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

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg addressed reports this weekend that she’s hired law clerks for future terms on the Supreme Court, saying Sunday that as long as she’s in good health, she’ll continue serving.

“As long as I can do the job full steam, I will be here,” she said, during an interview at the Sundance Film Festival’s “Cinema Talks,” which she attended to discuss CNN’s upcoming documentary about her life.

Ginsburg, who is 84, added that her health is “very good,” according to a video of the interview. The Supreme Court justice reportedly hired a full lineup of law clerks that will last at least through the 2020 term.

During the interview, Ginsburg also discussed her relatable spunk that has gained her popularity among young liberals and landed her a doppelgänger on Saturday Night Live.

“My colleagues are judiciously silent about the ‘notorious RBG,’” she said, referring to the nickname that’s given her internet meme notoriety. She added that she really liked SNL actress Kate McKinnon’s impression of her.

“And I would like to say ‘Gins-burn!’ sometimes to my colleagues,” she said.

Watch the interview below:


H/t: The Huffington Post

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Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) on Sunday blamed the White House staff for “making it very difficult” for Congress and President Donald Trump to come to an agreement on immigration, specifically calling out White House aide Stephen Miller for being “an outlier” on the issue.

“I’ve talked with the President, I think his heart is right on this issue,” Graham told reporters Sunday, referencing the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals immigration program, one of several key issues keeping Congress from coming to a budget agreement that would reopen the federal government.

“I think he has a good understanding of what will sell,” he continued. “Every time we have a proposal it is only yanked back by staff members. As long as Stephen Miller is in charge of negotiating immigration, we’re going nowhere. He’s been an outlier for years.”

The White House quickly shot back, calling Graham an “outlier” and blaming him for peddling legislation that values “people in this country illegally and unlawfully instead of our own American citizens,” according to a statement shared with Fox News and other outlets.

Graham’s attacks on Miller stem from the aide’s highly conservative views on immigration and new reports that both Miller and Chief of Staff John Kelly have been actively stonewalling Trump’s efforts to compromise with Democrats.

According to a new report from The New York Times, President Donald Trump has reportedly privately told lawmakers in recent weeks that he is enthusiastic about coming to an agreement on the legal status of DACA recipients. Both Kelly and Miller have shut down those negotiations, according to the report, pushing for a compromise proposal that also includes tough policies on issues like the border wall and the adoption of a merit-based immigration system.

Both aides have taken hard lines on immigration issues in the past. In his time as Trump’s first homeland security secretary, Kelly ordered his staff to portray undocumented immigrants as criminals. Miller authored the White House’s immigration plan that focuses on a merit-based immigration system and includes signifiant funding for a border wall and a crack down on sanctuary cities.

This summer, Miller also resorted to personally insulting reporters at a White House press briefing who questioned whether the White House’s changes to the green card application process were racist.

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In 1999, then-real estate mogul Donald Trump said that while he hates “the concept of abortion,” he will always be “very pro-choice.”

“It may be a little bit of a New York background, of course there is some different attitude in different parts of the country. … But I am strongly for choice,” he told NBC in October 1999.

That was then.

Now, he’s apparently so pro-life that Vice President Mike Pence on Friday called him the “most pro-life president in American history.”

“From preventing taxpayer dollars from funding abortion overseas to empowering states to respect life in Title 10 to nominating judges who will uphold our God given liberties enshrined in the Constitution of the United States, this President has been a tireless defender of life and conscience in America,” Pence said.

Giving separate speeches from the White House Rose Garden that were live-streamed to the National Mall, the pair became the first President and vice president to address the annual “March for Life” gathering, a pro-life march that’s been held annually in Washington, D.C. since 1974.

During his speech, Trump thanked those with “big hearts and tireless devotion” who work to help struggling mothers choose life. He invited a woman on stage who got pregnant as a teenager, kept the child and started a shelter to help homeless women who become pregnant. Speaking directly to his evangelical Christian and Catholic base, the President called out the Senate for stalling on voting on a policy that would block late-term abortions.

On the national day of prayer, I signed an executive order to protect religious liberty. Very proud of that,” Trump said, before touting his new proposal to “protect the conscience rights” of medical professionals and his new policy that keeps states from giving Medicaid to abortion clinics that “violate the law.”

“We are protecting the sanctity of life and the family as the foundation of our society,” he said.

Trump’s change of heart became public for the first time in 2011 when he was mulling a presidential bid. He told attendees of the Conservative Political Action Conference back then that he was pro-life. During the Republican primaries in 2016, Trump took five different anti-abortion positions over the course of three days, the most extreme being that he thought women who have abortions should be punished. 

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Despite gaining a reported backing from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), “Hillbilly Elegy” author J.D. Vance will not challenge Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) in November, according to a statement he posted on Twitter Friday.

Citing his “young family” and professional ventures as rationale, Vance thanked everyone who “encouraged” him to jump into the race.

“I thought seriously about running in August 2017, but decided that the timing was awful for my young family,” he said in the statement. “Some things have changed since then, but not enough to make running a good idea.”

The speculation over Vance’s potential bid began after the state’s Republican treasurer Josh Mandel dropped out of the race in October, due to his wife’s health issues.

While Vance never publicly said he was considering a bid, he reportedly had significant support from Republicans in Washington. McConnell reportedly told associates that he would make Vance’s bid a priority if he decided to run, according to Politico. Gov. John Kasich also encouraged Vance’s bid, according to Buzzfeed.

The deadline for filing for candidacy in the Ohio Senate race is Feb. 7, and businessman Mike Gibbons is the only Republican who’s filed for the May primary election. Rep. Jim Renacci (R-OH), who is running for governor, told a Cleveland radio station he would mull running if he had the backing of President Donald Trump. 

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Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has denied reports that he attempted to evade a security checkpoint at the Newark Liberty International Airport on Thursday, despite public statements from Port Authority officials claiming otherwise.

CBS New York reported Thursday that the former governor, who just had his last day in office Tuesday, attempted to enter the airport through a special access area with his state police escort that he reportedly used when he was governor. A Port Authority officer stopped Christie from using that entrance and escorted him to the regular entrance, according to a Port Authority official who spoke with CBS. Christie was reportedly cooperative.

But Christie denied the claims in a tweet Thursday evening, calling the stories “absolutely false” and saying he was led to one entrance by a Port Authority officer, but was then informed by the TSA that it was the wrong entrance and he was directed to a different gate.

“Neither option was the way I entered the airport as Governor (wrong in the story) and PAPD officer never denied me entry at either place (also wrong in story),” he said.

Unflattering headlines are nothing new for the embattled former governor who served a tumultuous eight years as governor and left with a shameless 15 percent approval rating. Christie was replaced by Democrat Phil Murphy, who was sworn in on Tuesday. 

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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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