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

Former Attorney General Loretta Lynch will voluntarily meet with congressional investigators next week as part of the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election, CNN reported Thursday.

Lynch will speak with the House and Senate Intelligence Committees, sources told CNN. It’s possible Lynch will also speak to the Senate Judiciary Committee, according to the report.

Lynch is one of several former Obama officials who have been called to Congress for questioning as the committees look into Russian interference in the election.

Lynch will likely be asked about her private meeting with former President Bill Clinton on an airport tarmac while her office was investigating former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s use of private email. As a candidate, Donald Trump hammered Clinton over her use of a private email server.

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After President Donald Trump continued his tirade against Puerto Rico Thursday morning, the mayor of San Juan shot back and said Trump’s comments sound like they were coming from “a ‘Hater in Chief,’” not the President.

On Thursday morning Trump again criticized the U.S. territory’s debt and infrastructure issues. He tweeted that FEMA, the military and first responders couldn’t continue helping out Puerto Rico “forever!”

San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz — who hasn’t been shy about calling out the President for the federal response to the devastation in Puerto Rico, which she thinks has been inadequate — pushed back.

She called his comments “unbecoming” of a commander-in-chief and said they seem “more to come from a ‘Hater in Chief.’”

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President Donald Trump continued his relentless criticism of Puerto Rico Thursday morning, suggesting the U.S. couldn’t aid in recovery and relief efforts in the U.S. territory “forever!”

Quoting former CBS News reporter Sheryl Attkisson and Puerto Rico’s governor in a tweet, Trump said the territory’s “electric and infrastructure was disaster before hurricanes” and passed the buck to Congress to “decide how much to spend.”

He then went on to propose that the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the military and first responders — who he said “have been amazing (under the most difficult circumstances)” — cannot stay in the U.S. territory “forever!”

The tweets Thursday morning are just the latest attacks the President has launched on the U.S. territory, which was devastated by two hurricanes last month.

Trump has been complaining about Puerto Rico’s debt and infrastructure issues since the hurricanes made landfall and has claimed the mayor of San Juan has poor leadership skills. The President was likely irked by San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz for repeatedly appearing on cable news to ask for more help for Puerto Rico.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) pushed back shortly after Trump tweeted, asking the President why he “continue(s) to treat Puerto Ricans differently than other Americans” and saying FEMA needs to stay in the U.S. territory “until the job is done.”

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A Republican senator is questioning whether President Donald Trump is committed to defending the Constitution after the President suggested that news outlets’ broadcasting licenses should be “challenged.”

Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) tweeted a statement late Wednesday asking whether Trump was “recanting his oath” of office.

“Mr. President: Words spoken by the President of the United States matter. Are you tonight recanting of the oath you took on January 20th to preserve, protect and defend the First Amendment?”

The President’s tweets are apparently in response to reports from NBC that Trump’s Secretary of State Rex Tillerson wanted to resign from his post this summer and called Trump a “moron.”

Both have denied that the reports are true.

While attacking the media isn’t new for Trump, his latest threat of using the power of the federal government to go after media companies represents a dramatic escalation in his ongoing war against the press.

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President Donald Trump is maintaining that he and his secretary of state have “a very good relationship,” despite reports that Rex Tillerson wanted to resign this summer and called Trump a “moron” when the President said he wanted to expand the U.S. nuclear arsenal.

“We had a very good lunch. We have a very good relationship. The press doesn’t really understand that, but that’s OK. We have a very good relationship,” Trump said, speaking to reporters during an appearance with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau Wednesday.

Trump then answered questions about his heated rhetoric toward North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, saying he thinks he might have a “little bit different attitude on North Korea than other people,” likely referencing Tillerson’s continuous push for a diplomatic resolution to the escalating tensions with North Korea.

“I listen to everybody. But ultimately my attitude is the one that matters, isn’t it? That’s the way it works. That’s the way the system is. But I think I might have a somewhat different attitude and different way than other people,” he said. “I think perhaps I feel stronger and tougher on that subject than other people. But I listen to everybody. And ultimately I’ll do what’s right for the United States. And, really, what’s right for the world. Because that’s really a world problem.”

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NBC News did not run the Harvey Weinstein story that one of its contributors was chasing because executives “didn’t feel that we had all the elements that we needed to air it,” NBC President Noah Oppenheim said during a company town hall Wednesday.

Entertainment industry magazine The Hollywood Reporter first surfaced Oppenheim’s remarks.

On Tuesday, The New Yorker published a bombshell report about Weinstein’s decades-long history of sexual harassment and assault, written by NBC contributor Ronan Farrow.

The comments from the network president Wednesday follow criticism NBC has received for not publishing the report, which was originally slated to publish in February just before the Oscars, sources told The Hollywood Reporter. Farrow continued working on the piece into the summer, the sources said.

Oppenheim confirmed that Farrow originally started working on the story for NBC.

“We are proud of that. We launched him on that story, we encouraged him to report that story. We supported him and gave him resources to report that story over many, many months,” he said, according to Hollywood Reporter.

Executives reached a point this past summer when they decided Farrow didn’t have all the pieces he needed in order for NBC to air it, he said. Farrow took it the The New Yorker at that point, Oppenheim said, and “greatly expanded the scope of his reporting.”

“Suffice to say, the stunning story, the incredible story that we all read yesterday was not the story that we were looking at when we made our judgment several months ago,” he said. “But we couldn’t be prouder of him and I think all of you need to know about our feeling about the importance of the story is that we have been putting him on our air throughout the day yesterday and this morning, ever since.”

He said NBC will continue to “keep digging” on the Weinstein story and others like it.

We are not always going to be the ones that get it to the finish line, but I think more often than not, we will be. And I think we should all be proud of being an organization that is at least in the hunt on these things. So, thank you,” he said.

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After suggesting last week that American media outlets should be investigated by Congress, President Donald Trump on Wednesday appeared to threaten NBC’s broadcast license over the network’s reporting on tensions between the President and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

As a businessman and candidate, Trump frequently threatened to sue news organizations over unflattering coverage. But his latest threat of using the power of the federal government to go after media companies represents a dramatic escalation in his ongoing war against the press.

An NBC News report about Trump asking for more nuclear weapons — which reportedly is what pushed Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to call Trump a “moron” this summer — instigated Trump’s most recent Twitter attacks on the media.

He called the report “pure fiction” that was “made up to demean.”

He then raised the question of challenging news networks’ licenses saying the “fake news” is “bad for our country!”

The remarks are apparently referencing the Federal Communications Commissions’ (FCC) licensing policies, which allow companies like NBC and CNN to use public airwaves to broadcast their programs.

The FCC does not license the TV or radio networks, but rather individual broadcast stations, according to its online policy manual. It also is not responsible for the material that is put on the air.

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The inspector general for the Department of the Treasury is taking a second look at Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s travel records after the agency learned the department didn’t provide accurate information about Mnuchin’s trip to Trump Tower in New York in August, CNN Money reported Tuesday evening.

“The OIG has asked for follow-up information to assure that we have in fact received all relevant records,” Inspector General Rich Delmar told CNN.

The Treasury Department initially gave the IG documents that said Mnuchin had taken a military jet to a New Jersey airport with Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and budget director Mick Mulvaney, but a Treasury spokesperson told CNN that Mnuchin had taken a commercial flight to New York on Aug. 15.

The inspector general’s office said it didn’t know that he had flown commercial that day until CNN Money contacted them. The trip reportedly cost taxpayers $15,000.

A Treasury spokesperson clarified that Mnuchin took a commercial flight to New York and a military jet back to Washington “as he needed to access secure communications.”

That information was a “surprise” to Delmar, according to CNN, and prompted the re-launch of the probe.

Mnuchin is one of several cabinet members being investigated for their use of charter travel for official business.

Former Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price resigned last month after it was revealed that his penchant for private and military flights cost taxpayers north of $1 million.

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Vowing to not remove any monuments from federal lands, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke defended the Trump administration’s stance about not taking down Confederate statues and said it would upset “native Indians.”

“Where do you start and where do you stop? … If you’re a native Indian, I can tell you, you’re not very happy about the history of General Sherman or perhaps President Grant,” Zinke said during an interview with Breitbart Sunday, referencing the Union generals’ monuments around the U.S. despite their roles in creating federal policy that caused great harm to native Americans.

While Zinke has maintained this opinion about Confederate monuments since at least July, tensions over memorials for Confederate soldiers has risen significantly since August when a counter protester was killed at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. The white supremacists gathered to protest the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee in the city.

Zinke said removing the statues will inhibit the U.S. from being able to “learn” from history.

“I think we should never hide from our history or erase our history. I think we should embrace the history and understand the faults and learn from it. But when you try to erase history, what happens is you also erase how it happened and why it happened and the ability to learn from it,” Zinke said.

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Twitter reversed its decision to block Rep. Marsha Blackburn’s (R-TN) campaign video from being promoted on the social media outlet Tuesday, saying there is “room to refine our policies” around this issue, according to Politico.

On Monday Twitter told Blackburn’s Senate campaign that a line in the announcement video, which bashed Planned Parenthood saying Blackburn stopped them from selling “baby body parts,” was inflammatory and against its rules for promoting advertisements. Blackburn was still able to share the video on Twitter, it just wasn’t allowed to be promoted.

Blackburn used Twitter’s decision as a platform to rally her base and to criticize the “Silicon Valley elites” for trying to “impose their values.”

A Twitter spokesperson told Politico Tuesday that it had reversed its decision.

Twitter’s full statement:

“Our ads policies strive to balance protecting our users from potentially distressing content while allowing our advertisers to communicate their messages. Nowhere is this more difficult than in the realm of political advertising and the highly charged issues that are often addressed therein. After further review, we have made the decision to allow the content in question from Rep. Blackburn’s campaign ad to be promoted on our ads platform.

“While we initially determined that a small portion of the video used potentially inflammatory language, after reconsidering the ad in the context of the entire message, we believe that there is room to refine our policies around these issues.”

The cryptic line in her campaign announcement is likely referring to Blackburn’s work leading a House investigation into Planned Parenthood after a video surfaced in 2015 that appeared to show the group profiting from the sale of fetal tissue, which has been illegal since 1993.

Abortion providers can be paid for shipping and handling the material, New York magazine reported. 

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