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

Jay Sekulow, an attorney on President Donald Trump’s legal team, on Sunday said Trump is not under investigation despite a Washington Post report to the contrary and a tweet from Trump himself that appeared to confirm the report.

“He’s not afraid of the investigation. There is no investigation. I want to be clear here,” Sekulow said on NBC News’ “Meet the Press.”

When pressed to respond more generally to the federal probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election, he added: “There is not an investigation of the President of the United States. Period.”

He said Trump posted the tweet in response to the Washington Post’s report.

“The response from the President, using social media, was about that story,” Sekulow said. “But let me be very clear here, as it has been since the beginning, the President is not and has not been under investigation for obstruction.”

“I think you’re reading more to the tweet than what’s there,” he added.

The Washington Post on Wednesday reported that Robert Mueller, special counsel overseeing the probe into Russian election interference, was looking into whether Trump tried to obstruct justice.

The White House did not deny the report, instead decrying the “FBI leak of information” regarding Trump as “outrageous, inexcusable and illegal.”

Trump himself appeared to confirm the investigation’s existence in a tweet posted Friday.

“I am being investigated for firing the FBI Director by the man who told me to fire the FBI Director!” he tweeted.

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MedStar Washington Hospital Center on Saturday said House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) “continues to show signs of improvement” after being shot last week when a gunman opened fire at a Republican congressional baseball practice.

“Congressman Steve Scalise is in serious condition. He underwent another surgery today, but continues to show signs of improvement,” the hospital said in a statement released Saturday. “He is more responsive, and is speaking with his loved ones.”

Scalise spent the night watching baseball, according to a post from his Twitter account. The house majority whip is a fan of the sport and, according to the New York Times, a “fixture” at practices for the annual congressional game.

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Vice President Mike Pence’s office on Thursday confirmed that Pence has retained outside counsel to guide him through the congressional and federal investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

“I can confirm that the Vice President has retained Richard Cullen of McGuire Woods to assist him in responding to inquiries by the special counsel,” Pence’s communications director Jarrod Agen told the Washington Post by email.

Agen said Pence “looks forward to a swift conclusion of this matter.”

The White House did not immediately respond to TPM’s request for comment.

The Washington Post reported, citing an unnamed aide, that it took several weeks for Pence to hire Cullen and several candidates were interviewed for the job.

Trump in May hired Marc Kasowitz to help him navigate the investigation into whether members of Trump’s campaign colluded with Russian officials to influence the U.S. election. That decision came days after former FBI director Robert Mueller was appointed as special counsel to lead the probe into Russian election meddling.

The New York Times reported on Sunday that Kasowitz advised White House staffers, who he does not represent, not to retain their own lawyers. Kasowitz is tasked with defending Trump personally, not the institution of the White House.

The Washington Post reported late Wednesday evening that Mueller is investigating whether Trump tried to obstruct justice.

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Georgia Republican House candidate Karen Handel on Thursday said she received packages containing “threatening letters and a suspicious substance” at her home, a day after a gunman opened fire at congressional Republicans’ baseball practice.

“This afternoon we had some suspicious packages delivered to our house and to our neighbors,” Handel said in a statement posted on Facebook.

She said law enforcement officials were involved.

“The packages contained threatening letters and a suspicious substance,” Handel said. “The police were quickly notified and street is now being blocked off. We will continue to coordinate with law enforcement as necessary.”

James Hodgkinson, the suspected shooter who fired at Republican lawmakers on Wednesday as they practiced for the annual congressional baseball game, criticized Handel in a Facebook comment posted earlier this week.

“Republican Bitch Wants People to Work for Slave Wages, when a Livable Wage is the Only Way to Go!” Hodgkinson posted, responding to comments Handel made during a debate last week for an open U.S. House seat in Georgia.

Handel on Wednesday said Hodgkinson “targeted members of Congress specifically because he disagreed with their views.”

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Deputy White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Thursday said President Donald Trump has “no intention” of firing former FBI head Robert Mueller as special counsel overseeing the federal probe into Russian election meddling.

Speaking to reporters during an off-camera, unrecorded briefing, Sanders said Trump “has the right to” fire Mueller as special counsel but “has no intention to do so.”

Sanders gave a far more tentative answer when asked whether Trump has confidence in Mueller.

“I believe so,” she said, but added that she had not spoken to Trump about it.

White House staffers have previously asserted confidence in targets of Trump’s reported ire only to be contradicted hours later by the President himself.

Trump’s friend Chris Ruddy, the CEO of Newsmax Media, on Monday said Trump was considering firing Mueller. The White House did not deny that Trump was considering the possibility but said Ruddy “never spoke to the president regarding this issue.”

The Washington Post reported late Wednesday that Mueller is investigating whether Trump attempted to obstruct justice, a probe which will likely put Mueller in the White House’s crosshairs and which Trump attempted to delegitimize on Thursday as a “WITCH HUNT.”

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Rep. Steve King (R-IA), a longtime proponent of the “birther” conspiracy theory aimed at undermining Barack Obama’s presidency, on Wednesday partly blamed the former President for political divisions King claimed led to a shooting at congressional Republicans’ baseball practice that left six people injured.

“I do want to put some of this at the feet of Barack Obama,” King said on Iowa radio station WHO, as flagged by CNN’s KFILE. “He contributed mightily to dividing us. He focused on our differences rather than our things that unify us. And this is some of the fruits of that labor.”

King, no stranger to divisive remarks himself, suggested in 2012 that Obama’s parents could have made false announcements in U.S. newspapers of Obama’s birth “by telegram from Kenya.”

He gave an infamous interview in 2013 in which he claimed that for every DREAMer who becomes a valedictorian “there’s another 100 out there that weigh 130 pounds and they’ve got calves the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert.” (John Boehner, then House speaker for King’s own conference, responded: “What an asshole.”)

In 2014, King claimed Obama “was not raised with an American experience.”

During the contentious 2016 election, King challenged fellow MSNBC panelists to name a “subgroup of people” that contributed “more to civilization” than white people.

In 2017, King once again made headlines by tweeting praise for an anti-Muslim politician with the claim: “We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies.”

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President Donald Trump on Thursday said he hopes House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) has “brought some unity” to the United States by making a “great sacrifice.” Scalise was shot on Wednesday when a gunman opened fire at a Republican congressional baseball practice.

“Steve in his own way may have brought some unity to our long-divided county,” Trump said in remarks at the White House before signing an executive order. “I have a feeling that Steve has made a great sacrifice, but there could be some unity being brought to our country. Let’s hope so.”

He said Scalise is “in some trouble.”

“It’s been much more difficult than people even thought at the time,” Trump said. “But he’s a great fighter and he’s going to be OK, we hope.”

MedStar Washington Hospital Center on Wednesday said Scalise was shot in the hip and “will require additional operations.”

“He was transported in shock,” the hospital announced. “He underwent immediate surgery, and an additional procedure to stop bleeding. He has received multiple units of blood transfusion. His condition is critical.”

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Rep. Lou Barletta (R-PA) on Wednesday said members of Congress should “absolutely” cut down on public events in the wake of a shooting at Republican lawmakers’ baseball practice that left six people injured, including Senate Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA), who remains in critical condition.

“Do you think that for now members of Congress and the Senate should curtail that kind of activity until perhaps we agree that we need to be more civil?” Pennsylvania radio station WILK’s host Sue Henry asked Barletta, as flagged by CNN’s KFILE.

“I think absolutely,” Barletta replied. “There’s no question.”

Barletta said he has “been at the end of some of those town halls where the police had to carry people out.”

“You get concerned not only for your own safety but for the safety of the people who are there,” he said. “Even if you have an opposing opinion, that’s great, that’s what these events are for, but there’s a level, you know, when people cross a line to actually inciting other people and when individual safety becomes an issue, well, then the purpose of doing it is lost.”

Barletta said he believes town halls have “become such, really, just targets for people to try to incite other people.”

“It’s not good,” he said.

Republican members of Congress have faced contentious town halls since President Donald Trump’s inauguration, where constituents have questioned them about everything from the Republican plan to repeal and replace Obamacare to whether they are willing to act as a check on Trump’s executive authority.

Many lawmakers have reduced the number of public events they attend, in one case prompting a Democratic representative to offer to hold town halls on his Republican counterpart’s behalf to explain the policies to the constituents he claimed are calling his office instead.

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Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on Wednesday did a startlingly good impression of President Donald Trump talking about “fake polls” and “this Russian guy” who Turnbull joked is helping Trump out.

“Donald and I, we are winning and winning in the polls,” Turnbull said to laughter and applause during the Canberra press gallery’s annual ball.

His remarks were supposed to be off the record, but an Australian news channel obtained and published a recording of part of Turnbull’s speech.

Turnbull poked fun at his own poor approval ratings as well as Trump’s, which he jokingly blamed on “fake polls.”

“We are winning so much. We are winning like we have never won before. We are winning in the polls. We are. We are,” he said, imitating Trump’s stop-and-start rhetorical style. “Not the fake polls. Not the fake polls. They’re the ones we’re not winning in.”

The audience appeared to receive his impression with general amusement.

“We’re winning in the real polls. You know, the online polls. They are so easy to win. Did you know that? I know that. Did you know that? I kind of know that,” Turnbull said, to renewed laughter. “I know that. They are so easy to win.”

“I have this Russian guy,” he added, likely referring to Trump’s cozy relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin. “Believe me, it’s true. It is true.”

Vision has surfaced of Malcolm Turnbull mocking U.S. President Donald J. Trump.Laurie Oakes broke the story here: http://www.9news.com.au/national/2017/06/15/14/18/malcolm-turnbull-impersonates-donald-trump-in-leaked-audio/?ocid=9newsfb#9News | http://9News.com.au

Posted by 9 News on Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Trump has appeared to take particular umbrage at foreign leaders’ mockery of the United States. Throughout his 2016 presidential campaign, Trump complained the U.S. had become “the laughingstock of the world” and pledged to restore dignity. (Per the Washington Post’s count, he made that claim more than 100 times.) Even after winning the election, Trump appeared to be particularly concerned about humiliation.

“We don’t want other countries and other leaders to laugh at us anymore,” he said in a speech announcing that he would withdraw the U.S. from the Paris climate accord.

Trump’s primary tactic to avoid such embarrassment appears to involve beating foreign heads of state to the punch. In February, he reportedly lambasted Turnbull in a phone conversation he said was his “worst call by far” with a world leader, and hung up after just 25 minutes rather than the allotted hour.

The rest of the U.S. government quickly went into overdrive to assure Australia that Trump’s comments were not reflective of the United States’ commitment to its alliance with Australia.

Turnbull, it appears, has nevertheless had the latest laugh.

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Robert Mueller, the special counsel overseeing the federal investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, is looking into whether President Donald Trump tried to obstruct justice, the Washington Post reported late Wednesday.

The Washington Post reported, citing unnamed sources familiar with the matter, that the investigation into whether Trump attempted to obstruct justice began shortly after he abruptly fired James Comey as director of the FBI in May. According to the report, Mueller’s office later took up the probe.

Investigators are also searching “for any evidence of possible financial crimes among Trump associates,” according to unnamed officials cited in the report.

During his blockbuster testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee last week, Comey said Trump was not under investigation at the time of his firing, an assertion the White House quickly seized on as a vindication of the President.

That changed shortly after Trump abruptly terminated Comey, the Washington Post reported, citing unnamed officials.

Mueller’s investigators have scheduled interviews with intelligence officials including Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, NSA Director Mike Rogers and former deputy NSA director Richard Ledgett, the Washington Post reported, citing five unnamed sources briefed on the requests.

A spokesman for Mueller declined to comment to the Washington Post.

Mark Corallo, a spokesperson for Trump’s personal lawyer Marc Kasowitz, did not deny the report. He instead told the Washington Post: “The FBI leak of information regarding the President is outrageous, inexcusable and illegal.”

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