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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

Suggesting he may be open to diplomatic talks with North Korea, President Donald Trump told The Wall Street Journal Thursday that he “probably” has a “very good relationship” with Kim Jong-un, despite months of public feuds with the nation’s rogue leader.

“I have relationships with people. I think you people are surprised,” he told the WSJ in a wide-ranging interview from the Oval Office published Thursday. “You’ll see that a lot with me … and then all of a sudden, somebody’s my best friend. I could give you 20 examples. You could give me 30. I’m a very flexible person.”

The comments follow months of mounting tensions between Trump and Kim as the North Korean leader tests global patience with his development of a nuclear arsenal. Trump has called Kim a “maniac,” “short and fat” and “rocket man,” while Kim has taken to labeling Trump the “mentally deranged U.S. dotard.”

Despite efforts by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Trump has been noncommittal on whether he believes diplomatic discussions with North Korea will force Kim’s hand in ending the development of his nuclear program. In October, Tillerson said a line of communication had been opened between the U.S. and North Korea. Trump responded by undercutting his secretary of state, saying Tillerson was “wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man.”

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The Haitian government is taking formal steps to condemn President Donald Trump’s labeling of the country as a “shithole” by summoning a U.S. official to explain the remarks, MSNBC reported.

Haiti’s ambassador to the United States, Paul Altidor, reportedly told MSNBC that the Haitian government was shocked by the remarks, which he said he believes Trump made “based on stereotypes.”

“Either the President has been misinformed or he is miseducated,” Altidor reportedly told MSNBC’s Yamiche Alcindor.

The response follows comments Trump made during immigration reform discussions with lawmakers, when he reportedly questioned why the United States allows immigrants from “shithole countries” like Haiti and African countries to come to the U.S., The Washington Post and The New York Times reported Thursday. In a statement released Thursday, the White House did not deny Trump’s comments, but rather defended the President’s stance on a merit-based immigration deal.

“President Trump is fighting for permanent solutions that make our country stronger by welcoming those who can contribute to our society, grow our economy and assimilate into our great nation,” White House deputy press secretary Raj Shah said in a statement.

H/t The Daily Beast

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During a White House press briefing Thursday, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders used the podium to tell CNN’s Jim Acosta that his network’s “numbers would be higher” if President Trump watched CNN.

“I’m sure you are disappointed he’s not watching CNN,” Sanders said, responding to Acosta’s questions about the President’s habit of watching “Fox and Friends” and responding to that show’s reports on Twitter.

On Thursday, Trump’s cryptic tweet about the administration’s stance on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act appeared to be fueled by a discussion on “Fox and Friends,” where personality Andrew Napolitano was skeptical of the President’s support of reauthorizing the FISA Act.

“I think he watches a lot of CNN, if you don’t mind me saying it,” Acosta said.

“I don’t think that’s true, your numbers would be higher,” Sanders responded, before defending Trump’s contradictory tweets, giving a similar line that Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) offered earlier Thursday — that Trump was alluding to his concerns over domestic surveillance, rather than Section 702 of the law, which focuses on the surveillance of foreign targets.

On Thursday afternoon, the House voted to renew Section 702 of the FISA Act and added a provision that would require the FBI to get a warrant before it could view the contents of Americans’ communication with foreign targets.

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House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) came to President Trump’s defense on Thursday over the President’s comments about the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

Insisting that “everybody knows” that Trump has concerns with “other parts” of FISA than what the House voted to renew Thursday, Ryan defended Trump’s familiarity with FISA despite the President’s contradictory tweets.

“It is well-known that he has concerns about the domestic FISA law. That’s not what we’re doing today. Today was 702, a different part,” he said during a press conference Thursday. “Today has to do with foreign terrorists on foreign soil. He knows that and he put out something that I think clarified that. His administration’s position has been clear from day one, which is 702 is really important, it’s gotta be renewed.”

On Thursday, the House renewed Section 702 of FISA, which will extend for six years the government’s ability to collect the communications of foreign targets located abroad from U.S. companies. The measure also allowed for surveillance of Americans’ communications with foreign targets. A bipartisan group of lawmakers attempted to derail the vote on Thursday by proposing an amendment that would prioritize the privacy of U.S. citizens. On Wednesday evening, the White House put out a statement expressing the administration’s opposition to the bipartisan effort.

On Thursday morning, Trump appeared to break with his administration, posting a tweet calling FISA “controversial” and questioning whether it was used to justify previous administration’s “abuse” of his campaign. He was likely referencing unfounded claims he made this past spring, accusing former President Barack Obama of “wire tapping” Trump Tower.

After his first tweet, Trump reportedly spoke with Ryan, NBC and The Washington Post reported. Trump later posted a second tweet, clarifying his support for the reauthorization that passed Thursday.

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Arizona Senate candidate and former controversial Sheriff Joe Arpaio still does not believe in the authenticity of former President Barack Obama’s birth certificate.

During an interview with CNN Wednesday night, host Chris Cuomo asked Arpaio whether he still believes the former President was not born in the United States. Arpaio has been a prominent birther for years, perpetuating false claims that Obama was not born in the U.S. and questioning the authenticity of his birth certificate.

“I started this because of a fake document,” he said. “I didn’t care where the President came from, I didn’t care at all and we had the evidence. Nobody will talk about it, nobody will look at it. And anytime you want to come down, or anybody, we’ll be glad to show you the evidence. And by the way, you’re going to hear more about this fake, phony birth certificate.”

Arpaio said he still has “no doubt” that Obama has a phony birth certificate. 

While the authenticity of Obama’s birth certificate is indisputable, Arpaio’s birtherism claims aren’t a fringe opinion. President Donald Trump was a vocal birther for years before he unequivocally proclaimed that Obama was born in the United States during the 2016 campaign.

The New York Times reported in November that Trump still privately questions whether Obama was born in the United States.

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Some Democratic members of Congress are planning to wear black and invite survivors of sexual assault to President Trump’s State of the Union address later this month to bring attention to the issue, NBC reported Thursday.

Each lawmaker gets one ticket to invite a guest to the address, and guests are seated in the gallery above the House floor. There’s some tension within the Democratic Party over whether such a move would politicize the topic, rather than address sexual misconduct, according to sources familiar with the discussions who spoke with NBC.

The move resembles those made by Trump leading up to the election when he invited the women who accused former President Bill Clinton of sexual misconduct to a debate with Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

One Democrat told NBC that their party would be “no better” than Republicans if they pulled a similar stunt at the State of the Union address, given the fact that multiple women have accused Trump of sexual misconduct. Trump has denied all those claims.

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As the House prepares to vote on the renewal of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act this week, President Donald Trump is questioning whether the law was used to spy on and “abuse” his campaign.

“This is the act that may have been used, with the help of the discredited and phony Dossier, to so badly surveil and abuse the Trump Campaign by the previous administration and others?” he tweeted Thursday morning.

Trump’s tweet is likely referencing the unfounded claims he made this past spring, accusing former President Barack Obama’s administration of “wire tapping” his phones at Trump Tower. The Department of Justice released a motion in September saying the department had no evidence “related to wiretaps as described” by Trump. CNN reported in September that Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort was under surveillance by the FISA court through the start of the Trump administration.

The FISA Act allows intelligence officials to surveil the communications of foreign powers or agents of foreign powers outside of the U.S. who may be suspected of espionage or terrorism. The law is scheduled for reauthorization this week, and a bipartisan group of lawmakers are proposing amendments to the legislation that would protect the privacy of Americans, The Washington Examiner reported Tuesday.

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President Donald Trump has “discovered” that a physical wall across the entire U.S.-Mexico border is not necessarily possible, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway told CNN Wednesday.

“What’s true is that after conferring with the experts who are involved in this process … the President has discovered that part of it will be, he knows, part of it will be the physical wall, part of it is better technology, part of it is also fencing,” Conway said. “There are rivers involved, I’m told. There are mountains involved, there’s terrain that isn’t conducive to building an actual physical structure in some places.”

While Trump has promised he would build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, he has been unclear on whether he was pushing for a physical wall or improving border security. He has said the U.S. needs the wall for security, safety and to stop the flow of drug trafficking into the United States. Throughout his campaign, he vowed to build a border wall and to make Mexico pay for it, which Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto has consistently told Trump his country won’t do.

In recent days he’s suggested he would not sign any legislative fix for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program — which Trump has vowed to end — without a plan for the border wall. DACA was created by former President Barack Obama through executive order, protects undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as minors from deportation.

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A day after former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio announced his plans to run for the seat that will be vacated by Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Arpaio compared himself with the President and his political style.

“Isn’t it great to be compared to the President of the United States?” Arpaio said in an interview with The Associated Press on Wednesday.

Arpaio reportedly said the two share a focus on immigration, an ability to recover from incidents that would normally sink the careers of other politicians and the ability to amass consistent media coverage. He also noted he and President Trump have both been persecuted by the U.S. Department Justice, according to the Associated Press.

Trump pardoned Arpaio this fall of a criminal contempt of court charge for intentionally targeting immigrants in his department’s traffic stops. Trump consistently attacks the Justice Department for its investigation in whether his campaign colluded with Russia to win the 2016 election.

Arpaio said Trump’s agenda fueled his desire to run for the Senate said, but said “people are not going to vote for me just (for) being pro-Trump.”

Before Arpaio announced his bid, Trump showed some support for Arpaio’s opponent, former state Sen. Kelli Ward (R), but he has not formerly endorsed her. Rep. Martha McSally (R-AZ) is also expected to announce a run for the seat in coming days.

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Now that President Trump has effectively cut ties with former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, the White House isn’t sure that the two “were ever particularly close.”

During the White House press briefing on Thursday, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders attempted to dial back on the nature of Bannon and President Trump’s past relationship.

“I’m not aware that they were ever particularly close,” she said. “They’ve spoken a few times since he left the White House, but it’s not like there were regularly scheduled calls and there were certainly no meetings between the two of them.

On Wednesday afternoon, Sanders told reporters that Bannon and Trump last spoke in early December, but on Thursday afternoon Trump told reporters “I don’t talk to him. That’s just a misnomer.”

The honeymoon between Bannon and Trump abruptly ended on Wednesday afternoon, when excerpts from a new book by journalist Michael Wolff were published, revealing critical remarks Bannon had made about Trump’s son and son-in-law and a meeting they had with a Russian lawyer during the campaign. Bannon reportedly said the meeting should be considered “treasonous.”

Trump released a scathing statement hours later, discrediting Bannon and claiming that he had “lost his mind.” Bannon later responded by calling Trump a “great man.”

On Thursday, Sanders also referenced a segment from the book that suggested that Bannon had been “sidelined by April.”

“Which I think goes further to indicate that he had very little credibility to give much information particularly at that point.”

Despite using the book to back up her claims about the President and Bannon not having a close relationship, she then reiterated the White House’s message that the Wolff book was “trash,” saying it was filled with “mistake after mistake after mistake.”

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LiveWire