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

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) came to President Donald Trump’s defense on Thursday.

In an interview in the New York Times Wednesday, Trump told the paper he would not have hired Jeff Sessions as attorney general if he knew that Sessions would ultimately recuse himself from the Department of Justice’s Russia investigation.

“You know, I think the President has a point, because the thing here is if everybody is going to recuse themselves just for incidental contact, I think you don’t get really good governance,” Paul said in an interview on “Fox and Friends,” the President’s favored morning news show. “I believe that Jeff Sessions’ contact with the Russians was incidental. In the usual duties of being in Senate, and it being incidental, he should have stayed in the fray and been more supportive of the President.”

Paul went on to rail against Sessions for his actions enforcing asset forfeiture policy, which he says gives the attorney general the power to disproportionately take property from minority and low-income people.

“I think we shouldn’t take people’s property without conviction. This is something I believe very strongly in, and I’m disappointed that Sessions is going after a lot of poor minorities to take their property without due process,” he said. 

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After witnessing the first six months of the Donald Trump presidency, about one in eight of his supporters would like to change their vote, according to a Reuters poll.

The poll surveyed voters who told Reuters how they voted on Election Day, checking in with them in May and again in July to ask if they would vote for Trump again.

Of those surveyed in July, 12 percent said they would not vote for Trump again if the 2016 election were held today, but about 88 percent said they wouldn’t change their vote, according to the poll.

Of that 12 percent who indicated they’d flipped their stance on the President, several said they were tired of Trump’s daily attacks on Democrats, the media and the judiciary system. Some said they wanted to the President to do more with deporting illegal immigrants and others said Trump hasn’t changed the partisanship dominating Washington like he had promised.

Almost 1,300 people, including 541 Trump voters, were surveyed on July 11 and 12 by Reuters and Ipsos.

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A former secretary of homeland security defended Attorney General Jeff Sessions after the President went on the offensive during an interview with the New York Times Wednesday, saying he wouldn’t have hired Session if he had known the attorney general was going to recuse himself from overseeing the Russia investigation.

“He recused himself because he was involved in the campaign, at least he said that’s why he was recusing himself. It was not because of his Senate testimony about contacts with Russian government officials and basically Jeff Session had no choice,” Jeh Johnson said Thursday, appearing on CNN.

He said President Donald Trump “brought that risk” to his administration by hiring someone who worked for his campaign.

“The President knew that he was hiring someone to be the chief law enforcement officer who had been involved in his campaign, so there’s a certain level of risk you assume by doing that,” he said. “And, look, there are all kinds of ways to express displeasure with one of your cabinet officers. This was really throwing your own attorney general under the bus, which is obviously not good for his morale.”

He said he was surprised by Trump’s comments and that he had not “ever seen a president throw under the bus one of his own cabinet officers in this way, so very publicly.”

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Citing issues ranging from inaccurate reports about crowd sizes at inauguration to the gender pay gap at the White House to the way the President has handled the investigation into Russian interference in the election, Democratic lawmakers have filed a “no-confidence” resolution against President Donald Trump that lists 88 reasons why he’s unfit to serve as President.

The resolution was filed by Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) Wednesday, who told reporters he knows it has little chance of passing through the House of Representatives and will probably have little impact on the President himself, but said it provides a catalog of the President’s controversies since he took office.

The resolution points to Trump’s refusal to divest or “otherwise give up his ownership interest in his worldwide business holdings” and his refusal to release his tax returns since taking the oath of office as key problems with the President’s conduct.

The resolution lists conflict of interest issues related to Trump courting foreign officials at his private hotels, the cost of his travel to resorts that he has ownership interest in and all the publicly known details about the President’s handling of the Russian investigation, from the firing of former FBI director James Comey to revelations about Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting with a Kremlin-linked lawyer.

It calls out Trump’s attacks on the media, his name-calling of specific members of Congress, like Senate minority leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and his decision to pull out of the Paris Climate Accord.

Read the full resolution below:

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During a lunch meeting at the White House Wednesday between President Donald Trump and Republican senators who met to come to a consensus on an Obamacare repeal bill, Trump joked about Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV) wanting to “remain a Senator.”

“The other night I was very surprised when I heard a couple of my friends, they really were and are, they might not be for very much longer,” Trump said, drawing laughs from the group of Senators.

“Well no, you didn’t go out there,” he said, pointing toward Heller. “This is the one we were worried about. … Look he wants to remain a senator, doesn’t he?”

Heller reacted with a surprised expression that turned to a smile as the President explained how he knows the people of Heller’s state “really well” and said he’s sure they will “appreciate” what Heller will “hopefully do” with Obamacare.

The comment comes after a pro-Trump group called America First Policies released a critical television advertisement in Heller’s home state after the Republican senator said he was opposed to the health care plan that majority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) unveiled in June.

The ad ran for fewer than 12 hours and the group pulled it from airwaves after Heller “decided to come back to the table to negotiate with his colleagues” on the Senate health bill, according to statement from the group.

Watch the video below:

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Appearing on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” on Wednesday, Gov. John Kasich (R-OH), who is one of 11 governors who signed a bipartisan agreement saying Congress shouldn’t end Obamacare without a simultaneous replacement plan, said he doesn’t think the President cares about the details of the Senate health bill.

“I don’t think he’s ideological on this. He has political people to try to probably tell him ‘You need to do this or that.’ But I don’t think he cares really what the solution is,” he said. “I don’t think he’s embedded in some ideological program here. The more he’s ideological, the worse he does.”

Kasich said he has a “sense” that President Donald Trump will sign something that will “stabilize the markets” so Congress can address the rising costs of health care.

We practice quantity and not quality. If we practice quality and paid for quality, we’d begin to rein in these driving health care costs along with looking at all the other elements that contribute, for example, to the rising cost of pharmaceuticals,” he said.

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The day after he left his post as head of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics, former director Walter Shaub appeared on CNN Wednesday morning, spouting off a list of ethical abnormalities he encountered working under the President Donald Trump administration.

Shaub said he was “horrified” by an incident in which Trump’s lawyer asked if the President could file his financial disclosure form without signing it.

“You need to set a strong ethical tone from the top. Tone is everything in government ethics,” he said. “And what your appointees do is going to follow what you do. We’ve seen a number of incidents that I’ve tried to highlight over the past several months where they’re not following the traditional ethical tone and behaving in a way government officials always behave, and that has really hurt us along the way.”

On top of giving the appearance that he is “profiting from the presidency” by hosting foreign governmental events at his hotels, Shaub said the request from the President’s attorney about not signing financial disclosure forms was the “weirdest moment of my entire career.”

“I’ll give him credit that he filed his financial disclosure form voluntarily this year as past Presidents have done, so at least that’s one tradition that he stuck to. I was horrified when I sat across the table from his attorney and she asked me if he could file it without signing it to certify that it’s true,” he said. “I pointed out to her that millions of financial disclosure reports have been filed in the past four decades and every one of them has been certified as true, and I think we could ask that of our President.”

He said the President did eventually sign it, even though his lawyer tried to convince Shaub to accept it unsigned because signing is voluntary. He said he would like to see rules changed so that Presidents are required to release their tax forms as well.

“It was truly the weirdest moment of my entire career. I practically had to pinch myself to make sure I was awake. I thought, ‘This is the embodiment of exactly how far we’ve departed from the ethical norms that the American people are entitled to expect their leaders to live up to,’” he said.

He also discussed his former office’s work to look at whether the President’s real estate holdings proved any type of conflict of interest for the Presidency, saying the “world of real estate is an entirely new thing.”

“I got to be honest with you, I don’t think we know 100 percent for sure that we understand what all of the underlying holdings are at OGE, but it met the disclosure requirements and, you know, technically the conflict of interest laws don’t apply even though Presidents have always followed them,” he said. “So we had to certify the report because it was good enough from a disclosure standpoint to meet the legal requirements, but I’m not sure that we fully understood everything in it.” 

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President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager thinks the President will probably “close the deal today” on an Obamacare repeal bill because Trump is “a great dealmaker.”

Appearing on “Fox and Friends” Wednesday, Corey Lewandowski was asked about news that the President will have lunch with Republican Senators Wednesday to get the GOP on board with a health care repeal vote next week. He said Senate Republicans are “very, very close” to getting the support they need and said there are just a few “tweaks” that need to happen in order to bring opposing Senators on board.

“Look, it’s been publicly reported that there are probably two Republican U.S. Senators who are going to support the bill, Rand Paul from Kentucky and Sue Collins from Maine. You don’t necessarily need them if you get everybody else and you put (Vice President) Mike Pence in the chair and he breaks the tie,” he said. “I think this bill is going to get done. The President is probably going to close the deal today.”

However, it’s not clear which piece of legislation Lewandowski was discussing when he said that Trump would close the deal.

The Senate plans to consider a straight repeal of Obamacare next week now that it failed to earn enough support for its comprehensive replacement bill. So far, three senators have explicitly said they will not support advancing to a vote on clean repeal: Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK). Sens. Rand Paul (R-KY) and Mike Lee (R-UT) have signaled they will support a vote on straight repeal.

When Fox host Steve Doocy asked whether his statements came from “a gut feeling or a source feeling,” he said “my source is I know the president.”

“I know he is a great dealmaker, I know he is going to do whatever it takes to get this done. I know Mike Lee is someone who wants to support the President on this piece of legislation. I know that other members of the Republican Senate caucus want to support the President on this,” he said. “Look, this is something that the American people have been fighting for and the U.S. Senate has talked about for seven years. It’s now time for action. The President is going to get this bill done. He has campaigned on it, it’s time to move forward.”

He said he thinks if some of those opposed to the bill are able to get the funding they need for opioid addiction treatment back in their home states, they’ll come on board with the Republican plan.

“I think, at the end of the day, these U.S. Senators are going to come on board. They are going to support the President’s agenda because it’s the right thing to do for the American people.”   

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A group of Democratic lawmakers want to know if the President’s daughter knew about her husband’s meetings with Russian officials and concealed that information when applying for security clearance.

In a letter sent to FBI acting director Andrew McCabe, 22 House Democrats ask the agency to conduct a review of a “potentially serious issue” involving first daughter Ivanka Trump. In applying for her security clearance, Trump would have been required to disclose all of her foreign contacts, as well as those of her spouse and siblings.

Just last week, Donald Trump Jr. released of chain of emails that revealed he and Trump’s husband Jared Kushner met with a Kremlin-linked lawyer and several others last June for the purpose of receiving damaging information about Hillary Clinton. The emails indicate the meeting would be part of the Russian government’s efforts to aid the President’s campaign. In his initial security clearance filing, Kushner failed to disclose this meeting and has since updated his Standard Form 86 (SF-86) multiple times to reveal contacts with over 100 foreign officials, including Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

The group of House Democrats, led by Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA), want to know whether Trump knew about the meetings Kushner did not report and whether she disclosed them on her SF-86.

“We are concerned that Ivanka Trump may have engaged in similar deception. … Did she accurately disclose her own foreign contacts in her initial filing, which reports suggest may be numerous?” the letter said. “If in fact she did accurately disclose these meetings, who at the White House knew of Mr. Kushner’s and Mr. Trump Jr.’s multiple contacts with Russian officials before they were made public? And, most importantly, did she discuss any of these meetings with the President, and, if so, when?”

The House Democrats point to the “influential role” both Trump and Kushner play in President Donald Trump’s administration — both serve as advisers to the President — saying “Ms. Trump even took her father’s place at the head table with world leaders at the Group of 20 summit in Hamburg.”

“Between them, the couple have been assigned expansive policy portfolios, even as they maintain a business empire that relies on foreign financing and manufacturing,” the letter said. “The juxtaposition of their public and private roles may be murky and confused, but her obligation to disclose her families’ and her foreign contacts is not.”

Read the letter from 22 Democratic Representatives below:

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Speaking to reporters at the White House Tuesday, President Donald Trump said he was “very disappointed” that Senate Republicans’ Obamacare repeal effort died before it had a chance to go to the floor for debate.

Now, the President, suggested, the best option may be to “let Obamacare fail.”

“It will be a lot easier and I think we’re probably in that position where we’ll just let Obamacare fail. We’re not going to own it. I’m not going to own it. I can tell you Republicans are not going to own it,” Trump said. “We’ll let Obamacare fail and then Democrats will come to us and say ‘How do we fix it?’”

After hearing “repeal and replace” for so many years, Trump reiterated how “disappointed” he is with Republicans’ failure to repeal the health care law, saying he’s been “sitting in the Oval Office right next door, pen in hand, waiting to sign something. … And eventually we’re going to get something done, and it’s going to be very good.”

Trump offered no details on what that “something” might be.

The President said he wouldn’t call the Republicans who announced they wouldn’t support the repeal bill disloyal, but also suggested the U.S. may need to elect more Republicans in 2018 because the numbers were so close on the votes needed for the GOP bill.

“The way I look at it is, in ’18 we’re going to have to get more people elected. We have to go out and we have to get more people elected that are Republican. And we have to probably pull in those people, those few people that voted against it. I don’t know. They’re going to have to explain why they did and I’m sure they have very fine reasons, but we have to get more Republicans elected because we have to get it done,” he said.

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