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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

Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) on Sunday offered a simple solution for the “chucklehead” Environmental Protection Agency chief to avoid the scandal that has plagued his office in recent weeks.

“If you don’t need to fly first class, don’t,” Kennedy said of EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s penchant for pricey travel Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” “Don’t turn on the siren on your SUV just to watch people move over, you represent the President of the United States. All of this behavior is juvenile, it’s distracting from the business that we’re trying to do for the American people.”

Kennedy offered Pruitt some advice — “stop acting like a chucklehead, stop the unforced error, stop leading with your chin” — but stopped short of suggesting Pruitt should resign, offering that that decision is “up to the President.”

“I know what I would do if I were Mr. Pruitt, I would call a press conference tomorrow and I would say, ‘Okay let’s talk about your criticisms of me,’” he said. “I would do a full blown press conference and say ‘Okay here are your criticisms. That’s fair. I’m going to stop doing it. Here’s what I think is not fair.’ But, but these people are hurting the President and I’m not saying he’s not a good person. But — but the appearance of impropriety matters. And you can’t put lipstick on a pig.”

Kennedy also argued that “some” of the attacks on Pruitt are politically motivated, but “all of it isn’t,” specifically calling out Pruitt for reportedly renting a room in a house owned by the wife of an energy lobbyist for $50 a night last year.

“Why do you want — in his position — why do you want to rent an apartment from a lobbyist for God’s sake?” he said. “There are a lot of problems we can’t solve. But you can behave. I’m not, I don’t mean to denigrate Mr. Pruitt, but doggone it he represents the President of the United States and it is hurting his boss and it needs to stop.”

Pruitt has faced widespread scrutiny for his housing last year, his reported use of round-the-clock security agents — who he claims he needs because he’s faced unprecedented threats, like people yelling curse words at him in public — and his excessive spending on ventures like first class flights and a sound proof phone booth.

Pruitt has also been lambasted for reportedly requesting the use of sirens to get through D.C. traffic and defying the White House in order to give two close aides a significant raise.

While four Republicans have now called for Pruitt’s resignation, President Donald Trump last week tweeted about Pruitt, indicating the embattled EPA chief was secure in his position and praising Pruitt for his work in rolling back environmental regulations.

Watch a video of Kennedy’s comments below:

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Sinclair Broadcast Group has allowed a critical advertisement by a liberal consumer watchdog group to run, but it is running its own defense before and after the negative ad, CNN reported.

The 30 second ad produced by Allied Progress condemns Sinclair for mandating its anchors to read scripted promotional content, specifically citing the videos that went viral in recent weeks showing local news anchors parroting the same message attacking one-sided journalism. Allied Progress’ message also calls on viewers to stop Sinclair’s proposed merger with Tribune Media, which would expand Sinclair’s reach to 72 percent of American households.

“Americans trust local media to deliver objective news about the communities where they live and work, but those watching scores of Sinclair stations around the country last week were instead force-fed politically inspired, anti-media propaganda that should have earned President Trump a writing credit,” Executive Director of Allied Progress said in a statement to TPM when the ads went out last week. 

“That so many local anchors would have to choose between providing for their families and demonstrating sound journalistic integrity only underscores the importance of stopping Sinclair’s stated goal of controlling every local news station in the country. The Sinclair/Tribune merger must be rejected,” he said.

The 30 second advertisement —which is running on four Sinclair-owned stations in Washington, D.C., Des Moines, Seattle and Baltimore — is preceded by a 15 second Sinclair ad that states the company thinks “the ad is misleading” but they wanted to let viewers decide.

This station, which is owned by Sinclair Broadcast Group, is proud to present both sides of issues. For that reason, we have agreed to air the commercial you are about to see, opposing Sinclair’s acquisition of additional television stations,” the Sinclair ad says, according to CNN. “We think the ad is misleading, but wanted to let you decide. Thank you.”

The Allied Progress advertisement follows that message, warning viewers that “this” is what happens when “local news isn’t local,” before showing the now famous Deadspin compilation of videos of anchors around the country assailing “fake” stories and bias in journalism. The ad then goes on to ask viewers to oppose the merger, calling it “extremely dangerous to our Democracy.”

 

Right after that ad, the following message is read, via CNN:

“The misleading ad you just saw focused on a brief promotional message that simply said we’re a source for truthful news. It ignored thousands of hours of local news we produce each year to keep you informed. The ad was purchased by a group known for its liberal bias, and we hope you won’t buy into the hysteria and hype.” 

Sinclair has come under fire in recent weeks for its mandated promotional messages that require local news anchors to read scripted content, often with a conservative leaning message. The Federal Communications Commission and Justice Department are reviewing the Tribune-Sinclair merger to determine whether it’s in the public’s best interest.

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A.J. Delgado feels she has been misled by Jason Miller since the two first started dating while working as high-profile spokespeople for President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign.

At the start of their relationship in October 2016 — when she became “a mistress without knowing it,” she said — Miller told her that he was separated from his wife and regularly spoke with Delgado about the stress the couple’s split was causing him. He confided in Delgado about meetings he apparently had with divorce accountants and told her he was worried that his wife might move away with their daughter.

“I thought I was dating somebody who was legally separated, which people do all the time,” she said. “I never gave it a second thought, and there was no reason to.”

But that wasn’t the case, Delgado later learned. Miller and his wife were still married, and expecting a child.

So, too, was Delgado, who found out she and Miller were pregnant not long after the 2016 election.

Now, a year and a half later, Delgado is locked in a bitter custody battle with Miller over their son that began nearly nine months ago: A “no end in sight” series of expensive court proceedings that Delgado thinks is largely fueled by Miller’s desire for retaliation.

“I think the motivation is revenge,” she told TPM by phone on Saturday. “He refuses to speak to me, we haven’t spoken since this came out. … He blames me for not terminating the pregnancy or not keeping it confidential, like how dare I not hide it? His wife obviously has a tremendous deal of resentment toward me and her family has attacked me on social media. This is their way of getting back at me, but it doesn’t make sense to spend this much time and money to do that.”

While Delgado says she did not want to have to speak out publicly regarding her affair again after she gave an interview to the Atlantic in August, she said she’s driven by her desire to bring awareness to the broader issue of “corruption” within the family law system, especially in Miami-Dade County in Florida, where she’s currently living.

Miller did not return TPM’s requests for comment about Delgado’s claims prior to publication. After publication, Miller provided the following response: “No child should have to see family matters played out in the public eye, and that is why I have refrained from responding even when attacked. I love our son very much and have been a constant presence in his life, as has my wife and two daughters.”

When word of the affair and pregnancy surfaced in December 2016, Delgado left the Trump orbit and moved to Florida, where she did some non-profit legal work and focused on her pregnancy. Miller, who was on the cusp of moving into the coveted gig of White House communications director when the scandal broke, reportedly stepped away from the role, claiming he needed to focus on his family. (Delgado said she heard Miller did not initially accept the White House’s decision and had to be forced out.)

Miller is now the managing director at Teneo Strategies and appears as a paid contributor on CNN.

Jason Miller briefs reporters at Trump International Golf Club, November 20, 2016 in Bedminster Township, New Jersey. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Now, with an eight-and-a-half month old son, William Linares Delgado, A.J. Delgado is working her way back into the political sphere, currently serving as a senior adviser for a Trump super PAC from Florida. In her new gig, she said she makes a “decent income” – a little more than the $120,000 a year she earned doing non-profit work. But she can’t afford the average $20,000 a month in legal fees that have been mounting since Miller dragged her to court the day after their son was born.

“I don’t even make that in gross income, forget net,” she said, adding that in total she owes about $100,000 in attorney fees. She had legal representation for several months, but, since February, doesn’t have a lawyer representing her in the case because she couldn’t afford the retainer, she said.

Throughout the entire pregnancy, Delgado said Miller was silent. He never contacted her to see if she and the baby were healthy and, she claims, didn’t acknowledge the child’s existence until he found out it was a boy.

After giving birth in the summer of 2017, Delgado had been out of the hospital for just five days when she was slapped with a court order demanding a paternity test, on July 18, 2017. Still recovering from the c-section delivery, Delgado attempted to push back on the order and provided the court with a letter from her pediatrician at the time, who said it was in the best interest of the newborn to not be subjected to a paternity test until he was two months old, according to Delgado and a copy of the letter shared with TPM.

According to Delgado, the physician’s concerns were ignored and the judge granted the request, ordering her to comply with the test within seven days.

“I had no choice but to have it done on the 25th, with my c-section scar still fresh and Will’s eyes barely open. If not, I would be arrested,” she said.

The court proceedings have been a “hellish” nightmare for Delgado ever since.

According to Delgado, Miller has asked for 50-50 custody of the child, a move she called “bizarre,” “worrisome” and borderline “abusive,” given the fact that the two former Trump campaign staffers live in separate states.

As the litigation expenses began to pile up, Delgado said she sent Miller a written letter in October to attempt to resolve the issue out of court, but she said her plea was ignored.

Miller has filed about 200 pleadings thus far, according to the case court docket, a move Delgado sees as an attempt to block the battle from going to trial and to drain her financially until she is “priced out.”

She compared her plight to the popular dystopian novel and TV series “The Handmaid’s Tale,” drawing parallels between the “rich couple” that decided they want to take the child. In court testimony – a portion of which Delgado shared on Twitter – Miller claimed that he didn’t want his son to be raised in a single mother home because he, himself had been raised by a single mom and he didn’t want Will to “go through that.”

“I’m sorry if his mom was not a good single mother, I really am, but Will has an amazing life,” she said. “I know conservatives might get mad, but I think there are perks to growing up with a single mother. … Living with me and mom and our four dogs, there’s no arguments, no other men or kids in my life, no spouse to bicker with and we just get to have fun and love on each other. A single mother who dotes on him all day, how horrible.”

Delgado said she knows there are other women, who may be worse off financially than she is, who are attempting to navigate the family law court system, which she feels is not only sexist, but also elitist. In her experience, family court favors the wealthier parent who can afford not only the legal fees, but is also able to hire experts and witnesses to testify on their behalf.

According to Delgado, Miller has brought in paid psychologists who have not only argued in Miller’s defense, but also blatantly tried to discredit her. She said going into debt — “I have peanuts in my checking account,” she said — instead of saving for her son’s future, is due, in part, to the fact that the family court system appears to allow the cases to be done “piecemeal style.” If Miller would allow the case to go to trial, all the issues would be resolved at once, she said.

“I’m disgusted by what the justice system is able to do,” she said, claiming she feels as though she has to constantly fight against the appearance of looking like an “angry gatekeeper mom” in court while Miller faces no such burden. During one hearing a few months back, she said Miller “stormed out” of the courtroom when he didn’t get his way.

“If I had done that, I would have lost the case,” she said.

Despite the debt and the bias she said she’s facing with each new pleading, she’s staying put.

“I think he’s hoping I will tap out, but even if I can’t afford an Uber, I will walk barefoot to the court house,” she said. “I will be there to the bitter end.”

[ed.note: This article has been updated with Jason Miller’s response.]

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President Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort is asking a judge to exclude evidence that Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigators obtained from one of his storage lockers in Virginia last May, claiming they obtained the evidence unlawfully.

In a new motion filed late Friday, Manafort claims Mueller’s team entered his storage facility without a warrant on May 26, 2017 after one of his former employees allowed an FBI agent to enter. Manafort claims that the ex-employee — whose name is redacted in the filing — didn’t have permission to let the agent into the unit, even though the ex-employee’s name was listed on the lease, according to the attached affidavit.

During May 26 visit, the agent “entered and observed a number of boxes and a filing cabinet inside the premises, as well as some writing on the sides of some boxes,” according to the filing. The agent then used what he observed to obtain a warrant the next day to confiscate documents from Manafort’s storage unit, which Manafort claims was a violation of his Fourth Amendment rights, according to the filing. The filing includes a redacted version of the search warrant and the supporting affidavit from the FBI agent who conducted the search.

The search was executed just a little over a week after Mueller was appointed as special counsel. In October, Mueller brought a slew of charges in Washington, D.C., alleging financial crimes and failure to disclose foreign lobbying against Manafort and his longtime business partner, ex-Trump campaign aide Rick Gates. Gates pleaded guilty in February and is cooperating with Mueller’s probe. Mueller meanwhile, filed a superseding indictment for the Washington, D.C. case, and a second criminal case against Manafort in Virginia. Manafort has pleaded not guilty in both cases.

Read the new filing below:

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President Donald Trump and his legal team have begun going over potential topics that may be brought up in a prospective interview with special counsel Robert Mueller, CNN reported Friday evening.

According to a White House official and a source familiar with the proceedings who spoke with CNN, the measures being taken to prepare Trump for an interview are still “in its infancy.” Trump has not formally agreed to do an interview, though he has publicly expressed willingness and enthusiasm to meet with the special counsel.

Trump’s dwindling legal team has been in communication with Mueller’s investigators for months, debating potential topics that Mueller could ask the President. According to CNN’s sources, those topics include Trump’s firing of former FBI Director James Comey, the attorney general’s role in that firing and Trump’s awareness of calls between his former national security adviser Michael Flynn and a Russian ambassador before Trump took office.

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President Donald Trump’s boast that “nobody’s been tougher on Russia” than he has is all that needs to be said to bolster the new sanctions the administration cast on Russia Friday, according to the White House. 

Responding to questions about why Trump hasn’t spoken out directly about the punitive measures the U.S. imposed Friday — hitting seven Russian oligarchs and 17 government officials with sanctions — press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders called the notion “ridiculous.”

“It’s ridiculous that you guys say that,” she said. “Just earlier this week the President stood on a stage in an open press room and talked about how he had been tough on Russia. And he has continued to do that through action. We’ve continued to do that through a number of administration officials. 

“To say that the President hasn’t addressed that directly, he did that while standing on stage with the leaders of the Baltic countries, in front of, I believe, almost every single one of you earlier this week, so its just not a fair or accurate statement,” she added.

Reporters pressed further, questioning why Trump hadn’t spoken directly to the issues that the administration has condemned in putting pressure on Russian President Vladimir Putin, like Russia’s activity in Syria and cyber crimes.

“We speak on behalf of the President day in and day out,” she said. “The President has signed off and directed these actions. I think that speaks volumes on how the President feels and exactly underscores what he said earlier this week when he said ‘no one has been tougher on Russia.’”

While it’s true the administration has recently rolled out a series of actions to punish Putin, Trump has avoided directly criticizing him and notably dragged his feet in imposing sanctions on the country for election meddling.

Trump recently phoned Putin and congratulated him on his election — even though it was widely reported that the election was rigged and Trump was advised not to congratulate him — and invited him to visit the White House.

During a press conference with Baltic leaders earlier this week, Trump did say he was tough on Russia, but went on to gloat that he “could have a very good relationship with President Putin” and opined that it was “a good thing” to get along with Russia. 

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Before it was reported that the White House was reviewing Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt’s decision to live in a home owned by the wife of an energy lobbyist last year, or that he defied the White House to give two of his closest aides a massive raise, the White House chief of staff wanted him out of the administration.

According to a White House official who spoke with the Wall Street Journal Friday, John Kelly told President Donald Trump last week that Pruitt should step down amid a series of negative news stories about the official’s excessive spending and management scandals. Pruitt has been plagued with negative press for months, but reports of his misuse of public funds have seen an uptick in recent weeks.

While Kelly and other White House aides have determined Pruitt’s time is up, Trump is not yet ready to push him out of the administration because he values the work he’s done to roll back regulations in his department, WSJ reported.

Trump voiced public support for Pruitt on Friday, claiming the EPA chief was “under siege,” despite Trump’s cryptic comments to reporters earlier this week saying he “hope(s)” Pruitt will be successful.

Pruitt has faced widespread scrutiny for his reported use of round-the-clock security agents — who he claims he needs because he’s faced unprecedented threats, like people yelling curse words at him in public — and his excessive spending on ventures like first class flights and a sound proof phone booth.

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Retiring Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) is counting down the days until his time in Washington, D.C. is up.

Partially because he’s tired of the “ineffectiveness” of the job and the hyper partisanship that he was once the face of, but largely due to his belief that the last seven years in Congress were a waste of time, he told Vice News in an interview Thursday night.

“I have 19 more drives to the airport before this session is over,” he told Vice. “I liked the people, I don’t like the job. … To the extent men judge themselves based on what they do for a living, I don’t have a lot to show for the last seven years.”

Gowdy announced his retirement in January by proclaiming: “Whatever skills I may have are better utilized in a courtroom than in Congress.” He’s been critical of the gig ever since and told Vice Thursday that Republicans’ main downfall in 2018 is the constant need to “win.”

“We’ve convinced ourselves that we have to win because the country will go to Hades in a handbasket if my team doesn’t win,” he said.

Watch the full interview below:

   

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After serving more than three decades in Congress, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) counts blocking the nomination of President Obama’s Supreme Court pick Merrick Garland as the “most consequential decision” he’s made in his “entire public career,” he told Kentucky Today earlier this week.

“You’ve heard me say before that I thought the decision I made not to fill the Supreme Court vacancy when Justice Scalia died was the most consequential decision I’ve made in my entire public career,” he said. “The things that will last the longest time, those are my top priorities.”

McConnell effectively blocked Garland’s nomination by refusing to grant a committee hearing for the Obama nominee after Supreme Court Justice Anthony Scalia died in February 2016. That move eventually led to the appointment of Neil Gorsuch, President Trump’s nominee, maintaining the majority conservative ideological divide of the high court.

He called his party’s success in passing a tax reform package last year “noteworthy,” but indicated it wouldn’t be permanent if Democrats are able to get control of Congress again.

“It’s noteworthy that when we did comprehensive tax reform 30 years ago, we left it alone for four years before the political winds shifted and we started playing with it again,” he told Kentucky Today.

“Believe me, the next time the political winds shift, and the other guys are in the ascendancy,” he continued, snapping his fingers, according to Kentucky Today. “But they won’t change these judges for a generation.”

Read the full interview with Kentucky Today here.

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President Donald Trump has been gradually excluding his top aide from crucial conversations and decisions because he reportedly doesn’t like being told “no,” The Associated Press reported Friday.

Chief of Staff John Kelly wasn’t on the now-infamous phone call between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin where Trump congratulated the Russian leader for winning the election that was widely considered rigged. In recent weeks, Kelly was also reportedly left out of the room when Trump hired John Bolton as his new national security adviser and stayed behind when Trump spent last weekend in Mar-a-Lago, tweeting about immigration and trade, the AP reported.

According to people close to Trump who spoke to the AP, Trump has become increasingly exhausted with Kelly’s attempts to keep order in the West Wing. The President is reportedly not yet ready to fire his top aide, but he has been pushing him away and intentionally icing him out of key decisions.

He’s “tired of being told no” by Kelly, one source close to Trump told the AP and he has resorted to not telling Kelly things before he makes a decision.

Kelly reportedly was against the hiring of Bolton and has fumed over the ethical scandals plaguing Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt, while Trump, at least earlier this week, offered the embattled administrator his support. Trump has also reportedly let his former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski back into the White House, after Kelly moved to bar him from visiting.

Read the AP’s full report here.

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