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

This week in impeachment

Senate standoff: Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) remain at an impasse over how they want to handle an impeachment trial in the upper chamber. The Washington Post reported this week that the two didn’t talk once over the holidays about how to conduct a trial and the division burst out into the open on Friday morning when both made speeches from the Senate floor outlining their disdain for the other’s approach. While McConnell may not budge on Schumer’s interest in bringing new witnesses to the chamber to testify, members of his caucus appear to not be quite so opposed. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), considered a key swing vote on impeachment in the Senate, indicated this week that she would be open to hearing new witnesses’ testimony.

House Intelligence Committee will get more impeachment docs: A judge on Friday allowed Rudy Giuliani pal Lev Parnas to share the contents of his cell phone and other documents with the House Intelligence Committee, which led the charge on the House’s impeachment inquiry into President Trump. Parnas is currently facing campaign finance charges and worked to help Giuliani establish contacts in Ukraine as part of Giuliani’s scheme to pressure the government to investigate the Biden family.

Ukraine aid freeze: New leaked emails from the Pentagon further implicate President Trump’s personal involvement in ordering hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid to Ukraine to be withheld, allegedly as part of his pressure campaign to get the country to probe his political rival. Additionally on the aid front, the New York Times reported this week that key Trump officials Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, then-National Security Adviser John Bolton and Secretary of Defense Mark Esper tried to convince Trump to release the aid early on.

Biden bungles response to testimony: Former Vice President and 2020 Democratic contender Joe Biden was asked last weekend if he wouldn’t comply with a congressional subpoena for his testimony in a possible Senate impeachment trial because it would take the focus off of President Trump’s alleged crimes. He later walked back those remarks at a town hall discussion in Iowa, saying he would “obey any subpoena” that’s sent his way. But he wouldn’t be happy about it.

In other news

More Mueller memos: A trove of memos tied to special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation were released this week. The documents provided new evidence associated with Mueller’s interviews with key White House officials like Stephen Miller and the imprisoned Michael Cohen and Paul Manafort.

McGahn testimony update: The Justice Department argued in federal court this week that Congress’ dispute with the White House over the testimony of former White House counsel Don McGahn shouldn’t be decided by the courts. Read more here. 

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President Trump authorized a drone strike on the Baghdad International Airport in Iraq that assassinated a top Iranian official, according to multiple reports.

The U.S. State Department is now urging all U.S. citizens in Iraq to leave the country immediately as the region braces for possible retaliation from the Iranian military.

“Due to heightened tensions in Iraq and the region, the U.S. Embassy urges American citizens to heed the January 2020 Travel Advisory and depart Iraq immediately,” the State Department said in a statement posted early Friday. “U.S. citizens should depart via airline while possible, and failing that, to other countries via land. Due to Iranian-backed militia attacks at the U.S. Embassy compound, all public consular operations are suspended until further notice. U.S. citizens should not approach the Embassy.”

The drone strike killed Qasem Soleimani, a top military official with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. According to multiple reports, Trump personally called for the attack. Late Thursday evening the Pentagon confirmed the strike had killed Soleimani. At least seven others are believed to be dead as well. According to the U.S. Secretary of Defense, the attack came in response to ongoing strikes from an Iranian-backed militia against U.S. forces in the region, including an attack last week that left one U.S. civilian dead and four American service members injured. The years-long ongoing strikes are believed to have been orchestrated by Soleimani.

“Gen. Soleimani was actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region,” Defense Secretary Mark Esper said in a statement Friday. “This strike was aimed at deterring future Iranian attack plans.”

Iranian officials, however, are characterizing the strike as an act of terrorism. The country’s foreign minister Javad Zarif tweeted Friday saying the move was a “foolish escalation.”

An adviser to Iran’s supreme leader Ali Khamenei said publicly Friday that Iran would retaliate against U.S. troops in the area, whom he called “insidious beasts.”

“I am telling Americans, especially Trump, we will take a revenge that will change their daylight into a nighttime darkness,” Khamenei adviser Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami said, according to multiple reports.

Trump has been at odds with Iran throughout his entire presidency, notably pulling the U.S. out of an Obama-era nuclear peace treaty with Iran in May 2018.

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