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

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich criticized President Trump on Thursday for lashing out against Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).

Gingrich, an outspoken supporter of the President, said both Trump and Senate Republicans are responsible for failing to fulfill campaign promises of repealing Obamacare, calling it a “collective failure.”

“The fact is, with a very narrow margin, 52 people, Mitch McConnell got 49 out of 52. I think the President can’t disassociate himself from this. He is part of the leadership team,” Gingrich said, appearing on “Fox and Friends.” “He is not an observer sitting in the stands. He is on the field. It was a collective failure.”

The feud between Trump and McConnell began when McConnell told constituents back in Kentucky on Monday that the President had “excessive expectations” about what it takes to get legislation passed in Congress.

Trump responded on Twitter on Wednesday and Thursday, saying he thinks McConnell is wrong about his expectations and asking why “after 7 years” repealing and replacing Obamacare hasn’t happened.

Gingrich said the blame also falls on Democrats.

“To get involved in shooting at each other when there were 16 Democrats voting ‘no’ for every single Republican who voted ‘no’ is goofy. I say it is goofy,” Gingrich said.

He defended McConnell, saying he “doesn’t benefit from those remarks,” but Gingrich thinks the majority leader would probably take back his comments if he could.

Gingrich went on to criticize the way Congress has handled the overhaul of health care, which fell flat when Senate Republicans failed to get a simple majority to pass a “skinny” repeal of Obamacare last month.

“This may take three or four or five years or 10 or 12 bills. I’m not sure anybody is smart enough to write a single bill to replace Obamacare in one giant step. … I’m equally afraid they will mishandle the tax cuts exactly the way they mishandled health care. If that happens, we’ll be at the end of the year with a disaster,” he said.

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While the White House has been tight-lipped on how the President is spending his working vacation in Bedminster, New Jersey, online photos and a new report show he’s spent a decent amount of time playing golf.

A purchase order, obtained by super PAC American Bridge and USA Today, show the Secret Service signed a $13,500 contract with a golf cart rental company just a day before President Donald Trump left for his 17-day trip to the Trump National Golf Club.

The Secret Service signed two similar contracts with the same New York-based golf cart vendor in June, at the cost of $5,400 each.

The agency spent $35,185 on cart rentals earlier this year at Mar-a-Lago, when Trump was making regular weekend visits there, according to USA Today. That puts the total cost of golf cart rentals for the Secret Service at $59,585, just a fraction of the $60 million in additional funding the agency requested in March to fund protecting the President.

The White House has been reluctant to say whether Trump is spending time golfing while he is away from Washington, but the President has been photographed playing throughout the week.

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Dialing back on remarks he made during an interview with a Chicago radio station, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) said Thursday he has the “deepest respect” for McCain.

In a radio interview Tuesday, Johnson questioned whether Sen. John McCain’s (R-AZ) recently diagnosed brain cancer might have played a role in his “no” vote on Republicans’ Obamacare repeal plan.

“In no way was I trying to criticize him. If anything, I was trying to defend his position. A lot of us had a real problem with that skinny repeal and we weren’t going to vote for it until we got that assurance from Paul (Ryan),” Johnson said Thursday, appearing on CNN’s “New Day.” “I was trying to defend his position and truthfully express my sympathy for his health condition.”

During an interview with “Chicago Morning Answer” this week, Johnson said McCain’s brain tumor and the fact that it was late at night may have been factors in why he voted against the plan.

“Again, I’m not going to speak for John McCain, you know, he has a brain tumor right now. That vote occurred at 1:30 in the morning, some of that might have factored in,” he said in the radio interview.

McCain’s office responded Wednesday, calling Johnson’s comments “bizarre and deeply unfortunate.”

Johnson put out a statement Wednesday afternoon as well, saying he was “disappointed” that he didn’t “more eloquently express my sympathy for what Sen. McCain is going through.”

“I was just expressing my sympathy for his condition. Again, no, I’ve got the greatest respect for John McCain. He’s not impaired in any way, shape or form,” Johnson said Thursday.

It was McCain who killed the “skinny” Obamacare repeal bill last month with a late-night no vote. He said he was opposed to the plan because he wanted Republicans and Democrats to work together on a health care plan and said he supported repealing Obamacare, but he wanted an immediate replacement. 

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The President is still upset with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who told constituents back in Kentucky this week that President Donald Trump has “excessive expectations” about how quickly Congress can pass legislation.

On Wednesday, when Trump got word of McConnell’s comments, he lashed out at the senator, saying “McConnell said I had ‘excessive expectations,’ but I don’t think so.” Trump also called him out for Senate Republicans’ failure to pass a “skinny” Obamacare repeal bill last month.

The President brought it up again Thursday morning, tweeting, “Can you believe that Mitch  McConnell, who has screamed Repeal and Replace for 7 years, couldn’t get it done.”

When asked about Trump’s relationship with McConnell Thursday, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders referred reporters to his tweets.

“You can see the President’s tweets. Obviously there’s some frustration. I don’t have anything more to add,” she said.

The remarks from the President and senator come after Republicans failed to pull together a simple majority in the Senate to pass an Obamacare repeal bill in July.

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) delivered the final blow to McConnell’s repeal bill last month, joining Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) in their opposition to the plan during a tense, late-night vote.

McCain said he wanted Republicans and Democrats to work together on a health care plan and said he supported repealing Obamacare, but he wanted an immediate replacement.

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Vocal critic of President Donald Trump — who was attacked by the President on Twitter this week — Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) said news that the FBI conducted a predawn raid of Trump’s former campaign chairman’s home in July is “stunning” and a clear sign that a “serious crime” has occurred.

“Predawn raid on Manafort’s house is stunning— typical of serious criminal investigations dealing with uncooperative or untrusted targets,” Blumenthal said in a Twitter statement Thursday.

He said the raid “decimates” claims from Manafort that he has been cooperative with law enforcement and connects the former campaign manager to “criminal wrongdoing.”

“Federal judge signing warrant would demand persuasive evidence of probable cause that a serious crime has been committed,” he said. “This kind of raid — in early morning hours with no advance notice — shows astonishing and alarming distrust for President’s former campaign chairman.”

The Washington Post reported Wednesday that the FBI raided Manafort’s home on July 26 and obtained various records. Manafort had already been cooperating with the congressional investigations into Russia’s role in the 2016 campaign.

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Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) thinks Sen. John McCain’s (R-AZ) recently diagnosed brain cancer and the late-night timing of the vote might have been factors in why McCain ultimately decided to vote against the skinny Obamacare repeal last month.

“Again, I’m not going to speak for John McCain, you know, he has a brain tumor right now. That vote occurred at 1:30 in the morning, some of that might have factored in,” Johnson said, speaking to the radio hosts of “Chicago Morning Answer.”

CNN’s KFILE first flagged Johnson’s comments.

The host asked Johnson to clarify, asking if he really thought the cancer played a role in McCain’s judgment call.

“Again, I don’t know exactly what — we really thought — and again, I don’t want to speak for any senator. I really thought he was going to vote yes to send that to conference at 10:30 at night. By about 1:00 or 1:30, he voted no. So you have to talk to John in terms of what was on his mind,” Johnson said.

A McCain spokesperson responded to Johnson’s comments on Wednesday, calling his remarks “bizarre and deeply unfortunate.”

“It is bizarre and deeply unfortunate that Senator Johnson would question the judgement of a colleague and friend. Senator McCain has been very open and clear abut the reasons for his vote,” the spokesperson said.

McCain ultimately decided to vote against the skinny repeal, joining Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and effectively killing the bill with his vote. He said he wanted Republicans and Democrats to work together on a health care plan and said he supported repealing Obamacare, but he wanted an immediate replacement.

After having surgery to get a blood clot removed, McCain was diagnosed with brain cancer. Days later, he flew back to Washington to vote in favor of a motion to proceed to bring the bill to the Senate floor for debate.

Johnson, for his part, was also a critic of the plan at times, but he stepped in line with his party to support the “skinny” repeal bill. He told the radio hosts that the bills Senate Republicans were considering were “grossly inadequate, particularly the skinny repeal” and called the entire process “awful.”

“It was a political process versus a problem-solving process,” he said.     

Johnson released a statement Wednesday afternoon, apologizing for not expressing “sympathy” for McCain.

“I’m disappointed I didn’t more eloquently express my sympathy for what Sen. McCain is going through. I have nothing but respect for him and the vote came at the end of a long day for everyone,” Johnson said.

Listen to the interview below:

This post has been updated to include comments from Johnson and McCain spokesperson. 

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Donald Trump’s presidential campaign has turned over more than 20,000 pages of documents the Senate Judiciary Committee requested concerning the campaign’s attempts to receive information about Hillary Clinton from Russia and affiliated sources, Bloomberg News reported.

That request includes all documents related to the June 2016 meeting between Donald Trump Jr., then-campaign manager Paul Manafort, White House senior adviser Jared Kushner and a Kremlin-linked lawyer.  The committee also said it wants all documents related to Russia’s attempts to influence the election and asked for Manafort’s registration filings and his contacts with the Justice Department.

The committee asked the parties to start producing the documents by Aug. 2.

In addition to the 20,000 pages of documents from the campaign, Trump Jr. turned over about 250 pages on Aug. 4 and Manafort gave the committee 400 pages on Aug. 2, a committee spokesman told Bloomberg.

The company the committee thinks was behind a mostly unverified dossier on Trump — Fusion GPS and CEO Glenn Simpson — has not turned over any documents yet. The committee wants to know if Fusion GPS was paid by the Russians to produce the dossier.

The committee’s top Democrat, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) said public hearings with Trump Jr. and Manafort may be held in late September.

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The President is scheduled to stay at his New York City Trump Tower for three nights starting Sunday, according to a schedule given to New York City law enforcement and obtained by Politico.

President Donald Trump is scheduled to leave Bedminster, N.J., where he has been staying this week, Sunday afternoon and head straight to his 66th floor penthouse.

He will hold internal meetings there on Monday and Tuesday, according to the schedule. He is set to go back to his golf club in New Jersey on Wednesday.

Trump has only been back to New York once since inauguration for a dinner at the Intrepid aircraft carrier, but he didn’t make a stop at Trump Tower.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders confirmed the schedule to Politico and said the President has avoided visiting to “not disrupt things in Manhattan.”

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Speaking to reporters during a surprise visit to Guam Wednesday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson reassured Americans that they should not be concerned about North Korea’s most recent threats of attack against Guam and defended the President’s “fire and fury” comments.

He said President Donald Trump is just “sending a message in language Kim Jong-un can understand.”

“The global community has expressed its view that North Korea needs to stand down this program. I think in response to that the North Korean’s rhetoric has ratcheted up louder and louder and more threatening,” he said. “So I think what the President is doing is sending a strong message in language that Kim Jong-un can understand because he doesn’t seem to understand diplomatic language.”

Tillerson’s comments come after reports surfaced that North Korea now has a nuclear warhead small enough to fit into a ballistic missile.

Speaking to reporters Tuesday, Trump said North Korea’s threats of nuclear warfare would be “met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.”

Jong-un then responded with threats of attack against Guam.

But Tillerson defended the President’s message, saying Trump was just trying to be clear to the North Korean regime that “the U.S. has an unquestionable ability to defend itself, will defend itself and its allies. I think it’s important he deliver that message to avoid any miscalculation on their part.”

He also said that there is nothing to indicate that the situation in North Korea has dramatically changed in the last 24 hours and that “Americans should sleep well at night.”

I have no concerns about this particular rhetoric of the last few days. I think the President again, as commander-in-chief, he felt it necessary to issue a very strong statement directly to North Korea,” he said.

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Even before tensions between the U.S. and North Korea escalated to new levels on Tuesday, Alaska Gov. Bill Walker told Politico he “of course” is concerned about North Korea directing a missile attack at his state.

U.S. intelligence officials at the Defense Intelligence Agency have concluded that North Korea has created a nuclear weapon small enough to fit in a missile, according to The Washington Post. The country has been launching test ICBM missiles that experts say could reach parts of the U.S., including the state of Alaska.

The President told reporters Tuesday that the threat would be met with “fire and fury like the world has never seen,” which prompted North Korea to threaten to attack the American territory of Guam.

In an interview with Politico before tensions rose this week, Walker said he is concerned about being in the “trajectory zone” between the U.S. and North Korea and that the country’s ability to strike the U.S. has come to fruition much quicker than anticipated.

“It’s actually, in some respects, gotten here sooner than we thought,” he said. “We thought that the trajectory would be sometime in 2020. So we’re earlier than anticipated and we want to make sure that we’re well protected and everything.”

He said no one is panicking yet, but Walker said he would like to be prepared.

“No one’s hiding under the desk that I know of at this point,” he said. “But we do have to make sure we have the technology and awareness of what could happen.”

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