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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

Missouri state senators on Thursday called for an investigation amid allegations that Gov. Eric Greitens (R) threatened to blackmail a woman with whom he had an extramarital affair. Some took it further and called for Greitens to resign.

State Sen. Doug Libla (R) in a letter to Missouri attorney general Josh Hawley (R) asked him to examine allegations that Greitens threatened to blackmail a woman he was sexually involved with in 2015 with a naked photo he took during one of their sexual encounters, according to the Kansas City Star.

State Sen. Gary Romine (R) told the Kansas City Star that any investigation needs “to move as quickly as possible.”

“The only way we can remove this cloud is to get all the facts,” Romine said. “If it exonerates him, we can move on. If it doesn’t, he needs to resign or face impeachment.”

Other Republicans were more equivocal in their remarks. State Sen. Mike Cierpiot (R) said his thoughts “remain private” because “there’s just not enough information.”

State Rep. Bryan Spencer (R) said it was “too early” and “we don’t know the facts.”

“All we hear is what’s in the news,” Spencer told the Kansas City Star. “In today’s society we can destroy a people with just accusations.”

Republican state Sens. Ron Richard, Mike Kehoe and Bob Onder in a joint statement said they “find these serious allegations shocking and concerning.”

“As this situation is evolving, we expect the governor to be honest and forthright,” they said.

State Democratic officials took a much stronger position on the allegations against Greitens.

State Senate Minority Leader Gina Walsh (D) and Sen. Kiki Curls (D) said in a statement that “people accused of these egregious acts do not get to wave off the scrutiny of law enforcement simply because they are in a position of power; and victims of these crimes deserve our full support.”

State Sen. Jamilah Nasheed (D) called on Greitens to “resign immediately.”

State Rep. Mark Ellebracht (D) called for a criminal investigation into the allegations against Greitens, who admitted to the affair but denied the blackmail threats.

“Infidelity is unfortunate, but it is not illegal,” Ellebracht said, according to the report. “Blackmail is illegal. Potential allegations of sexual assault are illegal. It is not fair for the governor to hide behind his family and use them as a shield for what should be a criminal investigation.”

Another state Democratic member, Rep. Jerome Barnes, said Greitens should resign regardless of the findings of any investigation: “He’s a Navy SEAL. We have high standards to be a Navy SEAL. There should be high standards to be a governor also.”

Read Libla’s letter to Hawley:

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Despite his best efforts, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has not yet found a way to overcome the “sin” of his recusal from the federal investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, the Washington Post reported on Thursday.

The Washington Post reported, citing two unnamed White House advisers, that Sessions has tried to regain President Donald Trump’s good graces by asking aides to make sure Trump is aware of policy decisions that advance his agenda.

White House adviser Kellyanne Conway, White House counsel Don McGahn and former staffers Steve Bannon and Reince Priebus have also pitched in on Sessions’ campaign to re-ingratiate himself with Trump, according to the report, and the Department of Justice has also begun to examine subjects that Trump has publicly touted as possible matters of interest.

Sessions’ efforts have been unsuccessful, according to the Washington Post. Four unnamed White House officials and advisers cited in the report said that Trump remains angry about Sessions’ decision to recuse himself from the investigation.

According to the report, Trump privately calls Sessions “weak,” considers him unloyal and says that “he should have never recused himself.”

“He’s one of the most active Cabinet secretaries there is,” one unnamed White House official told the Washington Post. “He’s done a fine job. Does it wash away the sin of recusal? I don’t think so.”

According to the report, Trump’s own efforts to force Sessions out by publicly humiliating him have been equally fruitless, though White House officials have privately guessed about who might replace him as attorney general.

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Rep. Jim Renacci (R-OH) will drop out of Ohio’s gubernatorial race to run for the Republican nomination in the state’s Senate race, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported on Wednesday.

The Cincinnati Enquirer reported, citing unnamed Republicans with knowledge of the decision, that Renacci decided to run for Senate after White House political staff urged him to run against incumbent Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), and will announce his candidacy on Thursday. Cleveland.com also reported that White House officials urged Renacci to drop his gubernatorial bid and run for Senate.

An unnamed source close to the White House told the Cincinnati Enquirer, according to the report, that the White House staffers cited Renacci’s support for President Donald Trump in their conversations.

Renacci on Monday told Cleveland radio station WTAM that he “would consider” running for Senate if he had Trump’s support.

“If the President of the United States reaches out and contacts me and asks to me to jump in that race, I would consider it only at that point,” Renacci said. “I would need his help at this late part of the game.”

Ohio state treasurer Josh Mandel, who was Republicans’ top candidate to oppose Brown, unexpectedly dropped out of the race last week, citing his wife’s health.

“We recently learned that my wife has a health issue that will require my time, attention and presence,” Mandel said in a statement. “Understanding and dealing with this health issue is more important to me than any political campaign.”

Republican donor and businessman Mike Gibbons is currently the only other candidate in the state’s GOP primary, though a number of other Republican candidates have reportedly also expressed interest in the race.

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President Donald Trump on Wednesday called Hillary Clinton his “opponent” and deflected questions about his administration by invoking Clinton’s stated positions, though it is nearly a year since Clinton last participated in politics.

Fox News’ John Roberts asked Trump at a joint press conference with Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg whether he would be willing to meet with special counsel Robert Mueller, who is leading the federal investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

In response, Trump said there was “no collusion” between himself or his campaign and Russia. He also referred to Clinton’s interview with the FBI in July 2016 regarding her use of a private email server.

“When you talk about interviews, Hillary Clinton had an interview where she wasn’t sworn in, she wasn’t given the oath, they didn’t take notes, they didn’t record, and it was done on the 4th of July weekend,” Trump said. “That’s perhaps ridiculous.”

Contrary to his claim, the FBI did take notes on Clinton’s interview with investigators, and released those notes, as well as its summary of the interview, in September 2016. The agency has a long-standing policy of not recording its interviews, which are instead documented using a summary form.

Trump again brought up Clinton when Roberts asked Solberg about her position on the possibility of working with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

After Solberg answered, Trump jumped in: “Just to add to the answer, I think it is much better to work with Russia.”

Trump cited his positions regarding energy sources and military development as proof, and compared the former to Clinton’s campaign stance on the subject.

“I will say this, I am for massive oil and gas and everything else, and a lot of energy. Putin can’t love that. I am for the strongest military that the United States ever had. Putin can’t love that,” he said. “But Hillary was not for a strong military, and Hillary, my opponent, was for windmills and she was for other types of energy that don’t have the same capacities at this moment, certainly.”

Clinton conceded the 2016 election to Trump more than a year ago.

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President Donald Trump is scheduled to hold a joint press conference with Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg on Wednesday at 3:20 p.m. ET. Watch live below:

President Donald Trump on Wednesday said he intends to “take a strong look” at libel laws to make sure they cover published statements that are malicious and known to be untrue — the very definition of libel.

Trump made the tautological — if vaguely threatening — statement to reporters at a cabinet meeting.

“We are going to take a strong look at our country’s libel laws so that when somebody says something that is false and defamatory about someone, that person will have meaningful recourse in our courts,” he said.

Trump said he wants “fairness.”

“If somebody says something that’s totally false and knowingly false, that the person that has been abused, defamed, libeled, will have meaningful recourse,” he said. “Our current libel laws are a sham and a disgrace and do not represent American values or American fairness.”

“You can’t say things that are false, knowingly false, and be able to smile as money pours into your bank account,” Trump added.

It was unclear whether Trump was referring to a specific statement he believes to be false, but the White House has taken particular issue with author Michael Wolff’s account of goings-on in Trump’s administration on what it claims is a similar basis.

The White House claimed last week that Wolff’s book “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House” is “trashy tabloid fiction.”

Wolff on Tuesday claimed that the book had sold a million copies as of Monday afternoon, in just four days, and publisher Henry Holt and Co. raised its initial announced printing of the book from 150,000 to to more than a million copies.

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President Donald Trump on Wednesday accused Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) of releasing a transcript of Fusion GPS founder Glenn Simpson’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee “totally without authorization.”

Trump dubbed Feinstein “Sneaky Dianne” and claimed that she released Simpson’s testimony from August “in such an underhanded and possibly illegal way.”

“Must have tough Primary!” he tweeted.

While Feinstein released the transcript on Tuesday without the support of Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), the committee’s chair, there was nothing illegal about her decision to release the unclassified document.

“The American people deserve the opportunity to see what he said and judge for themselves,” Feinstein said on Tuesday. “The only way to set the record straight is to make the transcript public.”

Read the latest editor’s brief (Prime access) on this story »

 

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A district judge set requirements in an order unsealed Tuesday for releasing Rick Gates, a longtime associate of President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, from house arrest.

U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson ruled last week that Gates can be released from house arrest if he stays in Richmond, Virginia, obtains permission for travel, abides by a curfew, subjects to GPS monitoring and agrees to forfeit assets if he flees.

Gates and Manafort in October 2017 pleaded not guilty to all 12 counts handed down against them, the first charges filed in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. They were charged with conspiracy against the United States, conspiracy to launder money and making false statements, among other counts.

Jackson set conditions in December 2017 for Manafort’s release from house arrest. As of Tuesday, Manafort’s attorneys had not filed the most recent round of documents Jackson requested as a condition of his release from home confinement.

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Conservative media outlet Breitbart News on Tuesday announced that Steve Bannon is stepping down as Breitbart’s executive chairman.

“Bannon and Breitbart will work together on a smooth and orderly transition,” the outlet announced in a statement.

Bannon in the statement said he is “proud of what the Breitbart team has accomplished in so short a period of time in building out a world-class news platform.”

The New York Times first reported Bannon’s departure, and reported that conservative mega-donor Rebekah Mercer, who is a part owner of Breitbart and sits on its board, was behind Bannon’s ouster.

Mercer last week rebuked Bannon for his “recent actions and statements,” an apparent reference to remarks Bannon made that journalist Michael Wolff quoted in his book “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House.”

“My family and I have not communicated with Steve Bannon in many months and have provided no financial support to his political agenda, nor do we support his recent actions and statements,” Mercer said.

Mercer told the Washington Post that she was committed to supporting Breitbart News, though that support did not appear to extend to Bannon.

Wolff reported that Bannon, formerly President Donald Trump’s campaign CEO and White House chief strategist, called Donald Trump Jr’s meeting with a Russian lawyer in June 2016 “treasonous” and “unpatriotic.”

According to Wolff, Bannon said that special counsel Robert Mueller’s team, which is investigating Russian interference into the 2016 election, would “crack Don Junior like an egg on national TV.”

Bannon on Sunday tried to walk his remarks back, and claimed they were directed at Trump’s former campaign chair Paul Manafort rather than Trump Jr., who he called “a patriot and a good man.”

Wolff pushed back on Bannon’s denial on Monday.

“I don’t want to put him in more hot water than he is already in, but that statement is false,” Wolff said of Bannon. “It was not directed at Manafort. It was directed directly at Don Jr.”

The White House on Monday made Bannon’s status as a persona non grata clear: “I don’t believe there is any way back for Mr. Bannon at this point,” deputy White House press secretary J. Hogan Gidley said. “I just don’t think there’s any way back.”

This post has been updated.

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President Donald Trump on Tuesday lent his voice to the national debate on whether Oprah Winfrey should run for office: “I like Oprah!”

“Oprah would be lots of fun,” Trump said after a bipartisan meeting with lawmakers about immigration. “You know, I did one of her last shows.”

Trump claimed he knows Winfrey “very well.”

“It was very nice,” he said of his appearance on Winfrey’s long-running eponymous talk show. “No, I like Oprah. I don’t think she’s going to run. I don’t think she’s going to run. I know her very well.”

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