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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

About two months before he won the Republican primary in New Jersey’s southern Second Congressional District, candidate Seth Grossman told those gathered at a GOP campaign forum on April 21 that “diversity is a bunch of crap” and an “un-American” concept.

In a chaotic series of statements, Grossman implied that America was “great” before Affirmative Action and before women worked and then claimed that African Americans would profit off of stronger immigration enforcement.

“What diversity has become, it’s an excuse by Democrats, communists and socialists, basically, to say that we’re not all created equal, that if some people or somebody is less qualified, they will get a job anyway or they’ll get into college anyway because of what group or what box they fit into,” he said. “Women, African American, Hispanic, they’re chopping us up into different pieces and getting us fighting against each other instead of spending our time saying everybody should be judged by their own talent, their work.

“Once we  say that Republicans want these traditional ways that made America great for all these years, then maybe African Americans will realize if we enforce our immigration laws, they’re be more opportunities for Americans of all backgrounds,” he said. “When we talk about women saying ‘Well we need special care for child care, we need this credit and that credit.’ I say wait a minute, when America was great, one parent alone earned more than enough money to comfortably support a family.”

The comments were filmed by the American Bridge to the 21st Century group, a political action committee that tracks Republican candidates, and were reported on by Philly.com. When contacted by Philly.com on Monday, Grossman, who has aligned himself with President Donald Trump, stood behind his comments.

Grossman faces Democrat Jeff Van Drew in a race seen as key to national Democrats’ plans to win back the House of Representatives.

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A European Union official tweeted a now-viral photo of a stare-down between President Donald Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, joking that Russian President Vladimir Putin has dirt on Trump.

“Just tell us what Vladimir has on you. Maybe we can help,” former prime minister of Belgium Guy Verhofstaft tweeted.

The photo was originally posted to Merkel’s Instagram, where it was described as a “spontaneous meeting between two working sessions.”

Verhofstaft was likely referencing the U.S. special counsel investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and salacious allegations in the Christoper Steele dossier about Putin possessing incriminating information on Trump.   

The quip follows an explosive weekend of meetings between Trump and the rest of the G-7 group in Canada, which ended with Trump agreeing to some language on trade but then pulling out of signing a joint agreement, leaving the summit early and tweeting an unhinged rant of attacks on Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin told reporters on Sunday that he appreciated President Donald Trump’s sentiment in suggesting Russia rejoin the G-7 and said he was open to a meeting with Trump to discuss it and other matters.

But he’s in no hurry to rejoin the diplomatic circle of rich nations, he said, according to the New York Times.

After being ousted from the G-7 (then the G-8) in 2014 for occupying Crimea in Ukraine, Putin joined a Chinese-commanded economic group called the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. Putin boasted on Sunday that the new partnership holds more global economic weight than the G-7.

“True, the seven are still richer in per capita income, as they say, but the S.C.O. economies are larger, and their population is much larger, too — half the world’s population,” Mr. Putin told reporters Sunday, according to a transcript of his remarks reviewed by the Times.

Putin also gave little weight to Trump’s rift with the other, mostly European, leaders at the G-7 summit in Canada over the weekend, when Trump decided against signing onto the group’s joint statement on trade and other environmental agreements. Putin chalked the incident up to “internal problems” for Trump.

Putin said he would be willing to meet with Trump to discuss the G-7 and other matters.

“The President of the United States has repeatedly said that he considers this meeting expedient and I agree that this is indeed the case,” he said, according to the Times.

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The job of the records management analysts working in the Old Executive Office Building next door to the White House has changed considerably under the Trump administration, according to a Sunday Politico report.

A position that previously involved reviewing, sorting and filing official documents reviewed by the President under previous administrations now requires staffers who are handy with scotch tape and have a keen eye for reassembling documents that have been physically torn apart by President Donald Trump, according to two former staffers who spoke to Politico.

As career staffers who were abruptly forced to resign earlier this year, Solomon Lartey and  Reginald Young Jr. told Politico that they were paid nearly $66,000 a year to tape back together official documents that went through the Oval Office. Under the Presidential Records Act, the White House has to send any document the President touches to the National Archives— a task that proved to be more grueling under a president who has an iron-willed habit of ripping up papers when he’s done with them.

According to Politico, White House aides learned early on that they couldn’t convince Trump to break his paper-ripping habit. Instead, aides reportedly clean up Trump’s paper scraps — which range from papers that are torn in two and thrown in the trash to documents that have been ripped into tiny pieces that resemble confetti and tossed on the floor — and ship them over to the records office, according to the people familiar with the task. Lartey described one letter that Sen. Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) had sent the President that was ripped “into tiny pieces.”

We had to endure this under the Trump administration,” Young told Politico. “I’m looking at my director, and saying, ‘Are you guys serious?’ We’re making more than $60,000 a year, we need to be doing far more important things than this. It felt like the lowest form of work you can take on without having to empty the trash cans.”

Read the full report here.

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During private meetings between President Donald Trump, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the rest of the world leaders at the G-7 summit in Canada over the weekend, the group, among other things, reportedly agreed to accelerate NAFTA talks and update the language of the World Trade Organization to make it more equitable, Quebec newspaper The Star reported Sunday.

But before the group could sign off on a joint statement of agreement on trade talks, Trump’s advisers reportedly insisted that the U.S. would not agree to two key points in the statement related to the environment. The points of Trump’s contention: a declaration on climate change that referenced the Paris Accord, which Trump pulled out of last year; and an agreement on decreasing ocean pollution, specifically targeting the plastic industry. While leaders thought Trump may not agree to the climate charter, they had hoped the U.S. would at least consider signing off on the ocean agreement.

According to the Quebec newspaper, talks quickly disintegrated after that and word spread that Trump was planning to hold his own private press conference before leaving the summit early. In that news conference, Trump backtracked on the progress that was reportedly made behind the scenes and “promptly appeared to reject even the ideas on trade embodied in the communiqué he had agreed to,” per The Star.

Trudeau earned Trump’s wrath after he publicly called the summit a success and shared some of the details of his private meetings with Trump. Trump publicly unraveled after that, accusing Trudeau of lying and being “dishonest and very weak” in a series of tweets.   

Read The Star’s full report here. 

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Pulitzer Prize-winning political columnist Charles Krauthammer revealed in a letter to colleagues on Friday that he has just weeks left to live due to the return of cancer.

Krauthammer had been off the air at Fox for months while he was in the hospital recovering from complications caused by surgery to remove an abdominal tumor.

In the letter, Krauthammer said that up until recently he had thought he would be able to return to his work as a columnist, author and political analyst for Fox News’ “Special Report” after he recovered from the surgery, which he described as a “long and hard fight with many setbacks.”

“However, recent tests have revealed that the cancer has returned. There was no sign of it as recently as a month ago, which means it is aggressive and spreading rapidly,” he said in the letter published by Fox News. “My doctors tells me their best estimate is that I have only a few weeks left to live. This is the final verdict. My fight is over.”

Krauthammer graduated from Harvard Medical School in the 1970s and eventually changed career paths, veering into policy and then journalism. He won a Pulitzer for distinguished commentary in 1987 and joined Fox News as a political analyst a decade ago. In the letter, he thanked his colleagues the Washington Post, Fox and Crown Publishing.

“I leave this life with no regrets,” he wrote. “It was a wonderful life – full and complete with the great loves and great endeavors that make it worth living. I am sad to leave, but I leave with the knowledge that I lived the life that I intended.”

Read the full letter, published by Fox, here.

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President Donald Trump on Friday told reporters that he has every intention of using his pardoning power to its fullest extent, suggesting again that he has the power to pardon himself — “But I’ll never have to do it.”

Trump said he is considering “thousands” of pardon applications — about 3,000 in total — including heavyweight boxer Muhammad Ali, who died in 2016.

There will be more pardons. I thought Alice yesterday was beautiful. … I’m thinking about somebody that you all know very well and he went though a lot,” he said. “His memory is very popular now, I’m thinking about Muhammad Ali. I’m thinking about that seriously. And some others and some folks who have sentences that aren’t fair.”

Ali was convicted of draft evasion and lost his heavyweight champion title in 1967. But in 1971, the Supreme Court overturned his conviction and President Jimmy Carter pardoned all those accused of draft evasion during the Vietnam War in 1977.

Ali’s attorney on Friday said the sentiment was appreciated, but a posthumous pardon was “unnecessary.”

Trump has reportedly become increasingly “obsessed” with pardons and enjoys talking about potential pardons with aides, The Washington Post reported Tuesday. On Wednesday, CNN reported that the White House was preparing paperwork for at least 30 new pardons, which included a pardon for Alice Marie Johnson, a grandmother serving a life-sentence in prison for a non-violent drug crime. Kim Kardashian visited the White House last week to ask Trump to consider pardoning Johnson. The White House announced it had pardoned Johnson later Wednesday.

For Trump, Kardashian’s support of Johnson was key, given the President’s penchant for considering the pardoning of celebrities like Martha Stewart and former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, also a former TV personality. Since taking office, Trump has pardoned or issued commutations for Johnson; conservative commentator Dinesh D’Souza; boxing champion Jack Johnson; former Bush administration official Scooter Libby; former Navy sailor Kristian Saucier; meat-packing executive Sholom Rubashkin; and former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio. 

Trump later told reporters that he wants to try to amend his feud with athletes who kneel during the National Anthem by meeting them half-way. He said he wants the athletes to tell him who they think has been treated unfairly by the justice system and he would consider pardoning them.

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President Donald Trump on Friday reacted to news that a former Senate Intelligence Committee staffer was arrested on allegations of leaking classified information to the press, suggesting the charges “could be a terrific thing.”

“It’s very interesting, they caught a leaker in a very important — it could be a very important leaker, so it’s very interesting,” he told reporters before leaving the White House for the G-7 in Canada.

It could be a terrific thing,” he continued. “I know, I believe strongly in freedom of the press. I’m a big, big believer in freedom of the press. But I’m also a believer in classified information. It has to remain classified. That includes Comey and his band of thieves who leaked classified information all over the place. So I’m a very big believer in freedom of the press, but I’m also a believer that you cannot leak classified information.”

Former Senate Intelligence Committee staffer James Wolfe, was arrested on Thursday evening by a federal grand jury in Washington on three counts of making false statement to the FBI about his contacts with reporters. He allegedly provided federal investigators with false denials about his contacts with three reporters and falsely claimed he did not share sensitive Intelligence Committee information with two of them, according to the indictment.

Wolfe is set to appear in federal court in Washington, D.C. on Friday.

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Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz told lawmakers in a letter Thursday that he intends to release his report on the DOJ’s handling of the probe into Hillary Clinton’s emails on June 14, President Donald Trump’s birthday, The Washington Post reported.

The report is expected to be critical of former FBI Director James Comey, a frequent target of Trump’s Twitter rage.

“That will, maybe, be a nice birthday present for me,” he told reporters Friday before leaving for the G-7 summit.

Trump recently lashed out about the delay in the release of the report on Twitter, suggesting the IG was purposely making the report “weaker!”

In the letter to top lawmakers on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Horowitz said he was going through the “ordinary processes” to complete the report. People familiar with the matter told the Post that those who are earmarked in the report have been given the time to review the allegations and provide feedback, which is standard practice.

Horowitz also told lawmakers he would be willing to testify before the committee on June 18.

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