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

As President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin greeted each other in front of the press on Monday, Trump raved about the World Cup and their mutual friend, Chinese President Xi Jinping.

One notable thing not mentioned in Trump’s list of planned discussion points? Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

“We have discussions on everything from trade to military to missiles to nuclear to China, we’ll be talking a little bit about China, our mutual friend President Xi,” he said. “I think we have great opportunities together as two countries because frankly, we have not been getting along well for the last number of years. I have been here not too long, but it’s getting close to two years, but I think we will end up having an extraordinary relationship.”

Just days before Trump was set to meet with Putin Monday, deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announced that the Department of Justice had indicted 12 Russian intelligence officials for meddling in the 2016 election. Trump told reporters last week that he plans to ask Putin about the election interference, but lamented there wasn’t much he could do about it besides ask Putin to not do it again.    

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Just hours before President Donald Trump was set to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin, he carped on Twitter that the U.S. relationship with the Kremlin has “NEVER been worse” thanks to his predecessors’ “stupidity” and the Russia probe. 

Trump also told reporters that he was looking forward to the summit with Putin, where the two world leaders will have a one-on-one meeting without aides present, and said “we’ll do just fine.”

Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announced last week that the Department of Justice had indicted a dozen Russian intelligence officials for election meddling. While Democrats seized on news of the indictments to urge Trump to not meet with Putin, or at least not do it alone, the White House was unfazed by the development and has pressed on with the meeting. Trump told reporters last week that he would ask Putin about election meddling, but said there was nothing he could do besides ask Putin not to do it again.   

On Twitter Monday, Trump again claimed that former President Barack Obama ignored reports from his intelligence community on Russian interference because he “thought that Crooked Hillary was going to win the election.”

After the 2016 election, Obama issued sanctions against Russia and expelled diplomats from the U.S. to retaliate against the country for election meddling. According to several reports and public comments from his closest aides, Obama attempted to release a bipartisan statement on Russian election meddling before the election, in September 2016, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell interfered.

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As our Allegra Kirkland and Tierney Sneed have reported, in far more eloquent terms, Thursday’s joint interview of former FBI agent Peter Strzok, before the House Judiciary and Oversight Committees, was weird.

Strzok was asked to answer for a number of topics highly unrelated to the anti-Trump text messages he once exchanged with his former lover, FBI lawyer Lisa Page. Such as:

“What does Trump support smell like?”

“Are we just making up the rules as we go?”

“Can you read that profanity laced text out loud for us, please?” (paraphrased)

In between being told he could only liaise with his personal attorney, not FBI counsel, and threats of being held in contempt, one Republican lawmaker decided to strike Strzok below the belt.

Far below it.

To start, Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) opted to use up a portion of his five minutes with Strzok to raise a tired, yet darling Republican talking point: Hillary Clinton. Addressing the former FBI agent, he launched into a mystifying diatribe about work that Strzok may or may not have done on the Clinton email probe, a harangue that culminated with Gohmert asserting that Strzok didn’t “seem to be all that concerned of our national integrity, of our election when it was involving Hillary Clinton.” (A confusing contention, given the Clinton probe involved her use of a private email server while she was secretary of state, not a presidential election.)

Without offering Strzok the chance to respond, Gohmert then began to lecture the former FBI agent for not admitting he had a political bias while working on special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe (Strzok admitted having his own political views in opening remarks) and cryptically commended him for being “really good” at “lying.”

“He can probably pass the polygraph!”

That comment was met with cries of “disgrace!” from Democratic Rep. David Cicilline (RI), who promptly placed his foot in his mouth as Gohmert seized on the Democrat’s vocabulary to further pounce on Strzok’s moral compass.

“No, the disgrace is what this man has done to our justice system!” he shouted. “There is the disgrace, and it won’t be recaptured anytime soon because of the damages you’ve done to the justice system and I’ve talked to FBI agents around the country, you’ve embarrassed them, you’ve embarrassed yourself.”

And then, the most feeble blow:

“And I can’t help but wonder when I see you looking there with a little smirk, how many times did you look so innocent into your wife’s eyes and lie to her about Lisa Page?”

Democratic groans of outrage ensued.

Among the more amusing objections made to Gohmert’s unprecedentedly personal line of attack came from Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ): “What is wrong with you? Do you need your medication?”

As the protests died down, Judiciary Committee ranking member Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) pointed out that it’s against Committee rules to impugn the character of a witness. Gohmert ended his time with Strzok by babbling about Hillary Clinton again and trying to block the former agent from responding to his personal assaults.

As a frequent apologist for those accused of sexual misconduct or ignoring abuse, Gohmert is clearly no maestro of morality. The congressman campaigned for accused child molester Roy Moore and even defended the twice unseated state Supreme Court justice against accusations he called “grossly unfair.” Just this past week, Gohmert shielded Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), who has been accused of ignoring Ohio State wrestlers’ reports of sexual assault.

But the texts!

For peppering Strzok with questions more uncanny than Goodlatte’s quizzing on the scent of Walmart-shopping Trump supporters, Gohmert is our Duke of the Week.

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Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA), vice chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, joined the chorus of senior Democrats calling for President Donald Trump to back off from his summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin — or at the very least, not meet with him alone.

But Warner took it a step further than Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), suggesting to reporters on Friday that if Trump and Putin meet one-on-one, the Kremlin leader would likely take advantage of Trump’s unpreparedness.

I’ve been concerned for some time that the President’s ad hoc style of going into meetings and winging it isn’t appropriate, particularly when you’re dealing with someone like Vladimir Putin, who’s been on the world stage for 20 years, a former KGB agent,” the Senate Intelligence Committee vice chair said. “He will come in with his facts, with maps, and I’m afraid that actually the President could be taken advantage of.”

Warner’s comments come on the heels of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s announcement that 12 Russian intelligence officials had been indicted on charges related to conspiring to interfere with the 2016 election.

Ahead of his meeting with NATO allies earlier this week, Trump bragged to reporters that his summit with Putin would likely be the “easiest” part of his overseas trip.

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President Donald Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani responded to the indictment of 12 Russian intelligence officials for conspiracy to interfere in the 2016 election by calling the charges a win for Trump.

He tweeted that the indictment was “good news for all Americans” and proved that Trump “is completely innocent.”

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announced Friday that 12 Russian officials had been charged with hacking the Democratic National Committee, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the Hillary Clinton campaign. Rosenstein said he informed Trump of the impending indictments earlier this week.

The news comes just days before Trump is set to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin. He’s told reporters in recent days that he plans to confront Putin about election meddling, but lamented that he could only ask Putin to not do it again.

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Despite his hobby of boasting about his perceived accomplishments, stability as a genius and claiming he has a memory like no one has ever seen before, President Donald Trump is a bit more diffident than he lets on.

According to White House press pool reporter Annie Karni, of Politico, Trump approached New York Times photographer Doug Mills after a press pool spray with a gauche joke about his unhappiness with an apparently unflattering photo Mills had taken of him. Trump told Mills that it “made him look like he had a ‘double chin,'” Karni wrote.

Public bashings of the media are a staple of the Trump presidency, but even as a candidate and real estate mogul, Trump has spent much of his adult life sending hand-written notes to reporters whose stories he doesn’t like.

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When President Donald Trump left the NATO summit on the heels of threats to pull out of the alliance, the Pentagon made calls to defense officials in Europe to offer reassurances that the U.S. would not abandon their defense posts in the region, NBC News reported Friday.

Multiple current and former diplomatic and military officials who spoke with NBC characterized the calls as “damage control” and a reinforcement of “alliance commitments.”

In a press conference on Thursday, Trump wouldn’t answer questions about his threats to pull out of the alliance over allies’ defense contributions, but said that withdrawing the U.S. would be “unnecessary” because “people have stepped up today like they’ve never stepped up before.”

While Trump boasted that NATO leaders had committed to contributing a bigger percentage of their nations’ gross domestic product, some allies have combated those claims. French President Emmanuel Macron said nothing had changed, and that each country remained committed to contributing at least 2 percent to defense by 2024, an agreement made in 2014.

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After British tabloid The Sun published audio of President Donald Trump scorching UK Prime Minister Theresa May for her handling of the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union, the President claimed he didn’t criticize May and flip-flopped on his biting remarks.

In his opening comments at a joint press conference with May, Trump said that “whatever” May decides to do on Brexit is “okay with me, that’s your decision.”

“Just make sure we can trade together, that’s all that matters,” he said.

During the interview with The Sun ahead of his visit to the UK, Trump said May ignored his advice by taking a soft stance on trade with the EU as the UK exits and said that decision would “kill” any chance of an effective trade deal with the U.S.

But on Friday Trump claimed that The Sun didn’t include all his “tremendous” comments about May and explained his about-face by hinting that he had changed his mind on his criticism since speaking with May.

“Prime Minister as I just said she’s going to make a decision as to what she’s going to do,” he said. “The only thing I ask of Theresa is that we make sure we can trade. … I read reports where that won’t be possible but I believe after speaking with the Prime Minister’s people and representatives and trade experts it will be possible so based on that and based on just trade in general and our other relationship which will be fine but the trade is a little tricky.”

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Touting the former UK foreign secretary as a “very talented guy,” whom President Donald Trump “respects,” Trump suggested Boris Johnson would make “a great Prime Minister.”

“I think he’s got what it takes,” Trump told British tabloid, The Sun, the only British outlet he granted an interview ahead of his trip to the UK. “I have a lot of respect for Boris. He obviously likes me, and says very good things about me. … I think he is a great representative for your country.”  

Johnson, a vocal conservative who’s been supportive of Trump, recently resigned as the UK foreign secretary over Prime Minister Theresa May’s plan to maintain close trade ties with the European Union. In the same interview with The Sun, Trump also attacked May for her what he sees as a soft Brexit trade deal, and sad he was “saddened” to see Johnson had resigned. Before boarding the plane to fly to the UK, Trump told reporters that he considers Johnson a “friend.” 

“I was very saddened to see he was leaving government and I hope he goes back in at some point,” he said.

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President Donald Trump admitted in an interview published Thursday that aspects of the demonstrations in London protesting his trip to the United Kingdom really got under his skin.

While an estimated 200,000 people turned out to shout down the American president — which forced him to fly in his helicopter throughout the trip — one person in particular maimed his ego: the 20-foot Trump baby blimp.

“I guess when they put out blimps to make me feel unwelcome, no reason for me to go to London,” he told The Sun, a British tabloid, in an exclusive interview. “I used to love London as a city. I haven’t been there in a long time. But when they make you feel unwelcome, why would I stay there?”

Trump blamed the massive turnout of protesters on London Mayor Sadiq Khan and other politicians and claimed that real British people actually “love” him.

“Many people are delighted. I get thousands of notifications from people in the UK that they love the President of the United States,” he said. “They want the same thing I want.”

In the same interview, Trump unleashed on UK Prime Minister Theresa May, claiming she ruined the Brexit negotiations and had lost any chance of a deal with the U.S. on trade.

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