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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

Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) told CNN Friday that he doesn’t think President Donald Trump would actually fire special counsel Robert Mueller, despite reports that he tried to do just that over the summer.

While it was not clear whether Grassley believes reports from The New York Times and several other news outlets about Trump’s attempts to get rid of Mueller, he said the news indicates Trump listens to his staff, according to CNN.

“I just don’t think the President, as unpredictable as he is, would fire Mueller, and I take the view, and I said so maybe not directly to the President, but indirectly to the President: Just let this work its course,” he told CNN.

When asked whether Trump should fire Mueller, he was firm: “heavens no.”

Grassley also told CNN he would “consider” legislation that’s being pushed by Democrats to protect Mueller from being ousted.

According to the Times’ story and additional reporting from CNN and The Washington Post, Trump tried to fire Mueller in June, but he dialed back after White House counsel Don McGahn threatened to quit over the move.

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Rep. Jason Lewis (R-MN) on Friday said he wasn’t sure if he believes reports that President Donald Trump tried to fire special counsel Robert Mueller this summer because some news outlets have had to issue corrections on some of their coverage of the Russia probe.

“I don’t know,” he said during an interview with Brianna Keilar on CNN Friday. “There have been so many stories on this particular quote, unquote Russia investigation, I don’t know what to believe anymore. We’ll see.”

Keilar pushed back, saying the story, first reported by the New York Times, had been confirmed by multiple news outlets, including Fox News.

“I’m inclined to believe those sources, but by the same token, a number of corrections brought forth by members of the mainstream media on the Russian story already, every network, every newspaper had to issue corrections,” he said. “I just think that there is a zealousness out there, people want to be the first to get a story out or drive the nail home and they don’t use sometimes good journalism to get that done.”

He complained about the use of anonymous sources by news outlets, but offered that he “understand(s) the journalistic view of it, you need the sources to get the breaks.”

“We can use more discretion in covering this, you bet,” he said.

According to the Times’ story and additional reporting from CNN and The Washington Post, Trump tried to fire Mueller in June, but he dialed back after White House counsel Don McGahn threatened to quit over the move.

Correction: This post originally identified the CNN host as Kate Bolduan. Brianna Keilar was hosting the program. We regret the error. 

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Fox News hosts pulled out all the stops to keep their favorite viewer satisfied amid new reports that President Donald Trump tried to fire special counsel Robert Mueller over the summer.

After The New York Times first reported the news Thursday evening, Fox host Sean Hannity started his show by calling the Times a distraction and said none of his “sources” were confirming the story.

“The President’s attorney dismissed the story and says ‘no comment, we are not going there,’” he said Thursday evening before bringing on former White House aide Sebastian Gorka to further bash the Times’ reporting.

Forty minutes later, Hannity was forced to eat his words after Fox News sources confirmed that Trump did in fact try to fire Mueller this summer.

“Yeah, maybe Donald Trump wanted to fire the special counsel for conflict. Does he not have the right to raise those questions? You know, we’ll deal with this tomorrow night,” he said before pivoting to a “shocking” video of a high speed car chase in Arizona.

The hosts of the President’s favorite show, “Fox and Friends,” took it even further Friday morning, mocking the Times for using anonymous sources and saying the story “screams of a leak from the special counsel.”

Alright, well, the President says it’s fake news,” co-host Ainsley Earhardt said. “That happened last June. Do you — it’s something we have to tell you have about because it is a headline in The New York Times. What do you think about that? Do you even care? Something you probably do care about is immigration.”

 

The diversion has been widely mocked on social media and even rival cable news programs, with MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” co-host Joe Scarborough laughing to the point of tears Friday at the clip of Hannity sheepishly admitting Fox confirmed the news.

 

From the global economic summit in Davos, Switzerland, Trump dismissed the New York Times’ story. Answering shouted questions from reporters Friday morning, he called the reporting “fake news” and said “typical New York Times. Fake stories.”

According to the Times story and additional reporting from CNN and The Washington Post, Trump tried to fire Mueller in June, but he dialed back after White House attorney Don McGahn threatened to quit. McGahn reportedly told Trump the move would be a major blow to his presidency, according to the Times.

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President Donald Trump on Friday said he has “tremendous support” from Republicans to make a compromise on a path to citizenship for recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, despite backlash from his far-right base.

During an interview with CNBC Friday, Trump said the Republican senators he’s been courting on immigration reform — Sens. Tom Cotton (R-AR), David Perdue (R-GA), John Cornyn (R-TX) and Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) — are “willing to shift more” on their stance on protecting DACA recipients if it means Trump will get his border wall.

NBC and The Daily Beast reported Thursday that the White House’s platform on immigration — which will be revealed Monday — will offer a decade-long path to citizenship for 1.8 million DACA recipients in exchange for $25 billion in border wall and security funding, which Trump said will be more than enough to cover construction.

“I don’t need $25 billion to build a wall,” he said. “We’ll build a great— that’s what I do. We’ll build a great wall and we’ll have a lot of money left over and we’ll spend it on other things.”

The White House also plans to propose the termination of the diversity visa lottery program and family-based immigration. The news of Trump’s planned compromise sparked outrage from pundits on the far-right, with Breitbart News even bringing back to it’s “amnesty Don” headline for the President.

Despite the backlash, Trump said he thinks he can get the Republicans, as well as Democrats, to agree to a compromise because he will “consider it a great achievement to solve the DACA problem.”

I think Cotton, and Perdue, and Goodlatte, and the people that I’ve been dealing with — Cornyn, so many of the people — these are great people,” he told CNBC. “These are people that really have shifted a lot. They’ve really shifted a lot, and I think they’re willing to shift more, and so am I.”

Watch the interview below:

Watch CNBC’s full interview with President Trump from Davos from CNBC.

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After President Donald Trump called African nations “shithole countries” earlier this month, he attempted to make peace while in Switzerland Friday.

Trump met with the head of the African Union and said it was “great honor” to meet Rwandan President Paul Kagame. He tweeted saying the two had “many great discussions!”

While the African Union, a 55-member continental body, condemned Trump’s comments earlier this month, the two did not mention the President’s remarks during their brief discussion, which reportedly focused primarily on economics and trade issues, according to the Associated Press.

Kagame told the AP that the discussion was “good” and that the African Union is “looking forward to working with the United States.”

The President’s remarks during an immigration discussion were leaked to the media earlier this month and sparked global furor. Several foreign governments summoned their U.S. ambassadors to explain the “shithole” remark, which pushed the State Department to give diplomats guidance on how to affirm the United States’ commitment to their host countries.

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Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) has spent the past two days peddling his theory that there’s a “secret society” within the FBI holding “secret meetings off-site,” perpetuating the Republicans’ campaign to discredit the agency amid its Russia probe.

Now, he’s open to the “real possibility” that his proof of the “secret society” was just a joke.

During an interview with Fox News Tuesday evening, Johnson claimed he had an informant who told him about secret FBI meetings that were held off-site after the 2016 election. He later claimed he borrowed the “secret society” language from a text exchange between two FBI officials who are at the center of a conservative firestorm over whether there’s an anti-Trump bias within the FBI.

ABC News obtained a copy of the text message exchange and reported Wednesday evening that the text in question stands alone in a series of messages and lacks context. ABC and CNN have since concluded that the message was likely a joke.

When CNN’s Manu Raju asked Thursday whether the text could have been sent in jest, Johnson said: “It’s a real possibility.”

Republicans have been up in arms over these text messages ever since they were released by the Justice Department late last year. The texts were exchanged between two FBI officials who are under suspicion of having an anti-Trump bias and worked for special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. Peter Strzok, a top counterintelligence official, was removed from the probe this summer after the messages were found and former FBI aide Lisa Page had already left the investigation by the time they came out.

The FBI announced this weekend that it had lost five months worth of texts between the pair due to a Samsung phone glitch, causing widespread outrage from Trump and other Republicans. The Justice Department confirmed to TPM Wednesday that thousands of employees’ cell phones had been impacted by the glitch.

CNN reported Thursday afternoon that the Justice Department had been able to recover the missing messages.

Watch the clip below:

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After making the rounds on nearly every national cable news show this week to spout his belief in a “secret society” within the FBI, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) told NPR Thursday that he’s “certainly not” trying to discredit the agency.

During an interview with Fox News Tuesday evening, Johnson first mentioned the “secret society” and claimed he had an informant that told him about secret meetings being held off-site after the 2016 election. He later dialed back on the “secret society” claim, saying he borrowed that terminology from a text exchange between two FBI officials who are at the center of a conservative firestorm over whether there’s an anti-Trump bias within the FBI.

Johnson was asked Thursday whether the “secret society” talk is part of a campaign by Republicans to discredit the FBI and special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into the Trump campaign and Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

“Certainly not on my part. My part goes back three years, and the sham investigation into what I believe was a crime by Secretary Clinton,” he told NPR, referencing the Senate Intelligence Committee’s initial probe into then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server for official business.

He later added that he is going public with this information because he wants “transparency” and wants to make sure “the FBI is beyond reproach in terms of integrity.”

“The only way to restore their integrity is if we get to the bottom, and we need transparency and that’s all I’m trying to provide,” he said.

The texts that Johnson’s basing a portion of his argument on are part of a Justice Department investigation into 50,000 text messages exchanged between agent Peter Strzok and former FBI attorney Lisa Page during the 2016 presidential election, which reportedly show the pair did not want Trump to become president.

The “secret society” text message stands alone in a series of texts and lacks any type of context to tie it to the rest of the conversation, according to ABC News, which obtained a copy of the texts in question and concluded that the comment was likely made as a joke.

Over the weekend, the FBI was expected to release a new round of text messages between Strzok and Page, but announced that the texts have gone missing due to a Samsung phone glitch, which has pushed Trump and Republicans into a fury.

Listen to the interview below:

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During an interview with CNN’s Chris Cuomo on Wednesday evening, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) grew combative about the media and blamed Democrats for attempting to block the release of a Republican-authored memo that claims to reveal the basis of an anti-Trump bias at the FBI.

Cuomo told Gaetz that he wants the memo released because he doesn’t trust politicians.

“I want to know more because politicians have politics in mind,” Cuomo said.

“So do reporters,” Gaetz said, cutting Cuomo off.

“And I do no trust any of you as ultimate arbiters of fact,” Cuomo continued.

“I don’t trust CNN anchors, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have a debate about the context. … CNN calling someone partisan?” Gaetz scoffed.

The memo in question was authored by Rep. Devin Nunes’ (R-CA) staffers, and it reportedly contains classified information about the conduct of senior Department of Justice and FBI officials, that allegedly proves Republicans’ claims of the Justice Department’s bias against President Donald Trump. The memo was reportedly shared with many Republican members of Congress, but has not been turned over to the FBI or the Department of Justice.

Democrats are questioning the validity of the memo, with Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) calling it a “conspiracy theory.” Two California Democrats Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Rep. Adam Schiff have asked Facebook and Twitter to probe whether the hashtag promoting the release of the memo on social media was propagated by Russian bots.

Watch some of the exchange between Cuomo and Gaetz, who spouts several other theories about the FBI and the Russia investigation, below:

 

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The text messages exchanged between FBI officials Peter Strzok and Lisa Page that reference a supposed “secret society” at the FBI appear to have been made in jest, according to new reporting from ABC News, which obtained copies of the messages.

On Tuesday and Wednesday Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) made the cable news rounds to raise alarm about the missing texts and propagate his theory that there is a “secret society” operating out of the FBI. He claimed an informant had told him about “off-site meetings” that were held after the election.

Johnson later clarified that the “secret society” terminology was taken from the Strzok and Page text exchanges that, according to ABC News, lack context and were likely made as a joke.

“When Strzok and Page had described a secret society, that didn’t surprise me because I had corroborating information,” Johnson told ABC Wednesday.

The text message in question: “Are you even going to give out your calendars? Seems kind of depressing. Maybe it should just be the first meeting of the secret society,” Page texted Strzok when he was working for special counsel Robert Mueller and his probe into the Trump campaign and Russian interference in the 2016 election. 

According to ABC, the “secret society” text message stands alone in a series of texts and lacks any type of context to tie it to the rest of the conversations.

Over the weekend, the FBI was expected to release a new round of text messages between Strzok and Page, but announced that the texts have gone missing due to a Samsung phone glitch.

The Justice Department is investigating 50,000 text messages exchanged between Strzok and Page during the 2016 presidential election. According to transcripts of the texts released by the Justice Department, the pair referred to Trump as an “idiot” and used language that indicated they supported former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in her presidential bid. The texts also show that Strzok believed there was “no big there there” regarding Russia investigation.

Trump and other Republicans are using the texts to hold a candle to their accusations of bias within the FBI, a phenomenon the President has been fueling since he fired former FBI Director James Comey last spring.

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Claiming President Donald Trump is a “changed person,” Franklin Graham, the son of influential evangelical Christian minister Billy Graham, said that God helped put Trump in the White House for a reason.

“I believe Donald Trump is a good man,” Franklin Graham said on CNN Tuesday evening. “He did everything wrong as a candidate and he won and I don’t understand it. Other than I think God put him there.”

When questioned by CNN’s Don Lemon about reports of Trump’s recent impropriety — an alleged affair with porn star Stormy Daniels — and, as the Wall Street Journal reports, a $130,000 payout of hush money, Franklin Graham said he believed Trump when he denied those reports.

“He said he didn’t have an affair with her and there’s not evidence — and I think that alleged affair was 11 years ago,” he said. “That was a long time ago, I’m more interested, Don, in who a person is today than what they were 11 years ago and I believe he’s a changed person.”

Franklin Graham, who performed a prayer at Trump’s inauguration, has openly defended Trump, despite his “crude” manner of speaking. He has called Trump “refreshing,” but said Tuesday he hopes Trump “will be a better moral authority in these next three years.”

While he never explicitly endorsed Trump, Franklin Graham put out statements leading up to the 2016 election encouraging congregants to vote with matters like the appointment of a Supreme Court Justice, religious liberty and combatting abortion in mind. All are key issues for many Catholic and evangelical members of Trump’s base and are often cited by some Christian leaders as rational for their consistent support of the President despite behavior and allegations against him that are inconsistent with Christian values.

Franklin Graham’s father, Billy Graham is widely recognized for paving the way for the intersection of the Christian faith and politics. He served as a pastor to nearly every president from Truman to Obama.

Despite being a lifelong registered Democrat, Billy Graham is credited with constructing the ideology behind the religious right movement, which was further propagated by fundamentalists like Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson — the host of the 700 Club who interviewed Trump — in the 1980s. Polls show that white evangelicals are the leading demographic that helped put Trump in the White House.

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