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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

In his first interview since House Intelligence Committee Chair Devin Nunes’ (R-CA) anti-FBI memo was declassified and released last week, former President Trump campaign aide Carter Page told Fox News Monday that the document in question was “worse than I could’ve possibly imagined.”

When I first saw it, it was, you know, there were a lot of details that keep dripping out. It sounded really bad,” he said during an interview with Fox News’ Laura Ingraham Monday night. “When I actually saw it, it was even worse than I could’ve possibly imagined.”

Page became caught up in the initial throngs of the Russia investigation over his contacts with Russian officials while he was in Moscow during the summer of 2016, around the time he was working for the Trump campaign.

He’s reemerged as a focal point in recent weeks after the Republican-authored memo was released, purporting to reveal that FBI officials misled the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA) when they obtained a warrant to expand surveillance of Page, whom they believed was working as a foreign agent at the time. Republicans claim the FBI used information from the Christopher Steele dossier to get the warrant and did not reveal that the research was funded, in part, by Democrats.

Page told Fox he was “particularly” surprised by the negative attacks against him since the contents of the memo were declassified.

“But what was particularly interesting is the next 48 hours after that, where part of the attack on Chairman Nunes and the committee was to come up with any new information to discredit me and anything related to the investigation or the overall investigation,” he said. “It’s pretty stark contrast between getting the facts our there and having— you know, still getting attacked. So it’s pretty crazy.”

Page has consistently maintained his innocence. When the memo was first released he praised House Intel Republicans for “discovering this unprecedented abuse of process.”

While Page only worked for the Trump campaign for six months, he has been a consistent figure of interest in the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election and whether Trump campaign officials worked with the foreign power to aid that effort. Page’s July 2016 visit to Moscow, in which he gave a speech promoting better relations between the U.S. and Russia, according to The New York Times, became a focus of the FBI’s investigation.

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Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), a veteran Army helicopter pilot who lost both her legs while serving in Iraq, was one of several Democrats who had some choice words for President Trump after he told a crowd in Ohio on Monday that Democrats should be considered “treasonous” for not clapping during his State of the Union address.

“We don’t live in a dictatorship or a monarchy,” she tweeted Monday evening. “I swore an oath — in the military and in the Senate — to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, not to mindlessly cater to the whim of Cadet Bone Spurs and clap when he demands I clap.”

She then tweeted a quote from former President Theodore Roosevelt — “a Republican who earned the applause he received,” she said — who called it “morally treasonable” to say that the President shouldn’t be criticized.

During a visit to a manufacturing plant in Cincinnati on Monday, Trump lamented Democrats’ response to his first State of the Union speech, saying “they were like death” and “un-American” for not applauding him. 

“Somebody said treasonous and I mean, yeah, I guess. Why not?” he said. “Can we call that treason? Why not? I mean, they certainly didn’t seem to love our country very much.”

Duckworth wasn’t the only Democrat effectively outraged by the remarks.

A White House spokesperson told NBC News Tuesday that Trump was being “tongue-in-cheek” with his comments on Monday.

While Democrats were criticized for their apathetic response to Trump’s State of the Union address, a lukewarm response from the opposing party during a State of the Union has become expected and normal in joint addresses to Congress. When former President President Barack Obama delivered a joint address to Congress in 2009, Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC) did more than just sport an unenthused facial expression — he heckled the President, shouting “You lie!” in response to Obama’s remarks about how his health care reforms wouldn’t insure undocumented immigrants.

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Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon will not appear before the House Intelligence Committee for questioning Tuesday, despite a subpoena, according to sources who spoke to CNN and Reuters.

Defying the subpoena could result in a contempt of Congress charge for the former far-right media mogul, who recently fell from grace after his comments about President Donald Trump’s son were made public in Michael Wolff’s new “Fire and Fury” book on the Trump White House.

While senior Republican committee member Rep. Mike Conway (R-TX) told reporters Monday that the committee was fully expecting Bannon to comply with the subpoena, sources familiar with the matter who spoke to CNN and Reuters said Bannon isn’t planning to show up Tuesday because the White House and the House panel haven’t come to an agreement on the scope of Bannon’s questioning.

The House panel subpoenaed Bannon in January after he refused to answer questions about his time working for President Donald Trump, a move that was apparently invoked by the White House, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) told reporters after Bannon’s January interview.

At the time Bannon and his attorney said he would only answer questions about his time working for the campaign, not as a member of Trump’s transition team or about his role in the White House.

CNN’s source said that while Bannon isn’t planning to comply with the House Intelligence panel’s subpoena, he would instead answer all of special counsel Robert Mueller’s questions.

Mueller and Congressional investigators are probing Russia’s interference in the 2016 election and whether Trump campaign aides worked with Russian officials to support those efforts.

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Rep. Tom Garrett (R-VA) on Monday compared special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election to the right-wing conspiracy theory that former President Barack Obama was not born in the United States.

“Imagine that there were a partly political-funded investigation into President Obama’s place of birth, right? Because this Russia investigation is essentially birtherism,” Garrett said during an interview with CNN’s Brianna Keilar.

“Imagine if political money, $9 million from the Clinton campaign and the DNC to Fusion GPS, were levied to do an investigation against President Obama as to his origin of birth,” he added. “That would be ridiculous and un-American, and this is too.”

President Donald Trump was one of birtherism’s most prominent supporters when he was a private citizen. During his 2016 campaign, Trump announced at a 36-second press conference that he believed Obama was born in the United States, and said less than a week later that he did so in order to “get on with the campaign.”

Pressed to explain his comparison between a known false narrative and a federal investigation into known Russian meddling in the 2016 election, Garrett said, “There are Russians in this world. Some of them are good. Some of them are bad. That’s for sure, like any nation. And so any attenuated contact then becomes a smoking gun? That’s ridiculous.”

He compared those making accusations of collusion to “the crazy people who made aspersions against President Obama.”

“You don’t get to pick the people with whom you’re going to interact,” Garrett said.

“You do get to decide who you invite to Trump Tower for a meeting,” Keilar pointed out, referring to Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting in June 2016 with a Russian lawyer from whom he hoped to obtain damaging information about Hillary Clinton.

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President Donald Trump on Monday praised House Intelligence Committee Chair Devin Nunes (R-CA) as a potential “Great American Hero” for “what he has exposed and what he has had to endure” following the Friday release of Nunes’ widely criticized memo alleging an anti-Trump bias within the FBI.

Trump on Friday declassified a memo authored by Nunes’ staff alleging that FBI officials misled the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA) to surveil Trump’s former campaign aide Carter Page, but the document ultimately revealed little and omitted key background information.

Though the much-anticipated memo landed with a thud, Axios on Sunday reported that Nunes has several more memos alleging “wrongdoing” by federal agencies.

Nunes on Monday said during an interview with “Fox and Friends” that his investigation is now examining “irregularities” at the State Department.

We have several other areas that we’re looking at, but I don’t want the American people to think we will have a memo that will go through this process,” he said. “What we’ll do in— follow in phase two, we’ll follow the facts where they lead. When we get enough facts, we’ll figure out a way to let the American people know.

House Intelligence Committee Democrats have pushed back on Nunes’ document, and have reportedly asked for a vote to release their own rebuttal memo to take place on Monday, despite Trump’s praise for the Republican document and his early morning attack on Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), the top Democrat on the panel and the leader of the rebuttal efforts.

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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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