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

While President Donald Trump has made it clear that he will leave the summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un early if negotiations don’t go well, he also has a friendlier backup plan if the two leaders get along: A fall invite to his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, Bloomberg News reported.

But the tropical getaway would only be an option if the summit is successful— an outcome that falls into Kim’s lap, Trump’s advisers have told him. White House officials are aiming to settle on a timeframe for Kim to relinquish his nuclear arsenal. North Korea is reportedly interested in creating a step-by-step plan for denuclearization and Trump reportedly said he would be flexible, though he’s been advised not to compromise.   

If the meeting goes well, the summit may include other events and would likely last an extra day, according to Bloomberg.

Trump plans to travel to Singapore with his Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Chief of Staff John Kelly and National Security Adviser John Bolton. Pompeo has reportedly been prepping Trump for the summit in eight to 10 hours of meetings each week for the past several weeks.   

Read the full report here.

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During a meeting with the Trump administration’s top economic officials Tuesday, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin advised President Donald Trump against imposing tariffs on Canada, ABC News reported Tuesday.

According to senior administration officials and sources close to the White House who spoke with ABC, Mnuchin pointed to the U.S.’s surpluses with Canada as his defense: a $2 billion steel surplus and a $26 billion services surplus.

The suggestion was met with divided responses from aides in the meeting, which included National Economic Council Larry Kudlow, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, trade representative Robert Lighthizer and Chief of Staff John Kelly according to ABC. Trump is reportedly still “deciding on what to do about Canada” one official told ABC.

Mnuchin’s attempts to change Trump’s mind on imposting tariffs on one of the U.S.’s closest allies comes just days before Trump is set to attend the G-7 summit in Canada on Friday, where he’ll likely have to answer for his recent moves that have ignited fears of a global trade war.

Read ABC’s full report here.

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Fueled by President Donald Trump’s new obsession with presidential pardons, the White House is preparing the paperwork to pardon at least 30 people, CNN reported Wednesday.

Trump has reportedly asked his staff to produce a list of potential candidates, as outside allies take advantage of his new hobby, suggesting people he should add to it, according to CNN.

One person on that list: Alice Marie Johnson, the 63-year-old grandmother who is serving a life sentence in prison for a non-violent drug offense. Kim Kardashian visited the White House last week to talk with Trump about a potential pardon for Johnson, which could happen as early as Tuesday, according to the Washington Post.

For Trump, Kardashian’s support of Johnson is key given Trump’s penchant for considering the pardoning of celebrities like Martha Stewart and former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, also a former TV personality. Trump even suggested he could pardon himself earlier this week.

According to a White House official who spoke with the Post, Trump is “obsessed” with pardons, which this person characterized as Trump’s “favorite thing” to discuss with aides. But not all of the West Wing is on board with Trump’s new pardoning proclivity. Chief of Staff John Kelly and a top White House lawyer are reportedly pushing back against Trump’s interest in pardoning Johnson, the Post reported.

Kelly has reportedly researched Johnson’s conviction and doesn’t think she deserves the President’s interference, while White House counsel Don McGahn characterized the pardon as “unnecessary,” in the Post’s words.

Strategists think Trump’s passion for pardoning stems from an effort to keep former campaign officials and associates from cooperating with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, by messaging that he has the authority to pardon them.

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White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Tuesday finally addressed questions from a roomfull of reporters about misleading statements she made last year — by bashing the media’s credibility.

Sanders said that she is “an honest person who works extremely hard” to give reporters “accurate and up-to-date information.”

Frankly, I think my credibility is probably higher than the media’s,” she said. “I think in large part that’s because you guys spend more of your time focused on attacking the President instead of reporting the news. I think if you spent a little bit more time reporting the news instead of trying to tear me down, you might actually see we’re working hard to provide you good information and trying to provide that same good information to the American people.”

At Monday’s press briefing, Sanders deflected on the lie, repeatedly telling reporters that she wouldn’t answer questions about communications between President Trump’s legal team and the special counsel.

Last year, Sanders told reporters that Trump didn’t dictate a statement released by his son, Donald Trump Jr., regarding the basis of a 2016 meeting at Trump Tower between Trump Jr. and a Russian lawyer. At the time, Trump Jr. said the meeting was centered on adoptions. It was later revealed that Trump Jr. took the meeting with the promise of gaining dirt on Hillary Clinton.

In a 20-page letter by Trump’s lawyers that was sent to special counsel Robert Mueller in January, Trump’s lawyers wrote that the President did, in fact, dictate the statement.

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Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt tried to score his wife, Marlyn Pruitt, a gig as a Chick-Fil-A franchisee, the Washington Post reported Tuesday.

According to a slew of emails recently released under a Freedom of Information Act request by the Sierra Club, Pruitt had his executive scheduler Sydney Hupp last May contact the president and chairman of Chick-fil-A, Dan Cathy, about a “potential business opportunity” with Pruitt.

Cathy, well-known for his support of conservative and Christian causes, has met Pruitt in the past and responded within an hour. A phone call was arranged between Pruitt, Cathy and a Chick-fil-A attorney, but that was later cancelled, according to the Post. Pruitt eventually had a phone call with a person in the company’s legal department, but the efforts did not prove fruitful for Marlyn Pruitt.

“Administrator Pruitt’s wife started, but did not complete, the Chick-fil-A franchisee application,” Chick-fil-A representative Carrie Kurlander told the Post.

According to multiple current and former EPA staffers who spoke to the Post, Pruitt was keen on Marlyn Pruitt finding a job at the time because of the expenses associated with having a house in Washington, D.C. and back in Oklahoma. And Pruitt didn’t halt efforts to find his wife work with the Chick-fil-A venture, either. Emails show he also reached out to the head of Concordia, a non-profit organization, last year, and Marlyn Pruitt was hired to help plan a conference for the organization last September, according to the Post.

Pruitt’s use of his official position and public aides to secure work for his wife is just one of several recent reports that’s ruffled ethics experts’ feathers.

Pruitt reportedly had his top aide, Millan Hupp, Sydney Hupp’s sister, help him search for housing for him and his wife during work hours. Millan Hupp also told lawmakers last month that Pruitt had her try to obtain a “used mattress” from the Trump International Hotel and asked her to book vacation flights for him during her personal time.

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Police responded to a phone call about a hostage situation at the family home of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student David Hogg on Tuesday morning, which turned out to be a prank, according to local reports.

ABC affiliate Local 10 News reported that the call was placed to the Broward County Sheriff’s office Tuesday morning. Police and the local fire department responded with multiple units and a police helicopter. Hogg was in Washington, D.C. with his mother to receive the RFK Human Rights award at the time of the incident, according to Local 10.

Hogg called the swatting a “distraction” from what he and his peers at the Parkland, Florida high school are “trying to fix here, which is the massive gun violence epidemic in this country,” he told Local 10.

Hogg and a few of his other peers have risen to national prominence in recent months for their advocacy work combatting gun violence. On Valentine’s Day, 17 people were murdered at Hogg’s high school when a 19-year-old former student used his personal AR-15 and other firearms to attack Stoneman Douglas High School.

In the immediate aftermath of shooting, Hogg and fellow student Emma Gonzalez emerged as the faces of a national movement, as the students founded an advocacy group and organized a national “March For Our Lives” event in Washington, D.C.

The two students have also faced unprecedented attacks from far-right conspiracists, who have insisted since the day of the shooting that Hogg and Gonzalez are “crisis actors” paid by the left to push for gun control.

The attacks on Hogg moved mainstream when Fox News host Laura Ingraham posted a tweet mocking Hogg for not getting into college. Hogg, in turn, unleashed his massive Twitter following on Ingraham’s advertisers, calling for a boycott. As advertisers began to drop the “Ingraham Angle,” Ingraham apologized for the remark and took a week off work.

Hogg and the rest of the Stoneman Douglas seniors graduated over the weekend and many are planning to take a gap year to travel state-to-state, pushing for common sense gun reform measures.

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President Donald Trump was awake before 7 a.m. on Tuesday and apparently triggered by a large swath of topics ranging from the Russia probe to the Philadelphia Eagles.

Taking to his favorite medium, Trump launched an unhinged tweetstorm by raging about the apparent “delays” in the release of the Justice Department’s inspector general report on “Crooked Hillary and Slippery James Comey,” referencing the IG probe into the DOJ’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation. A draft version of the report was given to the FBI and DOJ in May to review for potential classified information and the Senate hearings on its release were pushed back a week.

The inspector general already released its findings on former acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe and alleged that McCabe misled FBI investigators about his role in leaks about the Clinton email probe. In the next report, the inspector general is expected to address former FBI Director James Comey’s handling of the Clinton email investigation and whether McCabe should have recused himself from that probe.

Minutes later, Trump moved on to praise the economy — claiming it “may be the best economy in the history of our country” — and announced vague plans in lieu of an event honoring the Philadelphia Eagles. Trump on Monday night abruptly cancelled the Eagles’ visit because “only a small number of players decided to come.” He also suggested members of that team stayed in the locker room during the National Anthem, a made-up claim.

The President then turned to his “beleaguered” Attorney General Jeff Sessions, an increasingly routine target for the President’s vexation with the “Russian Witch Hunt Hoax.” In recent days Trump has become more comfortable publicly admitting he regrets picking one of his earliest supporters as his attorney general. On Tuesday, he claimed Sessions somehow “knew better than most that there was No Collusion!”

Trump then blamed Democrats for his own administration’s policy of separating families at the border and waxed optimistic about his meeting with North Korea.

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The Justice Department has appealed a federal court ruling that President Trump’s move to block his critics on Twitter violated the Constitution, according to Politico.

U.S. District Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald ruled last month that Trump’s Twitter feed is considered a “public forum” and that a public official cannot “‘block’ a person from his Twitter account in response to the political views that person has expressed.”

The ruling came in response to a lawsuit filed by Columbia University’s Knight First Amendment Institute on behalf of Twitter users that Trump has blocked.

The notice of appeal was filed by three DOJ officials in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit on behalf of Trump and his social media director, according to Politico.

As Politico noted, it’s hardly a surprise that the Justice Department has opted to file an appeal. Justice Department attorney Michael Baer wrote in August 2017 that the case could prove to be harmful to the First Amendment and that dictating “that a president’s choices about whom to follow, and whom to block, on Twitter,” a private company, could “violate the Constitution.”

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President Donald Trump is convinced his Twitter love-fest with Kanye West is proving fruitful for his popularity among African-American voters.

At least, that’s what he told Kim Kardashian — who is married to West — during her visit to the White House last week, according to Bloomberg News.

Kardashian attended a meeting with Trump and White House adviser Jared Kushner to discuss prison reform and a potential presidential pardon of Alice Marie Johnson, a 63-year-old grandmother who is serving a life sentence in prison for a non-violent drug offense.

While Trump wasn’t immediately struck by Kardashian’s request — according to a person familiar with the meeting who spoke with Bloomberg — Trump did tell Kardashian that he thinks the support he’s received from her and West has boosted his popularity among black voters.

Trump made similar claims during a National Rifle Association conference last month, claiming that West’s tweets — in which the rapper claimed he and Trump shared “dragon energy” —  “doubled my African American polling numbers.”

Bloomberg pointed out that Trump was likely referencing a Reuters weekly tracking poll that claimed Trump’s approval rating among black men rose from 11 percent to 22 percent from April 22-29. Reuters has reported that the number of African Americans who respond to the weekly poll isn’t high enough to suggest any real shakeup.

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Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) denied reports that he’s working with President Donald Trump’s legal team to help prepare the President for a potential interview with special counsel Robert Mueller.

In a tweet on Monday evening he called The Washington Post‘s report about the plans “dead wrong.”

While Christie was quick to shut down any suggestion that he was aiding the President in preparation for a possible sit-down with Mueller, it was Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani who told the Post that Christie would “be willing to do it as (a) volunteer.” Giuliani’s proposition wouldn’t be a long shot– Christie helped Trump prepare for debates during the 2016 campaign by pretending to be Hillary Clinton, according to the Post.

“I’d like to bring Chris Christie in,” he told The Post, adding that Christie is “willing to do it.” “(Trump) and Chris get along, and Chris is a lawyer, so you have attorney-client privilege.”

While it’s unclear whether Christie will agree to assist in training Trump for a special counsel interview, Trump’s legal team is struggling to keep the President focused during their own counseling sessions.

According to a person familiar with the matter who spoke to the Post, officials have been unsuccessful in their attempts to take a deep dive into potential subjects Mueller may broach because of Trump’s “anger about the probe,” per the Post.

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