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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

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) on Wednesday said Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) “made the right decision” to step down from his position as the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee. But said Conyers’ fate beyond that is “up to him,” Ryan said.

“Look, I know what I would do if this happened to me,” Ryan said of Conyers.

Former staffers have accused the Democratic congressman of making inappropriate and unwanted advances.

“I will leave it up to him to decide what he wants to do. I think he made the right decision in stepping down from his leadership position,” Ryan said.

Three former staffers have accused Conyers of making unwanted sexual advances. One, Deanna Maher, alleged that Conyers inappropriately touched her on two separate occasions.

Conyers has denied the allegations, but stepped down from his judiciary committee position while the House Ethics Committee investigates the allegations against him.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) on Sunday declined to say whether Conyers should resign, and called him “an icon.” But she has reportedly urged Conyers in private to resign, as have members of the Congressional Black Caucus.

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President Donald Trump on Tuesday said top Democratic lawmakers who skipped a meeting at the White House after he blasted them on Twitter are “all talk, no action.”

Flanked by empty chairs with name cards for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Trump said he was “not really that surprised” the Democratic leaders decided not to attend a scheduled meeting at the White House.

“We have a lot of differences. They’re weak on crime. They’re weak on illegal immigration,” Trump said. “They decided not to show up. They have been all talk and they have been no action. And now it’s even worse. Now it’s not even talk. So they’re not showing up for the meeting.”

Schumer and Pelosi announced earlier Tuesday that they were not attending the meeting after Trump criticized them on Twitter and said he did not “see” the possibility of a bipartisan deal to pass a bill that would prevent a shutdown early in December.

Trump did meet with congressional Republicans on Tuesday about his party’s push to cut taxes. Trump said that was “very special.”

“We had a good day today. We had a phenomenal meeting with the Republican senators,” he said. “It was somewhat of a love fest.”

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), seated to the left of Pelosi’s empty chair, said, “I think it’s regrettable that our Democratic colleagues in the leadership chose not to join us today.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Schumer and Pelosi, who requested a meeting with McConnell and Ryan, “need to understand the way the government works.”

He claimed, inaccurately, that he never skipped a meeting with a sitting president.

“I’ve been in this situation under a couple of previous presidents. I can’t recall ever turning down an opportunity to go down to the White House,” McConnell said.

In fact, in 2010, McConnell—then the Senate minority leader—skipped dinner with President Barack Obama in favor of a meal with the conservative Federalist Society.

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Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) on Tuesday said they will not attend a “show meeting” at the White House after President Donald Trump blasted them on Twitter.

“Rather than going to the White House for a show meeting that won’t result in an agreement, we’ve asked Leader McConnell and Speaker Ryan to meet this afternoon,” Schumer and Pelosi said in a joint statement, referring to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and House Majority Leader Paul Ryan (R-WI).

Trump is scheduled to meet with congressional leaders Tuesday afternoon to work on a deal to pass a bill that would fund the government and prevent a shutdown early in December. He blasted “Chuck and Nancy” in an early morning tweet the Democratic leaders cited.

“I don’t see a deal!” Trump posted.

“Given that the President doesn’t see a deal between Democrats and the White House, we believe the best path forward is to continue negotiating with our Republican counterparts in Congress instead,” Schumer and Pelosi said.

The Democratic leaders said they “don’t have any time to waste.”

“If the President, who already said earlier this year that ‘our country needs a good shutdown,’ isn’t interested in addressing the difficult year end agenda, we’ll work with those Republicans who are, as we did in April,” they said. “We look forward to continuing to work in good faith, as we have been for the last month, with our Republican colleagues in Congress to do just that.”

In a joint statement, Ryan and McConnell fired back and issued an ultimatum.

The Republican leaders said that Democratic lawmakers are “putting government operations, particularly resources for our men and women on the battlefield, at great risk by pulling these antics.”

“We have important work to do, and Democratic leaders have continually found new excuses not to meet with the administration to discuss these issues,” they said. “There is a meeting at the White House this afternoon, and if Democrats want to reach an agreement, they will be there.”

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement that Schumer’s and Pelosi’s refusal to come to the meeting was “disappointing.”

“The President’s invitation to the Democrat leaders still stands and he encourages them to put aside their pettiness, stop the political grandstanding, show up and get to work,” she said.

Sanders said the meeting “will proceed as scheduled with Speaker Ryan, Leader McConnell and administration officials.”

“If the Democrats believe the American people deserve action on these critical year-end issues as we do, they should attend,” she said.

Correction: This post originally identified House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) as the House majority leader. The House majority leader is Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA). We regret the error.

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Star Fox News host Sean Hannity recently decided that he is a journalist after all, albeit an “opinion journalist,” despite claiming previously that he is nothing of the sort.

“I’m a journalist,” Hannity said in a New York Times profile published Tuesday. “But I’m an advocacy journalist, or an opinion journalist.”

As recently as April last year, Hannity defended his chumminess with President Donald Trump, then the Republican presidential nominee, with the argument that he is not a journalist.

“I’m not a journalist, I’m a talk show host,” he said on his radio show.

Hannity repeated that argument throughout the 2016 election, and later used it to defend his open support for Trump’s candidacy.

“I’m not hiding the fact that I want Donald Trump to be the next president of the United States,” he told the New York Times in August 2016. “I never claimed to be a journalist.”

At the time, Hannity said he offered Trump advice, but said it was unclear how much of it Trump took because “nobody” controlled the candidate.

“Do I talk to my friend who I’ve known for years and speak my mind? I can’t not speak my mind,” Hannity said.

In the profile published Tuesday, Hannity also appeared to reevaluate that role, and said he was “a little bit of a liaison” between Fox News and Trump’s campaign.

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A woman who approached the Washington Post with unsubstantiated and dubious allegations of sexual misconduct against Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore appears to be connected to conservative activist James O’Keefe, the Washington Post reported Monday evening.

According to the Washington Post, the woman identified herself to a reporter as Jaime Phillips and claimed she met Moore when she was 15 years old. Phillips claimed that she and Moore had a sexual relationship, that she became pregnant as a result and that Moore convinced her to get an abortion and drove her to Mississippi to obtain one.

Washington Post reporters saw Phillips entering the New York offices of O’Keefe’s group, Project Veritas, on Monday, according to the report.

Phillips asked Washington Post reporter Beth Reinhard, who co-wrote the first report on Moore’s alleged misconduct, to meet her in person and alone, and asked Reinhard to guarantee that Moore would lose his Senate race if she aired her claims.

According to the report, Reinhard told Phillips that she could not “guarantee what will happen as a result of another story” and informed her of the Washington Post’s “fact-checking process.”

Phillips last week suggested meeting with another Washington Post reporter who co-wrote the same report as Reinhard, Stephanie McCrummen. Phillips told Reinhard, “I’d rather go to another paper than talk to you again.”

Reinhard and McCrummen, along with Washington Post researcher Alice Crites, co-bylined a report on Leigh Corfman’s allegation that Moore initiated a sexual encounter with her when she was 14 years old and he was in his early 30s.

Upon further examination, Phillips’ account was less than watertight, according to the report published Monday. Phillips gave Reinhard a cell phone number with an Alabama area code, but claimed she had only lived in the state briefly as a teenager. The company at which Phillips claimed she worked told Reinhard that it had no employee with that name.

The Post also found a GoFundMe fundraising campaign started by somebody with the same name as Phillips, who was soliciting donations in May to move to New York for “a job to work in the conservative media movement to combat the lies and deceipt (sic) of the liberal MSM” (mainstream media).

Phillips later met with McCrummen, who was accompanied by Washington Post videographers, and claimed she wanted Moore “to be completely taken out of the race.”

McCrummen asked Phillips to “explain” the GoFundMe campaign, and told her she was being “recorded and video recorded.”

“Um, yeah, I was looking to take a job last summer in New York, but it fell through,” Phillips replied. “Yeah, it was going to be with the Daily Caller, but it ended up falling through, so I wasn’t able to do it.”

According to the Washington Post, Phillips claimed that she was interviewed by a Daily Caller employee named Kathy Johnson; the Daily Caller’s executive editor told the Washington Post that the outlet has no employee with that name.

Project Veritas has a history of misleadingly editing footage to create false accusations about Democratic groups. In 2010, O’Keefe pleaded guilty to breaking into former Sen. Mary Landrieu’s (D-LA) office. In 2013, he paid $100,000 to settle a lawsuit filed by employees of Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), after his group released a video leading to ACORN’s dissolution.

In March 2016, O’Keefe — whose modus operandi is focused on such attempted “stings” — blew his own cover by forgetting to hang up the phone while apparently demonstrating how to conduct such an operation.

Regardless of his success, O’Keefe has viewers in the highest offices; President Donald Trump in June posted two videos from O’Keefe’s “American Pravda” series.

Trump’s son, Donald Trump, Jr., also shared the videos on his Twitter, and White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders touted them from the briefing room podium, albeit with a caveat: “Whether it’s accurate or not, I don’t know.”

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White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Monday said President Donald Trump has not “changed his position” on the infamous “Access Hollywood” tape, despite a report that Trump has privately questioned its authenticity.

Sanders said the recording “was litigated and certainly answered during the election by the overwhelming support” for Trump and his eventual victory.

“He’s made his position on that clear at that time, as have the American people,” she said.

“He apologized for it, which would seem to acknowledge its authenticity and that position hasn’t changed?” a reporter pressed Sanders.

“Like I just said, the President hasn’t changed his position,” she replied. “I think if anything that the President questions, it’s the media’s reporting on that accuracy.”

Pressed to specify what reporting Trump is questioning, Sanders said, “I said what he didn’t like and what he found troubling were the accounts that are being reported now.”

The New York Times reported on Saturday that Trump has privately questioned — to a senator and, more recently, an adviser — the authenticity of the 2005 recording on which he bragged about groping and kissing women without their consent.

Trump is both visible and recognizable in the video, and he acknowledged in October 2016, after the recording was published, that he made the statements caught on tape.

“I said it, I was wrong, and I apologize,” he said at the time.

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Sen. Al Franken (D-MN), whom four women have accused of sexual misconduct, on Monday apologized for his “mistakes.” Franken also declined to say whether he thought the behavior he is accused of would be grounds for resignation.

“I know that I’ve let a lot of people down,” Franken told reporters at a press conference on his first day back in the Senate since radio host Leeann Tweeden accused him of forcibly kissing her and groping her while she was asleep during a USO tour in 2006, before Franken took office.

“I just want to again say I am sorry,” Franken said. “I know there are no magic words that I can say to regain your trust and I know that’s going to take time. I’m ready to start that process and it starts with going back to work today.”

“What behavior demands resignation?” a reporter asked Franken, whose spokesperson said last week that the senator has no plans to step down over the allegations.

“I’m not going to get into that or speculate on that,” Franken replied. “I have been trying to take responsibility by apologizing, and by apologizing to the people I’ve let down, and I’m going to work to regain their trust. I am going to be accountable.”

Franken said the accusations against him have been “extremely humbling.”

“I’m going to try to learn from my mistakes,” he said.

Asked about how his recollections differ from those of the women who have accused him of misconduct, Franken said, “There are different allegations.”

He cited Tweeden’s allegation that he forcibly kissed her, and his initial response last week that he “certainly” did not recall it “in the same way.”

“I said that I recall that differently from Leeann, but I feel that you have to respect women’s experience,” he said. “And so I apologized to her and I meant it.”

Asked whether he plans to release the findings of the Senate Ethics Committee probe into the allegations against him, Franken said he “will be open to that.”

“I have not worked with the Ethics Committee before and I don’t know how it works, but I’m certainly open to that,” he said.

Four women, including Tweeden, have accused Franken of groping them. Two women told HuffPost last week that Franken groped them in 2007, at an event hosted by the Minnesota Women’s Political Caucus in Minneapolis, and in 2008, at a Democratic fundraiser in Minneapolis, respectively. Lindsay Menz last week accused Franken of groping her in 2010, a year after he became a senator.

Franken apologized to Tweeden in two separate statements. On Sunday he told the Star Tribune that he has posed for “tens of thousands of photos” and does not “remember” those taken on the occasions corresponding to the allegations.

“I’m embarrassed and ashamed. I’ve let a lot of people down and I’m hoping I can make it up to them and gradually regain their trust,” Franken said Monday. “I just recognize that I need to be more careful and a lot more sensitive in these situations.”

Franken told Minnesota TV station WCCO on Sunday that he “can’t say” whether he’s ever groped a woman in a “crowded, chaotic” situation.

“I take thousands and thousands of pictures,” Franken said. “I can’t say that I haven’t done that. I am very sorry if these women experienced that.”

Franken said he is a “warm person.”

“I hug people, and in some of these encounters, the pictures or meetings, some women — and any is too many — have felt that I have crossed a line, and I am terribly sorry about that,” he said. “I don’t remember these particular photos.”

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Twelve women who used to work for Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) on Sunday said the congressman “never behaved in a sexually inappropriate manner” toward them, though several ex-staffers have accused Conyers of sexual harassment and misconduct.

“Our experiences with Mr. Conyers were quite different than the image of him being portrayed in the media. Mr. Conyers was a gentleman and never behaved in a sexually inappropriate manner in our presence,” the staffers said in a statement.

The staffers said they “do not pass judgment on the specific allegations reported in the press or the women who brought them.” They also “support allowing the ethics investigation” the House committee has opened into the allegations “to run its course.”

Several former staffers last week accused Conyers of asking them for sexual favors and inappropriately touching them. Conyers has denied the accusations, but on Sunday said he will “step aside” as the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee while the House’s ethics panel investigates the allegations against him.

Read the staffers’ signed statement:

We are women whose combined tenures span over thirty years working with Congressman Conyers in Washington, D.C. in a variety of capacities, including legal, communications, and executive support positions. We do not condone or justify sexual harassment and believe the ongoing national debate is important. While we do not pass judgment on the specific allegations reported in the press or the women who brought them, our experiences with Mr. Conyers were quite different than the image of him being portrayed in the media. Mr. Conyers was a gentleman and never behaved in a sexually inappropriate manner in our presence. He was respectful, valued our opinions, challenged our thinking, and treated us as professionals. Under his leadership, we worked in an environment dedicated to the advancement of human and civil rights, including women’s rights, immigrants’ rights, voting rights, and the intellectual property rights of creators. We believe in due process and support allowing the ethics investigation to run its course.

Carol Chodroff
Carolyn Donnelly
Lillian German
Martina A. Hone
Stephanie Y. Moore
Stephanie J. Peters
Rinia L. Shelby
Christal Sheppard
B. Nicole Triplett
Teresa Vest
LaShawn Warren
Kristin Wells

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President Donald Trump has privately questioned the veracity of the infamous “Access Hollywood” tape, on which he bragged about groping and kissing women without their consent, according to a report published over the weekend by the New York Times.

The New York Times reported on Saturday that Trump “suggested” to a senator earlier in the year that the recording was not genuine, and more recently made the same suggestion to an adviser.

The Washington Post obtained and published the recording in October 2016. During a presidential debate, Trump denied that he ever acted on his vulgar comments about kissing and grabbing women “by the pussy.”

Multiple women accused Trump of sexual misconduct, including “attempted ‘rape’,” spanning four decades, and cited his denial as their motivation to come forward.

The outpouring of allegations against Trump was similar to those now leveled against Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore, whom multiple women have accused of sexual misconduct, including “assault.”

One woman, Leigh Corfman, alleged that Moore initiated a sexual encounter with her when she was 14 years old; other women have also accused Moore of sexually pursuing them when they were teenagers and he was in his early 30s.

According to the New York Times, Trump has also drawn parallels between his accusers and those coming forward with allegations against Moore.

Any questions about the recording’s authenticity would nevertheless stand in contrast to the fact that Trump is both visible and recognizable in the 2005 video, not to mention his own previous remarks on the subject.

In the hours after the tape was released, Trump released a video statement where he acknowledged that he made the recorded comments and apologized for doing so: “I said it, I was wrong, and I apologize.”

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