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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

President Donald Trump is apparently still reeling from a Wednesday NBC report that said Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called Trump a “moron” and that he wanted to resign this summer. Both Tillerson and Trump said the report wasn’t true.

On Twitter Thursday morning, Trump called out the Senate Intelligence Committee, a panel probing Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election, and asked why the committee isn’t looking into “Fake News Networks in OUR country.”

After Tillerson held an unscheduled news conference Wednesday morning denying the claims made by NBC, Trump tweeted that the network was “more dishonest than CNN” and said they were a “disgrace to good reporting.”

President Donald Trump said he was “very honored” by the statement Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made Wednesday morning, denying an NBC story that reported Tillerson called Trump a “moron” and wanted to resign at one point this summer.

“It was fake news. It was a totally phony story,” Trump said responding to questions from reporters during an appearance at University Medical Center in Las Vegas Wednesday. “It was made up. It was made up by NBC, they just made it up. … Total confidence in Rex. I have total confidence.”

In an unscheduled statement to reporters Wednesday morning, Tillerson denied the reports that he wanted to resign or that he had to be talked into returning to Washington by senior White House officials.

He didn’t deny that he called the President a “moron” — “I’m not going to deal with petty stuff like that,” he said — but a State Department spokeswoman told reporters Wednesday afternoon that Tillerson had told her he never called Trump a moron.   

Facebook took out full page advertisements in the New York Times and the Washington Post Wednesday defending its integrity as a company and promising to not let its platform be used as a tool for election interference in the future.

“We take the trust of the Facebook community seriously,” Facebook wrote in the ads, which were the same in both newspapers. “We will fight any attempt to interfere with elections or civic engagement on Facebook.”

The advertisement outlined “immediate actions” the company is taking to keep foreign adversaries from purchasing political ads on its platform, like making the advertising process more transparent and hiring more than 1,000 people to work on Facebook’s ad review teams. The company also promised it would invest in security, conduct an internal investigation and work on developing partnerships with election commissions to support elections and civic engagement around the world.

The newspaper ads come just after Facebook gave Congress more than 3,000 advertisements that appear to have been bought by a Russian troll farm called the Internet Research Agency. Congressional investigators are probing Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election.

H/t: Fortune

Russian President Vladimir Putin said he doesn’t have a personal relationship with President Donald Trump and that he’s unhappy with the way Trump has handled the nuclear standoff in North Korea.

“We have zero personal relationship. We’ve met only once,” Putin said Wednesday at an Energy Week conference in Moscow, according to Bloomberg.

Putin called Trump a strong leader who would “never be anybody’s hostage,” but said the relationship between the two countries has been in turmoil because of political divisions in the U.S.

He said that Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un need to “lower the rhetoric,” adding that threats from both sides could lead to “a very danger dead end,” according to Bloomberg.

He said he knew that Kim’s father, Kim Jong-Il, had an atomic bomb in 2000 and nearly two decades of pressuring the country to stand down hasn’t worked.

“Those who try to speak to North Korea from a position of strength only shore up the North Korean regime,” he said, adding that he’s made that point to Trump in the past. “It’s his first presidential term, he’s still building up experience on that. But I think he took the arguments on board, he heard them.”

The mayor of Puerto Rico’s capital city expressed her continued frustrations with President Donald Trump Tuesday, saying that Trump’s comments during his visit were “insulting” to the people of Puerto Rico and calling him the “miscommunicator-in-chief.”

“He was insulting to the people of Puerto Rico,” San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz said, appearing on MSNBC.  “He said something like, ‘Puerto Rico, you really have taken our budget out of whack because of all the money we’ve thrown here.’ He kind of minimized our suffering here by saying that Katrina was a real disaster, sort of implying that this was not a real disaster, because not many people have died here. Well, you know what? They’re dying.”

Her comments referred to remarks Trump made during a meeting with local and federal officials Tuesday, when he claimed Puerto Rico had thrown the U.S. budget “out of whack” and compared the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria to Hurricane Katrina, which he called “a real catastrophe.”

She also took particular issue with the “terrible” and “abominable” images of Trump throwing rolls of paper towels into a crowd of people during the visit.

“Him throwing paper towels and throwing provisions at people, it’s really — it does not embody the spirit of the American nation, you know,” she said. “That is not the land of the free and the home of the brave that the beacon of democracy that people have learned to look up to, you know, across the world.”

During the meeting with officials, Trump thanked nearly every other Puerto Rican leader and federal administrator for the work they’d done to aide Puerto Rico. He did not mention Cruz, a sleight that came across as pointed after a week of tension between the two leaders.

Last week, Cruz criticized the federal response in Puerto Rico and Trump lashed out on Twitter by questioning Cruz’s leadership.

While Cruz said she had good conversations with the White House staff and was optimistic about relief efforts moving forward, she said Trump’s involvement in the meetings were just for good publicity.

“He really has a communication issue. … You know he’s sort of like the miscommunicator-in-chief, really. You don’t go to another place when people are in peril and are suffering and you just kind of hover around in a helicopter without having some kind words to say. This is common courtesy,” she said.

Several of the Russian-linked Facebook advertisements turned over to congressional investigators this week were targeted to people living in Michigan and Wisconsin, states that were critical to President Donald Trump’s win in 2016, CNN reported late Tuesday.

The advertisements featured polarizing messages, like anti-Muslim attacks. The sources that spoke with CNN said that a large number of the ads appeared in parts of the country that weren’t critical to the election, but some, like the ones in Michigan and Wisconsin, were geared at influencing public opinion.

Trump won both states by less than 1 percent and both were crucial to his Electoral College win.

Facebook has previously said that the 3,000 ads bought by a Russian affiliated troll farm were targeted to specific parts of the country geographically and that at least 10 million Facebook users had likely seen the advertisements.

Special counsel Robert Mueller and congressional investigators are looking at the advertisements as part of its probe into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election and whether the Trump campaign played any part in it.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was so frustrated with President Donald Trump at one point this summer that he almost resigned, according to a new report from NBC News.

Amid growing frustrations with Trump’s policies and clashes with White House staff over staffing his department, Tillerson reportedly became so frustrated with Trump after his political speech at a Boys Scouts rally that he threatened not to return to the White House. The Secretary of state wasn’t upset about the speech, but other mounting tensions, according to NBC.

Vice President Mike Pence, Chief of Staff John Kelly and Defense Secretary James Mattis had to counsel Tillerson, who was out of town for his son’s wedding, into returning to Washington, NBC reported.

“They did beg him to stay. They just wanted stability,” according to one of a dozen current and former senior administration officials who spoke to NBC.

Not long after returning to Washington, Tillerson called Trump a “moron” on July 20 at a meeting with the Pentagon, Trump’s national security team and other members of the administration, three officials told NBC.

Pence has had a few one-on-one discussions with Tillerson since then, talking to him about ways to ease tensions with Trump and being respectful of the President in public, a courtesy the President hasn’t returned.

Over the weekend, Trump openly disputed Tillerson and his remarks to reporters that the U.S. has a direct line of communication with North Korea. Trump tweeted that Tillerson is “wasting his time trying to negotiate” with North Korea leader Kim Jong Un.

Read NBC’s full report here.

Stephen Paddock, the man accused of killing 59 people and injuring more than 500 in a mass shooting in Las Vegas Sunday night wired $100,000 to the Philippines last week, NBC reported Tuesday, citing multiple senior law enforcement officials.

While the shooter’s live-in girlfriend is from the Philippines, authorities said it wasn’t clear who the money was intended for.

Authorities initially believed Marilou Danley was traveling with Paddock at the time of the attack, but have since confirmed she’s been traveling overseas since Sept. 25 and was in the Philippines at the time of the attack, NBC reported.

Paddock, who authorities believe killed himself before police were able to apprehend him, had been dating Danley for less than a year.

Danely is scheduled to return to the U.S. on Wednesday, officials told NBC.

The mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico, who President Donald Trump has accused of having “poor leadership,” will meet with the President during his visit to the hurricane-stricken island Tuesday.

Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz said she accepted the invitation to attend the meeting on “behalf of the people of San Juan and out of respect for the American people,” she said in a statement obtained by NBC and ABC News. She said she would use the meeting as a chance to “reiterate” the message she’s been trying to send since Puerto Rico was ravaged by Hurricane Maria last month.

“This is about saving lives, not about politics; this is about giving the people of Puerto Rico the respect we deserve; and recognizing the moral imperative to do both,” she said.

She called the devastation a “humanitarian crisis” that should be addressed with a “sense of urgency” and said she would advocate for “a continuous supply chain of aid” and the need to “cut the red tape” in order to get the supplies the U.S. territory needs.

“Open channels of communication are always good to have, but they must produce much needed results,” she said.

Trump has gone after Cruz several times over the past week, as Cruz has been vocal about what she’s called a poor response from the Trump administration. Trump personally attacked Cruz on Twitter over the weekend, saying she has “poor leadership” skills and claiming Puerto Rico’s leaders want “everything to be done for them.”

Cruz was invited to listen in on a conference call with Trump’s Homeland Security Adviser Tom Bossert on Monday, but her line was muted and she wasn’t able to contribute to the conversation, she told the Independent.

Before leaving for Puerto Rico on Tuesday, Trump told reporters that “at a local level, (Puerto Rico officials) have to give us more help.”

Read Cruz’ full statement below:

Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump have used three private email accounts to send and receive emails on matters related to official White House business, Politico reported Monday.

In addition to having their own separate private email accounts, the couple also has a joint account that they both had access to and shared with their personal staff for scheduling purposes, according to three people familiar with the matter who spoke with Politico.

The third account is now being examined by White House officials. The emails sent and received by the account reportedly included the couple’s travel documents, internal White House schedules and some official materials. Many of the emails were sent to the private account through Ivanka Trump’s official White House email address and her assistant Bridges Lamar’s White House account, Politico reported.

The couple has been using the joint email to share work-related “data” on a daily basis since they arrived at the White House, one source said.

The White House is already reviewing the couple’s use of separate private email accounts for some official business. Politico reported in September that other current and former White House staffers used private accounts for government business.

A family representative told Politico that Trump has been careful about separating her personal life from work and that all of her emails have been preserved on her White House account.

A White House spokesperson said the staff had been told to make sure they’re saving emails on their official accounts. Kushner’s lawyer Abbe Lowell said Kushner had sent fewer than 100 emails from his private account and that most exchanges on that server were initiated by the other person.

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