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 lawyer for porn actress Stormy Daniels is reportedly stalling Manhattan federal prosecutors’ efforts to free Daniels’ former lawyer and manager to talk about a $130,000 payment President Trump’s personal lawyer gave Daniels before the 2016 election.

According to people familiar with the matter who spoke with the Wall Street Journal, Michael Avenatti, Daniels’ attorney, has not waived the attorney-client privilege that is preventing Daniels’ former lawyer, Keith Davidson, from discussing the agreement with federal prosecutors who are investigating Michael Cohen’s business dealings, including the $130,000 payment. Avenatti even went as far as sending Davidson a cease-and-desist letter in April to keep him from talking about his communications with Daniels over the $130,000 and non-disclosure agreement, which was reportedly enacted to keep Daniels quiet about her alleged affair with Trump.

Avenatti has also reportedly taken steps to keep Daniels’ former manager, Gina Rodriguez, from giving federal prosecutors information about her communications with Daniels until he has had the chance to review it, according to people familiar with the matter who spoke to the WSJ. Rodriguez reportedly helped facilitate the $130,000 payment from Cohen just before the 2016 election.

Federal prosecutors now believe that Avenatti is stalling and the delays in responding to their requests to waive attorney-client privilege have “frustrated investigators,” per the WSJ.

Avenatti told the WSJ Monday that he and Daniels are still “ironing out the details” of whether they’ll agree to abandon some privilege so Davidson and Rodriguez can cooperate with the Cohen investigation.

Read the WSJ’s full report here.

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The two top Department of Justice officials, who most often serve as President Donald Trump’s virtual punching bags, have developed a bond of humor over the President’s scrutiny and often very public attacks.

According to people who know both Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein who spoke with the Wall Street Journal, the two men who didn’t know each other well before they were appointed to top posts at the Justice Department have formed a bond that’s flourished since the two were spotted having dinner together in February. They now have daily morning meetings where they regularly discuss the DOJ’s other initiatives outside the Russia probe.

The WSJ described the pair as sharing a “gallows sense of humor” about Trump and his allies’ frequent criticism of them, citing sources who know both men. The veiled amusement over Trump’s apparent frustration with them has spilled into public view within the Justice Department, according to the WSJ.

To celebrate his first anniversary as attorney general, Sessions staffers jokingly bought him a bulletproof vest to symbolize the assaults he’s faced. When Rosenstein returned from a visit with Trump at the White House once, Sessions joked that he was “glad to still have a deputy,” per the WSJ.

While Sessions reportedly doesn’t even talk about the Russia investigation casually with friends, he once gave a speech to some conservative lawyers at the Mayflower Hotel and started the address by jokingly asking if there were any Russians in the room.

Read the WSJ full report here.

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Just before heading out to spend his weekend hitting the links with President Donald Trump, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) on Friday broke with the President’s rhetoric surrounding revelations that an FBI informant met with members of the Trump campaign in 2016.

While Graham did not attend the classified meeting between lawmakers and intelligence officials about the informant who reportedly met with two Trump campaign officials as part of a broader counterintelligence operation to determine the scope of Russian meddling, he said he doesn’t agree with Trump labeling the informant a “spy.”

A confidential informant is not a spy,” he told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt Friday morning. “I don’t know if there’s a reason to have a confidential informant following a campaign. But let’s put it this way. There needs to be some protocols in place if this ever happens again. Right now, there are rules saying you can’t, you know, you don’t want investigations to change political cycles. So there’s rules about, you know, ending and starting investigations because of the political cycle.”

When pressed further about whether Trump should be using the word “spygate” — his new monicker for the ordeal — Graham said “probably not, but I don’t know.”

“I didn’t go to the meeting,” he added. “I don’t think it’s — I don’t think he’s a spy. And I don’t know who this person was.”

Trump has seized on reports of the informant meeting with two officials on his campaign — Carter Page and George Papadopoulos — to further cement his claims of  “deep state” within the Justice Department that he claims is determined to undermine him. He asked the Justice Department to investigate whether political motivations were involved in the decision to dispatch the informant.

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President Donald Trump on Friday told the graduating class of Naval Academy students that the U.S. military is “respected again” under his leadership.

“You are now leaders of the most power and righteous forces on the face of the planet, the United States Military,” he said. “We are respected again, I can tell you that. We are respected again. A lot of things have happened, we’re respected again.”

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President Donald Trump is set to deliver the commencement speech at the Naval Academy graduation ceremony on Friday at 10:20 a.m. ET.

Watch live below:

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The top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), asked the Justice Department late Thursday evening to launch a criminal probe into how the name of a confidential FBI informant was leaked to the media.

In a letter to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and FBI Director Christopher Wray, Nadler said he was “deeply disturbed” that someone had “outed an intelligence asset” for political reasons.

“It is a breach of the duty we owe to these men and women, who serve our country at great risk and trust us to protect their identities,” he wrote in the letter, which was shared on Twitter. “It does great harm to our ability to collect intelligence from other confidential sources. Moreover, the intentional disclosure of the identity of a covert agent is a crime under federal law.”

Last week, several media outlets published the name of a secret FBI informant who reportedly met with two officials on the Trump campaign in 2016 as part of a broader counterintelligence undertaking to determine the scope of Russian meddling.

Trump has seized on reports of the informant meeting with two officials on his campaign — Carter Page and George Papadopolous — to further cement his claims of  “deep state” within the Justice Department that he claims is determined to undermine him. He has coined the whole ordeal “spygate,” claiming the informant was dispatched by the Obama administration to spy on his campaign.

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A top fundraiser for President Trump, Elliot Broidy, is blaming the hack of his emails — which sought to promote an anti-Qatar agenda in the White House — on a former CIA operative, NBC News reported Thursday.

In a lawsuit filed in federal court Thursday, Broidy claims that former operative Kevin Chalker and his partner at Global Risk Advisors, David Mark Powell, are behind the leaks of his emails to the U.S. media because the pair opened an office in Doha in October 2017 — two months before the emails were leaked, according to NBC’s review of the lawsuit.

The lawsuit alleges the two worked with the brother of the emir of Qatar to obtain the emails, many of which were published by the Associated Press this week. The AP’s investigation shows that while Broidy was pushing a pro-United Arab Emirates and an anti-Qatar agenda in the White House, he was also offered hundreds of millions of dollars in defense contracts with the United Arab Emirates.

The AP also found that Broidy, along with Lebanese-American businessman George Nadar, was behind several key actions within the Trump White House: the firing of former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Trump’s decision to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal.

Read NBC’s full story here.

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President Donald Trump’s legal team and special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigators nearly reached a deal on the timing, location and scope of a Trump interview in January before negotiations fell through because Trump’s lawyers were at odds over the wisdom of letting the President testify.

The interview was going to be set at Camp David and last between two and six hours, the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday. The two sides had agreed to narrow questions to focus on Trump’s firing of former FBI director James Comey and former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn’s contacts with Russia. Mueller’s team reportedly pressed for a six hour interview and even factored in when bathroom breaks could be taken, according to the WSJ.

But negotiations fell through, mostly because of former Trump lawyer John Dowd’s opposition to the testimony. Dowd sent Mueller’s team a 20-page letter to reject the interview and laid out the constitutional reasons Trump shouldn’t have to testify, WSJ reported.

Read the full report here:

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Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was reportedly blindsided by President Donald Trump’s decision to cancel the denuclearization summit with North Korea, and he blames National Security Adviser John Bolton for the summit’s failure, NBC News reported Thursday evening.

Just an hour before the cancellation was announced in a letter to Kim — which Trump reportedly dictated to Bolton — the State Department blasted out a press release to reporters, highlighting the work the department had done with other Asian counterparts in preparation for the meeting, initially set to take place in Singapore next month.

The decision was so unexpected that the White House didn’t have a chance to alert congressional leaders or foreign allies ahead of time and the letter went public while dozens of journalists were inside North Korea to witness the demolition of its nuclear test sites. Trump was reportedly eager to pull out of the denuclearization talks because he didn’t want North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to do it before him, NBC News reported.

Pompeo — who flew to Pyongyang two times since talks began and has met with Kim — reportedly blames Bolton for the erosion of trust between the two countries. In recent weeks, Bolton told the media that Trump would like to see the “Libya model” imposed on North Korea, which reportedly angered Kim, as Libya’s former leader was ousted from power and killed.

According to officials who spoke with NBC News, the pair have been at odds about the approach to the summit since talks began and Bolton was “integral” to Trump’s decision to back out.

Read NBC’s full report here. 

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President Donald Trump announced in a letter Thursday morning that he will not meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Singapore next month to discuss denuclearization.

In the letter sent to Kim and released publicly, Trump cited North Korea’s “tremendous anger and open hostility” in a recent statement, in which the senior envoy for U.S. affairs threatened a “nuclear-to-nuclear showdown” if the summit were cancelled and called Vice President Mike Pence a “political dummy.”

“I feel it is inappropriate, at this time, to have this long-planned meeting,” Trump wrote. “Therefore, please let this letter serve to represent that the Singapore summit, for the good of both parties, but to the detriment of the world, will not take place.”

In the letter, which was stern, but at times friendly, Trump also thanked Kim for releasing three Americans who were hostages in North Korea, calling the move — which was meant to be a sign of good faith between the two leaders leading up to the summit — “a beautiful gesture” that was “very much appreciated.”

“I felt a wonderful dialogue was building between you and me, and ultimately, it is only that dialogue that matters,” he wrote. “Some day, I look very much forward to meeting with you.”

The cancellation follows the several days of speculation over whether the summit would actually take place after news broke that Kim had concerns about the meeting, despite demolishing its nuclear test sites in the presence of journalists on Thursday. Kim reportedly had logistical worries about the summit and was wary that leaving North Korea for Singapore for a extended period of time may make him vulnerable to a coup.

The regime was also concerned about comments that National Security Adviser John Bolton made to the media — and Pence doubled down on — claiming the U.S. may follow the “Libya model” of denuclearization. That comment reportedly cooled Kim’s interest in meeting with the U.S., likely because that deal ended with the country’s former leader Muammar Gaddafi being forced from power and killed.

Just last week, Pyongyang warned there may be repercussions if the U.S. and South Korea continued doing joint air force drills.

Read the full letter below:


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