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 on Friday continued his constant tirade against the media, claiming news outlets got his reference to undocumented immigrants as “animals” “purposely wrong” and said the media was “begrudgingly forced to withdraw their stories.”

Trump also tried to clarify his comments on Thursday and said he was referring to members of the MS-13 gang, not all undocumented immigrants.

“When the MS-13 comes in, when the other gang members come into our country, I refer to them as animals. And guess what, I always will,” he told a reporter while he met with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.

But, as TPM has reported, Trump did not specify in his original remark during a “California Sanctuary State Roundtable” on Wednesday that he was talking about violent gang members.

While Trump has continuously attacked the media for years, he tends to pick and choose when he believes media reports. Since the New York Times reported Wednesday that a government informant met with members of his campaign, Trump and Republican allies have seized on the story as evidence that special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe is illegitimate.

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After a junior White House aide’s morbid comments about Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) were leaked to the press two weeks ago, the White House has reportedly replaced its daily communications meetings with something smaller and is mulling shrinking the size of the communications teams, according to reports from The New York Times and CNN.

According to several former and current West Wing aides who spoke with the Times, Trump has become increasing vexed with his communications team in recent months and has complained that he has “the biggest team, and yet gets ‘the worst press.'”

That frustration came to a head when it was leaked that White House special assistant Kelly Sadler, who works on the communications team, mocked McCain for “dying.” The divulgence prompted officials to reduce the number of staff who attend daily communications meetings and further sowed suspicion and distrust within the White House, according to the Times.

The reduction in staff at communications meetings was one of several precautionary measures taken to combat President Donald Trump’s feeling of being undermined by his staff, according to a senior official who spoke with the Times. White House staff are not allowed to bring their personal cellphones into the West Wing and hall monitors have begun scanning the hallways and offices for prohibited phones.

In one recent incident, officials clamped down on staffers after it was revealed that an aide was recording his conversations with Trump to impress friends, several people familiar with the incident told the Times.

According to two officials with knowledge of the matter who spoke with CNN, the plans to reduce the size of the communications team should happen in coming weeks. Staffers won’t be fired outright, but rather pushed out slowly or reassigned to other departments, CNN reported. The move was prompted by the Sadler leak and the objective is to reduce the number of leaks coming from the communications team and restructure the press shop.

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As President Donald Trump and his Republican allies, both in the media and on Capitol Hill, swell their efforts to unveil the identity of an unnamed FBI source who reportedly met with Trump campaign officials as a government informant in 2016, the FBI is taking steps to protect that person if their identity is revealed, The Washington Post reported.

According to unnamed sources familiar with intelligence operations, in the past two weeks the FBI has worked to protect other investigations that person has worked on and is attempting to shield associates of the informant if his or her identity is revealed.

The FBI source is reportedly a U.S. citizen who has provided the FBI and the CIA with information in the past. The person has reportedly helped with the Russia investigation both before and after special counsel Robert Mueller was appointed to probe the Trump campaign and Russian interference in the election, according to the Post.

Members of Trump’s inner circle and conservatives in the media have seized on reports of the informant — first reported by the New York Times on Wednesday — as evidence of a baseless claim that the former administration attempted to “spy” on Trump’s campaign. Trump tweeted on Thursday that if the reports turned out to be true, it would divulge a level of corruption “bigger than Watergate.”

Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani told the Post that the revelations make Mueller’s probe “completely illegitimate.” Other Trump allies claim unveiling details about the informant and his or her work for the FBI could help them get rid of Mueller or deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

“The prior government did it, but the present government, for some reason I can’t figure out, is covering it up,” he told the Post.

The reports follow weeks long efforts by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes’ (R-CA) to get information about the FBI source, as well as the basis and scope of the Russia probe. FBI officials have refused to divulge certain information in order to protect the person’s safety.

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Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) on Wednesday claimed that falling “rock or whatever” is contributing to rising sea-levels and that global warming was actually causing the Antarctic ice sheets to grow, not shrink, trade publication E&E News reported.

During a hearing before the House Science, Space and Technology Committee on how technology can be used to address global warming, Brooks tried to convince Philip Duffy, the president of the Woods Hole Research Center and a former senior adviser to the Global Change Research Program, that soil and rocks falling into the ocean off of cliffs along the coast of California was causing sea levels to rise. He also argued that sedimentary and silt from large rivers, like the Mississippi, were contributing to the problem.

“Every time you have that soil or rock or whatever it is that is deposited into the seas, that forces the sea levels to rise, because now you have less space in those oceans, because the bottom is moving up,” Brooks said, according to the report.

Duffy said that the impact of rocks falling into the ocean was causing “minuscule effects” when assessed on “human time scales.”

Brooks then argued that ice sheets in the Antarctic are growing, not shrinking, which, according to E&E News, was accurate a few years ago, but is not relevant to the global warming debate because “different factors affect the Arctic and Antarctic rates of melting.” Duffy told Brooks that he had satellite records that show “an acceleration” of the shrinkage of the Antarctic ice sheet.

“Well, I’ve got a NASA base in my district, and apparently, they’re telling you one thing and me a different thing,” Brooks reportedly said. “But there are plenty of studies that have come that show with respect to Antarctica that the total ice sheet, particularly that above land, is increasing, not decreasing. Now, you could make a different argument if you want to talk about Greenland or the Arctic.”

Brooks was just one of several Republicans making skeptical claims about the evidence of global warming and what contributes to rising sea levels, according to E&E News.

Read the full report here.

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President Donald Trump’s outspoken lawyer Rudy Giuliani described special counsel Robert Mueller as acting like a mob boss from “The Godfather” when his team discussed whether Trump could be indicted by the special counsel.

In a meeting a few weeks ago, Trump’s lawyers and Mueller’s team agreed that the special counsel would follow Justice Department guidelines, indicating that the federal investigators ultimately would not indict Trump in the Russia probe unless he were impeached, according to the Washington Post.

He didn’t seem to want to give the answer,” Giuliani told the Post. “It reminded me of that scene in ‘The Godfather,’ with Sonny and the Godfather, where he said, ‘Oh, you’re going to take care of us? We can take care of ourselves.’ One of his assistants broke in and said, ‘Well of course, we’re bound by Justice Department policies.’ Mueller looked at him like, ‘Don’t interrupt me.’”

CNN was first to report that Mueller and Trump’s legal team had determined that the Russia probe would end with a report to Congress on potential crimes, not an indictment.

Since joining Trump’s legal team, Giuliani has been regularly making the rounds on TV, advocating for an end to the investigation into the Trump campaign and Russian interference in the 2016 election.

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President Donald Trump on Thursday said a new report that an unidentified government official met several times with two Trump campaign officials in 2016 could make the Russia investigation “bigger than Watergate!”

That tweet came just minutes after Trump tweeted congratulating America for being in “the second year of the greatest Witch Hunt in American History,” using his exasperated pet name for the probe into the Trump campaign and Russian interference in the 2016 election.

While Trump cited former federal prosecutor Andrew McCarthy — who was interviewed on “Fox and Friends” Thursday morning — in his tweet, the New York Times reported Wednesday afternoon that “at least one” government informant met with Trump campaign national security advisers Carter Page and George Papadopolous several times during the 2016 campaign.

The meetings were reportedly part of the FBI’s efforts to determine whether Trump’s campaign was colluding with Russia ahead of the election, according to the Times.

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President Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen has reportedly confided in friends that he’s at his wit’s end with federal investigations into his business dealings, Vanity Fair reported Wednesday.

According to two people familiar with Cohen’s thinking who spoke to Vanity Fair, Cohen is “fuming” over Stormy Daniels’ attorney Michael Avenatti’s release of information about his bank records and has grown weary of all the news coverage surrounding his attempts to sell access to Trump after the 2016 election. Cohen has reportedly confided in friends that he “just can’t take this anymore” and is focused on protecting his family, whom he thinks is suffering because federal investigators want to get to Trump, a friend told Vanity Fair.

Despite his exasperation over the probe, he spends hours every day with his lawyers reading through documents that the government has returned to him after the FBI raided his house, hotel and office last month and has told friends, “I’m not going to roll over.”

Cohen has been bombarded with headlines in recent weeks, ever since the FBI seized documents related to his business dealings and a $130,000 payment he made — and Trump reimbursed — to porn actress Stormy Daniels to keep her quiet about an alleged affair she had with Trump a decade ago. The barrage continued after Avenatti released information related to payments Cohen received from companies like Novartis and AT&T in 2017. Most of the businesses confirmed they made deals with Cohen in order to gain access to Trump.

Read Vanity Fair’s full report here.

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A man who served as a translator for Michael Cohen while he brokered a deal with Korean Aerospace Industries was recently interviewed by the FBI, signaling federal investigators are interested in the the $150,000 payment Cohen received from the company, according to the Washington Post.

The translator, Mark Ko, who lives in California, told the Post that he had been interviewed by FBI agents about the contract “a few weeks ago,” but would not provide details about the interviews. Ko told the Post that he didn’t know if the agents were members of special counsel Robert Mueller’s team.

Korean Aerospace Industries is one of several companies — like AT&T and drug company Novartis — that’s been questioned by federal authorities over its payments to President Donald Trump’s personal attorney after the 2016 election. AT&T and Novartis have both confirmed they went into business with Cohen, through his shadow consulting company Essential Consultants, because Cohen sold them access to Trump and his policy makers.

Novartis paid Cohen $1.2 million over the course of a year and AT&T spent $600,000 to work with Cohen. Both companies have expressed regret for the decision and have ousted top executives over the matter.

The South Korean aerospace company, on the other hand, has defended its contract with Cohen, saying it didn’t know about Cohen’s relationship with Trump and went into business with him to get legal advice on U.S. accounting procedures.

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During his time as vice president of Cambridge Analytica, former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon attempted to use the company’s political ad targeting technology to suppress the African American vote, Cambridge Analytica whistleblower Christopher Wylie told the Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday.

“One of the things that provoked me to leave was discussions about ‘voter disengagement’ and the idea of targeting African Americans,” he said during his testimony, according to the Guardian.

Under Bannon’s leadership, the company targeted Facebook posts at African Americans reminding them of comments that Hillary Clinton had made in the 1990s calling young black people “super predators” to try to keep them from voting, according to the Guardian.

Bannon, along with billionaire Robert Mercer, wanted to use the targeted advertisement technology as part of an “arsenal of weapons to fight a culture war,” Wylie said Wednesday. Wylie, who was the first to sound the alarm on Cambridge Analytica’s use of private data from millions of Facebook users, said he had documents to back up his claims.

Read the Guardian’s full report here. 

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President Donald Trump on Wednesday resorted to his usual waffling when asked whether the summit with North Korea was still set, despite threats from leader Kim Jong-Un to pull out.

“We will have to see,” he said, amid shouted questions from reporters during a photo opportunity with the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan in the Oval Office. “We haven’t seen anything, we haven’t heard anything. We will see what happens. … Time will tell.”

Earlier this week, Kim threatened to abandon the denuclearization talks if the U.S. continues to push North Korea “into a corner” with unilateral denuclearization demands.

Watch Trump below:

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