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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

Promoting his new book, “Conscience of a Conservative,” Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) appeared on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” Tuesday and discussed his biggest issues with the Trump presidency so far: the President’s handling of former FBI Director James Comey, who was investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

“The Comey firing. The timing of it. You can fire the FBI director, but you could have said ‘Last year, he did things he shouldn’t have done. The way he handled the campaign wasn’t good.’ But, the reason given, ‘Hey, the Russia investigation,’ that should have set off more alarm bells than it did and I think going forward we ought to be careful,” he said.

He said it would be a “real concern” if Attorney General Jeff Sessions were fired and that fellow conservatives in Congress “can’t stand” for the firing of special counsel Robert Mueller — who is leading the probe into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election — if it were to happen.

“That certainly wouldn’t be tolerated on Capitol Hill,” he said.

His comments come as the President publicly bashed his attorney general for a full week, calling him “beleaguered” and “weak” and saying he wouldn’t have hired Sessions if he had known he was going to recuse himself from the Russia investigation.

Some critics have raised concern that if Trump fired Sessions, he would bring in a new attorney general who would fire Mueller.

Flake also raised issue with the way the President has handled foreign policy, adding he has “tremendous confidence” in Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

He said Congress is looking to newly minted Chief of Staff John Kelly to bring some order to the White House.

Being a conservative means something in terms of demeanor and comportment. A conservative is nothing if, particularly in foreign policy, if he’s not measured and sober and predictable. Our allies need to know that. We need to embrace our allies and recognize our adversaries, and to do otherwise is not conservative,” he said.

“Chaos is the last thing that our allies and adversaries need to be seeing. And I’m afraid they’re seeing too much of that. … I think that we need to respect and utilize — to hold our place in the world, and I wonder about our standing around the world now,” he said.

Following a week of turnover in the West Wing — and claims from the President himself that there is “no chaos” in the White House despite the fact that his former press secretary, chief of staff and communications director all left — the President’s son Eric Trump said he is tired of no one standing up for his father.

Appearing on Fox’s “Hannity” show, the favorite media outlet of the Trump family, Eric Trump said his father is carrying the “whole weight” of the Republican party on his shoulders.

“My father said it, you know, he said it a couple of weeks ago in a tweet. He said, you know, ‘Am I going to have to carry this whole weight on my shoulders? When are some of the people in my own party going to start protecting me?’” Eric Trump said. “Now listen, I’m an outsider, I am looking in on the White House. … But I want somebody to start fighting for him.”

He said his father is “the best fighter in the world” and no one can do a better job of fighting for Trump than Trump can.

“But how much weight does he have to carry by himself? How can a party that is doing so much better than the Democrats. … Why wouldn’t they embrace this? My father has the voice of this country. The people of this country love him. Why wouldn’t they get in line?” he said, referencing defections by three Republican senators who voted against the Obamacare repeal vote early Friday morning, effectively sinking the Senate’s efforts to repeal the health care law, for now.

He then went on to place the blame on Democrats, too.

“Democrats would rather see my father fail than see this country succeed,” he said.

Department of Energy Secretary Rick Perry said he stands behind President Donald Trump’s haphazard Twitter announcement last Wednesday that transgender individuals would not be allowed to serve in the military “in any capacity.”

“I totally support the President in his decision,” Perry, who served in the Air Force for five years, said late last week, according to the Texas Tribune. “The idea that the American people need to be paying for the types of operation to change your sex is not very wise from a standpoint of economics. … I think the President makes some good decisions about making sure that we have a force that is capable.”

In his Twitter announcement, Trump said he had consulted with “generals and military experts” and that he thinks the military “cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail.”

RAND Corporation produced a report in 2016, which was commissioned by the Pentagon, that estimated about 2,450 transgender people are among active duty troops. That same study predicted it would cost the government about $2.9 to $4.2 million a year to fund hormone therapy and surgeries.

Critics of the President’s unexpected policy announcement say the cost of hormone therapy and surgeries is minor compared to the estimated $84 million the military spends each year on prescriptions to treat erectile dysfunction.

When pressed about that comparison, Perry said he doesn’t “check on the price of Viagra.”

Perry’s support comes after bipartisan backlash against the announcement.

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee, put out a statement shortly after Trump’s announcement saying transgender individuals “should be allowed to continue serving.” He said no new policy decision is appropriate until the Department of Defense completes its study on medical obligations and “impact on military readiness” associated with allowing transgender individuals to serve.

Other GOP legislators came out against the policy change as well, including Sens. Joni Ernst (R-IA), Richard Shelby (R-AL) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT).

The President’s announcement on the policy change took the Pentagon and members of the administration by surprise, with the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff saying there would be “no modifications” to the current policy until Trump provides guidance to the Department of Defense.   

If his tweets are followed up with any type of formal policy, the move would reverse an Obama-era policy that allowed transgender individuals to serve openly and blocked a person from being discharged from the military solely because they are a transgender, according to policy on the Department of Defense’s website.

In a memo sent to employees on Friday, the Republican National Committee’s (RNC) lawyers told employees to hold onto any documents related to the 2016 presidential campaign as well as any records that may relate to an investigation into the election, according to a report.

The memo, obtained by BuzzFeed News, said the request was just a precautionary move.

“Given the important role that the RNC plays in national elections and the potentially expansive scope of the inquiries and investigations, it is possible that we will be contacted with requests for information,” the memo said, according to BuzzFeed.

The RNC’s counsel asked employees to not delete or modify any documents, records or other materials related to the election from computers, tablets, cellphones, emails or any other storage device and said there would be “serious consequences” for anyone who failed to comply.

“(The RNC) has not been contacted regarding any of the ongoing investigations, and there is no specific reason to believe we will be. Nonetheless, we have an obligation to keep potentially relevant documents,” the memo read. “This is standard procedure for any organization that may be in a position to provide helpful or otherwise relevant information to litigants or investigators. Serious consequences will result for anyone who fails to comply with this obligation.”

This is not the first time an organization with ties to President Donald Trump has taken such precautionary measures in relation to the probe into Russia meddling in the 2016 election. Last month, members of the President’s transition team were ordered to save all documents related to Russia and Ukraine.

The RNC worked with the Trump campaign during the election and the group’s former chairman, Reince Priebus, served as Trump’s White House chief of staff, until he was ousted last week.

Following his rhetoric from over the weekend, President Donald Trump tweeted Monday morning questioning why Obamacare shouldn’t “hurt” insurance companies and why “should Congress not be paying what public pays?”

The comments follow threats he made on social media over the weekend to end “BAILOUTS for Insurance Companies and BAILOUTS for Members of Congress” if Republicans couldn’t come to an agreement on Obamacare repeal, apparently alluding to cutting cost sharing reduction payments to insurance companies and an employer contribution to lawmakers’ health insurance.

On Sunday, White House adviser Kellyanne Conway said the President would decide on whether to end these Obamacare subsidies this week.

Trump’s tweets closely resemble remarks White House budget chief Mick Mulvaney made about the issue on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday.

“I think his attitude is this, and his attitude is pretty simple,” Mulvaney said. “What he’s saying is, look, if Obamacare is hurting people — and it is — then why shouldn’t it hurt insurance companies and more importantly perhaps for this discussion, members of Congress?”

Last week, President Trump launched repeated public attacks on his attorney general, announced on Twitter major policy about who can serve in the military, was criticized for his highly political speech at a Boy Scouts rally, replaced his chief of staff after his communications director gave a profanity-laced interview, and Republicans failed to repeal Obamacare.

“This has been a great week for the President,” Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY), a staunch Trump ally, said on CNN Monday morning.

“I was at the jamboree, you know, 40,000 Boy Scouts shouting ‘We love Trump, we love Trump.’ Banning transgenders, which is probably supported by the vast majority of Americans,” he said.

CNN host Alisyn Camerota cut him short saying “he didn’t tell the Pentagon, the joint chiefs of staff were taken by surprise. How is that a great rollout of a new policy?

“President Trump is President Trump. He is the commander-in-chief. He can roll things out however he wants,” Collins said.

On Friday we were in New York City talking about ms-13 (gangs), something that is the scourge of America, he’s taking the fight to the criminal element, dealing with North Korea, dealing with Russia, and now he has solidified the inner circle of the West Wing with John Kelly, Anthony Scaramucci, two great individuals,” he said. “I think it’s all coming together extremely well as we move into tax reform.”

After reportedly getting “razzed” at a Milwaukee Brewers game in Wisconsin over the weekend, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) got in a confrontation with a Cubs fan.

“You’re a big shot,” Christie said, after bending over for a face-to-face with the fan.

“Appreciate that,” that fan shouted at him, according to video tweeted out by a reporter from a local TV station WISN12News.

The fan, Brad Joseph, told the local station that he originally yelled out Christie’s name when he passed him on the stairs and “told him that he sucked” and called him a “hypocrite because I thought it needed to be said.”

Christie then turned around and got in his face for about 30 seconds, according to Joseph and asked him if he wanted to “start something.”

“(He) was yelling at me. First he told me, ‘Why don’t you have another beer?’ which I thought was a decent come back, and I thought that was kind of funny,” Joseph told the local station. “Then he started calling me a tough guy.”

According to the video, the discussion ended there, with Christie walking away, nachos in hand.

Christie, who is not seeking reelection after he reaches his term limit in January, recently came under fire when he was photographed on a public beach with his family, even though the beach was closed after the government shut down because of a stalemate between him and his state’s legislature.

Christie’s son works for the Milwaukee Brewers.

After suggesting that the Senate should nuke its rules in order to get an Obamacare repeal bill passed, President Donald Trump signaled that he isn’t too worried about the effort to dismantle his predecessor’s signature legislative achievement.

“It’s going to be fine,” Trump said told reporters as he stepped off Air Force One for an event in Long Island, New York Friday afternoon.

During a speech that was supposed to be centered on the administration’s efforts to wipe out the MS-13 gang, Trump couldn’t help but attack Congress for its failure to repeal Obamacare, and he patted himself on the back for being “right” about the law.

“They should have approved health care last night, but you can’t have everything. Boy, oh boy. They’ve been working on that one for seven years. Can you believe that?” he said. “The swamp. But, we’ll get it done. We’re going to get it done. You know, I said from the beginning, ‘let Obamacare implode and then do it.’ I turned out to be right. Let Obamacare implode.”

The President has gone back and forth on how to deal with Obamacare in the past several months, from urging Congress to come up with a replacement plan that wasn’t so “mean,” to telling senators they should just repeal Obamacare and replace it later, to tweets last night in which he said it’s better to just “let Obamacare implode, then deal.”

The repeal bill failed Friday after Republican Sens. John McCain (R-AZ), Lisa Murkowski (R- AK) and Susan Collins (R-ME) joined with the Democrats to block the plan that only required a simple majority in order to pass.

After delivering the decisive vote that effectively killed the skinny Obamacare repeal bill in the Senate early Friday morning, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) asked his colleagues on “both sides of the aisle” to work together and “stop the political gamesmanship.”

“The vote last night presents the Senate with an opportunity to start fresh. It is now time to return to regular order with input from all of our members – Republicans and Democrats – and bring a bill to the floor of the Senate for amendment and debate,” he said in a written statement later on Friday, adding he has “great faith” in the two chairs of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee will work together to come up with a bipartisan bill.

Here’s the full statement, released Friday around noon:

“The United States Senate has a rich history of comity, trust and bipartisanship. Sadly, those essential qualities have been absent in recent years and we have seen the world’s greatest deliberative body succumb to partisan rancor and gridlock. Our inability to address the pressing health care needs of the American people with meaningful and lasting reform is inexcusable. 

The vote last night presents the Senate with an opportunity to start fresh. It is now time to return to regular order with input from all of our members – Republicans and Democrats – and bring a bill to the floor of the Senate for amendment and debate. I have great faith in the ability of the Senator from Tennessee, Lamar Alexander, the Senator from Washington, Patty Murray, and others to work together in a bipartisan fashion to craft a bill that increases competition, lowers costs, and improves care for the American people. I encourage my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to trust each other, stop the political gamesmanship, and put the health care needs of the American people first. We can do this.”

The bill failed early Friday when McCain joined early opposers Lisa Murkowski (R- AK) and Susan Collins (R-ME) to team up with the Democrats to block the bill. McCain, who was just diagnosed with brain cancer, flew back to the Senate earlier this week to vote in favor of a motion to proceed.

McCain said he finally decided to vote against the measure because it offered no replacement “to actually reform our health care system” and he didn’t want to make the same mistake as Democrats did with Obamacare by ramming a bill through Congress without bipartisan support, according to an early morning statement.

Following the defeat of the GOP’s “skinny” Obamacare repeal bill in the Senate early Friday morning, the hosts of the President’s favorite show, “Fox and Friends,” took a page from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell: blame the Democrats.

They played a clip of Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s (D-NY) comments after Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) cast his “no” vote, effectively tanking the bill. Schumer said Democrats “are not celebrating,” but rather “relieved that millions and millions of people who would have been so drastically hurt by the three proposals put forward will at least retain their health care.”

Host Brian Kilmeade criticized Schumer’s comments, calling Obamacare an “out of control blob that cannot be retained and needs to be restructured.”

“Do you believe Democrats can fix it?” host Ainsley Earhardt said.

“Not alone, I will tell you that,” Kilmeade said.

Then they pulled up clips of Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Schumer taking a photo after the vote, and both Warren and Schumer meeting with protesters outside and taking photos with the crowd.

The hosts weren’t happy.

“So you heard Chuck Schumer say we are not celebrating, yet you see some of the images out of Capitol Hill last night in the middle of the night, people were taking selfies. There were a lot of happy faces,” host Steve Doocy said.

Kilmeade went on to say he’s amused by the young people who were outside “celebrating” and taking pictures with Warren after she spoke to the crowd in the middle of the night, congratulating protesters for being required to have insurance, as if it were something they might not want.

“Congratulations, you now will pay a fine or you will have to have insurance. Congratulations healthy people are paying for sick people,” he said.

“Congratulations because now people who need health care can’t afford it because these premiums are astronomical,” Earhardt said.

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