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

In his first press briefing as the new White House communications director, Anthony Scaramucci pushed back on questions from reporters about getting the White House back on track after the shakeup in the communications shop.

“I’m going to take a slight issue with the question because I actually think the White House is on track and we’re actually, I think, doing a really good job,” he said. “We have a whole list of things, and I didn’t want to come out here with our list of accomplishments and start a whole advertisement infomercial right now. I wanted to talk about personnel movement and how we’re thinking about things. But I think we’re doing an amazing job.”

He said he spoke with President Donald Trump earlier Friday about “letting him be himself” and “express his full identity” when it comes to communicating with the public over social media.

“I think he’s got some of the best political instincts in the world, and perhaps in history. If you think about it, he started his political ascent two years and two months ago, and he’s done a phenomenal job for the American people. And the people I grew up with, they so identify with the President and they love him and so we’re going to get that message out,” he said.

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In his first remarks as White House director of communications, Anthony Scaramucci announced that Sarah Huckabee Sanders will take over as head press secretary, following Sean Spicer’s resignation.

Sanders previously served as deputy White House press secretary.

Spicer’s resignation was announced as news broke that Scaramucci had been hired as the director of communications, a position that had been vacant since Mike Dubke resigned in May.

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Anthony Scaramucci has been a supporter of President Donald Trump since at least the spring of 2016, based on his Twitter timeline.

But the New York financier, who has been tapped to be the new White House director of communications, wasn’t always a supporter of the President.

In a since-deleted tweet, caught by Independent Journal Review reporter Josh Billinson, Scaramucci called the Trump campaign a “spectacle.”

The newest member of the Trump administration, who previously served as a campaign fundraiser for the President, showed early signs of support for Trump’s Democratic opponent during the 2016 election, tweeting in April 2012 “I hope she runs, she is incredibly competent.

He also tweeted his support of then-presidential candidate Jeb Bush in October 2015, saying he would make a “great president.”

Despite tweeting recently that he supported Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord, Scaramucci is apparently not a climate change denier. In March 2016, he said it was “disheartening” that many people still think climate change is a “hoax.” In December, however, he was more skeptical of the issue.

He also appeared to show some support for former Massachusetts governor and presidential candidate Mitt Romney, calling him a “true statesman” in 2013 and asking whether anyone questioned that Russia was a “legitimate threat” to U.S. interests.

Scaramucci has publicly acknowledged that he’s donated to Republican and Democratic campaigns, confirming on Twitter that he had donated to the Trump campaign as well as to Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), former President Barack Obama and former presidential candidate and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

In 2012, the new communications director tweeted his support of gun control legislation saying the U.S. has “5% of the world’s population, but 50% of the world’s guns. Enough is enough.”

Scaramucci was thrust into the spotlight recently when CNN retracted a story it had published claiming Scaramucci was under investigation as part of the probe into whether Russia interfered in the 2016 election. As soon as the story broke, Scaramucci denied the claims and later tweeted that he accepted the network’s apology.

Falling in line with the President and his allies, Scaramucci often attacks the media on Twitter, and recently promoted the Conservative News Report as a “less biased media.”

He often appears on Fox News as a political analyst and is close friends with the President’s son, Donald Trump Jr., who is at the center of the Russia investigation after publishing emails that indicate he took a meeting with a Russian lawyer on the premise of getting harmful information on Hillary Clinton.

He also stopped by the White House at the end of June, for a “great meeting” with the President.

But he may not be the biggest fan of the President’s policies, though. In December 2015 he tweeted “Walls don’t work” alongside a photo of the Berlin Wall, referencing Trump’s campaign promise to build a wall along the border of the U.S. and Mexico to address illegal immigration issues.

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Amid reports that the President’s legal team is looking into conflicts of interest among members of special counsel Robert Mueller’s team, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway pointed to reports from June that said three members of Mueller’s team had given political donations exclusively to Democrats.

That’s information America needs to know about, Conway said, making an appearance on “Fox and Friends” Friday.

“I think the information you just shared is relevant information for America to have,” Conway said, responding to questions from host Ainsley Earhardt about the reported donations. “People should know what folks’ pasts and motivations and political motivations are. These weren’t minor donations as I have said on this show and elsewhere before, under a hill of criticism. These are significant donations by members of that team. They clearly wanted the other person to win.”

Between the three lawyers, a total of $56,000 has been donated to Democrats in the past three decades. Two of the lawyers gave a $2,700 donation to Hillary Clinton during the 2016 campaign, according to a CNN report that looked at Federal Election Commission records.

Conway said it wasn’t clear whether that information will impact the investigation.

“Whether that prejudices them one way or the other in the investigation remains to be seen. But it is relevant information for people to have,” she said.

The reports about the President’s legal team digging into conflicts associated with members of Mueller’s investigative group come after Mueller reportedly decided to start looking into President Donald Trump’s financial dealings.

Conway said Mueller needs to reevaluate why the investigation was launched in the first place.

“The question is what was the purpose of this investigation? In the first place? Russia. The President said to the New York Times less than two days ago, ‘We don’t make money in Russia. We don’t have hotels in Russia.’ He had a Miss Universe Pageant there eight or nine years ago,” she said.

The Miss Universe pageant was actually in 2013.

“They were promised, we were promised, if what Hillary Clinton said is true, where is the evidence of that? The interference affected the electoral outcome. Hillary Clinton affected the electoral outcome,” she said.

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White House adviser Kellyanne Conway, who served as campaign manager for Donald Trump, said she didn’t have to look very hard to find “damaging negative information” on their opponent, Hillary Clinton.

“I didn’t have to look any further than Hillary Clinton when I wanted damaging, negative information on Hillary Clinton. It was all there. She was a walking, talking, treasure trove of negative information,” Conway said, appearing on “Fox and Friends” Friday.

Conway’s comments come in the wake of news about a June 2016 meeting between Donald Trump Jr. and a Kremlin-linked lawyer amid promises of damaging information about Clinton as part of a Russian government effort to aid the Trump campaign. Then-campaign chair Paul Manafort and Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner also attended the meeting.

On July 11, Trump Jr. published a chain of emails that outlined the lead-up to the meeting.

The emails reveal Trump Jr. was promised damaging information about Clinton as part of the Russian government’s efforts to help his father’s campaign. All three Trump associates involved in the meeting have been asked to speak before the Senate committees looking into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

Trump Jr. and Manafort are scheduled to appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee on July 26 and Kushner will will speak to the Senate Intelligence Committee on Monday.

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President Donald Trump’s recently reshuffled legal team is looking at what authority the President has to grant pardons, as it relates to the investigation into Russia meddling with the U.S. election, according to The Washington Post.

Trump himself has asked about his authority when it comes to pardoning his staffers and family members — and even himself. But an adviser told The Washington Post that the questions were posed out of curiosity, not necessarily as it relates to the Russia probe.

“This is not in the context of, ‘I can’t wait to pardon myself,’” one adviser told the Post.

The legal team is also conducting background research on special counsel Robert Mueller and his staff, looking for potential conflicts of interest as a way to discredit the investigation and potentially justify firing Mueller.

The news comes just a few days after the President declared it would be a “violation” for Mueller to dig into his family’s finances. A day later, Bloomberg reported Mueller would be investigating  a number of Russia-related business transactions the President has conducted in recent years.

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Responding to reports that the President’s legal team is trying to discredit special counsel Robert Mueller, who is leading the Russia probe, Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) said the move falls in line with President Donald Trump’s “brash and forthcoming” style.

“I listened to your guest from ‘The Washington Post,’ I thought she put it perfectly,” Cassidy said on CNN Friday. “She goes, ‘Yes this is what Bill Clinton did, this is standard operating procedure,’ but then she said, ‘What is at issue here is his style.’ One thing we have to acknowledge, President Trump has his own style. And she said ‘it’s brash, it’s more forthcoming.’ Hey, has anybody looked at Trump for the last 70 years? He is brash and forthcoming. So I’m not sure the strategy is at issue, rather style. I cut the guy slack on style.”

When asked how he would respond if the President fired Mueller, Cassidy wouldn’t answer, because he said the CNN host was being “hypothetical.” But Cassidy defended Trump, saying he doesn’t always do the things he talks about doing.

“So, again, you have a sense that the President, when he thinks a thought, it is quickly on his lips. Now, any of us in such a situation would ponder ‘what if, what if, what if, what if,’ but we may choose not to say,” he said. “The President almost always chooses to say and sometimes a tweet.”

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A member of the Senate Judiciary Committee said reports that the President’s legal team is trying to delegitimize special counsel Robert Mueller, who is leading the Russia probe, is a “standard tactic” for lawyers.

But if the digging for a conflict of interest leads to the President firing Mueller, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) said he would personally lead the effort to launch an investigation.

“I am very confident that Bob Mueller is going to pursue this investigation vigorously and fairly. There will be a firestorm reaction,” he told CNN, responding to questions  about what might happen if President Donald Trump fired Mueller. “And I would lead an effort to legislate a special counsel, as was done during Watergate, perhaps appointed by a three-judge panel. Let’s remember, we’re very far from a conclusion about obstruction of justice, but there needs to be a full, fair, vigorous investigation here.”

Blumenthal said comments Trump made during an interview with the New York Times — saying it would be a “violation” if Mueller started digging into his family’s finances — “verges on potential obstruction of justice” when “combined, perhaps, with other things he’s done,” like firing former FBI director James Comey.

“Trying to draw lines, red lines or boundaries, or put certain subjects off-limits and then intimidating or threatening a prosecutor, if it’s the President of the United States, I think verges on potential obstruction of justice,” he said. “If it’s the President of the United States, with that tremendous power he has, raises very severe legal questions.”

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On Wednesday, the President aired his grievances with special counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating Russian meddling in the U.S. election, suggesting to the New York Times that it would be a “violation” if Mueller started looking into his family’s finances.

On Thursday, it came to light that Mueller would, in fact, be taking a look at a number of Russia-related business transactions the President has conducted in recent years.

By Thursday evening, President Donald Trump’s legal team spokesperson resigned — after just two months in the position — confirming reports that there may be some reshuffling on the President’s legal team as the Mueller investigation continues to swirl.

Spokesman Mark Corallo resigned Thursday evening after growing frustrated with the legal team’s operations and concerned about whether he was being told the truth, according to reports from Politico, CNN and the New York Times. Corallo, who has publicly praised Mueller for his credibility, told an unnamed Politico source that there was “too much fighting all the time” and he no longer needed the money.

The resignation follows reports that the President hired veteran Washington lawyer Ty Cobb to handle all media questions on the Russia investigation and that Trump’s longtime personal lawyer Marc Kasowitz — who has represented Trump for years on a number of issues — may be moving into a diminished role on the legal team.

Last week, the New York Times reported that Trump and Kasowitz have clashed over the Russia probe.

Kasowitz will no longer be leading the team’s legal strategy, according to CNN and Politico. That will now be handled by attorneys John Dowd and Jay Sekulow. Dowd, a veteran D.C. lawyer, will take the lead on the case, according to the Times. Sekulow, a frequent Trump booster in TV interviews, will be Dowd’s No. 2, according to the Times.

The move comes as Kasowitz faces scrutiny over ProPublica reports on his poor behavior outside of work and profane emails he sent to a stranger.

The legal team’s strategy will reportedly now go on the offensive against Mueller and the Russia probe, with plans to look into the backgrounds of Mueller’s team to find conflicts of interest that they could use to discredit or fire the special counsel.   

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President Donald Trump’s chief counterterrorism adviser said Thursday it’s “pretty clear” that the Russian government tried to interfere in the 2016 presidential election and that he didn’t think the former President Barack Obama administration went far enough to deal with the hack.

“There’s a pretty clear and easy answer to this and it’s yes,” Thomas Bossert said when asked about Russian interference in the election while at the National Security Forum in Aspen, Politico reported.

The comment stands in stark contrast to statements the President has made over the past year. Trump has repeatedly questioned claims from 17 U.S. intelligence officials that the Russian government interfered in the election.

Recently while in Poland ahead of the G-20 summit, the President said during a press conference that the U.S. would never fully know if Russia acted alone in hacking the election.

“I think it was Russia. And I think it could have been other people and other countries. It could have been a lot of people interfered,” Trump said at the time. “I said it very simply. I think it could very well have been Russia. But I think it could well have been other countries. And I won’t be specific. But I think a lot of people interfere.”

He later reportedly pressed Russian President Vladimir Putin about the election interference, which Putin denied.  The Russian president later claimed Trump accepted his denial of the accusations when the two world leaders spoke about the investigation at the G-20 summit in Germany.

In June, the President played devil’s advocate with his distrust of intelligence officials’ conclusions that Russia interfered in the election, tweeting that if the Russians had been “working so hard on the 2016 Election, it all took place during the Obama Admin. Why didn’t they stop them?”

Bossert acknowledged he agrees with the President on that front, saying Thursday that the Obama administration’s response of kicking Russian diplomats out of the country and closing two diplomatic facilities “wasn’t adequate,” according to Politico.

Trump’s denial of Russia hacking the election dates as far back as the campaign itself. When the U.S. government officially accused the Russian government of directing 2016 election hacks last fall, he said he notices when “anything wrong happens, they like to say the Russians” during the October 9, 2016 presidential debate.

She doesn’t know if it’s the Russians doing the hacking. Maybe there is no hacking,” he said.

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