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

President Donald Trump sounded off on Twitter Thursday to try to explain his suggestion that arming teachers would help stop school shooting massacres.

But the tweets turned into an all-out rant, where he attacked the media and claimed that he only suggested giving “concealed guns to gun adept teachers with military or special training experience,” not handing out weapons to all teachers.

He said that 20 percent of teachers — “a lot” — would be able to “immediately fire back if a savage sicko came to a school with bad intentions.” He then claimed that “gun free” schools are “a magnet for bad people” and said “ATTACKS WOULD END!” if “highly trained, gun adept” school staff had concealed weapons.


“If a potential ‘sicko shooter’ knows that a school has a large number of very weapons talented teachers (and others) who will be instantly shooting, the sicko will NEVER attack that school,” he continued. “Cowards won’t go there … problem solved.”

Trump attempted to clarify what type of reform he would support: Ending the sale of bump stocks — a device used to make a semi-automatic weapons function like an automatic rifle — raising the age of rifle sales to 21 and pushing for comprehensive background checks “with an emphasis on Mental Health.”

He then passed the buck to lawmakers.

“Congress is in a mood to finally do something on this issue — I hope!” he said.

Trump’s tweets come after he suggested on Wednesday, during a listening session with student survivors and parents of victims, that he would be supportive of arming school staff members in order to stop attacks at schools.

“I think it could very well solve your problem,” he told the group who gathered at the White House.

The session comes a week after a 19-year-old former student opened fired at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and killed 17 people. In the past week, student survivors have been vocally advocating for tighter gun laws at the state and national level.

During a CNN town hall discussion on Wednesday evening with survivors, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) said he would not support arming teachers.

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Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) on Wednesday broke with the National Rifle Association and said he supports bipartisan legislation that would increase the legal age for purchasing a rifle. Rubio also said he is rethinking his previous support of high-capacity magazines.

“I absolutely believe that in this country, if you are 18 years of age, you should not be able to buy a rifle,” he said, during a CNN town hall, responding to the father of a students who was one of 17 killed during the attack at a Florida high school last week. “I will support a law that takes that right away.”

Rubio was likely referencing a bipartisan bill that Sens. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) are crafting that would increase the age for legally purchasing a rifle to 21. The alleged shooter at the Florida high school is 19-years-old and was 18 when he purchased the AR-15 that he used to carry out the attack.

Later in the town hall discussion, Rubio also suggested that he was supportive of banning bump stocks — a device that makes a semi-automatic gun function like an automatic weapon. A Las Vegas gunman used bump stocks to kill 50-plus people last year. Rubio also said he supports improving background checks, an issue President Trump has said he supports.

Rubio said he was also rethinking his support of large-capacity magazines. He said that he did not think a ban on high-capacity rifles would necessarily prevent another attack, but “it may save lives in an attack.”

While Rubio suggested a change of heart on some gun reform issues during the town hall discussion with students and parents of victims Wednesday, he floundered when a student survivor asked him if he would continue to take money from the NRA.

“The positions I hold on these issues of the Second Amendment, I’ve held since the day I entered office in the city of West Miami as an elected official,” Rubio said. “People buy into my agenda, and I do support the Second Amendment.”

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The Pentagon is exploring options that would give President Donald Trump the ability to move National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster out of his role in the White House and back to the military, according to a new report from CNN.

According to six defense and Trump administration officials who spoke with CNN, the Pentagon is quietly searching for a four-star military position in the Army or the Defense Department that would function as a promotion for McMaster after months of mounting tension between the President and his national security adviser.

Trump has reportedly been privately irritated with McMaster for months, mostly stemming from issues Trump has with McMaster’s personality and style, according to a senior Republican source who spoke with CNN. Trump believes McMaster is condescending and unfriendly, the source told CNN.

The President’s frustration with McMaster became public over the weekend when Trump criticized him on Twitter. Trump was likely responding to McMaster’s remarks about the “incontrovertible” proof that Russia meddled in the 2016 election.

“General McMaster forgot to say that the results of the 2016 election were not impacted or changed by the Russians and that the only Collusion was between Russia and Crooked H, the DNC and the Dems,” Trump said on Twitter. “Remember the Dirty Dossier, Uranium, Speeches, Emails and the Podesta Company!”

According to several sources who spoke with CNN, the White House considered replacing McMaster last fall, but decided against it to avoid the criticism of having to appoint a third national security adviser in less than a year. McMaster replaced Michael Flynn after he resigned over the controversy surrounding his contacts with Russian officials and has since pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about those contacts.

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Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) broke with President Donald Trump on Wednesday night during a CNN town hall discussion on school shootings with the survivors of last week’s massacre in Parkland, Florida, saying that he was not “comfortable” with arming teachers to prevent attacks.

“I don’t support that, and I would admit to you right now, I answer that as much as a father as I do as a senator,” Rubio said, responding to a question about whether he would support a move to train teachers and staff to conceal carry at school. The inquiry came from a Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School teacher who sheltered students in her classroom last week when a former student opened fire on the school, killing 17 people.

“The notion that my kids are going to school with teachers that are armed with a weapon is not something that, quite frankly, I’m comfortable with,” he said.

Rubio said the move would have “practical problems” that would be “about the safety of the teacher as much as anyone else.” He said if a teacher were to pull out a gun in an active shooter situation to protect students, a SWAT team could mistake the teacher for the attacker.

“As a father and someone who has talked to plenty of teachers, including the three in my family and the assistant principal in my family, I don’t think that would be a good idea in my view,” he said.

While Rubio rejected the idea Wednesday evening, Trump indicated on Wednesday afternoon that arming teachers or school staff members “could very well solve your problems.” Trump was speaking to parents and student survivors of school shootings during a listening session at the White House.

“If these cowards knew that the school was well-guarded from the standpoint of having pretty much professionals with great training, I think they wouldn’t go into the school to start off with,” he said. “So we’ll be doing the background checks, we’ll be doing a lot of different things, but we’ll certainly be looking at ideas like that.”

Rubio is not alone in his discomfort with Trump’s idea. The American Federation of Teachers told the Associated Press on Wednesday that arming educators was “one of the worst ideas I have heard in a series of really, really, really bad ideas,” union President Randi Weingarten said.

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Conservative musician Ted Nugent, who sits on the National Rifle Association’s board, on Tuesday shared an article that peddled the far-right conspiracy theory that a student survivor of last week’s deadly Florida school shooting is actually a paid actor.

Nugent promoted the article without further commentary on his personal Facebook page. He also liked a comment from a Facebook user who claimed that the student named in the article, David Hogg, is “26 years old and is a paid crisis actor” and that “news organizations hire him to be a scripted witness or survivor.” Hogg is 17 years old.

Posted by Ted Nugent on Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Hogg and other students who survived the shooting where 17 people died last week have publicly advocated for tighter gun laws. On Wednesday, a group of students marched on Tallahassee to make the same point at the state legislature.

Far-right outlets like InfoWars and Gateway Pundit have pushed the conspiracy theory that student survivors are speaking out because far-left, anti-gun groups paid them to do so. The article Nugent promoted was originally published on Natural News, a website that “strongly criticizes drugs-and-surgery medicine” and “vaccines” and actively touts its connection to InfoWars and “other alternative news organizations.”

Natural News’ article about Hogg, headlined “It’s all THEATER: Florida high school shooting survivor caught on video rehearsing scripted lines, coached by camera man,” also promotes that theory. The article claims that surviving students’ testimonials were “all scripted, in other words, to push a gun control narrative rooted in emotional reaction rather than constructive solutions.”

The baseless theory has gained a foothold in more mainstream GOP circles as well: An aide for a Republican state lawmaker in Florida was fired Tuesday evening after he told a reporter that Hogg and another vocal student, Emma Gonzalez, were both actors. President Donald Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., also liked tweets that promoted the conspiracy.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) on Tuesday tweeted, however, that the theory is “the work of a disgusting group of idiots with no sense of decency.”

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The National Rifle Association will participate in a town hall discussion on gun laws and last week’s Florida school shooting, which will be hosted by CNN on Wednesday evening.

The NRA’s national spokeswoman Dana Loesch will represent the organization at the discussion with parents and students, CNN reported. Sens. Bill Nelson (D-FL) and Marco Rubio (R-FL), as well as Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL), have also told CNN they will be in attendance. The discussion will be broadcast live at 9 p.m. EST Wednesday.

Loesch said she decided to attend because she’s “always been about more discussion, not less” and she hopes to be able to “offer some solutions as to what people can actually do to prevent these things from happening in the future.”

“I just hope that people are respectful and that it’s a civil discussion,” she told NRA TV. “We’re not going to get anywhere in this country by screaming at people and impugning their characters simply because they believe as they do. … I hope we can be respectful and have a civil debate without anyone screaming murderer at me.”

The town hall comes just one week after a 19-year-old former student allegedly shot and killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. The massacre has incensed the students who survived the attack to advocate for tighter gun control laws at a state and national level.

While President Donald Trump and Florida Gov. Rick Scott both turned down the invitation to attend CNN’s discussion, Trump on Tuesday directed the attorney general’s office to look into banning bump-stocks, a device that makes a semi-automatic weapon function like an automatic weapon. This accessory was used in the attack at a concert in Las Vegas last year, when a lone gunman killed 50-plus people.

The NRA has come under scrutiny in the wake of the most recent deadly school shooting, as have the politicians whom the gun owners’ organization supports, like Rubio.

Loesch has made headlines as a controversial figure in the past year when she started making aggressive advertisements for NRA TV, which appear to call for violence against journalists and liberals.

Loesch and the NRA did not immediately respond to TPM’s request for comment.

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An outspoken high schooler who survived the school shooting in Florida last week called Donald Trump Jr., and those in the far-right peddling conspiracy theories about student activists being “crisis actors,” “unbelievable” and “disgusting” during an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper Tuesday evening.

It’s unbelievable to me that these people are even saying this, and the fact that Donald Trump Jr. liked that post is disgusting to me,” the student, David Hogg, said, referencing reports that Trump Jr. liked some of the tweets propagating the conspiracy theory.

I am so sorry that these people have lost their faith in America,” he said. “I know I certainly haven’t. … I am not a crisis actor, I am somebody who had to witness this and live through this and I continue to have to do that.”

After a former student allegedly shot and killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida last week, Hogg and many of his surviving classmates were incensed by the massacre and have become vocal advocates for reform of gun control policies at the state and national level.

TPM reported Tuesday on the efforts of far-right groups, like InfoWars and Gateway Pundit, to perpetuate conspiracy theories that the students are paid actors working for far-left, anti-gun groups. True Pundit published a story this week, claiming Hogg and his father, who is a former FBI agent, were working with the mainstream media to prop up the FBI.

“The fact that these people are being critical of me as a witness and personally as a victim to this incident and having to witness this and live through it again and again, it is unbelievable,” Hogg said. “And the fact that some of the students at Stoneman Douglas High School, are showing more maturity and political action than many of our elected officials— its a testament to how disgusting and broken our political system is right now in America.”   

Watch a video of Hogg’s interview with Cooper below:


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A Democrat and former public school teacher flipped a Republican-held seat in the Kentucky state House Tuesday in a district where President Donald Trump won by a 72 percent to 23 percent majority.

The Democrat, Linda Belcher, beat GOP challenger Rebecca Johnson, who is the widow of former Rep. Dan Johnson, who took his own life last year after denying molestation allegations made by a 17-year-old girl from a church where he served as pastor.

Belcher easily defeated Rebecca Johnson by a 68 percent to 32 percent margin, according to the Louisville Courier Journal.

Belcher had previously served as the representative for Kentucky’s 49th District for two terms, from 2009 to 2012 and from 2014 to 2017, until Dan Johnson won in 2016, The Huffington Post reported. Belcher first ran for the seat in 2009 as a widow, as well, after her husband Rep. Larry Belcher (D) died in a car crash in 2008.

Belcher’s Tuesday victory marks the 37th state legislative seat that Democrats have picked up since Trump was elected.

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An aide to a Republican Florida state lawmaker was fired Tuesday after telling a reporter that two students who survived the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School were “crisis actors” instead of real students.

Florida Rep. Shawn Harrison (R) announced on Twitter Tuesday evening that his aide, Benjamin Kelly, had been “terminated” from his position as district secretary.

“I am appalled at and strongly denounce his comments about the Parkland students,” he said in the tweet.

The Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran (R) carried out the firing, according to Politico and a tweet from the state lawmaker.

“On behalf of the entire Florida House, I sincerely apologize to the students targeted and again commend them for their courage through this unspeakable tragedy,” he said in a tweet.

The Tampa Bay Times was first to report on the controversy, after Kelly, the aide, sent Times reporter Alex Leary an email claiming Marjory Stoneman Douglas students Emma Gonzalez and David Hogg were not actual students, but actors. Both students have been vocal on national news outlets, calling on lawmakers and the President to address gun control, following the death of 17 people at their high school when a former student attacked the school with an AR-15 last week.

According to Leary’s tweet, Kelly — from his official Florida state legislature email account — told Leary that “both kids in the picture are not students here but actors that travel to various crisis (sic) when they happen.”

Kelly’s conspiracy theory has been widely peddled by far-right conspiracists, like InfoWars and Gateway Pundit, who claim the students organizers have been planted by left-wing anti-gun groups.   

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Amid another national debate about how to respond to mass shootings after a massacre at a Florida high school last week, a top official in Dallas has asked the National Riffle Association to “reconsider coming to Dallas” for its annual exhibition and convention in May.

Dwaine Caraway, the mayor pro tem in Dallas, said that while he is a “believer in the Second Amendment” and is the owner of five guns, he doesn’t want the event in Dallas and said it would likely be met with protest. He asked the organization to come together with lawmakers to “address this madness,” according to a video of the press conference, published by ABC News affiliate ABC13.

“It is a tough call when you ask the NRA to reconsider coming to Dallas, but it is putting all citizens first, and getting them to come to the table and elected officials to come to the table and to address this madness now,” Caraway said during the press conference. “At the end of the day, we need to connect the dots. The NRA needs to step up to the plate, and they need to show leadership. We should not allow people to possess assault rifles and weapons.”

He applauded the students who survived the high school shooting and are speaking out about gun control policy, despite having to “live with these nightmares the rest of their life.”

“If you are ever confronted with a gun of any kind, the AR-15 or just a gun, that is something that you will remember for the rest of your life and these 14, 15 year-old kids, their lives are in tragic shatters,” he said. “While we are worrying about terrorists, we’re living in a terrorist society amongst us Americans today.”

Caraway is just the latest public official to call out the NRA, and the conservative politicians the organization supports, following the shooting at a Florida high school last Wednesday that left 17 people dead. In the aftermath of the attack, Democrats immediately began calling for gun control measures, while Republicans asked for patience until the facts of the attack were known.

 The teens who survived the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School have been advocating for reform since the attack, with a busload of teens heading to the Florida state legislature Tuesday to meet with lawmakers about gun control policy. 

The NRA is frequently criticized in the aftermath of mass shootings, as the organization is known for funding and awarding ratings to politicians who support legislation that favors gun owners’ rights.   

The 147th NRA Annual Meetings and Exhibits is scheduled to take place at a Dallas convention center from May 4-6, according to the organization’s website. A spokesperson for the NRA did not immediately respond to TPM’s request for comment.

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