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

During an interview with the attorney representing the victims of the Las Vegas massacre, Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA) falsely claimed on Fox News Thursday that ISIS was responsible for the mass shooting.

Appearing on Fox News’ “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” Perry said he had “credible evidence” that he believes links the shooting, which left 50-plus people dead, to “potential terrorist infiltration through the south border.” Las Vegas police and the FBI have consistently said the attack was conducted by a lone wolf shooter, Stephen Paddock, but earlier this week, police said they were investigating charges against another person.

“Let’s face it. ISIS twice before the attack warned the United States that they would attack Las Vegas, I think in June and August and then after the attack, claimed responsibility four times,” he said. “I smell a rat, like a lot of Americans. Nothing’s adding up. It’s been four months. The man is dead, they said he’s a lone gunman, lone shooter, yet we can’t get the autopsy results.”

The local coroner actually released the results of Paddock’s autopsy in December — he died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound and his death was ruled a suicide. The alleged shooter’s cremated remains were delivered to his brother on Thursday, the Las Vegas Review Journal reported. 

The attorney for the massacre victims, Catherine Lombardo, questioned Perry’s information and told him it was “irresponsible” for the congressman to make those allegations without evidence.

The FBI and Las Vegas metro police department have been conducting investigation. We see no evidence of a terrorist attack,” she said.

Watch a clip of the interview below:


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Amid questions over whether President Donald Trump understands how a short-term continuing resolution to fund the government works, Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) defended the President, saying Trump doesn’t have time to fully understand the “weeds” of the 30-day budget bill the House is set to vote on Thursday.

“The President has a lot on his plate. He’s not able to get into the weeds on this legislation like we in the House and Senate are,” Brooks said during an interview with Brooke Baldwin on CNN Thursday. “He’s got nuclear missile threats out of North Korea that he has to pay some attention to. He’s got the potential of a nuclearized Iran he has to pay attention to.”

“Sure,” Baldwin said. “But what about domestic issues like the shutting down of the U.S. government. That has to be a priority, no?”

Brooks then agreed that avoiding a shutdown “has to be a priority” and that he was “quite comfortable” knowing that, if the House and Senate “coalesce on the funding bill, that the President will sign it.”

Trump is in the hot seat over a tweet he posted about the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) on Thursday, raising eyebrows about whether the President understood his party’s plan for incorporating funding for CHIP into a short-term funding bill. House leaders had planned to vote on a 30-day resolution Thursday that would include six years of funding for the CHIP program as a way to force Democrats’ hands, but the President threw a wrench in those plans when he tweeted that “CHIP should be part of a long term solution, not a 30 Day, or short term, extension!”

Despite the puzzling tweet, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) told reporters on Thursday that Trump “fully supports” House Republicans’ short-term funding bill. 

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Virginia Senate colleagues Sens. Mark Warner (D-VA) and Tim Kaine (D-VA) won’t support the House’s continuing resolution that would fund the government for another month, and, in a statement Thursday afternoon, the pair criticized President Trump for his “repeated statements urging a government shutdown.”

“The current CR ignores key priorities — community health centers, permanent protection for Dreamers, emergency relief for Florida, Texas, western states ravaged by wildfires, Puerto Rico, the USVI, opioid treatment, and pension reform,” they said in the statement.

“The President’s repeated statements urging a government shutdown are beneath the office and have heightened the budgetary dysfunction,” the senators continued. “And his determined efforts to blow up any and all bipartisan discussions around Dreamers demonstrate that he is not interested in governing. He has to decide whether he wants to be President and engage in necessary compromise, or continue offering commentary from the sidelines.”

Rather than punting long-term budget discussions to February, the senators suggested that Congress stay in session until it can agree on a bipartisan long-term deal. They said they’d support a “short term” continuing resolution to keep the government open for a few days “while we stay in town and conclude our negotiations.”

House leaders had planned to vote on a 30-day resolution Thursday that would include funding for the CHIP program as a way to force Democrats’ hands, but the President threw a wrench in those plans Thursday when he tweeted that “CHIP should be part of a long term solution, not a 30 Day, or short term, extension!”

Despite the cryptic tweet, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) told reporters on Thursday that Trump “fully supports” House Republicans’ short-term funding bill. 

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A Department of Energy photographer, who was fired after leaking photos of Secretary Rick Perry’s meeting with a big coal tycoon, has filed a complaint with the department’s Inspector General, according to the photographer, his attorney and a copy of the complaint shared with TPM.

Photographer Simon Edelman published “public domain” photos of Perry meeting with Robert Murray of Murray Energy on In These Times — a left-leaning magazine.

The leaked photos are from a March 2017 meeting and show Perry giving Murray a “gigantic bear hug,” Edelman told TPM. They also reveal action items on a memo Murray presented to Perry that proposed policy and energy regulation changes that would favor the coal industry.

Agency officials took Edelman’s laptop after the photos were published and put him on paid administrative leave. He was told to either delete the photos he had taken of the meeting or give the agency the rights to his Google drive account so they could access the pictures. Edelman said a supervisor had been “threatening” to come to his home and “watch me over my shoulders delete the photos.”

After he refused, he was told his employment contract would not be renewed, putting him out of work at the end of December, according to the complaint, which was first reported by The New York Times. Edelman told TPM that he still hasn’t been told why he was fired.

Edelman’s lawyer, John Tye, a former attorney for the State Department, claims his client was wrongfully terminated for sharing the photos. As a federal employee, Edelman’s work is not protected under copyright law and his photos are part of the public domain, Tye said. He also argued Edelman’s job should be protected under the privileges awarded to federal whistleblowers, given his intent in releasing the photos was to point out alleged public corruption.

After Murray ran through the points of his proposal during the meeting, Perry told Murray, “I think we can help you with this,” according to Edelman, who said that comment and the pair’s friendly behavior were initial “red flags.”

This week, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) voted against the Perry-proposed “Grid Resiliency Pricing Rule,” which would have put the energy market in a position that favors coal and nuclear power plants over clean energy competitors due to their ability to store fuel on-site, which, Perry claimed is vital in the event that the power grid fails. The proposal included language that mirrored the proposal Murray gave Perry in March, a move that Tye told TPM could amount to public corruption.

“The meeting’s over and Perry comes out with this proposed rule with language that mimics Bob Murray’s proposal,” Tye said. “They both used the same language to come up with a fake solution to a fake problem — that is the energy grid reliability problem, that power grids fail because power plants run out of fuel. That’s not true.”

Tye asked the Inspector General to open an internal ethics investigation into Perry and give Edelman his job and laptop back. He also suggested Congress open an investigation into corruption within the Energy Department and said the FBI should open a criminal investigation into Murray and Perry for public corruption.

The agency’s Inspector General has received Edelman’s complaint and is “in the process of reviewing it to determine what actions will be taken next,” media liaison Felicia Jones told TPM Thursday.

The IG’s office later Thursday sent a second statement to TPM: “The OIG is aware of various media reports related to Mr. Edelman and his involvement with the Department of Energy. We must adhere to our normal practice of neither confirming nor denying the existence of an OIG matter.”

Read the complaint below:

This story has been updated.

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As Congress grapples to pass a budget by Friday to evade a federal government shutdown, President Donald Trump published his “Fake News Awards” on the Republican National Committee’s website Wednesday evening.

But the “awards” are mostly just a list of reporting mistakes that were corrected or retracted by major news outlets, like The New York Times, ABC News and CNN this past year.

Well-known errors, like ABC’s Brian Ross’ mix-up on the timing in which former national security adviser Michael Flynn told Trump to talk to Russian officials or CNN’s retracted story on Anthony Scaramucci’s contact with Russians, were the main components of the list. In several cases, an employee was suspended or resigned over their mistakes. All the major news outlets named in the “Fake News” list have clear ethical and editorial policies that inform their reporting standards and how to handle corrections.

Other “winners” on the list were columnists who wrote negative opinion pieces about the President or simply Trump’s tweets correcting reporters. The 11th place winner was the “RUSSIA COLLUSION!” story.

Russian collusion is perhaps the greatest hoax perpetrated on the American people. THERE IS NO COLLUSION!” the RNC said.

Trump has been touting his “Fake News Awards” contest for months, claiming he would call out the “MOST DISHONEST & CORRUPT” members of the media.

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Former “Today Show” co-host Ann Curry said Wednesday that she was “not surprised” when she heard of the sexual misconduct allegations against her former co-host Matt Lauer.

Curry was cautious during her interview on CBS’ “This Morning” and rarely directly answer questions about Lauer because she said she was “trying to do no harm in these conversations.”

“I can tell you that I — I am not surprised by the allegations,” she said.

NBC fired Lauer in November as multiple women came forward accusing him of sexual harassment and assault. It has been widely speculated that Curry was pushed out of “Today” in 2012 because she and Lauer had a bad relationship. Curry was the show’s anchor for 15 years and only co-anchored with Lauer from 2011 to 2012. She left NBC in 2015 and is now returning to TV to host a new show on PBS.

Curry said there was a culture of “verbal” and “sexual” harassment during her time with “Today.”

I can say that I would be surprised if, if — many women did not understand that there was a climate of verbal harassment — that existed,” she said. “I think it’d be surprising if someone said that they didn’t see that. So it was p— a verbal, sexual—.”

“This Morning” host Norah O’Donnell stepped in and said “she just said verbal sexual harassment was pervasive.”

“Yeah,” Curry said and confirmed it was going on during her time at NBC.

Curry told the host they should “ask someone else” about whether Lauer was behind her firing.

“I don’t know what was all behind it. I do know that — it hurt like hell,” she said. “It wasn’t a fun moment. I’ve learned a great deal about myself. I’ve really at this point let it go. … I think that the real question, in my view, is what are we going to do with all of this anger?”

Watch the interview below:

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Attorney General Jeff Sessions preached the administration’s message on merit-based immigration on Fox News Tuesday night, claiming “a good nation” doesn’t admit “illiterate” immigrants.

“What good does it do to bring in somebody who is illiterate in their own country, has no skills and is going to struggle in our country and not be successful? That is not what a good nation should do, and we need to get away from it,” Sessions said, speaking on “Tucker Carlson Tonight.”

Sessions criticized Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) for reportedly reciting during a meeting Emma Lazarus’ poem that’s historically affiliated with American immigration and the Statue of Liberty.

“Not really a case you would expect a Republican to be making,” Carlson said, referencing Graham’s use of the poem. “Why aren’t there more articulate Republican members of Congress making the case that you just made?”

“Well, I wish there were, actually,” Sessions said, before claiming the U.S. should be more like Canada in its immigration policies. “We should evaluate them and make sure they are going to be lawful. They are not threats to us. They have the education and skills level to prosper in America. That’s good for them and good for America.” 

Watch a clip of the interview below:

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Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) defended President Donald Trump’s derogatory comments about Haiti and African nations last week, telling MSNBC Tuesday that conditions in Haiti are “disgusting.”

“I probably wouldn’t use the term — the President’s term,” he said, referencing reports that Trump called African countries “shithole countries.” “I will say the conditions in Haiti are deplorable. It’s disgusting. Everywhere you look in Haiti, it’s sheet metal and garbage when I was there.”

Gaetz’ defense of the President comes as Republicans grapple to get their story straight on what Trump said during an Oval Office meeting on immigration reform last week. The Washington Post was first to report that Trump questioned why the U.S. needed more Haitian immigrants and referred to African countries as “shithole countries.” Trump has denied he used that terminology, but admitted he used “tough” language during the meeting, with the White House claiming he’s passionate about pushing for a merit-based immigration system.

During the interview with MSNBC’s Chris Hayes Tuesday, Hayes asked Gaetz whether the President’s criticism of conditions in other countries is theoretically antithetical to his merit-based approach to immigration reform.

If the idea of merit is the merit is of the person independent of the place they’re coming from, but if the President objects based on the condition of those countries that can’t connect back to merit, can it?” Hayes said.

“Well, I think the President is objecting as a consequence of those countries not contributing to the immigration process in America in a way that benefits our country principally,” Gaetz said. “The President indicated we’ll have an America-first immigration, not an agenda that looks at the needs of people in other countries rather than the needs of Americans.”  

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During an Oval Office appearance with the President of Kazakhstan Tuesday, President Donald Trump said he wants immigrants to come to the U.S. from “everywhere.”

Trump was responding to a shouted question from CNN’s Jim Acosta, who asked why Trump reportedly favors immigrants who come from European countries like Norway.

“I want them to come in from everywhere, everywhere,” Trump said.

The comment follows international outrage over Trump’s reported vulgar language during a bipartisan meeting with lawmakers last week, when he reportedly questioned why the U.S. needs more immigrants from Haiti and “shithole countries” like those in Africa. Trump also reportedly asked why the U.S. couldn’t attract more immigrants from Norway.

Tuesday’s remark falls in stark contrast with not only the statements Trump made about African countries last week, but also about his rolling legacy as President. Within days of moving into the Oval Office, Trump signed an executive order banning people from seven predominately Muslim countries from traveling to the United States.

The move has been met with intense pushback from civil rights groups and blockage by several federal judges across the U.S.

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White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Tuesday that Democrats are exploiting reports of inflammatory comments that President Trump made last week to stall on getting “something accomplished” on DACA and immigration reform.

“I think (Democrats) are using it as an excuse to not help this President get something accomplished, which I think is a sad day for our country,” Sanders said when asked whether Democrats were using Trump’s insults — calling African countries “shitholes” — as leverage get their way on DACA.

Trump reportedly asked lawmakers in a bipartisan meeting on immigration reform Thursday why the U.S. needs more immigrants from Haiti and “shithole countries” like those in Africa. Trump has denied he made those remarks, but he did admit to using “tough” language in his attempts to push for a merit-based immigration system.

Sanders also said it was “sad” that Democrats were willing to “throw away” negotiations on DACA, “which they say is a huge priority.”

The President brought them all here, had a very candid conversation, which you guys were all witness to, on getting that done and laid out,” she said. “Things that all of these individuals have voted for. It seems absolutely hypocritical that now all of a sudden they don’t want border security. They don’t want merit-based immigration system when they’ve supported it, voted for it and spoken about it many times in the past.”

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