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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

More than 30 House Democrats have filed an amicus brief asking a federal judge to reject President Donald Trump’s pardon of controversial former Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

Trump announced he would pardon Arpaio of his criminal contempt of court conviction for racially profiling against Latinos while serving as county sheriff in Maricopa County in Arizona. Arpaio was an early Trump supporter and the President said he was treated “unbelievably unfairly.

But House Democrats think his pardon is unconstitutional and intrudes on the judicial branch, Politico reported.

“A full and unconditional presidential pardon….effectively deprives the Court of ‘the independent means of self-protection,’ and makes the Court dependent on the Executive,” the House members wrote. “The pardon here is an intentional usurpation of the Court’s authority by the President. President Trump does not pretend that his pardon of the Defendant is based upon the considerations of grace that usually justify the exercise of the pardon power.”

Arpaio was found guilty of contempt of court in July and Trump pardoned the former sheriff on Aug. 25.

Continuing his tirade against the National Football League, President Donald Trump suggested in an interview with Fox News, which aired Thursday, that NFL team owners may be “afraid of their players.”

“I have so many friends that are owners and they’re in a box. I’ve spoken to couple of them and they say ‘we are in a situation where we have to do something.’ I think they’re afraid of their players if you want to know the truth. I think it’s disgraceful and they’ve got to be tough and they’ve got to be smart because you look at the ratings, the ratings are going way down,” he said, continuing on his usual line of insult by blasting a private group’s television ratings.

He claimed that “most people” agree with him on his stance that football players should stand during the national anthem instead of kneeling in protest and he called on the NFL to enforce its “rule that’s been in existence for a long time.”

“The NFL and players really have to do the honor of the country. It’s for the honor of the country. They have to respect our country. They have to respect our flag and our anthem,” he said.

Talk about a Hail Mary.

It’s “possible,” but not likely that former NFL star Peyton Manning will trade in his football retirement for politics.

Just one day after Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) announced he will retire when his second term is up, he floated the possibility of Peyton running for his seat in the Senate, Politico reported.

“If he were to run nobody in their right mind would consider running against him,” Corker told Politico, saying he had spoken with Manning Wednesday morning.

The two are apparently friends. Corker and Manning have golfed with the President this past year, and Corker reportedly dines and speaks with Manning regularly.

“Peyton Manning is the kind of guy that would be great in public office. … I think it’s possible. Is it likely? I don’t think so,” Corker said. “If he got a huge rush of public inquiries it would probably push him away.”

During a private dinner with conservative activists at the White House this week, President Donald Trump complained about his fellow Republicans in the Senate, calling Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) “weak” and physically mocking him and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ).

Imitating McCain’s thumbs-down gesture, which he used to indicate his no vote in the last Obamacare repeal vote in July, Trump reportedly mocked the gesticulation at the dinner, complete with a facial expression. He called McCain “disgraceful” for his decision on health care, Politico and Axios reported.

At the private dinner he also called McConnell “weak” for his failure to repeal Obamacare and for not changing the Senate filibuster rule that would only require 51 votes to pass bills.

Trump also physically mocked McConnell, according to Axios, which reported Trump mimicked McConnell’s posture by slumping his shoulders and having a lethargic demeanor.

While Trump hasn’t refrained from publicly shaming McCain or McConnell in the past, he dialed back on his criticism of the Senate majority leader after the two had a meeting a few weeks ago.

In a possible reaction to growing reports that Facebook sold pro-Trump advertisements to a Russian-linked internet research group during the 2016 election, President Donald Trump said the social media giant was “always anti-Trump.”

“Facebook was always anti-Trump. The Networks were always anti-Trump hence, Fake News, @nytimes (apologized) and @WaPo were anti-Trump. Collusion?” he cryptically tweeted Wednesday morning.

He then went on to tout his success as president so far, saying “the people were Pro-Trump.”

The tweets come as U.S. officials investigate whether about 3,000 advertisements purchased by the Kremlin-linked group were part of a larger initiative by the Russian government to interfere with the 2016 election.

Despite repeated urging from a federal judge, the Department of Homeland Security  won’t extend the Oct. 5 deadline for recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program to renew their status, CNN reported Tuesday.

An attorney for the Department of Justice told U.S. District Court Judge Nicholas Garaufis of the decision during a federal hearing Tuesday about a lawsuit filed against the federal government over its decision to end DACA.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced on Sept. 5 that the President would end DACA in six months, giving Congress time to come up with a legislative fix for the program, which protects more than 800,000 undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as minors.

Garaufis had previously suggested the department should consider extending the deadline for those whose DACA status expires in March, when the program is set to end.

The deputy assistant attorney general for the Department of Justice said earlier this month that DHS was considering pushing back that deadline in order to give DACA recipients impacted by the onslaught of hurricanes in Texas, Louisiana and Florida time to get their paperwork in.

Garaufis said he was shocked by the decision and said he had advocated for it so that no members of the program would be at risk of deportation.

“I’ve worked in every branch of government … and I’ve never seen a circumstance like this,” he said, questioning what the “hurry” was, according to CNN.

A former director of the Central Intelligence Agency and retired four-star general blasted President Donald Trump in an op-ed Tuesday, claiming Trump took a peaceful protest that was “within the tolerance of normal American political discourse” and turned it into a moment for political gain with his base.

The former head of the CIA, Gen. Michael Hayden, is a lifelong Steelers fan and has never been happy with the San Francisco 49ers’ former quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s protests against police brutality, he said. But the President’s reaction to the whole protest was disappointing enough to make him say, “put me down with Kaepernick.”

As a 39-year military veteran, I think I know something about the flag, the anthem, patriotism, and I think I know why we fight,” Hayden wrote in an op-ed in The Hill. “It’s not to allow the President to divide us by wrapping himself in the national banner.”

Trump exacerbated the rise in protests by calling any player who knelt during the national anthem at the start of football games a “son of a bitch” who should be fired.

The comments pushed players, owners and coaches across the country to make some type of statement on Sunday and Monday. The President has tweeted about the topic more than a dozen times and has made several public statements about the protests, saying those who take a knee are disrespecting the flag and the country.

President Donald Trump’s loyalty to Sen. Luther Strange (R-AL) was already dwindling on Friday when he made a campaign stop in Alabama to stump for the incumbent candidate ahead of Tuesday’s Republican primary run-off election.

During the rally he questioned whether he’d made a “mistake” in supporting Strange and said if Strange lost the nomination, he would come back to campaign for his opponent.

After former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore clenched the Republican nomination Tuesday night for the race for Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ former seat, Trump was quick to throw his weight behind the controversial conservative, tweeting his congratulations late Tuesday.

The two also reportedly talked on the phone sometime before 11:15 p.m.

Trump say’s he’s already a fan.

“Spoke to Roy Moore of Alabama last night for the first time. Sounds like a really great guy who ran a fantastic race. He will help to #MAGA!” Trump tweeted Wednesday morning.

Moore tweeted a photo of himself on the phone Tuesday night, confirming he was talking to the President.

“I look forward to working with the President to win in December!” he said.

The budding friendship comes after Trump spent months stumping for Strange, who was backed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnel (R-KY) and was appointed to Sessions’ seat by the state’s former governor.

When Moore was declared the winner of the Republican nomination, Trump reportedly deleted several tweets he’d posted encouraging people to vote for Strange.

Moore is known as a religious conservative who has a controversial past. He was twice kicked off of the Alabama Supreme Court for refusing to remove a monument of the ten commandments from the court and refusing to recognize same-sex marriage.

Repeating his rhetoric that the U.S. is “totally prepared” to take military action against North Korea if it needs to, President Donald Trump told reporters Tuesday he plans to “fix the mess” that previous administrations left him regarding North Korea.

Responding to questions about reports that North Korea’s top diplomat thinks that Trump’s tweets about Kim Jong Un were a declaration of war, Trump said “it will be devastating” for North Korea if the U.S. decides to take military action against the country.

“[Kim] is acting very badly. He is saying things that should never, ever be said. And we’re replying to those things, but it’s a reply, it’s not an original statement,” he said during a press conference with Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy at the White House.

On Saturday Trump tweeted that if North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho “echoes thoughts of Little Rocket Man, they won’t be around much longer!”

Ri told reporters Monday that Trump’s tweet was a “declaration of war” and that the country has “every right” to “shoot down the United States strategic bombers even (sic) they’re not yet inside the airspace border of our country.”

Trump said the country should have been “handled 25 years ago, 20 years ago, 15 years ago, 10 years ago, five years ago and it could’ve been handled much more easily.”

“You had various administrations, many administrations which left me a mess. but I’ll fix the mess. So we’ll see what happens with North Korea,” he said.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Tuesday said he thinks American universities have transformed into shelters “for the fragile ego” and equated student protesters to members of the Ku Klux Klan.

The American university was once the center of academic freedom—a place of robust debate, a forum for the competition of ideas,” he said during remarks on free speech at Georgetown University’s law school. “But it is transforming into an echo chamber of political correctness and homogenous thought, a shelter for fragile egos.”

He cited instances on college campuses that he claimed were either a violation of students’ freedom of speech — like students who were arrested in Michigan for passing out copies of the Constitution — or a university’s attempt to shut down diversity of thought.

Specifically he spoke about a “frightening” incident at Middlebury College in Vermont, in which a guest speaker was invited to the school to debate with a professor. Protesters shut down the discussion by shouting, he said.

When the debaters attempted to move to a private broadcasting location, the protestors—many in masks, a common tactic also used by the detestable Ku Klux Klan — pulled fire alarms, surrounded the speakers, and began physically assaulting them,” he said. “In short, Middlebury students engaged in a violent riot to ensure that neither they nor their fellow students would hear speech they may have disagreed with.”

The guest speaker who was invited to the private liberal arts school for a debate was Charles Murray, the controversial co-author of “The Bell Curve,” which argues that there may be intellectual differences between races.

The protest turned violent at one point after students shut down the debate. Many of the protesters were wearing masks and hoods, according to the Atlantic and The New York Times.

Ahead of Sessions’ appearance at Georgetown, at least 130 students were uninvited to the event, according to a press release from members of the Georgetown Law American Constitution Society. While the event was meant to be limited to small group of students, some members claim it was the students who discussed protesting the speech online who were uninvited.

A protest was held outside while Sessions spoke Tuesday.

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