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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

The adult film star who reportedly was paid $130,000 to keep quiet about a 2006 extramarital affair with Donald Trump was interviewed on Jimmy Kimmel after Trump’s State of the Union address Tuesday evening and appeared to cast doubt on her previous denials of the affair.

Before the appearance on Kimmel, Stephanie Clifford, whose stage name is Stormy Daniels, released a second statement denying the affair and the reports from the Wall Street Journal that she was paid “hush money” by Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen weeks before the 2016 election.

Since the WSJ’s report came out, Daniels has declined to comment on the allegations, but In Touch magazine published a transcript of a 2011 interview with Daniels a week later, where she describes a sexual encounter with Trump in detail. Both Trump and his lawyer have denied the allegations.

During her appearance on Kimmel, Daniels played coy and made jokes in response to questions about the affair rather than confirming or denying the allegations. At the start of the show, Kimmel pulled out a copy of Daniels’ most recent statement denying the affair and compared the signature on that denial to her autograph on past portrait photos. When Kimmel asked her if she had signed the statement, she responded saying “I don’t know, did I?” and “That doesn’t look like my signature, does it?”

At one point, Kimmel began reading excerpts from In Touch’s transcript outlining the affair, but Daniels cut him off.

“I thought this was a talk show, not a horror movie. Because this is a whole different pay scale,” she said.

Toward the end of the interview, Kimmel pulled out puppets that looked like Daniels and Trump and asked her to answer “never have I ever” questions through the puppet, not as herself. But Daniels remained elusive, vaguely answering questions about whether she had ever had sex with a married man and whether it happened during a golf tournament, which is how she reportedly described the encounter to In Touch. She did confirm that she had never actually watched Trump’s reality TV show “Celebrity Apprentice,” even though she was reportedly talking to Trump about getting on the show back in 2006.

To add to the confusion, immediately after the show, Daniels’ lawyer told Buzzfeed that Daniels had signed the statement right in front of him on Tuesday.

“Stormy did indeed sign both denials,” he’s told Buzzfeed. “I thought she did a fantastic job on Jimmy Kimmel tonight. She was having fun on Kimmel and being her normal playful self.”

Watch the full interview with Daniels below:

 

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House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) on Tuesday sided with his GOP colleagues who voted to release the reportedly anti-FBI memo Monday evening, saying the memo should be released for transparency’s sake and claiming “there maybe have been malfeasance at the FBI.”

“There may have been malfeasance at the FBI by certain individuals, so it is our job in conducting transparent oversight of the executive branch to get to the bottom of that,” Ryan told reporters during a press conference Tuesday morning. “What we want is all of this information to come out, so that transparency can reign supreme and accountability can occur.”

Ryan also warned that allegations contained in the the memo should be kept separate from the special counsel’s probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Ryan called Robert Mueller’s investigation “a completely separate matter” that “should be allowed to take its course.”

On Monday evening, Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee voted in favor of releasing the memo. Trump now has five days to review the document and decide whether to make it public. The memo was crafted by Rep. Devin Nunes’ (R-CA) staff and allegedly proves Republicans’ claims of the Justice Department’s bias against Trump. FBI Director Chris Wray reportedly asked the House Intelligence Committee for the chance to come before them and express his concerns about releasing the classified memo.

Democrats have called the memo a “conspiracy theory” propagated by Russian bots and authored a counter memo to debunk some of the claims. That memo is still going through the approval process for its release, Ryan said Tuesday.

Ryan told reporters that there are “legitimate questions about whether an American’s civil liberties were violated with the FISA process.” The Speaker was referencing reports from The New York Times that the memo purports to show that officials at the FBI misled the FISA court when asking for approval to surveil former President Trump campaign aide Carter Page, whom the FBI believed may have been a Russian foreign agent at the time.

The memo reportedly claims the agency’s officials failed to clarify that one of the FBI’s sources, Christopher Steele, the author of the infamous dossier, was paid to conduct opposition research by the Democrats. The memo also claims that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein gave the FBI the green light to surveil Page.

Ryan said he believes that Rosenstein is “doing a fine job,” despite reports that Trump was considering firing the deputy attorney general. He also clarified that the Department of Justice and the FBI are both “very important institution(s) for American life.”

“We want the people of the FBI to know that we respect their job, we respect who they are and what they do,” he said. “And all of the more reason why we need to have transparency and accountability to hold people accountable if they violated the rules, if they acted in a wrong improper way. And that is what we’re doing here.”

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White House counselor Kellyanne Conway on Tuesday accused Democrats of being “so bound by their reflexive hate” and claimed the reason they’re opposed to the White House’s immigration plan is because it takes “away a blunt instrument from the Democrats in the midterms.”

Appearing on CNN’s “New Day” Tuesday morning, CNN host Chris Cuomo and Conway touched on a variety of topics related to Tuesday night’s State of the Union address. Conway postured about first lady Melania Trump’s guest that evening— a police officer who adopted the baby of a heroin addict he found on the street.

She then used that to mock statements that Democrats are planning to make during the address on Tuesday. Many Democrats will reportedly wear black to protest the White House’s proposed immigration deal, which, among other things, seeks to end legal immigration systems like the Diversity Visa Lottery program and chain migration, which helps families of immigrants gain access to the U.S.

“They are so bound by their reflexive hate,” she said. “’Obstruct, resist, stop, don’t do it.’ That is not a message. That impedes democracy. Their biggest statement tonight is going to be the color of their clothing, they’re all going to wear black to what? Protest Harvey Weinstein? Or Bill Clinton?”

Cuomo cut her off to explain that it’s their way of protesting the White House’s immigration proposal, which does provide a path to citizenship for some so-called Dreamers, who were brought to the U.S. illegally as minors. Some Democrats are bringing family members of DACA recipients who were recently deported as a result of Trump’s decision to end DACA and pass the buck to Congress.

“Do you give him credit for trying? Do you acknowledge he’s taken away a blunt instrument for the Democrats in the midterms?” Conway asked.

“I hope that’s not why he’s doing it,” Cuomo said.

“No, no, but that’s why they’re opposing it,” Conway said of the Democrats. “He’s doing right by them, he’s doing right by human beings.”

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Rep. Adam Schiff’s (D-CA) office has received crude phone calls and death threats over the “Republican spin memo” that reportedly proves some type of anti-President Trump bias within the FBI and the Department of Justice, Axios reported Tuesday.

Schiff told Axios that the outrage against his office is fueled by Republican rhetoric, which he called “reckless hyperbole” that is “just so destructive to our democracy.”

After Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee voted to release the contents of a classified memo authored by Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) staffers, Schiff — the ranking member of the committee — told reporters that he was concerned his panel had “crossed a deeply regrettable line.”

“There was a vote to politicize the declassification process of intelligence and compromise sources and methods,” he said.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has told Democrats to not read the document, CNN reported. 

FBI Director Chris Wray reportedly asked the House Intelligence Committee for the chance to come before them and express his concerns about releasing the classified memo.

Democrats have called the memo a “conspiracy theory” propagated by Russian bots and authored a counter memo to debunk some of the claims. That memo, however, was not approved for release Monday evening.

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President Donald Trump was reportedly furious last week when the Department of Justice released guidance against unveiling the contents of a classified memo that reportedly proves an anti-Trump bias within the FBI and the Justice Department, Bloomberg reported Monday.

Associate Attorney General Stephen Boyd told the House Intelligence Committee last week that it would be “extraordinarily reckless” to declassify and release the memo, comments that reportedly pushed Trump over the edge. The President blew up over Boyd’s letter while he was aboard Air Force One en route to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, according to four people familiar with the matter who spoke with Bloomberg. Trump was reportedly angry about the letter because he saw it as another example of the Justice Department trying to undermine him.

Bloomberg also reported that Trump told Attorney General Jeff Sessions that he needs to succeed in his job or he would be remembered as the worst attorney general in history, according to the people who spoke with Bloomberg.

On Monday evening, Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee voted in favor of releasing the memo. Trump now has five days to review the document and decide whether to make it public.

The memo was crafted by Rep. Devin Nunes’ (R-CA) staff and allegedly proves Republicans’ claims of the Justice Department’s bias against Trump. 

FBI Director Chris Wray reportedly asked the House Intelligence Committee for the chance to come before them and express his concerns about releasing the classified memo.

Democrats have called the memo a “conspiracy theory” propagated by Russian bots and authored a counter memo to debunk some of the claims. That memo, however, was not approved for release Monday evening.

Read the full Bloomberg report here.

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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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