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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

President Donald Trump has “discovered” that a physical wall across the entire U.S.-Mexico border is not necessarily possible, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway told CNN Wednesday.

“What’s true is that after conferring with the experts who are involved in this process … the President has discovered that part of it will be, he knows, part of it will be the physical wall, part of it is better technology, part of it is also fencing,” Conway said. “There are rivers involved, I’m told. There are mountains involved, there’s terrain that isn’t conducive to building an actual physical structure in some places.”

While Trump has promised he would build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, he has been unclear on whether he was pushing for a physical wall or improving border security. He has said the U.S. needs the wall for security, safety and to stop the flow of drug trafficking into the United States. Throughout his campaign, he vowed to build a border wall and to make Mexico pay for it, which Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto has consistently told Trump his country won’t do.

In recent days he’s suggested he would not sign any legislative fix for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program — which Trump has vowed to end — without a plan for the border wall. DACA was created by former President Barack Obama through executive order, protects undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as minors from deportation.

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A day after former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio announced his plans to run for the seat that will be vacated by Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Arpaio compared himself with the President and his political style.

“Isn’t it great to be compared to the President of the United States?” Arpaio said in an interview with The Associated Press on Wednesday.

Arpaio reportedly said the two share a focus on immigration, an ability to recover from incidents that would normally sink the careers of other politicians and the ability to amass consistent media coverage. He also noted he and President Trump have both been persecuted by the U.S. Department Justice, according to the Associated Press.

Trump pardoned Arpaio this fall of a criminal contempt of court charge for intentionally targeting immigrants in his department’s traffic stops. Trump consistently attacks the Justice Department for its investigation in whether his campaign colluded with Russia to win the 2016 election.

Arpaio said Trump’s agenda fueled his desire to run for the Senate said, but said “people are not going to vote for me just (for) being pro-Trump.”

Before Arpaio announced his bid, Trump showed some support for Arpaio’s opponent, former state Sen. Kelli Ward (R), but he has not formerly endorsed her. Rep. Martha McSally (R-AZ) is also expected to announce a run for the seat in coming days.

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Now that President Trump has effectively cut ties with former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, the White House isn’t sure that the two “were ever particularly close.”

During the White House press briefing on Thursday, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders attempted to dial back on the nature of Bannon and President Trump’s past relationship.

“I’m not aware that they were ever particularly close,” she said. “They’ve spoken a few times since he left the White House, but it’s not like there were regularly scheduled calls and there were certainly no meetings between the two of them.

On Wednesday afternoon, Sanders told reporters that Bannon and Trump last spoke in early December, but on Thursday afternoon Trump told reporters “I don’t talk to him. That’s just a misnomer.”

The honeymoon between Bannon and Trump abruptly ended on Wednesday afternoon, when excerpts from a new book by journalist Michael Wolff were published, revealing critical remarks Bannon had made about Trump’s son and son-in-law and a meeting they had with a Russian lawyer during the campaign. Bannon reportedly said the meeting should be considered “treasonous.”

Trump released a scathing statement hours later, discrediting Bannon and claiming that he had “lost his mind.” Bannon later responded by calling Trump a “great man.”

On Thursday, Sanders also referenced a segment from the book that suggested that Bannon had been “sidelined by April.”

“Which I think goes further to indicate that he had very little credibility to give much information particularly at that point.”

Despite using the book to back up her claims about the President and Bannon not having a close relationship, she then reiterated the White House’s message that the Wolff book was “trash,” saying it was filled with “mistake after mistake after mistake.”

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While former White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci is questioning the narrative in a new book about the Trump White House, he’s also using the book to back up the expletive-ridden tirade that got him fired this summer.

In an interview with CNN Thursday morning, Scaramucci said a lot of what’s outlined in excerpts of journalist Michael Wolff’s new book published Wednesday “does not seem right to me,” particularly stories about the atmosphere on election night. In the excerpts from book, “Fire and Fury: Inside Trump’s White House,” Wolff claims that Trump didn’t actually want to win and was satisfied with the fame he would gain from his presidential bid.

“Certainly we had great uncertainty around the campaign and the tightness of the polls, but nobody wanted to win more than the President of the United States and, frankly, nobody worked harder,” Scaramucci said. “I think that’s a bunch of nonsense.”

He then questioned why CNN wasn’t trying to verify the quotes or the narratives shared in excerpts of the book, like Trump reportedly eating cheeseburgers in his bed or Ivanka Trump claiming she wanted to be the first female president or White House counselor Kellyanne Conway holding a finger gun to her head in response to some of Trump’s public comments.

While Scaramucci questions the validity of the rest of the book, he claims Wolff’s excerpts verify what Scaramucci said in a profane rant — in which he said Bannon is trying to “suck his own cock” — over the summer: that Bannon is only interested in promoting his own brand.

“I think he’s for Steve,” Scaramucci said of Bannon. “At the end of the day, what I said, taking out the expletives, he’s for Steve and we are — if you love your country, President Donald Trump is our President and let’s go out and help him. …. (I think Bannon) started focusing on his own brand and it was damaging and not the right thing to do.”

On Wednesday, Trump effectively cut ties with Bannon amid reports that Bannon publicly attacked Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and his son Donald Trump Jr.

In one excerpt from the book, Bannon apparently told Wolff that the June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower between Trump Jr., Kushner and a Kremlin-linked lawyer was “treasonous.” 

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White House staffers will no longer be able to use their personal cellphones at work starting Friday, Bloomberg News reported Wednesday and the White House confirmed on Thursday.

The ban was enacted by chief of staff John Kelly, Bloomberg reported. In a statement shared with TPM, the White House said the ban was put in place for security reasons. One unnamed aide told Bloomberg that there were too many devices connected to the White House WiFi and officials were concerned that personal phones weren’t as secure as government phones.

The security and integrity of the technology systems at the White House is a top priority for the Trump administration and therefore the use of all personal devices for both guests and staff will no longer be allowed in the West Wing,” the White House said in its statement. “Staff will be able to conduct business on their government-issued devices and continue working hard on behalf of the American people.”

While the President has consistently complained about his White House’s penchant for leaking information to the press, an aide told Bloomberg that the ban was not put in place because of leaks.

In October, MSNBC reported that the Secret Service was planning to ban the use of personal cellphones in the West Wing, citing security concerns. That report came amid news that John Kelly and White House counselor Kellyanne Conway’s personal cell phones had been compromised potentially as early as December 2016.

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After announcing he was dissolving his bogus voter fraud committee to avoid tumultuous legal battles, President Donald Trump on Thursday promoted what he said was the need for voter ID laws.

“System is rigged, must go to Voter I.D.,” Trump tweeted. “As Americans, you need identification, sometimes in a very strong and accurate form, for almost everything you do … except when it comes to the most important thing, VOTING for the people that run your country.”

Trump’s message runs counter to the emphasis of the voter fraud commission, which has emphasized the need to purge voter rolls over voter ID laws.

Trump also tweeted that it was “mostly Democratic states” that refused to share voter data because “they know that many people are voting illegally.”

Trump issued an executive order Wednesday evening, effectively dissolving his Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity. In a statement, he said he made the decision because he wanted to avoid “endless legal battles at taxpayer expense.” The commission is facing numerous lawsuits from civil rights and privacy groups who complain the panel is being used to push for voting restrictions and that the data requests violate privacy laws.

A large swath of states repeatedly rejected the commission’s requests for voter data. The commission initially asked states for information like addresses, military status and the last four digits of voters’ Social Security numbers. The commission later requested publicly available voter data, but many Democratic and Republican-majority states continued to refuse. 

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Just minutes after President Trump released a blistering statement attacking Steve Bannon’s mental state, Trump’s eldest son mocked the former White House chief strategist for losing a Republican seat in Alabama.

Donald Trump Jr. retweeted Bloomberg reporter Sahil Kapur, who said Alabama now has “one U.S. senator who is a Democrat and another who used to be a Democrat,” referencing Sens. Richard Shelby (R-AL) and Doug Jones (D-AL) who was just sworn into office on Wednesday.

“Thanks Steve. Keep up the great work,” Trump Jr. said.

The tweets were referencing Bannon’s efforts to help the controversial former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore beat out the incumbent Republican Luther Strange — whom Trump backed — in the state’s Republican primary election. Bannon continued that support of Moore until the vicious end of the Alabama special election last month, despite a slew of allegations of sexual misconduct against the candidate. Jones won the election, becoming the first Democrat to win a Senate race in the deep red state in 25 years.

Moments later, Trump Jr. retweeted former White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci, who essentially claimed that people should have paid attention to his criticisms of Bannon this summer. Scaramucci served in the White House for less than two weeks and was fired after he gave a profanity-laden interview to The New Yorker, claiming Bannon was trying to “suck his own cock.”

Trump Jr. said Scaramucci “pretty much nailed it” with his comments on Bannon.

He later claimed he read the comments section on Breitbart, Bannon’s far-right news outlet, and said the media executive has “nothing” left if he loses Breitbart readers.

Trump Jr.’s tweet came just after his father effectively cut ties with Bannon amid reports that Bannon publicly attacked Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and Trump Jr.

In an excerpt from author Michael Wolff’s new book “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House,” Bannon apparently told Wolff that the Trump Tower meeting between Trump Jr., Kushner and a Kremlin-linked lawyer was “treasonous.”   

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Rich Hobson, who managed embattled Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore’s campaign, is planning to announce a congressional bid of his own.

With intentions of running against Rep. Martha Roby (R-AL) in the state’s Republican primary, Hobson confirmed to CNN on Wednesday that he’s diving into the race to do what’s best for “Alabama and the USA,” not because he has beef with Roby.

The Republican incumbent did not defend Moore when multiple women came forward alleging the former state Chief Justice pursued relationships or made inappropriate sexual advances toward them when they were teens and he was in his 30s, CNN reported. Roby has also publicly said she did not vote for President Trump and criticized him when the “Access Hollywood” tape came out in the 11th-hour of the 2016 election.

Hobson said he decided a year ago that he was going to run against Roby, who fully intends on running for reelection, her chief of staff told CNN.

Moore suffered a shocking defeat in Alabama last month when Democratic candidate Doug Jones won the special election to claim Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ seat in the Senate.

Hobson did not immediately return TPM’s requests for comment.

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Showtime’s political documentary series will return this spring, but with a new female host, Alex Wagner, to replace Mark Halperin, the former political journalist who fell from grace when multiple women accused him of sexual harassment and assault last year.

Wagner, a CBS News anchor and former MSNBC host, will take Halperin’s spot on “The Circus,” The New York Times reported Tuesday. She’ll be joined by the show’s other original hosts John Heilemann and Mark McKinnon. 

Heilemann and Halperin have been longtime partners in covering politics. The pair have written books, had a television movie and a Bloomberg TV show, which were dropped when allegations of sexual misconduct came out against Halperin in October.

At least five of Halperin’s female colleagues at ABC News claimed the prominent political journalist made unwanted and aggressive advances toward them, including propositioning employees for sex and pressing his genitals, while clothed, against at least three women’s bodies without their consent, CNN originally reported. Halperin has denied the claims and has said any relationships he had with colleagues was consensual. He has apologized for “conduct that was often aggressive and crude.”

The docu-series will still offer a behind-the-scenes look at politics without the famed co-host. Wagner told the Times she hopes to discuss “questions of American identity” in her role. 

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