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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

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Thursday said that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson should be “just fine” to do his job, despite reports that the White House plans to oust him.

“The secretary of state’s a pretty tough guy. I think he’ll be just fine carrying his job out,” Sanders said at her daily press briefing.

The New York Times reported Thursday morning that the White House has developed a plan to replace Tillerson with with current CIA Director Mike Pompeo, and to replace Pompeo with Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR).

“As we’ve said many times before, as many of you love to write these type of stories, when the President loses confidence in someone, they will no longer serve in the capacity that they’re in,” Sanders added.

Pressed to say whether Tillerson is exempt from that category, Sanders said, “As the President said on the record, and several of you were in the room in the Oval today, the secretary of state is here.”

The White House has previously expressed Trump’s confidence in administration officials who have been fired hours later, as well as some who remain in their positions; confidence appears to be a matter of cosmetics rather than certainty.

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Great America Alliance, a pro-Trump political organization, has made a $150,000 ad buy to rally support for Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore in the two weeks remaining before the state’s special election, CNN reported on Thursday.

Great America Alliance is affiliated with former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, the chair of Breitbart News, who on Tuesday said he will travel to Alabama to campaign for Moore at a rally next week.

CNN reported that Great America Alliance bought digital, television and radio ads to run against Moore’s Democratic opponent, Doug Jones.

Andy Surabian, a senior adviser to Great America Alliance, told CNN that “voters deserve to know the disturbing truth” about Jones’ “radical left-wing positions.”

The group on Tuesday published a 30-second spot calling Jones “deceptive and dangerous” for his position on abortion.

Great America Alliance’s last-minute ad push comes amid a flood of sexual misconduct allegations women have leveled against Moore. One woman alleged that Moore initiated a sexual encounter when she was 14 years old and he was in his early 30s, while another alleged that he sexually assaulted her when she was 16 years old.

Moore has denied all the allegations and resisted elected Republicans’ calls for him to step down from the race. On Thursday, he blamed the accusations on “the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender who want to change our culture.”

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House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) on Thursday said Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) should step down “immediately” amid allegations of sexual misconduct by former staffers.

“I think he should resign. I think he should resign immediately,” Ryan said during his weekly news conference. “I’ve just been briefed on the torrent of allegations, and I think he should.”

Ryan said he watched an interview that one of Conyers’ accusers, Marion Brown, gave on NBC News’ “Today” on Thursday detailing the allegations that led to a settlement agreement between her and Conyers.

“No one should have to go through something like that, let alone here in Congress,” Ryan said.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) on Thursday called on Conyers to resign, after reportedly urging him to do so in private to no avail. Conyers has denied the allegations three former staffers have made against him, and his lawyer on Wednesday said Conyers has no plans to resign.

Conyers’ family spokesperson on Thursday said Conyers has been hospitalized for reasons related to stress, but declined to provide more details.

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Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) has been hospitalized for reasons related to stress amid allegations that he made inappropriate sexual advances toward former staffers, his family spokesperson told several news outlets on Thursday.

Conyers’ family spokesperson Sam Riddle told Detroit Fox affiliate WJBK and CBS affiliate WWJ that Conyers is in the hospital for stress-related reasons, but declined to provide further details.

Riddle said the women accusing Conyers of sexual misconduct are “serial accusers.”

Three former staffers have accused Conyers of inappropriate touching and unwanted sexual advances. Conyers has denied the allegations.

He stepped down last week as the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, but has so far resisted pressure to resign, which has reportedly come from the Congressional Black Caucus and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA).

Conyers’ attorney Arnold Reed on Wednesday said the member of Congress has no plans to resign at the moment.

“The congressman is a very deliberate person and doesn’t want to make a hasty decision,” Reed said. “These allegations are untrue, and Mr. Conyers wants the public to know they are untrue. We will weigh and continue to assess his options.”

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Colleagues of former “Today” host Matt Lauer, who was fired from NBC on Wednesday after a colleague filed a complaint of sexual misconduct, detailed Lauer’s alleged behavior toward women in a report published by Variety.

Variety reported, citing “dozens of interviews with current and former staffers,” that Lauer gave one female colleague a sex toy with an explicit note about his intentions for its use.

He summoned another female colleague to his office and exposed his genitals to her, according to the report. The colleague was “visibly shaken,” according to Variety, and when she did not act Lauer reprimanded her for not taking part in a sexual encounter.

Lauer was known for making crude remarks aloud or via text message, according to the report. He offered to trade the names of his sexual partners with female producers, whom he asked about their own encounters, according to Variety.

He once compared a colleague’s job performance to her presumed sexual performance, according to the report. Lauer also played “fuck, marry or kill” with colleagues, and named female co-hosts he would like to have sex with.

According to Variety, Lauer had a button under his desk to lock his office at 30 Rockefeller Center without requiring him to get up. When traveling abroad, he had a pattern of inviting female colleagues to his hotel room late at night, according to the report.

Variety reported, citing unnamed sources, that the complaint that led to Lauer’s dismissal was about “inappropriate sexual conduct” by Lauer that began at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, and went on for several more months.

An unnamed former producer told Variety that Lauer had “a lot of consensual relationships,” but noted those were “still a problem because of the power he held.”

“He couldn’t sleep around town with celebrities or on the road with random people, because he’s Matt Lauer and he’s married,” the producer said. “So he’d have to do it within his stable, where he exerted power, and he knew people wouldn’t ever complain.”

One unnamed former reporter told Variety that “management” at NBC and “Today” “protected the shit out of Matt Lauer,” and several women told Variety that they brought Lauer’s behavior to the attention of NBC News executives, to no avail.

NBC News announced Lauer’s termination Wednesday morning, and continued to report on the complaint throughout the day.

“While it is the first complaint about his behavior in the over twenty years he’s been at NBC News, we were also presented with reason to believe this may not have been an isolated incident,” NBC News chair Andy Lack said in a statement. “Our highest priority is to create a workplace environment where everyone feels safe and protected.”

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The New York Times’ editorial board on Wednesday used the paper’s opinion Twitter account to urge readers to contact key senators about the Republican tax bill that has cleared the Senate Budget Committee.

“The NYT Editorial Board is temporarily taking over this acct. to urge the Senate to reject a tax bill that hurts the middle class and the nation’s fiscal health,” the account’s bio read on Wednesday morning.

The editorial board tweeted a link to its criticism of the legislation, with the headline “Senate Considers Making a Terrible Tax Bill Even Worse.”

“Even by the collapsing standards of Congress this is astounding,” the board wrote. “This is really about stuffing the pockets of people like Mr. Trump.”

The board said the legislation would raise the tax and insurance premiums of “millions of poor and middle-class families.”

“The majority leader, Mitch McConnell, is trying to rush the bill to a vote by the end of the week. This self-imposed deadline is intended to give lawmakers and the public as little time as possible to analyze and understand the bill,” the board wrote.

The editorial board said the tax bill was “cooked up behind closed doors by Republicans without Democratic input.”

“Republican senators have a choice. They can follow the will of their donors and vote to take money from the middle class and give it to the wealthiest people in the world,” they wrote. “Or they can vote no, to protect the public and the financial health of the government. There’s no compromise on that.”

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British Prime Minister Theresa May on Wednesday said President Donald Trump was “wrong” to retweet three unverified anti-Muslim videos from the leader of a British far-right group.

“It is wrong for the President to have done this,” May’s spokesman said of the videos Trump retweeted from Jayda Fransen, deputy head of Britain First.

Fransen claimed the videos show violence ignited by an “Islamist mob,” a “Muslim” and a “Muslim migrant.” Those claims are unsubstantiated.

“Britain First seeks to divide communities through their use of hateful narratives which peddle lies and stoke tensions,” May’s spokesman said. “They cause anxiety to law-abiding people. British people overwhelmingly reject the prejudiced rhetoric of the far right.”

Britain First has campaigned against the construction and expansion of mosques in the U.K., and has pushed for halal meat to be banned in the country. Trump himself has a long record of dubious anti-Muslim and nativist claims, not least his three attempts to block travelers from majority-Muslim countries from entering the United States.

Witnesses said the man who killed Jo Cox, a Labour Party legislator who was murdered a week before Britain voted in a referendum to leave the European Union, shouted “Britain first!” several times as he attacked Cox. The group said it had no connection to Cox’s murder.

Cox’s widower, Brendan Cox, also criticized Trump for retweeting the posts on Wednesday.

“Spreading hatred has consequences,” he tweeted. “The President should be ashamed of himself.”

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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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