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 Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) is a centrist Democrat who was more enthusiastic during President Donald Trump’s State of the Union speech this week than most of his colleagues, that didn’t stop the Vice President from going after the Democrat in his home state Wednesday — a move that didn’t sit well with Manchin.

During a speech touting tax reform in West Virginia Wednesday, Vice President Mike Pence encouraged the crowd to let Manchin know “you expect better” and slighted him for voting with his own party.

It’s not just the tax cut. Sen. Joe Manchin has voted ‘no’ time and again on the policies that West Virginia needs,” Pence said. “When the time came to repeal and replace the disaster of Obamacare, Joe voted ‘no.’ When we empowered West Virginia to defund Planned Parenthood, Joe voted ‘no.’ And when it comes to that wall that we’re gonna build on the southern border, Joe said, quote, ‘Well, I’m not voting for the wall either.’”

The move signals the White House is planning to pull out all the stops to pounce on Manchin’s reelection campaign this year, despite the senator’s reputation of bipartisan work in Congress and willingness to work with Trump.

Manchin, in a tweet, said he was “shocked” by Pence’s comments and said that political moves like Pence’s are precisely “why Washington Sucks.”

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One of the attendees of a widely criticized meeting between Donald Trump Jr. and other high level Trump campaign officials and a Kremlin-linked lawyer in Trump Tower in June 2016 is suing an MSNBC guest for libel, Politico reported.

Irakly Kaveladze, referred to as the “eighth man” at the meeting, filed a lawsuit against linguist George Lakoff — a professor of cognitive science and linguistics at the University of California, Berkley — after he called Kaveladze “the major person who has been responsible for money laundering from Russia and other post-Soviet countries,” Politico reported. Lakoff made the comments during an interview with Chuck Todd on MSNBC.

In the complaint that Kaveladze filed in California on Tuesday, he said the professor’s “baseless and scurrilous” comments have created a “cloud” around his reputation.

The meeting in question involved key members of Trump’s campaign — his chairman Paul Manafort and son-in-law Jared Kushner — and a Russian lawyer. The meeting was arranged with the promise of Russia providing the campaign with damaging information about Hillary Clinton. Trump Jr. and his father claim the meeting ended up being about Russian adoptions and nothing came of it, but former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon called Trump Jr.’s actions in setting up the meeting “treasonous.”

Read Politico’s full report here.

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Nationally syndicated conservative radio host and former congressman Rep. Joe Walsh (R-IL) said Wednesday evening that Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) should “be ashamed of himself” for aggressively pursuing the release of a classified memo, which he called a “Republican written political document.”

He claimed Nunes is pushing for the release of the memo, which reportedly purports to show that top officials at the FBI and the Department of Justice operated with an anti-Trump bias, just to curry favor with President Donald Trump.

In a second tongue-in-cheek tweet, Walsh called on the White House to not only release the memo, but also all the “underlying intelligence” and the “original FISA warrant the memo alludes to.”

Trump and his allies in Congress has been claiming for months that there’s a bias within the FBI and are using this memo to hold a candle to their claims of widespread misconduct. The memo reportedly claims that FBI officials failed to reveal to a FISA court judge that their source for a warrant requesting extended surveillance of a Trump campaign aide — Carter Page — was paid to conduct opposition research by Democrats.

The Justice Department has said the release of the memo would be “reckless” and the FBI, in a rare public statement Wednesday, said it had “grave concerns about material omissions of fact.”

The House Intelligence Committee voted along party lines Monday to release the classified memo, giving the White House five days to decide whether to make the document public. Trump’s Chief of Staff John Kelly said Wednesday it was more of a question of when, not if, the memo would be released.

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Rep. Bob Brady (D-PA), will not seek reelection once his term ends this year, according to local reports from ABC and CBS affiliates, as well as the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Brady’s attorney spoke with ABC 6 and said the Democratic congressman plans to retire when his term is up. The congressman himself confirmed the news to the Inquirer. His office is planning to hold a press conference to announce the decision at 1:30 p.m. EST Wednesday, according to ABC 6.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi released a statement confirming Brady’s retirement Wednesday afternoon. She called the 20-year congressman a “forceful champion for working people in Pennsylvania and across the nation.”

“My colleagues and I will always consider Congressman Brady to be our beloved ‘Mayor of Capitol Hill’ and will miss his steadfast leadership and his friendship,” she said in her statement. “We wish him and his family the best as he begins this new chapter of his journey.”

Brady has served in Congress since 1998. The congressman told The Inquirer that his family and exhaustion with Washington were part of his decision to leave the House.

Brady’s office has been plagued with scandal since last year when two of his aides were charged with lying to the FBI about a payment Brady’s campaign allegedly made to get a political opponent to quit a 2012 race. One of the aides has since pleaded guilty to the charges. Brady was not charged.

Brady’s attorney told ABC 6 that the corruption charges did not influence his client’s decision to retire.

At least one Democrat, Philadelphia’s deputy mayor, had already announced plans to challenge Brady in the May 2018 primary before he announced his retirement, according to the Inquirer.

Brady’s office did not immediately respond to TPM’s request for comment.

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During a CNN interview Wednesday discussing  State of the Union address, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders used the platform to give Democratic House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi some advice on her appearance.

CNN’s Chris Cuomo asked Sanders about the “grossly divided” atmosphere in the room during President Donald Trump’s first State of the Union and said he had “never seen” Pelosi’s “face like that” before, referencing the minority leader’s generally frustrated demeanor throughout the speech.

during the State of the Union address in the chamber of the U.S. House of Representatives January 30, 2018 in Washington, DC. This is the first State of the Union address given by U.S. President Donald Trump and his second joint-session address to Congress.
WASHINGTON, DC – JANUARY 30: U.S. Rep Steny Hoyer (D-MD) and U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) watch during the State of the Union address in the chamber of the U.S. House of Representatives January 30, 2018 in Washington, DC. This is the first State of the Union address given by U.S. President Donald Trump and his second joint-session address to Congress. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

“I think Nancy Pelosi looks like that all the time,” Sanders said. “I think she should smile a lot more often, I think the country would be better for it. She seems to kind of embody the bitterness that belongs to the Democratic party right now.”

That didn’t sit well with Pelosi staffers. When reached by TPM Wednesday, Drew Hammill, Pelosi’s deputy chief of staff, pointed to his tweet where he gave Sanders some pointed advice.

Pelosi was clearly unimpressed with Trump’s speech Tuesday evening. Her office released seven different “SOTU Fact Check” statements during the address and she tweeted criticizing the President for a variety of his comments on issues like immigration reform and the price of prescription drugs.

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White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Wednesday that “there’s always a chance” the White House won’t release a reportedly anti-FBI memo, a major walk back from President Trump’s comments after the State of the Union Tuesday evening.

After Trump’s first State of the Union address, Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-SC) shook the President’s hand and asked him to “release the memo.”

“Oh, don’t worry. A hundred percent. Can you imagine that?” Trump responded, according to video taken by CSPAN.

But, according to Sanders, Trump still hasn’t seen the memo as of Tuesday night. When asked on CNN if there’s a chance Trump wouldn’t release the memo, Sanders said there’s “always a chance.”

“Again, I don’t know, I haven’t seen the memo,” she said. “I can’t make that judgment, but I do know we’re going through that process. I know that will be part of what’s taking place at the White House today. And we’ll certainly keep you guys posted as I know you’ll continue to ask until you hear the final answer on that.”

“Has the President seen the memo yet?” CNN’s Chris Cuomo asked.

“Not that I’m aware of,” she said.

The memo in question was authored by Republican staffers and supposedly purports to show an anti-Trump bias within the FBI. The memo reportedly claims that FBI officials misled a FISA court when attempting to secure a warrant to surveil former Trump campaign staffer Carter Page, whom they believed was a foreign agent for Russia at the time, according to The New York Times. The House Intelligence Committee voted Monday along party lines to release the contents of the memo, but Trump has five days to decide whether to make the document public.

Both FBI Director Christopher Wray and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein have privately urged the White House to not release the memo, according to new reports from the Times and The Washington Post. 


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The adult film star who reportedly was paid $130,000 to keep quiet about a 2006 extramarital affair with Donald Trump was interviewed on Jimmy Kimmel after Trump’s State of the Union address Tuesday evening and appeared to cast doubt on her previous denials of the affair.

Before the appearance on Kimmel, Stephanie Clifford, whose stage name is Stormy Daniels, released a second statement denying the affair and the reports from the Wall Street Journal that she was paid “hush money” by Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen weeks before the 2016 election.

Since the WSJ’s report came out, Daniels has declined to comment on the allegations, but In Touch magazine published a transcript of a 2011 interview with Daniels a week later, where she describes a sexual encounter with Trump in detail. Both Trump and his lawyer have denied the allegations.

During her appearance on Kimmel, Daniels played coy and made jokes in response to questions about the affair rather than confirming or denying the allegations. At the start of the show, Kimmel pulled out a copy of Daniels’ most recent statement denying the affair and compared the signature on that denial to her autograph on past portrait photos. When Kimmel asked her if she had signed the statement, she responded saying “I don’t know, did I?” and “That doesn’t look like my signature, does it?”

At one point, Kimmel began reading excerpts from In Touch’s transcript outlining the affair, but Daniels cut him off.

“I thought this was a talk show, not a horror movie. Because this is a whole different pay scale,” she said.

Toward the end of the interview, Kimmel pulled out puppets that looked like Daniels and Trump and asked her to answer “never have I ever” questions through the puppet, not as herself. But Daniels remained elusive, vaguely answering questions about whether she had ever had sex with a married man and whether it happened during a golf tournament, which is how she reportedly described the encounter to In Touch. She did confirm that she had never actually watched Trump’s reality TV show “Celebrity Apprentice,” even though she was reportedly talking to Trump about getting on the show back in 2006.

To add to the confusion, immediately after the show, Daniels’ lawyer told Buzzfeed that Daniels had signed the statement right in front of him on Tuesday.

“Stormy did indeed sign both denials,” he’s told Buzzfeed. “I thought she did a fantastic job on Jimmy Kimmel tonight. She was having fun on Kimmel and being her normal playful self.”

Watch the full interview with Daniels below:


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House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) on Tuesday sided with his GOP colleagues who voted to release the reportedly anti-FBI memo Monday evening, saying the memo should be released for transparency’s sake and claiming “there maybe have been malfeasance at the FBI.”

“There may have been malfeasance at the FBI by certain individuals, so it is our job in conducting transparent oversight of the executive branch to get to the bottom of that,” Ryan told reporters during a press conference Tuesday morning. “What we want is all of this information to come out, so that transparency can reign supreme and accountability can occur.”

Ryan also warned that allegations contained in the the memo should be kept separate from the special counsel’s probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Ryan called Robert Mueller’s investigation “a completely separate matter” that “should be allowed to take its course.”

On Monday evening, Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee voted in favor of releasing the memo. Trump now has five days to review the document and decide whether to make it public. The memo was crafted by Rep. Devin Nunes’ (R-CA) staff and allegedly proves Republicans’ claims of the Justice Department’s bias against Trump. FBI Director Chris Wray reportedly asked the House Intelligence Committee for the chance to come before them and express his concerns about releasing the classified memo.

Democrats have called the memo a “conspiracy theory” propagated by Russian bots and authored a counter memo to debunk some of the claims. That memo is still going through the approval process for its release, Ryan said Tuesday.

Ryan told reporters that there are “legitimate questions about whether an American’s civil liberties were violated with the FISA process.” The Speaker was referencing reports from The New York Times that the memo purports to show that officials at the FBI misled the FISA court when asking for approval to surveil former President Trump campaign aide Carter Page, whom the FBI believed may have been a Russian foreign agent at the time.

The memo reportedly claims the agency’s officials failed to clarify that one of the FBI’s sources, Christopher Steele, the author of the infamous dossier, was paid to conduct opposition research by the Democrats. The memo also claims that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein gave the FBI the green light to surveil Page.

Ryan said he believes that Rosenstein is “doing a fine job,” despite reports that Trump was considering firing the deputy attorney general. He also clarified that the Department of Justice and the FBI are both “very important institution(s) for American life.”

“We want the people of the FBI to know that we respect their job, we respect who they are and what they do,” he said. “And all of the more reason why we need to have transparency and accountability to hold people accountable if they violated the rules, if they acted in a wrong improper way. And that is what we’re doing here.”

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White House counselor Kellyanne Conway on Tuesday accused Democrats of being “so bound by their reflexive hate” and claimed the reason they’re opposed to the White House’s immigration plan is because it takes “away a blunt instrument from the Democrats in the midterms.”

Appearing on CNN’s “New Day” Tuesday morning, CNN host Chris Cuomo and Conway touched on a variety of topics related to Tuesday night’s State of the Union address. Conway postured about first lady Melania Trump’s guest that evening— a police officer who adopted the baby of a heroin addict he found on the street.

She then used that to mock statements that Democrats are planning to make during the address on Tuesday. Many Democrats will reportedly wear black to protest the White House’s proposed immigration deal, which, among other things, seeks to end legal immigration systems like the Diversity Visa Lottery program and chain migration, which helps families of immigrants gain access to the U.S.

“They are so bound by their reflexive hate,” she said. “’Obstruct, resist, stop, don’t do it.’ That is not a message. That impedes democracy. Their biggest statement tonight is going to be the color of their clothing, they’re all going to wear black to what? Protest Harvey Weinstein? Or Bill Clinton?”

Cuomo cut her off to explain that it’s their way of protesting the White House’s immigration proposal, which does provide a path to citizenship for some so-called Dreamers, who were brought to the U.S. illegally as minors. Some Democrats are bringing family members of DACA recipients who were recently deported as a result of Trump’s decision to end DACA and pass the buck to Congress.

“Do you give him credit for trying? Do you acknowledge he’s taken away a blunt instrument for the Democrats in the midterms?” Conway asked.

“I hope that’s not why he’s doing it,” Cuomo said.

“No, no, but that’s why they’re opposing it,” Conway said of the Democrats. “He’s doing right by them, he’s doing right by human beings.”

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Rep. Adam Schiff’s (D-CA) office has received crude phone calls and death threats over the “Republican spin memo” that reportedly proves some type of anti-President Trump bias within the FBI and the Department of Justice, Axios reported Tuesday.

Schiff told Axios that the outrage against his office is fueled by Republican rhetoric, which he called “reckless hyperbole” that is “just so destructive to our democracy.”

After Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee voted to release the contents of a classified memo authored by Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) staffers, Schiff — the ranking member of the committee — told reporters that he was concerned his panel had “crossed a deeply regrettable line.”

“There was a vote to politicize the declassification process of intelligence and compromise sources and methods,” he said.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has told Democrats to not read the document, CNN reported. 

FBI Director Chris Wray reportedly asked the House Intelligence Committee for the chance to come before them and express his concerns about releasing the classified memo.

Democrats have called the memo a “conspiracy theory” propagated by Russian bots and authored a counter memo to debunk some of the claims. That memo, however, was not approved for release Monday evening.

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