. “Many of us, I’ll speak for myself, would prefer for Roy to step aside. I think that’s a responsible way to approach this.”

The Washington Post reported last week on allegations by several women who said Moore pursued sexual relationships with them when they were teenagers and Moore was in his early 30s. Leigh Corfman, one of the women, said Moore initiated a sexual encounter with her when she was 14 years old and he was 32.

Moore on Friday denied the allegations, and claimed they were “politically motivated.”

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Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) on Saturday became the third member of his caucus to pull his support for Republican Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore over allegations that Moore pursued sexual relationships with teenagers while in his 30s.

“Based on the allegations against Roy Moore, his response and what is known, I withdraw support,” Cassidy tweeted.

Sens. Mike Lee (R-UT) and Steve Daines (R-MT) on Friday rescinded their endorsements of Moore over allegations reported by the Washington Post and made by several women who say Moore pursued them while they were teenagers and he was in his early 30s. One woman accused Moore of initiating a sexual encounter with her when she was 14 years old.

Moore on Friday denied any sort of misconduct and claimed he did “not generally” date women in their teens.

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An Alabama woman accused the state’s Republican Senate nominee Roy Moore of initiating a sexual encounter with her when she was 14 years old and he was 32, the Washington Post reported on Thursday.

Leigh Corfman told the Washington Post that Moore asked her for her phone number in 1979, when she was 14 years old, as she sat outside a courtroom while her mother was inside for a hearing.

Days later, Corfman said, Moore drove her to his home, complimented her appearance, and kissed her. During a second visit to Moore’s home, Corfman told the Washington Post, Moore removed his and her clothes, touched her over her underwear, and guided her hand to do the same over his “tight white” undergarments.

Corfman told the Washington Post, “I wasn’t ready for that — I had never put my hand on a man’s penis, much less an erect one.”

“I wanted it over with — I wanted out,” Corfman told the Washington Post. She said she was thinking, “Please just get this over with. Whatever this is, just get it over.”

Corfman told the Washington Post that she and Moore did not have intercourse, and that after she dressed, she asked Moore to take her home, and he did.

The age of consent in Alabama is 16 years of age.

The Washington Post reported that two of Corfman’s childhood friends said she told them she was involved with an older man, and one said Corfman identified Moore in particular.

Nancy Wells, Corfman’s mother, told the Washington Post that Corfman told her about the encounter more than a decade later.

The Washington Post reported that three other women said Moore pursued them when he was in his early 30s and they were in their teens, between the ages of 16 and 18, but none of them said Moore coerced them into sexual encounters.

Wendy Miller told the Washington Post that Moore first approached her when she was 14 years old, and asked her on dates when she was 16 years old. Her mother squashed the latter, according to Miller.

Debbie Wesson Gibson told the Washington Post that Moore asked her out when she was 17 years old and that they went on several dates but their physical involvement was limited to kissing.

Gloria Thacker Deason told the Washington Post that Moore began taking her on dates that involved alcohol when she was 18 years old. The legal drinking age in Alabama, according to the Washington Post, was 19 years of age.

Moore denied the claims in the report.

“These allegations are completely false and are a desperate political attack by the National Democrat Party and the Washington Post on this campaign,” Moore said in a statement to the Washington Post.

In a statement to reporters, Moore’s campaign called the allegations a “last ditch Hail Mary” by “national liberal organizations.”

The campaign noted that the Washington Post’s editorial board endorsed Democratic candidate Doug Jones and claimed the Washington Post has “engaged in a systematic campaign to distort the truth about the Judge’s record and career and derail his campaign” for months.

“In fact, just two days ago, the Foundation for Moral Law sent a retraction demand to the Post for the false stories they wrote about the Judge’s work and compensation,” the campaign said. “After over 40 years of public service, if any of these allegations were true, they would have been made public long before now.”

Moore has a long history of controversial comments, many related to sexuality. In 2005, he said homosexual activity should be illegal and compared it to bestiality. In November 2016, he said a Supreme Court ruling that required states to license and recognize same-sex marriage was “even worse in a sense” than Dred Scott.

In October, he said that the federal judge who blocked President Donald Trump’s policy that would have excluded transgender people from military service “should be impeached,” and incorrectly claimed the American Psychiatric Association considered “transgenderism to be a mental disorder” until 2013.

Elected Republicans have nevertheless embraced him for his party affiliation.

This post has been updated.

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Fox News star host Sean Hannity on Wednesday announced that the network has hired Sebastian Gorka, formerly deputy assistant to President Donald Trump and a counterterrorism adviser, as a national security strategist.

“Joining us now is Dr. Sebastian Gorka,” Hannity said on his radio show. “I can officially announce today he is a Fox News national security strategist.”

“It’s in large part, really, thanks to you, Sean,” Gorka replied. “You’ve been a great supporter, not only of myself, but of the administration and the President, and it’s great to be back as part of the superb Fox family.”

A Fox spokesperson confirmed to TPM by email that the network has hired Gorka for that position.

Gorka left his position at the White House in August. He claimed to the Associated Press that he resigned, but an unnamed White House official told a pool reporter that Gorka “did not resign” but “no longer works at the White House.”

Gorka’s dubious credentials as a self-proclaimed expert on counterterrorism and his history of Islamophobic rhetoric drew calls for his removal months before he left Trump’s administration.

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After Democrats swept state-level elections on Tuesday night to win decisive victories from coast to coast, Fox News appeared to seek bliss in ignorance.

The network’s star host Tucker Carlson sounded maudlin as he announced that the network was calling Virginia’s gubernatorial race for Democratic candidate Virginia Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam (D), breaking the news without any of his usual abrasive bombast.

“We’ve got breaking news here. Okay. We are now reporting that Ralph Northam has won the Virginia governor’s race,” Carlson said. “Ralph Northam, the Democrat, beating Ed Gillespie. With 58 percent in, we are projecting that he is the winner tonight.”

Fox News host Sean Hannity promised to cover election results on his show, but ultimately did so for all of six seconds.

“Let’s talk about those results in Virginia, New Jersey, New York, by the way,” Hannity said, listing states that Democrats won, and added for the network’s most prominent viewer, “Not states Donald Trump won.”

Hannity then dropped the subject for the rest of his show.

Newly minted Fox News host and conservative radio host Laura Ingraham spared Republican nominee Ed Gillespie a brief mention, and somehow managed to bring up Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server as secretary of state.

Clinton was not running for office on Tuesday, and has said she is “done with being a candidate.”

Shannon Bream, host of “Fox News Tonight,” similarly managed to bring up the firm behind the so-called Trump dossier that alleges ties between Trump’s campaign and Russia, a document which played no part in Tuesday’s elections.

On Wednesday morning, the network continued its myopic focus on anything but the previous day’s elections.

As of Wednesday afternoon, Fox News’ homepage had just two references to the previous day’s elections, both relegated to the page’s periphery.

On top of it all, the cable network ran a chyron about Gillespie’s loss that was strikingly similar to President Donald Trump’s criticism of the candidate’s strategy.

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