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

Michael Wolff recorded his conversations with former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon and other members of President Donald Trump’s administration, Axios reported on Thursday.

Axios reported that Wolff has “dozens of hours” recorded from his discussions with Bannon, Trump’s former deputy chief of staff Katie Walsh and other officials, some of whom thought they were speaking off the record.

The Guardian on Wednesday reported, citing Wolff’s as-yet unpublished book “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House,” that Bannon said Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting with a Russian lawyer in June 2016 was “treasonous” and “unpatriotic.”

In response, Trump claimed that Bannon “had very little to do” with his election win, and claimed Bannon “lost his mind” after he was “fired” from his White House job.

The White House claimed Wolff’s book, which depicted Trump’s campaign and administration as a chaos-filled endeavor run by self-interested staffers, is “filled with false and misleading accounts” and “trashy tabloid fiction.”

On Thursday, Trump’s attorney Charles Harder sent letters to the author and publisher of Wolff’s book demanding that they stop efforts to print and release the book, which is set to come out next week.

Harder claimed Trump’s legal team is “investigating numerous false and/or baseless statements.” Any recordings of Wolff’s conversations with former White House staffers quoted in his book would throw a wrench into efforts to dispute the allegations it contains.

New York Magazine on Wednesday published an excerpt adapted from Wolff’s book with an explanation of Wolff’s access to top administration officials: Wolff claimed that after Trump was sworn in, he took up “something like a semi-permanent seat on a couch in the West Wing” at Trump’s own encouragement.

According to New York Magazine, nobody in Trump’s administration was in a position to either sanction or revoke Wolff’s access, which was not restricted and had no conditions attached, and Wolff subsequently conducted more than 200 interviews.

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Unsuccessful Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore on Thursday said he has “no regrets” about unsuccessfully challenging his Democratic opponent’s victory and refusing to concede the Senate election he lost earlier in December.

“I have no regrets. To God be the glory,” Moore said in a statement sent out more than two weeks after he lost the special election as a Republican in the deep-red state.

Moore claimed that “election fraud experts across the country have agreed that this was a fraudulent election,” though an Alabama judge threw out Moore’s lawsuit alleging voter fraud earlier Thursday afternoon.

Alabama’s canvassing board officially certified Senator-elect Doug Jones (D-AL) on Thursday.

Moore lost the Alabama special Senate election after numerous women came forward with allegations of sexual misconduct against him.

Along with his lawsuit, Moore also submitted an affidavit claiming that he took a polygraph test “within days” of the special election. Moore claimed that its results showed that he “did not know” and did not have “any sexual contact” with three of the women who accused him of misconduct: Leigh Corfman, Beverly Young Nelson and Tina Johnson.

In an interview with AL.com, Johnson responded: “The good Lord knows he did it.”

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President Donald Trump has scheduled his annual physical exam for Jan. 12, 2018, the White House announced on Thursday.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters that Dr. Ronny Jackson, a rear admiral in the U.S. Navy who has served as physician to the President since 2013, “will give a readout of the exam after it’s completed.”

Trump’s personal doctor, Dr. Harold N. Bornstein of Manhattan’s Lenox Hill Hospital, in 2015 released a statement claiming that the then-candidate, if elected, would be “the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency.”

In August 2016, Bornstein told NBC News that he wrote the statement in five minutes as a limo waited outside his Upper East Side office.

Several months later, Bornstein said there was “nothing seriously wrong” with Trump, by then the president-elect, but “if something happens to him, then it happens to him.”

“It’s like all the rest of us, no?” he told STAT News. “That’s why we have a vice president and a speaker of the House and a whole line of people. They can just keep dying.”

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Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ) earlier this week accused special counsel Robert Mueller of leading a “witch hunt” with his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and called on Mueller to step down.

“Mueller’s investigation is clearly careening far beyond the scope of his original charge,” Biggs wrote Tuesday in an editorial for USA Today.

He accused Mueller of making “blatantly partisan hires” (Mueller was a registered Republican when former President George W. Bush nominated him to lead the FBI). Biggs also claimed that Mueller is using taxpayer resources “to scrutinize anyone and anything that fits into a preconceived notion that Russia colluded with the Trump campaign to ‘fix the election.'”

“Mueller has demonstrated he is incapable of leading a focused, unbiased review of his initial assignment. His witch hunt must end,” Biggs said, echoing President Donald Trump’s frequent criticism of the investigation.

Biggs claimed Mueller has “unilaterally expanded his investigation,” accused his office of “persistent leaks” and “abuse of attorney-client privilege” and claimed the special counsel has a “preference for questionable tactics.”

“If Robert Mueller truly cared for justice, he would voluntarily step aside from his post,” Biggs said, and lamented that Mueller “has repeatedly shown that he has no interest in ending his crusade.”

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Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill (R) on Thursday said former Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore’s lawsuit to block the state canvassing board from certifying his Democratic opponent’s win will not change anything.

“Will this affect anything? The short answer to that is no,” Merrill said on CNN’s “New Day.”

Moore on Wednesday filed a lawsuit in an Alabama Circuit Court to try to block the state canvassing board from officially declaring Jones the winner of the special Senate election earlier in December.

Moore alleged that irregularities in one Alabama county were suspect and enough to swing the election in Jones’ favor. Moore lost the election after numerous women came forward with allegations of sexual misconduct and accused Moore of pursuing them when they were teenagers and he was in his early 30s.

Merrill on Wednesday told the Associated Press that Moore’s lawsuit was “not going to delay certification” for Jones.

On Thursday, he told CNN that Jones “will be certified today at 2 p.m. Eastern time” despite Moore’s lawsuit.

“The governor, Kay Ivey, our attorney general, Steve Marshall, and I will meet in the office of the secretary of state, in the executive office, and we will sign the documents certifying him as the senator for the state of Alabama,” Merrill said. “He will be sworn in by Vice President Pence on the 3rd of January when the Senate returns.”

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President Donald Trump’s legal team plans to cast doubt on former national security adviser Michael Flynn’s credibility if he makes any claims implicating members of Trump’s administration, the Washington Post reported on Wednesday.

The Washington Post reported, citing three unnamed sources familiar with the strategy, that Trump’s legal team would accuse Flynn of lobbing any such accusations in order to protect himself.

In February, after Flynn resigned from the White House, Trump defended Flynn and blamed the media for his resignation.

“What he did wasn’t wrong, what he did in terms of the information he saw,” Trump said at a press conference after Flynn’s resignation. “What was wrong was the way that other people, including yourselves in this room, were given that information.”

According to the Washington Post, one unnamed source helping to craft Trump’s legal strategy said that Flynn has “said it himself” in pleading guilty to lying to the FBI.

“He’s a liar,” the source told the Washington Post.

As part of his guilty plea this month to a charge of lying to the FBI, Flynn agreed to cooperate with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

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Americans named former President Barack Obama the most admired man in the world for the 10th year in a row, making President Donald Trump one of a handful of sitting presidents who have fallen short of that accolade, according to a Gallup poll released Wednesday.

Obama narrowly beat current Trump by three percentage points, with 17 percent of respondents naming him the most admired man in the world to Trump’s 14 percent.

According to Gallup, only a few incumbent presidents have not been named the most admired man in the world since the research company began asking the question in 1946. Trump joins a list that includes Harry Truman, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter and George W. Bush.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was Americans’ most admired woman in the world, according to the poll. She beat former first lady Michelle Obama by two percentage points, with 9 percent of respondents choosing Clinton. Only one percent of respondents did the same for current first lady Melania Trump.

According to Gallup, Clinton has retained her title for 16 consecutive years, while Obama has retained his for 10 years, including the current year, all eight years he was in office as president and the year he was first elected, in 2008.

Gallup conducted its survey from Dec. 4–11, 2017, via cell phone and landline interviews, from a random sample of 1,049 adults living in the United States, with a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

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The DC Metropolitan Police Department on Tuesday confirmed that Joy Villa, a singer who accused President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, of slapping her butt at a Trump hotel party last month, filed a police report on Sunday regarding her allegations.

Villa “disclosed she was the victim of a sexual assault,” according to a copy of the report obtained by TPM.

Villa told Politico on Tuesday that she told a DC police detective that she wanted to file a sexual harassment claim, but was told that her allegations fell under the purview of the department’s sex assault unit instead.

“The detective I talked to said that sexual harassment is what happens in the workforce,” she told Politico. “The detective told me, ‘What you describe happened to you is sexual assault.’”

Villa told Politico that she provided the police with the names of two witnesses to the alleged incident.

Politico first reported on Villa’s allegations against Lewandowski last week, after a witness described the incident to a reporter. The singer, who attended the Grammys wearing a dress emblazoned with President Donald Trump’s campaign slogan, accused Lewandowski of slapping her twice when a friend of Villa’s introduced the two at a party in November.

Villa did not approach Politico, according to the report, but said Lewandowski’s behavior was “completely demeaning and shocking.”

“I’m wearing this silver suit and stretchy pants, and after the photo, he smacks my ass really hard,” she said.

Villa said she threatened to report Lewandowski for sexual harassment.

“He said, ‘Go ahead, I work in the private sector,’” she told Politico. “Then he smacks my ass again.”

On Tuesday, Villa told Politico that she waited to file a report until December because she “feared that it could backfire.”

“Ten times out of ten the woman gets blamed no matter what,” she said.

Villa is not the first person to have filed a claim against Lewandowski for physical misconduct. Former Breitbart News reporter Michelle Fields accused Lewandowski in March 2016 of grabbing her arm at a campaign event hard enough to leave bruises.

Lewandowski was charged with simple battery, a charge which was later dropped. Fields resigned from Breitbart News and said the company did not “adequately” stand by her amid her allegations and the subsequent backlash.

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Joy Villa, a singer who wore a “Make America Great Again”-emblazoned dress to the Grammys earlier this year, on Friday accused President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski of slapping her on the butt in November.

Villa said in an interview with Politico that a friend introduced her to Lewandowski at a party at Trump’s Washington, D.C. hotel in late November. According to Villa, the two posed for a picture.

“I’m wearing this silver suit and stretchy pants, and after the photo, he smacks my ass really hard,” Villa told Politico. “It was completely demeaning and shocking.”

Villa said she told Lewandowski to “watch it.”

“Half-joking, I said, ‘I can report you for sexual harassment,’” she said. “He said, ‘Go ahead, I work in the private sector.’”

According to Villa, he then slapped her again.

“Corey laughed in my face and ran away,” she said. “It felt like it was all a big joke to him.”

According to the report, Villa did not approach Politico. Another witness described the incident to a reporter, and Villa subsequently agreed to discuss it on the record.

Politico reported that a friend who witnessed Villa’s conversation with Lewandowski corroborated her account, but requested anonymity. Lewandowski did not respond to any of Politico’s requests for comment.

Villa’s misconduct allegations against Lewandowski are not the first a woman has brought against the former campaign manager.

In March 2016, then-Breitbart News reporter Michelle Fields accused Lewandowski of grabbing her arm at a campaign event hard enough to leave bruises. The incident was caught on camera and Lewandowski was charged with simple battery, though the charges were eventually dropped.

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Rep. Francis Rooney (R-FL) on Tuesday said the Department of Justice and FBI are “off the rails” and need to “purge” their ranks.

“I’m very concerned that the DOJ and the FBI, whether you want to call it deep state or what, are kind of off the rails,” Rooney said on MSNBC. “People need a good, clean government.”

“Do you think people don’t have a good clean government?” MSNBC’s Hallie Jackson pressed. “There are those that look at comments like the ones that you’re making and say Republicans are working to essentially try to discredit the Department of Justice and thus discredit the Russia investigations. Is that not what you’re doing?”

“No, I don’t want to discredit them. I just, I would like to see the directors of the agencies purge it and say, look, we’ve got a lot of great agents, a lot of great lawyers here,” Rooney said. “Those are the people I want the American people to see and know the good work’s being done, not these people who are kind of the deep state.”

“Language like that, congressman, purge?” Jackson asked. “Purge the Department of Justice?”

“Well, I think that Mr. Strzok could be purged, sure,” Rooney replied, referring to FBI agent Peter Strzok, who was removed from special counsel Robert Mueller’s team in August after an inspector general investigation revealed that he sent text messages critical of Trump during the 2016 election.

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