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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

While defending President Donald Trump’s daughter and senior adviser Ivanka Trump, President Trump’s lawyer also took a swipe at her husband, Jared Kushner.

During an interview with Sean Hannity on Wednesday evening, Rudy Giuliani said the “whole country would turn” on special counsel Robert Mueller if he “went after” Ivanka Trump as part of his probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 election. But Kushner? Not so much.

“Jared is a fine man, you know that, but men are, you know, disposable,” he said. “But a fine woman like Ivanka? Come on.”

 

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The White House director of legislative affairs acknowledged on Wednesday that Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt could be a better steward of taxpayer dollars.

I think that we campaigned on a promise to drain the swamp,” Marc Short told CBS News Wednesday. “We have to – we have to be good stewards of taxpayer dollars, and I think that we take that promise seriously to the American people. I think that there are certain areas that the administrator would acknowledge were mistakes that he would want to fix.”

CBS’ Major Garrett then asked if that meant Pruitt could “do a better job” and Short said “yeah.”

“I think he would acknowledge that,” he said. “It’s factual to say that he has delivered on the agenda, and that is important. But I don’t think that you can say that simply delivering on the agenda excuses misuse of taxpayer dollars. I think that many of the things that are still going on with Scott Pruitt are under investigation, and we’re looking at it.”

While the White House has acknowledged that it is reviewing some of Pruitt’s lavish spending decisions, President Donald Trump has remained supportive of Pruitt, after weeks of reports about his spending on flights and a sound proof phone booth, around-the-clock security detail — even during family trips — and his sweetheart housing deal with the wife of an energy lobbyist.

Trump’s main defense of Pruitt has been the work the administrator has done to roll back regulations, but several Republican members of Congress and White House staff have called for scandal-plagued Pruitt to resign. 

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President Donald Trump’s motive for firing former FBI Director James Comey last year was that Comey wouldn’t publicly exonerate the President from his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, Trump’s new lawyer said Wednesday night.

“He fired Comey because Comey would not — among other things — say that he wasn’t a target of the investigation,” Rudy Giuliani said during a revealing interview with Sean Hannity Wednesday night. “He fired him and he said ‘I’m free of this guy.’”

That disclosure partially props up Comey’s assertions that he was fired because Trump asked him to pledge personal loyalty to the President. Trump has denied those allegations and the White House claims Comey was fired because of his handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server.

In an interview with NBC’s Lester Holt shortly after he fired Comey last May, Trump suggested that his rationale for firing Comey was related to the Russia probe.

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President Donald Trump’s new lawyer Rudy Giuliani on Thursday claimed that Trump “didn’t know the details” of the $130,000 payment his personal lawyer paid a porn actress before the 2016 election until recently.

“Cohen didn’t ask, Cohen made it go away,” Giuliani said on “Fox and Friends” Thursday morning.

He then went on to claim that $130,000 “sounds like a lot of money,” but actually isn’t for someone who is “putting $100 million dollars into your campaign” and said the payment was made for “personal reasons.”

“This was— the President had been hurt personally, not politically, personally so much, and the First Lady, by some of these false allegation, that one more false allegation, six-years-old, I think he was trying to help his family,” he said. “For that he’s being treated like some kind of villain when I think he was being a good lawyer, and a good man.”

Giuliani also confirmed that Trump “definitely” reimbursed Cohen for the payment— a bombshell he revealed during an interview with Sean Hannity on Wednesday night. Trump has previously claimed he did not know about the $130,000 payment and non-disclosure agreement with porn actress Stormy Daniels, designed to keep her quiet about an alleged affair she had with Trump a decade ago.

On Thursday morning, just before Giuliani appeared on Fox News, Trump tweeted defending the payment and claiming it did not come from his campaign. He also denied the alleged affair.

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President Donald Trump defended the $130,000 payment his attorney paid a porn actress — and he later reimbursed — for the first time on Thursday, claiming the payment and non-disclosure agreement were implemented to “stop the false and extortionist accusations made by her about an affair.”

Despite previously telling reporters that he didn’t know anything about the $130,000 payment his attorney Michael Cohen gave to porn actress Stormy Daniels just ahead of the 2016 election, Trump’s new lawyer Rudy Giuliani revealed on Fox News Wednesday night that Trump reimbursed Cohen for the payment.

In his tweet storm on Thursday morning, Trump reiterated Giuliani’s claims that the payment was legal and that it did not come from the Trump campaign before diving into an elementary explanation of what a non-disclosure agreement is.

“These agreements are very common among celebrities and people of wealth,” he said. “Prior to its violation by Ms. Clifford (Daniels) and her attorney, this was a private agreement. Money from the campaign, or campaign contributions, played no roll in this transaction.”

This is the first time Trump has acknowledged that he knew about that payment, which was paired with a non-disclosure to keep Daniels quiet about an affair she allegedly had with Trump a decade ago. It’s also the first time he’s denied the sexual affair.

Daniels is suing Trump because he didn’t sign the agreement, which she argues nullifies the arrangement, leaving her free to discuss the affair. She is also suing Cohen for defamation.

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After President Trump’s new lawyer dropped a bombshell on Fox News on Wednesday evening — that Trump paid his attorney Michael Cohen $130,000, the amount Cohen paid in hush money to a porn star — the White House was tight-lipped about the new admission.

“We’ve addressed this many times,” White House deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley told Fox News later on Wednesday evening. “What I can tell you in this instance is, it is ongoing (litigation), we have nothing to say about it. The President has outside counsel and that’s who I’d have to refer you to.”

When pressed further Gidley said he is “not an attorney, I just work at the White House,” and again referred questions to Trump’s outside counsel.

On Sean Hannity’s show Wednesday evening, Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s new lawyer, revealed that Trump did repay Choen the $130,000 to porn actress Stormy Daniels despite telling reporters that he wasn’t aware of the payment. Daniels received the money as part of a non-disclosure agreement to keep quiet about an affair she had with Trump a decade ago. She’s currently suing Trump for not signing the agreement and Cohen for defamation.

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Some Republican lawmakers have taken an off-hand comment from South Korean President Moon Jae-in — that President Trump can “take the Nobel prize” for helping broker peace between North and South Korea — to heart.

In a letter sent Wednesday, a group of 18 GOP members of Congress, led by Rep. Luke Messer (R-IN), nominated Trump for the coveted Nobel Peace Prize, citing “his work to end the Korean War, denuclearize the Korean peninsula and bring peace to the region.”

“Since taking office, President Trump has worked tirelessly to apply maximum pressure on North Korea to end its illicit weapons program and bring peace to the region,” the lawmakers said in the letter. “His administration successfully united the international community, including China, to impose one of the most successful international sanctions regimes in history. The sanctions have decimated the North Korean economy and have been largely credited for bringing North Korea to the negotiating table.”

Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un plan to meet for a summit in North Korea sometime this month or in early June to discuss the denuclearization of North Korea, but Trump himself has said he’s willing to “walk out” if negotiations aren’t successful. While the planned summit is widely considered an historic feat, it comes on the heels of months of an openly fraught relationship between Trump and Kim, that ignited when the two world leaders began trading juvenile insults over Twitter and in comments to the media. 

Read the letter below:

 

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Before working as President Donald Trump’s personal attorney, Michael Cohen represented clients involved in car crashes.

But, according to a new investigation by Rolling Stone, many of those accidents were staged or deliberate.

While working as a personal-injury lawyer, Cohen represented several clients who staged crashes — or who were not even in the vehicle when a fake accident occurred — to cheat insurance companies out of cash. Some of those clients were reportedly found to be part of broader insurance fraud rings in New York and at least one was charged with criminal insurance fraud while Cohen represented her in a lawsuit. Cohen also  worked for a doctor who, in 2005, was indicted on insurance fraud charges, Rolling Stone reported.

According to the new Rolling Stone report — authored by Seth Hettena, who is set to publish a book on Trump and Russia next week — Cohen was never charged for representing the clients who committed fraudulent acts and he may have not known about the nature of his client’s intentions. It is also unclear whether the fraudulent personal injury cases were part of the documents seized by FBI agents when Cohen’s home, hotel and office were raided last month.

Read Rolling Stones’ full report here.

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President Donald Trump’s team of lawyers all currently lack the security clearance necessary to discuss sensitive issues related to a potential presidential interview with special counsel Robert Mueller, Bloomberg News reported Wednesday.

According to two people familiar with the situation who spoke with Bloomberg, Trump’s former lawyer John Dowd — who resigned over disputes with the rest of the legal team about whether Trump should sit for an interview with Mueller — was the only lawyer on the team who had a security clearance.

Jay Sekulow replaced Dowd as the head of the legal team, but is still waiting for his security clearance to be approved, Bloomberg reported. Ty Cobb, the White House lawyer who processes requests from Mueller’s team, has a security clearance, but his role dictates that he represents the office of the presidency, not Trump himself. Cobb has not been involved in discussions with Mueller about a potential presidential interview, according to Bloomberg.

If Trump agrees to an interview, his lawyers would need a security clearance to discuss some questions that Mueller plans to ask Trump, namely a meeting that Trump had with Russian officials the day after he fired his former FBI director James Comey. Earlier this week, The New York Times published a list of questions that Trump’s legal team thinks Mueller will ask the President, based on conversations the lawyers had with Mueller’s team.    

The Washington Post reported Tuesday that Mueller suggested in a March 5 meeting that he could subpoena Trump to appear before a grand jury if he refused an interview. Before Dowd resigned, Mueller’s prosecutors reportedly made it clear to Trump’s lawyers that Mueller would consider a presidential subpoena if Trump refused to participate in an interview, Dowd told Bloomberg.

Read Bloomberg’s full report here.    

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During a tax policy event in Arizona on Tuesday, Vice President Mike Pence introduced Trump-pardoned ex-Sheriff Joe Arpaio as a “tireless champion” of the “rule of law.”

“(He’s) a great friend of this President, a tireless champion of strong borders and the rule of law,” he said according to an NBC video clip of the event. “He’s spent a lifetime in law enforcement— Sheriff Joe Arpaio and I’m honored to have you here.” 

The irony of Pence’s comments was lost on the crowd, which met the Vice President’s introduction of Arpaio with cheers and applause. Arpaio is currently running for retiring Sen. Jeff Flake’s (R-AZ) seat in Congress.

Arpaio, who was pardoned by President Donald Trump in August and is currently facing a legal battle to get his record cleared, was convicted of contempt of court for violating court orders that barred his office from discriminatory policing practices.

The conviction came after Arpaio was sued for discriminatory practices, with the suit claiming that Arpaio’s department intentionally targeted and detained Latinos living in his county. His office was issued a court order to halt the racially discriminatory traffic stops, but he refused to change the department’s policing tactics.

Arpaio was set to be sentenced for the conviction in October, but was spared from a possible prison sentence with Trump’s pardon. In April, a California court ordered the appointment of a private attorney to oppose Arpaio’s efforts to wipe his criminal record after the Justice Department refused to defend an Arizona court’s decision to block his conviction from getting cleared.

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