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Summer Concepcion

Summer Concepcion is the front page editor of Talking Points Memo based in New York City. Previously, she covered the 2016 presidential election for Fusion and worked as a researcher at The Investigative Fund of The Nation Institute. She's an LA native and former Chicago transplant. Reach her at summer@talkingpointsmemo.com

Articles by Summer

Incoming national security adviser John Bolton, the third under President Trump’s administration, reportedly has plans for a “massive shakeup” at the National Security Council that involves the removal of “dozens” of White House officials, according to a Foreign Policy report Friday.

When he replaces current National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster next month, the former ambassador to the United Nations and fierce foreign policy hawk will reportedly start with holdovers from the Obama administration, multiple sources told Foreign Policy.

Bolton is reportedly targeting “officials believed to have been disloyal to Trump, those who have leaked about the president to the media, his predecessor’s team, and those who came in under Obama.”

“Bolton can and will clean house,” one former White House official told Foreign Policy, while another source said “he is going to remove almost all the political [appointees] McMaster brought in.”

A second former White House official bluntly warned that “everyone who was there during Obama years should start packing their shit.”

Bolton reportedly held a call with longtime advisors Thursday evening soon after Trump tapped him for his new role, which included GOP consultant Matthew Freedman who will “help manage the transition.” Freedman, however, disputed any knowledge of the call and told Foreign Policy that “there is no list.”

Although it’s unclear if Bolton would get on board with “the staff purge his allies and advisors are pushing,” some names that have been reportedly floated around include deputy national security advisor for strategy Nadia Schadlow and McMaster deputy Ricky Waddell.

A source close to Bolton told Foreign Policy that any staffing changes would “take time, given the need to process security clearances,” which means Bolton’s current staff will be in place for the summit meeting between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in May.

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Former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe had choice words surrounding his firing last week by Attorney General Jeff Sessions in a Washington Post op-ed published Friday night.

“I have been accused of ‘lack of candor.’ That is not true. I did not knowingly mislead or lie to investigators,” McCabe wrote in the WaPo op-ed, referring to Sessions citing a yet-to-be released inspector general report that he said found the former No. 2 at the FBI making “an unauthorized disclosure to the news media and lacked candor – including under oath – on multiple occasions.”

Echoing his comments to the New York Times fresh off of his firing, McCabe said he “answered questions as completely and accurately” as he could “when asked about contacts” that were “fully within [his] power to authorize as deputy director.” He added that he “took the initiative to correct” some of his answers that were “not fully accurate or may have been misunderstood.”

McCabe then zeroed in on the “very public and extended humiliation” he and his family were subjected to by President Trump and his administration over the past year. Citing Trump’s tweet that the firing signaled “a great day for democracy,” McCabe said he was “sad, but not surprised” to see “unhinged public attacks” continue after his time at the FBI. Prior to McCabe’s firing, Trump had often used the Democratic state legislative campaign McCabe’s wife ran and lost in 2015 as dubious evidence of political bias.

“President Trump’s cruelty reminded me of the days immediately following the firing of James B. Comey, as the White House desperately tried to push the falsehood that people in the FBI were celebrating the loss of our director,” McCabe said. “The president’s comments about me were equally hurtful and false, which shows that he has no idea how FBI people feel about their leaders.”

McCabe’s denial of the dishonesty allegations has raised the specter that the actions against him were meant to impair his credibility as a witness against Trump for the firing of Comey. On the night of his firing, McCabe released a statement amplifying his claims that his firing was the culmination of the “Administration’s ongoing war on the FBI and the … Special Counsel investigation.”

ABC News reported Wednesday that McCabe authorized a criminal investigation into Sessions’ testimony to Congress in early 2017 where he denied having contacts with Russians during the 2016 campaign.

McCabe served in the FBI for more than two decades, and for a time was its acting director while current FBI Director Christopher Wray awaited confirmation.

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Donald Trump Jr.’s wife, Vanessa, filed for divorce Thursday in Manhattan Supreme Court, according to a Page Six report.

Vanessa Trump reportedly filed for an uncontested proceeding where “she’s not expecting a legal battle over custody of the couple’s five children or their assets.”

The couple married in November 2005, but the New York Post first reported Wednesday that they had been “living separate lives” despite not being legally separated.

Trump Jr.’s social media habits had reportedly caused a rift in their marriage, the Post reported Wednesday.

Two sources told the Post that Trump Jr. “appears to have changed recently, and friends are concerned about him.”

Their concerns were increased by Don Jr.’s tweeting, including when he liked a tweet linking antidepressants to mass murder, and another liking a tweet attacking a teen survivor of the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting.

The two sources added that Vanessa Trump has been “uncomfortable with the intense focus on the Trump family” because she is “a very low-key person.”

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Former Trump campaign aide Sam Nunberg just can’t stop basking in the afterglow of his media blitz last week, when he declared that he would refuse to comply with a subpoena by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, despite ultimately walking back his declaration.

During a CNN appearance Wednesday morning, Nunberg continued bragging about the “Sam-a-palooza” ratings for which he said he “set a record to be on all sorts of cable shows.”

“By the way, we beat Fox News in every single—we beat Fox News that hour in total and demo,” Nunberg said.

Asked how he’s doing after people became “concerned” following his TV appearances, Nunberg claimed he’s doing “great” despite being “stressed out that day.”

Nunberg then pushed back on the idea that his stress came from being called by Mueller’s investigators.

“It wasn’t because I was called by the special counsel. The voluntary interview is actually more stressful than the grand jury testimony because in the grand jury all they want is the information,” Nunberg said. “I want to say, too, they’ve never asked me for my opinion, and especially in front of this grand jury. They’ve never asked that—facts, facts, facts. What do you know firsthand? No hearsay, no even double hearsay.”

Nunberg admitted that he probably “did too many interviews at that point, but it was a fun day.”

“We’re still talking about it,” Nunberg said. “I don’t want to keep repeating the line, ‘Oh, Sam had a TV meltdown.’ I thought it was great TV.”

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Former White House press secretary Sean Spicer wants everyone to know that his brief but tumultuous stint in the West Wing was “relevant.”

Appearing on Fox Business on Friday morning, Spicer hit back at WSJ’s Friday op-ed arguing that Trump’s outgoing chief economic adviser Gary Cohn “is the first of the relevant to leave.”

“I think I was relevant, for a day or two,” Spicer said as he attempted to awkwardly laugh off what he took as a political burn.

The Fox panel rushed to soften the blow to Spicer’s ego by pointing out that WSJ didn’t include him in the “long list of questionable people,” which includes Omarosa Manigault-Newman, Hope Hicks, Anthony Scaramucci, Steve Bannon, Sebastian Gorka and Reince Priebus.

“I think there are some of those folks on that list that I care about that have been loyal and instrumental to the President and helping him navigate his first year,” Spicer said. “So I take exception to the list. I’m not going to comment on all the names.”

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President Donald Trump’s former legal spokesperson Mark Corallo met with special counsel Robert Mueller’s team, the Daily Beast and NBC News reported on Friday.

The Daily Beast reported, citing two unnamed sources familiar with the matter, that Corallo spoke with Mueller for more than two hours.

According to NBC News’ Ken Dilanian, Corallo’s lawyer Victoria Toensing confirmed that her client met with Mueller’s team on Thursday.

Reached by TPM, Toensing declined to comment further.

The New York Times reported earlier this month that Corallo was expected to tell Mueller about a remark White House communications director Hope Hicks made last year that left him concerned about obstruction of justice.

According to the report, Hicks told Trump that emails from his eldest son Donald Trump Jr. to acquaintance Rob Goldstone nearly a year earlier about a planned meeting with a Russian lawyer would “never get out.”

Hicks’ lawyer told the New York Times that she “never said that” and did not suggest “that emails or other documents would be concealed or destroyed.”

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Former White House chief of staff Reince Priebus warned President Donald Trump that letting Attorney General Jeff Sessions resign would cause a “spiral of calamity” worse than the backlash to his abrupt termination of FBI Director James Comey, according to an upcoming book.

Vanity Fair on Wednesday published an excerpt of “The Gatekeepers: How the White House Chiefs of Staff Define Every Presidency,” by Chris Whipple, based on an interview where Priebus described the aftermath of Comey’s abrupt firing in May 2017.

After Trump terminated Comey, the Justice Department appointed Robert Mueller to oversee the federal investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. According to reports, Trump blamed Mueller’s appointment on Sessions, who had recused himself from the probe months earlier, and lashed out at him.

White House counsel Don McGahn came in to Priebus’ office “pretty hot, red, out of breath,” according to the excerpt, and told the then-chief of staff, “We’ve got a problem.”

According to Priebus, McGahn told him that Sessions had “just resigned.”

“What? What the hell are you talking about?” Priebus said, according to the excerpt. “And I said, ‘That can’t happen.’”

Priebus said that he chased after Sessions into the parking lot, where he found Sessions in a car about to leave.

“I knocked on the door of the car and Jeff was sitting there and I just jumped in and shut the door and I said, ‘Jeff, what’s going on?’” Priebus said.

When Sessions told Priebus that he planned to resign, Priebus replied, “You cannot resign. It’s not possible,” according to the report.

“We are going to talk about this right now,” Priebus said he told Sessions.

According to Priebus, he “dragged” Sessions back to his office and — with help from Vice President Mike Pence and then-White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, since ousted — convinced Sessions to reconsider. Sessions nevertheless delivered a resignation letter to the Oval Office that night, according to the excerpt, but Priebus claimed he “persuaded the President to give it back.”

Vanity Fair reported, citing an unnamed White House insider, that Priebus stepped in a month later to keep Trump from demanding Sessions’ resignation.

“He told the president, ‘If I get this resignation, you are in for a spiral of calamity that makes Comey look like a picnic,'” the source told Vanity Fair.

Priebus warned Trump that if he forced Sessions out, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein would also resign, and then-associate attorney general Rachel Brand — who resigned last week — would say, “Forget it. I’m not going to be involved with this,” according to Vanity Fair.

According to the report, Priebus succeeded in convincing Trump not to oust his attorney general. A month later, he left the White House — and John Kelly, now facing scrutiny for his handling of abuse allegations against a top aide, took his place as chief of staff.

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House Oversight Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-SC) told CNN on Wednesday that his committee has launched an investigation into former White House aide Rob Porter following abuse allegations by his ex-wives.

Gowdy confirmed the news in a letter to White House chief of staff John Kelly later Wednesday, stating there is an investigation into “the extent to which any security clearance issued to Porter comported” with “the policies and processes by which interim security clearances are investigated and adjudicated within the Executive Branch.”

Gowdy wrote that his committee “seeks to better understand the criteria and the scope of an investigation for determining whether to issue an interim security clearance generally; who adjudicated his clearance; and what derogatory information was subsequently made available to the White House on Porter, when, and to whom.”

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CNN reported on Tuesday that former White House staff secretary Rob Porter was in “serious” talks about a job promotion before he resigned last week amid allegations that he was physically abusive to his two ex-wives.

“Rob Porter was in serious discussions to be promoted when he abruptly resigned last week from the White House,” CNN’s Kaitlan Collins reported, citing unnamed sources familiar with the matter. “He was being considered for several other positions, elevated policy roles across the administration, as well as the deputy chief of staff role.”

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Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) on Tuesday said that she’s “extremely disappointed” with the “situation” surrounding domestic abuse allegations against former White House staff secretary Rob Porter and the White House’s response to them.

“I’m not sure of the internal workings of the White House and when they found out what they found out,” Ernst said on CNN. “But I’m extremely disappointed in this situation. Abuse is never okay. It is never okay. And so I feel very bad for those women.”

Porter’s two ex-wives, Jennifer Willoughby and Colbie Holderness, accused Porter of physical abuse. Both women gave interviews last week detailing Porter’s alleged behavior, and Porter resigned on Wednesday. The White House — and in particular chief of staff John Kelly — responded to the allegations by expressing support for Porter and citing his denials, though Kelly has since pushed various different narratives about his own response.

Ernst said she is “glad” that Porter’s ex-wives “have come forward.”

“We need to send a very clear signal that it won’t be tolerated, and it won’t be tolerated with our employees,” she said, referring to abuse.

Asked whether Trump is sending that signal, Ernst said, “I think he needs to send a stronger message.”

Politico on Tuesday reported that the White House arranged an off-the-record briefing with Porter and four reporters shortly after the Daily Mail published a photo of Holderness with a black eye she said Porter gave her.

“I think you can’t justify it,” Ernst said of the briefing. “You can’t justify that.”

Ernst added that she believes the women, but hesitated to endorse a congressional investigation into the matter.

“It’s possible that that could be looked into. But how much time are we focusing on those employees, or should we be focusing on other things of a federal scale?” Ernst said. “We can raise this issue and we can talk about this issue and encourage awareness, but we also have national security issues going on that we really need to focus on.”

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