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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

A federal judge ruled on Wednesday that the District of Columbia and the state of Maryland have stated valid claims to sue President Donald Trump for allegedly violating the foreign and domestic emoluments clauses of the Constitution over profits the President earned from the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C.

Judge Peter Messitte previously ruled that D.C. and Maryland had the legal standing to sue Trump over the emoluments his hotel has received from foreign, federal and state governments since taking office. Messitte argued that the two jurisdictions and their residents were being sufficiently harmed by foreign and state government officials’ decision to stay at the Trump International Hotel over other businesses in D.C. and Maryland. Messittee also in March limited the scope of the lawsuit to center on business only related to the Trump International Hotel and not other Trump Organization properties.

In the Wednesday ruling, Messitte denied another attempt by Trump to dismiss the lawsuit, ruling that the court should use a broad definition of the term “emoluments” and that the clause applies to the presidency. In the verbose ruling, the judge sided with D.C. and Maryland’s broader definition of emoluments, which he argues goes beyond simple protections against “bribery.” Messittee also chastised Trump’s lawyers for failing to provide evidence to support arguments that former presidents held trading partnerships with foreign and domestic governments.

“The Court is satisfied, consistent with the text and the original public meaning of the term ‘emolument,’ that the historical record reflects that the Framers were acutely aware of and concerned about the potential for foreign or domestic influence of any sort over the President. An ‘emolument’ within the meaning of the Emoluments Clauses was intended to reach beyond simple payment for services rendered by a federal official in his official capacity, which in effect would merely restate a prohibition against bribery. The term was intended to embrace and ban anything more than de minimis profit, gain, or advantage offered to a public official in his private capacity as well, wholly apart from his official salary,” he wrote.

The judge ruled specifically that under the domestic emoluments clause, D.C. and Maryland can plausibly state a claim that Trump violated the Constitution with state government officials’ stays at the hotel, tax concessions from the D.C. government, and the Trump International Hotel’s lease from the federal government D.C.

Trump hasn’t divested his business holdings, even though he handed over Trump Organization dealings to his sons while serving as President. He also vowed to donate any profits made from foreign governments to the U.S. Treasury– about $150,000 so far, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Read the ruling below:

Correction: The original version of this story mistakenly described today’s ruling as involving standing. The judge had previously ruled in plaintiffs’ favor on the standing issue.

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Federal investigators examining whether President Donald Trump’s former personal lawyer Michael Cohen committed financial crimes have interviewed former White House staffer and reality TV star Omarosa Manigault-Newman, The Wall Street Journal reported.

According to people familiar with the matter who spoke to the WSJ, the FBI found that Cohen had intervened in a previously unreported dispute between Manigault-Newman and American Media Inc., the media company that paid a former Playboy model for her story on an alleged affair with Trump. The recording of a conversation over that payment between Trump and Cohen was released Tuesday night.

In 2011, Manigault-Newman threatened to file a lawsuit over AMI’s coverage of her brother’s murder. According to the WSJ, the publisher sent a reporter to Manigault-Newman’s brother’s funeral and the writer talked to members of the family without identifying herself. Cohen reportedly intervened and helped draft an agreement under which Manigault-Newman would drop her lawsuit against AMI if they gave her a job, sources told WSJ.

Manigault-Newman worked as an editor for the now-shuttered Reality Weekly, as well as OK! Magazine. A former bureau chief for the National Enquirer told WSJ that he wasn’t not sure what Manigault-Newman’s job actually entailed and that she regularly didn’t come to work.

Manigault-Newman met Trump when she was a contestant on his show “The Apprentice” in 2004, before the dispute with AMI, whose publisher David Pecker is a longtime friend of Trump’s. Manigault-Newman landed a job in Trump’s White House, but was reportedly forced out. She then joined the cast of reality show “Big Brother,” where she expressed discontent with the Trump administration and then walked back the criticism during cable news interviews.

While the resolution with AMI may not have been inappropriate, Cohen’s involvement in the dispute adds convoluted layer to Trump’s former lawyers alleged dealings with AMI and reported attempts to manage hush agreements for Trump. 

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President Donald Trump’s former lawyer created and then dissolved a Delaware shell company in the fall of 2016, with the intent of using the company, Resolution Consultants, to pay off a former Playboy model alleging an affair with Trump, The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday.

According to a person familiar with the matter who spoke to the WSJ, Cohen created the Delaware-based company in September 2016 and dissolved it in October 2016. The person told WSJ that Cohen planned to use the company to purchase the rights to Karen McDougal’s story about an alleged long term affair she claims she had with Trump from American Media Inc., which owns the National Enquirer.

The Wall Street Journal reported in January that Cohen created the company Essential Consultants LLC on the same day he dissolved Resolution Consultants, and used Essential Consultants to complete a $130,000 hush payment to Stormy Daniels, the porn star who said she had a sexual affair with Trump.

Cohen mentions creating a company to pay off McDougal in a recently released recording of a conversation he had with Trump in September 2016. The rights to McDougal’s story were never actually purchased, according to the WSJ.

Cohen’s lawyer, who shared the tape with CNN, claims the recording shows Trump suggested Cohen use “cash” to make the payment, which Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani vehemently denies.

“There’s no way the President is going to be setting up a corporation and then using cash, unless you’re a complete idiot,” Giuliani told Fox News Tuesday night.

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Following the release of a recording that appears to show President Donald Trump knew about a payment Michael Cohen made to an ex-Playboy model, Trump slammed his former lawyer on Twitter — again.

“What kind of lawyer would tape a client? So sad!” Trump tweeted, suggesting that the recording was edited to make him look bad.

Michael Cohen’s attorney released a recording of a conversation between Trump and Cohen before the 2016 election in which the two are heard discussing a payment to American Media Inc. to purchase the rights to a story about former Playboy model Karen McDougal, who claimed to have had an affair with Trump. The recording appears to show that Trump was very much aware of the payment, contrary to what his campaign and legal team have argued.

Trump’s attorney Rudy Giuliani told the media on Tuesday night that whether the tape implicates Trump is “open to interpretation” and he disputed key claims made by Cohen’s lawyer — that the tape shows Trump suggested that Cohen use cash to make the payment. Giuliani claimed Trump said “don’t pay with cash.”

Read the full transcript (provided to the media by Giuliani) of the recording here and listen the audio of the exchange in question here.

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The President caused “a bit of a stir” during a recent trip overseas when he exploded on staff for tuning First Lady Melania Trump’s TV to CNN instead of Fox News, The New York Times reported.

According to an email exchange obtained by the Times, Trump fumed at staff for “violating a rule” about the televisions, in the Times’ words, and demanded that Air Force One TVs be tuned to Fox News at the start of each trip.

In the email, exchanged between the White House communications shop and the military office, it was decided that it would become standard practice for TVs to be set to Fox, according to the Times.

Trump also reportedly asked staff for two more TVs for himself and Melania Trump to watch in their separate hotel rooms while traveling.

Read the Times full report on Trump existing within his own reality here.

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President Donald Trump has in recent weeks has been peppering outside advisers, former aides and current staffers with questions about Mick Mulvaney, who is the head of the Office of Budget and Management, as well as the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection, Politico reported.

Specifically: “What do we think about Mick” for the next chief of staff?

According to several current and former officials and Republicans close to Trump who spoke to Politico, Mulvaney has emerged a Trump favorite ever since the government shutdown in January, when Trump was reportedly pleased with his performance. While Politico reported that there is no clear indication that Kelly has concrete plans to leave the White House, it’s long been reported that Kelly is unhappy in his role and could be on his way out.

Mulvaney is also reportedly interested in the gig, vying for the top White House job by asking Republicans outside the West Wing to “put in a good word on his behalf” with Trump, in Politico’s words.

Trump is also reportedly asking advisers about Nick Ayers, Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff.

A White House official told TPM that the reports on Trump eyeing Mulvaney to replace Kelly are inaccurate.

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President Donald Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani on Tuesday evening scrambled to spread his legal team’s conflicting take on what was revealed in the release of audio of Trump’s conversation with his former lawyer about a payment to a former Playboy model just ahead of the 2016 election.

Giuliani claimed that the recording, made by ex-Trump lawyer Michael Cohen, “doesn’t” indicate that Trump knew about plans to purchase the rights to Karen McDougal’s story — about an alleged affair with Trump — from American Media Inc.

“That’s open to interpretation, and we can have a fight about that. … To me it sounds like Cohen is explaining something to [Trump] that he doesn’t understand,” Giuliani told The Washington Post on Tuesday evening, shortly after Cohen’s lawyer gave CNN a copy of the recordings. “He doesn’t seem that familiar with anything. There is nothing to indicate he knew anything in advance.”

Giuliani also took his spin to Fox News on Tuesday night, telling the network that there’s “no indication of any crime being committed on this tape” and claiming the tape was “leaked on us with a very, very scurrilous description” of what was on it.

Giuliani disputed a key claim made by Cohen’s lawyer — that the tape shows Trump suggested that Cohen use cash to make the payment. Giuliani claimed Trump said “don’t pay with cash.”

“There’s no way the President is going to be setting up a corporation and then using cash, unless you’re a complete idiot,” he told Fox News.

Read the full transcript of the recording here and listen the audio of the exchange in question here. 

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Just after Michael Cohen’s attorney released the audio recording of a conversation between Cohen and President Donald Trump, the President’s legal team released a transcript of the conversation.

Trump’s lawyers believe the transcript shows that Trump advised Cohen not to make a payment to a former Playboy model with cash. The quality of the recording makes it difficult to determine. The recording does reveal that Trump appears to know about the payment to purchase the rights to Karen McDougal’s story — alleging she had an affair with Trump — which Trump has previously denied knowledge of.

Read the full transcript, via The Washington Post, below:

TRUMP: [In background] Good. Let me know what’s happening, okay? Oh, oh. Maybe because of this it would be better if you didn’t go, you know? Maybe because of this. For that one, you know, I think what you should do is get rid of this. Because it’s so false what they’re saying, it’s such bulls—. Um. [PAUSE] I think, I think this goes away quickly. I think what — I think it’s probably better to do the Charleston thing, just this time. Uh, yeah. In two weeks, it’s fine. I think right now it’s, it’s better. You know? Okay, hun. You take care of yourself. Thanks, babe. Yup, I’m proud of you. So long. Bye.

[Into phone] What’s happening?

COHEN: Great poll, by the way.

TRUMP: Yeah?

COHEN: Seen it. Great poll.

TRUMP: Making progress.

COHEN: Big time.

TRUMP: And, your guy is a good guy. He’s a good —

COHEN: Who, Pastor Scott?

TRUMP: Can’t believe this. No, Pastor Scott. What’s, what’s happening —

COHEN: No —

TRUMP: Can we use him anymore?

COHEN: Oh, yeah, a hundred — no, you’re talking about Mark Burns. He’s, we’ve told him to [UNINTELLIGIBLE].

TRUMP: I don’t need that — Mark Burns, are we using him?

COHEN: No, no.

FEMALE: Richard [UNINTELLIGIBLE]. I’m sorry, Richard [UNINTELLIGIBLE] just called. He — just when you have a chance, he had an idea for you.

TRUMP: Okay, great.

COHEN: Um, so, we got served from the New York Times. I told you this — we were …

TRUMP: To what?

COHEN: … To unseal the divorce papers with Ivana. Um, we’re fighting it. Um, [Trump attorney Marc] Kasowitz is going to —

TRUMP: They should never be able to get that.

COHEN: Never. Never. Kasowitz doesn’t think they’ll ever be able to. They don’t have a —

TRUMP: Get me a Coke, please!

COHEN: They don’t have a legitimate purpose, so —

TRUMP: And you have a woman that doesn’t want this.

COHEN: Correct.

TRUMP: Who you’ve been handling.

COHEN: Yes. And —

TRUMP: And it’s been going on for a while.

COHEN: About two, three weeks now.

TRUMP: All you’ve got to do is delay for —

COHEN: Even after that, it’s not ever going to be opened. There’s no, there’s no purpose for it. Um, told you about Charleston. Um, I need to open up a company for the transfer of all of that info regarding our friend, David, you know, so that — I’m going to do that right away. I’ve actually come up and I’ve spoken —

TRUMP: Give it to me and get me a [UNINTELLIGIBLE].

COHEN: And, I’ve spoken to Allen Weisselberg about how to set the whole thing up with …

TRUMP: So, what do we got to pay for this? One-fifty?

COHEN: … Funding . . . Yes. Um, and it’s all the stuff.

TRUMP: Yeah, I was thinking about that.

COHEN: All the stuff. Because — here, you never know where that company — you never know what he’s —

TRUMP: Maybe he gets hit by a truck.

COHEN: Correct. So, I’m all over that. And, I spoke to Allen about it, when it comes time for the financing, which will be —

TRUMP: Wait a sec, what financing?

COHEN: Well, I’ll have to pay him something.

TRUMP: [UNINTELLIGIBLE] pay with cash.

COHEN: No, no, no, no, no. I got it.

TRUMP: Check.

[Tape cuts off abruptly. Separate recording begins.]

MALE: Hey Don, how are you?

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On CNN’s Cuomo Primetime Tuesday evening, the network aired an audio recording of President Donald Trump and his former lawyer Michael Cohen discussing the Karen McDougal payment.

Cohen’s attorney Lanny Davis shared the recording with CNN and the President’s legal team released a transcript of the tape shortly thereafter.

Listen to the discussion about buying the rights to McDougal’s story from American Media Inc.’s David Pecker below:

The key exchange, according to the transcript:

“Um, I need to open up a company for the transfer of all of that info regarding our friend David,” Cohen says.

“So what do you got to pay for this? One-fifty?” Trump asks.

“Yes,” Cohen says. “Um, and it’s all the stuff.”

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While leading a crowd of veterans at a Veterans of Foreign Wars gathering in Kansas City, Missouri in shouting down the media, President Donald Trump said he saw a story on NBC News that was so negative “I wanted to say, ‘I gotta do something about this Trump.’”

“Don’t believe the crap you see from these people, the fake news,” he said, a command that was reportedly met with boos and hisses from the crowd. “I mean, I saw a piece on NBC today– NBC, not just CNN. CNN’s the worst. But I saw a piece on NBC. It was heart throbbing. They were interviewing people. They probably go through 20 and then pick the one that sounds like the worst. But they went through a group of people. In fact, I wanted to say, ‘I got to do something about this Trump.’”

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