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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

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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Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) released a statement Friday afternoon calling out President Trump and his Republican colleagues just minutes before the House Intelligence Committee released a controversial memo that claims an anti-Trump bias within the FBI.

In the statement, McCain said attacks on the FBI and Department of Justice only serve one person’s interests: Russian President Vladimir Putin’s.

“The latest attacks on the FBI and Department of Justice serve no American interests — no party’s, no president’s, only Putin’s,” he said. “The American people deserve to know all of the facts surrounding Russia’s ongoing efforts to subvert our democracy, which is why Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation must proceed unimpeded. Our nation’s elected officials, including the President, must stop looking at this investigation through the warped lens of politics and manufacturing partisan sideshows. If we continue to undermine our own rule of law, we are doing Putin’s job for him.”

His comments come as President Donald Trump and Republicans ignored the FBI’s “grave concerns” about the memo, which alleges that FBI officials abused the FISA process when seeking a warrant to surveil Trump campaign aide Carter Page.

The full statement from McCain:

“In 2016, the Russian government engaged in an elaborate plot to interfere in an American election and undermine our democracy. Russia employed the same tactics it has used to influence elections around the world, from France and Germany to Ukraine, Montenegro, and beyond. Putin’s regime launched cyberattacks and spread disinformation with the goal of sowing chaos and weakening faith in our institutions. And while we have no evidence that these efforts affected the outcome of our election, I fear they succeeded in fueling political discord and dividing us from one another.

“The latest attacks on the FBI and Department of Justice serve no American interests – no party’s, no president’s, only Putin’s. The American people deserve to know all of the facts surrounding Russia’s ongoing efforts to subvert our democracy, which is why Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation must proceed unimpeded. Our nation’s elected officials, including the president, must stop looking at this investigation through the warped lens of politics and manufacturing partisan sideshows. If we continue to undermine our own rule of law, we are doing Putin’s job for him.”

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Just after news broke that President Donald Trump had declassified House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes’ (R-CA) anti-FBI memo, Trump told reporters he thought the incidents detailed in the document were a “terrible” and a “disgrace.”

“I think it’s terrible. I think it’s a disgrace what’s going on in this country. I think it’s a disgrace,” he said Friday afternoon. “The memo was sent to Congress, it was declassified. Congress will do whatever they’re going to do, but I think it’s a disgrace what’s happening in our country.”

Trump also claimed that “a lot of people should be ashamed of themselves and much worse than that.”

“Let’s see what happens, but a lot of people should be ashamed.”

When asked whether he has confidence in Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, Trump dodged.

“You’ll figure that one out,” he said.

Breaking from cautions from his own Justice Department, Trump reportedly declassified the memo around noon on Friday. It was sent to the House Intelligence Committee and released before 12:30 p.m. EST. The memo in question reportedly purports to show that FBI officials abused the FISA process when seeking a warrant to surveil Trump campaign aide Carter Page.

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Rep. Jody Hice (R-GA) said Friday he is “good” with House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes’ (R-CA) memo being released, because Hice believes it “exposes the FBI” for abusing its power to come “after a political opponent.”

When asked on CNN whether he was comfortable with the President releasing the memo because he reportedly thinks the document will help discredit special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election, Hice skirted the question multiple times and theatrically claimed Republicans and Democrats “need to rally around this … for all of our sakes.”

Most of the people at the FBI are great people, doing a wonderful job, but there are bad apples and it’s going to expose it,” he said. “There’s no question it makes the department look bad. It does name some bad apples. But this is a type of thing that transparency is made of. We cannot tolerate this type of thing in America of all places.”

Hice said the FBI is cautioning against the memo’s release because “they’re shaking in their boots” over the content of the document, which allegedly shows evidence of an anti-Trump bias within the FBI. While the FBI has expressed “grave concerns” over the public release of the document, the agency said in a statement Wednesday that they believe the memo includes “material omissions of fact.”

To be very honest with you, as an American citizens, I have grave concerns,” Hice said, mimicking the FBI’s language. “I have grave concerns about what the FBI has done, what the Department of Justice has done and the fact that this could happen to anyone is intolerable for this to go on in the United States. It needs to be transparent and the people of America need to see it.”

The White House is expected to make a decision about the memo before the end of the week, but Trump has indicated he fully plans on making the document public.

According to reports from multiple news outlets, the memo purports to show that FBI officials abused the FISA process when seeking a warrant to surveil Trump campaign aide Carter Page.

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House Judiciary Committee ranking member Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) on Thursday asked the panel’s chair to ask FBI Director Chris Wray for an “emergency” briefing to outline his concerns over the imminent release of a classified memo authored by Republican staffers that alleges an anti-Trump bias within the FBI.

In a letter to Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), the committee’s chair, Nadler called the memo a “set of talking points” that “attempt to discredit the work of the FBI and special counsel Robert Mueller” and said the committee should ask Wray to make a formal or informal appearance on “an emergency basis.”

“It is imperative that we hear directly from these officials about the security and law enforcement implications of making this information public,” Nadler said. “Because many of our members have not read the underlying materials, it is also important that we hear about any inaccuracies or key omissions from the Nunes document.”

In his letter, Nadler cited statements from the Department of Justice and the FBI cautioning against the document’s release. The FBI, in a rare public statement Wednesday, said it had “grave concerns about material omissions of fact” in the document.

House Intelligence Committee Republicans voted Monday to release the memo, giving Trump five days to decide whether to release it to the public.  Trump made his intentions to release the document clear after his State of the Union address Tuesday, when he was caught on a hot mic telling Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-SC) that he “a hundred percent” plans to release it.

According to reports from multiple news outlets, the memo purports to show that FBI officials abused the FISA process when seeking a warrant to surveil Trump campaign aide Carter Page.

Trump and congressional Republicans have claimed for months that the FBI is biased against him, and CNN reported Thursday that Trump believes the memo will help discredit special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Read the letter below:

 
Correction: This article originally incorrectly labeled Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) as a member of the House Intelligence Committee. He’s a ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee. TPM regrets this error. 

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

 

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When President Donald Trump first read former Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci’s profanity-laden interview with The New Yorker, he liked it.

“At first, according to Scaramucci, Trump liked what he had said to Lizza,” Vanity Fair reported Thursday in a new tell-all profile on the Mooch, six months after he was ousted from his 11-day stint at the White House. “He got off on all that macho bravado. He liked that there was both the Harvard Law School Scaramucci and the Long Island Mooch. And he told Scaramucci so. He was laughing about it.”

While Scaramucci’s fall from grace was swift, Scaramucci claimed that at first the President wasn’t fazed by his behavior and even called him to tell him he was “a lucky bastard,” because he was out of the news cycle following former chief of staff Reince Priebus’ firing.

But once Priebus was replaced by John Kelly, the honeymoon was over. Scaramucci said he knew by 7 a.m. ET the Monday after The New Yorker interview that his time in the West Wing was up.

In the new Vanity Fair piece out Thursday, Scaramucci detailed his climb to power, his brief White House tenure and how he’s handled the past six months on the other side.

Here are a few highlights:

Scaramucci learned quickly that Washington, D.C. is more brutal than Wall Street.

“So, when the President turned to me and said he wanted to give me the O.P.L. job, I got a call from Reince: ‘Don’t take the O.P.L. job. You can be the finance director for the R.N.C. Stay at your company.’ Blah, blah, blah. I said, ‘No, no, no. I’m gonna take the O.P.L. job. I want to work with the president.’ How many times in my life am I gonna be able to work in the White House and work for the president of the United States? And Reince’s answer was, ‘Actually, I’m gonna do everything I can [to help you].’ He did say this because he’s a Washingtonian. That’s what they do to you, they say, ‘golly gee’ to your face and they act like Richie Cunningham to your face. They’re Richie Cunningham and they’re Opie from ‘The Andy Griffith Show,’ but they’re the fucking Sith Lord behind your back. They’re hitting you with a lightsaber behind your back.”

Scaramucci never trusted former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, the Orwellian “creature from the Black Lagoon.”

I helped Bannon through the three months that he was on the campaign, and we had a good relationship. But Bannon turns on me, because Bannon is ultimately railing against the swamp, but he’s actually a cock of the swamp. He’s the creature from the Black Lagoon, Bannon. He acts more swamp-like than any person that’s ever become a Washingtonian. So for all of his railing on the swamp, he is literally the pig in George Orwell’s ‘Animal Farm’ that stands on his two legs the minute he gets power. He is the creature from the Black Lagoon.”

Read the full Vanity Fair profile here.

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Former FBI Director James Comey took to Twitter Thursday to again defend his former agency, saying “all should appreciate the FBI for speaking up.”

“I wish more of our leaders would,” he said. “But take heart: American history shows that, in the long run, weasels and liars never hold the field, so long as good people stand up.”

His tweet was likely referring to the FBI’s public statement on Wednesday expressing “grave concerns about material omissions of fact” in Rep. Devin Nunes’ (R-CA) memo, which reportedly alleges that FBI officials abused the FISA process when seeking a warrant to surveil Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.

The House Intelligence Committee voted along party lines on Monday to release the memo, giving President Donald Trump five days to make a decision about whether it should become public.

Trump is poised to release the memo this week, despite the Department of Justice’s requests to halt its release.

The White House confirmed Thursday that Trump has read the memo and White House officials expect to get a final decision about the release of the document on Friday, according to CNN. 

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White House officials are concerned FBI Director Chris Wray may quit if House Intelligence Committee Chair Devin Nunes’ (R-CA) memo purporting to show anti-Trump prejudice among federal law enforcement officials is released, CNN reported Thursday.

Senior White House officials are working on a solution that will satisfy both President Donald Trump and Wray, as well as other law enforcement officials, like Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, according to officials with knowledge of the matter who spoke with CNN. 

While Wray has not explicitly threatened to resign, the President’s Chief of Staff John Kelly reportedly “believes it is a real possibly” that Wray could leave if the memo goes public and he is striving to mediate the issue, according to CNN.

NBC’s Pete Williams reports that Wray has no intention of quitting over the memo.

The White House did not immediately respond to TPM’s request for comment.

In a rare public statement Wednesday, the FBI expressed “grave concerns about material omissions of fact” in the document, which reportedly alleges FBI officials abused the FISA process when seeking a warrant to surveil Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.

CNN reported on Thursday, citing an unnamed senior administration official, that the White House has signed off on several redactions to the document, but continues to reject requests from the FBI and the Department of Justice to block its release.

The White House confirmed Thursday that Trump has read the memo and White House officials expect to get a final decision about the release of the document on Thursday, according to CNN. 

Read the latest reporter’s notebook (Prime access) on this story »

 

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President Donald Trump has read House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes’ (R-CA) memo purporting to show anti-Trump prejudice among federal law enforcement officials, the White House announced on Thursday.

A White House official confirmed to pool reporters that Trump has read the four-page memo that staffers compiled for Nunes. The House Intelligence Committee voted along party lines on Monday to release the memo, and Trump reviewed the document as the next step in the process to make the document public.

CNN reported on Thursday, citing an unnamed senior administration official, that the White House has signed off on several redactions to the document, but continues to reject requests from the FBI and the Department of Justice to block its release.

The White House will likely send the memo back to the House Friday, according to CNN, where the House Intelligence Committee is expected to determine how and when to make it public.

The Justice Department has called the release of the memo “reckless” and the FBI, in a rare public statement Wednesday, said it had “grave concerns about material omissions of fact” in the document.

After Trump completed his first official State of the Union address on Tuesday, he nevertheless told Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-SC) that he “a hundred percent” plans to release the document. White House chief of staff John Kelly on Wednesday morning told Fox News Radio that the memo “will be released here pretty quick.”

According to reports from multiple news outlets, the memo purports to show that FBI officials abused the FISA process when seeking a warrant to surveil Trump campaign aide Carter Page.

Trump and congressional Republicans have for months been claiming that the FBI is biased against him, and CNN reported Thursday that Trump believes the memo will help discredit special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

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