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 on Saturday pointed to tweets from Facebook’s advertising executive to attack the media’s coverage of the Russia investigation and again claim that he’s innocent of collusion.

In a series of tweets on Saturday, Trump taunted the “Fake News Media” for not reporting that the “Russian group” that was indicted by special counsel Robert Mueller for interfering in the 2016 election Friday was formed in 2014.

“Long before my run for president. Maybe they knew I was going to run even though I didn’t know!” he said.

He then retweeted Facebook’s Vice President of advertising who said the majority of the Russian advertisement spending happened after the election. The Facebook executive claimed that information has gotten little coverage because it doesn’t fall in line with the “main media narrative of Trump and the election.”

“The Fake News Media never fails. Hard to ignore this fact from the Vice President of Facebook Ads, Rob Goldman!” he said.

He then retweeted another post by Goldman, who claimed that after reviewing the advertisements, he felt the main goal of the Russians’ Facebook ad campaign was not to sway the election, but rather divide Americans.

After Mueller’s team announced it was filing criminal charges against 13 Russian nationals and three Russian entities Friday, the White House and Trump released statements claiming the indictment proves there was no collusion between Trump and the Russians.

Mueller’s 37-page indictment details the Russian Internet Research Agency’s concerted efforts – starting in 2014 – to interfere “with the U.S. political and electoral processes, including the presidential election of 2016.”

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While former Secretary of State and President Trump opponent Hillary Clinton remained silent on news of an indictment against 13 Russian nationals for interfering in the 2016 election, her spokesperson lashed out on Trump on Twitter, calling him “un-American.”

“Time will tell us more, but Russia went to great lengths to undermine our democracy and the President won’t protect us,” he said. “No matter you politics, it’s un-American.”

In a bombshell indictment on Friday, special counsel Robert Mueller charged 13 Russian nationals and three Russian entities with criminal charges related to interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Mueller released a 37-page indictment detailing the Russian Internet Research Agency’s concerted efforts – starting in 2014 – to interfere “with the U.S. political and electoral processes, including the presidential election of 2016.”

All 13 defendants have been charged with “conspiracy to defraud the United States.” Three defendants were also charged with conspiracy to commit wire and bank fraud, and five were charged with “aggravated identity theft.”

Clinton has been vocal in the past about the legitimacy of Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling and whether the Trump campaign colluded with the foreign power to win the election. Trump on Friday reiterated the response he usually takes when new information is revealed about the investigation, insisting the development proves there was “no collusion!” between his campaign and Russia.

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Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) on Friday said that FBI Director Chris Wray should resign over the bureau’s failure to act on a tip it received in January about the alleged gunman who attacked a Florida high school on Wednesday, leaving 17 people dead.

“The FBI’s failure to take action against this killer is unacceptable,” Scott said in a statement. “We constantly promote ‘see something, say something,’ and a courageous person did just that to the FBI. And the FBI failed to act. ‘See something, say something’ is an incredibly important tool and people must have confidence in the follow through from law enforcement. The FBI director needs to resign.”

The FBI on Friday said that it failed to follow up on a tip from a person close to Nikolas Cruz, the alleged shooter. According to a statement from the agency, the person informed the FBI of Cruz’s “gun ownership, desire to kill people, erratic behavior and disturbing social media posts, as well as the potential of him conducting a school shooting.”

Scott is considering running to represent Florida in the Senate and is reportedly close with President Donald Trump, who has recently launched an all-out attack on the FBI because he believes some officials are biased against his presidency.

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Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) on Friday said special counsel Robert Mueller “put Moscow on notice” when he announced an indictment of 13 Russian nationals as part of the federal probe into Russian election interference.

“Mueller just put Moscow on notice. This ought to be a wakeup call to Washington: Putin’s shadow war is aimed at undermining Americans’ trust in our institutions,” Sasse said in a statement. “We know Russia is coming back in 2018 and 2020 – we have to take this threat seriously.”

Sasse, who sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee, released the statement after the special counsel released a 37-page indictment detailing the Russian Internet Research Agency’s concerted efforts – starting in 2014 – to interfere “with the U.S. political and electoral processes, including the presidential election of 2016.”

All 13 defendants have been charged with “conspiracy to defraud the United States.” Three defendants were also charged with conspiracy to commit wire and bank fraud, and five were charged with “aggravated identity theft.”

During a press conference outlining the charges, which mark a significant development in Mueller’s investigation, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said that the indictment in no way alleges that “any American was a knowing participant in this illegal activity” or “that the charge conduct altered the outcome of the 2016 election.”

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Televangelist pastor Mark Burns, who acted as a surrogate for Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential election, on Thursday announced that he will run for the seat Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) will vacate when he retires this year.

Burns rose to prominence during Trump’s 2016 campaign as one of his most vocal African American supporters, and has a history of minor controversies. In fall 2016, he issued public apologies twice in one week — once for posting a cartoon that depicted Hillary Clinton in blackface and again for exaggerating his resume on his church’s website after CNN pointed out the discrepancies during an interview.

Burns announced his candidacy in a video where he highlighted his closeness to Trump as a member of the President’s faith advisory council and described himself as “an emerging force in the conservative movement.”

The video also highlighted Burns’ inflammatory speech at the 2016 Republican National Convention. A voice-over in the video claims that Burns “defied the elitist liberal establishment when he declared that ‘all lives matter.’”

Burns is one of at least five other Republican candidates vying for Gowdy’s seat, which opened up when Gowdy announced that he plans to leave Washington, D.C. after eight years and will return to South Carolina to resume his law practice. The Republican primaries for South Carolina’s 4th congressional district will take place in June.

Watch Burns’ campaign announcement below:


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Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin said Wednesday that he is investigating President Donald Trump-appointed members of his staff who he believes are “trying to undermine the department from within.”

Shulkin told the New York Times in an interview published Thursday that he spoke directly to White House chief of staff John Kelly about the issue and is investigating several political appointees in his department for misconduct and potential removal.

“If there are people here who don’t want the V.A. to succeed, I want them out,” he said.

Officials in Shulkin’s department did discuss strategies to replace him last year, according to the report. In an email obtained by the New York Times, White House senior adviser on veterans affairs Jake Leinenkugel told a Trump appointee within the V.A. that he was unhappy with Shulkin and was looking for “solutions” to replace him and other department leadership.

Shulkin’s announcement that he is investigating his staff members comes as he faces criticism for misleading ethics officials about a trip he took to Europe last summer.

An investigation by the Inspector General’s office found that Shulkin’s chief of staff doctored mail to make it appear as though he was receiving an award from the Danish government so that his wife could receive government funding for her $4,312 plane ticket.

Shulkin called the investigation biased, but has since apologized and repaid the government for his wife’s airfare.

Read the full report from The New York Times here.

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Republican Florida Gov. Rick Scott said Thursday he is willing to look at “everything” in order to keep kids living in his state safe from another gun massacre like the one that occurred a day earlier at a high school in Parkland, Florida.

“Everything’s on the table. I’m going to look at every way that we can make sure our kids are safe,” he said during an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer. “I’m going to do whatever I can do to keep these kids safe, I’m going to talk about every issue to keep these kids safe.”

That includes looking at gun control policy in his state, Scott said, which has some of the loosest gun laws in the nation. The state doesn’t require a buyer to have a permit or a license in order to own a gun, for example.

“We’ve got to figure something out,” he said. “We cannot let this pass without making something happen that hopefully, and it’s my goal that this will never happen again in my state.”

The governor’s comments come as Congress and the White House grapple with how to respond to yet another school shooting, which left 17 people dead after a 19-year-old former student entered the school and opened fire with an AR-15. Wednesday’s deadly attack at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School was the deadliest school shooting since the shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, five years ago.

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After criticizing the “finger pointing” that takes place after mass shootings like the attack at a Florida high school Wednesday, Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos urged Congress to take the “lead” on enacting changes that could stop gun massacres in the U.S. “It’s their job,” she claimed.

“We’ve seen, you know, lots of finger pointing back and forth,” she said during an interview with conservative radio personality Hugh Hewitt. “But we need to have a conversation at the level where lawmakers can actually impact the future, because going back and putting myself in the seat of one of those families impacted, you know, one of these shootings is one too many. And we have got to have an honest conversation and Congress has to lead on this. It’s their job.”

DeVos also said that there have been “far too many” of these “situations” before, and reiterated her opinion that it was Congress’s responsibility to curtail school shootings.

“Congress needs to be holding hearings on these issues. And we’ve seen lots of discussion about this every time we’ve had another incident,” she said. DeVos’s call for congressional action echoed statements earlier Thursday by another member of the administration, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who also suggested Congress should take action to address mass shootings without specifying what form that action should take.

DeVos also told Hewitt that law enforcement needs to do more to track people with early warning signs of disturbing behavior, another stance that members of the Trump administration have repeated in the wake of the shooting Wednesday that left 17 dead. According to CNN, the FBI was given a tip in September about a person with the same YouTube username as the alleged shooter who made a comment on a video saying “I’m going to be a professional school shooter.”

“There apparently were lots of signs and I think it’s critically important that we have a much more robust conversation around tracking and tackling mental health issues and really bringing this all together because it seems to be clear that this young man put up lots and lots of signals and warning signs,” DeVos said.

On Thursday morning, Trump said that there were “many signs” that the alleged shooter was “mentally disturbed” and urged people to report “such instances” to law enforcement.

Listen to the full interview with DeVos here.

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During a speech addressing sheriffs in Washington, D.C. Thursday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions called the school shooting in Parkland, Florida Wednesday “an image we don’t need to continue having to see” and said law enforcement “can and must do better” at intervening before attacks take place.

He said the Justice Department is working with the Departments of Health and Human Services and Education to study the “intersection of mental health and criminality” to “better identify how we can stop people before these heinous crimes occur.”

“We had a brief meeting with your leaders before this speech and they all agree that every one of these cases, we had advanced indications and perhaps we haven’t been effective enough in intervening immediately to deal with that,” he told the Major County Sheriffs of America, an association of elected sheriffs. “I suspect it appears that we have seen that again in this case. So you are experienced professionals. You and I know we cannot arrest everybody that somebody thinks is dangerous. But I think we can and we must do better.”

He then touted his office’s clamp-down on violations of federal firearms laws, saying “we have got to reverse these trends we’re seeing in these shootings.”

“And this situation that we have seen just cannot continue, and we will take such action as we’re able to take,” he said.

Sessions’ response closely mirrors President Donald Trump’s take on the attack at a Florida high school Wednesday. Both argue that it is up to law enforcement and citizens to better report “signs” of disturbing behavior, while only vaguely alluding to concrete policies that could prevent future shootings.

While Democrats such as Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) have already requested that Congress act to pass stricter gun control policies, Republicans, including Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), are calling for caution. Following the shooting in his home state, Rubio on Wednesday said it is important to get all the facts of the case before “you jump to conclusions” about policy.

“We owe it to every one of those kids, crying outside their school yesterday, and all those who never made it out of that school,” Sessions said, after urging law enforcement to “do better.”

“Our hearts are hurting today, and all the law enforcement community knows that we have a challenge in front of us, and I know together we’ll meet it,” he said.

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During an interview with Fox News just hours after the school shooting in Parkland, Florida that left 17 people dead, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) on Wednesday warned his colleagues to not “jump to conclusions” on gun control policy before the facts of the attack are known.

He said it was not the appropriate time to start talking about policy surrounding the shooting, likely referencing statements from his Democratic colleague Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT), who said on the Senate floor Wednesday afternoon the attack was “a consequence of our inaction.”

“People don’t know how this happened, who this person is, what motivated them, how did they get ahold of the weapon to carry out this attack,” Rubio said. “I think it’s important to know all of that before you jump to conclusions that there’s a law we could have passed that could have prevented it and there may be, but shouldn’t we at least know the facts?”

“We can always have that debate,” he continued. “But if you’re going to have the debate about this particular incident, you should at least know the facts before you run out and prescribe some law you claim could have prevented it.”

The shooting in Rubio’s home state at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Wednesday was the deadliest school shooting since the attack at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut five years ago.

President Donald Trump, who is set to speak on the shooting at 11 a.m. EST Thursday, tweeted Thursday morning, suggesting there were “many signs” that the alleged shooter was “mentally disturbed” and said people already “knew he was a big problem.”

“Must always report such instances to authorities, again and again!” he said.

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