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

The spokesperson for Virginia Republican Senate candidate Corey Stewart, who has twice called for an investigation into his Democratic opponent and who doesn’t have the support of even the most conservative fundraising group, has taken a racist page from President Trump’s book by labeling majority-black communities “shitholes.”

The Daily Beast reported Sunday that Stewart spokesperson Rick Shaftan has expressed racist views on Twitter in the past, largely in reaction to protests over the killings of African-American men by police.

In the protests that erupted after Ferguson, he tweeted about “crazed black people” looting liquor stores and suggested that it would be foolish to start a business in a “black neighborhood.” He tweeted similar sentiments after a black man was killed by police in Baltimore and he called Memphis, New Orleans and Baltimore, all majority-African American cities, “shitholes.”

Stewart himself is a neo-Confederate apologist and the National Republican Senatorial Committee has not endorsed him.

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CBS Corporation’s leadership discussed this weekend whether the company’s C.E.O Leslie Moonves should step aside pending an ongoing investigation into allegations against Moonves and the company’s handling of harassment complaints, The Wall Street Journal reported Monday.

According to three people familiar with the matter who spoke to WSJ, the CBS board plans to select a committee on Monday to supervise the probe. CBS announced the investigation on Friday afternoon, just before the New Yorker published an article outlining the allegations of six women who worked with Moonves between the 1980s and late 2000s, who claimed he sexually harassed them.

The allegations involve several instances of unwanted physical contact and kissing. Moonves told the New Yorker that he regretted making any women uncomfortable, but said he did not retaliate professionally against anyone for rejecting his advances.

The probe — which will be conducted by an outside law firm — will look into the allegations against the C.E.O. and CBS’ workplace culture as a whole, according to WSJ’s sources.

Read the WSJ’s full story here. 

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Following his swear-in on Monday, new Veteran’s Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie intends to reassign several high-level staffers who were appointed by President Donald Trump and have been at the heart of ongoing morale issues within the VA, The Washington Post reported.

According to three people familiar with the matter who spoke to the Post, Wilkie told Trump about his plans to shake things up this week in an effort un-politicize the agency that’s been historically viewed as nonpartisan. Wilkie reportedly told Trump about the proposed staffing changes while the two were aboard Air Force One en route to a veterans event in Kansas City, Missouri.

The agency has been leaderless since Trump fired former secretary David Shulkin, an Obama appointee, over ethical issues that Shulkin believes were politicized by Trump-appointees within the agency. Shulkin particularly clashed with Peter O’Rourke, a former Trump campaign worker who was appointed as his second-in-command.

Wilkie reportedly plans to reassign O’Rourke — who has been serving as acting secretary — to a less prominent role within the agency

Read WaPo’s full report here.

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As John Kelly quietly tucks a year of service as President Trump’s chief of staff under his belt, Trump’s friends and outside advisers suggest Kelly has no actual power over Trump, who reportedly wishes he didn’t have to deal with a head staffer, Politico reported.

Kelly’s increasingly waning influence in the West Wing is perhaps best illustrated in Trump’s penchant for scheduling meetings for himself on a whim. As one former White House official told Politico, Trump regularly makes appointments for the day based on what “Fox and Friends” decides to cover that morning.

“He comes down for the day, and whatever he saw on ‘Fox and Friends,’ he schedules meetings based on that,” a former White House official told Politico. “If it’s Iran, it’s ‘Get John Bolton down here!’ … If he’s seen something on TV or [was] talking to Hannity the night before, he’s got lots of flexibility to do whatever he wants to do.”

Trump reportedly makes his own schedule in a black appointment book and keeps track of the meetings he schedules on the fly with the help of his personal aide Madeline Westerhout, who then reports Trump’s appointments to Kelly’s office.

Kelly — whom a Republican close to the White House called a “chief of staff in name only” — is reportedly aware of how useless his efforts to maintain order have become. He regularly jokes with staff that he is “leaving and I’m not coming back” and has swapped early morning work hours for workout sessions at the gym.

Read Politico’s full report here. 

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Noticing a sudden lack in invitations to make cringey jokes about his penchant for lying while riding around on a mobile White House press podium in front of America’s rich and famous, former press secretary Sean Spicer has found a new way to squander his dwindling, Anthony Scaramucci-level relevance in the political spotlight:

He wrote a really bad book.

From the glaringly bland title, “The Briefing,” to the fifth grade-level prose, to the abundance of factual errors that even a mini-fridge that decided to pursue a career in proofreading could catch, the critics agree: the novel is about as disastrous as his White House lawn party casual-wear, as cataclysmic as his rage-filled first press briefing, as ignominious as the fact that the requisite, post-White House job offer from Fox News never arrived.

According to reviews of “The Briefing,” his most striking errors are elementary. He fumbles the decade during which President Trump’s predecessor served as commander-in-chief, describing a reporter asking Obama a question in … 1999. He refers to Christopher Steele, the author of the infamous dossier that makes salacious claims about President Trump’s fetishes, as Michael Steele, who is actually the former chairman of the Republican National Committee.

Spicer also attempts to rewrite history throughout the volume, omitting publicly accepted facts about key, well-documented scandals in Washington. While journaling about working for former Rep. Mark Foley (R-FL), he lavishes his old boss with dull praise. “[He] knew how to manage the news cycle. And on top of that, he was good to staff and fun to be around,” he writes, conveniently forgetting to mention that Foley resigned over his habit of sexting teenage boys who worked in the congressional page program.

Despite being the press secretary during the epically tumultuous eight days between Trump firing FBI director James Comey and the appointment of a special counsel, Spicer also completely ignores key details of the story that formed the basis of the “witch-hunt” thorn in the President’s side: that Trump asked James Comey for “loyalty”; that Trump asked Comey to leave Michael Flynn alone; and that Trump, in the Oval Office, told Russian officials he didn’t need to sweat about the probe with Comey gone.

And a Spicey novel wouldn’t be complete without mention of his former boss’ most beloved punching bag: Hillary Clinton. And her emails.

“Imagine if any one of us had illegally copied classified information and placed it on the computer of a sex offender,” he writes. “How many special prosecutors would that entail? It is this kind of double standard that stokes Donald Trump’s ire and erupts in his tweets and statements.”

Aside from the actual content of the Spicer tell-all, the rollout of the new memoir has been shaky, making the public relations nightmare that unfolded after he dove into an actual shrubbery to avoid talking to reporters, look like child’s play.

— During a promotional interview on NBC’s “Today” last week, Spicer, a full grown man, literally giggled about his reputation of lying to the press.

— A book-signing event at a warehouse store in Massachusetts was cancelled due to the “political climate.”

— He was called a “garbage person” who wrote a “garbage book” by a protester at a New York City Barnes and Noble. The protestor also craftily hit Spicer where it hurts by mocking the crowd size at the event: “I hope you look around and you see all these empty seats!”

For writing a book so riddled with lies that even Stephen Colbert couldn’t justify making it the butt of a chummy joke — that would inevitably suffer an Emmy-level flop — Sean Spicer is our Duke of the Week.

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The CBS board of directors plans to investigate its CEO Leslie Moonves as he faces allegations of misconduct, which will soon be outlined in a forthcoming New Yorker article by Pulitzer Prize winning Ronan Farrow, The New York Times reported Friday.

In a statement released Friday, the board of directors announced it would open a probe into Moonves and “promptly review the findings and take appropriate action.”

According to a Hollywood Reporter scoop on Farrow’s upcoming piece on Moonves’ improper behavior toward women over the years, the allegations involve several instances of unwanted physical contact and kissing that happened nearly two decades ago, as well as more recent allegations.

The New Yorker article is set to publish sometime Friday, according to the Hollywood Reporter. Farrow won a Pulitzer last year for dealing the initial blow to now-disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein for his decades of alleged sexual misconduct, harassment and assault against female subordinates.

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Kimberly Guilfoyle did not leave Fox News voluntarily, HuffPost reported Friday.

According to interviews with 21 sources that HuffPost reporter Yashar Ali conducted over the course of a year, Guilfoyle was pushed out of the network after the human resources department conducted an investigation into allegations of abusive behavior and sexual misconduct.

Guilfoyle — who said she left the network to join an organization that advocates for her boyfriend’s (Donald Trump Jr.) father’s (President Trump) agenda — reportedly was resistant to leaving and tried to stay past her July exit deadline. She even attempted to appeal to Rupert Murdoch, a longtime friend of President Trump, to keep her on the air. But Murdoch ultimately signed off on her ouster because he was “not interested in allowing” her behavior to continue, in Ali’s words.

Sources who spoke to HuffPost said Guilfoyle was emotionally abusive toward hair and makeup artists; regularly talked about sexual matters with an assistant who was uninterested in having those conversations; and showed colleagues pictures of male genitalia at work, often identifying whose genitalia she was showing them.

Guilfoyle also reportedly had a history of bad mouthing her female colleagues and attempted to pit coworkers who supported Roger Ailes against those who supported former host Gretchen Carlson when she came forward with allegations of harassment and sexual misconduct against Ailes in 2016.

A Fox News spokesperson declined to comment on the HuffPost piece and did not immediately return TPM’s request for comment. When reached last week to confirm that Guilfoyle was leaving the network, a Fox spokesperson told TPM that “Fox News has parted ways with Kimberly Guilfoyle.”  

Read HuffPo’s full report here.

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President Donald Trump on Friday mocked his former lawyer Michael Cohen for reportedly saying that Trump knew about a meeting Donald Trump Jr. took with a Russian lawyer during the 2016 campaign.

In a Friday morning tweet, Trump denied he knew about the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting before it took place — as he has for the past year — and suggested that Cohen lied because he’s trying to get out of “an unrelated jam (Taxi cabs maybe?).” Trump also made a not-so-subtle suggestion that Cohen is being used by his lawyer, Lenny Davis, a former Clinton attorney, to advance “Bill and Crooked Hillary’s” agenda.

Cohen is currently under criminal investigation for a slew of potential financial crimes, including unpaid taxes on his taxi cab business. This spring, the FBI raided Cohen’s house, hotel and office, seizing hundreds of thousands of documents, including records related to a hush payment he made to a porn star to keep her quiet about an alleged affair with Trump and recordings of Cohen’s conversations with Trump.

On Tuesday, Cohen’s lawyer publicly released a recording of Cohen and Trump discussing a payment to a former Playboy model who had an alleged affair with Trump. Since then, Trump and his new lawyer Rudy Giuliani have repeatedly attacked Cohen publicly.

CNN reported Thursday evening that Cohen is willing to tell special counsel Robert Mueller that Trump knew about the meeting between Donald Trump Jr. and a Russian lawyer who promised dirt on Hillary Clinton before the meeting took place.

Giuliani has since tried to discredit Cohen– he repeatedly called him a “liar” during an interview with CNN Thursday evening.

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Following reports that Michael Cohen is willing to tell federal investigators that President Donald Trump knew about a meeting between his son and a Russian lawyer during the campaign, Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani appeared on CNN to discredit Cohen.

“He’s been lying all week, he’s been lying for years,” Giuliani told CNN’s Chris Cuomo Thursday night, adding that the evidence revealed in a recording of Trump and Cohen talking about a hush payment to a former Playboy model further proves the “serious lies” he’s told other the years.

“I don’t see how he has any credibility,” he said. “There’s nobody that I know that knows him that hasn’t warned me that if he’s backed up against a wall he’ll lie like crazy, because he’s lied all his life.”

Cohen reportedly is willing to tell special counsel Robert Mueller that he was in the room when Donald Trump Jr. told his father about a meeting he was setting up with a Russian lawyer who had promised dirt on Hillary Clinton. Sources familiar with the matter told CNN that Cohen said Tump told his son to take the meeting.

Giuliani told CNN that it’s Trump’s legal team’s position that that information is a lie.

“A person who is found to be an incredible liar, he’s got a tremendous motive to lie now because he’s got nothing to give, says it, all of a sudden, at the 11th hour. I don’t think anybody believes that,” he told Cuomo.

Cohen is currently under a criminal investigation for his business dealings, including a hush payment he made to porn actress Stormy Daniels to keep her quiet about an alleged affair with Trump.

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Contradicting repeated denials by President Donald Trump and his White House staff, Michael Cohen reportedly claims to know that Trump knew about the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting before it happened and Trump approved going forward with it, CNN reported.

According to sources with knowledge of the situation who spoke to CNN, Cohen claims he was present when Donald Trump Jr. told Donald Trump about the potential meeting with a Russian lawyer, promising dirt on Hillary Clinton, and Trump green-lit it. While he doesn’t have any evidence to validate his claims, Cohen is reportedly willing to share that information with special counsel Robert Mueller.  

Cohen reportedly hopes that the information he can share about the Trump Tower meeting will get him access to Mueller and possibly reduce his legal repercussions. While he hasn’t been charged with anything, federal investigators are conducting a criminal probe into Cohen’s business dealings.  

Trump has claimed he didn’t know the meeting had even occurred until the New York Times asked him about it in July 2017, more than a year after the fact.

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