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

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit in California has ordered the appointment of a private attorney to oppose former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s attempts to wipe his criminal contempt of court conviction from his record after President Donald Trump pardoned him in August.

In October, Arpaio — who is also running for Senate in Arizona to fill Sen. Jeff Flake’s (R-AZ) seat  appealed a ruling from a local court that blocked him from clearing his record of the conviction. The Arizona district court at the time requested the Department of Justice’s support in upholding its ruling, but the DOJ refused to defend the decision from Judge Susan Bolton. 

In a statement to the U.S. appeals court, Acting Assistant Attorney General John Cronan said in December that the DOJ doesn’t intend to defend the court’s order.

“The government intends to argue, as it did in the district court, that the motion to vacate should have been granted,” Cronan wrote in December.

That move propelled a group of non-profits to file a request with California’s 9th Circuit Court to appoint a private attorney to defend the Arizona court’s decision, since the Department of Justice “abandoned its prosecution,” a spokesperson for one of the non-profits, Protect Democracy told TPM Tuesday. The other groups included in the request: Free Speech for People, the Coalition to Preserve, Protect and Defend, and the Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center.

The request was approved under the Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure Rule 42, the spokesperson said.

The group is also hoping to give the court the opportunity to assess whether Trump’s pardon of Arpaio was constitutional.

“This pardon infringes on the constitutional rights of private litigants and the power of courts to uphold the Constitution, and so is outside the President’s constitutional authority,” Protect Democracy’s legal director Justin Florence told TPM in a statement Tuesday.

Trump pardoned Arpaio in August after he was convicted for violating court orders that barred his office from conducting discriminatory policing practices.

The conviction came after Arpaio was sued for discriminatory practices, with the suit claiming that Arpaio’s department intentionally targeted and detained Latinos living in his county. His office was issued a court order to halt the racially discriminatory traffic stops, but he refused to change the department’s policing tactics.

Arpaio was set to be sentenced for the conviction in October, but was spared from a possible prison sentence with Trump’s pardon.

Arpaio then moved to clear his criminal record, which Bolton, the local Arizona judge, denied.

Read the order from the 9th Circuit court below:

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly identified the location of the 9th Circuit Court. It is in California, not New York.

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The parents of two children killed in the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut have filed a lawsuit against Infowars’ Alex Jones for asserting over the past six years that the elementary school massacre was fake and that the parents were “crisis actors.”

HuffPost reported on Tuesday that father Neil Heslin and parents Leonard Pozner and Veronique De La Rosa have filed separate defamation suits against Jones in Texas, where he records Infowars, his conspiracy theorist-focused show. Each suit names Jones, Infowars and Free Speech Systems LLC as defendants, and both plaintiffs are seeking more than $1 million in damages, according to HuffPost.

Jones and Infowars reporter Owen Shroyer have attempted to discredit the parents of the victims for years, claiming the attack was faked and the parents were actors. They have even accused CNN of using a green screen to cover the aftermath of the massacre.

This isn’t the first time Jones has been sued for making false claims against witnesses and victims of massacres in the U.S.

Jones and Infowars are currently embroiled in a civil suit for falsely claiming last year that the man who recorded the deadly car attack at the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia was a “deep state shill” and working for the CIA. The attorney representing one of the Sandy Hook families is also suing Jones on behalf of the 24-year-old man who Jones falsely identified as the shooter at a high school in Parkland, Florida in February. In that massacre, a former student allegedly opened fire at the school and killed 17 people.

Far-right media followed Jones’ lead in the aftermath of the Parkland high school shooting. As high school student survivors spoke out after the attack, sparking national uproar over lax gun policy laws in Florida and across the U.S., far-right conspiracists called the students “crisis actors” and claimed they were being paid by the left to advocate for gun control policy.

The criticism even drifted mainstream, when Fox News host Laura Ingraham mocked one of the student survivors for not getting into college. Ingraham later apologized, but only after advertisers started pulling from her show.

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President Donald Trump has become increasingly anxious about the documents that were seized in a raid of his personal attorney’s home, office and hotel last week and continues to lash out, lamenting the “overreach” of the seizure, The Associated Press reported. 

According to the AP’s sources, Trump and his allies are concerned that the raid will expose Trump, his close circle of associates and his children. Trump’s inner circle is also worried that Michael Cohen will ditch Trump to save himself.

While Cohen has not been charged with a crime, Cohen reportedly told an AP source that he is aware that prison time could be a potential outcome of the case and he has expressed concern for his family.

Michael Avenatti, the attorney for porn actress Stormy Daniels who is suing the President for not signing his part of a non-disclosure agreement reportedly meant to keep her quiet about her affair with Trump, suggested Monday that Cohen will likely give up his defense of Trump.   

The fact that the raid was prompted by a referral from special counsel Robert Mueller also has Trump up in arms, according to the AP, as Trump has publicly and privately expressed outrage over Mueller’s Russia probe — or “witch hunt” as he labels it— since it launched more than a year ago.

Read the full AP report here. 

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Hundreds of “proud alumni of the United States Department of Justice,” who served under multiple administrations, have signed a petition to protect special counsel Robert Mueller, deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and other Justice Department officials from getting fired by “the President or others.”

In a letter posted on Medium, the group said they were “deeply disturbed by the attacks” that President Donald Trump and many of his allies have levied against the Justice Department and Mueller’s probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Not only is it an insult to their public service, but any attempt to corrupt or undermine the even-handed application of the rule of law threatens the foundation of our Republic,” the 500-plus former officials said in the letter.

“We know the people who serve at the Department will bravely weather these attacks and continue to uphold their oaths by doing only what the law dictates,” the letter continued. “Should the President take such a step, we call on Congress to swiftly and forcefully respond to protect the founding principles of our Republic and the rule of law.”

The letter follows the introduction of legislation last week, sponsored by a bipartisan group of lawmakers, that would shield Mueller from termination as he conducts his investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election and the Trump campaign.

On Monday a House Democrat, Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) on CNN pushed for the legislation to move to the House floor for a vote in order to force Trump’s hand in making “a real decision rather than benefitting from members saying what they are or are not going to do.”

Some Republicans have been just as forceful in their attempts to warn Trump against making such a move. Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) said last week it would be “suicide” for Trump to fire the special counsel.

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President Donald Trump dismissed former FBI Director James Comey’s attacks on Monday by claiming Comey and former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe had “committed many crimes!”

In his tweet, Trump was likely referencing Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), and Comey’s May 2017 testimony when he told Grassley that he had never been an anonymous source to the news media. Trump has called out Comey for this incident before, like after McCabe released a statement last month, claiming that Comey knew that McCabe had authorized an agent to speak anonymously to a reporter in 2016.

However, during the Senate hearing in May, Grassley asked if Comey had ever been an anonymous source or authorized someone else to do the same, not if Comey knew anyone else who had been an anonymous source, as Trump argued.

Trump attempted on Monday to discredit Comey by aligning him with his ongoing narrative of attacks on the FBI for having — as he perceives it — a bias against him. Trump has attacked McCabe repeatedly in the past and claims McCabe had an anti-Trump bias in his handling of the investigation into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server. McCabe was fired last month just hours before he was set to retire from the FBI following a report from the Justice Department’s inspector general, which reportedly claimed a lack of candor on McCabe’s part.

In his first interview with the media since Trump fired him in May, Comey outlined his conversations with the President on a variety of topics— like when Trump reportedly demanded his loyalty in the Russia probe and asked him to investigate claims made in the famous Christopher Steele dossier about Trump and prostitutes in Moscow. Comey said Trump was “morally unfit” to be president and suggested it was “possible” the Russian government had damaging information on Trump.

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President Donald Trump’s personal attorney used the same limited-liability company to make payments to porn actress Stormy Daniels and an unnamed former Playboy model who was impregnated by a top GOP fundraiser, the Wall Street Journal reported Sunday.

Elliott Broidy, the deputy finance chairman for the Republican National Committee who has close ties to Trump, has paid Essential Consultants LLC $250,000, the sum of his fee to Trump attorney Michael Cohen for negotiating a nondisclosure agreement related to an affair Broidy reportedly had with the former Playboy model.

The Wall Street Journal was first to report on the $1.6 million agreement between the former model and Broidy. Broidy later resigned from his RNC job.

Cohen also used Essential Consultants to pay Daniels $130,000 — just 12 days before the 2016 election — to keep quiet about an alleged affair with Trump. Trump and Cohen have both claimed that Trump knew nothing about the agreement.

Daniels has sued Trump for not signing the nondisclosure agreement between the two of them, claiming its null.

Read the WSJ’s full report here.

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Former FBI Director James Comey on Sunday said it was “possible” that the Russian government may “have something” compromising information on President Donald Trump, given the President’s reluctance to criticize Vladimir Putin.

During an interview with ABC News aired Sunday, Comey admitted it was a “stunning” thing to say about the President, but he said he couldn’t rule it out.

“It always struck me and still strikes me as unlikely, and I would have been able to say with high confidence about any other president I dealt with, but I can’t,” he said. “It is stunning and I wish wasn’t saying it, but it’s the truth.”

Comey, whom Trump fired in May, gave his first interview since his ouster last May as part a publicity tour for new book, set for release Tuesday.

 

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Former FBI Director James Comey said on Sunday that his belief that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would win the 2016 election played a role in how he handled the FBI’s probe of her use of a private email server when she was working for the Obama administration.

Comey cleared Clinton of any criminal charges in July 2016, but told Congress just days before the 2016 election that the FBI was looking at additional Clinton emails. He said Sunday he didn’t consciously make the decision to protect Clinton from being an “illegitimate” president if she were elected, but told ABC News Sunday that that rationale must have played a role in his decision to announce the email review. In early November 2016, he told Congress that the email review did not require any further action.

“I don’t remember consciously thinking about that, but it must have been,” he said, responding to questions about his motivation for the additional review. “I don’t remember consciously thinking about that, but it must have been. I was operating in a world where Hillary Clinton was going to beat Donald Trump. I’m sure that it was a factor. I don’t remember spelling it out, but it had to have been. That she’s going to be elected president, and if I hide this from the American people, she’ll be illegitimate the moment she’s elected, the moment this comes out.”

Clinton has said in the past that Comey’s letter to Congress in October 2016, announcing the reopening of the email investigation, was part of the reason she lost the election. Former Clinton campaign Manager Robby Mook told CNN on Monday that it was helpful to learn the truth.

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In his first interview since President Donald Trump fired him, former FBI Director James Comey said Trump was “morally unfit” to be President, but stopped short of calling for his impeachment.

“I don’t buy this stuff about him being mentally incompetent or early stages of dementia,” he told ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos Sunday evening. “He strikes me as a person of above average intelligence who’s tracking conversations and knows what’s going on. I don’t think he’s medically unfit to be president. I think he’s morally unfit to be president.”

Comey went on to list of series of actions he thought were improprieties by the President: the “moral equivalence in Charlottesville,” Trump’s treatment of women as “pieces of meat,” his “lies” about “matters big and small and insists the American people believe it.”

“I don’t care what your views are on guns or immigration or taxes. There’s something more important than that that should unite all of us, and that is our President must embody respect and adhere to the values that are at the core of this country,” he said. “The most important being truth. This President is not able to do that. He is morally unfit to be President.”

Despite his moral opposition to the President, Comey said impeaching Trump would “let the American people off the hook” and “short circuit” their duty to vote.

“People in this country need to stand up and go to the voting booth and vote their values,” he said. “We’ll fight about guns. We’ll fight about about taxes. We’ll fight about all those other things down the road. But you cannot have, as president of the United States, someone who does not reflect the values that I believe Republicans treasure and Democrats treasure and Independents treasure. That is the core of this country. That’s our foundation. And so impeachment, in a way, would short circuit that.”

Trump has not responded since the entire ABC News interview aired, but unloaded on Comey in a series of tweets Sunday calling Comey “not smart!” and the “WORST FBI Director in history, by far!”

Comey’s highly-anticipated interview with ABC was the launch of his publicity tour for his book release, officially set for Tuesday. 

Watch a clip of Comey’s comments below:

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