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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

After reportedly getting escorted out of the White House by Secret Service following her resignation and quickly joining the cast of CBS’ “Celebrity Big Brother,” former White House aide Omarosa Manigault Newman is finally dishing about her time in the West Wing.

“It’s so bad,” she said through tears to fellow cast member Ross Mathews in a video posted by the reality TV show on Facebook Thursday. 

Celebrity Big Brother Airs Tonight At 8/7c On CBS

Omarosa opens up to Ross Mathews about her time in the White House on tonight's Celebrity Big Brother. In the meantime, don't miss a minute of the action on the Live Feeds: http://bit.ly/2E8C5aE

Posted by Big Brother on Thursday, February 8, 2018

“I felt like it was a call to duty, I felt like I was serving my country, not serving him,” Manigault Newman said after Mathews said that as a voter “I never got” why she served in the White House. “I was haunted by tweets every single day, like what’s he going to tweet next?”

Manigault Newman lamented that she tried to reason with President Donald Trump, but the people “around him” started to attack her. Mathews asked if anyone had the power to question Trump, but she deflected.

“I don’t know. It’s not my circus, not my monkeys, I’d like to say not my problem, but I can’t say that because it’s bad,” she said.

“Should we be worried?” Mathews asked. Manigault Newman retorted with a slow nod, saying, “yes.”

Manigault Newman, who met Trump when she was on his reality TV show “The Apprentice,” alluded after she left the White House that she felt she had been wronged by the circumstances surrounding her departure from. During an interview with “Good Morning America” in December, she said she had “concerns” that led to her resignation, but stopped short of revealing any actual details.

“When I can tell my story, it is a profound story, that I know the world will want to hear,” she said just after her ousting. 

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Read a reporter’s notebook (Prime access) on this article »

House Intelligence Committee Republicans are planning to build a physical wall to separate Democrat and Republican staffers, according to committee sources who spoke with CBS News.

The wall is reportedly being constructed sometime this spring, CBS reported.

The push for a wall is reportedly the result of an erosion of trust among staffers, according to Republican committee members who spoke to CBS. One of the Republicans who spoke with CBS, Rep. Tom Rooney (R-FL), said the Office of Congressional Ethics is investigating the committee’s Republican staffers over alleged leaks, which could be a source of the tension, he said.

Another Republican member who spoke with CBS suggested the idea may have been spurred on by House Intelligence Committee Chair Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA).

The panel’s ranking Democrat Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) told TPM through the committee’s minority spokesperson that the wall would be a “terrible mistake.” 

“We have heard reports that the chairman may seek to erect a ‘wall’ to divide the staff of the intelligence committee on a partisan basis — this would be a terrible mistake,” Schiff said. “While we have more than our share of difficulties, the important oversight work of the committee continues with our staff working together irrespective of party. This would be a very destructive decision.”

A spokesperson for the majority could not be reached Thursday.

The reported plans to build a physical barrier between majority and minority staffers follows an ongoing partisan rift between members of panel. That divide was laid bare last week by the release of Nunes’ partisan memo that purports to show the FBI abused the FISA system to secure a warrant to extend surveillance of a President Donald Trump campaign aide.

House Intelligence Committee Republicans voted to release the memo last Monday, which Trump declassified on Friday, but the committee stalled on a vote to release Democratic members’ counter-memo. The committee voted to release the Democrats’ memo early this week, but the White House is still mulling whether to declassify it.   

Democrats claim their memo will push back against central allegations of the Republicans’ memo.

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Arthur Jones, the GOP candidate running for Illinois’ 3rd Congressional District, on Thursday claimed that he’s not a Nazi but defended his belief that the Holocaust is “an international extortion racket by the Jews to bleed, blackmail, distort and terrorize our enemies.”

Well, I do not belong to any formal national socialist organization anymore and I haven’t belonged to one since about 1990. Okay?” Jones, who has been denounced by both the state and national Republican party, said on CNN’s “New Day” during an interview with Alisyn Camerota.

Camerota argued that Jones could “call it whatever you want” but his actions speak for themselves.

“You’ve been part of anti-Semitic groups since the 1970s, you go to neo-Nazi rallies, we have pictures of you there,” she said. “You were part of the White People’s Party, you dress in Nazi garb and you celebrate Hitler’s birthday. You’re a Nazi.”

She also told Jones that his website, which also features Holocaust denials, was filled with the most “vile, rancid rhetoric I think I’ve ever seen.”

Jones pushed back throughout the interview, saying he shouldn’t be blamed that other people don’t know the “truth.”

“You Jews media, you’ve gone absolutely nuts. You think that Adolf Hitler’s revived from the grave or something,” he said. “It’s one man, myself, that is standing for the truth and the news media can’t stand that. The Democrats and Republicans, it is a cursed two-party, Jew-party, queer-party system and I can’t stand it.”

Jones is the only Republican running a primary campaign for Illinois’ third congressional district, which is heavily Democratic and stretches from Chicago’s southwest side to the suburbs of LaGrange.

Watch the interview with CNN below:

 

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Vice President Mike Pence on Thursday claimed that an American reporter’s story about an openly gay U.S. Olympic athlete who refused to meet with Pence was “fake news” deployed to “sow seeds of division.”

“One reporter trying to distort 18 yr old nonstory to sow seeds of division,” Pence, who is in South Korea leading the U.S. delegation to the Olympics this week, tweeted early Thursday.

He tweeted directly at U.S. Olympic figure skater Adam Rippon, “We are FOR YOU. Don’t let fake news distract you.”

USA Today reporter Christine Brennan profiled Rippon last month and reported in a follow-up story on Wednesday that Pence reached out to Rippon after the January profile ran to arrange a meeting, but that Rippon declined.

Pence’s press shop pushed back on those reports, and his spokesperson Alyssa Farah told USA Today that Rippon’s “accusation is totally false” and has “no basis in fact.”

In an interview with CNN on Thursday, Brennan said that she stands by her reporting.

In the January profile, Rippon was vocally critical of Pence’s selection to lead the U.S. delegation and cited Pence’s stance on LGBT rights.

“If it were before my event, I would absolutely not go out of my way to meet somebody who I felt has gone out of their way to not only show that they aren’t a friend of a gay person but that they think that they’re sick,” Rippon said in January.

When Pence was governor of Indiana, he signed into law the Religious Freedom Act, a controversial piece of legislation that allowed businesses to refuse to serve gay and lesbian customers if it interfered with their religious beliefs.

In 2000, Pence’s congressional campaign website included a call for resources to be “directed toward those institutions which provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behavior,” language that was widely interpreted as a reference to conversion therapy, though Pence’s spokesperson in 2016 denied that it was.

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The White House on Wednesday pushed back on reports that the Pentagon is planning a military parade “like the one in France,” at President Donald Trump’s request.

“I think we’re all aware in this country of the President’s affection and respect for the military,” Defense Secretary James Mattis said during the White House press briefing Wednesday. “We’ve been putting together some options. We’ll send them to the White House for a decision.”

Mattis’ timid response stands in contrast to a Tuesday report from The Washington Post that the Pentagon is actively planning for a military parade after Trump said “I want a parade like the one in France” during a meeting with top Pentagon generals last month.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was also non-committal in her response to questions about the report. When CNN’s Pamela Brown asked why Trump doesn’t just visit the troops in Iraq or Afghanistan instead of putting on a show, Sanders said “nothing has been decided or locked in stone.”

This is in the early discussion phases,” she said. “It’s something the President is looking at, not just a way that he can, but that the entire country can come together and show support and honor our military. … We haven’t made a final decision. The President is exploring different ways that he could highlight and show the pride we have in the military, people that have served and sacrificed to allow us all the freedoms we have.”

When asked whether it was true that Trump’s request was more of a directive than a question, Sanders said “no.”

We’re simply exploring options. It’s way too far speculation to start weighing in on whether or not we think certain things are appropriate when nothing’s been decided and it’s literally in a brainstorming session,” she said.

An unnamed Pentagon official who spoke with the Post said that they were looking at various dates for a parade and said they preferred Veterans Day because the event would be less associated with the President or politics.

Trump has been a fan of military parades ever since he attended a similar event on Bastille Day in France. At the time, he told reporters that he’d like to do something similar in the U.S. on July 4.

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White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders is scheduled to deliver an on-camera press briefing at 1:30 p.m. ET Wednesday. Watch live below:

Former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R) on Tuesday accused fellow CNN contributor Ana Navarro of having a “shrill voice” and said he was “sick and tired of listening” to her.

Cuccinelli made the remark during a CNN panel discussion on Tuesday evening about the White House’s efforts to paint immigrants as violent and “lazy” after Navarro talked over him in defense of those who qualify for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program but don’t apply.

“I’m sick and tired of listening to your shrill voice in my ears,” Cuccinelli said to Navarro as the two continued to talk over each other, and used his hand to mimic a mouth opening and closing.

Navarro continued her defense, undeterred. CNN host Don Lemon later remarked to Cuccinelli: “Words matter, Ken, and you just sat here and you called a woman shrill and then you did a little puppet thing.”

“Oh, my gosh. You’re hearing it!” Cuccinelli said. “Look, Ana yells us all down. And you tell the rest of us to be quiet.”

“As she was talking you were talking as well,” Lemon said. “Both of you were interrupting each other. But still, to call someone shrill, I just — come on, Ken.”

Asked for comment, Navarro told TPM by email that she has a policy “not to comment on things that happen on the air at CNN or about CNN colleagues.”

Cuccinelli’s jab at Navarro was not the first time he’s attempted to block out a female colleague while discussing race-related issues on CNN.

During a discussion in August about the white supremacist protest in Charlottesville, Virginia, Cuccinelli told CNN political commentator Symone Sanders to “shut up for a minute and let me finish” after she interjected, and asked CNN host Chris Cuomo: “How do you make them stop talking when they keep interrupting you?”

Watch Cuccinelli’s remarks to Navarro below:

 

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If former Vice President Joe Biden were President Donald Trump’s lawyer, he would advise him to “not sit down” with special counsel Robert Mueller because he doesn’t trust him to tell the truth, even if it’s unintentional.

“You’re in a situation where the President has some difficulty with precision,” Biden said during an interview with CNN’s Chris Cuomo Tuesday. “One of the things I would worry about if I were his lawyer is him saying something that was just simply not true without him even planning to be disingenuous.”

Biden’s comments follow news that President Donald Trump’s lawyers are discouraging him from sitting down with Mueller for an interview, as the special counsel probes Russian interference in the 2016 election. Trump has told reporters that he would be enthusiastic about meeting with Mueller, as he has consistently called the notion that his campaign colluded with Russia to win the election a “hoax” and a “witch hunt.”

Cuomo pressed Biden, asking if he thinks the President truly has “that little control” over the things he says.

“I just marvel at some of the things he says and does,” Biden said. “Like, what, two days ago, anybody that didn’t stand up and clap for him was ‘un-American?’And then maybe even ‘treasonous?’”

Cuomo pointed out that that remark was meant as a joke, according to the White House.

“Well, let me tell you, he’s a joke,” he said. “I think he understands, and I think the people around him understand, what Presidents say matter. Our children are listening, the world is listening. It matters what they say. And it’s just amazing the outrageously inaccurate things the President says.”

Biden’s stark criticism of Trump comes as the former Vice President publicly flirts with the idea of running for President in 2020. When asked about his potential bid on CNN Tuesday, Biden only vaguely shot it down, saying he would run only if his ambitions and the opportunity happened to line up.

Watch a segment of the interview below:

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During his trip to Latin America Tuesday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told Fox News that U.S. officials are already seeing signs of Russia attempting to interfere in the 2018 midterm elections.

And there’s not a whole lot the U.S. can do to stop it, he said.

I don’t know if I would say we are better prepared because the Russians will adapt as well,” Tillerson told Fox News Tuesday. “If the point is, if it’s their intention to interfere, they’re going to find ways to do that. We can take the steps we can take, but this is something that once they decide they are going to do it, it’s very difficult to preempt it.”

Despite that assessment from his State Department chief, President Donald Trump last week refused to implement new congressionally-approved sanctions against the foreign power. The White House claimed the threat of sanctions was enough to serve as a deterrent.

The White House did comply with one demand from Congress by releasing a list of 114 Russian politicians and 96 “oligarchs” who have grown in power under Russian President Vladimir Putin. In response Putin called the list “hostile.”

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White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders is scheduled to deliver an on-camera press briefing at 2:30 p.m. ET Tuesday. Watch live below:

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