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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

Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon will not appear before the House Intelligence Committee for questioning Tuesday, despite a subpoena, according to sources who spoke to CNN and Reuters.

Defying the subpoena could result in a contempt of Congress charge for the former far-right media mogul, who recently fell from grace after his comments about President Donald Trump’s son were made public in Michael Wolff’s new “Fire and Fury” book on the Trump White House.

While senior Republican committee member Rep. Mike Conway (R-TX) told reporters Monday that the committee was fully expecting Bannon to comply with the subpoena, sources familiar with the matter who spoke to CNN and Reuters said Bannon isn’t planning to show up Tuesday because the White House and the House panel haven’t come to an agreement on the scope of Bannon’s questioning.

The House panel subpoenaed Bannon in January after he refused to answer questions about his time working for President Donald Trump, a move that was apparently invoked by the White House, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) told reporters after Bannon’s January interview.

At the time Bannon and his attorney said he would only answer questions about his time working for the campaign, not as a member of Trump’s transition team or about his role in the White House.

CNN’s source said that while Bannon isn’t planning to comply with the House Intelligence panel’s subpoena, he would instead answer all of special counsel Robert Mueller’s questions.

Mueller and Congressional investigators are probing Russia’s interference in the 2016 election and whether Trump campaign aides worked with Russian officials to support those efforts.

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Rep. Tom Garrett (R-VA) on Monday compared special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election to the right-wing conspiracy theory that former President Barack Obama was not born in the United States.

“Imagine that there were a partly political-funded investigation into President Obama’s place of birth, right? Because this Russia investigation is essentially birtherism,” Garrett said during an interview with CNN’s Brianna Keilar.

“Imagine if political money, $9 million from the Clinton campaign and the DNC to Fusion GPS, were levied to do an investigation against President Obama as to his origin of birth,” he added. “That would be ridiculous and un-American, and this is too.”

President Donald Trump was one of birtherism’s most prominent supporters when he was a private citizen. During his 2016 campaign, Trump announced at a 36-second press conference that he believed Obama was born in the United States, and said less than a week later that he did so in order to “get on with the campaign.”

Pressed to explain his comparison between a known false narrative and a federal investigation into known Russian meddling in the 2016 election, Garrett said, “There are Russians in this world. Some of them are good. Some of them are bad. That’s for sure, like any nation. And so any attenuated contact then becomes a smoking gun? That’s ridiculous.”

He compared those making accusations of collusion to “the crazy people who made aspersions against President Obama.”

“You don’t get to pick the people with whom you’re going to interact,” Garrett said.

“You do get to decide who you invite to Trump Tower for a meeting,” Keilar pointed out, referring to Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting in June 2016 with a Russian lawyer from whom he hoped to obtain damaging information about Hillary Clinton.

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President Donald Trump on Monday praised House Intelligence Committee Chair Devin Nunes (R-CA) as a potential “Great American Hero” for “what he has exposed and what he has had to endure” following the Friday release of Nunes’ widely criticized memo alleging an anti-Trump bias within the FBI.

Trump on Friday declassified a memo authored by Nunes’ staff alleging that FBI officials misled the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA) to surveil Trump’s former campaign aide Carter Page, but the document ultimately revealed little and omitted key background information.

Though the much-anticipated memo landed with a thud, Axios on Sunday reported that Nunes has several more memos alleging “wrongdoing” by federal agencies.

Nunes on Monday said during an interview with “Fox and Friends” that his investigation is now examining “irregularities” at the State Department.

We have several other areas that we’re looking at, but I don’t want the American people to think we will have a memo that will go through this process,” he said. “What we’ll do in— follow in phase two, we’ll follow the facts where they lead. When we get enough facts, we’ll figure out a way to let the American people know.

House Intelligence Committee Democrats have pushed back on Nunes’ document, and have reportedly asked for a vote to release their own rebuttal memo to take place on Monday, despite Trump’s praise for the Republican document and his early morning attack on Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), the top Democrat on the panel and the leader of the rebuttal efforts.

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President Donald Trump on Monday lashed out at Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, calling him “little Adam Schiff” and claiming that he is one of the “biggest liars and leakers in Washington.”

“Little Adam Schiff, who is desperate to run for higher office, is one of the biggest liars and leakers in Washington, right up there with Comey, Warner, Brennan and Clapper!” Trump tweeted, referring to former FBI director James Comey, Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA), the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, former CIA director John Brennan and former director of national intelligence James Clapper.

Schiff responded to Trump’s tweet later Monday morning.

All of the people Trump named in his tweet have criticized Trump’s decision to release a dud anti-FBI memo drafted by House Intelligence Committee Chair Devin Nunes’ (R-CA) staff.

The memo, which Trump declassified on Friday, alleged that FBI officials misled the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA) court to expand surveillance on Trump campaign aide Carter Page. Though some Republicans insisted the memo would undermine special counsel Robert Mueller’s federal investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, the document ultimately revealed little and omitted key context.

Democrats are planning to push for a vote to release their counter-memo Monday, which reportedly offers a rebuttal to some of claims made in the Republicans’ documents.

Both House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and the White House have indicated they would handle a request to declassify the Democratic memo in the same way that they handled the Republican document, Trump’s tweet attacking Schiff suggests that Democrats may have a more difficult time getting their document released.

Read the latest editor’s backgrounder (Prime access) on this story »

 

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House Democrats are planning to push for a Monday vote to release their 10-page rebuttal memo, which reportedly counters characterizations Republicans made in their own anti-FBI memo released Friday, the New York Times reported Sunday.

The Democratic memo reportedly purports to show that the FBI was more transparent with the surveillance court than Republicans claim in their document. The House GOP memo was authored by Rep. Devin Nunes’ (R-CA) staffers and claims FBI officials misled the FISA court when attempting to obtain a warrant to expand surveillance on a Trump campaign aide Carter Page, the Times reported.

People familiar with the memo who spoke with the Times said the Democrats’ memo also counters Republicans’ claims that former Deputy FBI Director FBI Andrew McCabe told the Intelligence Committee that Page wouldn’t have been approved for surveillance if it hadn’t been for information from the Christoper Steele dossier.

Republicans claim a FISA warrant to surveil Page was approved based solely on the dossier. It also contends FBI officials were not honest with the FISA court about how the research for the dossier was funded.

Democrats were particularly frustrated with the release of the Republican-authored memo when a vote to declassify their rebuttal document was stalled. While the Democrats’ memo will have to go through the same House Intelligence Committee vote and White House approval as the Republicans’ memo did, both parties have indicated they’d consider the document’s release, according to the Times.

“Generally speaking, we’re open to considering any document the House Intel Committee submits to us for declassification along the lines that the Nunes memo was considered,” White House spokesperson Raj Shah told the Times.

However, convincing President Donald Trump to release the counter-memo may prove difficult, as Trump has contended that the Republicans’ memo vindicates him in special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe. Trump also attacked Rep. Adam Schiff  on Twitter Monday morning. Schiff, the ranking member on the House Intelligence Committee, has pushed for the release of the Democrats’ memo.

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Sens. John McCain (R-AZ) and Chris Coons (D-DE) are planning to introduce bipartisan legislation this week that would include a path to citizenship for recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, but stops short of offering any funding for President Donald Trump’s U.S.-Mexico border wall, The Wall Street Journal reported Sunday.

The proposal would provide eventual legal status for young immigrants who have lived in the U.S. since Dec. 31, 2013. It would also direct the Department of Homeland Security to conduct a study of what border security measures need to be taken, with the goal of having a comprehensive strategy in place by 2020. It would also provide funding for improved coordination between border patrol agents and local police, but no funding for a physical wall, according to The Wall Street Journal’s reporting.

The narrow immigration bill is designed to end the impasse over a two-year budget deal. The topic of immigration was thrown into spending bill debates after Trump announced last year that he was ending the former President Barack Obama-era DACA program, which protects undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children.

To end the government shutdown last month, Congress passed a short-term spending bill that’s set to expire again on Friday. Democrats agreed to the short-term bill in exchange for a promise from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to Democrats that he would bring an immigration bill to the Senate floor by Feb. 8.

The McCain-Coons proposal will likely prompt little enthusiasm from the White House. Trump’s plan, unveiled last month, provides a path to citizenship for about 1.8 million DACA recipients, but also asks Congress for $25 billion for the border wall and cuts back on legal lottery and family-based immigration systems.

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House Oversight Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-SC) on Friday said that the public deserves to know how the so-called Trump dossier influenced the FBI’s decision to surveil a Trump campaign associate, but reiterated his support for special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe.

Gowdy tweeted that a Republican-authored memo, written by House Intelligence Committee Devin Nunes’ (R-CA) staff and released Friday, “raises serious concerns” about the FISA process.

The memo purports to show that FBI officials abused the FISA process to secure a warrant to surveil the Trump campaign’s former foreign policy adviser Carter Page.

Gowdy nevertheless said those concerns do not undermine Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and whether the Trump campaign colluded with the foreign power for an advantage.

“As I have said repeatedly, I also remain 100 percent confident in special counsel Robert Mueller,” he tweeted. “The contents of this memo do not — in any way — discredit his investigation.”

The Washington Post reported on Friday that Gowdy was unintentionally influential in President Donald Trump’s decision to declassify the document.

Before he decided to release the document publicly, according to the Washington Post, Trump “became particularly excited” about the memo after he watched an interview Gowdy gave on CNN where he advocated for the memo’s release.

The House Intelligence Committee voted along party lines Monday evening to release the document and passed the buck to Trump to determine whether to declassify it. Trump, who called the contents of the memo “terrible,” declassified the document Friday afternoon, and it was released shortly afterward.

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Following President Donald Trump’s directive to release House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes’ (R-CA) anti-FBI memo Friday afternoon, the White House released a statement saying Trump has “great respect” for the law enforcement and intelligence community.

“This decision was made with input from the President’s national security team —including law enforcement officials and members of the intelligence community, for whom the President has great respect,” she said. “He is especially grateful to the hardworking rank-and-file public servants who work every day to keep America safe and uphold our laws while protecting the constitutional rights of all Americans.”

The statement comes after Trump decided to release the memo that his own Department of Justice and FBI Director warned him against releasing, saying they had “grave concerns about material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the memo’s accuracy.”

Trump has spent months denigrating the FBI and making claims about an anti-Trump bias within the agency.

Read the full statement from White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders:

“Earlier today, President Donald J. Trump declassified a memorandum from the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. The memorandum raises serious concerns about the integrity of decisions made at the highest levels of the Department of Justice and the FBI to use the Government’s most intrusive surveillance tools against American citizens.

“This decision was made with input from the President’s national security team—including law enforcement officials and members of the intelligence community, for whom the President has great respect. He is especially grateful to the hardworking rank-and-file public servants who work every day to keep America safe and uphold our laws while protecting the constitutional rights of all Americans.

“Minority members of the Committee have reportedly drafted a separate memorandum. The Administration stands ready to work with Congress to accommodate oversight requests consistent with applicable standards, including the need to protect intelligence sources and methods.”

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Just after House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes’ (R-CA) anti-FBI memo was released Friday, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) said it was “critical” that the focus of the memo’s release remains on “specific actions and specific actors” and not on impugning the “integrity” of the FBI and the Justice Department as a whole.

Ryan said the concerns outlined in the memo, which purports to reveal that FBI officials abused the FISA process when seeking a warrant to surveil Trump campaign aide Carter Page, were “legitimate.”

Unlike most judicial proceedings, the FISA system depends not on an adversarial process, but instead on the government providing a complete presentation of the facts and circumstances underlying its warrant applications,” he said in a statement. “It is clear from this memo that didn’t happen in this case, and as a consequence an American’s civil liberties may have been violated.”

He called on Democrats to work with Republicans to “ensure the FISA system works as intended” and reiterated his commitment to making sure the Democrats’ counter-memo was released once it “is properly scrubbed of all intelligence sources and methods.”

Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee voted Monday to release the memo, passing the buck to the President to determine whether it should be made public. President Donald Trump declassified the memo Friday afternoon and the memo was released shortly thereafter.

Democrats claim to have a counter-memo that has still not been approved for release.

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House Intelligence Committee Democrats released a scathing statement Friday condemning the declassification of a memo crafted by Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) staffers that purports to prove FBI officials abused the FISA process when seeking a warrant to surveil Trump campaign aide Carter Page.

The Democrats said it was “telling” that Nunes pushed out the memo “without bothering to read the underlying materials” and said its release represented a “terrible lapse in leadership” from Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI).

They claimed it was “tragic” yet “predictable” that President Donald Trump agreed to declassify the memo, which Republicans are using to perpetuate their claim that there’s an anti-Trump bias within the FBI.

Read the full statement from House Intelligence Committee Democrats below:

“Chairman Nunes’ decision, supported by House Speaker Ryan and Republican Members of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, to publicly release misleading allegations against the Department of Justice and Federal Bureau of Investigation is a shameful effort to discredit these institutions, undermine the Special Counsel’s ongoing investigation, and undercut congressional probes. Furthermore, their refusal to allow release of a comprehensive response memorandum prepared by Committee Democrats is a transparent effort to suppress the full truth.

“As the DOJ emphasized to Chairman Nunes, the decision to employ an obscure and never before used House rule to release classified information without DOJ and FBI vetting was ‘extraordinarily reckless.’ The selective release and politicization of classified information sets a terrible precedent and will do long-term damage to the Intelligence Community and our law enforcement agencies. If potential intelligence sources know that their identities might be compromised when political winds arise, those sources of vital information will simply dry up, at great cost to our national security.

“The Republican document mischaracterizes highly sensitive classified information that few Members of Congress have seen, and which Chairman Nunes himself chose not to review. It fails to provide vital context and information contained in DOJ’s FISA application and renewals, and ignores why and how the FBI initiated, and the Special Counsel has continued, its counterintelligence investigation into Russia’s election interference and links to the Trump campaign. The sole purpose of the Republican document is to circle the wagons around the White House and insulate the President. Tellingly, when asked whether the Republican staff who wrote the memo had coordinated its drafting with the White House, the Chairman refused to answer.

“The premise of the Nunes memo is that the FBI and DOJ corruptly sought a FISA warrant on a former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser, Carter Page, and deliberately misled the court as part of a systematic abuse of the FISA process. As the Minority memo makes clear, none of this is true. The FBI had good reason to be concerned about Carter Page and would have been derelict in its responsibility to protect the country had it not sought a FISA warrant.

“In order to understand the context in which the FBI sought a FISA warrant for Carter Page, it is necessary to understand how the investigation began, what other information the FBI had about Russia’s efforts to interfere with our election, and what the FBI knew about Carter Page prior to making application to the court – including Carter Page’s previous interactions with Russian intelligence operatives. This is set out in the Democratic response which the GOP so far refuses to make public.

“The authors of the GOP memo would like the country to believe that the investigation began with Christopher Steele and the dossier, and if they can just discredit Mr. Steele, they can make the whole investigation go away regardless of the Russians’ interference in our election or the role of the Trump campaign in that interference. This ignores the inconvenient fact that the investigation did not begin with, or arise from Christopher Steele or the dossier, and that the investigation would persist on the basis of wholly independent evidence had Christopher Steele never entered the picture.

“The DOJ appropriately provided the court with a comprehensive explanation of Russia’s election interference, including evidence that Russian agents courted another Trump campaign foreign adviser, George Papadopoulos. As we know from Papadopoulos’ guilty plea, Russian agents disclosed to Papadopoulos their possession of stolen Clinton emails and interest in a relationship with the campaign. In claiming that there is ‘no evidence of any cooperation or conspiracy between Page and Papadopoulos,’ the Majority deliberately misstates the reason why DOJ specifically explained Russia’s role in courting Papadopoulos and the context in which to evaluate Russian approaches to Page.

“The Majority suggests that the FBI failed to alert the court as to Mr. Steele’s potential political motivations or the political motivations of those who hired him, but this is not accurate. The GOP memo also claims that a Yahoo News article was used to corroborate Steele, but this is not at all why the article was referenced. These are but a few of the serious mischaracterizations of the FISA application. There are many more set out in the Democratic response, which we will again be seeking a vote to release publicly on Monday, February 5th. Unlike Committee Republicans, however, we will ask the relevant agencies to propose any necessary redactions to protect any sources and methods not already disclosed by Chairman Nunes’ document.

“It is telling that Chairman Nunes put out this memo without bothering to read the underlying materials, and that he ordered changes to the document without informing his own committee members. It is a terrible lapse in leadership that Speaker Ryan failed to intervene and prevent the abuse of classified materials in this way. It is tragic, if all too predictable, that this President would allow the release of the memo despite FBI and DOJ’s expressions of ‘grave concerns about material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the [Republicans’] memo’s accuracy’. But most destructive of all may be the announcement by Chairman Nunes that he has placed the FBI and DOJ under investigation, impugning and impairing the work of the dedicated professionals trying to keep our country safe.”

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