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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

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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In the spring of 2016, political operative and associate to then-candidate Donald Trump Roger Stone reportedly told an associate that he had learned that WikiLeaks had obtained emails that would make top Democrats like John Podesta sweat.

According to a Stone associate who spoke with The Washington Post Tuesday, Stone told the associate about the emails before it was public knowledge that the Democratic National Committee and Podesta’s emails had been hacked. WikiLeaks released the emails in July and October, several months after the reported conversation between Stone and his associate, according to the Post. The intelligence community has since determined the emails were likely taken by hackers working for Russia.

Another Stone associate, Sam Nunberg, told the Post Monday that Stone had told him about a meeting he had with Assange in 2016. Nunberg said special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigators asked him to share the details of that meeting with them as part of their investigation into Russian election interference.

Stone and Assange have repeatedly denied that they have ever been in contact, especially before the DNC and Podesta’s emails were released to the public. Stone told the Washington Post that he never had any contact with Stone and claimed his comments to Nunberg were made as a joke.

“I wish him no ill will, but Sam can manically and persistently call you,” Stone said, referencing a conversation he had had with Nunberg, who asked about his plans for the weekend. “I said, ‘I think I will go to London for the weekend and meet with Julian Assange.’ It was a joke, a throwaway line to get him off the phone. The idea that I would meet with Assange undetected is ridiculous on its face.’’’

Read the Washington Post’s full report here.

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President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer transferred funds from his home equity line to an account for his private company within the same bank — First Republic Bank — to pay porn actress Stormy Daniels $130,000 on the heels of the 2016 election.

The money was then transferred from Trump attorney Michael Cohen’s LLC account to Daniels’ lawyer, Cohen told ABC News. The origin of the funds is just the latest revelation in the saga involving Cohen and the payment he made to Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford. The payment was reportedly part of a non-disclosure agreement to keep Clifford quiet about an alleged affair she had with Trump in 2006.

Cohen has previously acknowledged he paid Clifford the $130,000 after reports surfaced that the funds were part of a hush agreement between the porn star and the President. Cohen claims the President had no knowledge of the arrangement, but Clifford, through her attorney, alleges she has evidence that would prove otherwise. One piece of evidence Clifford’s attorney shared with NBC News Friday: Cohen used his Trump Organization email address to arrange the payment.

Clifford filed a lawsuit against Trump this week, alleging the President did not sign the non-disclosure agreement, making it null, she claims. Clifford has denied the affair several times, but has made statements in interviews suggesting it might have taken place. Her attorney said she is suing Trump so she can openly discuss the alleged affair. 

Clifford gave In Touch Magazine an interview in 2011, outlining the details of the alleged affair. The transcript of the interview was published late last year.

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A controversial Republican candidate challenging House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) announced Friday that his campaign hired Kevin MacDonald as its spokesperson, a former professor at California State University, Long Beach who is widely recognized as an anti-Semite.

Paul Nehlen said in a statement that he reached out to MacDonald “after reading some of Dr. MacDonald’s work.”

“We hit it off, and well, here we are,” Nehlen said. “When I broached the subject of Dr. MacDonald’s interest in joining the campaign with my current spokesman, Josh Smith, Josh’s reaction was, ‘The man is a legend. If he wants to help you, tell him yes immediately.'”

According to the Anti-Defamation League, MacDonald was first recognized for his anti-Semitic views when he wrote a series of books arguing that Jews are “a hostile elite” in the U.S. whose goal is to undermine America’s European ties and “destroy Europeans.” He is also the leader of the American Freedom Party, a white supremacist group whose goal is to “to restore and preserve the legitimacy of White identity, White heritage, and expressions of White interests,” according to the ADL.

MacDonald has claimed that Jews are trying to change the “racial hierarchy” in the U.S. by promoting immigration from non-European countries, and he has said that Jewish people lack the “moral idealism” that he claims white people possess. MacDonald has written, appeared on and edited for several openly racist media outlets like the Occidental Observer and The Political Cesspool.

In April 2013 he wrote in the Occidental Observer: “Given the prospect that Jews will continue as an elite hostile toward White America and given the ethnic/racial transformation of the country resulting from importing millions of people who do not identify with the traditional people and culture of the country (presumably the Boston bombers) and often have historical grudges of their own to grind, the future of Whites in America is grim indeed.”

In January 2013, he told the David Duke Show that Jewish people “don’t really have moral principles,” but rather “a set of interests.” In December 2012, he claimed that Jewish people are “opposed to the interests of the traditional people of America.”

“I realize that many good people shy away from saying it, but the reality is that Jews have very aggressively pursued policies that benefit them and are opposed to the interests of the traditional people of America and the West,” he wrote. “And because Jews attained status as an intellectual and media elite, they have been able to have a very large effect on public policy and even on the attitudes of non-Jews.”

MacDonald’s new role with Nehlen’s campaign began Friday, according to a statement from Nehlen’s campaign.

Nehlen himself has a bit of a history of promoting anti-Semitic ideals. When Nehlen challenged Ryan in the 2016 Republican primary in Wisconsin, Breitbart initially endorsed Nehlen, but cut ties after he posted a series of anti-Semitic tweets. At the time he told The Washington Post that “If pro-white is white supremacy, what is pro-Jewish? I reject being called a white supremacist, because clearly pro-white isn’t white supremacy unless pro-Jewish is Jewish supremacy.”

In that primary, he attempted to court Trump voters and lost to Ryan by 68 points.

Correction: This post has been corrected to reflect that Kevin MacDonald is a former professor at California State University, Long Beach.

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White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Friday refused to answer questions about Stormy Daniels, a porn actress whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, just one day after reports surfaced that President Donald Trump was upset with Sanders for how she handled questions about the affair.

In response to questions about Clifford, her alleged affair with Trump and the $130,000 hush payment she was reportedly given by Trump’s personal lawyer on the brink of the 2016 election, Sanders dodged.

“We’ve addressed this extensively and I don’t have anything more to add,” she said, twice.

The curt response follows reports that Trump was upset with Sanders for giving the Clifford story “steroids” in the way she responded to questions from reporters on Wednesday about the affair, CNN reported.

Sanders acknowledged on Wednesday that Trump’s lawyers had recently won arbitration against Clifford in “the President’s favor.” She was likely referencing a restraining order that Trump’s attorney Michael Cohen recently filed against Clifford, according to NBC news.

Clifford recently filed a lawsuit against Trump for not signing the non-disclosure agreement that, along with a $130,000 payment from Cohen, was reportedly designed to bar her from discussing the alleged affair, according to The Wall Street Journal. Cohen has claimed that Trump did not know about the agreement or the hush money, but Clifford’s attorney has said that Clifford has evidence that he was aware of the arrangement and she wants to be free to share her side of the story. 

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An 18-year-old from Battle Creek, Michigan is suing Dick’s Sporting Good for not selling him a shotgun because of his age, less than two weeks after the store announced it would no longer sell guns to anyone under 21.

Tristin Fulton and his attorney, Jim Makowski, filed the lawsuit on March 6, demanding that Dick’s reverse its new policy and award Fulton at least $25,000 in damages, according to Makowski. Makowski said Fulton is more interested in a policy reversal than the money. If a policy change isn’t possible, his client would like to see Dick’s “get out of the firearms business” in the state of Michigan, he told TPM Friday. 

Fulton attempted to purchase a shotgun at Dick’s last week and was denied, according to a cellphone video of the encounter shared with TPM. The video was filmed by his uncle, Joel Fulton, who, along with Tristin Fulton’s father, Jared Fulton, co-owns Freedom Firearms, a shooting range business that teaches concealed carry classes in Battle Creek, Michigan, according to the company’s website. Freedom Firearms also sells handguns, shotguns, rifles, ammunition and magazines on its site. 

Makowski said Fulton “absolutely” knew about Dick’s new policy when he entered the store to purchase the gun and said his client acknowledges that he “could’ve bought a firearm from his father or his uncle, but he’s under no obligation to do so.” He said the suit is more focused on Dick’s violation of Fulton’s civil rights.

The attorney claimed that under the state’s Elliot-Larsen Civil Rights Act, a public accommodation like Dick’s Sporting Goods is prohibited from discrimination based on age, among other things. A 20-year-old in Oregon is using a similar state law as the basis for his recent lawsuits against both Walmart and Dick’s for not selling him a 22-caliber rifle.

“Saying he could’ve gone elsewhere, every retailer says that,” Makowski told TPM Friday. “‘No, Mrs. Parks, you didn’t have to ride at the front of the bus.’ That’s where we’re at. Fifty years ago, it may have been African Americans in this position.

“If you’re a member of a protected group, your civil rights should be protected,” he continued. “And age is a protected group in Michigan.”

Dick’s announced on Feb. 28 that it will no longer sell assault-style rifles and that a customer would have to be 21 years old in order to purchase any gun from its stores. Walmart, which already stopped selling AR-15s and other types of semi-automatic weapons in 2015, also announced just a few days later that it will no longer sell firearms or ammunition to anyone under 21 years of age.

Mikowski also suggested the new policy was the “same thing” as if the store decided to “stop the threat of terrorism” by “stopping selling to Muslims.” Makowski said he “hopes” his client’s suit will become part of a larger trend of retaliation against the firearms retail giant for its policy change.

“What they are doing is illegal and it’s wrong,” he said. “They’re punishing a whole group of citizens for the actions of one person. … Don’t make up your own rules and follow the law.”

Dick’s defended it’s decision to change its gun sale policy after a 19-year-old in Parkland, Florida allegedly opened fire at a high school on Valentines Day, killing 17 people. Dick’s CEO Edward Stack told CNN last month that the company “expects backlash,” but didn’t “want to be part of this story any longer.” A Dick’s spokesperson did not immediately return TPM’s request for comment on the latest lawsuit.

Read the lawsuit below:

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The lawyer for porn actress Stephanie Clifford, whose stage name is Stormy Daniels, said Friday that it is “laughable,” “absurd” and “an insult to the American people” to suggest that President Donald Trump didn’t know about the hush money she was paid through Trump’s personal lawyer in 2016.

Clifford’s attorney, Michael Avenatti, suggested to CNN’s Chris Cuomo on Friday that Trump’s personal attorney Michael Cohen is lying when he claims that Trump did not know about the $130,000 Cohen paid Clifford in the “waning days of the 2016 presidential election.” He claimed he and Clifford have “evidence” that will prove that Trump was aware of the arrangement.

Mr. Cohen wants people to believe that he ran off, half-cocked, negotiated a very detailed agreement, with a signature line for his client, arranged this payment, made this payment in the waning days of the 2016 presidential election and all the time his client was in the dark and Mr. Trump knew nothing about it,” Avenatti said Friday. “It is laughable. It’s absurd and the mere suggestion is an insult to the American people.”

Clifford, who reportedly had an affair with Trump in 2006, recently filed a lawsuit against Trump for not signing the non-disclosure agreement that she signed in 2016. According to The Wall Street Journal, the agreement, along with a $130,000 payment from Cohen, was reportedly supposed to block Clifford from discussing the affair, but Clifford and her attorney argue the agreement is null because Trump never signed it. 

Cohen has claimed that the payment was made by his own volition and Trump knew nothing about it. The White House on Wednesday acknowledged that Trump’s lawyers had “won” arbitration relevant to the case in Trump’s favor, which was likely referencing a restraining order Cohen secretly filed against Clifford, NBC was first to report. Trump was reportedly unhappy with press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders for how she handled questions about the allegations.

Avenatti said he and Clifford just want the “facts to come to light” and the non-disclosure agreement to be voided so that Clifford can share her side of the story.

“When that evidence and those facts come to light, the American people are going to conclude that attorney Cohen and the White House have not shot straight with them on this issue,” he said. “We want her to have her day to speak openly and honestly. We want the truth to be known, let the chips fall where they may.”

Clifford has consistently denied the affair, but in interviews, she has made cryptic comments in response to questions about the allegations. Clifford reportedly took a lie detector test and shared the details of the affair with In Touch Magazine in 2011. The transcript of that interview was published last year, revealing intimate details of her relationship with then-private citizen Trump. 

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During a cabinet meeting on Thursday, President Donald Trump told departing White House chief economic adviser Gary Cohn that he “still like(s) him” despite Cohn being a “globalist.” Trump said he has “a feeling you’ll be back,” despite Cohn’s resignation announcement earlier this week.

“He’s been terrific,” Trump said, encouraging a round of applause from the rest of the cabinet members. “He may be a globalist, but I still like him. … You know, in his own ways he’s a nationalist because he loves our country.”

Trump claimed Cohn will leave and “make another couple hundred million” dollars and then he predicts Cohn will likely return to the White House.

“We’ll be here another seven years hopefully and that’s a long time, but I have a feeling you’ll be back,” he said, adding that Cohn would probably not be put back in the same position because “he’s not quite as strong on those tariffs as we want him to be.”

While the White House has claimed that Cohn’s resignation was not because of any one factor, several outlets report that Cohn decided to leave because he and the President don’t see eye-to-eye on Trump’s new tariff proposals. Just hours before Cohn announced his resignation, Trump reportedly asked for his loyalty on the new tariffs of 25 percent on imported steel and 10 percent on aluminum, Bloomberg News reported.

While the term globalist can refer to a person who advocates for economic and foreign policy in relation to developments throughout the rest of the world, the terms is more widely considered an anti-Semitic dog whistle.

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Attorney General Jeff Sessions defended his lawsuit against the state of California on Wednesday evening, telling Fox News that “somebody needs to stand up and say no” to the “radical” state for its sanctuary city laws and its officials’ efforts to thwart raids by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

That “somebody” is apparently Sessions, one of the most consistent targets of the President’s Twitter bullying.

“Somebody needs to stand up and say no, you’ve gone too far,” he said in an interview broadcast Wednesday. “You cannot do this, this is not reasonable. It is radical, really. It is an affirmation, if you want to know the truth, of the idea that we should not have immigration laws, that we should have an open border…It is an extreme position that has been taken by some here, a lot of the government agencies here, and we just have to push back.”

The Trump administration filed a lawsuit against the state of California on Tuesday, suing to block the state’s laws that give protections to undocumented people in California. The Justice Department claims the state’s landmark legislation is unconstitutional because it blocks officers from enforcing federal immigration laws.

The lawsuit follows reports that the mayor of Oakland warned her residents about an upcoming raid from ICE last week. California state and local officials have remained defiant of the suit and defensive of their sanctuary city laws.

In the interview with Fox News, Sessions claimed the state’s laws were harming ICE officers and the “honorable work they do.” 

Most states and jurisdictions around the country help happily, but we cannot allow them to obstruct and block the ability of federal officers to do the job they are lawfully required to do,” he said.

“The governor, by signing the (sanctuary cities) bill, has placed us in the position where we cannot accept this and we have got to challenge it, and I made clear today why we were challenging it, why it is important, and why we’ve got to stop it,” he said referencing comments he made while in Sacramento Wednesday when he called California elected officials “radical extremists.”

In the wake of the lawsuit, President Trump is scheduled to make his first visit to California as President next week.

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President Donald Trump is reportedly upset with White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders for how she fielded questions from reporters Wednesday about the porn actress he allegedly had an affair with more than 10 years ago, CNN reported Thursday.

According to a source close to the White House who spoke with CNN’s Jim Acosta, Trump thinks Sanders gave the Stormy Daniels story “steroids” Wednesday by mentioning that Trump’s attorneys had won arbitration against Daniels — whose actual name is Stephanie Clifford — in Trump’s favor.

NBC News reported Wednesday that Trump’s attorney Michael Cohen had won a “secret” restraining order against Daniels, who is suing Trump because he did not sign the nondisclosure agreement she agreed to in 2016 that barred her from talking about the affair.

Daniels reportedly agreed to a hush payment just days before the 2016 election and Cohen paid her $130,000 out of his own pocket.

Trump and Daniels reportedly had an intimate relationship for more than a year between 2006 and 2007, when Trump and his wife Melania Trump had just had their first child together. Daniels detailed the relationship to In Touch Magazine in 2011, and the transcript of the interview was published late last year. 

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