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

President Donald Trump was awake before 7 a.m. on Tuesday and apparently triggered by a large swath of topics ranging from the Russia probe to the Philadelphia Eagles.

Taking to his favorite medium, Trump launched an unhinged tweetstorm by raging about the apparent “delays” in the release of the Justice Department’s inspector general report on “Crooked Hillary and Slippery James Comey,” referencing the IG probe into the DOJ’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation. A draft version of the report was given to the FBI and DOJ in May to review for potential classified information and the Senate hearings on its release were pushed back a week.

The inspector general already released its findings on former acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe and alleged that McCabe misled FBI investigators about his role in leaks about the Clinton email probe. In the next report, the inspector general is expected to address former FBI Director James Comey’s handling of the Clinton email investigation and whether McCabe should have recused himself from that probe.

Minutes later, Trump moved on to praise the economy — claiming it “may be the best economy in the history of our country” — and announced vague plans in lieu of an event honoring the Philadelphia Eagles. Trump on Monday night abruptly cancelled the Eagles’ visit because “only a small number of players decided to come.” He also suggested members of that team stayed in the locker room during the National Anthem, a made-up claim.

The President then turned to his “beleaguered” Attorney General Jeff Sessions, an increasingly routine target for the President’s vexation with the “Russian Witch Hunt Hoax.” In recent days Trump has become more comfortable publicly admitting he regrets picking one of his earliest supporters as his attorney general. On Tuesday, he claimed Sessions somehow “knew better than most that there was No Collusion!”

Trump then blamed Democrats for his own administration’s policy of separating families at the border and waxed optimistic about his meeting with North Korea.

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The Justice Department has appealed a federal court ruling that President Trump’s move to block his critics on Twitter violated the Constitution, according to Politico.

U.S. District Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald ruled last month that Trump’s Twitter feed is considered a “public forum” and that a public official cannot “‘block’ a person from his Twitter account in response to the political views that person has expressed.”

The ruling came in response to a lawsuit filed by Columbia University’s Knight First Amendment Institute on behalf of Twitter users that Trump has blocked.

The notice of appeal was filed by three DOJ officials in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit on behalf of Trump and his social media director, according to Politico.

As Politico noted, it’s hardly a surprise that the Justice Department has opted to file an appeal. Justice Department attorney Michael Baer wrote in August 2017 that the case could prove to be harmful to the First Amendment and that dictating “that a president’s choices about whom to follow, and whom to block, on Twitter,” a private company, could “violate the Constitution.”

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President Donald Trump is convinced his Twitter love-fest with Kanye West is proving fruitful for his popularity among African-American voters.

At least, that’s what he told Kim Kardashian — who is married to West — during her visit to the White House last week, according to Bloomberg News.

Kardashian attended a meeting with Trump and White House adviser Jared Kushner to discuss prison reform and a potential presidential pardon of Alice Marie Johnson, a 63-year-old grandmother who is serving a life sentence in prison for a non-violent drug offense.

While Trump wasn’t immediately struck by Kardashian’s request — according to a person familiar with the meeting who spoke with Bloomberg — Trump did tell Kardashian that he thinks the support he’s received from her and West has boosted his popularity among black voters.

Trump made similar claims during a National Rifle Association conference last month, claiming that West’s tweets — in which the rapper claimed he and Trump shared “dragon energy” —  “doubled my African American polling numbers.”

Bloomberg pointed out that Trump was likely referencing a Reuters weekly tracking poll that claimed Trump’s approval rating among black men rose from 11 percent to 22 percent from April 22-29. Reuters has reported that the number of African Americans who respond to the weekly poll isn’t high enough to suggest any real shakeup.

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Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) denied reports that he’s working with President Donald Trump’s legal team to help prepare the President for a potential interview with special counsel Robert Mueller.

In a tweet on Monday evening he called The Washington Post‘s report about the plans “dead wrong.”

While Christie was quick to shut down any suggestion that he was aiding the President in preparation for a possible sit-down with Mueller, it was Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani who told the Post that Christie would “be willing to do it as (a) volunteer.” Giuliani’s proposition wouldn’t be a long shot– Christie helped Trump prepare for debates during the 2016 campaign by pretending to be Hillary Clinton, according to the Post.

“I’d like to bring Chris Christie in,” he told The Post, adding that Christie is “willing to do it.” “(Trump) and Chris get along, and Chris is a lawyer, so you have attorney-client privilege.”

While it’s unclear whether Christie will agree to assist in training Trump for a special counsel interview, Trump’s legal team is struggling to keep the President focused during their own counseling sessions.

According to a person familiar with the matter who spoke to the Post, officials have been unsuccessful in their attempts to take a deep dive into potential subjects Mueller may broach because of Trump’s “anger about the probe,” per the Post.

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President Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani confirmed on Monday night that it’s the legal team’s “final position” that Trump did, in fact, dictate a statement in response to inquiries about his son’s Trump Tower meeting with a Russia lawyer in 2016, but refused to call the the deceptive narrative about the meeting coming from the White House a “lie.”

“You think maybe somebody could have made a mistake?” he asked CNN’s Chris Cuomo. “Why is it always– you think Jay Sekulow lied? … Maybe he just got it wrong like I got a few things wrong at the beginning of the investigation. This is a complex investigation. First week or so, I got a few things wrong, and then it was clarified in a letter, and that’s the final position.”

“It was a mistake, I swear to God,” he continued. “It was a mistake, the guy made a mistake and then he corrected it.”

Over the weekend, the New York Times published a 20-page letter that Trump’s legal team sent special counsel Robert Mueller in January, arguing primarily that it wasn’t constitutionally possible for Trump to be indicted and that he didn’t obstruct justice.

The letter also included a nugget of information about Trump’s involvement in crafting a misleading statement to the New York Times in July concerning a 2016 meeting Donald Trump Jr. had with Russians who promised damaging information on Hillary Clinton. The statement initially claimed that Trump Jr. took the meeting to discuss adoptions.

“The President dictated a short but accurate response to the New York Times article on behalf of his son, Donald Trump, Jr,” the letter read. The memo to Mueller was written by Sekulow and former Trump lawyer John Dowd.

Previously, both White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and Sekulow told the media that Trump wasn’t involved in dictating the statement. During a press briefing on Monday, Sanders deflected questions about her initial lie regarding Trump’s involvement, directing reporters to reach out to Trump’s outside counsel.

 

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The White House on Monday backed up President Donald Trump’s claims that he could pardon himself if he wanted to, but said that it won’t be necessary because Trump “hasn’t done anything wrong.”

“Thankfully the President hasn’t done anything wrong and wouldn’t have any need for a pardon,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Monday. When asked again about the President’s cryptic Monday morning tweets, Sanders repeated the same line.

When asked why Trump believes special counsel Robert Mueller’s work is unconstitutional, Sanders said Trump just knows the special counsel “isn’t needed.”

“Scholars have raised a number of questions about the legality of the special counsel process,” she said. “The President has made his views about the special counsel very clear, and the President knows that the special counsel isn’t needed because once again he hasn’t done anything wrong. There was no obstruction, no collusion, and no wrongdoing. However, we continue to cooperate.” 

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White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders is scheduled to deliver an on camera press briefing at 2:00 p.m. ET Monday. Watch live below:

Among a slew of odd and unprofessional personal requests that Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt asked his top aide Millan Hupp to undertake for him, Democratic lawmakers revealed in a letter on Monday that Pruitt asked Hupp to secure a “used mattress” from the Trump International Hotel for him.

According to a letter Reps. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) and Gerald Connolly (D-VA) sent to House Oversight Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-SC) — requesting he subpoena the EPA for documents related to Pruitt’s “multiple abuses of authority in using agency staff for his own personal purposes” — Hupp sat for an interview with the House Oversight Committee on May 18.

Hupp told lawmakers that Pruitt had “discussions” with Hupp in September about “securing an old mattress from the Trump Hotel,” according to a transcript of the interview.

“As I remember, the administrator had spoken with someone at the Trump Hotel who had indicated that there could be a mattress that he could purchase, an old mattress that he could purchase, but that’s the extent of the conversation that I can — that I can remember,” she said, according to the transcript.

Hupp said she didn’t know why Pruitt wanted the mattress other than he mentioned it “around the same time that he was moving.” She said she never “actually connected” with someone at the Trump Hotel about the secondhand bedding.

The top aide, who Pruitt has called a longtime friend, dating back to his days in Oklahoma, also told lawmakers she had one of Pruitt’s personal credit card and had booked flights for Pruitt for personal trips during her free time. She said she was willing to take on the personal requests from Pruitt because of their personal friendship.

“Well, we worked very closely together and spent a lot of time together,” she said. “I traveled with him, so naturally a friendship developed.”

It’s been previously reported that Hupp also used official business hours and her agency email address to help Pruitt and his wife find an apartment — including booking appointments with realtors and visiting properties. She told lawmakers that she spent more than a couple hours a week for more than a month working on this task for Pruitt.

Cummings and Connolly expressed concern that Pruitt may be violating federal ethics laws and regulations, including the improper gift statute.

Read the letter and full transcript below:

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Former President Bill Clinton became frustrated and somewhat defensive during an interview with NBC’s Craig Melvin, who asked the former President pointed questions about the Monica Lewinsky affair for the first time since the launch of the “#metoo” movement.

In the interview that aired Monday, Clinton said he “did the right thing,” but admitted that he had never personally apologized to Lewinsky — “I have not talked to her,” he said — though he did publicly apologize to her and her family at the time. He also said that considering the way his investigation was handled President Donald Trump’s improprieties are not being given the “coverage you would expect.”

He said he “felt terrible” about the affair back then and has come “to grips with it.”

“Nobody believes I got out of that for free,” he said. “I left the White House 16 million dollars in debt.”

Clinton grew defensive when Melvin asked him to review the case against him in light of the current “#metoo” movement, referencing an essay Lewinsky penned in Vanity Fair earlier this year, suggesting Clinton may have abused his power to his advantage.

Clinton said that Melvin and others in the media are “giving one side” and “omitting facts” about the affair that led to his impeachment. He said he was right in fighting the impeachment proceedings because the facts of his investigation don’t fall in to the same category as other cases that have been spawned by the “#metoo” movement.

“A lot of the facts have been conveniently omitted to make the story work, I think partly because they were frustrated that they got all these serious allegations against the current occupant of the Oval Office,” Clinton told NBC. “And his voters don’t seem to care.”

“Do you think President Kennedy should have resigned? Do you believe President Johnson should have resigned? Somebody should ask you these questions because of the way you formulate the questions,” Clinton told Melvin. “I dealt with it 20 years ago plus and the American people, two-thirds of them stayed with me and I’ve tried to do a good job since then with my life and my work since then and that’s all I have to say to you.”

Watch a clip of the interview below:

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Ohio state Rep. Emilia Sykes (D) has been stopped by Ohio Statehouse security multiple times on her way into work and during one incident she was told she didn’t “look like a legislator,” the Cincinnati Enquirer reported. 

Sykes, a 32-year-old female African-American lawmaker, was stopped on one occasion and told that officers needed to search her purse, but the colleague she was walking with — a 65-year-old white man — was not searched, according to the Enquirer. Sykes told the Enquirer that she asked why she was being searched when all she needed to get inside the Statehouse was her badge. Her colleague told the officers that she was, in fact, a state lawmaker.

“You don’t look like a legislator,” the officer reportedly said, then clarified: “You look too young.”

Sykes, who has been an Ohio legislator for three years, was also reportedly stopped when trying to get into a different building, the Riffe Center. Officers repeatedly requested to examine her badge.

“It’s just hard to find out what is the security rule,” Sykes said. “They seem to be a moving target for different people.”

Read the Enquirer’s full report here. 

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