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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

President Donald Trump on Monday lashed out at Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, calling him “little Adam Schiff” and claiming that he is one of the “biggest liars and leakers in Washington.”

“Little Adam Schiff, who is desperate to run for higher office, is one of the biggest liars and leakers in Washington, right up there with Comey, Warner, Brennan and Clapper!” Trump tweeted, referring to former FBI director James Comey, Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA), the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, former CIA director John Brennan and former director of national intelligence James Clapper.

Schiff responded to Trump’s tweet later Monday morning.

All of the people Trump named in his tweet have criticized Trump’s decision to release a dud anti-FBI memo drafted by House Intelligence Committee Chair Devin Nunes’ (R-CA) staff.

The memo, which Trump declassified on Friday, alleged that FBI officials misled the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA) court to expand surveillance on Trump campaign aide Carter Page. Though some Republicans insisted the memo would undermine special counsel Robert Mueller’s federal investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, the document ultimately revealed little and omitted key context.

Democrats are planning to push for a vote to release their counter-memo Monday, which reportedly offers a rebuttal to some of claims made in the Republicans’ documents.

Both House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and the White House have indicated they would handle a request to declassify the Democratic memo in the same way that they handled the Republican document, Trump’s tweet attacking Schiff suggests that Democrats may have a more difficult time getting their document released.

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

 

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House Democrats are planning to push for a Monday vote to release their 10-page rebuttal memo, which reportedly counters characterizations Republicans made in their own anti-FBI memo released Friday, the New York Times reported Sunday.

The Democratic memo reportedly purports to show that the FBI was more transparent with the surveillance court than Republicans claim in their document. The House GOP memo was authored by Rep. Devin Nunes’ (R-CA) staffers and claims FBI officials misled the FISA court when attempting to obtain a warrant to expand surveillance on a Trump campaign aide Carter Page, the Times reported.

People familiar with the memo who spoke with the Times said the Democrats’ memo also counters Republicans’ claims that former Deputy FBI Director FBI Andrew McCabe told the Intelligence Committee that Page wouldn’t have been approved for surveillance if it hadn’t been for information from the Christoper Steele dossier.

Republicans claim a FISA warrant to surveil Page was approved based solely on the dossier. It also contends FBI officials were not honest with the FISA court about how the research for the dossier was funded.

Democrats were particularly frustrated with the release of the Republican-authored memo when a vote to declassify their rebuttal document was stalled. While the Democrats’ memo will have to go through the same House Intelligence Committee vote and White House approval as the Republicans’ memo did, both parties have indicated they’d consider the document’s release, according to the Times.

“Generally speaking, we’re open to considering any document the House Intel Committee submits to us for declassification along the lines that the Nunes memo was considered,” White House spokesperson Raj Shah told the Times.

However, convincing President Donald Trump to release the counter-memo may prove difficult, as Trump has contended that the Republicans’ memo vindicates him in special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe. Trump also attacked Rep. Adam Schiff  on Twitter Monday morning. Schiff, the ranking member on the House Intelligence Committee, has pushed for the release of the Democrats’ memo.

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Sens. John McCain (R-AZ) and Chris Coons (D-DE) are planning to introduce bipartisan legislation this week that would include a path to citizenship for recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, but stops short of offering any funding for President Donald Trump’s U.S.-Mexico border wall, The Wall Street Journal reported Sunday.

The proposal would provide eventual legal status for young immigrants who have lived in the U.S. since Dec. 31, 2013. It would also direct the Department of Homeland Security to conduct a study of what border security measures need to be taken, with the goal of having a comprehensive strategy in place by 2020. It would also provide funding for improved coordination between border patrol agents and local police, but no funding for a physical wall, according to The Wall Street Journal’s reporting.

The narrow immigration bill is designed to end the impasse over a two-year budget deal. The topic of immigration was thrown into spending bill debates after Trump announced last year that he was ending the former President Barack Obama-era DACA program, which protects undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children.

To end the government shutdown last month, Congress passed a short-term spending bill that’s set to expire again on Friday. Democrats agreed to the short-term bill in exchange for a promise from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to Democrats that he would bring an immigration bill to the Senate floor by Feb. 8.

The McCain-Coons proposal will likely prompt little enthusiasm from the White House. Trump’s plan, unveiled last month, provides a path to citizenship for about 1.8 million DACA recipients, but also asks Congress for $25 billion for the border wall and cuts back on legal lottery and family-based immigration systems.

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House Oversight Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-SC) on Friday said that the public deserves to know how the so-called Trump dossier influenced the FBI’s decision to surveil a Trump campaign associate, but reiterated his support for special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe.

Gowdy tweeted that a Republican-authored memo, written by House Intelligence Committee Devin Nunes’ (R-CA) staff and released Friday, “raises serious concerns” about the FISA process.

The memo purports to show that FBI officials abused the FISA process to secure a warrant to surveil the Trump campaign’s former foreign policy adviser Carter Page.

Gowdy nevertheless said those concerns do not undermine Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and whether the Trump campaign colluded with the foreign power for an advantage.

“As I have said repeatedly, I also remain 100 percent confident in special counsel Robert Mueller,” he tweeted. “The contents of this memo do not — in any way — discredit his investigation.”

The Washington Post reported on Friday that Gowdy was unintentionally influential in President Donald Trump’s decision to declassify the document.

Before he decided to release the document publicly, according to the Washington Post, Trump “became particularly excited” about the memo after he watched an interview Gowdy gave on CNN where he advocated for the memo’s release.

The House Intelligence Committee voted along party lines Monday evening to release the document and passed the buck to Trump to determine whether to declassify it. Trump, who called the contents of the memo “terrible,” declassified the document Friday afternoon, and it was released shortly afterward.

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Following President Donald Trump’s directive to release House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes’ (R-CA) anti-FBI memo Friday afternoon, the White House released a statement saying Trump has “great respect” for the law enforcement and intelligence community.

“This decision was made with input from the President’s national security team —including law enforcement officials and members of the intelligence community, for whom the President has great respect,” she said. “He is especially grateful to the hardworking rank-and-file public servants who work every day to keep America safe and uphold our laws while protecting the constitutional rights of all Americans.”

The statement comes after Trump decided to release the memo that his own Department of Justice and FBI Director warned him against releasing, saying they had “grave concerns about material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the memo’s accuracy.”

Trump has spent months denigrating the FBI and making claims about an anti-Trump bias within the agency.

Read the full statement from White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders:

“Earlier today, President Donald J. Trump declassified a memorandum from the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. The memorandum raises serious concerns about the integrity of decisions made at the highest levels of the Department of Justice and the FBI to use the Government’s most intrusive surveillance tools against American citizens.

“This decision was made with input from the President’s national security team—including law enforcement officials and members of the intelligence community, for whom the President has great respect. He is especially grateful to the hardworking rank-and-file public servants who work every day to keep America safe and uphold our laws while protecting the constitutional rights of all Americans.

“Minority members of the Committee have reportedly drafted a separate memorandum. The Administration stands ready to work with Congress to accommodate oversight requests consistent with applicable standards, including the need to protect intelligence sources and methods.”

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Just after House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes’ (R-CA) anti-FBI memo was released Friday, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) said it was “critical” that the focus of the memo’s release remains on “specific actions and specific actors” and not on impugning the “integrity” of the FBI and the Justice Department as a whole.

Ryan said the concerns outlined in the memo, which purports to reveal that FBI officials abused the FISA process when seeking a warrant to surveil Trump campaign aide Carter Page, were “legitimate.”

Unlike most judicial proceedings, the FISA system depends not on an adversarial process, but instead on the government providing a complete presentation of the facts and circumstances underlying its warrant applications,” he said in a statement. “It is clear from this memo that didn’t happen in this case, and as a consequence an American’s civil liberties may have been violated.”

He called on Democrats to work with Republicans to “ensure the FISA system works as intended” and reiterated his commitment to making sure the Democrats’ counter-memo was released once it “is properly scrubbed of all intelligence sources and methods.”

Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee voted Monday to release the memo, passing the buck to the President to determine whether it should be made public. President Donald Trump declassified the memo Friday afternoon and the memo was released shortly thereafter.

Democrats claim to have a counter-memo that has still not been approved for release.

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House Intelligence Committee Democrats released a scathing statement Friday condemning the declassification of a memo crafted by Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) staffers that purports to prove FBI officials abused the FISA process when seeking a warrant to surveil Trump campaign aide Carter Page.

The Democrats said it was “telling” that Nunes pushed out the memo “without bothering to read the underlying materials” and said its release represented a “terrible lapse in leadership” from Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI).

They claimed it was “tragic” yet “predictable” that President Donald Trump agreed to declassify the memo, which Republicans are using to perpetuate their claim that there’s an anti-Trump bias within the FBI.

Read the full statement from House Intelligence Committee Democrats below:

“Chairman Nunes’ decision, supported by House Speaker Ryan and Republican Members of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, to publicly release misleading allegations against the Department of Justice and Federal Bureau of Investigation is a shameful effort to discredit these institutions, undermine the Special Counsel’s ongoing investigation, and undercut congressional probes. Furthermore, their refusal to allow release of a comprehensive response memorandum prepared by Committee Democrats is a transparent effort to suppress the full truth.

“As the DOJ emphasized to Chairman Nunes, the decision to employ an obscure and never before used House rule to release classified information without DOJ and FBI vetting was ‘extraordinarily reckless.’ The selective release and politicization of classified information sets a terrible precedent and will do long-term damage to the Intelligence Community and our law enforcement agencies. If potential intelligence sources know that their identities might be compromised when political winds arise, those sources of vital information will simply dry up, at great cost to our national security.

“The Republican document mischaracterizes highly sensitive classified information that few Members of Congress have seen, and which Chairman Nunes himself chose not to review. It fails to provide vital context and information contained in DOJ’s FISA application and renewals, and ignores why and how the FBI initiated, and the Special Counsel has continued, its counterintelligence investigation into Russia’s election interference and links to the Trump campaign. The sole purpose of the Republican document is to circle the wagons around the White House and insulate the President. Tellingly, when asked whether the Republican staff who wrote the memo had coordinated its drafting with the White House, the Chairman refused to answer.

“The premise of the Nunes memo is that the FBI and DOJ corruptly sought a FISA warrant on a former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser, Carter Page, and deliberately misled the court as part of a systematic abuse of the FISA process. As the Minority memo makes clear, none of this is true. The FBI had good reason to be concerned about Carter Page and would have been derelict in its responsibility to protect the country had it not sought a FISA warrant.

“In order to understand the context in which the FBI sought a FISA warrant for Carter Page, it is necessary to understand how the investigation began, what other information the FBI had about Russia’s efforts to interfere with our election, and what the FBI knew about Carter Page prior to making application to the court – including Carter Page’s previous interactions with Russian intelligence operatives. This is set out in the Democratic response which the GOP so far refuses to make public.

“The authors of the GOP memo would like the country to believe that the investigation began with Christopher Steele and the dossier, and if they can just discredit Mr. Steele, they can make the whole investigation go away regardless of the Russians’ interference in our election or the role of the Trump campaign in that interference. This ignores the inconvenient fact that the investigation did not begin with, or arise from Christopher Steele or the dossier, and that the investigation would persist on the basis of wholly independent evidence had Christopher Steele never entered the picture.

“The DOJ appropriately provided the court with a comprehensive explanation of Russia’s election interference, including evidence that Russian agents courted another Trump campaign foreign adviser, George Papadopoulos. As we know from Papadopoulos’ guilty plea, Russian agents disclosed to Papadopoulos their possession of stolen Clinton emails and interest in a relationship with the campaign. In claiming that there is ‘no evidence of any cooperation or conspiracy between Page and Papadopoulos,’ the Majority deliberately misstates the reason why DOJ specifically explained Russia’s role in courting Papadopoulos and the context in which to evaluate Russian approaches to Page.

“The Majority suggests that the FBI failed to alert the court as to Mr. Steele’s potential political motivations or the political motivations of those who hired him, but this is not accurate. The GOP memo also claims that a Yahoo News article was used to corroborate Steele, but this is not at all why the article was referenced. These are but a few of the serious mischaracterizations of the FISA application. There are many more set out in the Democratic response, which we will again be seeking a vote to release publicly on Monday, February 5th. Unlike Committee Republicans, however, we will ask the relevant agencies to propose any necessary redactions to protect any sources and methods not already disclosed by Chairman Nunes’ document.

“It is telling that Chairman Nunes put out this memo without bothering to read the underlying materials, and that he ordered changes to the document without informing his own committee members. It is a terrible lapse in leadership that Speaker Ryan failed to intervene and prevent the abuse of classified materials in this way. It is tragic, if all too predictable, that this President would allow the release of the memo despite FBI and DOJ’s expressions of ‘grave concerns about material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the [Republicans’] memo’s accuracy’. But most destructive of all may be the announcement by Chairman Nunes that he has placed the FBI and DOJ under investigation, impugning and impairing the work of the dedicated professionals trying to keep our country safe.”

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Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) released a statement Friday afternoon calling out President Trump and his Republican colleagues just minutes before the House Intelligence Committee released a controversial memo that claims an anti-Trump bias within the FBI.

In the statement, McCain said attacks on the FBI and Department of Justice only serve one person’s interests: Russian President Vladimir Putin’s.

“The latest attacks on the FBI and Department of Justice serve no American interests — no party’s, no president’s, only Putin’s,” he said. “The American people deserve to know all of the facts surrounding Russia’s ongoing efforts to subvert our democracy, which is why Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation must proceed unimpeded. Our nation’s elected officials, including the President, must stop looking at this investigation through the warped lens of politics and manufacturing partisan sideshows. If we continue to undermine our own rule of law, we are doing Putin’s job for him.”

His comments come as President Donald Trump and Republicans ignored the FBI’s “grave concerns” about the memo, which alleges that FBI officials abused the FISA process when seeking a warrant to surveil Trump campaign aide Carter Page.

The full statement from McCain:

“In 2016, the Russian government engaged in an elaborate plot to interfere in an American election and undermine our democracy. Russia employed the same tactics it has used to influence elections around the world, from France and Germany to Ukraine, Montenegro, and beyond. Putin’s regime launched cyberattacks and spread disinformation with the goal of sowing chaos and weakening faith in our institutions. And while we have no evidence that these efforts affected the outcome of our election, I fear they succeeded in fueling political discord and dividing us from one another.

“The latest attacks on the FBI and Department of Justice serve no American interests – no party’s, no president’s, only Putin’s. The American people deserve to know all of the facts surrounding Russia’s ongoing efforts to subvert our democracy, which is why Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation must proceed unimpeded. Our nation’s elected officials, including the president, must stop looking at this investigation through the warped lens of politics and manufacturing partisan sideshows. If we continue to undermine our own rule of law, we are doing Putin’s job for him.”

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Just after news broke that President Donald Trump had declassified House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes’ (R-CA) anti-FBI memo, Trump told reporters he thought the incidents detailed in the document were a “terrible” and a “disgrace.”

“I think it’s terrible. I think it’s a disgrace what’s going on in this country. I think it’s a disgrace,” he said Friday afternoon. “The memo was sent to Congress, it was declassified. Congress will do whatever they’re going to do, but I think it’s a disgrace what’s happening in our country.”

Trump also claimed that “a lot of people should be ashamed of themselves and much worse than that.”

“Let’s see what happens, but a lot of people should be ashamed.”

When asked whether he has confidence in Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, Trump dodged.

“You’ll figure that one out,” he said.

Breaking from cautions from his own Justice Department, Trump reportedly declassified the memo around noon on Friday. It was sent to the House Intelligence Committee and released before 12:30 p.m. EST. The memo in question reportedly purports to show that FBI officials abused the FISA process when seeking a warrant to surveil Trump campaign aide Carter Page.

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Rep. Jody Hice (R-GA) said Friday he is “good” with House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes’ (R-CA) memo being released, because Hice believes it “exposes the FBI” for abusing its power to come “after a political opponent.”

When asked on CNN whether he was comfortable with the President releasing the memo because he reportedly thinks the document will help discredit special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election, Hice skirted the question multiple times and theatrically claimed Republicans and Democrats “need to rally around this … for all of our sakes.”

Most of the people at the FBI are great people, doing a wonderful job, but there are bad apples and it’s going to expose it,” he said. “There’s no question it makes the department look bad. It does name some bad apples. But this is a type of thing that transparency is made of. We cannot tolerate this type of thing in America of all places.”

Hice said the FBI is cautioning against the memo’s release because “they’re shaking in their boots” over the content of the document, which allegedly shows evidence of an anti-Trump bias within the FBI. While the FBI has expressed “grave concerns” over the public release of the document, the agency said in a statement Wednesday that they believe the memo includes “material omissions of fact.”

To be very honest with you, as an American citizens, I have grave concerns,” Hice said, mimicking the FBI’s language. “I have grave concerns about what the FBI has done, what the Department of Justice has done and the fact that this could happen to anyone is intolerable for this to go on in the United States. It needs to be transparent and the people of America need to see it.”

The White House is expected to make a decision about the memo before the end of the week, but Trump has indicated he fully plans on making the document public.

According to reports from multiple news outlets, the memo purports to show that FBI officials abused the FISA process when seeking a warrant to surveil Trump campaign aide Carter Page.

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