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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

President Donald Trump on Saturday said he did not think it would be inappropriate to ask a FBI director for “loyalty.”

“I don’t think it’s inappropriate,” Trump told Fox News’ Jeanine Pirro, responding to a report by the New York Times that he asked former FBI Director James Comey in January to pledge loyalty to him.

“Did you ask that question?” Pirro asked.

“No, no I didn’t, but I don’t think it would be a bad question to ask. I think loyalty to the country, loyalty to the United States is important, you know, I mean, it depends on how you define loyalty, number one,” Trump said. “Number two, I don’t know how that got there, because I didn’t ask that question.”

Pressed by Pirro on his suggestion that he recorded his conversations with Comey, Trump said: “That I won’t talk about. I can’t talk about that.”

“All I want is for Comey to be honest, and I hope he will be, and I’m sure he will be,” Trump said. “I hope.”

President Donald Trump is considering broad changes to his senior staff in the wake of backlash to his decision to abruptly terminate former FBI Director James Comey, according to reports by Axios and the New York Times.

The New York Times reported Friday, citing unnamed senior aides, that Trump is considering a “broad shake-up” of his staff.

He is dissatisfied with White House chief of staff Reince Priebus, communications director Michael Dubke and press secretary Sean Spicer, and has been particularly critical of Spicer, according to the Times, which cited “a half-dozen” unnamed officials in the West Wing.

Axios on Sunday reported, citing unnamed White House sources, that Trump’s ire also extends to members of his Cabinet, though the report noted that Trump “often talks about firing people when things go south and does not follow through on it.”

The White House press shop’s answers to basic questions about Comey’s termination changed almost hourly since Spicer first announced Comey’s firing by shouting the news to reporters from his office doorway and then locking the door.

Trump on Thursday then contradicted his entire communications staff in an interview with NBC’s Lester Holt where he revealed that he was thinking about the investigation into his campaign’s possible coordination with Russia when he fired Comey.

On Friday, Trump seemed equivocal on Spicer’s future job prospects, telling Fox News’ Jeanine Pirro that Spicer is “doing a good job, but he gets beat up.”

“Will he be there tomorrow?” Pirro asked.

“Yeah, well, he’s been there from the beginning,” Trump replied.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) on Sunday joined Democrats in calling for President Donald Trump to turn over any recordings he made of conversations with fired FBI Director James Comey.

“If there are any tapes, they have to be turned over. You can’t be cute about tapes,” Graham said on NBC News’ “Meet the Press.” “I doubt if there are, but we need to clear the air.”

He said he wants Comey to come before the Senate Judiciary Committee to discuss conversations he had with Trump before his abrupt termination.

Graham said he does not believe Trump “is a target” of a probe into possible connections between his associates and Russian officials, and said Trump should “let the investigation go forward” — and lay off the tweeting.

“I would advise the President not to tweet about the investigation going forward,” Graham said. “He needs to back off here.”

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) on Sunday said that if President Donald Trump recorded his conversations with former FBI Director James Comey, he should hand them over to Congress.

“If there are tapes, the President should turn them over immediately, of course,” Schumer said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

He warned Trump that destroying such recordings “would be a violation of law.”

“He should turn them over to Congress and to the investigators,” Schumer said. “If there are no tapes, he should apologize to both Jim Comey and the American people for misleading them.”

Trump on Friday appeared to warn Comey against speaking to the press amid unflattering reports regarding Comey’s abrupt termination.

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

White House press secretary Sean Spicer subsequently said he was “not aware” whether Trump recorded his conversations with the former FBI head, and refused to clarify whether the President records conversations in the Oval Office.

“That’s not a threat. He simply stated a fact,” Spicer said. “The tweet speaks for itself. I’m moving on.”

Democratic lawmakers asked the White House to turn over any such recordings, alleging that Trump’s tweet raised the possibility of “obstruction of justice.”

An unnamed source “familiar with the matter” told CNN on Friday, however, that Comey is “not worried about any tapes” Trump may have made of their conversations.

“He hopes there are tapes,” NBC’s Ken Dilanian reported on Friday, citing an unnamed source close to Comey. “That would be perfect.”

President Donald Trump on Thursday said that he did not consider the optics or potential backlash of suddenly firing former FBI Director James Comey, who led the bureau’s investigation into possible collusion between members of Trump’s campaign and Russian officials.

“I never thought about it. It was set up a while ago, and frankly I could have waited. But what difference does it make?” Trump said.

The White House on Thursday went into its third day of clean-up duty regarding conflicting official statements on Trump’s rationale for Comey’s abrupt termination.

In an interview with NBC News’ Lester Holt, Trump appeared unconcerned with the optics of the decision, and insisted he was not trying to send a message to Comey’s successor regarding the bureau’s probe into Russian election interference.

“Did you ask him to drop the investigation?” Holt asked.

“I want to find out if there was a problem in the election having to do with Russia,” Trump insisted. “I just want somebody that’s competent.”

 

“But when you put out tweets, ‘it’s a total hoax, it’s a taxpayer charade,’ and you’re looking for a new FBI director, are you not sending that person a message to lay off?” Holt asked.

“No, I’m not doing that,” Trump said.

He called allegations of election interference “an excuse” for Democrats’ election loss, but said he “might even lengthen out the investigation” nevertheless.

“I want that to be so strong and so good,” Trump said. “And I want it to happen.”

He insisted there was no “collusion between me and my campaign and the Russians.”

Pressed by Holt on other conflicts with Comey, Trump said he was “surprised” by Comey’s lack of support for Trump’s claims that he was “wire tapped” at Trump Tower.

“But I wasn’t angry,” he said.

Trump went on to blame White House counsel Don McGahn and former acting Attorney General Sally Yates for the disparity between the amount of time it took Trump to dismiss Comey — a shock announcement which came Tuesday afternoon — and the 18 days it took him to oust former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.

“My White House counsel Don McGahn didn’t make it sound like it was an emergency. She actually didn’t make it sound that way either,” Trump said of Flynn’s contacts with a Russian ambassador. “He’s, in my opinion, a very good person.”

CNN congressional reporter Dana Bash on Thursday said that newly revealed details about President Donald Trump’s decision to fire former FBI Director James Comey make his abrupt termination feel “like a scene out of ‘The Godfather.'”

“Look, it makes sense that that’s the way you do business in New York,” Bash said, responding to Trump’s claim that he asked Comey whether he was the subject of an FBI investigation over dinner. “It does not make sense that that’s the way you do business when you are the President of the United States.”

She called it “a double whammy,” citing Trump’s claim that Comey expressed his desire to keep his job as head of the FBI.

“In the same conversation they talked about James Comey’s job prospects and whether or not he was going to stay in that job. Well, who decides whether he was going to stay in that job? The President,” Bash said. “I mean, it almost feels like a scene out of “The Godfather,” but it’s not. It’s real, and it’s alarming.”

White House deputy press secretary Sarah Sanders on Thursday denied that members of President Donald Trump’s administration were left in the dark about the timing of Trump’s decision to fire James Comey as director of the FBI.

ABC reporter Jon Karl asked Sanders during the daily White House press briefing to explain the disparity between official accounts — including Sanders’ own — regarding Comey’s termination.

Sanders said on Tuesday that Trump acted on a recommendation from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. On Wednesday, she changed that account slightly, saying that Trump had “been considering letting Director Comey go since the day he was elected.”

Vice President Mike Pence on Wednesday said several times that Trump decided to “accept the recommendation of the deputy attorney general and the attorney general to remove Director Comey.”

Trump on Thursday blew up that narrative entirely when he told NBC News’ Lester Holt that he had already decided to fire Comey “regardless of recommendation.”

Sanders told reporters on Thursday that she had not directly asked Trump about the timing of his decision when she made her previous statements.

“I’d had several conversations with him, but I didn’t ask that question directly, ‘had you already made that decision,’ I went off the information that I had when I answered your question,” she said. “I’ve since had the conversation with him.”

“Was the vice president in the dark, too?” Karl pressed.

“Nobody was in the dark, Jonathan. You want to create this false narrative,” Sanders said. “If we want to talk about contradicting statements and people who were maybe in the dark, how about the Democrats?”

President Donald Trump on Thursday claimed that ousted FBI Director James Comey told him on three separate occasions that he was not the subject of an investigation by the FBI. Trump said that he asked Comey whether he was the subject of a probe.

“He told me that. I mean, he told me that,” Trump told NBC News’ Lester Holt in an interview. “I’ve heard that from others.”

Trump also made that claim in his termination letter to Comey, in which he wrote that he “greatly” appreciated Comey telling him that he was not being investigated by the bureau.

In the interview Thursday, Trump said Comey made the assurance once in person during a dinner with Trump.

“I had a dinner with him. He wanted to have dinner because he wanted to stay on,” Trump said. “And I said I’ll consider, we’ll see what happens. But we had a very nice dinner. And at that time he told me, you are not under investigation, which I knew anyway.”

He said Comey made that assurance twice more in phone conversations.

“Did you call him?” Holt asked.

“In one case I called him and one case he called me.”

“And did you ask, ‘am I under investigation?'” Holt asked.

“I actually asked him, yes,” Trump said. “I said, if it’s possible, would you let me know, am I under investigation? He said, you are not under investigation.”

“But he’s given sworn testimony that there is an ongoing investigation into the trump campaign and possible collusion with the Russian government,” Holt said, referring to Comey’s testimony in March before the House Intelligence Committee.

Comey testified in the hearing that he was “authorized by the Department of Justice to confirm” that the FBI was “investigating the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government, and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia’s efforts.”

“Was he being truthful?” Holt asked.

In his reply, Trump appeared to distance himself from the campaign that got him elected to the White House.

“I know that I’m not under investigation. Me, personally,” he said. “I’m not talking about campaigns, I’m not talking about anything else. I’m not under investigation.”

President Donald Trump on Thursday said that he planned to fire former FBI Director James Comey regardless of the Justice Department’s recommendation on the matter, which the White House previously cited as the primary rationale behind the firing.

“I was going to fire Comey. My decision,” Trump said in an interview with NBC News’ Lester Holt. “I was going to fire Comey. There’s no good time to do it, by the way.”

Holt pointed out that in his letter of termination to Comey, Trump said he “accepted” the department’s recommendations regarding Comey’s fate.

“You had already made the decision?” Holt asked.

“Oh, I was going to fire regardless of recommendation,” Trump said. “Regardless of recommendation, I was going to fire Comey.”

He called Comey a “showboat” and a “grandstander,” and claimed the FBI was “in turmoil” before Comey’s firing: “You know that, I know that, everybody knows that.”

Trump said on three separate occasions Comey told him that he was not under investigation by the bureau.

“He told me that,” he said. “I had a dinner with him. He wanted to have dinner because he wanted to stay on.”

“He asked for the dinner?” Holt asked.

“I think he asked for the dinner. And he wanted to stay on as the FBI head. And I said I’ll consider, we’ll see what happens. But we had a very nice dinner,” Trump said. “And at that time he told me, you are not under investigation, which I knew anyway.”

He claimed Comey made that assurance on two more occasions during phone calls.

“But he’s given sworn testimony that there is an ongoing investigation into the Trump campaign and possible collusion with the Russian government. You were the centerpiece of the Trump campaign,” Holt said. “Was he being truthful?”

“I know that I’m not under investigation. Me, personally. I’m not talking about campaigns, I’m not talking about anything else,” Trump said. “I’m not under investigation.”

In the weeks before his abrupt termination, former FBI Director James Comey was increasingly involved with his bureau’s investigation into possible collusion between members of President Donald Trump’s campaign and Russian officials, the Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday.

The Journal reported, citing unnamed sources “with knowledge of the matter and the progress of the Federal Bureau of Investigation probe,” that starting at least three weeks ago Comey began receiving daily rather than weekly updates on the probe.

According to those sources, Comey “was concerned by information showing possible evidence of collusion,” per the report.

The Washington Post, New York Times and NBC reported Wednesday morning that Comey asked the Justice Department’s second in command Rod Rosenstein for more resources to support the FBI’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Rosenstein later wrote a memo that Trump’s administration cited as its primary rationale behind Comey’s termination.

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