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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

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) is not backing down from her efforts to hold President Trump accountable for the accusations of sexual misconduct against him.

After Trump tweeted calling the senator names and suggesting that Gillibrand was once willing to “do anything” for campaign contributions from him, Gillibrand responded with a simple message: “You cannot silence me.”

Gillibrand has become a prominent force in combatting sexual harassment and assault in Washington in recent weeks. She, along with Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA), introduced legislation last month that would overhaul the way Congress handles sexual harassment complaints. She was the first to call on her colleague, Sen. Al Franken (D-MN), to resign after weeks of mounting allegations against him. On Monday, she called on Trump to resign the same day three of his accusers came forward to shed new light on their claims of sexual misconduct against the President.

On Tuesday morning, Trump tweeted that Democrats had given up on the Russian collusion investigation and had moved on to highlight “the fabricated stories of women who I don’t know and/or have never met.” He called Gillibrand a “lightweight” and “total flunky” for Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and claimed she used to come to his office “begging” for campaign donations.

Trump has flatly denied all the allegations and has called the more than a dozen women who have spoken out liars. The White House on Monday said Trump was glad that women feel more comfortable speaking out in today’s climate, but continued to deny all the accusers’ accounts.

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President Donald Trump on Tuesday said Democrats weren’t able to find any “collusion” between his campaign and the Russians, so “they are moving on” to promoting the women who have accused him of sexual harassment and assault.

“Despite thousands of hours wasted and many millions of dollars spent, the Democrats have been unable to show any collusion with Russia — so now they are moving on to the false accusations and fabricated stories of women who I don’t know and/or have never met,” he tweeted early Tuesday morning. “FAKE NEWS!”

He then moved on to attack Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), who has led the charge against Trump, saying the President should resign “immediately” on Monday, amid the revival of sexual misconduct allegations against him. She said if Trump doesn’t hold himself accountable, Congress should launch an ethics probe into the allegations.

Trump called the senator “a total flunky” for Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), claimed she was disloyal to Bill and Hillary Clinton and appeared to suggest that she was desperate for campaign donations from Trump in the past.

Trump is likely irked by the recent attention being paid to his accusers. On Monday, three of the more than a dozen women who have accused Trump of harassment or assault held a press conference to tell Trump to resign. Over the weekend, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said the women who have spoke out against Trump “should be heard.”

Since then, more than 50 Democratic female lawmakers have joined Gillibrand, calling for an ethics investigation into Trump’s behavior.

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After taking a week off for his son’s heart surgery, a tearful Jimmy Kimmel returned to late-night Monday to plead with Congress to fund health insurance for kids from low-income families.

“Daddy cries on TV, but Billy doesn’t, it’s unbelievable,” Kimmel said, holding his son Billy Kimmel to open the show. He launched into an explanation of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which is designed to cover some 9 million children whose parents make too much to qualify for Medicaid, but don’t have access to affordable coverage through their jobs.

CHIP has been held in a political stalemate since September after Congress failed to approve funding for the program for the first time since it was created 20 years ago.

“If these were potato chips they were taking away from us, we’d be marching on Washington with pitchforks and spears right now,” Kimmel said.

He took the first four minutes of his show to encourage viewers to call their senators and representatives to demand they fund the program and stop using kids lives as a “bargaining chip” to pass a tax plan.

“This is literally a life or death program for American kids, it’s always had bipartisan support, but this year they let it expire as they work on getting tax cuts for their millionaire and billionaire donors,” Kimmel said. “I’ve had enough of this. I don’t know what could be more disgusting than putting a tax cut that mostly goes to rich people, ahead of the lives of children.”

He also reminded the audience of the Friday deadline to enroll in Obamacare.

Kimmel has become the unlikely late-night advocate for universal health care since his son Billy was born in April with a heart defect, routinely using his platform to call out Republicans in Congress and President Trump for its efforts to weaken and attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

Watch his opening monologue below:

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The White House said Monday that President Trump wants women to feel comfortable coming forward with allegations of sexual misconduct, but that doesn’t mean he believes every accusation, especially those levied against him.

“As the President said himself, he thinks it’s a good thing that women are coming forward, but he also feels strongly that a mere allegation shouldn’t determine the course and in this case, the President has denied any of these allegations as have eyewitnesses and several reports have shown those eyewitnesses also back up the President’s claims in this process,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. “The American people knew this and voted for the President and we feel like we’re ready to move forward in that process.”

In recent weeks, Trump has said he thinks it’s a good thing that more women are coming forward, but he has since backed Alabama Senate Republican candidate Roy Moore, who has been accused by multiple women of sexual misconduct toward them when they were teens.

Before the election, Trump was accused by more than a dozen women of sexual harassment and assault. Trump has denied all the claims and called the women liars.

On Monday, three of Trump’s accusers went public and asked for a congressional ethics probe into the allegations against him. In the last week, several Democratic lawmakers have called on the President to resign, including Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Kirsten Gillabrand (D-NY).

The White House has continuously defended the President, saying the American people made a judgment on whether they believed the Trump accusers by electing him President. On Monday, Sanders mildly dialed back on that outright rejection of the claims and suggested there were “eye witnesses” to refute the women’s accusations.

“The President has addressed these accusations directly and denied all of these allegations and this took place long before he was elected to be President and the people of this country had a decisive election, supported President Trump, and we feel that these allegations have been answered through that process,” she said.

When asked whether she struggled personally, as a woman, with the President’s response to the allegations, Sanders shot down the question, saying she’s there to relay Trump’s message. 

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Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) said Sunday that even before Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore was accused of sexual misconduct by multiple women, he wasn’t fit to serve in the Senate.

Calling the Republican National Committee’s decision to fund Moore’s campaign a “mistake,” she said she was “disappointed” the committee resumed last week its support of the embattled candidate, whom multiple women have said either pursued relationships or made unwanted sexual advances toward them when they were teens and he was in his 30s.

“I would point out that I did not support Mr. Moore even prior to these allegations of sexual misconduct because I was concerned about his anti-Muslim comment, his anti-LGBT comments, most important of all he’s been removed twice from the Alabama Supreme Court for failure to follow lawful judicial order,” she said on “Face the Nation” Sunday.   

She said her party cares just as much about addressing sexual harassment and assault as Democrats and said members of Congress have a “tough decision to make” about “whether it’s our role as senators to overturn the will of the people” when someone is accused of sexual misconduct after they’ve been elected, like what happened with Sen. Al Franken (D-MN).

There’s a new awakening in our country that this is pervasive, whether we’re talking about Hollywood or Wall Street or the media or Capitol Hill,” she said. “And that’s why I’m joining a bipartisan group of senators who are trying to look at our own procedures on Capitol Hill to assure that allegations of sexual misconduct involving members or staff are dealt with seriously.”

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While Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore has made his name as a self-proclaimed supporter of upholding the rights awarded by the Constitution, he’s not a big fan of all those rights.

In 2011, Moore appeared on a conspiracy-theorists’ radio show, and said if the U.S. got rid of all the amendments after the Bill of Rights, it would “eliminate many problems,” according to audio of the radio show, the “Aroostook Watchmen” show, obtained by CNN’s KFile.

“That would eliminate many problems,” Moore said. “You know people don’t understand how some of these amendments have completely tried to wreck the form of government that our forefathers intended.”

In the interview, Moore specifically cited the 17th Amendment, which allows voters to directly elect senators instead of state legislatures, and the 14th Amendment, which granted citizenship to former slaves.

“The danger in the 14th Amendment, which was to restrict, it has been a restriction on the states using the first Ten Amendments by and through the 14th Amendment,” Moore said. “To restrict the states from doing something that the federal government was restricted from doing and allowing the federal government to do something which the first Ten Amendments prevented them from doing. If you understand the incorporation doctrine used by the courts and what it meant. You’d understand what I’m talking about.”

Other amendments post-Bill of Rights include the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery, the 15th, which prohibited the government from blocking people’s right to vote based on race, the 19th, which gave women the right to vote and the 22nd, which limits the number of times a person can be elected to the presidency to two terms.

Moore’s campaign told CNN that he doesn’t actually believe in eliminating amendments 11 through 27, but was rather speaking about “the overall framework for the separation of powers” in the U.S. government.

In that same interview, Moore questioned the validity of former President Barack Obama’s birth certificate.

Both comments fall in line with controversial remarks Moore has made recently and in the early days of his career in the public eye, from claiming homosexuality should be illegal to saying in September that America was great back when “families were united — even though we had slavery.”

Listen to the interview below:

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Here’s a new entry in the annals of Steve King.

The Iowa Republican congressman known for his racially insensitive rhetoric tweeted on Friday that “diversity is not our strength.”

And, descending further into the catacombs of nativism, he took it further, quoting a statement from the Hungarian prime minister who was advocating for the dissolution of the obligation of countries to accept immigrants.

“Mixing cultures will not lead to a higher quality of life, but to a lower one,” King wrote.

While Friday’s comments may be one of the most forward indications that he has a penchant for ethno-nationalism, King has a long history of making controversial comments, as TPM has documented over the years.

In 2006, while advocating for electric fences along the U.S.-Mexico border, he equated undocumented immigrants to livestock: “We could also electrify this wire with the kind of current that would not kill somebody, but it would simply be a discouragement for them to be fooling around with it. We do that with livestock all the time.”

In 2008, he claimed that former President Barack Obama’s middle name, Hussein, is proof that he is linked to radical Islamic terrorists:

I will tell you that, if he is elected president, then the radical Islamists, the al Qaeda, the radical Islamists and their supporters, will be dancing in the streets in greater numbers than they did on September 11 because they will declare victory in this war on terror.”

Also, unsurprisingly, King’s a birther:

“(I) found a microfiche there of two newspapers in Hawaii each of which had published the birth of Barack Obama… That doesn’t mean there aren’t some other explanations on how they might’ve announced that by telegram from Kenya,” he said in 2012.

In 2013, he said that while some undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. by their parents could be “valedictorians,” most are drug dealers:

Some of them are valedictorians — and their parents brought them in. It wasn’t their fault. It’s true in some cases, but they aren’t all valedictorians. They weren’t all brought in by their parents. For every one who’s a valedictorian, there’s another 100 out there who weigh 130 pounds — and they’ve got calves the size of cantaloupes because they’ve been hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert.”

In September 2016, he called the Congressional Black Caucus, the “self-segregating caucus” and in August this year he defended embattled former sherif Joe Arpaio, who the President pardoned for racially profiling Latinos in his county:

I don’t agree that profiling is wrong. … In fact, if you would take profiling away from the tools of law enforcement, you couldn’t describe a criminal in any way whatsoever.”

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While the journalist who alleged Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) groped her in 2009 wasn’t impressed with the lawmaker’s resignation speech Thursday, she said it proves one thing: That Democrats are “being better on women” that Republicans.

“I thought he said to listen to women and then he talked about himself,” Tina Dupuy said on CNN Friday. “It wasn’t an apology. It was very defiant. … He was talking to the President. He said that it was ironic that someone like Roy Moore and Donald Trump are still in good standing. That’s not irony. That is one party being better on women than the other party.”

During his speech from the Senate floor on Thursday, Franken announced his resignation after weeks of mounting allegations of sexual misconduct against him, but pointed to the “irony” that someone like Trump, who has bragged on video about sexually assaulting women, and Moore, an accused child molester, can have good standing within their political parties.

“I think that’s a false equivalency, people have said to me, ‘Well he’s no Roy Moore’ and I say ‘Well, he’s no Charles Manson either, that’s not what I’m accusing him of,’” Dupuy said. “He calls himself a champion of women, but he does these things that says to the women that you have no ownership over your own body, that your comfort does not matter. That I can touch you and I can do whatever I want to do and it doesn’t matter.”

In an article in the Atlantic Wednesday, Dupuy detailed her account of Franken groping her when the two were at an inauguration party for former President Barack Obama in 2009. She said she asked Franken for a photo because “he was a hero” in 2009. “It was a big deal to have him there,” she said.

“He immediately put his hand on my waist, just grabbed a handful of flesh and squeezed a couple of times,” she said Friday. “What I didn’t put in the article was that I just quit smoking. I just gained 20 pounds. I was uncomfortable being in clothing, let alone having some lawmaker man-handle me.”

At least seven other women have come forward, alleging Franken forcibly kissed them or groped them without their consent in the past. Franken apologized to one woman and said he was sorry the others felt disrespected, but combatted their stories.

While Dupuy didn’t answer questions about whether Franken deserved to lose his career over the allegations, she said it was “important” that he “did not parade his victims in front of an Ethics Committee.”

“I think going through the Ethics Committee process for a victim is cruel,” she said.

She also said Democrats’ “original sin” was believing former President Bill Clinton over the women who accused him of misconduct.

“And we keep making that same mistake over and over again. And I believe with Al Franken, we have stopped doing that,” she said.

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The fiancee of George Papadopoulos said the former Trump campaign adviser was far more involved in the campaign than Trump and other high-level officials have tried to make it seem.

As the first to publicly defend the former campaign aide since it was revealed that he pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russian officials, Simona Mangiante told ABC News that there are “consistent evidences that he was not a coffee boy.”

Her comments reference remarks made by Trump and former campaign adviser Michael Caputo, who have tried to downplay Papadopoulos’ role in the campaign despite evidence that Trump once called him one of his foreign policy advisers. Mangiante said she decided to speak out to combat those characterizations.

“First of all, I would love George to learn how to make coffee because it’s absolutely out of his skills,” she told ABC in an interview that published Friday. “George is a remarkable young man with incredible experience in the field of energy and oil policies. This experience led him to get into the campaign and to advise the President at only 28-years-old.”

She said Papadopoulos set up meetings “all over the world” and was “constantly in touch with higher level officials in the campaign.” She said she has seen emails between her fiancé and former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon and former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, who was also charged last week with one count of lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russian officials.

“He never took any initiative, as far as I know, unauthorized,” she said. “He never took any initiative without the blessing of the campaign.”

Papadopoulos pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI in October and has agreed to cooperate with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election and whether the Trump campaign colluded with the foreign power to win the election. According to court documents, Papadopoulos was charged for lying about his communications with a professor who had “substantial connections to Russian government officials” and promised to provide “dirt” obtained by the Russians on Trump’s opponent, Hillary Clinton.

The court records did not identify the professor, but Mangiante identified him as Joseph Mifsud, whom both she and Papadopoulos have worked for in the past. She told ABC News that they met last year after Papadopoulos reached out to her on LinkedIn because of their connection over Mifsud.

“I know (Mifsud) was interested in George because he was working for Trump,” she said.

She said getting interviewed by the FBI caught Papadopoulos “out of the blue” and she thought he didn’t think it was a big deal at the time.

“As soon as he find out that he committed a mistake, he took responsibility for that and he passed to the right side of history, in my view,” she said, adding that she received a subpoena from Mueller on the same day Papadopoulos plead guilty to the FBI. “It was very brave because he has been the first one and he is helping a lot. … I think he has been the first domino in Russia-gate.”

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Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke spent more than $14,000 this summer to fly in a helicopter to two events in and around Washington, D.C., Politico reported Thursday evening.

The use of the helicopters — which he used so he could attend the swearing-in ceremony for a member of Congress and to go on a horseback ride with the vice president — was justified by his staff as being the only feasible way to accommodate his busy schedule on those days. Both times his department requested the helicopters from the U.S. Park Police.

On June 21, his staff spent $8,000 to fly Zinke and his Chief of Staff Scott Hommel from Capitol Hill, where he attended Rep. Greg Gianforte’s (R-MT) swearing-in ceremony, to an emergency management exercise in Shepherdstown, West Virginia. Staff told Politico they booked the flight because of the lack of time between the two events.

Gianforte replaced Zinke in Congress after he was appointed to the Department of the Interior. The congressman was charged with assault when he body slammed a reporter who was trying to ask him a question just before the election.

Zinke also took a helicopter on July 7 to fly to an event in Yorktown, Virginia and back to D.C. so he could be back in Washington in time to go on a horseback ride with Vice President Mike Pence, according to the documents obtained by Politico. 

Politico acquired the travel logs through a Freedom of Information Act request. The news comes as the Interior Department’s inspector general and the Office of Special Counsel conduct separate probes into Zinke’s mixing of official business travel and political events. 

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