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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

An Alabama judge has thrown out Roy Moore’s last-ditch attempt to keep state officials from certifying his Democratic opponent as the winner of the Alabama special Senate election earlier this month.

As part of Moore’s lawsuit alleging voter fraud filed Wednesday night, the former state Supreme Court Justice requested a temporary restraint order on the certification of the election until the fraud claims were investigated. Montgomery Circuit Court Judge Johnny Hardwick rejected Moore’s request Thursday, according to reports from the Star Telegraph and a copy of the order obtained by The New York Times.

In an 11th-hour attempt to stall the certification of his defeat, Moore filed a complaint alleging widespread voting irregularities in at least one county in Alabama. He also claimed that there was an “unusual, unexplained pattern” of voters having out-of-state driver’s licenses at one particular polling place and that a Democrat-backed super PAC, practiced “voter intimidation” tactics in its pro-Jones advertisements.

In the complaint, Moore’s attorneys asked for an investigation into the fraud allegations and eventually a new election, but state officials said they have not found evidence of voter fraud.

Alabama’s canvassing board officially certified Jones as the state’s newest senator Thursday afternoon.

Moore’s upset came after weeks of national news coverage of past controversial comments and mounting allegations of sexual misconduct. Multiple women came forward alleging Moore either pursued relationships or made inappropriate sexual advances toward them when they were teens and he was in his 30s.

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In prime President Trump form, the leader of the free world took to Twitter Thursday morning to mock Vanity Fair for apologizing for publishing a video that poked fun at Hillary Clinton.

Trump said the publication “looks like its on its last leg” and insulted an executive of Vanity Fair, Anna Wintour, who he claimed was “beside herself in grief and begging for forgiveness!”

While Wintour does serve as the artistic director for the publishing company, she is editor-in-chief of Vogue, not Vanity Fair.

Trump’s unsolicited input could reignite a debate that Vanity Fair sought to extinguish with a statement of apology Wednesday evening. The publication said it “missed the mark” when it published a video featuring Vanity Fair editors offering Clinton ideas for a New Years resolution. In the video, which Vanity Fair said was meant to be funny, the editors offered Clinton suggestions on new hobbies that would prohibit her from running for president again, like taking up knitting or volunteering.

Online outcry ensued quickly over the remarks, which were perceived by many as anti-feminist. A-list celebrities like Patricia Arquette even weighed, suggesting the publication stop telling women what they should or can do.

Many journalists, however, defended the publication and the editor who made the knitting comments, saying the backlash was being blown out of proportion.

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Howard Fineman, longtime political analyst for MSNBC and global editorial director for Huffington Post, is heading to NBC News, Business Insider reported.

Fineman will start his new post with NBC on Jan. 8, where he’ll work as a contributing writer covering D.C. and national politics, according to a staff memo obtained by Business Insider.

“I have been in and worked in a lot of newsrooms, and there is NO PLACE where people care about and cheer for each other the way HuffPosters do,” he said in the memo.

The editor and TV pundit has worked at Huffington Post since 2010 and helped grow the site to the major news outlet it is now, according to the memo.

Fineman is just the most recent high profile departure at Huffington Post as the editors make shifts in the website’s editorial style, according to Poynter. 

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Former Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore still won’t accept the outcome of his stunning defeat in the deep red state earlier this month.

His latest excuse for refusing to concede? Election fraud.

It’s been nearly two weeks since Sen.-elect Doug Jones (D-AL) beat Moore in the state’s special election by 1.5 percentage points, but since then Moore, a former Alabama Supreme Court Justice who was removed from the bench twice for controversial behavior, has refused to back down, despite calls from the President to concede. Moore has claimed that provisional and military ballots could still swing the race in his favor.

Late Wednesday evening, the embattled candidate filed a lawsuit in an Alabama Circuit Court to try to block the state canvassing board from officially declaring Jones the winner, which it is set to do Thursday. Moore’s complaint alleges that there were enough irregularities in 20 precincts in just one Alabama county — Jefferson County — to reverse the outcome of the election, according to the 27-page complaint.

In those precincts, Moore claims there was an “enormous, implausible drop-off” in the votes reported for Moore “relative to the votes for the Republican party,” which Moore complains, among other things, is indicative of election fraud.

Moore also claims, based on the signed affidavit of a single poll worker named Sally Finney, that there was an “unusual, unexplained pattern” of voters having out-of-state driver’s licenses at one particular polling place. The complaint also alleges that Highway 31, a Democrat-backed super PAC, practiced “voter intimidation” tactics in its pro-Jones advertisements.

Moore said his campaign has worked with three “national Election Integrity experts” who have all independently concluded that “election fraud occurred,” according to a statement from the campaign shared with TPM. Those “experts” are election fraud author Richard Charnin, electrical engineer Phil Evans and James Condit, who has “special knowledge” in elections and the “methodology of voting machines,” according to their signed affidavits.

“This is not a Republican or Democrat issue as election integrity should matter to everyone,” Moore said in the statement shared with TPM. “We call on Secretary of State (John) Merrill to delay certification until there is a thorough investigation of what three independent election experts agree took place: election fraud sufficient to overturn the outcome of the election.”

However, Merrill told The Associated Press that he isn’t planning to delay the canvassing board meeting and said he has not yet found any evidence of election fraud. He told the AP that his office will investigate any complaint that Moore submits.

“It is not going to delay certification and Doug Jones will be certified (Thursday) at 1 p.m. and he will be sworn in by Vice President Pence on the third of January,” Merrill told the AP Wednesday evening.

Moore’s upset came after weeks of national news coverage of past controversial comments and mounting allegations of sexual misconduct. Multiple women came forward alleging Moore either pursued relationships or made inappropriate sexual advances toward them when they were teens and he was in his 30s.

Read the complaint below:

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A Georgian-American businessman, who said he attended a key 2016 meeting at Trump Tower under the pretense of serving as a translator, has been questioned by both Senate and House intelligence committees, Reuters reported Tuesday.

Congressional investigators were already aware the businessman, Irakly Kaveladze, attended the June 9, 2016 meeting with a Russian lawyer, Donald Trump Jr. and other campaign officials, but recently became more interested in Kaveladze upon learning he attended a private dinner with President Trump and Aras Agalarov in 2013, according to sources familiar with the interviews who spoke to Reuters. The 2013 dinner was held to celebrate an agreement between Trump, then-owner of the Miss Universe pageant, and Agalarov to bring the pageant to Moscow, according to Reuters’ sources.

Congressional investigators are seeking more information about Kaveladze’s role in orchestrating the meeting and whether there was any discussion of lifting U.S. sanctions on Russia, Reuters reported.

Information about the June 9, 2016 meeting, which included Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner, was first reported this summer. Trump Jr. initially claimed the meeting was held to discuss Russian adoptions, but later revealed it was arranged with the promise of receiving damaging information about Trump’s opponent Hillary Clinton. A chain of emails Trump Jr. released this summer show he was made aware that the conversation would be “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump,” according to one email.

Trump Jr., who has also been questioned by congressional investigators, later said he never actually received any information from the Russian lawyer.

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Joseph Flynn, the brother of President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser and campaign aide Michael Flynn, said Tuesday it is “about time” the President pardons his brother.

“About time you pardon General Flynn who has taken the biggest fall given the illegitimacy of his confessed crime in the wake of all this corruption,” Joseph Flynn reportedly tweeted Tuesday afternoon and deleted 15 minutes later. Newsweek confirmed with Joseph Flynn that he had sent the post, which he said he tweeted in response to Trump’s post attacking the FBI and Hillary Clinton for the famous Christopher Steele dossier.

Earlier this month, Michael Flynn pleaded guilty to one count of lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russian officials. The plea deal was part of 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.

Joseph Flynn told Newsweek that he stands by his original tweet, even though he deleted it and later sent another, toned-down tweet to Trump asking for a pardon on Tuesday evening.

“Mr. President, I personally believe that a pardon is due to General Flynn, given the apparent and obvious illegitimacy of the manner in which the so called ‘crimes’ he plead guilty to were extracted from him,” he said. “I ask for quick action on this. Thank you and keep up the good work!”

The White House has said the discussion of a pardon for Michael Flynn isn’t necessary until “you get further down the road,” press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters in the aftermath of Michael Flynn’s guilty plea.

Trump has said he feels “bad” for his former national security adviser, but he isn’t ready to talk about pardons yet.

“We’ll see what happens. Let’s see,” he said.

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Former President Barack Obama would like to see people in leadership find ways for the public to “recreate common space” on the Internet, he said in his first interview since leaving the White House, broadcast Wednesday.

While the former president did not once mention his successor President Donald Trump by name, he pointedly remarked on the importance of using the internet and social media to unite rather than divide, a tactic Trump is known to ignore, with his near-daily Twitter rants against the media, individuals and even members of his own administration.

“One of the dangers of the internet is that people can have entirely different realities,” he said in the interview with BBC’s Radio 4 Today, which was guest edited by Prince Harry Charles Albert David. “They can be cocooned in information that reinforces their current biases. … The question has to do with how do we harness this technology in a way that allows a multiplicity of voices, allows a diversity of views, but doesn’t lead to a Balkanization of society and allows ways of finding common ground.”

In the lukewarm 40-minute interview, which was recorded in September, Obama fielded questions about everything from his new foundation to whether he prefers boxers over briefs (he didn’t answer that question).

The former president said he felt a sense of “completion” when he left the White House in January.

“That was mixed with all the work that was still undone and concerns about how the country moves forward. But overall there was a serenity there, more than I would have expected,” he said.

Watch the full interview below:

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Sen. Orrin Hatch’s (R-UT) office was totally just joking when it tweeted an image of the front page of the Salt Lake Tribune, thanking the newspaper for naming him “Utahn of the Year.”

Taking the tweet at face value, Hatch seemingly didn’t read the actual article — a scathing editorial, which called on the eight-term senator to retire when his term expires next year.

Hatch (or his staffers) were apparently just being “tongue-in-cheek” with the gracious tweet, in which Hatch called the distinction a “great Christmas honor,” spokesperson Matt Whitlock said Tuesday afternoon, nearly 24 hours after Hatch’s tweet.

Whitlock poked fun at reporters, saying “you’d have to be very new to Twitter Hatch” to think the senator’s tweet was earnest.

In a second tweeted statement, Whitlock mocked the Tribune — which called Hatch a politician with an “unquenchable thirst for power” — saying he hoped the editorial board found some holiday spirit in something “beyond baselessly attacking” Hatch to “satisfy their unquenchable thirst for clicks.”

Whitlock also said this wasn’t the first time the Tribune has called on Hatch to retire, and proceeded to post a list of legislation that he claims would have fallen flat if it weren’t for the senator, who has been in Congress for 42 years.

While Whitlock did wait almost a full day before clarifying that Hatch was just joshing, the senator — through Whitlock — has inserted humor into his official statements in the past. In September, Hatch’s office released a statement advocating for new medical marijuana research legislation that was littered with weed puns. 

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President Donald Trump was seemingly shocked to learn from “Fox and Friends” on Tuesday morning that the FBI has not been able to confirm all the salacious claims made in the Christopher Steele dossier, which former FBI Director James Comey himself called “salacious and unverified.”

“WOW,” Trump tweeted, tagging and apparently quoting his favorite show “Fox and Friends” Tuesday.

“‘Dossier is bogus. Clinton Campaign, DNC funded Dossier. FBI CANNOT (after all this time) VERIFY CLAIMS IN DOSSIER OF RUSSIA/TRUMP COLLUSION. FBI TAINTED,'” he said. “And they used this Crooked Hillary pile of garbage as the basis for going after the Trump Campaign!”

While it was unclear which particular discussion Trump was attempting to quote, “Fox and Friends” hosts did discuss the Steele dossier on Tuesday morning. The Blaze’s Buck Sexton appeared on the program during the 6:00 a.m. EST hour and spoke about a new report from The Washington Times, citing unnamed sources, about the FBI’s inability to confirm the substance of the dossier. Former GOP Rep. Jason Chaffetz, who once chaired the House Oversight Committee, also appeared on the show Tuesday morning and called the document “bogus.”

The dossier was the result of an opposition research project the Democratic National Committee and the Hillary Clinton campaign funded, via a law firm. The project, which was led by the private intelligence firm Fusion GPS, was initially funded by the conservative website, The Washington Free Beacon. Steele was hired by Fusion GPS to compile the dossier after Democrats took over the project’s funding.

Tuesday’s tweet is not the first time Trump has tried to discredit the famous Steele dossier. In October he tweeted suggesting the document was funded by “Russia, the FBI or the Dems (or all).”

While many of the claims in the dossier have not been substantiated, some of them have been bolstered by new information.

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Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) was duped by his home state newspaper.

In a scathing Christmas morning editorial, the newspaper named Hatch its “Utahn of the Year” – a designation that recognizes a person who has had a large impact on the state, “for good or for ill.” The newspaper then called on Hatch to step aside.

But Hatch (or his staff) seemed to have missed the point of the piece, tweeting the editorial Monday afternoon and saying he was “grateful for this great Christmas honor.”

It appears Hatch didn’t read the article.

The newspaper called Hatch, who is the longest-serving Republican senator in U.S. history, a politician with an “utter lack of integrity” who has an “unquenchable thirst for power.” While the newspaper praised Hatch for his role in passing tax reform last week, it said that legislative victory, coupled with Hatch’s efforts in the “dramatic dismantling” of Utah’s national monuments, signal it’s time for an exit.

“Over the years, Hatch stared down a generation or two of highly qualified political leaders who were fully qualified to take his place … Hatch is now moving to run for another term — it would be his eighth — in the Senate,” the editorial said. “Once again, Hatch has moved to freeze the field to make it nigh unto impossible for any number of would-be senators to so much as mount a credible challenge. That’s not only not fair to all of those who were passed over. It is basically a theft from the Utah electorate.”

While sources close to Hatch have told TPM that the senator, who has served for 42 years, is leaning toward retirement, Hatch has publicly rejected the idea. During President Trump’s speech in Utah announcing his significant reduction of two national monuments, Trump flat-out urged Hatch to seek reelection, a move likely spurred by Trump’s distaste for Mitt Romney, who’s been floated as a replacement for Hatch if he decides to retire.

Nearly 24 hours after the initial tweet, Hatch’s office claimed the statement from the senator’s account was just “tongue-in-cheek,” his spokesperson said on Twitter Tuesday.

Read the full Salt Lake Tribune editorial here.

Correction: Due to an editing error, the headline mistakenly said the paper called for Hatch’s resignation, instead of his retirement.

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