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 White House on Monday doubled down on its stance that it is not planning to fire special counsel Robert Mueller, despite tweets from President Trump indicating his frustration with Mueller and the Russia probe.

“There are no conversations or discussions about removing Mr. Mueller,” spokesperson Hogan Gidley told reporters onboard Air Force One on Monday.

Gidley reiterated that Trump believes Mueller’s probe into his campaign and Russian interference in the 2016 election is the “biggest witch hunt in history” and added that Trump has a “well established frustration” with the investigation.

The comments follow Trump’s own tweets over the weekend, when he expressed frustration with Mueller and the apparent political affiliations of some of the members of his investigative team. Trump reportedly has also found himself more emboldened in recent weeks to make his own decisions and has ignored the advice of his closest advisers, according to The New York Times. 

The Sunday morning tweet was the first time that Trump has called out Mueller by name on Twitter, ignoring advice from his allies and administration officials who have suggested he let the investigation run its course. Trump has been vocal since he entered the Oval Office that he believes the probe is a partisan hoax. 

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President Donald Trump in recent days is feeling more emboldened to behave how he wants to, rather than listening to the advice from his closest allies, The New York Times reported Sunday.

According to more than a dozen sources who are close with Trump and who spoke with the Times, the President has thrown caution to the wind when it comes to keeping quiet on special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election. That was evidenced in Trump’s tweet this weekend, calling out Mueller for the probe. Trump has reportedly previously been encouraged by aides to stay silent on the issue, so as to avoid provoking Mueller, according to the Times.

Over the weekend, Trump tweeted about Mueller’s team of “13 hardened Democrats,” suggesting bias within that probe. Sources close with Trump, like longtime political operative Roger Stone Jr., have suggested that Trump’s recent moves mark a new age of confidence for Trump who is not concerned about getting rid of White House officials he doesn’t want to work with any longer. 

Last week, Trump fired his secretary of state, and accepted the resignation of his chief economic adviser. He is reportedly expected to announced further shakeup later this week.

Read the full NYT report here.   

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Hillary Clinton on Saturday apologized for comments she made earlier this month when she claimed that states that supported her during the election were more wealthy than those who supported President Donald Trump.

In a lengthy Facebook post Saturday, Clinton clarified the intention of her remarks, that cities that do better economically “typically lean Democrat and and places where there is less optimism about the future lean Republican.”

“That doesn’t mean the coasts versus the heartland, it doesn’t even mean entire states,” she wrote. “In fact, it more often captures the divisions between more dynamic urban areas and less prosperous small towns within states. As I said throughout the campaign, Trump’s message was dark and backwards looking.”

She claimed that she meant for her “backwards” comments to reference his policy stances, not be reflective of the people or places that went for Trump.

I don’t need to list the reasons, but the foundation of his message, ‘Make America Great AGAIN’ suggests that to be great we have to go back to something we are no longer. I never accepted that and never will,” she said.

Read her full statement here.

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A local Washington, D.C. lawmaker has apologized for posting a video on social media blaming the Rothschilds, a wealthy banking family who have often been at the center of anti-Semitic attacks, for climate change and an unexpected snow.

“Man, it just started snowing out of nowhere this morning, man. Y’all better pay attention to this climate control, man, this climate manipulation,” Trayon White Sr., who sits on the local city council, said in the video. “And D.C. keep talking about, ‘We a resilient city.’ And that’s a model based off the Rothschilds controlling the climate to create natural disasters they can pay for to own the cities, man. Be careful.”

White later apologized and deleted the video off of social media, but he has reportedly made similar comments tying the Jewish family to climate change in the past, according to The Huffington Post.

I want to apologize to the Jewish Community and anyone I have offended,” he wrote in a social media post later. “The Jewish community have been allies with me in my journey to help people. I did not intend to be Anti-Semitic, and I see I should not have said that after learning from my colleagues.”

The director of the Anti-Defamation League in Washington, D.C. told TPM in a statement Monday that the group “welcome(s)” White’s apology.

“Councilman White Sr.’s offensive comments in a video on Facebook only served to perpetuate a classic and erroneous anti-Semitism conspiracy theory – that somehow Jews are clandestinely controlling world events,” D.C. Director Doron Ezickson said.

“At a time when anti-Semitic incidents have risen dramatically in the United States, it’s important that all of our elected officials fight all forms hate – including anti-Semitism,” Ezickson continued. “We welcome Councilman White Sr.’s apology and are glad to hear he is learning about the meaning behind his words. ADL stands ready to work with our country’s leaders, at all levels, to help them avoid rhetoric that can foster hate and bigotry.”

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The American Civil Liberties Union on Sunday called out Presidential Donald Trump for what it called “unconstitutional and unenforceable” non-disclosure agreement that he reportedly makes his staffers sign.

“Public employees can’t be gagged by private agreements, these so-called NDAs are unconstitutional and unenforceable,”Ben Wizner said, ACLU’s director of speech, privacy and technology projects said.

The Washington Post was first to report on the document which includes $10 million fines for violations of sharing information about the President. Several White House staff who were initially cautious about signing the document, reportedly did so because they thought the agreement was not enforceable. The agreement is designed to keep ex-employees from discussing Trump and White House happenings. Trump first started requesting the NDAs in reposes to leaks to the media, according to the Post. 

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Chief of staff John Kelly reassured White House staffers Friday morning that there were not going to be any personnel changes “at this time,” according to White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

The reassurance came amid reports of a planned staff shakeup and comments from President Donald Trump this week suggesting there “will always be change” in the White House. On Friday, Sanders told reporters about the meeting, in which she said Kelly told staff they “shouldn’t be concerned” about their jobs.

“We should do exactly what we do every day and that’s to come to work and do the very best that we can,” she said. “That’s exactly what we’re focused on and many of us have relayed that to staffers that weren’t part of that meeting.”

NBC News’ Peter Alexander pressed her further, citing Trump’s own comments this week indicating further staff turnover: “We’re getting very close to having the Cabinet and other things that I want.”

“And he just nominated two new people to part of his cabinet, so we are getting close,” she shot back. “We would like those two individuals to be quickly confirmed and quickly put through that process so they can take a seat at the table, so they can continue to engage with the President on big issues that actually matter to the American people.”

When asked why there was still a need for change more than a year into Trump’s presidency, Sanders said that “policy priorities” guide personnel decisions.

“Look, as we’ve said many times before, you want the right people for the right time,” she said. “As policy priorities change, that means sometimes you’re going to have personnel change. That’s not different for this administration as it has been in any other administration and we’ll continue to add new staff regularly.”

The comments follow Trump’s decision to fire his secretary of state over Twitter earlier this week and amid reports that Trump plans to fire his National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster in coming days. The White House has denied those reports. 

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Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY) has passed away at the age of 88 after sustaining an injury last week, her office announced Friday.

“To have met Louise Slaughter is to have known a force of nature,” her chief of staff Liam Fitzsimmons said in a statement.

The Democrat and Chronicle was first to report the news on Friday morning. 

Slaughter suffered a head injury after a fall last week and had been hospitalized for a concussion, her office said earlier this week.

In her 16th term, Slaughter was one of the longest serving women in the House of Representatives and was first elected to Congress in 1986.

Slaughter was the first woman to chair the House Rules Committee; was a champion of governmental transparency, demonstrated in her advocacy for the passage of the STOCK Act in 2006; and was widely recognized for her work to prevent discrimination in the health insurance market.

Slaughter was also recognized for her women’s rights work. She was the co-chair and founder of the Congressional Pro-Choice Caucus, established the Office of Research on Women’s Health and was the co-author of the Violence Against Women Act, landmark legislation that has helped reduce domestic violence in the U.S.

In 2009, she brought the Affordable Care Act to the House floor for the historic vote.

Details on Slaughter’s funeral arrangements will be announced when they are available, her office said.

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Democratic Sens. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and Mazie Hirono (D-HI) denounced Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke Thursday evening for saying “konnichiwa” to Japanese-American congresswoman Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (D-HI) earlier this week.

In a tweet, Hirono, who is also a Japanese-American, called Zinke’s comments “flippant” and “juvenile” and said the “internment of nearly 120,000 Japanese Americans is no laughing matter.”

Zinke’s comment came during a House National Resources Committee Thursday hearing when Hanabusa asked him if the National Park Service program that gives grants toward the preservation of Japanese-American confinement camps would be funded this year. Hanabusa is the granddaughter of two internees who were held in one of the confinement camps during World War II.

“Oh, konnichiwa,” Zinke said, before answering her question. He ultimately agreed to fund the program because he thinks it’s “important” to preserve those historic sites. 

“Nope. Racism is not ok,” Duckworth tweeted a few hours later, linking to an article about the exchange.

The Japanese American Citizens League joined the Democratic lawmakers in their denouncement of Zinke’s comments, which they called “flippant,” “inappropriate” and “lacking the respect he afforded other representatives during the same hearing.” The group said comments like Zinke’s reinforce the need for full funding for the Japanese American Confinement Sites (JACS) grant program.

“The injustice of the World War II incarceration of Japanese Americans was due to the very racist sentiments unintentionally exhibited in Secretary Zinke’s flippant comment, that Japanese Americans were and are perpetually foreign,” the organization told TPM in a statement Friday. “If anything, Secretary Zinke’s comment clarifies and reinforces the need for full funding of the JACS program. … We urge Congress to continue funding of the JACS program at the same level as years past.”

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Porn actress Stormy Daniels will share proof that she was “physically threatened to stay silent” about her alleged affair with President Donald Trump in an interview with CBS’ “60 Minutes,” reportedly set to air March 25, her attorney said Friday.

Daniels’ lawyer, Michael Avenatti, told CNN and MSNBC Friday morning that it was a “fact” that his client was physically threatened to keep quiet. He said he was “confident” that viewers would come away from the interview believing that Daniels’ side of the story is credible.

I’m not alleging anything. I’m stating a fact,” Avenatti told CNN Friday. “And the fact is that my client was physically threatened to stay silent about what she knew about Donald Trump. … The American people are going to weigh her veracity and whether she can be trusted, whether she appears to be credible and whether it happened or not, and they’re going to learn the details surrounding that. We’re going to let them judge for themselves whether she’s being honest.”

CNN’s Chris Cuomo asked if that meant she had “proof” that would reveal how she was threatened and by whom.

“What I’m saying is she’s going to be able to provide very specific details about what happened here,” Avenatti said.

“Including who made the threat?” Cuomo asked.

“I’m confident that the American people, after this interview, are going to come away and have little to no doubt that this woman is credible, she’s telling the truth, and she knows what she’s talking about,” he said.

Daniels allegedly had a sexual affair with Trump in 2006 and was pressured into signing a non-disclosure agreement just before the 2016 election. Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen paid Daniels $130,000, reportedly meant to keep her silent about the affair. Daniel sued Trump last week, arguing the agreement is null because Trump never signed the NDA.

The White House has denied all the allegations of the affair and has claimed Trump did not have any knowledge of the payments his personal attorney made to Daniels in 2016.

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