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

The House Ethics Committee on Thursday opened investigations into Reps. Blake Farenthold (R-TX) and Trent Franks (R-AZ).

According to a release, the panel is establishing an investigative subcommittee to look into allegations that Farenthold “sexually harassed a former member of his staff, discriminated against her on the basis of her gender, and retaliated against her for complaining of discriminatory conduct,” as well as allegations that Farenthold “made inappropriate statements” to other staff members.

The panel is also establishing an investigative subcommittee to determine whether Franks “engaged in conduct that constitutes sexual harassment and/or retaliation for opposing sexual harassment.”

TPM in 2014 reported that Lauren Greene, a former communications staffer for Farenthold, sued him over allegations of gender discrimination, sexual harassment and a hostile work environment. Greene and Farenthold agreed to an $84,000 settlement, and Greene dropped her suit.

Farenthold in December insisted that he “didn’t do anything wrong” but plans to pay back the $84,000 settlement the Congressional Office of Compliance paid to settle Greene’s complaint.

Franks on Thursday announced that he will resign from Congress in January after learning of the House Ethics Committee investigation into allegations against him. In a statement, Franks said he had a “discussion of surrogacy with two previous female subordinates” who were “uncomfortable” with the conversation.

“I have absolutely never physically intimidated, coerced, or had, or attempted to have, any sexual contact with any member of my congressional staff,” Franks claimed.

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Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) on Thursday said he will resign from Congress in January 2018 after learning that the House Ethics Committee is reviewing a “discussion of surrogacy” Franks said he had with “two previous female subordinates.”

In a statement, Franks said he made the subordinates “feel uncomfortable.”

“I deeply regret that my discussion of this option and process in the workplace caused distress,” Franks said. “Rather than allow a sensationalized trial by media damage those things I love most, this morning I notified House leadership that I will be leaving Congress as of January 31st, 2018.”

Franks said he has “absolutely never physically intimidated, coerced, or had, or attempted to have, any sexual contact with any member of my congressional staff.”

“However, I do want to take full and personal responsibility for the ways I have broached a topic that, unbeknownst to me until very recently, made certain individuals uncomfortable,” he said.

Franks said he and his wife had twins via a “gestational surrogate.”

“I clearly became insensitive as to how the discussion of such an intensely personal topic might affect others,” Franks said.

News outlets first reported that Franks was expected to resign Thursday afternoon.

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Rob Goldstone, the British music publicist who set up a meeting in June 2016 between Donald Trump Jr. and a Kremlin-linked lawyer, sent emails later in the summer to another Russian who attended the meeting, and one of President Donald Trump’s aides, CNN reported on Thursday.

CNN reported, citing multiple unnamed sources, that Goldstone emailed Dan Scavino, who was director of social media for Trump’s campaign and now fills the same position in the White House.

According to the report, Goldstone also emailed Emin Agalarov, a Russian pop star and his client, and Irakly “Ike” Kaveladze, who was accused of having a pivotal role in a large-scale alleged scheme to funnel hundreds of millions of dollars in Russian money through U.S. banks in the 1990s. Kaveladze attended the meeting in Trump Tower between Trump Jr. and the Russian lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya.

In one email, according to the report, Goldstone urged Scavino to have Trump create a page on VK, a Russian-based social media website, and told him that “Don and Paul” supported the idea, referring to Trump Jr. and Paul Manafort, then Trump’s campaign chair. There is no indication Scavino or Trump acted on Goldstone’s suggestion.

In another email, according to the report, Goldstone sent Agalarov and Kaveladze a CNN story about Russian hacking of emails from the Democratic National Committee. According to CNN, Goldstone described the development as “eerily weird” in light of the Trump Tower meeting, which took place five days earlier.

Kaveladze’s lawyer told CNN that hacking did not come up during the meeting, and was not relevant to the subjects that were discussed. The White House and Goldstone’s lawyer declined to comment to CNN.

When Trump Jr. posted his email exchange with Goldstone on Twitter in July, CNN reported, citing two unnamed sources with knowledge of the message, that Kaveladze’s son George Kaveladze emailed his father asking why Trump, Jr. was admitting to “collusion.”

Congressional investigators found the emails and brought them up at Trump Jr.’s testimony on Wednesday before the House Intelligence Committee, according to CNN, though none of the messages were sent directly to him. Trump Jr. said he did not recall the exchanges, CNN reported, citing several unnamed sources.

In September, Trump Jr. told the Senate Judiciary Committee that he, Goldstone and Agalarov “never discussed the meeting again.”

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President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski on Thursday said that one of his jobs in 2016 was to steam his boss’ trousers, while Trump was still wearing them.

“From the book, why does Hope Hicks, the director of communications, have to steam the President’s pants?” Alisyn Camerota asked Lewandowski on CNN’s “New Day,” referring to an anecdote in Lewandowski’s campaign memoir, “Let Trump Be Trump.”

In the book, Lewandowski wrote that Hicks “would take out the steamer and start steaming Mr. Trump’s suit, while he was wearing it! She’d steam the jacket first and then sit in a chair in front of him and steam his pants.”

“Everybody does everything on the campaign,” Lewandowski replied. “What I didn’t put in there was that Keith Schiller and George Gigicos and Corey Lewandowski all do the same thing, and Corey goes and does the food runs, and—”

Schiller was Trump’s personal bodyguard, and later worked for Trump briefly in the White House. George Gigicos was the director of Trump’s advance team.

“Hold on. Hold on, Corey,” Camerota interjected.

“That’s—it was five people!” Lewandowski said.

“Do you steam the President’s pants while he’s wearing them?” Camerota interrupted.

“Look, I would—of course!” Lewandowski replied. “I mean, look, when you’re in a rush, Alisyn, we’re doing 25 events a day and we’re stopped on the airplane for 15 seconds, we’re going to make sure that things are ready, and if that’s part of my job as a campaign manager, I do it all.”

Camerota also asked Lewandowski about what he said Trump would order for dinner from McDonald’s: “two Big Macs, two Fillet-O-Fish, and a chocolate malted.”

“When the President would order for dinner two Big Macs, two Filet-o-Fish sandwiches and a chocolate milkshake and eat all of that, were you concerned about him?” Camerota asked.

“Well, he never ate the bread, which is the important part,” Lewandowski replied.

The Washington Post reported on Trump’s unique personal nutritional theory in 2016: Apparently the President largely avoided exercise after graduating college, because he “believed the human body was like a battery, with a finite amount of energy, which exercise only depleted.”

Trump’s attempts at sartorial efficiency are less unique. Netflix in 2013 released a video clip from a documentary on former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, who tried to iron a suit while he was wearing it: “Ouch.”

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MSNBC has reversed its decision to terminate Sam Seder, a podcast host and contributor to the network, after a right-wing campaign targeted him for a satirical tweet criticizing supporters of accused rapist Roman Polanski.

“Sometimes you just get one wrong,” MSNBC president Phil Griffin told the Intercept in a statement. “That’s what happened here.”

Griffin said the network initially fired Seder “for the right reasons — because we don’t consider rape to be a funny topic to be joked about.”

“But we’ve heard the feedback, and we understand the point Sam was trying to make in that tweet was actually in line with our values, even though the language was not,” Griffin said. “Sam will be welcome on our air going forward.”

MSNBC on Tuesday fired Seder over a tweet he posted in 2009, and has since deleted, mocking Polanski’s defenders: “Don’t care re Polanski, but I hope if my daughter is ever raped it is by an older truly talented man w/a great sense of mise en scene.”

Alt-right provocateur Mike Cernovich, who is best known for promoting the “Pizzagate” conspiracy theory that led to a gunman firing an AR-15 assault rifle in a Washington, D.C. restaurant, cited Seder’s tweet in November in a Medium post titled “MSNBC Contributor Sam Seder Endorses Polanki’s Sex Crimes in Now Deleted Tweet.”

Cernovich’s stance on Seder’s tweet, which he appeared to read as sincere rather than satirical, was at odds with his own since-deleted posts on sexual violence and sex crimes. In 2012, Cernovich claimed that “date rape doesn’t exist” because “‘raping’ a girl without using force” is “basically impossible.”

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Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) on Wednesday called for Sen. Al Franken (D-MN), who numerous women have accused of sexual misconduct, to resign.

“Senator Franken should resign,” Schumer said in a statement. “I consider Senator Franken a dear friend and greatly respect his accomplishments, but he has a higher obligation to his constituents and the Senate, and he should step down immediately.”

Democratic women in the Senate led calls on Wednesday for Franken to resign, several weeks after Los Angeles news host Leann Tweeden first alleged that Franken forcibly kissed her backstage on a USO tour in 2006, and later groped her while she was asleep.

Franken’s office on Wednesday afternoon said the senator will make an announcement on Thursday but did not specify the subject or time of that announcement. Minnesota Public Radio reported that Franken was expected to resign, citing a Democratic official who had spoken to the senator.

At least seven women have accused Franken of misconduct, including Tweeden. Two more women came forward on Wednesday: A former Democratic congressional aid alleged that Franken tried to forcibly kiss her in 2006, before he won office, and journalist Tina Dupuy alleged that Franken groped her at a party in 2009 after he was elected to the Senate.

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Tina Dupuy, a journalist and former Democratic congressional staffer, on Wednesday alleged that Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) groped her at a party in 2009.

“It happened at a Media Matters party during the first Obama inauguration,” Dupuy wrote in the Atlantic, referring to an event in February 2009, after Franken was elected to office in a close race.

Dupuy said she “saw Al Franken” and asked to take a picture with him because her foster mother was a fan.

“We posed for the shot. He immediately put his hand on my waist, grabbing a handful of flesh. I froze. Then he squeezed. At least twice,” Dupuy said.

Dupuy said Franken’s “familiarity was inappropriate and unwanted.”

“It was also quick; he knew exactly what he was doing,” she said. “He wanted to cop a feel and he demonstrated he didn’t need my permission.”

Dupuy is one of numerous women who have accused Franken of sexual misconduct, both before and after he was elected to the Senate in 2008.

Los Angeles news host Leeann Tweeden in November alleged that Franken forcibly kissed her backstage on a USO tour in 2006, and posted a photograph where Franken was reaching out to grope her. Lindsay Menz accused Franken of groping her in 2010, and two other women, whose identities were withheld, told HuffPost that Franken groped them in 2007 and 2008, respectively.

A fifth woman, Stephanie Kemplin, alleged that Franken groped her breast when the two took a photo together on a USO tour in 2003. A former Democratic congressional aide on Wednesday alleged that Franken tried to forcibly kiss her in 2006, two years before he was elected to the Senate.

Dupuy said she “assumed Franken would step down” later the same day that Tweeden accused him of misconduct, and said Tweeden’s story “rang true” to her.

“I’ve been hoping Franken would just step down and I wouldn’t have to say anything.” she said. “I’ve been hoping I’d not ever have the moniker of ‘Franken accuser.'”

Elected Democratic women in the Senate on Wednesday led a wave of calls for Franken to step down, weeks after Tweeden first made allegations against the senator.

Franken’s office on Wednesday afternoon announced that the senator will make an announcement on Thursday, but did not specify when or what he will discuss.

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President Donald Trump on Wednesday said the federal government “could” shut down at midnight on Friday if Democrats and Republicans do not reach a deal to continue funding it.

“It could happen,” Trump told reporters during a cabinet meeting at the White House.

Trump said that Democrats “are looking at shutting down” the government over their policy demands, though Republicans control the House, the Senate and the White House.

“The Democrats are really looking at something that is very dangerous to our country,” he said. “They want to have illegal immigrants, in many case, people that we don’t want in our country. They want to have illegal immigrants pouring into our country, bringing with them crime, tremendous amounts of crime. We don’t want to have that.”

Trump in September suggested he would work with Democrats to restore legal protections for undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children, which he ended by winding down the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

The Washington Post reported last week, however, that Trump has told advisers he wants to cater to his far-right base and maintain a hardline position on immigration as the Friday deadline to fund the government fast approaches.

According to the report, Trump told confidants that if the government shuts down, he will simply blame Democrats, though his party controls all three branches of the government.

White House Legislative Affairs Director Marc Short denied those accounts, and claimed Trump is “not advocating for a shutdown in any way.”

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Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) on Tuesday donated to Alabama Democratic Senate candidate Doug Jones hours after President Donald Trump doubled down on his support for Republican candidate Roy Moore, who stands accused of sexual misconduct.

“Country over Party,” Flake tweeted, along with a picture of his $100 donation to Jones’ campaign.

Hours earlier, Flake sat next to Trump as the President predicted that Moore, who numerous women have accused of sexual misconduct, will “do very well” for Alabama.

Trump also boasted about “unity” within the Republican Party. Flake, who announced in October that he will retire in 2018, has been an outspoken critic of the President, appeared to react to that claim with discomfort.

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