Nicole_lafond_profile2019

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

Vice President Mike Pence’s doctor directed a top Pence aide to warn Chief of Staff John Kelly about Ronny Jackson’s behavior last fall, CNN reported.

According to internal memos obtained by CNN, Jackson — White House physician and President Trump’s pick to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs who withdrew his nomination last week — intervened in a medical issue involving Second Lady Karen Pence in September, a move her physician thought was inappropriate and an abuse of his authority.

In the memo, the Pences’ doctor also said he thought Jackson’s involvement in the medical matter was a potential violation of federal privacy rights because Jackson reportedly briefed White House staff about the matter and shared details about the incident with other medical providers, CNN reported.

The Pences’ doctor — who was not named in the report — confronted Jackson about the situation. Jackson reportedly attempted to intimidate the Vice President’s doctor and was so angry about the encounter that he made the Pences’ doctor feel “uncomfortable,” according to CNN.

The Pences’ physician wrote that Jackson used an “accusatory” and “unprofessional” tone that was “aggressive” at times. The doctor said the September incident was part of a pattern of “intimidating” behavior on Jackson’s part that pushed him to consider resigning.

Karen Pence was also reportedly concerned about the breach of privacy that occurred when Jackson stepped in, and she reportedly asked her doctor to have her husband’s top aide, Nick Ayers, talk to Kelly about the incident. Kelly was reportedly aware of the matter from that point forward, according to CNN.

Jackson withdrew his nomination to run the VA last week after allegations surfaced that he created a hostile work environment in the White House medical unit, had issues with “excessive drinking” on the job and improperly dispensed medication. The Senate Veterans Affairs Committee delayed Jackson’s confirmation hearing last Tuesday while it reviewed the allegations, which were brought forward by at least 20 current and former military personnel.

Read CNN’s full report here.

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The conservative House Freedom Caucus has drafted articles of impeachment against Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, The Washington Post reported Monday.

The document will reportedly serve as a “last resort option” if the Justice Department fails to respond to congressional requests for documents related to the Russia probe and other federal investigations, like the probe into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server, according to the Post.

The effort has been led by Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC), a Trump ally who confirmed the existence of the document and told the Post that many of his conservative colleagues are at at their wits end with Rosenstein and what they see as the Justice Department dragging its feet in the release of documents.

“My frustrations about our inability to respond to simple requests could warrant further action,” he told the Post.

The draft document, obtained by the Post, outlines the the group’s ire over Rosenstein’s handling of the surveillance of Trump campaign adviser Carter Page. The main complaints in the first three articles of impeachment specifically relate to the use of the Christopher Steele dossier to obtain a FISA court warrant to surveil Page.

The document also claims that Rosenstein “knowingly provided misleading statements” to Congress about the work the federal government did to probe Russian meddling in the 2016 election, according to the Post.

Read the Post report here.

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Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday said the “best thing for me is to keep quiet” about reports that President Donald Trump called African nations “shitholes” during an bipartisan Oval Office meeting on immigration with lawmakers back in January.

“Well, I’m very careful with what the press says about others than myself,” Buhari said during a joint press conference with Trump on Monday, responding to a question about his response to Trump’s reported derogatory remarks about African countries. “I’m not sure about, you know, the validity or whether than allegation against the President was true or not. So the best thing for me is to keep quiet.”

After a short pause, Trump said the two presidents had not discussed the alleged remarks, before claiming that “some countries” are “in very bad shape.”

We didn’t discuss it,” he said. “And you do have some countries that are in very bad shape and very tough places to live in. But we didn’t discuss it because the President knows me and he knows where I’m coming from. And I appreciate that. We did not discuss it.”

Reports of Trump’s comments about Haiti and African nations sparked global furor, with many U.S. diplomats being summoned by their host nations to clarify Trump’s comments.

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The former White House chief ethics lawyer under the George W. Bush administration on Monday announced his bid for a U.S. Senate seat in Minnesota, formerly held by Al Franken (D-MN).

Richard Painter, a longtime Republican, recently filed to run as a Democrat for the seat occupied by Sen. Tina Smith (D-MN), the Star Tribune was first to report. Smith was appointed by the Minnesota governor to serve out the remainder of Franken’s term after he resigned amid allegations of sexual misconduct.

According to the Star Tribune and a tweet from Painter’s Twitter account — Painter For Minnesota — Painter announced his bid at a news conference on Monday morning. Painter already had a campaign website live, Painter For U.S. Senate, before he made the announcement, in which he vowed to not take money from Super PACs.

In a tweet on Monday afternoon, Painter explained why he “QUIT” the Republican party, due in large part to President Donald Trump’s “reckless trade war,” as well as his “attacks on the freedom of the press and of religion, on the judiciary and on his own Justice Department.”

Painter currently works as a corporate law professor at the University of Minnesota and is a frequent critic of President Donald Trump on cable news and on Twitter. Painter told the Star Tribune last month that he was forming an exploratory committee for a potential run, but was unsure whether he would remain a Republican.

“I need to think about whether there’s a place for me” in the GOP, he said last month, according to the Star Tribune, saying he would be “considering all options.” He also told the Star Tribune that he is a “centrist in many ways.”

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton appointed Smith, his former lieutenant governor after Franken resigned, with the hope that she would be the front-running Democrat vying for the seat.

Franken resigned in January after weeks of reports of sexual harassment and multiple women coming forward alleging Franken groped them during photo ops.

Karin Housley, a state senator, is the only Republican who’s announced a bid for open seat.

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In an effort to overhaul its internal manual for federal prosecutors, the Department of Justice recently removed sections on the “need for free press and public trial” among several other edits, Buzzfeed News reported Sunday.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein led the charge to update the manual, which traditionally provides policies and guidance on DOJ legal work, and hadn’t seen a major update since 1997, according to Buzzfeed. Buzzfeed tracked the online changes to the manual through the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine.

In the manual’s “media contacts policy” section, a subsection titled “Need for Free Press and Public Trial” was deleted. According to Buzzfeed’s review of the manual, that section, which has been in the manual since 1988, said:

“Likewise, careful weight must be given in each case to the constitutional requirements of a free press and public trials as well as the right of the people in a constitutional democracy to have access to information about the conduct of law enforcement officers, prosecutors and courts, consistent with the individual rights of the accused. Further, recognition should be given to the needs of public safety, the apprehension of fugitives, and the rights of the public to be informed on matters that can affect enactment or enforcement of public laws or the development or change of public policy.”

Parts of the rest of the media contacts section was edited to include new language about determining whether to release information to the public, including weighing the “right of the public to have access to information” with other factors, according to Buzzfeed.

The manual also includes new sections about topics that Attorney General Jeff Sessions has been vocal about— including the illegality of sharing classified information and reporting any media contacts about DOJ related matters.

Read Buzzfeed’s full report here. 

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Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores, who was critical of President Donald Trump during the Republican primaries, met with Trump to tell him she was loyal to his agenda before she was hired, The Washington Post reported.

According to several people with knowledge of the meeting who spoke to the Post, Trump’s advisers knew that Sessions would only be able to hire Flores if she reassured Trump that she agreed with his agenda. She also reportedly told Trump she would be honored to serve him, according to the Post.

The revelation came as part of a Post report on Trump’s demands for loyalty throughout his presidency, most notably his reported request for allegiance from former FBI James Comey before he was fired. Trump also reportedly asked Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein if he was “on (his) team.”      

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Longtime NBC News journalist Tom Brokaw is rebutting allegations that he sexually harassed and tried to forcibly kiss a former colleague in the 1990s. He sent a lengthy letter to his former colleagues aggressively denying the accusations.

According to the letter obtained by the Los Angeles Times and The Hollywood Reporter, Brokaw characterized the allegations as a “drive by shooting” on the part of Linda Vester, the former NBC correspondent who recently detailed her accusations to the Washington Post and Variety. He claimed Vester had a grudge against NBC News because she “failed in her pursuit of stardom” and called out the Post and Variety for being given “the run” by Vester.

I am not a perfect person. I’ve made mistakes, personally and professionally. But as I write this at dawn on the morning after a drive by shooting by Vester, the Washington Post and Variety, I am stunned by the free ride given a woman with a grudge against NBC News, no distinctive credentials or issue passions while at Fox,” he wrote. “Strip away all of the hyperbole and what has she achieved? What was her goal? Hard to believe it wasn’t much more Look At Me than Me: Too.”

Vester detailed to the Washington Post and Variety allegations that Brokaw sexually harassed her and attempted to forcibly kiss her at least two times in the 1990s. Brokaw has denied the allegations and attempted to counter each of her claims in the letter he sent to NBC colleagues.

As I remember, she was at one end of a sofa, I was at the other,” he wrote. “It was late and I had been up for 24 hours. As I got up to leave I may have leaned over for a perfunctory goodnight kiss but my memory is that it happened at the door – on the cheek. No clenching her neck. That move she so vividly describes is NOT WHO I AM. Not in high school, college or thereafter.”

A Catholic university has already replaced Brokaw as its commencement speaker, after Brokaw backed out when the allegations surfaced. Vester told the Post she came forward because she felt NBC failed to properly investigate harassment claims at the company after “Today” show star Matt Lauer was fired for sexual misconduct and alleged assault.

Read the full letter here. 

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President Trump’s Administrator of the Small Business Administration Linda McMahon will replace NBC News’ Tom Brokaw as the commencement speaker at a Catholic university next month, following reports that Brokaw allegedly sexually harassed a former NBC correspondent.

Brokaw reportedly withdrew from speaking at Sacred Heart University’s graduation ceremony, set for May 13, because he didn’t want to “distract from the intended and most important focus of the day — our graduating students and their families,” the university’s president, John Petillo, wrote in an email to the student body, according to the Hartford Courant.    

Former NBC correspondent Linda Vester recently detailed to the Washington Post and Variety her allegations that Brokaw sexually harassed her and attempted to forcibly kiss her at least two times in the 1990s. Brokaw has denied the allegations.

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President Donald Trump said he was “honored” by the Republican-authored report on the Russia investigation from the House Intelligence Committee released Friday, before repeating his predictable talking points about the “witch hunt” against him and that there was “no collusion” between his campaign and “the Russian people.”

I was very honored by the report,” he said in the Oval Office during a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. “It was totally conclusive, strong, powerful, many things said that nobody knew about and said in a very strong way. They were very forceful in saying that the Clinton campaign actually did contribute to Russia. So maybe somebody ought to look at that. But what we really should do is get on with our lives and get on with a lot of things.” 

Republicans announced the main findings of their report last month, which Democrats on the committee vehemently oppose and have claimed the committee didn’t interview enough witnesses or gather enough evidence to support their conclusion.

The partisan squabble came to a head with the Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) led effort to release a classified memo that purported to show that the FBI had an anti-Trump bias and violated FISA protocol in order to obtain a warrant to surveil a Trump associate.

 

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While White House physician Ronny Jackson has withdrawn his nomination to run the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Secret Service has come to his defense by countering at least one allegation that’s been lobbed against Jackson in recent days.

In a rare statement released Thursday, the Secret Service said it not only had no record of having to intervene during a 2015 overseas trip to keep Jackson — who was reportedly drunk and loudly banging on a female employee’s hotel room door — from waking up former President Barack Obama, the agency also said it has no record of “any incident” involving Jackson.

A thorough review of internal documents related to all presidential foreign travel that occurred in 2015, in addition to interviews of personnel who were present during foreign travel that occurred during the same timeframe, has resulted in no information that would indicate the allegation is accurate,” the statement said.

The agency then praised Jackson for his “dedicated support” of Secret Service agents over the years, “often miles from home and under difficult travel conditions.”

“The Secret Service is grateful for the dedicated and outstanding professional service Rear Admiral Jackson has provided to the agency — and more importantly — his role supporting the greater presidential protection security apparatus,” the agency said.

The agency’s rare rebuke of an allegation that was surfaced in the media comes just as Jackson decided to drop out of the running for the VA chief gig to prevent further distractions.

In recent days, at least 20 former and current military personnel have spoken with the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee about their complaints regarding Jackson, who has served as the White House physician under three administrations. Jackson reportedly fostered a hostile work environment with a reputation for casually dispensing medication without examinations. Former employees also alleged that Jackson had an issue with “excessive drinking” on the job and once crashed a government vehicle while he was driving drunk. Jackson has denied all the allegations.  

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