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

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) on Monday said he does not know any details of the Republican bill to repeal and replace Obamacare and does not want to learn any.

Axios reported on Monday that Republican staffers are not planning to publicly release the Senate bill to repeal and replace Obamacare once they complete it, but will instead send it straight to the Congressional Budget Office for a score.

Graham was not the only Republican senator who appeared to be in the dark about the major health care legislation.

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The Secret Service on Monday said it has no copies or transcripts of audio recordings made within the White House during President Donald Trump’s term so far, though Trump appeared to suggest a recording system may exist inside the Oval Office.

“It appears, from a review of Secret Service’s main indices, that there are no records pertaining to your request that are referenced in these indices,” the Secret Service wrote to the Wall Street Journal in response to a Freedom of Information Act request.

The Wall Street Journal in May filed a request for “recordings or transcripts of any recordings” made after Trump’s inauguration.

As the Wall Street Journal noted, while the Secret Service installed recording systems for former presidents John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon, such recordings could also have been created or maintained by other means.

The National Archives and Records Administration, which governs materials subject to the Presidential Records Act (as such recordings would likely be), told the Wall Street Journal that contemporary presidential records are not subject to FOIA requests while the incumbent is in office.

Trump in May appeared to suggest that he recorded his conversations with fired FBI Director James Comey.

The White House has since declined to confirm whether or not any such recordings exist, let alone if Trump will release them at any point.

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White House press secretary Sean Spicer on Monday declined to say whether he thinks Attorney General Jeff Sessions should invoke executive privilege during his scheduled testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday.

“When Jeff Sessions testifies tomorrow, do you believe that he should invoke executive privilege on conversations between himself and the President as it relates to Jim Comey?” Fox Business News reporter Blake Burman asked Spicer at his daily briefing, referring to the fired director of the FBI.

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A county judge on Monday ruled that Greg Gianforte, the Montana Republican who won a House seat in May a day after allegedly bodyslamming a reporter who asked him questions, will not spend any time in jail after pleading guilty to misdemeanor assault.

Judge Rick West changed his initial ruling, which included potential jail time, to substitute 40 hours of community service and 20 hours of anger management.

The Bozeman Daily Chronicle reported that West also gave Gianforte a $385 bill for fines and fees and a deferred six-month jail sentence. After six months, Gianforte’s lawyers can move to have the latter dismissed if he does not violate the conditions of the deferral, according to the report.

Gallatin County Attorney Marty Lambert told the Associated Press on Friday that Gianforte was “not going to be entering a nolo contendere plea” on Monday.

“He’s going to be pleading guilty,” Lambert said.

Ben Jacobs, a reporter for the Guardian, accused Gianforte in May of bodyslamming him and breaking his glasses after Jacobs asked him a question about the Republican bill to repeal and replace Obamacare.

A Fox News reporter also on the scene said that Gianforte grabbed Jacobs by the neck, slammed him to the ground, and punched him several times.

Gianforte’s campaign spokesman Shane Scanlon contradicted those accounts in a statement released the same night where he claimed Jacobs “aggressively shoved a recorder in Greg’s face.”

Gianforte was charged with misdemeanor assault but went on to win the election amid calls to withdraw his candidacy.

As part of a civil settlement in June, Jacobs said he would not object to Gianforte entering a nolo contendere plea, or one of no contest. Gianforte apologized to Jacobs and agreed to donate $50,000 to the Committee to Protect Journalists as part of the agreement.

“My physical response to your legitimate question was unprofessional, unacceptable, and unlawful,” Gianforte wrote in a letter to Jacobs. “I made a mistake and humbly ask for your forgiveness.”

“I hope this court’s decision can send a strong message about the necessity of civil discourse and the important role of the free press and to help heal our political system,” Jacobs said in a statement he read in court on Monday.

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Frustrated constituents at a town hall Monday morning pressed Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS) to defend his stance on the Republican bill to repeal and replace Obamacare and his vote for Betsy DeVos as secretary of education.

Attendees packed the event and questioned Moran on subjects from the town hall’s timing (it began at 7:30 a.m.) and whether the senator would ever break with his party over policy disagreements.

According to Kansas City Star reporter Bryan Lowry, Moran said he would not have voted for the House’s health care bill, and called for open Senate hearings on the legislation. Pressed by an audience member to commit to not voting for the bill without public hearings, however, Moran declined.

Moran faced questions on his decision to support DeVos’ nomination as Trump’s secretary of education barely a week before it came to the Senate floor, where his vote to confirm DeVos was one of several that likely decided her fate.

Attendees also pressed Moran on his support for Jeff Sessions as attorney general in light of new reports that Sessions neglected to disclose his meetings with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak while under oath.

The senator joked about the contentious atmosphere, according to Lowry, but appeared to acknowledge its causes.

“Americans should be upset,” he said. “Lots of things to be upset about.”

Update at 12:21 p.m.: An earlier version of this piece incorrectly stated that Moran received a standing ovation after asking why there were no women on the Republican committee to draft the Senate health care bill. Moran was in fact repeating an audience question, not asking the question himself.

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Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) on Sunday said she would “be fine with issuing a subpoena” for recordings President Donald Trump suggested he made of his conversations with fired FBI Director James Comey if Trump does not answer whether the tapes exist.

“He should give a straight yes or no to the question of whether or not the tapes exist, and he should voluntarily turn them over not only to the Senate Intelligence Committee but to the special counsel,” Collins said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

She said Trump “should have cleared up” whether or not the tapes exist during a press conference on Friday.

“I would be fine with issuing a subpoena, but that most likely would come from the special counsel’s office,” Collins said, though she added: “I don’t think a subpoena should be necessary, and I don’t understand why the President just doesn’t clear this matter up once and for all.”

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Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) on Sunday said President Donald Trump could be the first president to “go down” as a result of his inability to stop tweeting about the investigations he appears to view as a threat.

“You may be the first president in history to go down because you can’t stop inappropriately talking about an investigation that, if you just were quiet, would clear you,” Graham said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

He said Trump’s tweeting is a source of frustration for Republicans.

“This is not helping,” Graham said.

Trump nevertheless began Sunday with one of his by-now regular Twitter salvos at Democrats and fired FBI Director James Comey.

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Former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara on Sunday said there is “absolutely evidence to begin a case” against President Donald Trump for obstruction of justice.

“I think there’s absolutely evidence to begin a case,” Bharara said on ABC News’ “This Week.”

In March, Trump asked Bharara, formerly U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, to resign from his position just months after personally asking Bharara to stay on.

“I think it’s very important for all sorts of armchair speculators in the law to be clear that no one knows right now whether there’s a provable case of obstruction,” Bharara noted on Sunday, but added: “It’s also true, I think, from based on what I see as a third party and out of government, that there’s no basis to say there’s no obstruction.”

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Donald Trump Jr. on Saturday said that his father did speak to fired FBI Director James Comey about his preferred outcome for the investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn, though President Donald Trump flatly denied doing so.

“When I hear the Flynn comments, you and I know both know my father for a long time. When he tells you to do something, guess what? There’s no ambiguity in it,” Trump Jr. told Fox News’ Jeanine Pirro. “There’s no ‘Hey, I’m hoping. You and I are friends. Hey, I hope this happens, but you’ve got to do your job.’ That’s what he told Comey.”

On Friday, however, the President flatly denied making those remarks to Comey or pressuring him to drop the investigation into Flynn, implicitly or otherwise.

“You said you hoped the Flynn investigation he could let go,” ABC News’ Jon Karl asked Trump during a press conference.

“I didn’t say that,” Trump interrupted.

“So he lied about that?” Karl asked, referring to Comey.

“Well, I didn’t say that,” Trump said. “And I mean I will you tell you I didn’t say that.”

But, he added, “There would be nothing wrong if I did say it, according to everybody that I’ve read today, but I did not say that.”

Trump Jr. on Saturday claimed that “everything that went on in the Comey testimony was basically ridiculous.”

“For this guy as a politician to then go back and write a memo, ‘oh, I felt,’ he felt so threatened, he felt that — but he didn’t do anything!” Trump Jr. said.

Comey’s blockbuster testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday, however, prompted Trump to offer to do the same.

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President Donald Trump on Sunday suggested that there are more revelations to come from fired FBI Director James Comey, and questioned their legality.

“I believe the James Comey leaks will be far more prevalent than anyone ever thought possible,” Trump tweeted early Sunday morning. “Totally illegal? Very ‘cowardly!'”

Trump made similar remarks on Friday in another early morning tweet where he labeled Comey a “leaker,” referring to Comey’s decision to share the contents of memos about his conversations with Trump to the press via a friend.

Comey revealed that decision during his testimony on Thursday before the Senate Intelligence Committee, where he painted Trump as a liar and testified that Trump tried to obtain a loyalty pledge from the former FBI head and pushed him to drop an investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

Trump on Friday said he was “100 percent” willing to match Comey and testify under oath to contradict Comey’s testimony.

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