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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

Kellyanne Conway on Friday defended President Donald Trump tweeting personal attacks on cable news anchors, saying Trump has the right to fight back when he’s attacked.

“No, I didn’t say I endorse his attacks. … I said I endorse his ability to fight back when he’s attacked. There’s no good (that) comes out of people attacking the President’s physical and mental states on national television every day to the exclusion of connecting Americans with the information they need,” Conway said, appearing on “Good Morning America.”

Her comments are in response to Trump tweeting personal attacks against the two hosts of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” show, claiming co-host Mika Brzezinski had gotten “a face-life.”

“This is not about any one individual. We need to start connecting Americans with information they need,” Conway said, referring to the amount of time news outlets have spent reporting on Trump’s tweets instead of policy. “Bottom line, I endorse his ability to connect on social media with Americans and I endorse, as the first lady has said, him firing back when he’s being mercilessly attacked.”

She said she hopes “good” comes out of the situation, and that people have respect for the office of the President and “have a full conversation about policy.”

“Let people disagree on policy and stop the personal invective, it’s completely toxic and it’s completely counterproductive to connecting America with policy prescription that they need.”

Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder sent out a early morning message via Twitter, warning and encouraging “career men and women” at the Department of Justice and the FBI.

“Your actions and integrity will be unfairly questioned. Be prepared, be strong. Duty. Honor. Country,” he said.

The tweet comes as the FBI conducts an investigation into whether President Donald Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia to interfere with the 2016 election.

A new advertisement put out by the National Rifle Association — which calls on conservatives to fight the left with a “clenched fist of truth” — has the Women’s March demanding an apology, activists calling it an “open call to violence” and a propaganda expert labeling the video “sinister.”

The video, which was published on the NRA’s Facebook page on June 12, begins with talk radio host Dana Loesch criticizing the media and the way liberals use it to “assassinate real news.” It calls out liberals in the public school system for teaching “children that their president is another Hitler,” Hollywood for progressing “their narrative” and for using their “ex-President to endorse the resistance.”

Loesch goes on to say all these venues are a means to create reasons for protest, “to scream racism and sexism and xenophobia and homophobia. To smash windows, burn cars, shut down interstates and airports, bully and terrorize the law abiding,” all said alongside video clips of people marching and exhibiting violent behavior.

“The only way we stop this, the only way we save our country and our freedom is to fight this violence of lies with a clenched first of truth,” she said, closing out the advertisement saying, “I’m the National Riffle Association of American and I’m freedom’s safest place.”

Join the National Rifle Association

Join NRA Here: http://bit.ly/2q5pp0L

Posted by National Rifle Association of America on Monday, June 12, 2017

A New York University professor, whose research has focused on modern propaganda, called the video irresponsible and said he could “safely say the (video) is a textbook example of propaganda.”

“It’s actually an example of propaganda when it’s most sinister,” Mark Crispin Miller of NYU told TPM. “It’s extremely hostile, takes a dark view of dissonance and protest and lauds the police as our only protection against this unprecedented threat.”

The advertisement takes on the classic method of creating a “they” mentality, he said, while saluting police power.

“What it basically does is create this nightmarish image of an all-powerful ‘they,’ which would be protesters, it would be Democrats and liberals and Hollywood, the media. They’re all the same, one big monolithic entity and the goal of that entity is to destroy not just the Trump presidency, but the whole country,” he said. “The images suggest chaos and violence and brutality by an undifferentiated mass of malicious actors. … It’s aimed at resentful denizens of ‘fly-over states.’ It suggests that there’s a kind of malevolent group that’s in control of everything and trying to destroy the rest of us, the good people and our president.”

While Miller called the video a “sinister” form of propaganda, Paul Baines, a professor of political marketing at Crainfield School of Management in the UK who studies propaganda from terrorist groups like ISIS and Al Qaeda, said the advertisement was “weak propaganda” and a potentially “dangerous” method for building up the NRA’s membership.

“It’s weak in terms of its fervor. ISIS uses a similar approach, reduces the world into a binary place where the alternative is disgusting and they tend to dehumanize the others. … It potentially is dangerous if they move down that avenue. It could incite members to respond to the far left with agitation. It’s not particularly clever to build up membership in this way because it could cause sufficient concern, where people could follow through with this message and create problems,” Baines said. “These (groups) often use a fear-based appeal. … That in itself is problematic. They’re essentially saying, ‘the far left is causing problems and the only thing you can do to save yourself is to buy a gun. The only way to reduce this fear is buy a gun.’”

The Women’s March group, which organized a massive protest in Washington after President Donald Trump was inaugurated, sent a letter to NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre, calling on the organization to “immediately remove the recent irresponsible and dangerous propaganda videos” and issue an apology for the advertisement that “suggests armed violence against communities of color, progressives and anyone who does not agree with the (Trump) administration’s policies.”

The advertisement comes as groups across the U.S. have called out the NRA for not making a statement about the not guilty verdict for the Minnesota police office who killed Philando Castille, a gun owner who was reaching to show an officer his gun registration when he was shot.

The message behind the video was disturbing enough to push politicians and activists to tweet about the video, with Sen. Chris Murphy saying he thinks “the NRA is telling people to shoot us” and Black Leaves Matter leader Deray McKesson calling it an “open call to violence to protect white supremacy.”

And while some are outraged by the video, Jonathan Auerbach, who teaches English at the University of Maryland and is a co-author of “Weapons of Democracy: Propaganda, Progressivism and American Public Opinion,” called the video “pretty standard” for a group like NRA.

“(It’s a) routine example of propaganda designed to recruit new members by rousing indignation against a perceived enemy,” he told TPM in an email. “Not especially innovative or nuanced, but perhaps effective for a brief clip since (there’s) no need to address the substance of ‘the enemy’s accusations.”

Despite the announced delay on Republicans’ health care bill vote to give GOP senators more time to get on the same page, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) said Congress is “still on schedule” with getting a health care plan passed.

“As we said, tax reform is later in the year, in the fall, so we still have the summer here to work on health care,” he told reporters Thursday. “We are perfectly on time with our schedule.”

However, he said he couldn’t answer a question on how long it would take to get something passed because “I don’t know when the Senate is going to bring this bill to the floor for a vote,” but that he would make sure the House moved “fairly quickly” after that.

“We still think we’re on track. Look, I’m familiar with this, this is exactly what we did here in the House. We brought it to the floor and we pulled it back, then we brought it and passed it,” he said. “It’s a bit of deja vu. I told Sen. McConnell, I know how he feels, but I do think we will persevere through this because we have promise to keep.”

After the President sent out a vicious tweet attacking MSNBC host Mika Brzezinski and claiming she had a “face lift,” deputy White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders defended President Donald Trump, saying he “fights fire with fire.”

Look, I don’t think that the president’s ever been someone who gets attacked and doesn’t push back. There have been an outrageous number of personal attacks, not just to him but to frankly everyone around him. People on that show have personally attacked me many times, this is a president who fights fire with fire,” Sanders said on Fox News. “And certainly will not be allowed to be bullied by liberal media or liberal elites within the media or Hollywood or anywhere else.”

When asked whether this type of personal attack was necessary, Sanders said what’s “necessary is to push back against unnecessary attacks on the President both personally” and claimed there have been “outrageous attacks” “day in and day out” on “Morning Joe” against her and Trump.

“I have seen far worse things come out of that show. Again, directed not just at the President, but everyone around him, personal attacks, mean, hateful attacks. Again this President is not going to sit back and not push back and fight fire with fire and that’s exactly what he did today,” she said.

Trump apparently tweeted about the show’s co-hosts Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough after hearing they criticize him on the show.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson reportedly verbally exploded at the head of the President’s personnel office, Johnny DeStefano, last week for blocking Tillerson’s nominees to head State Department posts and questioning his judgement, according to a report from Politico.

Tillerson allegedly shouted at DeStefano in front of White House chief of staff Reince Priebus, top aide Jared Kushner and Tillerson’s chief of staff Margaret Peterlin, and told him he didn’t want DeStefano to have “any role in staffing” the State Department, according to a Politico sources who were familiar with the meeting.

Tillerson was so infuriated that Kushner told Peterlin his behavior was unprofessional and needed to be addressed, Politico’s sources said.

The outburst comes after months of Tillerson reportedly expressing frustration with his new role. While President Donald Trump promised him autonomy in his department, Tillerson has complained about the White House trying to control his hiring process, Trump’s tweets and the working condition in the West Wing, according to Politico’s report. As the former CEO of ExxonMobil, the secretary of state has reportedly expressed frustration over taking orders from young political aides.

“Rex is a 65-year-old guy who worked his way up from the bottom at Exxon, and he chafes at the idea of taking orders from a 38-year-old political operative,” one of Politico’s sources said.

Only 20 to 25 percent of lawmakers in the Senate like the Republican’s health care bill, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) said Thursday morning during an appearance on “Morning Joe.”

“Well, let’s see. Hm. All the Democrats hate it, and half the Republicans hate it. That means 20 to 25 percent of the people like it,” he said, when asked if the plan was fixable. “It’s got to get better.”

He thinks the reason there’s been such a divide between Republicans on the health care bill is because there was a lack of communication in his party.

“For years and years, Republicans said, ‘We’re for repealing it, ripping it out root and branch.’ Then when we got into the discussion, we discovered that about a third of our caucus wants to keep large portions of Obamacare,” he said. “So the bill we currently have before us keeps the Obamacare subsidies, keeps 10 out of 12 of the Obamacare regulations and actually preserves Medicaid expansion forever. The left hates it because they don’t believe any of that.

Some on the right hate it too, he said, because “we see this as too much big government in an era” where the national deficit is so high.

“So there’s concerns on the right and left side. When the right and the left hate something, you really have difficulty I think getting any popular support,” he said.

He offered a solution that he thinks might get both his Republican and Democratic colleagues onboard with the plan, suggesting the Senate should write two different plans to repeal and replace Obamacare.

“I think if we split it in two pieces, we pass one that’s more, looks like repeal that conservatives like. The other you load up with Christmas ornaments, gifts, money, pile money on it that the Democrats will vote for and some of the Republicans will vote for,” he said. “Then I think both will end up passing. It may not be completely good for the country. You at least get the repeal that way.”

When pressed on the issue of Medicaid cuts, Paul said the entitlement isn’t going away under the current plan.

“Medicaid expansion never goes away, states are forced to pay for it. CBO may say ‘States won’t pay for it,’ so maybe less people will have Medicaid. I think under the law, I don’t believe it denies anybody on Medicaid, Medicaid,” he said. “That’s why I think the bill is exceedingly generous. … There’s never less money in Medicaid, it’s less of an increase each year.”

President Donald Trump doesn’t appear to be completely confident Republicans will get enough GOP Senators on board to pass the Senate health care bill, according to comments he made during an energy roundtable discussion with governors on Wednesday.

The President said Obamacare is “essentially dead” and called it a “headache for everybody” and a “nightmare for many,” before praising Republicans’ latest Affordable Care Act repeal plan that he wasn’t fully confident would pass.

“So we have a plan that if we get it approved, it’s very tough. Every state is different, every senator is different. But I have to tell you, the Republican senators had a really impressive meeting yesterday at the White House. We had close to 50 of them, we have 52, but we need almost all of them. That’s never easy,” he said. “I think we’re going to get at least very close, and I think we’re going to get it over the line.”

He said the meeting of GOP senators at the White House Tuesday — after Republican leaders announced they were going to delay the vote on the new health care bill — had a “really great feeling” and said he thinks the bill has “a chance to be a great health care at a reasonable cost.”

“We’ll see what happens. We’re working very hard, we have given ourselves a little bit more time to make it perfect,” he said. “We’re sending a lot of it back to the states, where it belongs, and this will be something really special if we can get it done. Always tough. It’s probably the toughest subject from the standpoint of approval because every state is different, every state has different needs.”

When asked about the plan to make significant cuts to Medicaid expansion, the President told reporters, “It’s gonna be great. It will be great for everybody.”

Despite calls from Republican senators like Susan Collins (R-ME) and Bill Cassidy (R-LA) that tinkering won’t be enough to get them to support the GOP Obamacare repeal bill, Sen. John Thune (R-SD) said there are just a few “little” issues to address to get the votes Republicans need.

“We’re going to take the bill we have and try to, there are always little things, dials you can twist to try to attract support,” he said Wednesday, appearing on “Fox and Friends.”

He said there are “a couple of issues” conservatives want to address and “a couple of issues” moderates want to address, likely referring to the fact that several GOP Senators in Medicaid-expansion states have said they can’t support the plan because of its rollback of the expansion.

“It is a function of just trying to figure out that sweet spot where we can get the 50 votes you need to pass it and of course the assistance of Mike Pence, the vice president, and the chair if necessary,” he said. “We will get there.”

Since the Better Care Reconciliation Act was released last week, just 17 percent of Americans are enthused about the Senate Republican’s Obamacare repeal bill, according to a poll conducted by NPR, PBS NewsHour and Marist.

From June 21 to June 25, the poll surveyed 1,205 U.S. adults, and 55 percent of those indicated they disapprove of the GOP plan, which would leave 22 million people uninsured, according to an analysis from the Congressional Budget Office. About a quarter of those surveyed said they didn’t know enough about the proposal to form an opinion about it.

Of those surveyed who identify as Republicans, just 35 percent said they liked the plan, and 21 percent said they oppose it. Independents aren’t thrilled about the proposal either, with 68 percent against it.

Slightly less than half of Americans — 46 percent — said they wanted to see changes made to the Affordable Care Act that would expand the law. Just 7 percent of those surveyed said they wanted Obamacare to do less, which is the aim of Republican lawmakers.

A quarter of Americans want to see Obamacare completely repealed, and if Congress doesn’t go through with a repeal, 37 percent of Americans said they would blame Republicans and 23 percent would blame Democrats. Just 15 percent would blame President Donald Trump. About half of Republicans said they would blame Democrats if their party’s bill collapses, 20 percent would blame GOP legislatures and only 6 percent said the responsibility falls on the President.

Those surveyed were contacted by live interviewers over the phone by Marist poll. The survey has a ± 2.8 percent margin of error.

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