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 merit-based immigration proposal backed by the President would be damaging to South Carolina’s two strongest industries, according to Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) who came out against the plan just hours after the President made it public.

The RAISE Act, which was announced Tuesday by the President and Sens. Tom Cotton (R-AR) and David Perdue (R-GA) would favor green card applicants who demonstrate skills, education and language ability over relations to people already here. It also seeks to cut legal immigration in half over the next decade.

Graham said that move would be “devastating” to his state’s agriculture and tourism industries, where jobs are often filled by immigrants.

“South Carolina’s number one industry is agriculture and tourism is number two.  If this proposal were to become law, it would be devastating to our state’s economy which relies on this immigrant workforce,” he said in a statement. “South Carolina’s agriculture and tourism industry advertise for American workers and want to fill open positions with American workers. Unfortunately, many of these advertised positions go unfilled. Hotels, restaurants, golf courses and farmers will tell you this proposal – to cut legal immigration in half — would put their business in peril.”

He said the measure “incentivizes” illegal immigration, which would hurt his state’s economy.

“After dealing with this issue for more than a decade, I know that when you restrict legal labor to employers it incentivizes cheating,” he said.

Other Republicans have expressed concerns about the bill as well, with Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) saying he would like to see manufacturing and agriculture be considered skills that allow admittance under this plan because “not one dairy plants” in his state can “hire enough people to work.”

Sen. John Thune (R-SD) made similar comments, telling the Washington Examiner his state has “work force needs” that often have to be filled by “immigrants labor supply.”

H/t The Post and Courier 

Read More →

After a confrontation with a Cubs fan at a Milwaukee Brewers game over the weekend, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said his response was more tame than it could have been.

“For those of you who know me, I was very restrained. I didn’t dump the nachos on him or anything, which I think was an option,” he said, during a news conference in Trenton, N.J.

Christie was recently recorded stooping down to get in the face of a Cubs fan and calling the man a “big shot.”

The fan, Brad Joseph, said the governor confronted him after he had heckled Christie, calling him a “hypocrite” and shouting “you suck.” Christie claims that was the only altercation he got into at the weekend baseball games with his son, who works for the Brewers, and said he took about “200 pictures” with fans in the stands.

“When I’m at a baseball game with my son on a Sunday afternoon, I do have a right to sit there and enjoy the game,” he said. “You get one shot to call me a name or curse me out. And I gave him that first shot to do that, but when you go at it a second time, you’re going to get a response.”

The baseball game run-in is just one of several incidents in the past month that have brought the governor negative attention.

In July he was photographed on a public beach with his family, even though the beach was closed after the government had shut down because of a stalemate between Christie and his state’s legislature.

Also last month, he auditioned for a spot on a live sports talk radio show and called a caller a “communist” for asking about the beach incident.

At a New York Mets game, he was booed by fans when he caught a foul ball.

Christie — who has a 15 percent approval rating, according to a Monmouth University Poll —  can’t seek reelection because his term limit is up in January.

Read More →

Just 33 percent of Americans approve of President Donald Trump nationwide, the lowest approval numbers that have been seen since his inauguration, according to a new Quinnipiac poll released Wednesday. Sixty-one percent of American voters disapprove of Trump, according to the poll.

White men were the most split on their opinions about the President, with 47 percent approving of Trump and 48 percent disapproving. Republicans are still standing by their party’s pick, though, with 76 percent of those who identify with the GOP saying they’re happy with Trump. A mere 2 percent of Democrats indicated approval of the President.

Even Trump’s main base of supporters — white people with no college degree — are losing faith in the President. They disapprove of his job performance 50 percent to 43 percent.

The majority of the registered voters surveyed said the President is not levelheaded — 71 to 26 percent — and 54 percent indicated they were embarrassed, not proud, that Trump is President.

“It’s hard to pick what is the most alarming number in the troubling trail of new lows for President Donald Trump,” Tim Malloy, the assistant director of Quinnipiac University Poll, said in a statement. “Profound embarrassment over his performance in office and deepening concern over his level-headedness have to raise the biggest red flags. The daily drip drip of missteps and firings and discord are generating a tidal wave of bad polling numbers.”

Sixty-two percent of those surveyed said he is not honest; 63 percent said he does not have good leadership skills; and 59 percent said he does no care about average Americans. However, 58 percent still think he is a strong person and 55 percent think he is intelligent.

Multiple intelligence agencies have confirmed that Russia interfered with the 2016 election, and 63 percent of those interviewed believe it happened, while 58 percent think the President was involved.

Sixty-nine percent of those surveyed want the President to stop tweeting from his personal account.

The poll surveyed 1,125 registered voters nationwide from July 27 to Aug. 1 via live phone interviews. The poll has a +/- 3.4 percentage point margin of error.

Read More →

President Donald Trump is considering Secretary of Energy Rick Perry as a potential replacement for former Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, whom Trump installed as White House chief of staff Monday, according to a Bloomberg report.

The White House is pondering others for the position as well, and though Perry “loves what he’s doing,” he was reportedly “honored to be mentioned,” a spokesperson for the Department of Energy told Bloomberg.

Kelly is a retired Marine Corps general who was a strong supporter of Trump’s U.S.-Mexico border wall plan and made swift moves to fortify immigration enforcement efforts in his short tenure.

As the former governor of Texas, Perry is familiar with border issues and has previously supported some type of physical barrier across the border. He has also taken a less-hardline stance on some immigration issues, like supporting legislation that would let children of undocumented immigrants pay in-state tuition for college.

Perry recently made headlines for falling for a fake interview with two Russian pranksters who posed as the prime minister of Ukraine.

While Kelly sailed through his Senate confirmation hearing with an 88-11 vote, Democrats have been disappointed by Kelly’s robust increase in deportations that have split up families, pushing some to think Senate Democrats won’t let the next secretary of homeland security slip through quite as easily.

Read More →

Amid comments about cracking down on violence and drug-linked crimes on Tuesday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said his office will also work to address police misconduct, contrasting statements President Trump made last week that encouraged police to be “rough” with alleged criminals.

Speaking to the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE) in Atlanta, Sessions said he will “hold any officer responsible for breaking the law.”

“We all know the cases of the last several years where, in confrontations with police, lives have been cut short,” he said. “Just as I am committed to defending law enforcement who use deadly force while lawfully engaged in their work, I will also hold any officer responsible (for) breaking the law.”

He said all it takes is “one bad officer” to ruin the police’s reputation in a community they have worked “day in and day out to build relationships in.”

“We cannot let mayors and city councils run down police in communities that are suffering only to see crime spike in the very neighborhood that need proactive, community policing the most,” he said, according to a transcript of his speech. “That helps no one. That protects no one.”

Sessions’ comments come after the President recently endorsed the rough treatment of suspected criminals during an anti-gang violence speech last week in Long Island. He told officers they didn’t need to be “too nice” to gang members they arrest and even suggested it was OK to let suspects hit their head on squad cars.

Several police groups have spoken out against the President’s remarks, including NOBLE, which reportedly told Sessions they were concerned that Trump’s words would cause more divisions between police and minorities.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders has since dismissed criticism of the President’s comments, and said the remarks were just a “joke.”

“I think the President supports our law enforcement, and he supports the protection of the citizens of this country, and he wants to empower our law enforcement to be able to do their job,” Sanders told reporters Tuesday.

Read More →

In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, President Donald Trump said the Boy Scouts called him after his highly criticized speech at the National Jamboree and told him it was “the greatest speech that was ever made to them.”

But the Boy Scouts told Time that officials are unaware of that phone call.

“The Chief Scout Executive’s message to the Scouting community speaks for itself,” the organization told Time, referring to a statement a top Boy Scouts executive made last week after backlash against Trump’s speech, which critics equated to a campaign rally.

Chief Scout Executive Michael Surbaugh apologized for the “political rhetoric that was inserted into the jamboree.”

During The Wall Street Journal interview, the President claimed the Scouts called him after the speech thanking him for his address. He said the crowd “loved” his speech and there was a “standing ovation” from the time he walked on the stage to the time he left, according to the interview transcript which Politico obtained and released Tuesday.

“And for five minutes after I had already gone. There was no mix,” Trump said, responding to the reporter’s assertions that there were mixed reactions to his speech. He also claimed it was the “biggest crowd they’ve ever had” at a National Jamboree.

Read More →

After the President announced in a tweet that transgender individuals would not be allowed to serve in the military in “any capacity,” the head of the Coast Guard reached out to all 13 openly transgender Coast Guard personnel and said he would “not break faith” with them.

Commandant Paul Zukunft made these remarks at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies on Tuesday, CNN reported, describing his call to Lt. Taylor Miller, who is the first openly transitioning member of the Coast Guard.

“I told Taylor I will not turn my back. We have made an investment in you and you have made an investment in the Coast Guard,” Zukunft said. “And I will not break faith.”

Last week, President Donald Trump made a haphazard Twitter announcement about the policy change, saying he had consulted with “generals and military experts” about the matter and thinks the military “cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail.”

A Pentagon-commissioned report from 2016 found that there are about 2,450 transgender people serving currently and that it would cost about $2.9 to $4.2 million a year to fund hormone therapy and surgeries. The Department of Defense is currently studying the impact transgender individuals’ medical obligations could have on military readiness.

The President’s announcement on the policy change took the Pentagon and members of the administration by surprise, with the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff saying there would be “no modifications” to the current policy until Trump provides guidance to the Department of Defense.   

If his tweets are followed up with any type of formal policy, the move would reverse an Obama-era policy that allowed transgender individuals to serve openly and blocked a person from being discharged from the military solely because they are a transgender, according to policy on the Department of Defense’s website.

Read More →

Cameron Joseph contributed reporting.

The top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee says news that broke late Monday about President Donald Trump helping his son craft a statement about a meeting with a Russian lawyer and allegations that the White House worked with Fox News to push out a since-retracted Seth Rich murder conspiracy story prove why his committee’s investigation is necessary. 

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) said the stories are evidence of a “pattern” that the White House is trying to “undercut the evidence about Russian intervention in our election.” 

“I’ve seen all this and, again, it seems for an individual that keeps saying ‘there’s no there there,’ they’re sure not acting that way,” he said. “When you see Donald Trump Jr., a lot of questions will be asked about why the President himself personally intervened, why was he trying to deliberately sign off on something he must have known was false? And the questions around the allegation on Air Force One, basically putting out something, urging his son to put out a statement that was deliberately— hid all the facts.” 

He said his committee will likely question Trump Jr. about why the initial statement made it sound like the meeting was about adoptions when the “subject was trying to offer bad information about Hillary Clinton.”

“This is a pattern we continue to see and why both our investigation and Mueller’s investigation continues to be so important,” referencing special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russia meddling in the election. 

Warner wouldn’t say if or when Trump Jr. will testify before the Senate committee.

“The judiciary has its approach, our role is we have a counterterrorism investigation that is ongoing. It’s going to be thorough, complete and I still hope we will reach a bipartisan conclusion,” he said. 

Read More →

Responding to tweets from first daughter Ivanka Trump about “working alongside” newly sworn-in Chief of Staff John Kelly, Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY) said he doesn’t think Ivanka Trump should have to work through Kelly to access her father.

“If anyone who is working in the White House, other than the President of the United States, ideally would be reporting to the chief of staff,” Zeldin said, appearing on MSNBC Tuesday. “The chief of staff would be reporting to the President of the United States. I would imagine there are a few different people, obviously Ivanka included, who are going to continue to have conversations and access to the President. That can still work. It’s just really important to have good communication with the chief of staff, because you don’t want things going in two different directions.”

He went on to praise Ivanka Trump, saying he is “super impressed” with her “intellect and class” and the work she’s done to try to get paid family leave included in budget discussions in Congress.

He said he likes having the first daughter and her husband Jared Kushner in the White House, despite the turmoil Kushner has caused by failing to disclose meetings he’s held with foreign officials. Kushner attended a June 2016 meeting with Donald Trump Jr., then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort and a Kremlin-linked lawyer amid promises of damaging information about Hillary Clinton as part of a Russian government effort to aid the Trump campaign.

Zeldin said he thinks Ivanka Trump could “in her own right” be a “great United States senator if she wanted to be.”

When pressed about what qualifies her for elected office, he said she is “super smart and highly capable” and cited her experience in business and “ability to understand our tax code” as rationale.

When asked about the fact that none of Ivanka Trump’s products are made in the U.S., he said she’s also a “great mom” and “a great wife.”

“She has great education. She has great ideas on important issues that help families, but I would say for anyone who is running for office, the President proved this, there is no one size fits all cookie-cutter way to become President of the United States.”

Read More →

Following a particularly chaotic week at the White House — which resulted in high-profile resignations, from the President’s chief of staff to his press secretary to his newly hired director of communications — President Donald Trump is still taking to Twitter to bash the media.

On Tuesday morning he called out the “Fake News media” and “Trump enemies” again and said social media was the only way he could “get the truth out!”

On Monday, just hours before it was announced that newly minted White House Director of Communications Anthony Scaramucci had been pushed out of his new job, Trump patted himself on the back, tweeting about the stock market, low unemployment and border security, saying there was “No WH chaos!”

One of the first moves new White House Chief of Staff John Kelly reportedly made when he took over was to push Scaramucci out for his “inappropriate” comments in a profanity laced interview he gave The New Yorker, in which Scarmucci insulted both then-chief of Staff Reince Priebus and chief strategist Steve Bannon.

Read More →