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

Revealing his patriotic-like loyalty to President Trump, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said he has no regrets over his decision to recuse himself from the Russia investigation, despite consistent public lashings from the President.

He even defends Trump for taunting him.

In a new profile on Sessions in Time Magazine published Thursday, Sessions said he still thinks he “did the right thing” by stepping back from the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election and the Trump campaign. That move cleared the way for special counsel Robert Mueller to dig in, which has fueled most of Trump’s vexation with his attorney general.

“I think I did the right thing,” he told Time. “I don’t think the attorney general can ask everybody else in the department to follow the rules if the attorney general doesn’t follow them.”

Sessions dismissed Trump’s personal Twitter attacks, claiming that the President “does get frustrated” because “he’s trying to run the country.”

“He’s got to spend his time dealing with certain issues,” he told Time.

Despite his defense of the President, Sessions, who has largely remained silent in the face of Trump’s criticism, gave a slight pushback to Trump’s attacks in February, when he called Sessions handling of FISA abuse in the FBI “disgraceful.” In response, Sessions released a rare statement, saying his office would work to “ensure that complaints against this Department will be fully and fairly acted upon if necessary.”

That evening, Sessions was spotted having dinner with Solicitor General Noel Francisco and deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who hired Mueller.

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White House senior adviser Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law, phoned Trump’s new pick to run the National Security Council for advice in the past year, The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday.

Administration officials and people close to Trump told the Journal that Kushner and Bolton have had a longstanding relationship — Bolton would often stop by Kushner’s office to visit when he was at the White House.

Kushner has reportedly called Bolton several times in the past year to ask for advice, according to the Journal’s sources. Kushner specifically sought the new national security adviser’s input on issues related to the operations of the United Nations, where Bolton served as the U.S. ambassador in former President George W. Bush’s administration.

Aides would also reportedly encourage Kushner to call Bolton to apprise him on current White House initiatives so that Bolton, who was previously working as a Fox News contributor, could make informed comments while speaking about the administration’s position on networks Trump watches.

Trump announced on Twitter last week that Bolton, who is well known for his hawkish foreign policy views, would replace H.R. McMaster as his national security adviser.

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President Donald Trump’s lawyer suggested last year that President Trump should pardon two of his former aides, National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and campaign chairman Paul Manafort, The New York Times reported Wednesday.

According to three people familiar with the discussions, John Dowd made the suggestion to Flynn and Manafort’s lawyers when special counsel Robert Mueller was building his cases against both of the former aides. The timing suggests Dowd could have offered pardons to influence Manafort and Flynn’s decision on how to plead.

Dowd reportedly had the conversation with Flynn’s lawyer, Robert Kelner, last summer. Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russian officials in December, a move that Dowd reportedly privately said he didn’t understand because he had told Kelner Trump was prepared to pardon Flynn.

Dowd reportedly spoke with Manafort’s lawyer Reginald Brown, who is no longer his attorney, before Manafort was charged with money laundering, conspiring against the U.S. and failure to register as a foreign agent, among other things. Manafort has pleaded not guilty to all the charges and has said that he doesn’t want a pardon from Trump because he doesn’t think he did anything wrong.

Dowd, who resigned from Trump’s legal team last week, denied he had discussions with either of the former aides’ attorneys about pardons, he told the Times.

Trump has reportedly been curious about his pardoning power since last year, when he inquired about the extent of his ability to pardon during a meeting with White House lawyers. Since coming into office, Trump has pardoned two individuals. In August, Trump pardoned former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who supported his campaign, for a contempt of court conviction. This month pardoned a sailor who was charged with obstruction of justice and retaining national defense information.

In December, Trump told reporters that he wasn’t prepared to talk about pardoning Flynn “yet,” saying he’d like to wait and “see what happens” first.

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White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders is scheduled to deliver an on camera press briefing at 2 p.m. ET Wednesday. Watch live below:

After suggesting this weekend that students organizing for gun control should learn CPR instead of asking “someone else to solve their problem,” former Sen. Rick Santorum apologized on Wednesday. But he did not back down from his larger point.

Santorum maintained his suggestion that instead of advocating for gun control measures, the students should be focused on starting local mentoring and anti-bullying programs in their schools and communities. The students he was referencing were the survivors of the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School last month who have been pushing for gun law reform since the shooting, in which 17 people were killed.

“The fact of the matter is I did misspeak in using the term CPR,” he told CNN’s Chris Cuomo on Wednesday. “I certainly respect their right to protest … Obviously that was not the intention, nor has it been my suggestion throughout the course (of) these shootings. What I talked about are broader things, like mentoring, like fatherhood programs. … things that can unify us.”

He said he condemned the actions of some on the far right who have tried to paint the student protesters as actors or as attempting to repeal the Second Amendment, but claimed there were “politics and hypocrisy on both sides of this debate.”

“In the strongest possible terms, I condemn both sides,” he said, before Cuomo interrupted, saying he sounded “like Trump after Charlottesville.” President Donald Trump blamed both the white supremacists and the counter protesters for the violence that erupted at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia last year, that ended with one women dead.

Look you can’t get up there and say that many on the left have not been demonizing as mindless shills of the NRA,” Santorum said. “It’s happening on both sides, come on, don’t do this Charlottesville stuff on me.”

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Retiring Rep. Charlie Dent (R-PA) lambasted his own party for hypocrisy in its reaction to President Donald Trump’s alleged affair with a porn actress on Tuesday evening.

During an interview with CNN, he said Republicans have been “pretty damn silent” about the President’s alleged affair with porn actress Stormy Daniels, compared to the way the party reacted when former President Bill Clinton had an affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky.

“They’d be waving a bloody shirt, it would be a human rights violation,” Dent told CNN’s Anderson Cooper. “Bill Clinton, let’s face it, I wasn’t in Congress back then, but a lot of folks were pretty darn alarmed and outraged and had a strong voice about the character, saying character counts. And now that the shoe is on the other foot, a lot of those same folks are pretty damn silent.”

He said there was “no question” that Republicans would be “screaming, you know, morning to night” if a Democratic president had been “conciliatory toward the Russians, for example” like Trump has reportedly been.

Dent said he thought both porn actress Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal were “credible” and suggested their alleged affairs with Trump were not surprising because Trump is “no choir boy.”

Trump has been uncharacteristically silent in recent weeks as both Daniels and McDougal have publicly recounted parts of their alleged affairs with the President a decade ago. Both women have tangled Trump in lawsuits over his alleged attempts to silence them about the relationships.

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After a retired Supreme Court justice called for the repeal of the Second Amendment on Tuesday, President Donald Trump reassured his base that he would “NEVER” let that happen.

“THE SECOND AMENDMENT WILL NEVER BE REPEALED!” he tweeted Wednesday morning. “As much as Democrats would like to see this happen, and despite the words yesterday of former Supreme Court Justice Stevens, NO WAY.”

In his New York Times essay, former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens said repealing the right to bear arms from the Constitution would be the fastest mechanism for legal change surrounding gun control. He said the move would limit the National Rifle Association’s lobbying power and make room for significant gun access legislation.

Gun control has made its way back to the national conversation following the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida last month that left 17 people dead. In the month since the attack, the high school student survivors have lead national protests calling for a ban on semi-automatic weapons and common sense gun reform measures.

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There are no plans to bring former White House staff secretary Rob Porter back to the West Wing, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters Tuesday.

“There are no plans for him to come back,” Sanders said, countering reports that Trump wants Porter to return and talks to him on the phone regularly. Sanders clarified that Trump and Porter “have spoken one time” since Porter’s departure.

“I’m not aware of any other conversations beyond that,” she said.

Sanders’ pushback follows a report from The New York Times on Monday night that said Trump still speaks to Porter over the phone and their conversations have become increasingly frequent in recent weeks. Trump reportedly hopes that Porter will return to the White House one day because he misses the structure that Porter fashioned, though the President recognizes that he probably can’t bring Porter back, according to The Times.

Porter served as Trump’s staff secretary and resigned in early February after two of his ex-wives’ allegations of domestic abuse became public, including a photo of one former wife with a black eye that she allegedly sustained from Porter hitting her.

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Former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio is running for Senate on a President Trump platform, campaigning on the President’s policies and conspiracy theories alike.

Arpaio, whom Trump pardoned for a contempt of court conviction last year, lamented last weekend that he would avoid talking about his “birtherism” theories, for now. But if he’s elected to the Senate, he vowed to raise the issue — of whether former President Barack Obama is a U.S. citizen — again in full force.

“I don’t talk about it anymore, until I become a U.S. senator. … So I’m kind of dropping that right now,” he told a group gathered at the Western Conservative Conference in Phoenix last weekend, according to a video flagged by Right Wing Watch. “But I’m going to tell you something: 100 percent we proved that’s a fake document. One hundred.”

A Trump loyalist, Arpaio campaigned with the President in 2015 and 2016, and even helped propagate his and Trump’s conspiracy theory that Obama wasn’t born in the U.S. He most recently told CNN in January that he has “no doubt” that Obama’s birth certificate isn’t real.

After winning the primaries, Trump publicly said he believes Obama is a U.S. citizen, but he reportedly still thinks that the former President’s birth certificate isn’t real.

Watch a video of Arpaio’s comments below, courtesy of Tru Conservative TV:

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The “60 Minutes” interview with porn actress Stormy Daniels that detailed her alleged affair with President Donald Trump was “a big thud,” according to the attorney for Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen.

During an interview with CNN Tuesday morning, Arthur Schwartz, Cohen’s lawyer, said the interview revealed very little new information, despite the hype from Daniels’ attorney.

“What did we learn from that ’60 Minutes’ interview? That 12 years ago some guy came up to her in a parking lot and threatened her,” Schwartz told CNN’s Chris Cuomo, before claiming that the lawsuit that Daniels filed against Cohen on Monday is “going nowhere.”

“A judge, on defamation, a judge will look at that statement, it doesn’t even pass the smell test,” he said. “It doesn’t come close to defamation.”

On Monday, Daniels added a defamation complaint to her existing lawsuit against Trump and Essential Consultants, LCC, the group Cohen used to send Daniels $130,000 just 11 days before the 2016 election. Daniels claims the money was given to her as a hush payment. Cohen has admitted he gave Daniels the funds, but said he did it in his own capacity, not for Trump.

The basis of the new complaint centers on a statement Cohen gave to the media on Feb. 13, when he said that “just because something isn’t true doesn’t mean that it can’t cause you harm or damage.” Daniels claims that statement implies she lied about her alleged sexual affair with Trump.   

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