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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 asked former FBI director James Comey if he looked “like a guy who needs hookers” after Comey informed Trump about the most salacious details of the now famous and largely unverified Christopher Steele dossier, ABC News reported. 

According to Comey, the conversation took place not long after the 2016 election and he scheduled a meeting with Trump to “alert” him to the allegations.

“I started to tell him what the allegation was, that he had been involved with prostitutes in a hotel in Moscow in 2013 during the Miss Universe pageant and that the Russians had filmed the episode and he interrupted very defensively and asked: ‘Do I look like a guy who needs hookers?’ And I assumed he was asking that rhetorically,” Comey told ABC News in a clip, broadcast this morning, from the highly anticipated interview set to air Sunday. “I didn’t answer that and then I just moved on and explained, ‘Sir I’m not saying we credit this, I’m not saying we believe it, I just thought it very important that you know.’”

Comey called the conversation an “out-of-body experience” and said the President brought up the topic again during a private dinner at the White House weeks later and asked Comey to investigate the allegation because he didn’t want his wife, Melania Trump, to believe the claims. He said Trump told him “If there’s even a 1 percent chance my wife thinks that’s true, that’s terrible,” Comey said.

“And I remember thinking, ‘How could your wife think there’s a 1 percent chance you were with prostitutes peeing on each other in Moscow?’ I’m a flawed human being, but there is literally zero chance that my wife would think that was true,” Comey said. “So, what kind of marriage to what kind of man does your wife think [that] there’s only a 99 percent chance you didn’t do that?”

Watch the excerpt below:

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The raid on President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer earlier this week “significantly complicated” negotiations between Trump’s legal team and special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigators over a potential presidential interview, NBC News reported Thursday evening.

According to several people familiar with the matter who spoke with NBC, both sides are moving forward with the presumption that a Trump interview will likely not take place. Trump’s lawyers and Mueller’s team were reportedly zeroing in on the final details of a potential interview, including negotiating the length of the discussion. One source told NBC that the President’s legal team was talking about hiring someone new to help prepare Trump for an interview.

Now that the interview is likely off, Mueller’s obstruction of justice case may close more quickly than expected because the special counsel’s team won’t need to prepare for the interview or follow up on what Trump would have said during it, NBC reported.

White House lawyer Ty Cobb told NBC Thursday that it was “untrue” that the interview will likely not happen.

Trump has repeatedly publicly claimed he would enthusiastically sit for an interview with Mueller, but he has been increasingly irked by the probe. His frustration increased this week after the FBI raided Michael Cohen’s home, hotel and office. While the raid was executed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, the FBI agents received the warrants after receiving a referral from Mueller.

The FBI reportedly seized documents related to payments made just before the 2016 election to two women — Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal — who allege they had affairs with Trump.

Read the full NBC report here.

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President Donald Trump responded to former FBI director James Comey’s “pee tape” claims with a rage-filled round of tweets Friday morning, calling Comey a “LEAKER,” a “LIAR,” and an “untruthful slime ball” and saying it was “my great honor to fire” him.

According to reports about Comey’s new memoir, and an excerpt of his upcoming interview with ABC News, Trump asked Comey to investigate claims made in the now-famous Christoper Steele dossier that Trump paid prostitutes to pee on each other while he was in Moscow in 2013 and that Russians recorded the encounter.

Comey claimed that Trump was concerned that his wife Melania Trump thought the reports about the “pee tapes” claims were even “one percent true.” He reportedly asked Comey to try to disprove the claims.

Comey told ABC News that he still has his doubts about whether the incident happened.

“I honestly never thought this words would come out of my mouth, but I don’t know whether the current president of the United States was with prostitutes peeing on each other in Moscow in 2013,” Comey said, according to an excerpt of the interview. “It’s possible, but I don’t know.”

The rest of the ABC interview will air on Sunday as Comey launches his publicity tour for his new memoir, “A Higher Loyalty,” set to release Tuesday.

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President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, reportedly had a penchant for recording conversations with associates, and that has Trump allies are concerned.

Following the FBI’s raid on Cohen’s house, hotel and office this week, Trump associates are questioning whether agents seized those tapes, which he was known for saving digital copies of, The Washington Post reported.

According to people who interacted with Cohen and who spoke to the Washington Post, Cohen would record business and political conversations, save the tapes and often play them for colleagues. He was also reportedly known for using taped business calls for leverage. Trump campaign staffers often avoided him because of his reputation for secretly recording discussions, according to the Post’s sources.

While it is unknown whether Cohen recorded conversations with Trump, the President has a times baselessly bragged that he had recordings of conversations, as he did after he fired former FBI director James Comey.

As the Post noted, when The New York Times reported last year that Trump had asked Comey for loyalty during a one-on-one dinner and Comey declined, Trump tweeted suggesting that he may have “tapes” of their conversation. After raising speculation over whether he actually recorded the conversation with Comey, Trump tweeted, after a full month, saying he he didn’t know if there actually were tapes.

During the Cohen raid, FBI agents reportedly seized documents related to payments made to two women — Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal — who have alleged affairs with Trump, just before the 2016 election.

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The White House is privately launching new efforts to publicly undermine Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein by working with President Trump’s allies to paint Rosenstein as too conflicted to properly oversee special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe, CNN reported Thursday evening.

The talking points of the effort are still in their infancy, according to people familiar with the effort who spoke with CNN, but the White House has asked Trump associates to not only undermine Rosenstein in public, but also to attempt to cast Rosenstein and former FBI Director James Comey as close colleagues, even though Rosenstein helped carry out Comey’s firing. A source close to Rosenstein told CNN that the two are not friends.

CNN’s sources say that the White House is hoping if Comey and Rosenstein are seen as allies, Trump’s supporters can argue that Mueller’s expansive Russia probe could be seen as retribution for Comey’s firing. A White House spokesperson, however, told CNN that Trump allies’ seemingly coordinated calls for Rosenstein’s firing are not part of a unified effort.

The increased animosity toward Rosenstein stems from Trump’s frustration over the FBI’s raid of his personal attorney Michael Cohen’s house, hotel and office earlier this week. While the raid was executed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, the FBI agents received the warrants after getting information from Mueller’s team. Trump has become increasingly convinced that Mueller and Rosenstein have taken the investigation too far and is reportedly still irate about the raid.

“He’ll be pissed about it until he dies,” one source told CNN, referencing the Cohen raid.

Read the full CNN story here.

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President Donald Trump on Thursday appeared to push back on The Washington Post’s report that former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon was influencing how the White House handles special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe.

On Wednesday night The Washington Post reported that Bannon has been quietly pitching White House aides on a plan to fire Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Ty Cobb, the lawyer who is overseeing the White House’s response to the Russia investigations.

In a Thursday afternoon tweet Trump did not defend Rosenstein, but he did suggest that he’s not planning to fire Mueller, and he defended Cobb, whom he called “my Special Counsel.”

The comment comes as reports surface alleging Trump has become increasingly interested in firing Mueller. The New York Times reported Wednesday that Trump made moves to fire Mueller in December, but refrained. Trump denied those reports Thursday morning by attacking the Times as “fake news.”

After the FBI raided his personal attorney’s office, hotel and home on Monday, Trump told reporters that he had been encouraged by “people” to fire Mueller, but only offered: “We’ll see what happens.”

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Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), a close ally to the President, tweeted out a warning that “anyone advising” President Donald Trump to fire special counsel Robert Mueller “does not have the President or the nation’s best interest at heart.”

In the past, Trump has attempted to hide his disdain for Mueller’s investigation, but he has become increasingly explicit about his reported desire to fire the special counsel in recent weeks. In March, Trump slammed former FBI Director James Comey in a tweet and specifically called out Mueller for the first time, saying his probe should “never have been started.”

After news broke on Monday that the FBI had raided Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen’s house, hotel and office, Trump told reporters that “people have said” he should fire the special counsel, but he stopped short of confirming that he actually wanted to.

“We’ll see what happens,” he said.

While Mueller did not directly order the FBI raid, deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who oversees Mueller’s Russia probe, reportedly signed off on the raid.

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Former FBI Director James Comey will compare President Donald Trump to a “mob boss” in an upcoming interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, according to a preview of the anticipated sit-down.

“How strange is it for you to sit here and compare the President to a mob boss?” Stephanopoulos asks at the start of the promo video. The interview is set to air on Sunday at 10 p.m. as a special episode of ABC’s “20/20.” According to a source who was present for the taping and who spoke with Axios, Comey’s comments will “shock the President and his team” when it airs.

The interview is considered the launch of Comey’s book tour, a memoir — called “A Higher Loyalty” — set for release Tuesday.

While Comey has made subtle jabs at President Donald Trump on Twitter since the President fired him, the ABC interview will be the first time Comey speaks out on the circumstances surrounding his firing, which has been criticized as an effort by Trump to obstruct justice by attempting to end the Russia probe.

Watch the preview below:

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During her Senate confirmation hearing on Wednesday, Wendy Vitter, one of President Donald Trump’s judicial nominees, refused to answer a Democratic senator’s questions about whether the landmark Brown v. the Board of Education Supreme Court ruling was correctly decided.

The seminal SCOTUS decision desegregated schools and changed the landscape of education in the United States with its 1954 ruling that state laws allowing “separate-but-equal” schools violated the Constitution.

When Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) on Wednesday asked whether the ruling was “correctly decided,” Vitter — who was nominated for a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana — dodged the question, saying she didn’t want to comment on any specific rulings. She claimed commenting would open up the door for critiques of her impartiality.

“I don’t mean to be coy, but I think I can get into a difficult, difficult area when I start commenting on Supreme Court decisions — which are correctly decided and which I may disagree with,” she said. “Again my personal, political or religious views I would set aside, that is Supreme Court precedent. It is binding. If I were to be confirmed I would be bound by it, and of course I would uphold it.”

Blumenthal asked her again if the monumental case was “correctly decided.”

“And again, I will respectfully not comment on what could be my boss’ ruling, the Supreme Court, I would be bound by it and if I start commenting on ‘I agree with this case or I don’t agree with this case,’ I think we get into a slippery slope,” she said.

While it is not uncommon for a judicial nominee to refrain from commenting on specific Supreme Court rulings — in 1986 Justice Antonin Scalia refused to answer questions about the pivotal Marbury v. Madison ruling, as CNN noted — the decision to dodge questions about the case that desegregated Americans schools raised eyebrows.

Affirming the correctness of the desegregation ruling appears to be the exception to the impartiality rule for many judicial nominees. Justice Neil Gorsuch was willing to say that Brown v. the Board of Education was “a correct application of the law of precedent” in his 2017 confirmation hearing and Chief Justice John Roberts even offered praise for the decision during his 2005 confirmation. 

“The genius of the decision was the recognition that the act of separating the students was where the violation was. And it rejected the defense — certainly, just a theoretical one given the actual record — that you could have equal facilities and equal treatment,” Roberts said at the time.

Watch a clip of the back-and-forth below, via CNN:

 

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President Donald Trump on Thursday returned to battering The New York Times and denied the newspapers’ reports that the President moved to fire special counsel Robert Mueller in December after he reportedly started digging into Trump’s finances.

“If I wanted to fire Robert Mueller in December, as reported by the Failing New York Times, I would have fired him,” he tweeted early Thursday. “Just more Fake News from a biased newspaper!”

The Times reported on Tuesday that Trump told his advisers in December that he wanted to shut down Mueller’s probe after his team subpoenaed Deutshe Bank for records on Trump. The President reportedly backed down after his lawyers spoke with Mueller’s team and learned that the reports of the subpoenas were inaccurate. Trump also reportedly tried to fire Mueller in June 2017, but cooled off after White House lawyer Don McGahn threatened to quit.

While Trump’s tweet appears to deny reports that he wanted to fire Mueller last year, the President publicly mulled firing the special counsel after the FBI raided his personal attorney’s office, home and hotel earlier this week.

During a meeting with top military brass and members of his national security team, Trump told reporters that the raid was “an attack on our country” and said “many people have said you should fire him,” in response to questions about whether he would fire Mueller.    

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