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

During a fundraising speech in Missouri Wednesday night, President Donald Trump reportedly told supporters that he made up a trade claim in a meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, according to audio of the event obtained by The Washington Post.

Trump reportedly called Trudeau a “nice guy, good looking guy” and admitted that he told Trudeau that Canada has a trade deficit with the U.S., even though he had no idea whether that was actually accurate.

Read the transcript of the audio from the event, per the Post:

“Trudeau came to see me. He’s a good guy, Justin. He said, ‘No, no, we have no trade deficit with you, we have none. Donald, please,’ ” Trump said, mimicking Trudeau, according to audio obtained by The Washington Post. “Nice guy, good-looking guy, comes in — ‘Donald, we have no trade deficit.’ He’s very proud because everybody else, you know, we’re getting killed.

“… So, he’s proud. I said, ‘Wrong, Justin, you do.’ I didn’t even know. … I had no idea. I just said, ‘You’re wrong.’ You know why? Because we’re so stupid. … And I thought they were smart. I said, ‘You’re wrong, Justin.’ He said, ‘Nope, we have no trade deficit.’ I said, ‘Well, in that case, I feel differently,’ I said, ‘but I don’t believe it.’ I sent one of our guys out, his guy, my guy, they went out, I said, ‘Check, because I can’t believe it.’

‘Well, sir, you’re actually right. We have no deficit, but that doesn’t include energy and timber. … And when you do, we lose $17 billion a year.’ It’s incredible.”

The U.S. actually has a trade surplus with Canada, according to the Post. Trump on Thursday morning attempted to clarify his comments on Twitter, but claimed the U.S. has a trade deficit with Canada. 

The Wednesday night admission is particularly startling given Trump’s announcement last week that the U.S. would implement tariffs on steel and aluminum imports to the U.S. He also called the North American Free Trade Agreement a disaster and claimed key allies like the European Union, China, Japan and South Korea were taking advantage of the U.S.

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Attorney General Jeff Sessions is currently reviewing a request to fire former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe, who has been on a leave of absence from the bureau since January and is set to officially retire on Sunday.

According to people inside the Justice Department who spoke to The New York Times, McCabe is expected to be fired before the end of the work week, though no official decision has been made yet.

The Justice Department inspector general is probing McCabe’s decision to allow members of the FBI to speak with reporters about its probe into the Clinton Foundation in 2016. According to The New York Times, the IG office has found that McCabe was not forthcoming during the review and the report findings ignited an FBI disciplinary process that recommended McCabe be fired.

Sessions will get to decide whether to accept the recommendation, a move that would threaten his ability to collect a pension after his 21-year career with the FBI, according to the Times.

McCabe took a leave of absence in January following reports that President Donald Trump and Sessions tried to pressure FBI Director Chris Wray to fire McCabe. Wray reportedly threatened to resign if he was forced to fire the deputy director.

As TPM and the Times reported in January, the forthcoming report from the IG fueled McCabe’s decision to leave the bureau before his retirement in March.

The IG was probing a variety of different moves made by the FBI during its investigations during the 2016 election, including its handling of the Hillary Clinton email probe and whether McCabe should’ve recused himself from the investigation, given his wife ran as a Democrat for public office in 2015. Trump has repeatedly bullied McCabe and that perceived conflict of interest on Twitter.

Read the rest of the Times report here. 

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CNN host Chris Cuomo will leave his early morning “New Day” show to host “Cuomo Prime Time” in the 9 p.m. EST hour, starting sometime this spring, according to CNN.

Cuomo hosted a show in the primetime slot for a week last summer and spent most of the month of January balancing “Cuomo Prime Time” with “New Day,” which runs from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. EST. CNN’s 9 a.m. and 10 a.m. co-anchor John Berman will join “New Day” co-host Alisyn Camerota for the early morning shift. The exact date of the change has not been decided yet, according to CNN.

The move will put Cuomo in direct competition with Fox News’ Sean Hannity and MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, both of whom pulled in more than 600,000 25 to 54-year-old viewers a piece last month. Currently CNN airs “AC360” during the 9 p.m. EST hour, which averaged about 386,000 viewers in the 25 to 54 year-old demographic in February, CNN reported.

In a tweet, Cuomo confirmed the new show, saying he hopes to “talk TO people more and ABOUT them less.”

Cuomo, whose father Mario Cuomo was the former governor of New York and his brother Andrew Cuomo is the current governor, has been the co-anchor of “New Day” since 2014.

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President Donald Trump is considering ousting more of his administration’s top officials, CNN reported Wednesday.

Among those who are reportedly likely on their way out, according to CNN: National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, Chief of Staff John Kelly and Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin.

People familiar with the matter who spoke with CNN said McMaster appears to be ready to move on, following months of reports that the Pentagon was looking for a job for him that would serve as a promotion upon leaving the White House. Kelly was reportedly orchestrating the removal of McMaster. Among those reportedly being considered to replace McMaster include John Bolton, who served as the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. under the President George W. Bush administration as well as National Security Agency Director Admiral Mike Rogers and others, according to CNN.

Kelly’s departure is seen as less imminent that McMaster’s, CNN reported, but Trump’s outside advisers are reportedly putting out feelers for candidates to replace him, according to those who have been approached about the position. 

While Trump initially didn’t have an issue with President Barack Obama-era holdover Shulkin, he now wants him out, according to two sources familiar with the discussions who spoke to CNN. Shulkin has recently come under fire because one of his staffers altered an email that made it easier for his wife to travel to Europe with Shulkin on the taxpayers’ dime. Trump is reportedly looking to his Energy Secretary Rick Perry as a replacement, and Shulkin could be forced out within the next few days, according to The Washington Post.

Trump publicly signaled there may be more turnover soon, telling reporters Tuesday, “I’m really at a point where we’re getting very close to having the Cabinet and other things that I want.”

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President Donald Trump did not hide his frustrations with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in public, evidenced by his tweets in recent months chastising Tillerson for attempting to reach a diplomatic solution with “Rocket Man” in North Korea.

That public humiliation culminated Tuesday in Trump’s decision to inform his secretary of state that he was out of a job via Twitter.

But Trump also reportedly wasn’t shy about expressing his irritation with Tillerson in private, in the West Wing, either.

According to The Washington Post, Trump became annoyed with Tillerson early-on in the presidency and would openly mock Tillerson’s “mannerisms and Texas drawl, saying his secretary of state talked too slowly,” in the Post’s words.

Trump would also reportedly tell friends and advisers that Tillerson was “weak” and would often name off other people he thought would be better at the job. Trump was reportedly particularly irked with Tillerson over his negative news coverage, according to the Post.

“This guy never gets a good story,” Trump said, according to an adviser who spoke with the Post.

Tillerson wasn’t innocent of mocking Trump either. The secretary of state reportedly called Trump a “moron” last summer, which pushed Trump to tweet challenging Tillerson’s I.Q.

Among his frustrations with the President, Tillerson was reportedly bothered by Trump’s impulsive behavior, his vulgarity and his inability to focus. Despite that, Tillerson reportedly wanted to stay in the job, even up until the point that he found out through Twitter Tuesday that he had been fired.

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The parents of a former Democratic National Committee staffer sued Fox News for a story the network published and later retracted about their son Seth Rich, who was shot and killed in Washington, D.C. in July 2016, ABC News reported Tuesday evening.

A Fox News spokesperson told TPM Wednesday that the network “can’t comment on this pending litigation.”

The May 2017 Fox News article peddled incorrect theories that Rich was murdered because he was connected to the WikiLeaks release of 20,000 DNC emails, which occurred after his death. The article linked Rich to the leak of the emails to WikiLeaks, but the U.S. intelligence community said in October 2016 that the Russian government was behind the hacks.

Police say Rich may have been the victim of a robbery when he was shot in the back several times and later died in the hospital in July 2016, but the murder of the 27-year-old still remains unsolved.

In the lawsuit, which was obtained by ABC News, Rich’s parents claim that Fox News, investigative reporter Malia Zimmerman and commentator Ed Butowsky are liable for the harm inflicted on Rich’s family by spreading “false and fabricated facts” about their son’s death. A Fox News spokesperson noted to TPM that Butowsky was never actually a Fox News contributor. 

Fox News retracted that story in late May 2017 because it was not “subjected to the high degree of editorial scrutiny we require for all our reporting,” the network said in a statement at the time.

“No parent should ever have to live through what we have been forced to endure. The pain and anguish that comes from seeing your murdered son’s life and legacy treated as a mere political football is beyond comprehension,” Rich’s parents Joel and Mary Rich told ABC News in a joint statement.

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House Oversight Committee ranking member Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) has requested the White House hand over documents related to the firing of President Donald Trump’s personal assistant Tuesday.

John McEntee, the close, long-serving aide to Trump, was reportedly fired on Tuesday over issues in his background check for obtaining security clearance, The Wall Street Journal reported.

McEntee was reportedly escorted out of the White House after his firing on Tuesday and was not even given time to collect his personal belongings, including his jacket. According to CNN, McEntee is also being investigated by the Department of Homeland Security for alleged financial crimes.

Cummings addressed the letter to Chief of Staff John Kelly and scolded the White House official for the “deficient background check process” in the West Wing.

“I have been warning for more than a year about the White House’s deficient background check process — as well as specific officials who have been granted access to our nation’s most closely guarded secrets despite derogatory information known to White House officials — you have stonewalled congressional oversight efforts and refused to provide any documents requested by me or Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-SC),” he said in the letter.

Cummings requested by March 27 McEntee’s security clearance application, the FBI’s investigative report on McEntee and all documents and communications related to discussions about McEntee and his access to sensitive or classified information. Cummings also asked for documents related to White House employees who have been granted interim security clearances since the 2016 election and documents related to any White House official who has resigned or was fired over a criminal investigation or failure to obtain a security clearance.

“This recent report about President Trump’s personal assistant is just the latest indication that the process for vetting White House employees for security issue is seriously flawed,” he wrote. “The White House’s ongoing obstruction of congressional oversight appears to be an attempt to conceal from the American people pervasive and widespread dysfunction inside the White House, which directly threatens our nation’s security.”

Read the letter below:

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A close friend of Stormy Daniels has confirmed that the porn actress had a sexual affair with President Donald Trump a decade ago and said he listened in on Daniels’ phone calls with Trump, The Washington Post reported Tuesday.

Keith Munyan, a 56-year-old porn photographer, is one of four people listed on the nondisclosure agreement who allegedly knows about the relationship, according to The Washington Post. Daniels reportedly signed the agreement and was paid $130,000 just before the 2016 election to keep quiet about the affair, but she now claims the agreement is null because Trump never signed it. She announced last week she is suing Trump so that she can talk about the affair openly. She’s also offered to return the $130,000 payment she allegedly received from Trump’s personal attorney Michael Cohen.

Munyan spoke to The Washington Post on Monday and corroborated the details of the alleged affair that Daniels spoke about to In Touch Magazine in 2011. The transcript of that interview was published in recent months. According to Munyan, Trump called Daniels several times while she was working at a photo studio in a house he owned in Los Angeles. The first phone call he witnessed was in 2006, not long after Daniels and Trump allegedly met at a golf tournament in Lake Tahoe.

“She checked her phone and goes, ‘Look who’s calling,’ ” he told The Washington Post. “She thought it was so fun. She wanted to be on ‘The Apprentice.’ Wouldn’t you?”

Munyan said Daniels would put the phone between their ears so he could hear the conversation with Trump. He said he listened to six or seven phone calls while Trump and Daniels were in a relationship, conversations that often included a lot of “babble” from Trump, he said.

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President Donald Trump’s personal assistant, John McEntee, was fired on Monday, according to administration officials who spoke with the Wall Street Journal.

McEntee was reportedly escorted out of the White House without being given time to collect his personal belongings, including his jacket, officials told WSJ.

It is still unclear what led to McEntee’s ousting. The WSJ reported that he was fired over unspecified security issues. According to CNN, McEntee is currently under investigation by the Department of Homeland Security for financial crimes, which are reportedly unrelated to Trump. 

The White House declined to comment on the Journal’s questions about the firing.

McEntee reportedly told colleagues that the firing was related to his background check. McEntee was one of Trump’s longest serving aides who has been serving with Trump since the early days of the campaign. According to a press release from the Trump campaign, McEntee will re-join the Trump campaign as a senior adviser. 

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Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein on Monday praised special counsel Robert Mueller for his handling of the Russia probe and said that there is no “justification at this point” to fire him, despite reports that the President wanted to terminate him this summer.

“The special counsel is not an unguided missile,” Rosenstein told USA Today on Monday. “I don’t believe there is any justification at this point for terminating the special counsel.”

He also expressed confidence in his own job status, despite President Donald Trump’s consistent criticism of the Justice Department and his Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Rosenstein was tasked with hiring Mueller to conduct the probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election after Sessions recused himself over his contacts with Russian officials. That move has been the focal point of Trump’s ire against Sessions.

“I feel very confident in my ability to do the job,” he told USA Today. “In any political job, you recognize that your time is going to be limited. My goal is to get as much done for as long as I’m here in the job.”

He said when his “time is up” he’s “confident” he will be able to look back and be proud of the work he’s done.

Read the rest of the interview with USA Today here.

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