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

Key allies of President Donald Trump on the House Judiciary Committee, Reps. Andy Biggs (R-AZ), Ron DeSantis (R-FL) and Matt Gaetz (R-FL) have asked the Justice Department to hand over all unrevised drafts of the inspector general report that was released Thursday, amid concerns that “people may have changed the report in a way that obfuscates your findings.”

The letter to DOJ IG Michael Horowitz argues that lawmakers should have the opportunity to review the drafts because members of the Justice Department reviewed the report before it was made public and were allowed to respond or dispute any of the allegations made against them.

We are concerned that during this time, people may have changed the report in a way that obfuscates your findings,” they wrote. “Unfortunately, over the past year, the DOJ has repeatedly fought requests by Congress to produce documents related to this investigation, and when the DOJ actually provided documents, the materials have been heavily redacted. Past and present DOJ officials have asserted security concerns, even though the documents we have seen do not legitimately contain these issues.”

The lawmakers are referencing Republican lawmakers efforts to obtain documents from the Justice Department about the launch of the Russia probe, pointing to the FBI’s deployment of a government informant to meet with Trump campaign officials as evidence of a “deep state” bias against Trump within the agency. The Justice Department was attempting to protect the identity of an agent by sharing redacted material, but eventually opted to meet with a small group of lawmakers to discuss the classified information.

In the letter, the lawmakers said they have every reason to believe the IG report — which detailed the FBI’s handling of the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s emails — is “thorough and accurate,” but asserted that “the trust of the American people depends on it.”

The more than 500-page report released Thursday divulged, among many things, that while former FBI director James Comey’s actions in the reopening of the Clinton probe did not follow typical FBI protocol, he was not politically motivated.

H/t: The Washington Post

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The White House took a firm stance on Rudy Giuliani’s romantic affairs on Thursday.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders deflected on questions from Daily Mail editor David Martosko about President Donald Trump’s lawyer’s relationship status and whether Giuliani has become too much of a “distraction” to serve as a lawyer to the President.

“I’m not today, or tomorrow, or at any point ever going to comment on Rudy Giuliani’s love life,” she said. “I will be glad to leave that to you and the reporter that spoke with him.”

Several media outlets reported this week that Giuliani’s divorce from his third wife was fueled by an affair he was having with a married woman in New Hampshire.

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Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the new Justice Department inspector general’s report on the FBI’s handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of private emails in 2016 reveals a “number of significant errors” by the those in leadership at the Justice Department under former President Barack Obama’s administration.

“The Inspector General’s report reveals a number of significant errors by the senior leadership of the Department of Justice and the FBI during the previous administration,” Sessions said in a statement, according to CNN. “Accordingly, this report must be seen as an opportunity for the FBI — long considered the world’s premier investigative agency — and all of us at the Department to learn from past mistakes. The Department is not above criticism, and it is accountable to the Chief Executive, Congress, and most importantly, the American people.” 

The highly anticipated IG report came out Thursday afternoon, revealing that former FBI director James Comey conduct in 2016 was “insubordinate” but not politically motivated.

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Former FBI Director James Comey frequently used his personal email account for official FBI business, according to the Department of Justice Inspector General report on the FBI’s handling of the Hillary Clinton probe.

The Clinton investigation, of course, hinged on the former secretary of state’s use of her personal email account for official — and sometimes classified — business.

In Comey’s case, he regularly used his personal email to conduct unclassified FBI business, which was found to be inconsistent with DOJ policy, according to the report. The report cites five instances in which Comey forwarded emails from his work account to his personal account. Those emails included sensitive documents, such as requests from the special counsel’s office, all-staff messages and drafts of the opening statements he planned to make during his March 2017 testimony before the House Intelligence Committee.

When asked about his use of private email, Comey said it had to do with a technical issue — he didn’t have an unclassified FBI connection at home. He said he did it infrequently and took pains to follow records-keeping laws.

Because it was incidental and I was always making sure that the work got forwarded to the government account to either my own account or Rybicki, so I wasn’t worried from a record-keeping perspective and it was, because there will always be a copy of it in the FBI system and I wasn’t doing classified work there, so I wasn’t concerned about that,” Comey told IG investigators.

Two other FBI officials who have found themselves at the center of accusations of an anti-Trump bias within the FBI — Lisa Page and Peter Strzok — used their personal accounts for work as well. Strzok used his personal email on “several occasions,” including forwarding an email from his work account to his personal account that contained records related to the investigation into disgraced former New York lawmaker Anthony Weiner that were “under seal at the time.”

Page told IG investigators that she also used her personal account for work, but both she and Strzok cited restraints associated with FBI issued cellphones as rationale for using the private accounts.

Page said that she was regularly frustrated by the lack of an autocorrect function on the FBI devices, which was the “bane of literally every agent of the FBI’s existence.”

[I]n particular, the autocorrect function is the bane of literally every agent of the FBI’s existence because those of us who care about spelling and punctuation, which I realize is a nerdy thing to do, makes us crazy because it takes legitimate words that are spelled correctly and autocorrects them into gobbledygook,” she said. “And so, it is not uncommon for either one of us to just either switch to our personal phones or, or in this case, where it was going to be a, a fairly substantive thing that he was writing, to just save ourselves the trouble of not doing it on our Samsungs. Because they are horrible and super-frustrating.”

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A new exchange of text messages between FBI officials, included in an upcoming Justice Department Inspector General report on the FBI’s handling of the Hillary Clinton probe, shows one of the agents said “we’ll stop” President Donald Trump from reaching the White House.

The new texts, obtained by the Washington Post, are part of a trove of messages exchanged between Peter Strzok, a lead FBI investigator and Lisa Page, an FBI lawyer that were highly critical of Trump during the 2016 election.

Trump’s “not ever going to become president, right? Right?!” Page wrote.

“No. No he won’t. We’ll stop it,” Strzok responded, according to the Post report.

While Strzok did eventually work as an investigator in special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe — and was removed from the investigation once Mueller found the messages — he was working on the Clinton email probe at the time he sent the text to Page.

Strzok even had a significant role in reopening the Clinton investigation just weeks before the 2016 election– he co-wrote the first draft of former FBI director James Comey’s letter to Congress announcing he was reopening the investigation.

Democrats blame that letter and Comey’s announcement for Clinton’s loss to Trump.

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The Justice Department inspector general found a “troubling” lack of “substantive communication” between former FBI director James Comey and former Attorney General Loretta Lynch ahead of Comey’s decision to reopen the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails just before the 2016 election, according to Bloomberg.

In an excerpt of the highly anticipated DOJ inspector general, published by Bloomberg, that looks at the FBI’s activity ahead of the 2016 election, DOJ IG Micheal Horowitz said he found the lack of communication between the two parties to be “extraordinary.”

“We found it extraordinary that, in advance of two such consequential decisions, the FBI director decided that the best course of conduct was to not speak directly and substantively with the attorney general about how best to navigate those decisions,” Horowitz said.

Comey announced he had closed the Clinton probe in July 2016 and then reopened it in October of that year, a move Democrats claim cost them the election.

Lynch did not recuse herself from the Clinton email probe, but told Comey at the time that she would agree with his findings, as Bloomberg notes. The former attorney general was heavily criticized — especially by President Donald Trump — for privately meeting with former President Bill Clinton on her plane in June 2016. The two have maintained that the investigation was not discussed.

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Text messages critical of President Donald Trump that were exchanged between two FBI officials who were working on special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation “cast a cloud over the entire FBI investigation,” Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz said in the forthcoming report Thursday, according to Bloomberg.

In an excerpt of the DOJ IG report — published by Bloomberg — that’s set to be released later Thursday afternoon, Horowitz said that he did not find any evidence that the messages exchanged between Peter Strzok and Lisa Page directly affected the investigation.

“We did not find documentary or testimonial evidence that improper considerations, including political bias, directly affected the specific investigative actions we reviewed,” Horowitz said. “The conduct by these employees cast a cloud over the entire FBI investigation.”

Once the texts were discovered, Mueller removed Strzok from the Russia probe and Page is no longer at the FBI. Trump and his Republican allies in Congress have pointed to the texts as proof of an anti-Trump bias within the FBI.

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President Donald Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani on Wednesday evening did his best to downplay reports that Michael Cohen may flip on Trump in order to avoid arrest for a score of possible financial crimes.

Appearing on Laura Ingraham’s “Ingraham Angle” on Fox Wednesday, Giuliani said he “checked into this last night” when asked about reports that Cohen’s worried about getting arrested and said “it’s not so” that the longtime Trump fixer is cooperating with authorities.

“He’s not cooperating, nor do we care because the President did nothing wrong,” Giuliani said. “We’re very comfortable, if he cooperates there’s nothing he can cooperate about with regard to President Trump.”

On Wednesday, several news outlets reported that Cohen has told friends that he’s anxious he could be arrested at any time. Cohen denied those reports.

ABC also reported Wednesday that Cohen’s lawyers are gearing up to ditch their client, who hasn’t been charged but is being investigated for potential finance crimes, including tax fraud and campaign finance violations.

In April the FBI raided Cohen’s house, hotel and office, seizing a slew of documents, including records related to a $130,000 payment he made to porn actress Stormy Daniels as part of a non-disclosure agreement to keep her quiet about an alleged affair with Trump a decade ago.

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After responding to his victory rally crowd’s “lock her up” chants by saying it “might just happen,” the Republican Senate candidate who won the GOP primary in Virginia on Tuesday evening, Corey Stewart, again suggested that his opponent should be jailed.

During a turbulent interview with CNN’s Chris Cuomo on Wednesday night, Stewart suggested that his opponent, Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) was at the “center” of reports that a government informant was deployed to meet with members of the Trump campaign to probe their contacts with Russian officials at the start of what we now consider the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. President Donald Trump, Stewart —who claims he won because he fully aligned himself with Trump — and other far-right Republicans have seized on reports of the informant as evidence that a spy was sent to infiltrate Trump’s campaign. The President himself has dubbed the whole ordeal “spygate.”

“I’ll tell you something, I really do believe that Tim Kaine has been at the center of all this stuff that you’re seeing with regard to the FBI, you know, the whole problem is having the FBI spying by federal agency on a presidential campaign,” Stewart told Cuomo, who interrupted him to say there was “no proof” to back up his allegations.

Stewart shot back: “We’re not in a court of law are we?”

“That doesn’t mean the truth doesn’t apply, my brother,” Cuomo said.

Stewart then repeated his claim that Kaine and the entire commonwealth of Virginia were at the “center” of the informant controversy.

I would not be surprised if there’s an investigation of Tim Kaine before the year is out,” Stewart said. “Look, here’s the question, at the end of the day people have to ask themselves, what has Tim Kaine accomplished in his six years in the United States Senate? Tim Kaine can’t point to a single accomplishment in the United States Senate for Virginia or Virginians. The only thing that Tim Kaine has done in the past six years is run for vice president, and he didn’t even do a very good job at that, I might add.” 

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Last summer, White House counsel Don McGahn recused his whole office from special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe because many of the lawyers in his office had been “significant participants” in incidents that were at the center of Mueller’s investigation, former White House attorney Ty Cobb said Wednesday.

At a panel discussion at George Mason University, which Politico covered, Cobb said the White House made the decision because McGahn’s lawyers were heavily involved in the ousting of former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and FBI Director James Comey. McGahn’s recusal was part of the rationale for hiring Cobb to join the legal team, where his role was to deliver the official White House response to the Russia probe.

While McGahn and at least two of his aides have reportedly been interviewed by Mueller, it has not yet been reported that the entire White House legal team had been recused from Mueller’s probe.

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