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 maintained his frustrated rhetoric about the investigation into Russian meddling in the U.S. election, he changed course as it relates to special counsel Robert Mueller, saying he has “no” intention of firing the investigator.

During a press conference in the Rose Garden Monday, Trump echoed his usual talking points on the Russia probe. He “would like to see it end” and labeled the investigations into Russian meddling in the election and potential collusion between the Russians and Trump’s campaign “an excuse for Democrats.”

“That was just an excuse for the Democrats, losing an election that frankly, they have a big advantage in the electoral college. They should always be able to win in the electoral college,” he said. “There was absolutely no collusion. It’s been stated there was no collusion. They ought to get to the end of it because I think the American public is sick of it.”

When asked whether he intends to fire special counsel Mueller, he said “no, not at all.”

The comments are a break from remarks Trump has reportedly made in private in recent months, raging against Mueller and questioning whether he could fire him.

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Despite reports that President Donald Trump physically mocked Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) last month, Trump said on Monday that their relationship is “closer than ever before.”

After a lunch meeting, Trump and McConnell held an impromptu press conference in the Rose Garden, where the two leaders swatted away reports that their relationship has becoming frosty in recent months.

We have been friends for a long time and probably now, despite what we read, we are probably now, I think, as least as far as I’m concerned closer than ever before. The relationship is very good. We are fighting for the same thing,” Trump said.

McConnell concurred, saying he and the President “have the same agenda” and have been “friends and acquaintances for a long time.”

“We talk frequently, we don’t give you a readout every time we have a conversation, but frequently we talk on the weekends about the issues that are before us,” McConnell said.

Trump has been vocal about his frustrations with McConnell both publicly on Twitter and in private. Last month, Trump, in private, reportedly physically mocked McConnell’s posture and the way he reacted to Trump striking a deal with Democrats on the debt ceiling.

McConnell has dealt back similar critiques and even suggested that Trump doesn’t understand the complexities of the democratic process.

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Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), a staunch conservative, endorsed Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore on Monday, saying that Moore’s “reputation of integrity” is needed in Congress.

If there was ever a time to ensure that Republicans maintain a seat in the United States Senate, it is now, ” Lee said in a statement released by the Moore campaign. “That is why I am proudly endorsing Judge Roy Moore for United States Senate. Alabamians have the chance to send a proven, conservative fighter to the United States Senate and I am more than ready to welcome a trusted ally. Judge Moore’s tested reputation of integrity is exactly what we need in Washington D.C. in order to pass conservative legislation and protect the liberty of all Americans.”

Many Republican senators have been cautious about throwing their weight behind Moore, the candidate who beat out the incumbent, President Donald Trump-backed Sen. Luther Strange (R-AL) in a runoff primary election last month.

Moore is a contentious conservative with a religious right cult following. He was twice removed from his post on Alabama’s Supreme Court for refusing to remove a monument of the Ten Commandments from the courthouse and for instructing probate judges to not sign off on same-sex marriage licenses after marriage equality became federal law in 2015.

Lee is among a few senators to endorse Moore, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) — who previously backed Strange, but endorsed Moore after his primary win — and Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO). Reps. Mo Brooks (R-AL), Mark Meadows (R-NC), Jim Jordan (R-OH), Thomas Massie (R-WV) and Jody Hice (R-GA) have formally backed him, according to Moore’s campaign.

He’s also earned the support of big-name conservatives like Fox News’ Sean Hannity, Breitbart’s Steve Bannon and former Govs. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas and Sarah Palin of Alaska.

While Trump campaigned for Strange leading up to the primary runoff election, he tweeted congratulating Moore after his victory and deleted some of his tweets backing Strange.

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President Donald Trump is making early moves to place the blame on Democrats if Congress is unable to pass the President’s favored tax cut plan.

After apparently watching a Fox Business Network interview Monday morning with former President Ronald Reagan Economic Adviser Art Laffer, Trump paraphrased some of Laffer’s comments on Twitter, saying Laffer “doesn’t know how a Democrat could vote against the big tax cut/reform bill and live with themselves!”

He then called out Democrats for what he called their penchant for tax increases, saying “all they are good at” is tax increases and obstruction.

During his interview on Fox Business, Laffer did say he is “hoping the Democrats vote” for Trump’s tax proposal because “they should vote with it, they believe in it, they want it.” Laffer didn’t necessarily say he didn’t think Democrats could live with themselves if they voted down the proposal, but rather said he didn’t know how a Democrat could “vote against this bill and hold his face up high to the electorate.” 

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Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) said it is “naive to suggest” that sexual harassment “doesn’t happen” in the halls of Congress.

Appearing on MSNBC’s “Kasie DC” show Sunday evening, Ryan said a culture of sexual harassment is likely prevalent in “any institution, wherever you look in society” and said the best way to combat it is to “expose” it.

“It would be naive to suggest that doesn’t happen and I do believe that exposing these things can help improve the culture,” he said.

Ryan’s comments come after disgraced Hollywood movie mogul Harvey Weinstein was fired from his own film studio and expelled from Hollywood’s Motion Picture Academy, which hands out the Oscars, as at least 30 women have come out and accused Weinstein of sexual harassment and assault in the past week.

While Ryan admits he’s “not a big Hollywood gossiper” and  “didn’t know” who Weinstein was until the reports surfaced last weekend, he called Weinstein’s behavior “horrendous” and said “no woman should ever fear they have to put up with this kind of stuff.”

“Obviously he needs to be held to account,” he said. “I think in any institution, wherever you look in society, you’re going to have these kinds of problems. The more you expose it and the more we can castigate people in society on these things to show that this is not acceptable behavior, I think that’s to the good.”

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A a solid majority of the public — 71 percent — wants to see President Donald Trump make Obamacare work instead of dismantling the law, according to a recent poll conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

While the poll was conducted before the White House announced that Trump would end crucial subsidies for insurers under Obamacare, 60 percent of respondents said they want to keep the payments in tact. The payments help low-income people afford insurance coverage. On Thursday, Trump signed an executive order to make it easier for people to purchase more stripped down insurance plans.

Thirty percent considered the subsidies — called cost-sharing reduction (CSR) — a bailout to insurance companies and said the program should end.

Democrats (93 percent) and Independents (74 percent) were far more supportive of the idea than Republicans. About half of the Republicans surveyed — 48 percent — said they’d like to see the Trump administration make the current health care law work. Four in 10 Republicans said Trump should make the law fail, according to the poll.

About 66 percent said they thought it was more important to craft legislation to stabilize the Affordable Care Act than it was to continue trying to repeal and replace the law. Exactly 30 percent of those surveyed thought repeal and replacement efforts were more important.

The foundation fielded a random sample of 1,215 U.S. adults from Oct. 5-10, using landlines and cell phones. The margin of error is +/- 3 percentage points.

Read the full poll report here.

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Just 24 hours after saying the federal government couldn’t “stay in Puerto Rico forever,” President Donald Trump switched gears Friday morning.

Complimenting the “wonderful people of Puerto Rico,” Trump vowed on Twitter to “always be with them!”

A short time later, during his speech at the Values Voter Summit Friday, he touched on the topic again, saying its “not even a question of a choice” when it comes to helping out Puerto Rico.

“These are people that are incredible people, they suffered gravely and we’ll be there, we’re going to be there. We have really— it’s not even a question of a choice,” he said. “We don’t even want a choice, we’re going to be there as Americans and we love those people and what they’re going through and they’re healing, and their states and territories are healing and healing rapidly.”

(He also incorrectly stated he met with the “President of the Virgin Islands.” He’s the President of the Virgin Islands, a U.S. territory).

Friday’s tone was much different than the rhetoric Trump has taken on Puerto Rico the past few weeks. In his series of tweets on Thursday, he seemed to suggest that Puerto Rico’s debt and previous infrastructure issues have made the hurricane devastation worse.

The mayor of San Juan — who hasn’t been afraid of criticizing Trump for the federal response to recovery in Puerto Rico — called Trump a “hater in chief” for his remarks on Thursday.

Watch his comments at the Value Voters Summit below:

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An Indiana state lawmaker wants to see journalists obtain licenses with state police the same way handgun owners are required to do in the state, the Indy Star reported.

Rep. Jim Lucas (R-IN) wrote the bill earlier this year and said he may file it soon to make a statement about gun rights.

If you’re OK licensing my Second Amendment right, what’s wrong with licensing your First Amendment right?” he told the Indy Star.

Lucas’ frustration with the media stems from local coverage of his efforts to repeal a state law that requires handgun owners to have a permit in order to carry it. He said if he was as “irresponsible” with his guns “as the media has been with their keyboard, I’d probably be in jail.”

His draft bill would require journalists to submit an application with state police, get finger-printed and pay a $75 fee for a license. Any person with a felony or domestic battery conviction wouldn’t be allowed to get a license, according to the draft bill obtained by the Indy Star. 

The proposal reads almost the exact same as the Indiana state law that requires a permit for handguns, according to the Indy Star.

The draft bill may be more of a stunt than a serious piece of legislation state, as Lucas told the Indy Star that his plan for filing it “depends on you guys.”

“It depends on how egregious and irresponsible you are between now and then,” he said. 

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Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) lost at least one supporter because of his tweet calling out the President for “recanting” his oath of office on Twitter Wednesday: Sean Hannity.

Retweeting Sasse’s message to the President — in which Sasse criticized President Donald Trump for attacking the freedom of the press — Fox News host Sean Hannity said supporting Sasse was “one of the biggest mistakes in my career” and called him “useless.”

Sasse shot back, saying Hannity “changed, not me” and that “some of us still believe in the Constitution.”

Hannity, a vocal supporter of Trump, responded with a series of tweets, saying he’d “never support censoring anybody!!” and calling Sasse a “#Loser” for not repealing Obamacare.

Sasse’s initial statement comes after Trump suggested that “Fake News” outlets should have their broadcasting licenses “challenged” or even “revoked.”

Trump’s irritation has been aimed at NBC News this week, after it published exclusive stories about Secretary of State Rex Tillerson wanting to resign this summer and calling Trump a “moron.”

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