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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 job of the records management analysts working in the Old Executive Office Building next door to the White House has changed considerably under the Trump administration, according to a Sunday Politico report.

A position that previously involved reviewing, sorting and filing official documents reviewed by the President under previous administrations now requires staffers who are handy with scotch tape and have a keen eye for reassembling documents that have been physically torn apart by President Donald Trump, according to two former staffers who spoke to Politico.

As career staffers who were abruptly forced to resign earlier this year, Solomon Lartey and  Reginald Young Jr. told Politico that they were paid nearly $66,000 a year to tape back together official documents that went through the Oval Office. Under the Presidential Records Act, the White House has to send any document the President touches to the National Archives— a task that proved to be more grueling under a president who has an iron-willed habit of ripping up papers when he’s done with them.

According to Politico, White House aides learned early on that they couldn’t convince Trump to break his paper-ripping habit. Instead, aides reportedly clean up Trump’s paper scraps — which range from papers that are torn in two and thrown in the trash to documents that have been ripped into tiny pieces that resemble confetti and tossed on the floor — and ship them over to the records office, according to the people familiar with the task. Lartey described one letter that Sen. Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) had sent the President that was ripped “into tiny pieces.”

We had to endure this under the Trump administration,” Young told Politico. “I’m looking at my director, and saying, ‘Are you guys serious?’ We’re making more than $60,000 a year, we need to be doing far more important things than this. It felt like the lowest form of work you can take on without having to empty the trash cans.”

Read the full report here.

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During private meetings between President Donald Trump, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the rest of the world leaders at the G-7 summit in Canada over the weekend, the group, among other things, reportedly agreed to accelerate NAFTA talks and update the language of the World Trade Organization to make it more equitable, Quebec newspaper The Star reported Sunday.

But before the group could sign off on a joint statement of agreement on trade talks, Trump’s advisers reportedly insisted that the U.S. would not agree to two key points in the statement related to the environment. The points of Trump’s contention: a declaration on climate change that referenced the Paris Accord, which Trump pulled out of last year; and an agreement on decreasing ocean pollution, specifically targeting the plastic industry. While leaders thought Trump may not agree to the climate charter, they had hoped the U.S. would at least consider signing off on the ocean agreement.

According to the Quebec newspaper, talks quickly disintegrated after that and word spread that Trump was planning to hold his own private press conference before leaving the summit early. In that news conference, Trump backtracked on the progress that was reportedly made behind the scenes and “promptly appeared to reject even the ideas on trade embodied in the communiqué he had agreed to,” per The Star.

Trudeau earned Trump’s wrath after he publicly called the summit a success and shared some of the details of his private meetings with Trump. Trump publicly unraveled after that, accusing Trudeau of lying and being “dishonest and very weak” in a series of tweets.   

Read The Star’s full report here. 

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Pulitzer Prize-winning political columnist Charles Krauthammer revealed in a letter to colleagues on Friday that he has just weeks left to live due to the return of cancer.

Krauthammer had been off the air at Fox for months while he was in the hospital recovering from complications caused by surgery to remove an abdominal tumor.

In the letter, Krauthammer said that up until recently he had thought he would be able to return to his work as a columnist, author and political analyst for Fox News’ “Special Report” after he recovered from the surgery, which he described as a “long and hard fight with many setbacks.”

“However, recent tests have revealed that the cancer has returned. There was no sign of it as recently as a month ago, which means it is aggressive and spreading rapidly,” he said in the letter published by Fox News. “My doctors tells me their best estimate is that I have only a few weeks left to live. This is the final verdict. My fight is over.”

Krauthammer graduated from Harvard Medical School in the 1970s and eventually changed career paths, veering into policy and then journalism. He won a Pulitzer for distinguished commentary in 1987 and joined Fox News as a political analyst a decade ago. In the letter, he thanked his colleagues the Washington Post, Fox and Crown Publishing.

“I leave this life with no regrets,” he wrote. “It was a wonderful life – full and complete with the great loves and great endeavors that make it worth living. I am sad to leave, but I leave with the knowledge that I lived the life that I intended.”

Read the full letter, published by Fox, here.

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President Donald Trump on Friday told reporters that he has every intention of using his pardoning power to its fullest extent, suggesting again that he has the power to pardon himself — “But I’ll never have to do it.”

Trump said he is considering “thousands” of pardon applications — about 3,000 in total — including heavyweight boxer Muhammad Ali, who died in 2016.

There will be more pardons. I thought Alice yesterday was beautiful. … I’m thinking about somebody that you all know very well and he went though a lot,” he said. “His memory is very popular now, I’m thinking about Muhammad Ali. I’m thinking about that seriously. And some others and some folks who have sentences that aren’t fair.”

Ali was convicted of draft evasion and lost his heavyweight champion title in 1967. But in 1971, the Supreme Court overturned his conviction and President Jimmy Carter pardoned all those accused of draft evasion during the Vietnam War in 1977.

Ali’s attorney on Friday said the sentiment was appreciated, but a posthumous pardon was “unnecessary.”

Trump has reportedly become increasingly “obsessed” with pardons and enjoys talking about potential pardons with aides, The Washington Post reported Tuesday. On Wednesday, CNN reported that the White House was preparing paperwork for at least 30 new pardons, which included a pardon for Alice Marie Johnson, a grandmother serving a life-sentence in prison for a non-violent drug crime. Kim Kardashian visited the White House last week to ask Trump to consider pardoning Johnson. The White House announced it had pardoned Johnson later Wednesday.

For Trump, Kardashian’s support of Johnson was key, given the President’s penchant for considering the pardoning of celebrities like Martha Stewart and former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, also a former TV personality. Since taking office, Trump has pardoned or issued commutations for Johnson; conservative commentator Dinesh D’Souza; boxing champion Jack Johnson; former Bush administration official Scooter Libby; former Navy sailor Kristian Saucier; meat-packing executive Sholom Rubashkin; and former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio. 

Trump later told reporters that he wants to try to amend his feud with athletes who kneel during the National Anthem by meeting them half-way. He said he wants the athletes to tell him who they think has been treated unfairly by the justice system and he would consider pardoning them.

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President Donald Trump on Friday reacted to news that a former Senate Intelligence Committee staffer was arrested on allegations of leaking classified information to the press, suggesting the charges “could be a terrific thing.”

“It’s very interesting, they caught a leaker in a very important — it could be a very important leaker, so it’s very interesting,” he told reporters before leaving the White House for the G-7 in Canada.

It could be a terrific thing,” he continued. “I know, I believe strongly in freedom of the press. I’m a big, big believer in freedom of the press. But I’m also a believer in classified information. It has to remain classified. That includes Comey and his band of thieves who leaked classified information all over the place. So I’m a very big believer in freedom of the press, but I’m also a believer that you cannot leak classified information.”

Former Senate Intelligence Committee staffer James Wolfe, was arrested on Thursday evening by a federal grand jury in Washington on three counts of making false statement to the FBI about his contacts with reporters. He allegedly provided federal investigators with false denials about his contacts with three reporters and falsely claimed he did not share sensitive Intelligence Committee information with two of them, according to the indictment.

Wolfe is set to appear in federal court in Washington, D.C. on Friday.

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Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz told lawmakers in a letter Thursday that he intends to release his report on the DOJ’s handling of the probe into Hillary Clinton’s emails on June 14, President Donald Trump’s birthday, The Washington Post reported.

The report is expected to be critical of former FBI Director James Comey, a frequent target of Trump’s Twitter rage.

“That will, maybe, be a nice birthday present for me,” he told reporters Friday before leaving for the G-7 summit.

Trump recently lashed out about the delay in the release of the report on Twitter, suggesting the IG was purposely making the report “weaker!”

In the letter to top lawmakers on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Horowitz said he was going through the “ordinary processes” to complete the report. People familiar with the matter told the Post that those who are earmarked in the report have been given the time to review the allegations and provide feedback, which is standard practice.

Horowitz also told lawmakers he would be willing to testify before the committee on June 18.

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In order to get President Donald Trump to read through his daily briefing “book,” aides have bent over backwards to make the documents in the binder consumable for Trump, Axios reported.

The “book” comes in different forms for Trump: occasionally in the form of a notebook, a paper-clipped pile of documents or several folders. Typically the binder is stuffed with schedules, upcoming events, briefing and policy papers.

For Trump, his communications staff also includes positive news clippings — even pictures of cable news chyrons — to “contrast the bad news he may be seeing on cable news,” in Axios’ words.

Known for demanding short and concise briefings — he reportedly ousted his former national security adviser H.R. McMaster because he didn’t like the way he conducted briefings and thought he was condescending — aides write out the information he needs to know in the form of bullet points or graphics.

“The bullets are so pithy that one source said they’re ‘basically slogans,’” Axios reported.

Trump still reads print newspapers, starting with the New York Post, then the New York Times and the Washington Post. He will occasionally read the Wall Street Journal — he likes their editorials — and the Financial Times.

Trump usually reads the briefing binder during his morning “executive time,” which Chief of Staff John Kelly implemented because Trump was complaining that his schedule was too full.

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A former Senate Intelligence Committee staffer was indicted as part of a federal investigation into an improper leak of classified information to reporters, the Justice Department announced Thursday evening.

CNN was first to report on Thursday that the Justice Department was probing the former Intelligence Committee staffer, James Wolfe, a 57-year-old retired aide, who formerly protected sensitive information shared with lawmakers on the committee.

Wolfe was arrested following his indictment by a federal grand jury in Washington on three counts of making false statement to the FBI about his contacts with reporters. He allegedly provided federal investigators with false denials about his contacts with three reporters and falsely claimed he did not share sensitive Intelligence Committee information with two of them, according to the indictment. Wolfe is set to appear in federal court in Washington, D.C. on Friday.

As part of the probe, prosecutors also seized several years’ worth of New York Times’ reporter Ali Watkins’ email and phone data. Watkins had allegedly been in a three-year relationship with Wolfe and was informed of the records seizure in a letter from the national security division of the U.S. attorney’s office in February. The Times reported that it didn’t learn about the seizure until Thursday. This is the first known case of a journalists’ records being seized by the government under President Trump.

Wolfe reportedly used encrypted messaging applications to communicate with four reporters, prosecutors alleged. The FBI began looking into Watkins’ sources after she reported on Russian spies’ efforts to work with former Trump campaign aide Carter Page in April 2017, according to The Times. Wolfe was also in communication with another unnamed reporter about a story related to Page’s subpoena to testify before the committee. He served as an unnamed source for another reporter and was in contact with a fourth journalist through his Senate email address for at least three years, according to the indictment.

Read the indictment below:

 

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President Donald Trump bragged to reporters on Thursday that he doesn’t think he needs to prepare much for the summit with North Korea set for next week in Singapore.

I think I’m very well prepared. I don’t think I have to prepare very much. It’s about the attitude,” Trump told reporters on Thursday. “It’s about willingness to get things done. But I think I’ve been preparing for the summit for a long time. As has the other side…They’ve been preparing for a long time, also. So this isn’t a question of preparation, it’s a question of whether or not people want it to happen, and we’ll know that very quickly.”

Plans for the summit between the two leaders has been in the works for months after Trump hastily announced that he would be open to meeting with Kim Jong Un in person to discuss the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.

But after Trump’s vice president and national security adviser doubled down on public statements that the U.S. wanted to follow the “Libya model” for denuclearization, Kim retaliated by mocking Vice President Mike Pence and issuing blistering threats of nuclear revenge.

Trump responded by cancelling the summit in a public letter that, at times, read like a break up note. Last week, a high-ranking North Korean official visited the White House to personally deliver a (large) letter from Kim to Trump. After reading the letter, Trump announced the summit, set for June 12, was back on.

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President Donald Trump had a lot on his mind Thursday morning that spilled out onto Twitter — the Russia investigation, Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), the Obama administration, his self-perceived success as a global leader.

He also floated a truly burning question: When will people start showing me some gratitude?

Trump fired former FBI Director James Comey more than a year ago and publicly admitted at the time that the firing had to do with the FBI’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election and the Trump campaign.

Special counsel Robert Mueller was appointed to take on the probe after Attorney General Jeff Sessions, an early Trump supporter, recused himself from the investigation. Mueller is currently investigating, among other things, whether Trump obstructed justice in firing Comey.

Trump has since denied that Russia had anything to do with Comey’s ousting.

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