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 mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico asked President Trump on Tuesday to focus on the people in crisis in the U.S. territory instead of Puerto Rico’s debt.

After being criticized for obsessing over NFL protests instead of the devastation in Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma and Maria, Trump finally tweeted about the crisis Monday night, but seemingly blamed the U.S. territory’s debt and “broken infrastructure” for the widespread wreckage.

“Texas and Florida are doing great, but Puerto Rico, which was already suffering from broken infrastructure and massive debt, is in deep trouble,” he tweeted, saying the electrical grid was already in “terrible shape” and mentioning the “billions” the territory owes Wall Street.

In response, San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz asked Trump to treat hurricane relief and Puerto Rico’s debt as “two different issues.”

With all due respect, these are two different topics,” she said on CNN’s “New Day” Tuesday morning. “One topic is the massive debt, which we know we have and it’s been dealt with. But you don’t put debt above people, you put people above debt. So, what we are asking for and what — what I’m asking for, and this is my comment, nobody else’s comment — is let’s deal with the two issues in a separate way.”

She said the U.S. has a “moral imperative” to help out the islands, which she described as being in “dire need”

When somebody is in need, when somebody is in dire need, when somebody is in a life or death situation, there’s a human, moral imperative to deal with that situation first and then deal with any other situations coming your way,” she said, calling the situation a “humanitarian crisis.”

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More than 130 Georgetown University law students have been uninvited to Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ speech about free speech on campus set for Tuesday afternoon, according to a statement from the Georgetown Law American Constitution Society.

Sessions’ speech will condemn the recent rise in opposition to unrestricted free speech on college campuses and will end with a question and answer session with one of the law school professors, according to the university’s student publication, The Hoya.

“It is extraordinarily hypocritical that AG Sessions wants to lecture future attorneys about the importance of free speech on campus while excluding the wider student body from his very own ‘safe space,’” the constitution society president Daniel Blauser said in a statement. “We welcomed the debate, but sadly the school seems to want to limit attendance to help ensure a sympathetic audience.”

The event was meant to be restricted to a small group of students, but the lottery page to sign up for seats was “circulated more generally by students,” Blauser told TPM.

The uninvited students received a message from the school informing them their ticket had been revoked due to an “error.” The event was intended for members of the Center for the Constitution’s student invitation list, which includes Center fellows and those enrolled in the class of the professor who’s leading the question and answer session, according to the school email.

But Blauser said some of the students whose tickets were revoked met that criteria, but also happened to be involved in online discussions about protesting the event.

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After reportedly requesting the removal of Secret Service protection in order to have more privacy, Donald Trump Jr. is being guarded by the agency again, CNN reported Monday evening.

The Secret Service reportedly pushed back on Trump Jr.’s initial request to cut off the service, but eventually approved it. White House adviser Kellyanne Conway’s protection ended around the same time as Trump Jr.’s did.

It was not clear what prompted the move to bring back the agency’s protection, CNN reported.

The news follows a USA Today report that the agency has become overburdened by the size and lifestyle of the Trump family, which frequently travels around the globe for business and leisure.

In August, the Secret Service director said the agency couldn’t pay more than 1,000 of its agents because they had already met their salary and overtime caps for the year. 

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Calling her use of private email for official business while she was Secretary of State a “dumb mistake” but an even “dumber scandal,” former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton was smug about news that members of the President’s administration used private email accounts for public business.

After President Donald Trump repeatedly claimed throughout the 2016 campaign that Clinton should be put in jail for her private account, Politico reported Sunday that his son-in-law Jared Kushner had a private email account that he used to talk with other White House officials about government business.

Clinton told SiriusXM’s Zerlina Maxwell Monday that the news reveals the Trump campaign “knew there was no real basis for their hyperventilating.”

“It’s just the height of hypocrisy, it is something that if they were sincere about it, I’d think you’d have Republican members of Congress calling for an investigation,” she said. “I haven’t heard that yet and I don’t think we will.”

She said the investigation into her emails was “overblown, untrue and really aimed to score political points.”

“I take full reasonability for it,” she said. “Our country had to go through it, which I regret.”

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After President Donald Trump tweeted Monday night attacking Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) for his opposition to Republican senators’ last-ditch effort to repeal and replace Obamacare, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) defended his “dearest friend.”

During a CNN debate between Graham and Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA), both cosponsors of the latest bill, and single payer health care backers Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Graham said McCain has “earned the right” to vote “any way he wants.”

He said McCain wants to repeal and replace Obamacare just as much as other Republicans, but he wants to see a bipartisan solution. McCain’s opposition doesn’t mean he’s for “Bernie care,” a plan Graham said would “bankrupt the country,” be the end of health care “as we know it” and would be the “end of innovation.”

“So, Senator McCain is talking about a better process. John, if you’re listening, if we fall short, we’ll try to have a better process,” he said. “So to any American who has a problem with John McCain’s vote, all I can tell you is John McCain was willing to die for this country and he can vote anyway he wants to and it doesn’t matter to me.”

McCain announced his opposition to the measure on Friday, saying he could not vote for it “in good conscience” because of the process and the lack of effort made to find a bipartisan solution to health care.

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The White House on Monday firmly pushed back on reports that North Korea’s top diplomat thinks that President Donald Trump declared war with his tweet about Kim Jong Un this weekend.

“Not at all, we’ve not declared war on North Korea and frankly the suggestion of that is absurd,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in response to questions about the reports.

“It’s never appropriate for a country to shoot down another country’s aircraft when it’s over international waters,” she said. “Our goal is still the same. We continue to seek the peaceful denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. That’s our focus, doing that through both the most maximum economic and diplomatic pressures as possible at this point.”

After listening to North Korea Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho speak at the United Nations, Trump warned Saturday that the diplomat “won’t be around much longer” if he kept up the same rhetoric as Kim, whom Trump has taken to calling “Rocket Man.”

Ri told reporters Monday that Trump’s tweet was a “declaration of war” and that the country has “every right” to “shoot down the United States strategic bombers even they’re not yet inside the airspace border of our country,” according to the Associated Press.

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Appearing on CNN Monday shortly before the one and only hearing on Republican senator’s last-ditch effort to repeal and replace Obamacare, Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) admitted his legislation is dead if Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) doesn’t get on board.

“If you lose Susan Collins, it’s over, right?” CNN’s Wolf Blitzer asked Cassidy.

“Yes, it is,” he said. “But people in Maine, there will be a billion dollars for Mainers who are lower-income to have coverage, which they do not now have, by the way. Four billion for folks in Virginia. So it’s not just Maine.”

He also said Collins knows that a “smart governor” who knows insurance as well as she does “could do a heck of a lot to provide coverage for people in Maine,” referencing the bill’s main focus of converting Obamacare subsidies to block grants that are controlled by states.

Despite indications in the revised text of the bill that money was moved around to try to calm Collins’ and Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s (R-AK) fears about the legislation, Cassidy said he is not trying to buy her vote.

“No, absolutely not,” he said in response to Blitzer’s question. “We’re also giving four billion to Virginia. Two senators who, even though its going to be good for their state, they’re not going to vote for us, we’re giving, I don’t know, five billion to Missouri. … All this is an attempt to make sure somebody in Maine, Florida or Missouri have the same resources as someone in Pennsylvania, Ohio or New York. And why shouldn’t they?”

Cassidy’s comments come after revisions were made to the text late Sunday night in an attempt to get Republican dissenters like Sens. Rand Paul (R-KY) and Ted Cruz (R-TX), as well as Collins and Murkowski on board.

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Administrators at a Hollywood, Florida nursing home — where 11 died allegedly due to heat when it lost power after Hurricane Irma — left four voicemails with the governor’s office asking for “immediate assistance” 36 hours before the first patient died, CBS Miami reported.

But those voicemails were deleted by the governor’s staff, Gov. Rick Scott’s office confirmed Sunday.

The information from the messages was collected and distributed to the proper agencies before the voicemails were deleted, a spokesperson for Scott’s office said in a statement, according to The Washington Post

The voicemails left on the governor’s cell phone came after the rehabilitation facility made repeated calls to Florida Power and Light when it lost power after Hurricane Irma’s landfall, an nursing home official told CBS Miami.

The nursing home was evacuated three days later after five people died due to heat-related health issues, CBS Miami reported. At least six more residents died after the evacuation.

The governor’s office claimed every call was returned and someone from the state Department of Health told the nursing home staff to call 911 if anyone was in distress.

“None of this changes the fact that this facility chose not to call 911 or evacuate their patients to the hospital across the street to save lives,” a spokesperson told CBS Miami.

After the deaths were reported, Scott stripped the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills of its Medicaid and Medicare funding and suspended its license while the center is under investigation.

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President Donald Trump said that Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price’s use of private jets for official business travel is “different” than what’s been done by other members of his cabinet.

Speaking to reporters Sunday, Trump acknowledged the department’s inspector general’s probe into Price’s use of charter jets, which could have reportedly cost taxpayers at least $300,000 since May.

When asked about Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s use of a private jet to fly from New York to Washington, D.C. in August, Trump said he “didn’t think” Mnuchin did that, despite reports investigators are looking into the flight that cost taxpayers $25,000.

Why don’t you check your records before you make a statement. As I understood it – I don’t know much about it – I haven’t heard about it, but I understand he never took that flight,” he said, according to the White House pool report. “As far as Secretary Price is concerned, that’s different. We’re looking into it.”

On Monday afternoon, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders firmed up Trump’s comments, saying Price’s use of private jets “wasn’t White House approved travel” and that all use of private charters has been suspended until the probe is complete.

The HHS inspector general announced Friday it was requesting documents related to Price’s travel and his staff’s justifications for picking private charter options over commercial flights.

Politico reported last week that Price had taken at least five private charter flights to conduct official business up and down the East Coast this month. These reports prompted five Democratic congressional leaders to write Levinson, requesting an investigation into the matter.

On Thursday, Politico said the agency secretary had used private planes for travel at least 24 times since May, at the cost of at least $300,000.

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Appearing to dial back on his criticism from Friday night, in which he called any National Football League player who knelt for the national anthem a “son of a bitch” who should lose his job, President Donald Trump told reporters Sunday that his critiques have “nothing to do with race.”

We have a great country. We have great people representing our country, especially our soldiers, our first responders, and they should be treated with respect,” he said. “And when you get on your knee and you don’t respect the American flag or the anthem, that’s not being treated with respect. … No, this has nothing to do with race. I’ve never said anything about race.”

Since Sunday morning, Trump has tweeted or retweeted thoughts on the topic 10 times, claiming the NFL should “change policy” and not condone players who “do not stand proud for their national anthem or their country.” He also retweeted an image that called for a boycott of the NFL.  

On Monday morning he applauded NASCAR and its supporters for saying “loud and clear” that they won’t disrespect the flag and claiming once again that the issue has nothing to do with race.

The morning after Trump insulted the players who knelt for the anthem and called on owners to fire the protesting players at a rally in Alabama Friday night, the head of the NFL released a statement criticizing the President’s “divisive comments.”

“Divisive comments like these demonstrate an unfortunate lack of respect for the NFL, our great game and all of our players, and a failure to understand the overwhelming force for good our clubs and players represent in our communities,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said Saturday.

Despite Friday’s comments calling for the firing of players who knelt, Trump back-tracked on Sunday, saying he thinks Goodell can do what he wants.

Look, he has to take his ideas and go with what he wants. I think it’s very disrespectful to our country. I think it’s very, very disrespectful to our flag,” he told reporters.

More than 100 players sat or knelt during the national anthem on Sunday, while other players, couches and owners locked arms during the song.

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