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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

Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) is retiring from Congress once his term is up in 2018, The Dallas Morning News reported Tuesday.

“Today I am announcing that I will not seek reelection to the U.S. Congress in 2018,” said in a statement. “Although service in Congress remains the greatest privilege of my life, I never intended to make it a lifetime commitment, and I have already stayed far longer than I had originally planned.”

Hensarling was elected to Congress in 2003 and represents the 5th district of Texas, which includes Dallas. He recently pushed for an overhaul of the federal flood insurance program after Hurricane Harvey caused massive destruction in parts of southeast Texas.

In the statement, Hensarling said he would continuing working on “housing finance reform, regulatory relief, cyber security and capital formation” and “especially pro-growth tax reform” during his last 14 months in Congress.

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After spending the morning tweeting about how the “Fake News is working overtime,” President Donald Trump acknowledged that not all media is “fake” during a discussion about the Republican tax reform plan with CEOs at the White House on Tuesday afternoon.

“All of you have done a tremendous job mobilizing members and talking to the members of Congress, which is very important and making a strong case for tax reform in the media,” he said. “The media is not all fake, therefore, we can get a fair shake.”

He said members of his cabinet would be traveling around the country while he’s in Asia next week, talking directly to taxpayers about the new plan and giving interviews to local media, which Trump apparently prefers over national news outlets.

Cabinet officials will be “focusing on the regional media, which we find to be a much more credible media to be honest with you. In fact, I found it to be incredible how good they are,” he said.

On Tuesday morning, Trump took to Twitter to complain about the “Fake News” being “weak!” and the recent media coverage of his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who was indicted Monday on multiple counts of money laundering, among other crimes, some of which spanned through the time Manafort was working for the Trump campaign.

Trump was also frustrated with the attention being paid to George Papadopoulos, one of his campaign’s foreign policy advisers who recently plead guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russian officials, whom he was encouraged to meet with during the campaign, according to court documents.

He claimed that the “biggest story” from Monday was that Hillary Clinton’s former campaign manager’s brother, Tony Podesta, is leaving his Washington lobbying firm after becoming part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election and whether Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia to win.

As reporters were ushered out of the Roosevelt Room where Trump was hosting the tax reform discussion, the President refused to answer shouted question about the Mueller indictments or presidential pardons.

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After news broke that three former members of President Donald Trump’s campaign have been indicted in a probe by special counsel Robert Mueller, questions about whether the President plans to fire the investigator have gained new traction, especially following reports that Trump was fuming about Monday’s news.

The White House maintains that Trump has “no intention” of firing Mueller, but the President’s former chief strategist Steve Bannon is reportedly whispering alternative methods for kneecapping the investigator in Trump’s ear, according to reports from CNN, The Daily Beast and Politico.

On Monday, Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and Manafort’s business associate turned themselves in to federal authorities after the pair was charged with 12 counts related to money laundering and other alleged crimes.

Court documents also released Monday showed that Trump’s campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos lied to federal agents about his contacts with a professor whom he knew had substantial links to the Russian government. Another member of the Trump campaign encouraged Papadopoulos to travel to Russia to meet with officials “if it is feasible,” according to an exchange revealed in the court documents.

A source close to Bannon told CNN that the former Trump aide is pushing the White House to take down Mueller on multiple fronts.

Bannon wants Republicans to get Congress to cut funding to the special counsel, and he wants the White House to publicly debate Mueller’s mandate, slow the production of documents and go on a publican relations campaign against the probe, according to CNN. The Daily Beast and Politico reported similar information from sources close to Bannon. The Daily Beast reported that Bannon thinks these approaches will look better than Trump firing the person who is investigating Russian interference into the 2016 election and any potential collusion with the Trump campaign.

When asked whether Trump plans to fire Mueller, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said on Monday that Trump has “no intention or plan to make any changes in regards to the special counsel,” despite reports that Trump has asked for advice on how to get rid of Mueller.

A source familiar with the President told Politico that Trump has repeatedly said “‘I could do this but I’m not going to,’” referencing his ability to fire the special counsel.

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President Donald Trump has apparently changed him mind about a former foreign policy adviser to his campaign.

After court documents detailing campaign adviser George Papadopoulos’ lies to federal agents about his contacts with Russia were unsealed Monday, Trump flip-flopped on Papadopoulos, a man he once described as an “excellent guy.”

During an interview with The Washington Post editorial board in March 2016, Trump outlined the members of his foreign policy team for the newspaper, including Papadopoulos as one of the five members of the group, which also included Carter Page, political pundit Walid Phares, former inspector general for the Department of Defense Joe Schmitz and retired Lt. Gen. Keith Kellogg at the time.

“He’s an energy and oil consultant, excellent guy,” Trump said of Papadopoulos at the time.

With the White House characterizing Papadopoulos as a volunteer — who press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said was only involved with one meeting — on Monday, Trump’s attempts to distance himself from his former campaign adviser were clear.

On Tuesday morning he made his disdain public, calling Papadopoulos a “proven liar” who was a “young, low level volunteer.”

Trump’s not wrong that the foreign adviser could be called a “proven liar.” Court documents released Monday showed that Papadopoulos pleaded guilty to lying to federal agents about his contacts with a professor whom he knew had substantial links to the Russian government. A campaign supervisor at the time had encouraged Papadopoulos to take a meeting in Russia with government officials “if it is feasible,” according to the unsealed documents.

The White House on Monday pushed back on revelations that someone in the campaign sent Papadopoulos an email encouraging a “low level” campaign member to take the trip to Russia, saying any actions Papadopoulos took “would have been his own.”

Monday was a rocky day for the Trump administration and former members of his inner circle.

Just before the Papadopoulos documents were released, Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and Manafort’s business associate turned themselves in to federal authorities after the pair was charged with 12 counts related to money laundering and other alleged crimes.

Both the Manafort charges and the Papadopoulos case are part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election and whether the Trump campaign colluded with the foreign power to win the election.

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Carter Page, a foreign policy campaign adviser for President Donald Trump, admitted on MSNBC Monday evening that he was “probably” on a few email exchanges that “may have” been about Russia with another campaign adviser who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russia earlier this month.

MSNBC host Chris Hayes pressed Page twice throughout the 15 minute interview about whether he was on email chains with former Trump adviser George Papadopoulos that discussed Russia. Page didn’t hesitate to say he probably was.

“Look, there is a lot of email all over the place when you’re in a campaign,” he said.

“Yes or no, were you on email chains with Papadopoulos?” Hayes asked.

“Probably a few, yeah,” Page said. When asked whether he was on chains that discussed Russia, he said “it may have come up from time to time, again there was nothing major.”

Asked again later on in the interview, Page said that he was “perhaps, yeah” on email threads with Papadopoulos and that Russia “may have come up.”

Court documents unsealed Monday revealed Papadopoulos, who was also a foreign policy adviser for Trump’s campaign, lied to federal agents about his contacts with a professor whom he knew had substantial links to the Russian government. A campaign supervisor encouraged Papadopoulos to travel to Russia to meet with officials “if it is feasible,” according to the unsealed documents.

Page said it was not him who encouraged Papadopoulous to travel to Russia nor was he the “low level” campaign member mentioned in court documents who went to Russia “so as not to send any signal.”

I definitely was not. I’m sure on that one that I wasn’t. It was very clear. And if you listen to the audio of all or the transcripts of everything I said, I was always there just as a private citizen. And I’ve spoken at universities in Moscow, in Russia, in Asia, in Europe many times. So I was totally separate from the campaign. … They said if you want to go on your own, we’re fine with that,” he said, saying the campaign knew he was going to Russia.

Page came under scrutiny in the past for a trip he took to Moscow during the campaign, which he has consistently claimed was a personal trip that had nothing to do with Trump or the election.   

Page recently spent five hours — without a lawyer, he said Monday — being interviewed by congressional investigators who are probing Russian interference in the 2016 election and whether the Trump campaign colluded with the foreign power to win.

At the end of the interview, Hayes pressed Page on whether he has a lawyer — Page said he has some “advisers” — and said he hopes Page is “innocent of everything” because he is “doing a lot of talking.”

“You’re either admirably bold or reckless,” Hayes said. 

Watch the full interview:

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White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders acknowledged that a Trump campaign foreign policy adviser reached out to a Kremlin-linked professor, after unsealed court documents revealed Monday that George Papadopoulos pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about those conversations.

But “nothing happened beyond that,” Sanders said of the “volunteer” adviser who she said attended just one campaign meeting.

“Which I think that shows, one, his level of importance in the campaign and two, what little role he had within coordinating anything officially for the campaign,” she said, repeating her attempts to minimize Papadopoulos’ role in the President’s campaign, which she said was “extremely limited.”

Court documents released Monday showed that Papadopoulos lied to federal agents about his contacts with a professor whom he knew had substantial links to the Russian government. A campaign supervisor encouraged Papadopoulos to take the meeting with the professor in Russia “if it is feasible,” according to the unsealed documents.

Sanders pushed back on those findings, saying “any actions (Papadopoulos) took would have been his own” and claiming she was “not aware of that conversation,” which was detailed in the documents involving the campaign supervisor and Papadopoulos.

“It has nothing to do with the campaign, it has to do with his failure to tell the truth. That doesn’t have anything to do with the campaign or campaign’s activities,” she said. “No activity was ever done in an official capacity on behalf of the campaign in that regard.”

Earlier Monday, Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and Manafort’s business associate turned themselves in to federal authorities after the pair was charged with 12 counts related to money laundering and other alleged crimes.

Both the Manafort charges and the Papadopoulos case are part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election and whether the Trump campaign colluded with the foreign power to win the election.

On Monday Sanders also said the President has “no intention” of firing Mueller, despite several past reports that said Trump has asked for advice on whether he could get rid of Mueller.

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President Donald Trump and members of his inner circle on Monday were quick to distance the President from news that former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort had surrendered to the FBI for charges related to money laundering, among other alleged offenses.

Those efforts to disassociate the President from the first arrests of special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe quickly proved futile.

Just minutes after the President sounded off on Twitter to say the Manafort charges had nothing to do with him, and Trump’s former campaign manager defended him on television, court documents from a separate case were unsealed. Those documents revealed that a Trump campaign foreign policy adviser had pleaded guilty earlier this month to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russia.

Just before 10:30 a.m. ET, Trump tweeted that the charges against Manafort stem from alleged bad deeds that occurred “years ago” and were therefore not the President’s problem. The indictment against Manafort indicates the alleged misconduct spanned from 2006 to 2017.

Trump then quickly switched the focus back to “crooked Hillary and the Dems,” proclaiming there was no collusion between his campaign and the Russian government to influence the election, issues that have been the focus of special counsel Mueller’s wide-ranging probe.

Former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski was one of the first Trump loyalists to appear on cable news to defend the President.

He was quick to shift blame away from his former boss, claiming during an interview with Fox Business that there is a “problem with the FBI” because the agency didn’t notify the campaign that Manafort was under a FISA warrant “before coming to the Trump campaign.”

He then echoed comments made by sources close to the White House early Monday that Manafort and his business associate Rick Gates — who was also named in the indictment — were “bad guys when they started. They were bad guys when they left. The indictment has nothing to do with any relationship with Russia.”

“Look, if Paul Manafort and Rick Gates are guilty of tax evasion, money laundering, or hiding their accounts in Cyprus, or whatever it is, they should absolutely be held accountable. But they should be held accountable independent of the President, because the President had nothing to do with coordination, collusion or cooperation with Russia, nobody at the campaign did that I’m aware of,” Lewandowski said.

News of the separate case, that the Trump campaign’s foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos pleaded guilty to lying to the federal agents, broke not long after Trump’s initial tweets.

Papadopoul0s admitted earlier this month that he lied to FBI agents in January about his contact with a professor whom he knew had substantial Kremlin connections. According to the court documents, Papadopoulos said he met with the professor just days before joining the Trump campaign.

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A second prominent figure from The New Republic has been accused of inappropriate behavior toward multiple female coworkers, according to the New York Magazine.

Hamilton Fish V, the publisher of The New Republic, has been placed on a leave of absence while an independent investigation is conducted into Fish’s actions toward multiple women, according to a letter owner Win McCormack sent to employees, which New York Times’ Sydney Ember reported this weekend.

“TNR is committed to creating and maintaining a respectful, professional work environment, free from harassment of any kind. I appreciate the candor our employees have displayed in coming forward with their concerns and I take the concerns very seriously,” McCormack wrote in the letter.

Longtime former New Republic literary editor Leon Wieseltier admitted to and apologized for his “offenses” toward female colleagues last week, The New York Times reported.

Both Wieseltier and Fish were included on an anonymous list that has been circulating around media groups the past few weeks, according to New York magaine. The list began spreading among female members of the media shortly after allegations of decades-worth of sexual harassment and sexual assault by movie mogul Harvey Weinstein were widely reported earlier this month.

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President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort surrendered to the FBI Monday, a seminal moment in the sprawling Russia probe that was captured live by the cable news networks.

Manafort’s appearance entering the FBI field office in downtown Washington, D.C. just after 8 a.m. ET, followed the first charges from special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe, The New York Times reported Monday.

The charges against Manafort and his business partner — which were unsealed Monday — include 12 counts of conspiracy against the U.S., conspiracy to launder money, unregistered agent of a foreign principal, false and misleading FARA (Foreign Agents Registration Act) statements, false statements and seven counts of failure to file reports of foreign bank and financial accounts, according to a Mueller spokesperson.

One of Manfort’s business associates, Rick Gates, also turned himself in Monday, according to CNN. The pair were indicted by a federal grand jury on Friday. Gates is linked to Manafort’s business dealings with politicians and corporations in Eastern Europe.

The special counsel has taken a broad approach to its probe into the Trump campaign and Russian interference in the 2016 election. Mueller has been investigating Manafort for months, looking at Manafort’s foreign business dealings and whether he properly disclosed his foreign lobbying. Manafort has previously denied financial wrongdoings in his various real estate dealings and use of offshore tax shelters. He came under scrutiny and was fired from the Trump campaign for a $12 million payment the Ukrainian president sent Manafort.

The former campaign chairman is the first person to be charged in the special counsel’s investigation into Russian interference in the election. Mueller and his team of prosecutors have taken interest in the Trump campaign, as well as the financial transactions of members of Trump’s team.

The FBI conducted a pre-dawn raid at Manafort’s home in Virginia in July, taking financial and tax documents.

Watch the clip of Manafort arriving at the FBI field house on Monday morning, via CNN:

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Two top congressional Democrats want to know why a small power company, from a Trump administration official’s hometown with Trump campaign-friendly financiers, is in charge of restoring power to hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico.

The ranking Democrats on the House Committee on Natural Resources and House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, which oversee FEMA, sent a letter to the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general Friday. They requested a probe into whether the $300 million contract Whitefish Energy Holdings reached with the Puerto Rico Electric and Power Authority (PREPA) is an “appropriate use of taxpayer dollars.”

“Normally, after a disaster that affects the electrical grid, the owner of the grid relies on mutual aid agreements to restore electricity. … In this instance, instead of activating mutual aid agreements, PREPA chose to contract with an intermediary to hire workers to restore electricity to the island,” Reps. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) and Peter DeFazio (D-OR) wrote in the letter to Inspector General John Roth.

Among several things, the representatives want to know why a private company — which is only two years old and only had two full-time employees at the time the contract was awarded — was hired instead of a mutual aid group.

“Given that funding for this contract is envisioned to come from FEMA’s Public Assistance program, the American taxpayer must be assured that costs associated with this contract are eligible, fair and reasonable, especially given the availability of workers through a mutual aid agreement,” the letter said.

The two Democrats claimed threats made by a Whitefish spokesperson on Twitter,  after the San Juan mayor criticized the contract, were “inappropriate conduct” and the comments were “insensitive to the citizens of San Juan and all of Puerto Rico, many of whom are still suffering without electricity, drinking water and other necessities.” The company later apologized on Twitter for its remarks.

Grijalva and DeFazio also asked the IG to look into whether there was any “political impetus” behind the agreement. Not only is Whitefish located in Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke’s hometown, Zinke’s son worked for Whitefish at one point. The financial backers of the power company are also major donors to the Republican National Committee and Trump’s campaign.

The two Democrats aren’t the only public officials who have raised concerns over the agreement.

Earlier this week, both the governor of Puerto Rico and the mayor of the U.S. territory’s capitol city spoke out about the contract. Friday morning, FEMA issued a statement saying it had “significant concerns” about the deal and said it would review how the contract was procured.

Read the letter below:

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