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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

During a lunch meeting at the White House Wednesday between President Donald Trump and Republican senators who met to come to a consensus on an Obamacare repeal bill, Trump joked about Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV) wanting to “remain a Senator.”

“The other night I was very surprised when I heard a couple of my friends, they really were and are, they might not be for very much longer,” Trump said, drawing laughs from the group of Senators.

“Well no, you didn’t go out there,” he said, pointing toward Heller. “This is the one we were worried about. … Look he wants to remain a senator, doesn’t he?”

Heller reacted with a surprised expression that turned to a smile as the President explained how he knows the people of Heller’s state “really well” and said he’s sure they will “appreciate” what Heller will “hopefully do” with Obamacare.

The comment comes after a pro-Trump group called America First Policies released a critical television advertisement in Heller’s home state after the Republican senator said he was opposed to the health care plan that majority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) unveiled in June.

The ad ran for fewer than 12 hours and the group pulled it from airwaves after Heller “decided to come back to the table to negotiate with his colleagues” on the Senate health bill, according to statement from the group.

Watch the video below:

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Appearing on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” on Wednesday, Gov. John Kasich (R-OH), who is one of 11 governors who signed a bipartisan agreement saying Congress shouldn’t end Obamacare without a simultaneous replacement plan, said he doesn’t think the President cares about the details of the Senate health bill.

“I don’t think he’s ideological on this. He has political people to try to probably tell him ‘You need to do this or that.’ But I don’t think he cares really what the solution is,” he said. “I don’t think he’s embedded in some ideological program here. The more he’s ideological, the worse he does.”

Kasich said he has a “sense” that President Donald Trump will sign something that will “stabilize the markets” so Congress can address the rising costs of health care.

We practice quantity and not quality. If we practice quality and paid for quality, we’d begin to rein in these driving health care costs along with looking at all the other elements that contribute, for example, to the rising cost of pharmaceuticals,” he said.

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The day after he left his post as head of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics, former director Walter Shaub appeared on CNN Wednesday morning, spouting off a list of ethical abnormalities he encountered working under the President Donald Trump administration.

Shaub said he was “horrified” by an incident in which Trump’s lawyer asked if the President could file his financial disclosure form without signing it.

“You need to set a strong ethical tone from the top. Tone is everything in government ethics,” he said. “And what your appointees do is going to follow what you do. We’ve seen a number of incidents that I’ve tried to highlight over the past several months where they’re not following the traditional ethical tone and behaving in a way government officials always behave, and that has really hurt us along the way.”

On top of giving the appearance that he is “profiting from the presidency” by hosting foreign governmental events at his hotels, Shaub said the request from the President’s attorney about not signing financial disclosure forms was the “weirdest moment of my entire career.”

“I’ll give him credit that he filed his financial disclosure form voluntarily this year as past Presidents have done, so at least that’s one tradition that he stuck to. I was horrified when I sat across the table from his attorney and she asked me if he could file it without signing it to certify that it’s true,” he said. “I pointed out to her that millions of financial disclosure reports have been filed in the past four decades and every one of them has been certified as true, and I think we could ask that of our President.”

He said the President did eventually sign it, even though his lawyer tried to convince Shaub to accept it unsigned because signing is voluntary. He said he would like to see rules changed so that Presidents are required to release their tax forms as well.

“It was truly the weirdest moment of my entire career. I practically had to pinch myself to make sure I was awake. I thought, ‘This is the embodiment of exactly how far we’ve departed from the ethical norms that the American people are entitled to expect their leaders to live up to,’” he said.

He also discussed his former office’s work to look at whether the President’s real estate holdings proved any type of conflict of interest for the Presidency, saying the “world of real estate is an entirely new thing.”

“I got to be honest with you, I don’t think we know 100 percent for sure that we understand what all of the underlying holdings are at OGE, but it met the disclosure requirements and, you know, technically the conflict of interest laws don’t apply even though Presidents have always followed them,” he said. “So we had to certify the report because it was good enough from a disclosure standpoint to meet the legal requirements, but I’m not sure that we fully understood everything in it.” 

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President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager thinks the President will probably “close the deal today” on an Obamacare repeal bill because Trump is “a great dealmaker.”

Appearing on “Fox and Friends” Wednesday, Corey Lewandowski was asked about news that the President will have lunch with Republican Senators Wednesday to get the GOP on board with a health care repeal vote next week. He said Senate Republicans are “very, very close” to getting the support they need and said there are just a few “tweaks” that need to happen in order to bring opposing Senators on board.

“Look, it’s been publicly reported that there are probably two Republican U.S. Senators who are going to support the bill, Rand Paul from Kentucky and Sue Collins from Maine. You don’t necessarily need them if you get everybody else and you put (Vice President) Mike Pence in the chair and he breaks the tie,” he said. “I think this bill is going to get done. The President is probably going to close the deal today.”

However, it’s not clear which piece of legislation Lewandowski was discussing when he said that Trump would close the deal.

The Senate plans to consider a straight repeal of Obamacare next week now that it failed to earn enough support for its comprehensive replacement bill. So far, three senators have explicitly said they will not support advancing to a vote on clean repeal: Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK). Sens. Rand Paul (R-KY) and Mike Lee (R-UT) have signaled they will support a vote on straight repeal.

When Fox host Steve Doocy asked whether his statements came from “a gut feeling or a source feeling,” he said “my source is I know the president.”

“I know he is a great dealmaker, I know he is going to do whatever it takes to get this done. I know Mike Lee is someone who wants to support the President on this piece of legislation. I know that other members of the Republican Senate caucus want to support the President on this,” he said. “Look, this is something that the American people have been fighting for and the U.S. Senate has talked about for seven years. It’s now time for action. The President is going to get this bill done. He has campaigned on it, it’s time to move forward.”

He said he thinks if some of those opposed to the bill are able to get the funding they need for opioid addiction treatment back in their home states, they’ll come on board with the Republican plan.

“I think, at the end of the day, these U.S. Senators are going to come on board. They are going to support the President’s agenda because it’s the right thing to do for the American people.”   

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A group of Democratic lawmakers want to know if the President’s daughter knew about her husband’s meetings with Russian officials and concealed that information when applying for security clearance.

In a letter sent to FBI acting director Andrew McCabe, 22 House Democrats ask the agency to conduct a review of a “potentially serious issue” involving first daughter Ivanka Trump. In applying for her security clearance, Trump would have been required to disclose all of her foreign contacts, as well as those of her spouse and siblings.

Just last week, Donald Trump Jr. released of chain of emails that revealed he and Trump’s husband Jared Kushner met with a Kremlin-linked lawyer and several others last June for the purpose of receiving damaging information about Hillary Clinton. The emails indicate the meeting would be part of the Russian government’s efforts to aid the President’s campaign. In his initial security clearance filing, Kushner failed to disclose this meeting and has since updated his Standard Form 86 (SF-86) multiple times to reveal contacts with over 100 foreign officials, including Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

The group of House Democrats, led by Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA), want to know whether Trump knew about the meetings Kushner did not report and whether she disclosed them on her SF-86.

“We are concerned that Ivanka Trump may have engaged in similar deception. … Did she accurately disclose her own foreign contacts in her initial filing, which reports suggest may be numerous?” the letter said. “If in fact she did accurately disclose these meetings, who at the White House knew of Mr. Kushner’s and Mr. Trump Jr.’s multiple contacts with Russian officials before they were made public? And, most importantly, did she discuss any of these meetings with the President, and, if so, when?”

The House Democrats point to the “influential role” both Trump and Kushner play in President Donald Trump’s administration — both serve as advisers to the President — saying “Ms. Trump even took her father’s place at the head table with world leaders at the Group of 20 summit in Hamburg.”

“Between them, the couple have been assigned expansive policy portfolios, even as they maintain a business empire that relies on foreign financing and manufacturing,” the letter said. “The juxtaposition of their public and private roles may be murky and confused, but her obligation to disclose her families’ and her foreign contacts is not.”

Read the letter from 22 Democratic Representatives below:

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Speaking to reporters at the White House Tuesday, President Donald Trump said he was “very disappointed” that Senate Republicans’ Obamacare repeal effort died before it had a chance to go to the floor for debate.

Now, the President, suggested, the best option may be to “let Obamacare fail.”

“It will be a lot easier and I think we’re probably in that position where we’ll just let Obamacare fail. We’re not going to own it. I’m not going to own it. I can tell you Republicans are not going to own it,” Trump said. “We’ll let Obamacare fail and then Democrats will come to us and say ‘How do we fix it?’”

After hearing “repeal and replace” for so many years, Trump reiterated how “disappointed” he is with Republicans’ failure to repeal the health care law, saying he’s been “sitting in the Oval Office right next door, pen in hand, waiting to sign something. … And eventually we’re going to get something done, and it’s going to be very good.”

Trump offered no details on what that “something” might be.

The President said he wouldn’t call the Republicans who announced they wouldn’t support the repeal bill disloyal, but also suggested the U.S. may need to elect more Republicans in 2018 because the numbers were so close on the votes needed for the GOP bill.

“The way I look at it is, in ’18 we’re going to have to get more people elected. We have to go out and we have to get more people elected that are Republican. And we have to probably pull in those people, those few people that voted against it. I don’t know. They’re going to have to explain why they did and I’m sure they have very fine reasons, but we have to get more Republicans elected because we have to get it done,” he said.

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Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) blasted his Republican colleagues’ plan to repeal Obamacare without a replacement, saying the move would be a “disaster” and calling the current GOP Senate health bill “unworkable.”

“It’s time to move one. It’s time to start over. Rather than repeating the same failed partisan process, yet again, Republicans should work together with Democrats on a bill that lowers premiums, provides long-term stability to the markets and improves our health-care system,” Schumer said Tuesday from the Senate floor, slamming majority leader Mitch McConnell for assuming Democrats did not want to work with GOP leaders on a health care compromise. “The majority leader admitted he decided the matter for us when he locked Democrats out of the process at the outset. … Now that their one-party effort largely failed, we hope they will change their tune.”

Schumer’s comments came after the GOP effort to repeal and replace Obamacare unravelled Monday night when two Republican Senators came out as opposed to the plan.

“Make no mistake about it, passing repeal without a replacement would be a disaster. Our health care system would implode, millions would lose coverage,” he said, adding that repealing now and having it go into effect two years later would be worse for American people than the passage of the Republican  health care bill that was just rejected.

It’s like, if our health care system was a patient who came in and needed some medicine. Republicans propose surgery, the operation was a failure. Now Republicans are proposing a second surgery that will surely kill the patient. Medicine is needed, bipartisan medicine, not a second surgery,” he said.

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The former deputy chief of staff for retired Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) took to Twitter to express his shock over news that two Senate Republicans announced they were opposed to the Obamacare repeal bill, calling the move an “unprecedented, full-blown rebellion by Republican senators against their leader” and called the stall a “humiliation” for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).

Adam Jentleson called reports about Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) accusing McConnell of a significant breach of trust a “harsh” assessment and said he was “shocked at how nasty Republicans are being towards” McConnell.

Jentleson’s tweets come after two GOP senators announced on Twitter Monday they won’t support the Obamacare bill, effectively halting Republican’s attempts to bring the bill to the Senate floor for debate.

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After the GOP effort to repeal and replace Obamacare unravelled Monday night, Senate Democrats celebrated the news and thanked their constituents for speaking out against it.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) announced the delay of the bill on Twitter just after 9:00 p.m. Monday and thanked “everyone” who opposed it.

A few Democrats used the news as an opportunity to call on their colleagues to band together to improve the Affordable Care Act, like Hillary Clinton’s former running-mate Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA). He called the failed repeal bill “good news” for Americans and sided with comments from Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who made a statement from home as he recovers from a blood clot related surgery, urging Democrats and Republicans to work together.

A few Democratic representatives chimed in as well, with Rep. Joe Kennedy (D-MA) saying Congress has to “fight harder” to make health care good for everyone and Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA) calling out the President for his “dumb as rocks” idea to repeal and replace without a better plan.

Top Senate Democrats called the bill’s failure “proof” that Republicans’ plan is “unworkable” and most thanked their constituents for voicing their concerns over the repeal plan.

And Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) said there is still work to be done to protect health care, “a basic human right.”

Correction: This post incorrectly identified Rep. Ted Lieu as a Republican. We regret the error.

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Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) and other GOP Senators were busy eating “American beef” with the President Monday evening and discussing “next steps” for the Senate Obamacare repeal bill, when Sens. Mike Lee (R-UT) and Jerry Moran (R-KS) announced their opposition to the plan on Twitter.

Appearing on “Fox and Friends” Tuesday morning, Lankford said the group dining with President Donald Trump had no idea their colleagues were going to come out against the motion to proceed that evening and said they were talking with Trump about “what we have to do to finish this and tweak out things in this bill,” he said.

Despite the blow to the Better Care Reconciliation Act, Lankford said he remains “optimistic,” but said passing a repeal bill is “something that has to be done.”

“Just in my state in Oklahoma insurance rates went up last year 76 percent. Seventy-six percent in one year. We have thousands of people that used to have insurance that can no longer afford health care insurance anymore,” he said. “I’m still optimistic that we can because we must. This is a kind of a no-fail moment that you have to be able to resolve all these issues.”

He said he’s been trying for weeks to get everyone who is in disagreement in his party in “one room” and “let’s hammer this out in one moment.”

“For whatever reasons, we have not been allowed to do that to get all the different factions into one room at one time. We have all be negotiation one at a time,” he said. “If we can get everybody together at one time and finish this, I think we can get it done. … My hope is we have to repeal as much as possible.”

Lee and Moran delivered their blow to the GOP bill just as it was headed to a motion to proceed vote that would have opened it up for debate on the Senate floor. Lee said he was opposed to the repeal bill because it kept some of the Obamacare taxes and regulations and that a conservative amendment by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) didn’t go far enough.

Moran was frustrated by the bill being negotiated behind closed doors and said he didn’t want to “put our stamp of approval on bad policy.”

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