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

The Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who helped break the Watergate story that led to former President Richard Nixon’s resignation, said the Russia scandal could be “worse than Watergate.”

Carl Bernstein, who reported the story with his Washington Post colleague Bob Woodward, made the comments about the “orange haired president” to a crowd of University of Chicago students Wednesday night, calling the current political climate much worse than that of the 1970s, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Just as the Russians in the current instance case tried to undermine our electoral system, here was the President of the United States trying to do the same thing, and if the allegations about Trump are true, that he colluded with Russia, then you have the President again willing to undermine the most basic part of our modern democratic system, which is free elections,” he said.

While Bernstein was quick to advise caution — “we’ve got to see where this goes” — he said regardless of the results of the investigation, Trump’s habits of lying to the public are troubling.

“We also know that we’re dealing with a situation that appears to be a real feeling that is worse than Watergate in many, many ways, in the sense that we have a President of the United States who lies about almost anything,” he said.

Bernstein’s comments follow a seminal moment this week in the sprawling probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election and whether Trump’s campaign colluded with the foreign power to win. Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his business associate pleaded not guilty to charges of money laundering, among other crimes, some of which occurred while the two were working for the campaign.

Another campaign adviser pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russia, according to new court documents that were unsealed this week.

h/t The Hill.

Read More →

President Donald Trump’s Twitter megaphone was cut off for 11 minutes on Thursday evening.

A customer service employee at Twitter deactivated Trump’s @realDonaldTrump account on their last day, a Twitter spokesperson said after conducting an investigation. Initially the company thought the deactivation had been an error.

The account disappeared at 6:45 p.m. EST on Thursday and users were met with a page that said @realDonaldTrump doesn’t exist.

Twitter users jumped on the news.

The account was back up by 7 p.m., according to The Washington Post.

On Friday morning, Trump tweeted to let his followers know that a “rogue employee” had pulled the plug and claimed “the word must finally be getting out-and having an impact,” possibly commenting on the influence or effectiveness of his Twitter presence.

Many expressed concern about the national security implications of the stunt.

Twitter said it is looking into how a customer service employee was able to deactivate the account, which a former employee told BuzzFeed few people at the company have access to do.

Read More →

President Donald Trump’s Secretary of State is “working hard” and “doing his best,” but that doesn’t mean his future in the position is certain.

Appearing on Fox News’ new Laura Ingraham show Thursday night, Trump said there are “some people” within the State Department “that I’m not happy with there,” but praised Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s work ethic. When asked whether Tillerson would be in the White House “for the duration,” Trump gave a clumsy non-answer.

“Well, we will see, I don’t know who’s gonna be — duration? I think the duration — I’ll tell you this, I don’t think any President in nine months has done the job that we’ve done and that includes bills being passed by Congress … I think we’re close to 70 bills, maybe over 70 bills, it’s almost close to a record,” he said, proceeding to pat himself on the back over the approval of his Supreme Court justice nominee and the economy.     

The President’s “we will see” answer about the fate of Tillerson follows recent reports about the pair’s rocky relationship. Over the summer, Tillerson reportedly called Trump a “moron” and wanted to resign. In response, Trump implied he has a higher IQ than his secretary of state.

Read More →

President Donald Trump said he doesn’t lose sleep over the criticism he’s received for vacant posts in his administration, especially within the State Department, because people know he’s “the only one that matters.”

Appearing on Fox News’ Laura Ingraham’s new show Thursday night, Trump said the plethora of open positions won’t impact his “vision” for the administration, suggesting that his goal for the White House is to save money.

“My vision is my vision,” he said. “It’s called cost saving. There is nothing wrong with cost saving. I am a business person. I tell my people when you don’t need to fill spots, don’t fill them.”

But have no fear, “the one that matters is me,” he said.

“I am the only one that matters,” he said.

Read More →

President Donald Trump has asked Congress to get rid of the State Department’s Visa Lottery program, the program which the alleged attacker in the New York City attack reportedly used to come to the U.S. legally. 

Speaking to reporters about the House’s tax cut bill, Trump said he had met with Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and other lawmakers to talk about immigration reform following Tuesday’s attack.

“I’m calling on Congress to immediately terminate the Visa Lottery program. It’s a disaster for our country. This program grants a visa not only on merit, but applicants are randomly selected in an annual lottery,” he said. “And the people put in that lottery are not that country’s finest. We know the program presents significant vulnerabilities to our national security. It’s a very unsafe program for our country. And we are not going to allow it to happen.”

He also said he wants Congress to end “chain migration” and that he “ultimately” wants a merit based immigration system.

“We can bring people that will help our country, grow our country and be safe for our country,” he said. “We want to select people based on their ability to contribute to our country, not choose people randomly. We have no idea who they are or based on extended family connections. You have people bringing in 24 or 25 people when they come in. We have to end chain migration.”

Trump’s comments on immigration reform come after he blamed Sen. Church Schumer (D-NY) following the terrorist attack in New York City. Schumer championed the legislation back in the 1990s, but the actual legislation passed Congress with bipartisan support and was signed into law by a Republican president.

The program is designed to grant visas to immigrants from countries that have low admission rates.

Read More →

Department of Energy Secretary Rick Perry said on Thursday that the use of fossil fuels to power an electric grid in South Africa could prevent sexual assault there.

Speaking at an Axios-sponsored event Thursday, Perry responded to shouted comments from a protester about fossil fuels causing climate change and killing people in poor countries by explaining a conversation he had with a young woman during his trip to South Africa last week.

He said the woman told him electricity would make it easier for her to read and claimed it would take “fossil fuels to push power out” to African villages, but didn’t explain why renewable energy sources couldn’t be used as well.

“A young girl told me to my face, ‘One of the reasons that electricity is so important to me is not only because I’m not going to have to try to read by the light of a fire and have those fumes literally kill people.’ But also from the standpoint of sexual assault,” he said. “When the lights are on, when you have light that shines, the righteousness, if you will, on those types of acts. So from the standpoint of how you really affect people’s lives, fossil fuels is going to play a role in that. I happen to think it’s going to play a positive role.”

Better lighting doesn’t necessarily decrease the likelihood of sexual assault, according to a study conducted by University College London.

Perry has been an advocate for coal-powered plants and has repeatedly questioned the science behind the role carbon dioxide plays in climate change since he took over the Department of Energy.

Read More →

Former FBI Director James Comey made a not-so-subtle reference to a fateful conversation he had with President Donald Trump with the title of his new memoir, “A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies and Leadership.”

The book is set for a May 1 release and will likely detail some never-before-told aspects of his last days at the FBI before he was abruptly fired by Trump not long after Comey confirmed his agency was investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 election and links between the Trump campaign and the Russian government.

Before the firing, the President apparently told Comey, “I need loyalty, I expect loyalty.” Trump denies asking for that pledge. Comey instead said he would always be honest with him. Trump also asked Comey to drop the investigation into his former national security adviser Michael Flynn, according to Comey’s testimony before Congress.    

Axios first reported the new title of Comey’s book and the former FBI director tweeted out the article, saying “Lordy I hope there are pictures,” a nostalgic reference to comments he made during his testimony before the Senate.

After Trump heard that Comey had taken copious notes about their meetings, he tweeted that he had “tapes” of their conversations that would contradict Comey’s version of the story.

“Lordy I hope there are tapes,” Comey had said.

Read More →

NPR’s CEO and chief legal officer were aware of harassment complaints against its top newsroom editor Michael Oreskes for at least two years, but didn’t do anything about it until reports surfaced this week, a move that has frustrated NPR staff, according to new reports from CNN and The Washington Post.

Oreskes was asked to resign Wednesday after The Washington Post reported earlier this week that the editor had kissed two women and put his tongue in their mouths without their consent during business meetings while he was working at The New York Times in the 1990s. Those women both complained to NPR human resources in October, with one of them saying she felt compelled to speak out because of Oreskes’ position in coverage of the outbreak of allegations against movie mogul Harvey Weinstein.

NPR itself reported that one of its current reporters had filed a complaint against Oreskes in 2015 for initiating a sexual conversation with her when they were discussing her career.

While CEO Jarl Mohn said in a memo to staff Wednesday that ousting Oreskes was not spurred on by the Post’s reports, employees aren’t buying it. Several female employees have signed a draft petition expressing their concerns over how the process was handled, according to the Post.

“The in-house mood is stunned, shocked, angry,” Susan Stamberg, one of NPR’s founding journalists, told the Post. “We’re trying to talk it through, and figure out effective responses.”

A union that represents NPR employees is considering making a statement on the organization’s handling of the situation and some staffers want the news outlet to hire a firm to conduct an external investigation into the conduct and the response to complaints, according to CNN’s sources.

During an interview with NPR’s “All Things Considered” Wednesday, Mohn said Oreskes was put “on notice” after the 2015 complaint and said executives would have had a “very different reaction” to the reports from the two women in October if the incident had happened at NPR.

Current and former employees told the Post that Oreskes’ inappropriate behavior was an open secret within the newsroom and management circles. In recent weeks, senior executives asked Mohn to take action against Oreskes, but he felt he had done his duty and said he asked people to come forward within the organization, but no one did, CNN reported, speaking to several NPR sources.

“There had been rumors circulating around the building here, about his behavior. Rumors and gossip. We can’t act on that. We have to act on facts,” Mohn said in the “All Things Considered” interview.

Oreskes is the latest prominent member of the media to be accused of inappropriate sexual advances toward women who either worked under them or were getting career advice.

There has been an uptick in victims, mostly women, making their allegations of sexual harassment and assault public ever since reports of decades worth of accusations against Weinstein were made public. More than 60 women have come forward with allegations against Weinstein, many of whom are prominent Hollywood actresses.

Read More →

Former Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton on Wednesday defended Democrats and her campaign’s funding of an explosive, but still mostly unverified, dossier that alleged connections between President Trump’s campaign and Russia.

Appearing on “The Daily Show With Trevor Noah,” Clinton claimed that “most serious people” would understand that the dossier was legal opposition research, and much different than allegations that the Trump campaign may have worked with Russians to influence the 2016 election.

I think most serious people understand that,” she said. “This was research started by a Republican donor during the Republican primary, and then when Trump got the nomination for the Republican Party, the people doing it came to my campaign lawyer. … He said ‘yes.’ He’s an experienced lawyer, he knows what the law is, he knows what opposition research is.”

Touching on the investigation into Russian meddling in the presidential election, she called Trump “ambivalent” and said her former opponent “had to know” that people who were working for him were making contact with Russia.

We’ve never had an adversary who attacked us with so few consequences,” Clinton said. “He had to know that people were making outreach to Russians, to the highest levels of the Kremlin, in order to help him, to hurt me, but more importantly to sow this divisiveness.”

She defended herself and the Democratic National Committee further, saying it’s significant that the dossier didn’t come out during the election.

“And what also didn’t come out — which I think is an even bigger problem as I write in the book — is that the American people didn’t even know that the FBI was investigating the Trump campaign because of connections with Russia starting in the summer of 2016,” she said. “So I know that voters should have had that information. That’s something that may have influenced some people.”

The dossier, which was first published by BuzzFeed in January, outlines a case for collusion between Trump and the Russians. While the most salacious allegations in the dossier have not been verified by federal investigators, some of the information has been confirmed.

The research was originally funded by a Republican donor during the primaries and the Clinton campaign and the DNC began paying for it after Trump won the primary. 

Watch the interview below:

Read More →

On Tuesday, as White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders walked out of the press briefing room amid shouted questions from reporters, one ignored inquiry stood out above the rest.

“Does this administration think that slavery was wrong?”

The question came from April Ryan, a CNN political analyst and White House correspondent for the American Urban Radio Networks. Her question stemmed from comments the White House chief of staff made earlier this week, claiming the Civil War started because of a lack of an ability to come to a comprise. Those remarks from retired Gen. John Kelly ignored the fact that the Civil War began because the North and the South couldn’t come to an agreement on slavery.

Ryan tried to ask the question again on Wednesday, which led to a contentious back-and-forth with Sanders. Ryan initially asked what the White House thinks is the definition of compromise as it relates to slavery and the Civil War.

“Look, I’m not going to get in and relitigate the Civil War. Like I told you yesterday, I think I’ve addressed the concerns that a lot of people had and the questions that you had and I’m not going to relitigate history here.”

Ryan pressed again: “But my question was still lingering when you left, so I’m going to ask the question again,” she said. Sanders cut her off, telling her to not ask it in a way that “you’re apparently accusing me of being.”

Ryan asked, flat out, whether the President and administration believes slavery is wrong. Sanders rolled her eyes.

“And before you answer,” Ryan said. “Mary Frances Berry, historian, said in 1860 there was a compromise. The compromise was to have southern states keep slavery, but the Confederacy fired on Fort Sumter that caused the Civil War and because of the Civil War, what happened, the North won—.”

Sanders cut her off.

“I think it’s disgusting and absurd to suggest that anyone inside of this building would support slavery,” she said, moving on to another reporter.

Read More →