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Nicole Lafond

Nicole Lafond is a news writer for TPM based in New York City. She is also currently earning a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University and previously worked as an education reporter at The News-Gazette in Champaign, Ill. Follow her on Twitter @Nicole_Lafond.

Articles by Nichole

Former White House aide Sebastian Gorka called Sen. John McCain’s (R-AZ) speech that railed against “spurious nationalism” on Monday night “very disappointing” and suggested McCain is out of touch.

“You can be a hero, but you can also — also not know what you are talking about,” Gorka said, appearing on “Fox and Friends” Tuesday morning. “John McCain hasn’t seen a war he didn’t like in the last 20 years and that’s not who the President is. The President believes that it’s America first and the idea that you just criticized him from the sidelines — this is a man who doesn’t want to be interventionist.”

During a speech accepting the National Constitution Center’s Liberty Medal, McCain encouraged American leaders to not abandon the United States’ position leading the world, apparently referencing Trump and his America-first policies, a move that highlights the continuously deepening divide between the Republican establishment and conservative Trump loyalists like Gorka.

“(Trump) uses force where it’s necessary,” Gorka said. “To say we need more of the kinds of things we saw in the last 16 years, Senator McCain, no we don’t.”

White House legislative director Marc Short declined to tell House investigators whether some of President Donald Trump’s top aides used private emails for official business, despite multiple reports to the contrary, Politico reported Monday.

Reps. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) and Elijah Cummings (D-MD), the chair and ranking member of the House Oversight Committee, respectively, sent a bipartisan letter to the White House in September requesting the names of aides who had used private emails accounts for White House business.

Cummings and Gowdy also asked for the “the individual, cellular number and account used” by any White House officials who communicated using “text-messages, phone-based message applications, or encryption software to conduct official business,” according to the letter obtained by Politico.

Short refused to even touch the issue of private email accounts. He said staffers “endeavor to comply with all relevant laws” and said the White House “consults” with the National Archives to make sure it is in compliance with the Presidential Records Act.

He repeated a previous claim that “no senior officials” have multiple emails accounts and said the White House hasn’t made any changes to how it’s required to archive presidential records since January.

“This administration is committed to the effective implementation of federal records preservation and public access laws. Thank you for your attention to this important matter,” Short wrote.

The response comes after multiple reports surfaced last month, alleging that White House adviser — and Trump’s son-in-law — Jared Kushner, former chief strategist Steve Bannon, economic adviser Gary Cohn and former Chief-of-Staff Reince Priebus all used private emails at least occasionally for official business.

Short also skirted the House investigators’ request for documents related to administration officials use of private jets for official travel, telling Cummings and Gowdy to redirect their requests to heads of each department instead of Chief-of-Staff John Kelly.

Read Short’s letter below:

While President Donald Trump maintained his frustrated rhetoric about the investigation into Russian meddling in the U.S. election, he changed course as it relates to special counsel Robert Mueller, saying he has “no” intention of firing the investigator.

During a press conference in the Rose Garden Monday, Trump echoed his usual talking points on the Russia probe. He “would like to see it end” and labeled the investigations into Russian meddling in the election and potential collusion between the Russians and Trump’s campaign “an excuse for Democrats.”

“That was just an excuse for the Democrats, losing an election that frankly, they have a big advantage in the electoral college. They should always be able to win in the electoral college,” he said. “There was absolutely no collusion. It’s been stated there was no collusion. They ought to get to the end of it because I think the American public is sick of it.”

When asked whether he intends to fire special counsel Mueller, he said “no, not at all.”

The comments are a break from remarks Trump has reportedly made in private in recent months, raging against Mueller and questioning whether he could fire him.

Despite reports that President Donald Trump physically mocked Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) last month, Trump said on Monday that their relationship is “closer than ever before.”

After a lunch meeting, Trump and McConnell held an impromptu press conference in the Rose Garden, where the two leaders swatted away reports that their relationship has becoming frosty in recent months.

We have been friends for a long time and probably now, despite what we read, we are probably now, I think, as least as far as I’m concerned closer than ever before. The relationship is very good. We are fighting for the same thing,” Trump said.

McConnell concurred, saying he and the President “have the same agenda” and have been “friends and acquaintances for a long time.”

“We talk frequently, we don’t give you a readout every time we have a conversation, but frequently we talk on the weekends about the issues that are before us,” McConnell said.

Trump has been vocal about his frustrations with McConnell both publicly on Twitter and in private. Last month, Trump, in private, reportedly physically mocked McConnell’s posture and the way he reacted to Trump striking a deal with Democrats on the debt ceiling.

McConnell has dealt back similar critiques and even suggested that Trump doesn’t understand the complexities of the democratic process.

Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), a staunch conservative, endorsed Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore on Monday, saying that Moore’s “reputation of integrity” is needed in Congress.

If there was ever a time to ensure that Republicans maintain a seat in the United States Senate, it is now, ” Lee said in a statement released by the Moore campaign. “That is why I am proudly endorsing Judge Roy Moore for United States Senate. Alabamians have the chance to send a proven, conservative fighter to the United States Senate and I am more than ready to welcome a trusted ally. Judge Moore’s tested reputation of integrity is exactly what we need in Washington D.C. in order to pass conservative legislation and protect the liberty of all Americans.”

Many Republican senators have been cautious about throwing their weight behind Moore, the candidate who beat out the incumbent, President Donald Trump-backed Sen. Luther Strange (R-AL) in a runoff primary election last month.

Moore is a contentious conservative with a religious right cult following. He was twice removed from his post on Alabama’s Supreme Court for refusing to remove a monument of the Ten Commandments from the courthouse and for instructing probate judges to not sign off on same-sex marriage licenses after marriage equality became federal law in 2015.

Lee is among a few senators to endorse Moore, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) — who previously backed Strange, but endorsed Moore after his primary win — and Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO). Reps. Mo Brooks (R-AL), Mark Meadows (R-NC), Jim Jordan (R-OH), Thomas Massie (R-WV) and Jody Hice (R-GA) have formally backed him, according to Moore’s campaign.

He’s also earned the support of big-name conservatives like Fox News’ Sean Hannity, Breitbart’s Steve Bannon and former Govs. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas and Sarah Palin of Alaska.

While Trump campaigned for Strange leading up to the primary runoff election, he tweeted congratulating Moore after his victory and deleted some of his tweets backing Strange.

President Donald Trump is making early moves to place the blame on Democrats if Congress is unable to pass the President’s favored tax cut plan.

After apparently watching a Fox Business Network interview Monday morning with former President Ronald Reagan Economic Adviser Art Laffer, Trump paraphrased some of Laffer’s comments on Twitter, saying Laffer “doesn’t know how a Democrat could vote against the big tax cut/reform bill and live with themselves!”

He then called out Democrats for what he called their penchant for tax increases, saying “all they are good at” is tax increases and obstruction.

During his interview on Fox Business, Laffer did say he is “hoping the Democrats vote” for Trump’s tax proposal because “they should vote with it, they believe in it, they want it.” Laffer didn’t necessarily say he didn’t think Democrats could live with themselves if they voted down the proposal, but rather said he didn’t know how a Democrat could “vote against this bill and hold his face up high to the electorate.” 

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) said it is “naive to suggest” that sexual harassment “doesn’t happen” in the halls of Congress.

Appearing on MSNBC’s “Kasie DC” show Sunday evening, Ryan said a culture of sexual harassment is likely prevalent in “any institution, wherever you look in society” and said the best way to combat it is to “expose” it.

“It would be naive to suggest that doesn’t happen and I do believe that exposing these things can help improve the culture,” he said.

Ryan’s comments come after disgraced Hollywood movie mogul Harvey Weinstein was fired from his own film studio and expelled from Hollywood’s Motion Picture Academy, which hands out the Oscars, as at least 30 women have come out and accused Weinstein of sexual harassment and assault in the past week.

While Ryan admits he’s “not a big Hollywood gossiper” and  “didn’t know” who Weinstein was until the reports surfaced last weekend, he called Weinstein’s behavior “horrendous” and said “no woman should ever fear they have to put up with this kind of stuff.”

“Obviously he needs to be held to account,” he said. “I think in any institution, wherever you look in society, you’re going to have these kinds of problems. The more you expose it and the more we can castigate people in society on these things to show that this is not acceptable behavior, I think that’s to the good.”

A a solid majority of the public — 71 percent — wants to see President Donald Trump make Obamacare work instead of dismantling the law, according to a recent poll conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

While the poll was conducted before the White House announced that Trump would end crucial subsidies for insurers under Obamacare, 60 percent of respondents said they want to keep the payments in tact. The payments help low-income people afford insurance coverage. On Thursday, Trump signed an executive order to make it easier for people to purchase more stripped down insurance plans.

Thirty percent considered the subsidies — called cost-sharing reduction (CSR) — a bailout to insurance companies and said the program should end.

Democrats (93 percent) and Independents (74 percent) were far more supportive of the idea than Republicans. About half of the Republicans surveyed — 48 percent — said they’d like to see the Trump administration make the current health care law work. Four in 10 Republicans said Trump should make the law fail, according to the poll.

About 66 percent said they thought it was more important to craft legislation to stabilize the Affordable Care Act than it was to continue trying to repeal and replace the law. Exactly 30 percent of those surveyed thought repeal and replacement efforts were more important.

The foundation fielded a random sample of 1,215 U.S. adults from Oct. 5-10, using landlines and cell phones. The margin of error is +/- 3 percentage points.

Read the full poll report here.

Just 24 hours after saying the federal government couldn’t “stay in Puerto Rico forever,” President Donald Trump switched gears Friday morning.

Complimenting the “wonderful people of Puerto Rico,” Trump vowed on Twitter to “always be with them!”

A short time later, during his speech at the Values Voter Summit Friday, he touched on the topic again, saying its “not even a question of a choice” when it comes to helping out Puerto Rico.

“These are people that are incredible people, they suffered gravely and we’ll be there, we’re going to be there. We have really— it’s not even a question of a choice,” he said. “We don’t even want a choice, we’re going to be there as Americans and we love those people and what they’re going through and they’re healing, and their states and territories are healing and healing rapidly.”

(He also incorrectly stated he met with the “President of the Virgin Islands.” He’s the President of the Virgin Islands, a U.S. territory).

Friday’s tone was much different than the rhetoric Trump has taken on Puerto Rico the past few weeks. In his series of tweets on Thursday, he seemed to suggest that Puerto Rico’s debt and previous infrastructure issues have made the hurricane devastation worse.

The mayor of San Juan — who hasn’t been afraid of criticizing Trump for the federal response to recovery in Puerto Rico — called Trump a “hater in chief” for his remarks on Thursday.

Watch his comments at the Value Voters Summit below:

LiveWire