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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

In a letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, more than 60 House Democrats expressed their “profound concern” over President Donald Trump’s “fire and fury” statements about North Korea and to remind Tillerson that any attack on North Korea “must be debated and authorized by Congress.”

“These statements are irresponsible and dangerous, and also senselessly provide a boon to domestic North Korean propaganda which has long sought to portray the United States as a threat to their people,” the letter, spearheaded by Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), said.

They urged Tillerson and the rest of the administration to make sure the rhetoric surrounding North Korea’s threats is met with the “utmost caution and restraint.” The lawmakers said the President would be held responsible by Congress and the American people if a “careless and ill-advised miscalculation results in conflict that endangers our service members and regional allies.”

The House members outlined the recent history of conflicts with North Korea and the diplomatic action the previous three presidential administrations had taken over military action.

“We look forward to working with you to support crucial diplomatic initiatives and avoid catastrophic war,” they said.

The letter follows remarks made by the President this week when asked how the U.S. should respond to news that North Korea had developed a nuclear warhead that could fit inside a missile. Trump told reporters the threats “will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.”

North Korea responded by threatening to attack Guam, a U.S. territory. On Thursday, Trump said his original rhetoric maybe “wasn’t tough enough.” 

Tillerson, for his part, has worked to deescalate Trump’s comments, by telling reporters Thursday that “Americans should sleep well at night.”

Read the full letter below:

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Keeping the pressure on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), President Donald Trump told the Kentucky Republican to “get back to work.”

Trump is currently at his golf course in Bedminster, New Jersey, where he is spending a 17-day working vacation.

The Thursday afternoon tweet comes after two days of Trump lashing out against the top Republican for failing to get a simple majority of GOP senators onboard to pass a “skinny” Obamacare repeal bill last month.

The President was apparently responding to comments McConnell made to constituents Monday in Kentucky, where he said that President Donald Trump has “excessive expectations” about how quickly Congress can pass legislation.

On Wednesday afternoon and Thursday morning Trump tweeted that he doesn’t think he had excessive expectations because McConnell failed to repeal and replace Obamacare after seven years of saying he would.

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) delivered the final blow to McConnell’s repeal bill last month, joining Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) in their opposition to the plan during a tense, late-night vote.

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Amid news that the FBI conducted an early morning raid at the home of President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, Politico reported Wednesday evening that federal prosecutors also approached Paul Manafort’s son-in-law to increase pressure on Manafort.

Earlier this summer, investigators approached Jeffrey Yohai, who has partnered with Manafort on business deals. The move caused “real waves” among Manafort’s family and friends, according to sources familiar with the investigation, who spoke to Politico on condition of anonymity.

The investigators were trying to get “into Manafort’s head,” another source said.

While Manafort has not been accused of any wrongdoing, some see the recent FBI raid of Manafort’s Alexandria, Va. home as a clear sign of criminal activity on Manafort’s part.

The former campaign manager is one of the key players at the center of federal and congressional investigations into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

Experts on white-collar crime told Politico the tactic — approaching Manafort and his son-in-law — is common when seeking to gain information about someone higher up on the ladder who is being investigated.

Manafort’s legal team, however, has denied any suggestions that he is cooperating with investigators.

“Paul’s been forthcoming, but he’s not a cooperating witness and any suggestion to that effect is silly,” Manafort spokesman Jason Maloni told Politico in July.

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Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich criticized President Trump on Thursday for lashing out against Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).

Gingrich, an outspoken supporter of the President, said both Trump and Senate Republicans are responsible for failing to fulfill campaign promises of repealing Obamacare, calling it a “collective failure.”

“The fact is, with a very narrow margin, 52 people, Mitch McConnell got 49 out of 52. I think the President can’t disassociate himself from this. He is part of the leadership team,” Gingrich said, appearing on “Fox and Friends.” “He is not an observer sitting in the stands. He is on the field. It was a collective failure.”

The feud between Trump and McConnell began when McConnell told constituents back in Kentucky on Monday that the President had “excessive expectations” about what it takes to get legislation passed in Congress.

Trump responded on Twitter on Wednesday and Thursday, saying he thinks McConnell is wrong about his expectations and asking why “after 7 years” repealing and replacing Obamacare hasn’t happened.

Gingrich said the blame also falls on Democrats.

“To get involved in shooting at each other when there were 16 Democrats voting ‘no’ for every single Republican who voted ‘no’ is goofy. I say it is goofy,” Gingrich said.

He defended McConnell, saying he “doesn’t benefit from those remarks,” but Gingrich thinks the majority leader would probably take back his comments if he could.

Gingrich went on to criticize the way Congress has handled the overhaul of health care, which fell flat when Senate Republicans failed to get a simple majority to pass a “skinny” repeal of Obamacare last month.

“This may take three or four or five years or 10 or 12 bills. I’m not sure anybody is smart enough to write a single bill to replace Obamacare in one giant step. … I’m equally afraid they will mishandle the tax cuts exactly the way they mishandled health care. If that happens, we’ll be at the end of the year with a disaster,” he said.

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While the White House has been tight-lipped on how the President is spending his working vacation in Bedminster, New Jersey, online photos and a new report show he’s spent a decent amount of time playing golf.

A purchase order, obtained by super PAC American Bridge and USA Today, show the Secret Service signed a $13,500 contract with a golf cart rental company just a day before President Donald Trump left for his 17-day trip to the Trump National Golf Club.

The Secret Service signed two similar contracts with the same New York-based golf cart vendor in June, at the cost of $5,400 each.

The agency spent $35,185 on cart rentals earlier this year at Mar-a-Lago, when Trump was making regular weekend visits there, according to USA Today. That puts the total cost of golf cart rentals for the Secret Service at $59,585, just a fraction of the $60 million in additional funding the agency requested in March to fund protecting the President.

The White House has been reluctant to say whether Trump is spending time golfing while he is away from Washington, but the President has been photographed playing throughout the week.

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Dialing back on remarks he made during an interview with a Chicago radio station, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) said Thursday he has the “deepest respect” for McCain.

In a radio interview Tuesday, Johnson questioned whether Sen. John McCain’s (R-AZ) recently diagnosed brain cancer might have played a role in his “no” vote on Republicans’ Obamacare repeal plan.

“In no way was I trying to criticize him. If anything, I was trying to defend his position. A lot of us had a real problem with that skinny repeal and we weren’t going to vote for it until we got that assurance from Paul (Ryan),” Johnson said Thursday, appearing on CNN’s “New Day.” “I was trying to defend his position and truthfully express my sympathy for his health condition.”

During an interview with “Chicago Morning Answer” this week, Johnson said McCain’s brain tumor and the fact that it was late at night may have been factors in why he voted against the plan.

“Again, I’m not going to speak for John McCain, you know, he has a brain tumor right now. That vote occurred at 1:30 in the morning, some of that might have factored in,” he said in the radio interview.

McCain’s office responded Wednesday, calling Johnson’s comments “bizarre and deeply unfortunate.”

Johnson put out a statement Wednesday afternoon as well, saying he was “disappointed” that he didn’t “more eloquently express my sympathy for what Sen. McCain is going through.”

“I was just expressing my sympathy for his condition. Again, no, I’ve got the greatest respect for John McCain. He’s not impaired in any way, shape or form,” Johnson said Thursday.

It was McCain who killed the “skinny” Obamacare repeal bill last month with a late-night no vote. He said he was opposed to the plan because he wanted Republicans and Democrats to work together on a health care plan and said he supported repealing Obamacare, but he wanted an immediate replacement. 

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The President is still upset with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who told constituents back in Kentucky this week that President Donald Trump has “excessive expectations” about how quickly Congress can pass legislation.

On Wednesday, when Trump got word of McConnell’s comments, he lashed out at the senator, saying “McConnell said I had ‘excessive expectations,’ but I don’t think so.” Trump also called him out for Senate Republicans’ failure to pass a “skinny” Obamacare repeal bill last month.

The President brought it up again Thursday morning, tweeting, “Can you believe that Mitch  McConnell, who has screamed Repeal and Replace for 7 years, couldn’t get it done.”

When asked about Trump’s relationship with McConnell Thursday, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders referred reporters to his tweets.

“You can see the President’s tweets. Obviously there’s some frustration. I don’t have anything more to add,” she said.

The remarks from the President and senator come after Republicans failed to pull together a simple majority in the Senate to pass an Obamacare repeal bill in July.

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) delivered the final blow to McConnell’s repeal bill last month, joining Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) in their opposition to the plan during a tense, late-night vote.

McCain said he wanted Republicans and Democrats to work together on a health care plan and said he supported repealing Obamacare, but he wanted an immediate replacement.

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Vocal critic of President Donald Trump — who was attacked by the President on Twitter this week — Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) said news that the FBI conducted a predawn raid of Trump’s former campaign chairman’s home in July is “stunning” and a clear sign that a “serious crime” has occurred.

“Predawn raid on Manafort’s house is stunning— typical of serious criminal investigations dealing with uncooperative or untrusted targets,” Blumenthal said in a Twitter statement Thursday.

He said the raid “decimates” claims from Manafort that he has been cooperative with law enforcement and connects the former campaign manager to “criminal wrongdoing.”

“Federal judge signing warrant would demand persuasive evidence of probable cause that a serious crime has been committed,” he said. “This kind of raid — in early morning hours with no advance notice — shows astonishing and alarming distrust for President’s former campaign chairman.”

The Washington Post reported Wednesday that the FBI raided Manafort’s home on July 26 and obtained various records. Manafort had already been cooperating with the congressional investigations into Russia’s role in the 2016 campaign.

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Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) thinks Sen. John McCain’s (R-AZ) recently diagnosed brain cancer and the late-night timing of the vote might have been factors in why McCain ultimately decided to vote against the skinny Obamacare repeal last month.

“Again, I’m not going to speak for John McCain, you know, he has a brain tumor right now. That vote occurred at 1:30 in the morning, some of that might have factored in,” Johnson said, speaking to the radio hosts of “Chicago Morning Answer.”

CNN’s KFILE first flagged Johnson’s comments.

The host asked Johnson to clarify, asking if he really thought the cancer played a role in McCain’s judgment call.

“Again, I don’t know exactly what — we really thought — and again, I don’t want to speak for any senator. I really thought he was going to vote yes to send that to conference at 10:30 at night. By about 1:00 or 1:30, he voted no. So you have to talk to John in terms of what was on his mind,” Johnson said.

A McCain spokesperson responded to Johnson’s comments on Wednesday, calling his remarks “bizarre and deeply unfortunate.”

“It is bizarre and deeply unfortunate that Senator Johnson would question the judgement of a colleague and friend. Senator McCain has been very open and clear abut the reasons for his vote,” the spokesperson said.

McCain ultimately decided to vote against the skinny repeal, joining Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and effectively killing the bill with his vote. He said he wanted Republicans and Democrats to work together on a health care plan and said he supported repealing Obamacare, but he wanted an immediate replacement.

After having surgery to get a blood clot removed, McCain was diagnosed with brain cancer. Days later, he flew back to Washington to vote in favor of a motion to proceed to bring the bill to the Senate floor for debate.

Johnson, for his part, was also a critic of the plan at times, but he stepped in line with his party to support the “skinny” repeal bill. He told the radio hosts that the bills Senate Republicans were considering were “grossly inadequate, particularly the skinny repeal” and called the entire process “awful.”

“It was a political process versus a problem-solving process,” he said.     

Johnson released a statement Wednesday afternoon, apologizing for not expressing “sympathy” for McCain.

“I’m disappointed I didn’t more eloquently express my sympathy for what Sen. McCain is going through. I have nothing but respect for him and the vote came at the end of a long day for everyone,” Johnson said.

Listen to the interview below:

This post has been updated to include comments from Johnson and McCain spokesperson. 

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Donald Trump’s presidential campaign has turned over more than 20,000 pages of documents the Senate Judiciary Committee requested concerning the campaign’s attempts to receive information about Hillary Clinton from Russia and affiliated sources, Bloomberg News reported.

That request includes all documents related to the June 2016 meeting between Donald Trump Jr., then-campaign manager Paul Manafort, White House senior adviser Jared Kushner and a Kremlin-linked lawyer.  The committee also said it wants all documents related to Russia’s attempts to influence the election and asked for Manafort’s registration filings and his contacts with the Justice Department.

The committee asked the parties to start producing the documents by Aug. 2.

In addition to the 20,000 pages of documents from the campaign, Trump Jr. turned over about 250 pages on Aug. 4 and Manafort gave the committee 400 pages on Aug. 2, a committee spokesman told Bloomberg.

The company the committee thinks was behind a mostly unverified dossier on Trump — Fusion GPS and CEO Glenn Simpson — has not turned over any documents yet. The committee wants to know if Fusion GPS was paid by the Russians to produce the dossier.

The committee’s top Democrat, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) said public hearings with Trump Jr. and Manafort may be held in late September.

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