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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

All the Democratic members of the House Judiciary and Oversight Committees on Tuesday requested a joint investigation to find out whether President Donald Trump and top members of his administration are obstructing ongoing investigations by the FBI, Justice Department and Congress.

In a letter to House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) and House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), all 33 Democrats on both panels requested a joint probe into whether Trump and White House officials are “engaged in an ongoing conspiracy to obstruct” other ongoing investigations.

The letter cited the New York Times’ bombshell report that Trump asked former FBI Director James Comey to shut down his bureau’s investigation into Trump’s former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.

“The events of recent weeks also raise questions about whether President Trump breached his oath of office,” the letter read. “We have a solemn obligation under the Constitution to act as a check on the Executive Branch and to hold President Trump accountable. It is time to do our job.”

House Oversight Committee Chair Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) on Tuesday said that he is ready to issue a subpoena for a memo that fired FBI Director James Comey reportedly wrote documenting a request President Donald Trump made for him to shut down his bureau’s investigation into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.

Chaffetz tweeted that his panel “is going to get the Comey memo, if it exists.”

“I need to see it sooner rather than later,” he said. “I have my subpoena pen ready.”

In a letter to acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe later Tuesday evening, Chaffetz requested “all memoranda, notes, summaries, and recordings referring or relating to any communications” between Trump and Comey.

Sen. Angus King (I-ME) on Tuesday said that if President Donald Trump asked James Comey to drop the FBI’s investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn, then it raises the possibility that Trump will be subject to impeachment proceedings.

“If indeed the President tried to tell the director of the FBI who worked for him that he should drop an investigation, whether it was Michael Flynn or whether it was some investigation that had nothing to do with Russia or politics or the election, that’s a very serious matter,” King said on CNN.

“If these allegations, Senator, are true, are we getting closer to the possibility of yet another impeachment process?” Wolf Blitzer asked.

“Reluctantly, Wolf, I have to say yes, simply because obstruction of justice is such a serious offense,” King said.

He said it “was in fact one of the offenses that was listed in the last two impeachments that have gone on” in Congress.

“I think we have to be a little bit cautious. This is of immense importance,” King said. “It’s one of the most important things that I’ve been involved with in my political life.”

He cited the White House’s denials that Trump asked Comey to end the probe and Trump’s suggestion that he recorded conversations with the former FBI head.

“We’re going to have to hear from Director Comey,” King said. “And also, if the White House has been saying all day that this never happened, then I think they should come forth with whatever evidence that they have, whether it’s tapes or notes made by someone at the White House to contradict this.”

The New York Times reported on Tuesday that Trump asked Comey to shut down his bureau’s investigation into Flynn, a request that Comey documented in a memo. That report was quickly corroborated by NBC NewsCNN and the Washington Post.

President Donald Trump asked former FBI Director James 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, the New York Times reported on Tuesday.

The bombshell report came exactly one week after Trump abruptly fired Comey from his post, sending shockwaves through the Beltway and kicking off a political firestorm that subsumed Trump’s communications staff and the U.S. deputy attorney general. The FBI has been probing whether Trump campaign representatives, including Flynn, colluded with Russian operatives to influence the U.S. election, and Trump revealed in an interview days after the abrupt firing that he was thinking about “this Russia thing” when he decided to drop the hammer.

Trump made the request during a meeting with Comey in the Oval Office in February, one day after Flynn stepped down as national security adviser, according to the New York Times. NBC NewsCNN, and the Washington Post also corroborated the Times’ reporting.

The White House denied that Trump asked Comey “to end any investigation, including any investigation involving General Flynn.”

“The president has the utmost respect for our law enforcement agencies, and all investigations,” the White House said in a statement. “This is not a truthful or accurate portrayal of the conversation between the president and Mr. Comey.”

Notably, Comey wrote the unclassified memo as “part of a paper trail” documenting what he saw as Trump’s improper attempts to influence the probe, according to the Times. The newspaper did not obtain a copy of the memo, but cited two unnamed sources who read it. An unnamed associate of Comey’s also read parts of the memo to a Times reporter.

According to the New York Times and CNN, Comey visited the Oval Office on Feb. 14 to brief Trump and other senior officials including Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Vice President Mike Pence.

When the briefing was over, according to those reports, Trump asked everybody present to leave except for Comey, and then made his request.

The President told Comey, “I hope you can let this go,” according to the Times.

“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.”

He insisted that Flynn had not done anything wrong, the Times reported, but Comey limited his response to: “I agree he is a good guy.”

The two unnamed sources told the Times that Comey similarly documented every phone call and meeting he had with Trump, although some of those materials are classified. Comey shared the memo about Trump’s request regarding the Flynn investigation with close associates and senior officials at the FBI, according to the Times’ report.

The Washington Post reported, citing unnamed sources close to the matter, that Comey also shared the memo with a select circle at the Justice Department.

According to Comey’s account, Trump made the request to quash the Flynn probe about two weeks after a dinner where he reportedly asked Comey to pledge loyalty to him.

Comey declined to pledge anything but “honesty,” the New York Times reported last week, citing sources close to the ousted FBI director.

The White House pushed back on that account, too, telling the Times that Trump “would never even suggest the expectation of personal loyalty.”

In an interview days later, however, Trump said he did not think it would be inappropriate to ask an FBI director for “loyalty.”

“I don’t think it would be a bad question to ask,” Trump said, though he insisted he “didn’t ask that question.”

Trump’s decision to fire Comey prompted backlash from Democrats and Republicans alike and prompted questions about the timing and rationale for his decision.

After a whirlwind two days of conflicting White House statements on the matter, Trump said he planned to fire Comey “regardless” of recommendations from the Justice Department.

The President also said he was thinking about the investigation into his campaign’s possible coordination with Russia when he decided to terminate Comey.

“When I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said, you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made up story,” Trump told NBC News’ Lester Holt.

He also claimed that Comey told him on three separate occasions that he was not the subject of an investigation by the FBI. The President said he asked Comey to offer those assurances.

On Friday, Trump appeared to warn Comey against speaking to the press, and suggested he had recorded his conversations with the former FBI director:

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer spent the week stonewalling reporters on whether recordings of Trump’s conversations with Comey do, in fact, exist.

“The tweet speaks for itself. I’m moving on,” he said on Friday.

On Monday, Spicer declined to say whether Trump would acquiesce to lawmakers’ requests for additional information on the “tapes” tweet, saying only, “I think I made it clear last week that the President has nothing further on that.”

If such tapes exist, they would presumably back up the account laid out in Comey’s memo.

This post has been updated.

A government watchdog organization on Tuesday asked the Office of Congressional Ethics to look into whether Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ), the chairman of the powerful House Appropriations Committee, broke ethics rules by exposing a local activist in a letter to her employer.

In a letter to Omar Ashmawy, the office’s staff director and chief counsel, Campaign for Accountability said that Frelinghuysen appeared to use his position “to coerce a New Jersey bank into constructively terminating an employee.”

In a March fundraising letter to a board member of a local New Jersey bank, Frelinghuysen warned of “organized forces — both national and local” working against his agenda.

“P.S. One of the ringleaders works in your bank!” a postscript to the letter noted, written in the same ink as the congressman’s signature.

A news article attached to the letter quoted Saily Avelenda, a member of a nonpartisan group that has pressured Frelinghuysen to meet with constituents.

Avelenda formerly served as senior vice president and assistant general counsel at the bank. She told WNYC that she resigned from her position in part because of pressure she received for her political involvement, and said Frelinghuysen “used his name, used his position and used his stationery to try to punish me.”

In a news release sent to reporters, Campaign for Accountability executive director Daniel Stevens said Frelinghuysen “is ripping a page from President Trump’s playbook by trying to wreak vengeance on a political opponent.”

“If trying to get someone fired for exercising her constitutional right to engage in political activity doesn’t reflect poorly on the House, what does?” Stevens said. “The OCE should immediately make clear this sort of conduct is out of bounds.”

Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) on Tuesday announced that she will undergo treatment for kidney cancer and expects to make a full recovery.

In a statement posted on Twitter, Hirono said that she plans to keep working during her recovery.

“I face this fight with the same determination I’ve fought for the people of Hawaii,” she wrote. “And I never quit, especially when things get tough.”

Fox News host Kimberly Guilfoyle on Monday said that she is in talks with President Donald Trump’s administration about replacing Sean Spicer as White House press secretary.

In an interview with the Bay Area News Group, Guilfoyle said “a number of people” in Trump’s administration have raised the possibility of her taking Spicer’s job or another position in the White House press shop.

The White House did not immediately respond to TPM’s requests for comment. A Fox News spokesperson told TPM by email that Guilfoyle “is under a long term contract with the network.”

Through a spokesperson, Guilfoyle told TPM that her job as a co-host of Fox News’ “The Five” “is tough to beat.”

“As I stated in the interview, I really love what I do,” she said.

“I think I have a very good relationship with the President,” Guilfoyle said in the interview.

She called Spicer “a very nice man and a patriot” who is in “a very tough position.”

“I know he puts a lot of effort into it,” Guilfoyle said. “I wish him the best.”

Trump was vague on Spicer’s job prospects in an interview aired Friday by Fox News. He told Jeanine Pirro that Spicer has “been there from the beginning” but “gets beat up.”

The New York Times reported on Friday, citing unnamed senior aides, that Trump is considering a “broad shake-up” of his staff and has raised the possibility of hiring Guilfoyle to replace Spicer.

Senior White House adviser Kellyanne Conway on Tuesday said allegations she only defended Donald Trump for a “paycheck” are “absurd” because she didn’t actually make that much money as his campaign manager.

In a statement posted on Twitter, Conway said that her “beliefs, commitments and loyalties are plain to see.”

“The notion that I am serving for ‘the money’ or a ‘paycheck’  is absurd,” she wrote. “As campaign manager, I made a fraction of what other consultants have made on unsuccessful presidential campaigns.”

Conway claimed she “walked away from dozens of opportunities for millions of dollars” to work in Trump’s administration and “would do it again.”

Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough, the co-hosts of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” claimed on Monday that Conway used to say she needed a shower after defending Trump.

“She would get off the air, the camera would be turned off, the microphone would be taken off and she would say, ‘Blech, I need to take a shower,’ because she disliked her candidate so much,” Brzezinski said.

“She said, ‘This is just my summer vacation, my summer in Europe and basically I’m just going to get through this,'” Scarborough said.

“‘But first I have to take a shower because it feels so dirty to be saying what I’m saying,'” Brzezinski repeated. “I guess she’s just used to it now.”

Former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates said in an interview broadcast Tuesday that President Donald Trump’s former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn “certainly” implicated a criminal statute in his interactions with Russian officials.

“There is certainly a criminal statute that was implicated by his conduct,” Yates said in an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper.

“You wanted the White House to act,” Cooper said.

“Absolutely, yes. We expected the White House to act,” Yates said. “We certainly felt like they needed to act.”

“Did you expect them to act quickly?” he asked.

“Yes,” Yates replied.

Yates said she doesn’t know why the White House concluded that Flynn’s conduct was problematic because he misled Vice President Mike Pence, and not in a legal sense.

“I don’t know how the White House reached the conclusion that there was no legal issue,” she said. “It certainly wasn’t from my discussion with them.”

In an interview with the New Yorker published Tuesday, Yates disputed White House press secretary Sean Spicer’s characterization of the warning she gave McGahn, which Spicer called a “heads-up.”

“I certainly never used that term,” Yates said. “And so I’m not sure where that came from.”

She said “it was clear” when she spoke to White House counsel Don McGahn that he was not aware the FBI had interviewed Flynn as part of its investigation.

“This was not something he already knew about,” she said.

Yates said there is “no playbook” for how to notify the White House about a “compromised” adviser who is also under investigation by the FBI.

“The good news is this doesn’t come up very often,” she said.

She also told the New Yorker that she did not expect her tenure as deputy attorney general to be as memorable as it was.

“I expected this to be an uneventful few weeks,” Yates said.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer on Monday maintained his silence on President Donald Trump’s suggestion that he may have recorded conversations with ousted FBI Director James Comey.

RealClearPolitics’ Alexis Simendinger questioned Spicer during his daily briefing about Republican and Democratic lawmakers’ requests for additional information on Trump’s apparent warning to Comey.

Trump on Friday tweeted that Comey “better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversation before he starts leaking to the press!”

“Is the White House intending to cooperate with those requests and furnish that information as requested in writing?” Simendinger asked.

“I think I made it clear last week that the President has nothing further on that,” Spicer said.

“Does that mean that the President will deny requests?” Simendinger asked.

“I was very clear that the President would have nothing further on that last week,” Spicer said.

“You’re describing a situation in which the President would defy the legislative branch’s request,” Simendinger pressed. “That’s what you’re saying.”

“I understand,” Spicer said. “I’ve made it clear what the President’s position is on that issue.”

During his daily briefing on Friday, Spicer dodged questions about whether Trump recorded his conversations with Comey. He also would not clarify whether Trump continues to record his conversations in the Oval Office.

The tweet speaks for itself,” Spicer said, a well-worn refrain from White House spokespersons pressed to answer for Trump’s bombshell posts. “I’m moving on.”

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