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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

Puerto Rico’s Gov. Ricardo Rossello on Sunday called for the termination of a $300 million contract to repair Puerto Rico’s hurricane-damaged electricity infrastructure awarded to a tiny Montana utility company financed by major donors to President Donald Trump.

Rossello retweeted statements asking the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA, or AEE: Autoridad de Energia Electrica de Puerto Rico) to cancel its contract with Whitefish Energy Holdings.

“There cannot be any distraction that alters the commitment of raising the electric system as quickly as possible,” Rossello said.

Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke on Friday said he “had absolutely nothing to do” with the contract being awarded to Whitefish, which is based in his hometown.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Friday said the contract “was determined by the local authorities in Puerto Rico, not something that the federal government played a role in.”

Members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Thursday asked Whitefish for more details. The ranking Democrats on the House Committee on Natural Resources and House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure on Friday asked the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general to look into whether the contract is an “appropriate use of taxpayer dollars.”

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) on Friday said it “has significant concerns about how PREPA procured this contract” and is looking into how the contract was awarded.

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President Donald Trump’s approval ratings are at their lowest since he took office, according to a poll by NBC News and the Wall Street Journal released Sunday.

According to the survey, 38 percent of respondents—five points less than in September—approved of Trump’s job performance, while 58 percent disapproved.

The NBC/WSJ survey was conducted from Oct. 23-26 from a sample of 900 adults, with a margin of error of plus or minus 3.27 percentage points.

 

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Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, on Sunday said the “most important question” about the so-called Trump dossier isn’t who paid for it, but how many of the allegations it contains are true.

“I certainly would have liked to know who paid for it earlier, but nonetheless, that’s just one factor to be considered,” Schiff said on ABC’s “This Week.”

He said “the ultimate question” about the dossier containing allegations of President Donald Trump’s ties to Russia is, “How much of the work is accurate?”

Schiff said his “colleagues” seem less interested in the allegations the dossier contains.

“How much of it is true? And my colleagues don’t seem particularly interested in that question,” Schiff said. “But that is really the most important question for the American people.”

Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC), who is also a member of the House Intelligence Committee, on “Fox News Sunday” said he was “interested in who paid for the dossier.”

The Washington Post reported last week that the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s campaign partly funded research that resulted in the controversial document.

The editors of the Washington Free Beacon, a conservative news site, on Friday night said they first retained research firm Fusion GPS to research Donald Trump during the Republican primary, research that Clinton’s campaign and the DNC later stepped in to continue funding.

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New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) on Sunday said he has heard nothing to indicate that President Donald Trump is a target of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

“I think the good news, from the President’s perspective, is he’s not under investigation,” Christie said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

“How do you know that the President’s not under investigation?” Jake Tapper pressed.

“Well, the last news that we’ve received, Jake, publicly, is that the President was told he’s not under investigation. We’ve heard nothing to the contrary,” Christie said. “So I’m making that statement off of the public information that we’ve already been given.”

Christie made the same claim on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” and, pressed to support his claim, said that “no one has told” Trump that he is under investigation.

CNN reported Friday night that Mueller filed the first official charges in his investigation, approved by a federal grand jury.

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HBO on Thursday announced that it will not move forward with a project connected to prominent political journalist Mark Halperin’s co-authored book on the 2016 election, as another woman came forward to accuse Halperin of sexual misconduct.

“HBO is no longer proceeding with the project tied to the untitled book co-authored by Mark Halperin and John Heilemann on the 2016 Presidential election,” the network told CNN in a statement. “HBO has no tolerance for sexual harassment within the company or its productions.”

Five women on Wednesday told CNN that Halperin sexually harassed them while he was working at ABC News. Three of those women accused Halperin of pressing his genitals against them without consent.

Emily Miller, a conservative reporter, tweeted “#MeToo” of the allegations against Halperin.

Another unnamed journalist told the Daily Beast on Thursday that Halperin made unwanted advances to her while she worked at ABC News years ago.

The journalist told the Daily Beast that Halperin would give her the “occasional lecherous grin” and eventually invited her to his office where she expected to have a professional meeting.

“I was about to sit down to begin the meeting, and he closed the door, and all of the sudden was standing right in front of me—so close he was basically touching me,” the journalist told the Daily Beast. “He started lunging at me and I had nowhere to go. I told him something like, ‘Don’t do that,’ and said ‘I’m not comfortable with the door closed,’ but he had backed me into a corner. I opened the door and ran out.”

She said Halperin was “shameless” about the incident.

“It felt like it was normal for him,” the journalist told the Daily Beast. “You got the sense that it was like he’d get what he wanted if he tried enough.”

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Former Democratic National Committee chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) and Hillary Clinton campaign chair John Podesta recently told Senate investigators that they did not know who funded research that led to the so-called Trump dossier, CNN reported on Thursday.

CNN reported, citing three unnamed sources familiar with the matter, that Podesta and Wasserman Schultz made their denials before the Washington Post reported on Tuesday that Clinton’s campaign and the DNC partly paid for research firm Fusion GPS’ work that ended up in the dossier.

According to one source CNN cited, Podesta in September told the Senate Intelligence Committee that he was not aware of a contractual relationship between Clinton’s campaign and Fusion GPS.

Wasserman Schultz told CNN that she “didn’t have any awareness of the arrangement at all” and said she was “certainly” not going to confirm the subject of any discussion. According to CNN, Senate investigators interviewed Wasserman Schultz earlier in October.

According to the Washington Post’s report, Clinton campaign attorney Marc Elias and his law firm Perkins Coie retained Fusion GPS in April 2016. One source told the Washington Post that Perkins Coie did not inform Clinton’s campaign or the DNC of Fusion GPS’ role in conducting research into Donald Trump.

CNN reported, citing multiple unnamed sources, that Elias sat next to Podesta during his Senate interview, but was present as Podesta’s lawyer rather than as an additional witness.

Perkins Coie authorized Fusion GPS to disclose its role in partly funding that research in a letter CNN obtained dated Tuesday.

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The talent agency whose literary division represented Bill O’Reilly on Thursday said it will not work with the former Fox News host on any future deals.

O’Reilly, who is also a best-selling author, left his cable news position in April amid accusations of sexual harassment.

“We no longer represent Bill O’Reilly for future deals,” William Morris Endeavor chief communications officer Christian Muirhead told TPM in an email. “It is our fiduciary responsibility to service the existing deals we have under contract, but we will not be working with him moving forward.”

The New York Times reported in April that at least five women took a total of $13 million in settlements from O’Reilly or 21st Century Fox related to allegations against him, and in October reported that O’Reilly struck a $32 million settlement agreement with a former Fox News legal analyst over allegations of similar misconduct.

Deadline on Tuesday reported that United Talent Agency, O’Reilly’s longtime representation, dropped the former Fox host.

“Bill has already lined up alternative representation,” an O’Reilly spokesperson told Deadline.

NBC News reported on Wednesday that the conservative media company Sinclair Broadcast Group is continuing its negotiations with O’Reilly despite the allegations against him.

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Whitefish Energy Holdings, a tiny Montana utility company financed by major donors to President Donald Trump, apologized late Wednesday for threatening to withdraw its workers from San Juan in response to remarks by the city’s mayor.

“On behalf of our employees, we would like to apologize for our comments earlier today,” the company tweeted at San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz. “Our goal is to continue to do all we can to help everyone in Puerto Rico in this time of need.”

Cruz on Tuesday called on the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority to immediately void its $300 million contract with Whitefish Energy Holdings.

“The contract should be voided right away and a proper process which is clear, transparent, legal, moral, and ethical should take place,” Cruz said. “It seems like what the Puerto Rican people are going to be paying for, or the American people are going to be paying for, is an intermediary that doesn’t know what is at stake here and that really has to subcontract everything.”

The firm said Cruz’s remarks were “misplaced” and “very disappointing and demoralizing.”

“What are they afraid we will find?” Cruz responded.

“We’ve got 44 linemen rebuilding power lines in your city & 40 more men just arrived,” Whitefish Energy Holdings replied to Cruz’s tweet. “Do you want us to send them back or keep working?”

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President Donald Trump on Thursday said that Ed Gillespie, the Republican nominee in Virginia’s race for governor, is “strong on crime” and may protect Southern “statues” and “heritage.”

“Ed Gillespie will be a great Governor of Virginia,” Trump tweeted. “Strong on crime, he might even save our great statues/heritage.”

“Don’t talk to me about showing up,” Virginia Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam (D), Gillespie’s opponent, responded.

Gillespie has accused Northam of wanting to tear down Virginia’s Confederate monuments. One Democratic strategist characterized Gillespie’s campaign to TPM as “full Donald Trump primal scream racism.”

One person died in August after white nationalists gathered in Charlottesville, Virginia, to protest the removal of a Robert E. Lee statue in a public park.

Trump in August was hesitant to formally condemn white nationalism in the wake of the violence in Charlottesville, and claimed there were “fine people” on both sides of the issue.

He also defended Confederate statues, and claimed they bring “beauty” to public parks and are symbolic of the “history and culture” of the United States.

At a rally in Phoenix in August, Trump went further and claimed those calling for the statues’ removal are “trying to take away our culture.”

“They’re trying to take away our history,” Trump said. “These things have been there for 150 years, for a hundred years.”

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Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson on Wednesday said some people “were just looking for something to complain about” in President Donald Trump’s remarks to the widow of a U.S. soldier killed in Niger earlier in October.

Asked about Sgt. La David T. Johnson’s family, who criticized Trump’s remarks, Carson said, “I think there were people who were just looking for something to complain about.”

“I mean, if he had said, you know, ‘I’m sorry, this is sure a dark day for you,’ they would have said ‘See, he’s a racist, he said a dark day,'” Carson, who is black, said, apparently referring to Johnson and his widow Myeshia Johnson, who are also black.

Carson made the remarks during an event hosted by the Hill on Wednesday morning, in response to a question posted by the Hill’s editor-in-chief Bob Cusack. Democratic research group American Bridge flagged the remarks to TPM in an email.

“The video clearly shows Secretary Carson channeling Donald Trump and maligning a Gold Star family’s sacrifice,” American Bridge spokesperson Harrell Kirstein told TPM by email. “This is just another example of the lack of sympathy from the Trump Administration for families of American service men and women killed in action.”

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