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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

President Donald Trump on Wednesday called Hillary Clinton his “opponent” and deflected questions about his administration by invoking Clinton’s stated positions, though it is nearly a year since Clinton last participated in politics.

Fox News’ John Roberts asked Trump at a joint press conference with Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg whether he would be willing to meet with special counsel Robert Mueller, who is leading the federal investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

In response, Trump said there was “no collusion” between himself or his campaign and Russia. He also referred to Clinton’s interview with the FBI in July 2016 regarding her use of a private email server.

“When you talk about interviews, Hillary Clinton had an interview where she wasn’t sworn in, she wasn’t given the oath, they didn’t take notes, they didn’t record, and it was done on the 4th of July weekend,” Trump said. “That’s perhaps ridiculous.”

Contrary to his claim, the FBI did take notes on Clinton’s interview with investigators, and released those notes, as well as its summary of the interview, in September 2016. The agency has a long-standing policy of not recording its interviews, which are instead documented using a summary form.

Trump again brought up Clinton when Roberts asked Solberg about her position on the possibility of working with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

After Solberg answered, Trump jumped in: “Just to add to the answer, I think it is much better to work with Russia.”

Trump cited his positions regarding energy sources and military development as proof, and compared the former to Clinton’s campaign stance on the subject.

“I will say this, I am for massive oil and gas and everything else, and a lot of energy. Putin can’t love that. I am for the strongest military that the United States ever had. Putin can’t love that,” he said. “But Hillary was not for a strong military, and Hillary, my opponent, was for windmills and she was for other types of energy that don’t have the same capacities at this moment, certainly.”

Clinton conceded the 2016 election to Trump more than a year ago.

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President Donald Trump is scheduled to hold a joint press conference with Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg on Wednesday at 3:20 p.m. ET. Watch live below:

President Donald Trump on Wednesday said he intends to “take a strong look” at libel laws to make sure they cover published statements that are malicious and known to be untrue — the very definition of libel.

Trump made the tautological — if vaguely threatening — statement to reporters at a cabinet meeting.

“We are going to take a strong look at our country’s libel laws so that when somebody says something that is false and defamatory about someone, that person will have meaningful recourse in our courts,” he said.

Trump said he wants “fairness.”

“If somebody says something that’s totally false and knowingly false, that the person that has been abused, defamed, libeled, will have meaningful recourse,” he said. “Our current libel laws are a sham and a disgrace and do not represent American values or American fairness.”

“You can’t say things that are false, knowingly false, and be able to smile as money pours into your bank account,” Trump added.

It was unclear whether Trump was referring to a specific statement he believes to be false, but the White House has taken particular issue with author Michael Wolff’s account of goings-on in Trump’s administration on what it claims is a similar basis.

The White House claimed last week that Wolff’s book “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House” is “trashy tabloid fiction.”

Wolff on Tuesday claimed that the book had sold a million copies as of Monday afternoon, in just four days, and publisher Henry Holt and Co. raised its initial announced printing of the book from 150,000 to to more than a million copies.

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President Donald Trump on Wednesday accused Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) of releasing a transcript of Fusion GPS founder Glenn Simpson’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee “totally without authorization.”

Trump dubbed Feinstein “Sneaky Dianne” and claimed that she released Simpson’s testimony from August “in such an underhanded and possibly illegal way.”

“Must have tough Primary!” he tweeted.

While Feinstein released the transcript on Tuesday without the support of Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), the committee’s chair, there was nothing illegal about her decision to release the unclassified document.

“The American people deserve the opportunity to see what he said and judge for themselves,” Feinstein said on Tuesday. “The only way to set the record straight is to make the transcript public.”

Read the latest editor’s brief (Prime access) on this story »

 

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A district judge set requirements in an order unsealed Tuesday for releasing Rick Gates, a longtime associate of President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, from house arrest.

U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson ruled last week that Gates can be released from house arrest if he stays in Richmond, Virginia, obtains permission for travel, abides by a curfew, subjects to GPS monitoring and agrees to forfeit assets if he flees.

Gates and Manafort in October 2017 pleaded not guilty to all 12 counts handed down against them, the first charges filed in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. They were charged with conspiracy against the United States, conspiracy to launder money and making false statements, among other counts.

Jackson set conditions in December 2017 for Manafort’s release from house arrest. As of Tuesday, Manafort’s attorneys had not filed the most recent round of documents Jackson requested as a condition of his release from home confinement.

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Conservative media outlet Breitbart News on Tuesday announced that Steve Bannon is stepping down as Breitbart’s executive chairman.

“Bannon and Breitbart will work together on a smooth and orderly transition,” the outlet announced in a statement.

Bannon in the statement said he is “proud of what the Breitbart team has accomplished in so short a period of time in building out a world-class news platform.”

The New York Times first reported Bannon’s departure, and reported that conservative mega-donor Rebekah Mercer, who is a part owner of Breitbart and sits on its board, was behind Bannon’s ouster.

Mercer last week rebuked Bannon for his “recent actions and statements,” an apparent reference to remarks Bannon made that journalist Michael Wolff quoted in his book “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House.”

“My family and I have not communicated with Steve Bannon in many months and have provided no financial support to his political agenda, nor do we support his recent actions and statements,” Mercer said.

Mercer told the Washington Post that she was committed to supporting Breitbart News, though that support did not appear to extend to Bannon.

Wolff reported that Bannon, formerly President Donald Trump’s campaign CEO and White House chief strategist, called Donald Trump Jr’s meeting with a Russian lawyer in June 2016 “treasonous” and “unpatriotic.”

According to Wolff, Bannon said that special counsel Robert Mueller’s team, which is investigating Russian interference into the 2016 election, would “crack Don Junior like an egg on national TV.”

Bannon on Sunday tried to walk his remarks back, and claimed they were directed at Trump’s former campaign chair Paul Manafort rather than Trump Jr., who he called “a patriot and a good man.”

Wolff pushed back on Bannon’s denial on Monday.

“I don’t want to put him in more hot water than he is already in, but that statement is false,” Wolff said of Bannon. “It was not directed at Manafort. It was directed directly at Don Jr.”

The White House on Monday made Bannon’s status as a persona non grata clear: “I don’t believe there is any way back for Mr. Bannon at this point,” deputy White House press secretary J. Hogan Gidley said. “I just don’t think there’s any way back.”

This post has been updated.

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President Donald Trump on Tuesday lent his voice to the national debate on whether Oprah Winfrey should run for office: “I like Oprah!”

“Oprah would be lots of fun,” Trump said after a bipartisan meeting with lawmakers about immigration. “You know, I did one of her last shows.”

Trump claimed he knows Winfrey “very well.”

“It was very nice,” he said of his appearance on Winfrey’s long-running eponymous talk show. “No, I like Oprah. I don’t think she’s going to run. I don’t think she’s going to run. I know her very well.”

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Kansas state Rep. Steve Alford (R) apologized on Monday for claiming that black people respond “the worst” to recreational drugs “because of their character makeup” and “genetics.”

“I was wrong, I regret my comments and I sincerely apologize to anyone whom I have hurt,” Alford said in a statement to the Topeka Capital-Journal.

Alford said he has “seen firsthand how drug abuse destroys lives,” including in his own family, and said he is “committed to fighting the spread of addiction in our state.”

Alford announced later Tuesday, according to the Wichita Eagle, that he had resigned his positions as chairman of the House Children and Seniors Committee and vice-chairman of the Child Welfare Task Force in the Kansas state legislature.

The Garden City Telegram first reported Alford’s remarks about marijuana use, which he made at a public event on Saturday.

“My wife is a magistrate judge and she says basically anyway you say it, marijuana is an entry drug into the higher drugs,” Alford said.

“What you really need to do is go back in the ’30s and when they outlawed all types of drugs in Kansas and across the United States,” he added. “One of the reasons why, I hate to say it, was that the African Americans, they were basically users and they basically responded the worst off of those drugs just because of their character makeup, their genetics and that.”

According to the Garden City Telegram, Alford was referring to Harry Anslinger’s tenure as the founding commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics (FBN). Anslinger campaigned for marijuana prohibition because of what he called “its effect on the degenerate races” and claimed that “reefer makes darkies think they’re as good as white men.”

“There are 100,000 total marijuana smokers in the U.S., and most are Negroes, Hispanics, Filipinos and entertainers. Their Satanic music, jazz and swing result from marijuana use,” Anslinger also said. “This marijuana causes white women to seek sexual relations with Negroes, entertainers and any others.”

Before apologizing, according to the Capital-Journal’s report, Alford claimed his remarks had nothing to do with race.

“Basically, the question of marijuana was coming up, and basically, what I’m really saying is that I’m against marijuana because it’s an entry drug into everything else,” he said to the Capital-Journal.

Alford said somebody at the event called him a racist, but claimed, “I’m about as far from being a racist as I could get.”

Alford did not immediately respond to TPM’s request for comment.

This post has been updated.

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The White House on Monday made it clear: President Donald Trump’s former chief strategist Steve Bannon is in Trump’s bad books for good, after criticizing his eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., for meeting with a Russian lawyer in June 2016.

“I don’t believe there is any way back for Mr. Bannon at this point,” deputy White House press secretary J. Hogan Gidley told reporters aboard Air Force One, according to a pool report. “I just don’t think there’s any way back.”

Gidley called Bannon’s remarks “repugnant” and “grotesque,” and claimed it was “very obvious” he worked with Michael Wolff, the author of “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House,” where Wolff first reported Bannon’s comments.

“When you go after somebody’s family in the matter which he did, two of the President’s children are serving this nation, sacrificing in their service, it is repugnant,” Gidley said. “It is grotesque and I challenge anybody to go and talk about somebody’s family and see if that person doesn’t come back and comes back hard.”

Bannon on Sunday said his remarks calling Trump Jr.’s meeting with the Russian lawyer “treasonous” and “unpatriotic” were actually directed at Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chair.

He did not apologize to Trump Jr., but said he has “regret” regarding his two-day delay in responding to initial reports on his remarks.

On Monday, Wolff pushed back on Bannon’s denial.

“I don’t want to put him in more hot water than he is already in, but that statement is false,” Wolff said. “It was not directed at Manafort. It was directed directly at Don Jr.”

Read an editor’s backgrounder (Prime access) on this story »

 

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The CEO of Macmillan, the parent company of the publisher behind Michael Wolff’s “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House,” on Monday said the company will not acquiesce to a demand from President Donald Trump’s lawyer to cease distributing the book.

In a memo to employees, obtained by TPM, Macmillan CEO John Sargent said the letter from Trump’s lawyer Charles Harder was “a clear effort by the President of the United States to intimidate a publisher into halting publication of an important book on the workings of the government.”

“That is something that no American court would order as it is flagrantly unconstitutional,” Sargent said.

He cited the Pentagon Papers case, which involved the leak of a secret Defense Department report on U.S. involvement in Vietnam, The New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, a case which established the actual malice standard for libel claims, and The Nebraska Press Association v. Stuart, a case where the Supreme Court ruled prior restraint unconstitutional.

Sargent said Harder’s cease-and-desist letter was “an attempt to achieve” prior restraint, or government action that prohibits certain kinds of speech or expression, and said the publisher will send a legal response to Trump later Monday.

“There is no ambiguity here. This is an underlying principle of our democracy. We cannot stand silent,” Sargent said. “We need to respond strongly for Michael Wolff and his book, but also for all authors and all their books, now and in the future. And as citizens we must demand that President Trump understand and abide by the First Amendment of our Constitution.”

Read Sargent’s memo:

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