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

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Monday that the White House was not involved in FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe’s decision to leave the agency.

“We have seen the numerous reports as you all have seen,” she said during the daily White House briefing. “Any specifics, I can tell you, none of this decision was made by that of the White House. I would refer you to the FBI who I believe will make a statement later today.”

NBC News first reported Monday that McCabe is going on leave from his post at the FBI immediately and is planning to officially retire in mid-March. The news follows reports last week that President Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions pressured FBI Director Chris Wray to fire McCabe. Wray threatened to resign if McCabe was fired, prompting Sessions to back off, Axios and The Washington Post reported.

Trump has been publicly pressuring McCabe for months and has claimed that McCabe has an anti-Trump bias. The White House on Monday said Trump “stands by his previous comments” about McCabe, but he “wasn’t part of this decision-making process,” Sanders said.

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FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe is stepping down, NBC News reported Monday. 

According to NBC, McCabe will officially remain at the FBI until mid-March, which is when he can retire with full benefits.

The news follows reports last week that President Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions pressured FBI Director Chris Wray to clean house and fire McCabe. Wray — whom Trump appointed in June to replace former Director James Comey after he fired him — threatened to resign if McCabe were fired.

Wray reportedly told Sessions he was frustrated by the pressure from the Department of Justice and the Trump administration, prompting Sessions to speak with White House lawyer Donald McGahn, who advised him to back off, according to The Washington Post.

The New York Times reported late last year that McCabe was planning to retire in early 2018.

McCabe’s decision to step down comes as Trump has publicly criticized the deputy director for months, falsely claiming in tweets that Hillary Clinton gave McCabe’s wife, Jill McCabe, “big dollars” for a Virginia state senate seat race in 2015.

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Before moving to the White House last June, first lady Melania Trump took a total of 21 flights on Air Force planes, at the cost of $675,000, according to military records obtained by The Wall Street Journal.

Between her husband’s inauguration and June 2017, Melania Trump stayed in New York City so that her son Barron Trump could finish fifth grade.

“It is no secret that Mrs. Trump lived in New York City the first few months of the administration so that her son could finish school. The trips mentioned in this story are examples of Mrs. Trump juggling dual roles—putting her son first while also fulfilling some of her duties as First Lady,” Trump’s spokeswoman told the Journal.

While the cost of private travel for the first lady is currently double what former first lady Michelle Obama spent in a year, Melania Trump’s private trips between New York, Washington, D.C. and Florida were short lived, since she moved to the White House in June.

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Republicans’ secret memo — that they claim reveals evidence of an internal bias within the FBI and the Justice Department — reportedly shows that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein gave the green light to extend surveillance of an aide for President Trump’s campaign, according to new reporting from The New York Times.

Rosenstein reportedly approved an application to extend surveillance of former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser Carter Page because the Justice Department had reason to believe he was acting as a foreign agent for Russia, according to three people familiar with the matter who spoke with the Times.

The secret memo — which has pushed Republican members of the House to demand its release — reportedly claims that officials did not tell an intelligence court judge that they were partially relying on information from the Christopher Steele dossier in order to obtain the warrant.

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. The White House said Monday it plans to review the document.

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.

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U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley ripped the Grammys and, inadvertently, Hillary Clinton in a tweet Sunday night, claiming the awards show was ruining “great music with trash.”

“Some of us love music without the politics thrown in it,” she said, criticizing comedian James Corden’s sketch, which mockingly auditioned voice actors to read Michael Wolff’s “Fire and Fury” book. Clinton was the final person to “audition” to read the controversial book in the pre-recorded sketch, which was met with roaring applause from the largely celebrity audience.

Clinton was then declared the “winner” of the audition, a double entendre — Clinton is already a Grammy winner for her 1997 reading of her book “It Takes A Village.”

But Haley wasn’t keen on the joke, tweeting Sunday the skit “killed” the whole show for her.

As a close associate of President Donald Trump, it’s not unusual that Haley would be critical of the awards show, which has become increasingly political since Trump took office. But Haley has a personal ire with Wolff and the contents of “Fire and Fury” — Wolff has been claiming for weeks that Trump and Halley are having an affair, which the UN ambassador last week called “disgusting.”

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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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