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

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has been pressuring FBI Director Christopher Wray to get rid of his deputy director Andrew McCabe, according to new reporting from Axios.

Sessions has reportedly been pushing Wray to make personnel changes since December, pressure that comes at President Donald Trump’s public urging, according to Axios. Wray — whom Trump appointed in June to replace former Director James Comey after he fired him — threatened to resign if McCabe were fired.

Wray told Sessions he was frustrated by the pressure from the Department of Justice and the Trump administration, prompting Sessions to speak with White House lawyer Donald McGahn, who advised him to back off, according to The Washington Post. The White House wanted to avoid media uproar over a second FBI director’s departure, so McCabe remains in his post, according to three people with knowledge of the discussions who spoke with Axios.

In public and private, Wray has indicated that he wouldn’t curb to pressure to make personnel changes within his department unless he thinks they’re warranted, according to the Post.

In a statement from White House spokesman Raj Shah shared with Axios and the Post, the White House claimed Trump has “enormous respect” for the FBI, but reiterated that Trump “believes politically motivated senior leaders, including former Director Comey and others he empowered, have tainted the agency’s reputation for unbiased pursuit of justice.”

Trump’s vexation with McCabe became public in July when he tweeted questioning why Sessions hadn’t replaced McCabe as the acting FBI director. In that tweet, he falsely claimed that Hillary Clinton gave McCabe’s wife, Jill McCabe, “big dollars” for a Virginia state senate seat race in 2015.

According to The New York Times, McCabe may be eyeing an early 2018 retirement after his pension becomes eligible.

Read More →

Just hours after President Donald Trump signed Congress’ funding bill to reopen the government for three weeks, the President praised his party for getting Democrats to “cave on Shutdown.”

Trump then vowed to find a way for a “big win for everyone” on DACA, the military and border security, all the key issues at play that led to Friday’s midnight shutdown.

“See you at the negotiating table!” he tweeted late Monday evening.

He also used the government reopening as a chance to call out a specific reporter — “Crazy Jim Acosta of Fake News CNN” — to praise himself and his party for ending the shutdown. He quoted CNN’s chief White House correspondent’s tweet, in which Acosta quoted people from the “Trump world and WH sources” and thanked “Jim” for his “honesty.”

Trump’s tweets come amid criticism that the President was largely on the sidelines all weekend while Democrats and Republican battled it out in Congress. The New York Times reported that Trump did speak with some Republican leaders over the phone to strategize a breakthrough, but, according to The Washington Post, the rest of negotiations with Congress were conducted by his advisers.

According to the Times’ and the Post’s reporting, Trump spent most of the weekend watching cable news coverage of the shutdown and having his aides go on television to cast the blame on Democrats.

Read More →

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) on Monday said he has “consistently opposed shutdowns,” despite effectively forcing the 2013 governmental shutdown to occur over his efforts to defund Obamacare.

Shouting down reporters questions on Monday, Cruz called their inquiries about his role in the 2013 shutdown “incorrect” and told reporters they “don’t have any facts.”

I have consistently opposed shutdowns,” he said. “In 2013 I said we shouldn’t shut the government down. I went to the floor asking unanimous consent to reopen the government.”

When he was challenged by reporters who said he “stood in the way” and caused the governmental shutdown over his crusade to defund the Affordable Care Act, he said the media “love” to blame shutdowns on Republicans.

“It’s a wonderful media narrative,” he said. “Only one thing actually causes a shutdown. When you have senators who vote to deny cloture on a funding bill. And when that bill comes up, you have a vote. A yes means fund the government. A no means don’t fund the government. In 2013 virtually every single Republican voted to fund the government, including me multiple times, and virtually every — in fact, every single Democrat, I believe, in 2013, voted to shut the government down.”

He said the “same thing” was true of this shutdown and blamed Democrats for opposing a continuing resolution that the House passed Friday that would’ve funded the government for 30 days.

Cruz’s critique of the Democrats — for holding out on funding the government over issues related to CHIP and the legal status of some 700,000 undocumented immigrants — falls in line with attacks he received in 2013 from Democrats and Republicans alike.

In August 2013, he launched a campaign calling on Republicans to oppose any government funding bill that included funding for Obamacare. When it came down to the 11th-hour vote to fund the government that October, Senate Democrats rejected each of the Republican-controlled House’s bills that sought to dismantle Obamacare, prompting a 16-day shutdown. 

Read More →

White House Director of Legislative Affairs March Short said Monday that he is “optimistic” about the progress Congress and President Donald Trump are making regarding the legal status of some undocumented immigrants, despite reports that Trump’s own aides have stonewalled those negotiations.

“I’m perhaps too optimistic, but I feel like there’s been significant progress,” he said on CNN’s “New Day” Monday, discussing 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 Democrats have moved significantly toward our position of the physical barriers that we’re asking for,” he continued. “Democrats have asked us to say, look, as opposed to the 690,000 that have work permits in the DACA program, would you be willing to consider that beyond because their position is some who were either afraid to come out of the dark and to register or what not, and we said ‘yes, we’d be willing to do that.’”

Short’s comments come as lawmakers await a consistent message on DACA from the White House. On Friday, just hours before the government shut down, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) met with Trump, and the pair agreed on an asking price for a border wall in exchange for restoring protections for DACA recipients.

However, a new report from The New York Times Sunday revealed that key Trump aides, Chief of Staff John Kelly and senior policy adviser Stephen Miller, have stonewalled immigration negotiations between Trump and lawmakers.

Trump has reportedly privately told Democratic lawmakers that he wants to come up a plan to protect DACA recipients, but his plans have been overridden by Miller and Kelly. The pair have reportedly refused to budge on compromises until they include hardline policies on issues like merit-based immigration, sanctuary cities and the border wall.

The two are also reportedly behind the White House’s push for ending block chain immigration and the lottery system. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said Sunday that immigration negations would go nowhere while Miller was in charge of discussion for the White House.

Read More →

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

Read More →

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.

Read More →

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. 

Read More →

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. 

Read More →

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. 

Read More →

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:


Read More →