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

CNN’s Chris Cuomo on Monday pressed White House aide Sebastian Gorka on the contradictions between official statements about President Donald Trump’s executive order banning travelers from several majority-Muslim countries and the President’s own impromptu statements on the ban.

“You guys played games about it and said it’s not a ban,” Cuomo, the co-host of “New Day,” told Gorka. “And then the President decides to be honest about it this morning. That is spin. You are the purveyor of spin, because that was your message, that it wasn’t a ban, and it was untrue. That’s why I’m asking you.”

In response, Gorka asked whether President Barack Obama “was also a purveyor of spin.”

“The executive order is based upon the Obama White House analysis of the seven nations of greatest concern for immigration to America,” he said. “Is he a purveyor of spin, Chris?”

“Well, that’s an interesting question,” Cuomo said.

“It is, isn’t it? Isn’t it?” Gorka interjected.

“And while I like that you must get away from President Trump and his policies as quickly as possible, and go to the bromide of blame Obama for everything,” Cuomo went on. “However, the facts are not your friend here.”

He said the Obama-era order “was about travel to those countries.”

“Your order is about Muslims, about targeting Muslims and keeping them out, and allowing those who are not Muslims a carve-out to come in,” Cuomo said.

Gorka’s citation of Obama’s policy in defense of Trump’s order rang hollow in light of remarks he made the same morning on “Fox and Friends” blaming the Obama administration for “unbelievable shortsighted policies” and a “broken” system.

Trump’s administration has turned away from describing the order as a “ban” in the wake of court rulings blocking it from implementation, though the President has made no such attempt. On Saturday, he responded to an attack in London that killed seven people and wounded dozens more by tweeting about “the Travel Ban as an extra level of safety!”

On Monday, Trump lashed out at his own Justice Department for submitting a “watered down, politically correct” version of the order.

“People, the lawyers and the courts can call it whatever they want, but I am calling it what we need and what it is, a TRAVEL BAN!” he tweeted.

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United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley on Sunday said the United States supports the mutual-aid clause of the North Atlantic Treaty, though President Donald Trump declined to explicitly endorse the article while speaking at NATO headquarters in May.

“Of course we believe in Article 5,” Haley told Jake Tapper on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty holds that members of the alliance must come to the aid of another NATO ally under attack if it is invoked. In his remarks at NATO’s headquarters in Belgium, Trump declined to pledge support for the clause.

Haley said she met on Saturday with NATO ambassadors.

“We said ‘a threat on one of us is a threat on all of us,'” she said. “NATO is going to continue to be strong. It’s going to continue to be united. Russia’s going to try and divide it, but the truth is we’ve never swayed from Article 5.”

Haley said Trump’s intent during his remarks “was to make sure that the burden sharing was happening,” and that he would reaffirm the mutual-aid clause if pressed.

“I mean, I think if you asked him if he was in favor of Article 5, he would say that yes, he is,” she said.

Haley also said Trump would reaffirm the article if given an opportunity.

“He could if you asked him,” she said.

“I’d love to ask President Trump,” Tapper replied, “but he won’t give me an interview.”

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President Donald Trump on Sunday headed to the Trump National Golf Club after calling for the U.S. to “get smart” and “get down to the business of security” in the wake of an attack in London that killed seven people and wounded dozens more.

“We must stop being politically correct and get down to the business of security for our people. If we don’t get smart it will only get worse,” Trump tweeted Sunday in a series of posts where he appeared to criticize a statement by London’s mayor on the attack.

He then headed to the Trump National Golf Club, according to a pool report, for his second visit in two days and his 23rd visit to a golf course since assuming the presidency.

Trump’s weekend pastime appeared at odds both with his calls for action and his previous comments about President Barack Obama’s golfing habits.

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EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt on Sunday ducked questions about whether President Donald Trump believes that there is manmade climate change.

“I think the President made it clear in that statement that the climate changes,” Pruitt said on ABC’s “This Week,” referring to Trump’s announcement on Thursday that he would withdraw the United States from the Paris climate accord.

“But doesn’t it matter whether or not the President believes there is manmade climate change, whether he believes it’s a hoax?” George Stephanopoulos asked. “That’s the predicate for the entire decision.”

“With respect to the Paris accord, the focus is on the efficacy, the merits of the deal and the demerits of the deal,” Pruitt replied.

“It’s a pretty simple question. Why can’t the President just say whether or not he believes in manmade climate change?” Stephanopoulos pressed. “You speak for the President. You’re the EPA administrator. Do you know what the President believes?”

“Well, frankly, George, I think the whole question is an effort to get it off the point and the issue of whether Paris is good for this country or not,” Pruitt said.

“Do you know if President Trump still believes that climate change is a hoax?” Stephanopoulos asked.

“Our discussion, George, has been about the agreement, the efficacy of the agreement,” Pruitt replied.

Pruitt is just one of several members of Trump’s administration who have repeatedly declined to say in recent days whether Trump believes the science behind climate change.

UN Ambassador Nikki Haley on Saturday broke ranks, and said Trump “believes the climate is changing and he believes pollutants are part of that equation.”

“He knows that it’s changing, he knows that the U.S. has to be responsible with it,” she said. “And that’s what we’re going to do.”

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Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, said Sunday that the decision to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris climate accord was not “political.”

“It was not a political decision,” Pruitt told Chuck Todd on NBC News’ “Meet the Press.”

“There seemed to be an implication during your back and forth with the White House press corps that the rest of the world wanted the United States in it to slow down the United States. Do you believe that?” Todd asked.

“I think the Paris agreement very much so put us at an economic disadvantage,” Pruitt replied.

“But do you believe that was intentional, that was the motivation?” Todd asked.

“I think the rest of the world applauded what we did in Paris,” Pruitt said.

“But why did they applaud it?” Todd pressed.

“Because it put us in an economic disadvantage,” Pruitt replied.

President Donald Trump also made that claim Thursday when he announced that the U.S. will withdraw from the deal.

“This agreement is less about the climate and more about other countries gaining a financial advantage over the United States,” he said. “So we’re getting out.”

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President Donald Trump on Saturday and Sunday responded to an attack in London that killed seven people and wounded dozens more by promoting his travel ban and criticizing London Mayor Sadiq Khan.

Trump first acknowledged the attack, which Prime Minister Theresa May said “is being treated as a potential act of terrorism,” by retweeting the conservative Drudge Report.

In later posts, he promoted his travel ban (currently held up in court) and appeared to criticize a statement Khan made on Sunday in the wake of the attack.

“Londoners will see an increased police presence today and over the course of the next few days,” Khan said. “There’s no reason to be alarmed.”

“At least 7 dead and 48 wounded in terror attack and Mayor of London says there is ‘no reason to be alarmed!'” Trump tweeted.

He also appeared to to compare the response to the attack with the debate over gun control.

“Do you notice we are not having a gun debate right now? That’s because they used knives and a truck!” Trump tweeted.

The UK has very strict gun control legislation.

A spokesperson for Khan responded to Trump’s tweets on Sunday, saying the mayor has “more important things to do than respond to Donald Trump’s ill-informed tweet that deliberately takes out of context his remarks.”

This post has been updated.

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Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said Sunday that senior White House adviser Jared Kushner’s security clearance should be reviewed in light of reports that Kushner did not disclose additional contacts he had with Russia’s ambassador to the United States.

“I do think there ought to be a review of his security clearance to find out whether he was truthful, whether he was candid. If not, then there’s no way he can maintain that kind of a clearance,” Schiff said on ABC’s “This Week.”

He cited reports that Kushner, who is President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, discussed setting up a secret communications channel between Trump’s transition team and Moscow with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak before Trump’s inauguration.

“You have to ask, well, who are they hiding the conversations from?” Schiff said.”If these allegations are true and he had discussions with the Russians about establishing a backchannel and didn’t reveal that, that’s a real problem in terms of whether he should maintain that kind of a security clearance.”

Schiff said he was “disappointed” with National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster’s response to reports that Kushner discussed setting up a backchannel to the Kremlin.

“We have backchannel communications with a number of countries,” McMaster told reporters on Saturday. “What that allows you to do is communicate in a discreet manner so I’m not concerned.”

“I was disappointed to see the general say that. I have a lot of respect for him. Sadly I think this is an administration that takes in people with good credibility and chews them out and spits out their credibility at the same time,” Schiff said. “Anyone within the Trump orbit is at risk of being used.”


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Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly on Sunday said he does not “see any big issue” with reports that senior White House adviser Jared Kushner, who is President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, sought to set up backchannel communications with the Kremlin before Trump’s inauguration.

“I know Jared. He’s a great guy, decent guy. His number one interest, really, is the nation, so you know there’s a lot of different ways to communicate, backchannel, publicly with other countries,” Kelly told Chuck Todd on NBC News’ “Meet the Press.”

He said Kushner made those efforts “before the government was in place during the transition period, I think, from what I understand.”

“And I think any time you can open lines of communication with anyone, whether they’re good friends or not so good friends, is a smart thing to do,” Kelly said. “I don’t see any big issue here relative to Jared.”

The Washington Post and Reuters reported Friday that Kushner and Russia’s ambassador to the United States discussed setting up a secret communications channel between Trump’s transition team and Moscow.

Kushner suggested setting up the secure backchannel, according to the report, and even proposed using communications equipment in stateside Russian diplomatic facilities.

“Had you ever, in your lifetime of government service, both in the military and outside of it, had you ever used another government’s communications facility though?” Todd asked Kelly. “The idea of sort of going around American communications?”

“Well, no, but I didn’t have to,” Kelly replied. “I mean in my previous life, we wouldn’t do that kind of thing, but you know, politics being what they are — a better way to put it, not politics, but the kind of interaction here in Washington. There’s a lot of ways to communicate with people.”

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President Donald Trump on Sunday lashed out at the media after returning from his first trip abroad as president to a maelstrom of bombshell reports about his administration and, most recently, his son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner.

Trump suggested that news reports based on anonymous White House sources are in fact “fabricated lies” and are not based on leaks from his administration — which experts say are rampant.

“Whenever you see the words ‘sources say’ in the fake news media, and they don’t mention names… it is very possible that those sources don’t exsist (sic) but are made up by fake news writers,” Trump tweeted. “#FakeNews is the enemy!”

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Senior White House adviser Jared Kushner and Russia’s ambassador to the United States discussed setting up a secret communications channel between Trump’s transition team and Moscow in December, the Washington Post reported late Friday.

Intercepts of Russian communications show Ambassador Sergey Kislyak said Kushner suggested setting up the secure backchannel and even proposed using communications equipment in stateside Russian diplomatic facilities, according to the report, which cited anonymous U.S. officials briefed on the intercepts.

Kislyak was taken aback by Kushner’s proposal to use Russian equipment, according to the Washington Post, and reported it to his superiors in Moscow in intercepted communications that U.S. officials later reviewed.

Kushner reportedly made the proposal at a meeting attended by President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who was forced out after it came to light that he lied about discussing U.S. sanctions against Russia with Kislyak before inauguration.

The White House and Robert Kelner, one of Flynn’s lawyers, declined to comment to the Washington Post, while the Russian Embassy did not respond to requests for comment.

The Washington Post had reported late Thursday that Kushner’s interactions with Kislyak, as well as his meetings with the head of a Russian bank that the United States has sanctioned, are of interest to the FBI in its sprawling investigation into Russian interference in the U.S. election.

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