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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

A prominent psychiatry group decided this month that they will stick with their tradition of not taking an official stance on the mental state of public figures, but sent a reminder to members saying they are free to weigh in on the mental health of politicians and public figures, like the President.

The request to take an official stance on the psychological health of public figures was voted down at a recent meeting of the American Psychoanalytic Association’s executive team, according to an email sent out to members earlier this month. But members were reminded that they’ve had permission since 2010 to make their own expert opinions about people in the public eye known, according to a spokesperson for the group.

STAT, a health and medicine news site, originally reported that the letter sent out to members was a sign that the group was breaking with a decades-old rule that kept specialists from commenting on behaviors and the psychiatric health of public figures without first examining them.

But group spokesperson Wylie Tene said that report is misleading.

“There’s nothing really new with the letter (we sent to members). It was just reiterating to members that they don’t have to follow the Goldwater rule because we don’t have a Goldwater rule,” he told TPM, referring to a restriction that’s been in place since the 1960s when psychiatrists answered survey questions on whether then-Sen. Barry Goldwater, who was running for President that year, was fit for the office.

The rule was put in place because of the ethical questions raised over offering a professional opinion about a person without consent or examination.

There’s no punishment for violating the rule, according to STAT, and no other medical profession has such a rule as long as experts make it known that they have not examined the public figure they’re assessing.

While the 3,500 members of the American Psychoanalytic Association already had permission to comment on a politician’s mental health without an evaluation, the reminder is more relevant in the age of President Donald Trump, a former president of the psychiatrist organization said.

“We don’t want to prohibit our members from using their knowledge responsibly,” former president Prudence Gourguechon told STAT, saying that role should be taken even more seriously today, given “Trump’s behavior is so different than anything we’ve seen before” in a President.

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Admitting he quit reading President Donald Trump’s tweets “quite a long time ago,” Rep. Chris Stewart (R-UT) dismissed the President’s most recent Twitter attack against the attorney general, saying he doesn’t think it’s possible to bully Jeff Sessions because he’s an “adult.”

“I don’t think he’s bullying. For one thing, I don’t think you can bully Jeff Sessions. Adults don’t— I don’t feel bullied. I have people object to me and chant at me and do all sorts of things to me. I don’t feel bullied by it,” he said Tuesday on CNN. “If you were to ask Jeff Sessions, I’m pretty sure he’d say I don’t feel bullied by this either.”

Stewart’s defense of Sessions comes after a wave of public attacks from the President in the past week. Trump has said he wouldn’t have hired Sessions if he’d known the attorney general would recuse himself from investigations into Russia meddling in the election. He also bashed him on Twitter two mornings in a row, calling Sessions “beleaguered” and “weak” for not investigating Hillary Clinton, his former presidential opponent.

Stewart said people shouldn’t put so much weight in the President’s Twitter presence.

“I don’t pay that much attention to (the tweets) and I recommend other people not pay a whole lot of attention to them because it’s not policy. … Look, there’s a lot of different ways we communicate with our constituents, some more serious and official than others,” he said. “I’m just saying you’ve got to realize this President communicates differently than other presidents and that every tweet isn’t national policy and that every tweet doesn’t necessarily mean something as dramatic as it may sound.”

He said he doesn’t know what will come from the President’s attacks against Sessions, but said he hopes he doesn’t push the attorney general out.

“I think Jeff Sessions has shown he’s loyal. I think he’s shown he’s very capable. … I think he is a good man,” Stewart said. “So, I hope that he continues to serve. Now, we could go back and forth on how important or meritorious these tweets are and maybe we’ll just agree to disagree. We just don’t know what the President may be intending to do.”

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The President ramped up his attacks on his attorney general Tuesday morning, criticizing Jeff Sessions for having a “VERY weak position” on looking into Hillary Clinton “crimes” and asking why Sessions hasn’t investigated “Ukrainian efforts to sabotage” his campaign.

In a tweet-storm Tuesday morning, he brought up his former presidential opponent’s email scandal, asking “where are the E-mails and DNC server” and even tagged Fox News host Sean Hannity in one of the posts.

President Donald Trump is known for getting his information from cable news shows and often tweets in response to what’s being discussed on television. Hannity has been a vocal supporter of the President, and on his show Monday evening he questioned why there has a been so much focus on the investigation into whether the Trump campaign worked with the Russian government to influence the election and not into whether Clinton worked with the Ukrainian government during her campaign.

Trump’s critical tweets about Sessions are just the latest in a week-long series of public outrage against his pick for attorney general. In a New York Times interview published last week, the President aired his grievances with Sessions‘ decision to recuse himself from the Russia investigation, saying he wouldn’t have hired Sessions if he had known he was going to do that.

On Monday he called Sessions “beleaguered” on Twitter and called him out on the same issue, asking why he wasn’t looking into “Crooked Hillary’s crimes and Russia relations?”

Despite the President’s clear criticism, the White House has said Sessions still has the confidence of the President, but that Trump is “disappointed” by Sessions’ recusal.

Sessions has been a loyal Trump supporter since day one and was one of the first to throw his endorsement behind the then-candidate. Last week, Sessions said he would continue to serve as attorney general for as long as it was “appropriate.”

On Monday, unnamed sources told Axios that the President is “so unhappy” with Sessions that he’s brought up bringing back former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani to run the Justice Department.

Giuliani dismissed those rumors Monday, defending Sessions and saying he made the “right decision” in recusing himself from the investigation after it was revealed that he met with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. multiple times when he initially denied those meetings during his confirmation hearing.

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A Republican House member thinks the GOP women of the Senate are to blame for Congress’ inability to address Obamacare.

Appearing on a Corpus Christi radio station Friday, Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-TX) not only suggested that it was Republican women’s fault that the party is fractured on how to get rid of Obamacare, but also said if it was “a guy from south Texas” at the center of the disagreement, he might ask them to resolve their issues with a gun fight.

“The fact that the Senate does not have the courage to do some things that every Republican in the Senate promised to do is just absolutely repugnant to me. … Some of the people that are opposed to this, they’re some female senators from the Northeast,” he said, likely referring to Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican from Maine, who has been vocal about her opposition to each of the Senate’s health plans from the start. She said over the weekend that she’s opposed to the delayed repeal bill.

Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Shelly Moore-Capito (R-WV) have also been clear about their opposition to various versions of the Republican health care plan.

Farenthold suggested if it were a man from his state blocking the repeal bill, he might ask him to “step outside and settle this Aaron Burr style,” he said, referencing the famed gun duel between the former vice president and Alexander Hamilton, a former secretary of the Treasury who had longstanding political differences. The gun fight ended in Hamilton’s death.

The GOP congressman voted in favor of the GOP’s health care plan that made it through though the House in May. He told NPR in an interview in March that he supported the bill because he ran on repealing Obamacare.

His comments come as the Senate moves toward a procedural vote to begin debate on repealing Obamacare, which is expected to come Tuesday. If it succeeds, the Senate will bring the repeal bill to the floor to debate, which could result in a vote on a delayed repeal of Obamacare or the GOP’s replacement bill.

Listen to his full interview below:

H/t Think Progress

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The President called out Attorney General Jeff Sessions again on Monday morning, less than a week after he aired his grievances with the attorney general in an interview with The New York Times.

Calling Sessions “beleaguered,” President Trump asked on Twitter why Sessions and other investigators hadn’t looked into the “crimes” of Hillary Clinton and her relations to Russian officials.

The tweet comes as three members of President Donald Trump’s inner circle are scheduled to testify before Congress this week as committees look into whether the Trump campaign colluded with the Russian government to meddle in the 2016 election.

One of those scheduled to appear, senior White House adviser Jared Kushner, submitted an 11-page statement to Congress Monday morning that claims he met with four Russian officials, but did not collude with the government to influence the election.

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A New York Times spokesperson reached out to producers for the Fox News show “Fox and Friends” Sunday, asking the network to apologize on-air and retract a story that claimed that a Times story fumbled plans for the U.S. to capture an ISIS leader in 2015.

On Sunday, Fox News updated its online story — which published Friday — with the New York Times letter and has since released a statement saying the New York Times did not reach out to Fox until Sunday afternoon.

“The FoxNews.com story was already updated online yesterday and Fox & Friends provided an updated story to viewers this morning based on the FoxNews.com report. For all of their hyperventilating to the media about a correction, the New York Times didn’t reach out to anyone at Fox News until Sunday afternoon for a story that ran Friday night.”

The original “Fox and Friends” segment aired early Saturday and may have been the story that led the President to tweet later Saturday saying the newspaper values “their sick agenda over National Security.”

Times Vice President of Communications Danielle Rhoades Ha sent the letter to Fox producers on Sunday asking for an apology for the “malicious and inaccurate segment” and saying that no one at Fox made any attempt to “confirm relevant facts, nor did they reach out to The New York Times for comment.”

The online story and “Fox and Friends” segment were based on comments Gen. Tony Thomas, who leads the U.S. special operations command, made to Fox at the Apsen Security Forum. Thomas told Fox that the U.S. was close to capturing ISIS leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi until a lead about the capture was published in a “prominent national newspaper,” which caused the lead to go dead, he told Fox. Thomas has previously said it was a Times article that he believed kept the U.S. from capturing Baghdadi, according to The Washington Post. 

However, Rhodes Ha said the Times story was based on a statement from the Pentagon that detailed a May 16 raid that allowed the U.S. to capture an ISIL senior leader and his wife, who shared information with U.S. officials about Baghdadi’s whereabouts. She said Baghdadi would have known about the capture from the Pentagon’s announcement, not the Times story that ran three weeks after the raid.

“Furthermore, The Times described the piece to the Pentagon before publication and they had no objections. No senior American official complained publicly about the story until now, more than two years later,” she wrote. “With this segment, ‘Fox and Friends’ demonstrated what little regard it has for reporting facts.”

On “Fox and Friends” Monday morning Steve Doocy revisited the story, playing the clip of Thomas’ comments and explaining the response the story had received from the New York Times.

An unnamed source at Fox told TPM that the network questions whether the Times was as concerned about accuracy as it is about gaining media attention, pointing to the fact that the retraction letter wasn’t sent until Sunday afternoon.

“If we decided to notify the press every time the Times had to correct a story, frankly, your inbox would crash,” the source said.

Watch Monday’s “Fox and Friends” update on the topic below:

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The President began the week claiming that Washington, D.C. is “much worse than anyone ever thought,” taking to Twitter to make yet another jab at the news media.

Using one of his campaign tag-lines “Drain the Swamp,” President Donald Trump said the phrase should be changed to “Drain the Sewer” instead, saying it “begins with the Fake News!”

The tweet comes as multiple news outlets obtained and reported on the statement senior White House adviser Jared Kushner submitted to Congress outlining his interactions with Russian officials during Trump’s campaign.

Kushner is scheduled to testify before congressional intelligence committees this week on whether he had a role in the Russian government meddling in the 2016 election.

In the statement, Kushner claims he only had four interactions with Russian officials, and that he did not collude with any Russians in order to  influence the election for Trump.

Kushner, as well as Donald Trump Jr. and former campaign manager Paul Manafort, are all scheduled to testify before Congressional committees this week, which are investigating whether members of the Trump campaign worked with the Russian government to influence the election.

The three have recently come under fire after it was revealed that they met with a Kremlin-linked attorney last June. Emails leading up to the meeting, which Trump Jr. published on Twitter, show that Trump Jr. set up the meeting on the premise that he might receive damaging information on opponent Hillary Clinton as part of the Russian government’s attempts to help the Trump campaign.

The President also brought attention to comments Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) made over the weekend, claiming that there had been “Zero evidence” found to support the investigation into Russia meddling in the election. Commenting on the Democratic effort to rebrand their economic message, Schumer told the Washington Post that Democrats blame themselves, not Russia, for their loss against Trump.

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Cameron Joseph contributed reporting.

Conservative radio host and spokesperson for the National Riffle Association Dana Loesch spoke out against the White House’s hiring of Anthony Scaramucci as director of communications Friday.

In a tweet that has since been deleted, Loesch said she finds it “concerning” that the new hire has a “contrary position on #2A from President Trump,” referring to the Second Amendment.

Loesch pointed to tweets Scaramucci posted in 2012, saying it’s “just common sense to apply more controls,” referring to gun control legislation.

Loesch retweeted a few of his posts from five years ago saying she hoped Scaramucci had “changed your mind on this.”

Loesch is a staunch supporter of the Second Amendment and recently came under fire for a video she narrated for the NRA that some said condoned violence against liberals.

TPM reached out to Loesch’s radio show for comment, but did not receive an immediate response.

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In his first press briefing as the new White House communications director, Anthony Scaramucci pushed back on questions from reporters about getting the White House back on track after the shakeup in the communications shop.

“I’m going to take a slight issue with the question because I actually think the White House is on track and we’re actually, I think, doing a really good job,” he said. “We have a whole list of things, and I didn’t want to come out here with our list of accomplishments and start a whole advertisement infomercial right now. I wanted to talk about personnel movement and how we’re thinking about things. But I think we’re doing an amazing job.”

He said he spoke with President Donald Trump earlier Friday about “letting him be himself” and “express his full identity” when it comes to communicating with the public over social media.

“I think he’s got some of the best political instincts in the world, and perhaps in history. If you think about it, he started his political ascent two years and two months ago, and he’s done a phenomenal job for the American people. And the people I grew up with, they so identify with the President and they love him and so we’re going to get that message out,” he said.

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In his first remarks as White House director of communications, Anthony Scaramucci announced that Sarah Huckabee Sanders will take over as head press secretary, following Sean Spicer’s resignation.

Sanders previously served as deputy White House press secretary.

Spicer’s resignation was announced as news broke that Scaramucci had been hired as the director of communications, a position that had been vacant since Mike Dubke resigned in May.

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