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

After suggesting that the Senate should nuke its rules in order to get an Obamacare repeal bill passed, President Donald Trump signaled that he isn’t too worried about the effort to dismantle his predecessor’s signature legislative achievement.

“It’s going to be fine,” Trump said told reporters as he stepped off Air Force One for an event in Long Island, New York Friday afternoon.

During a speech that was supposed to be centered on the administration’s efforts to wipe out the MS-13 gang, Trump couldn’t help but attack Congress for its failure to repeal Obamacare, and he patted himself on the back for being “right” about the law.

“They should have approved health care last night, but you can’t have everything. Boy, oh boy. They’ve been working on that one for seven years. Can you believe that?” he said. “The swamp. But, we’ll get it done. We’re going to get it done. You know, I said from the beginning, ‘let Obamacare implode and then do it.’ I turned out to be right. Let Obamacare implode.”

The President has gone back and forth on how to deal with Obamacare in the past several months, from urging Congress to come up with a replacement plan that wasn’t so “mean,” to telling senators they should just repeal Obamacare and replace it later, to tweets last night in which he said it’s better to just “let Obamacare implode, then deal.”

The repeal bill failed Friday after Republican Sens. John McCain (R-AZ), Lisa Murkowski (R- AK) and Susan Collins (R-ME) joined with the Democrats to block the plan that only required a simple majority in order to pass.

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After delivering the decisive vote that effectively killed the skinny Obamacare repeal bill in the Senate early Friday morning, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) asked his colleagues on “both sides of the aisle” to work together and “stop the political gamesmanship.”

“The vote last night presents the Senate with an opportunity to start fresh. It is now time to return to regular order with input from all of our members – Republicans and Democrats – and bring a bill to the floor of the Senate for amendment and debate,” he said in a written statement later on Friday, adding he has “great faith” in the two chairs of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee will work together to come up with a bipartisan bill.

Here’s the full statement, released Friday around noon:

“The United States Senate has a rich history of comity, trust and bipartisanship. Sadly, those essential qualities have been absent in recent years and we have seen the world’s greatest deliberative body succumb to partisan rancor and gridlock. Our inability to address the pressing health care needs of the American people with meaningful and lasting reform is inexcusable. 

The vote last night presents the Senate with an opportunity to start fresh. It is now time to return to regular order with input from all of our members – Republicans and Democrats – and bring a bill to the floor of the Senate for amendment and debate. I have great faith in the ability of the Senator from Tennessee, Lamar Alexander, the Senator from Washington, Patty Murray, and others to work together in a bipartisan fashion to craft a bill that increases competition, lowers costs, and improves care for the American people. I encourage my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to trust each other, stop the political gamesmanship, and put the health care needs of the American people first. We can do this.”

The bill failed early Friday when McCain joined early opposers Lisa Murkowski (R- AK) and Susan Collins (R-ME) to team up with the Democrats to block the bill. McCain, who was just diagnosed with brain cancer, flew back to the Senate earlier this week to vote in favor of a motion to proceed.

McCain said he finally decided to vote against the measure because it offered no replacement “to actually reform our health care system” and he didn’t want to make the same mistake as Democrats did with Obamacare by ramming a bill through Congress without bipartisan support, according to an early morning statement.

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Following the defeat of the GOP’s “skinny” Obamacare repeal bill in the Senate early Friday morning, the hosts of the President’s favorite show, “Fox and Friends,” took a page from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell: blame the Democrats.

They played a clip of Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s (D-NY) comments after Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) cast his “no” vote, effectively tanking the bill. Schumer said Democrats “are not celebrating,” but rather “relieved that millions and millions of people who would have been so drastically hurt by the three proposals put forward will at least retain their health care.”

Host Brian Kilmeade criticized Schumer’s comments, calling Obamacare an “out of control blob that cannot be retained and needs to be restructured.”

“Do you believe Democrats can fix it?” host Ainsley Earhardt said.

“Not alone, I will tell you that,” Kilmeade said.

Then they pulled up clips of Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Schumer taking a photo after the vote, and both Warren and Schumer meeting with protesters outside and taking photos with the crowd.

The hosts weren’t happy.

“So you heard Chuck Schumer say we are not celebrating, yet you see some of the images out of Capitol Hill last night in the middle of the night, people were taking selfies. There were a lot of happy faces,” host Steve Doocy said.

Kilmeade went on to say he’s amused by the young people who were outside “celebrating” and taking pictures with Warren after she spoke to the crowd in the middle of the night, congratulating protesters for being required to have insurance, as if it were something they might not want.

“Congratulations, you now will pay a fine or you will have to have insurance. Congratulations healthy people are paying for sick people,” he said.

“Congratulations because now people who need health care can’t afford it because these premiums are astronomical,” Earhardt said.

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After Republican senators failed to pass a skinny Obamacare repeal bill early Friday morning, one GOP congressman is calling on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to step down.

During an interview with CNN on Friday, Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) said the news that three Republicans — Sens. John McCain (R-AZ), Lisa Murkowski (R- AK) and Susan Collins (R-ME) — tanked a bill that only needed a simple majority to pass was an “abject failure of the United States Senate” and questioned whether top leadership needed a shakeup.

“It was a failure from the newest member Luther Strange (R-AL) at the bottom to the very top with Mitch McConnell as majority leader,” he said, urging senators to stay in D.C. until “the job gets done.”

“Now is not the time to leave the American people in a lurch. Now is not the time to leave American health care at risk,” he said. “I hope they won’t quit. If they’re going to quit, by golly, maybe they ought to start at the top with Mitch McConnell leaving his position and letting somebody new, somebody bold, somebody conservative take the reins so they can come up with a plan that can get through the United States Senate.”

He clarified his statements, saying it was not “necessarily anything bad about Mitch McConnell himself personally,” but said he has a job to do.

“And if he can’t do it, as ‘The Apprentice’ would say, ‘you’re fired.’ Get somebody who can,” he said.

McCain, who was recently diagnosed with brain cancer and returned to the Senate this week to vote on a motion to proceed on Obamacare repeal, delivered the decisive blow after Collins and Murkowski had already cast votes against the plan. He issued a statement afterward saying he couldn’t just pass the Senate’s plan without some type of replacement legislation.

Speaking after McCain cast his “no” vote, McConnell called the bill’s failure a “clearly disappointing moment” for the GOP.

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A seemingly stunned Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wasn’t shy about the “clearly disappointing moment” his party had just endured and openly blamed Democrats for not engaging “in a serious way” to help the American people, after Republicans failed to pass a skinny Obamacare repeal bill early Friday morning.

“I imagine many of our colleagues on the other side are celebrating, probably pretty happy about this,” McConnell said from the Senate floor after the plan was blocked by three Republicans. He said he felt “regret” and “disappointment” that his party couldn’t drum up a simple majority to pass the minimalistic repeal bill.

“This is a disappointment, a disappointment indeed,” he said. “Our constituents have suffered through an awful lot under Obamacare, we thought they deserved better, which is why I, and many of my colleagues, did as we promised, voted to repeal this failed law.”

The skinny repeal ultimately failed early Friday when Republican Sens. John McCain (R-AZ), Lisa Murkowski (R- AK) and Susan Collins (R-ME) joined with the Democrats to block the bill. McCain, who was just diagnosed with brain cancer, flew back to the Senate earlier this week to vote in favor of a motion to proceed.

He finally decided to vote against the measure because it offered no replacement “to actually reform our health care system” and he didn’t want to make the same mistake as Democrats did with Obamacare by ramming a bill through Congress without bipartisan support, he said in a statement.

McConnell thanked “everybody in the conference” who spent “endless” hours trying to come to a consensus and his “friends” in the House. He also praised the President and the Vice President for their engagement in the process.

McConnell spent most of his time at the podium blaming Democrats for the bill’s failure and said he is interested to see what they suggest.

“I suspect they are pretty satisfied tonight. I regret to say they succeeded in that effort. Now, I think it’s appropriate to ask, what are their ideas?,” he said. “It’s time for our friends on the other side to tell us what they have in mind and we’ll see how the American people feel about their ideas.”

Watch McConnell’s remarks below:

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Instead of apologizing, newly minted White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci is blaming the reporter who published his shocking, profanity-laced rant, where he attacked White House chief of staff Reince Priebus and chief White House strategist Steve Bannon.

Just four hours after New Yorker reporter Ryan Lizza published the contents of his conversation with Scaramucci — who called up Lizza out of the blue demanding the reporter reveal who leaked him information about a recent White House dinner and profanely unloading about his frustration with leakers — he tweeted that he “made a mistake trusting a reporter” and said it “won’t happen again.”

According to Lizza’s report, Scaramucci never indicated he wanted the Wednesday conversation off the record or on background as he proceeded to call White House Priebus a “fucking paranoid schizophrenic,” threatened to fire “everyone in the comms team” and said he wanted to “fucking kill all the leakers.”

He claimed that Priebus would be asked to resign “shortly” and said Bannon was trying to create an identity for himself “off the fucking strength of the President.”

He also accused Bannon of some particularly obscene behavior: “I’m not Steve Bannon, I’m not trying to suck my own cock.”

Shortly after the story published, Scaramucci took to Twitter to explain that he “sometimes” uses “colorful language” and said he would refrain from it in the future.

Lizza has since confirmed to reporters that he recorded the conversation and tweeted early Friday morning that sometimes things happen “the same as the movies.”

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The hosts of “Fox and Friends” opened up their show Thursday morning by touting a full page advertisement Fox News purchased in the New York Times, following a recent feud between the two news organizations.

The full page ad featured a photo of the show’s three hosts with the quote “…the most powerful TV show in America” across the top, credited to The New York Times.

The quote references a recent piece by Times TV critic James Poniewozik, who said the show was powerful not only because the President watches it, but also because the hosts treat President Donald Trump as a fourth virtual host by allowing him to interact via Twitter with everything they discuss.

Like clockwork, Trump tweeted about the advertisement 40 minutes later, expressing shock over the Times quote.

The advertisement follows a recent feud between the competing news outlets, in which a New York Times spokesperson demanded an apology and retraction after Fox reported — online and on “Fox and Friends” —that a 2015 Times piece fumbled plans for the U.S. to capture an ISIS leader.

The Fox story was based on comments Gen. Tony Thomas, who leads the U.S. special operations command, made at the Apsen Security Forum. Thomas told Fox that the U.S. was close to capturing ISIS leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi until a lead about the capture was published in a “prominent national newspaper,” which caused the lead to go dead. 

The President also tweeted about the topic after the “Fox and Friends” segment.

A Times spokesperson reached out to the network asking for an apology and a retraction, calling the segment “malicious and inaccurate” and clarifying that the Times story was based on a statement from the Pentagon, which would have been what made Baghdadi aware of the capture, not the Times article.

The Times also claimed the reporter described the article to the Pentagon before it was published and they had no objections to the piece. 

h/t HuffPost.

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Speaking to reporters at the Capitol Thursday, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) warned the President that his week-long public attacks on Attorney General Jeff Sessions is “not going over well in the Senate” nor the “conservative world.”

The senator said there would be “holy hell to pay” if Sessions is fired.

Graham suggested that if the attacks against Sessions are part of an effort to get rid of special counsel Robert Mueller, who is leading the investigation into Russia meddling in the 2016 election, it could be the “end” of Donald Trump’s presidency.

“If Jeff Sessions is fired, there will be holy hell to pay. Any effort to go after Mueller could be the beginning of the end of the Trump presidency, unless Mueller did something wrong. Right now, I have no reason to believe that Mueller is compromised. If you have reason to believe he is compromised and shouldn’t be serving as special counsel, let me know,” he told reporters.

Graham also floated legislation that he’s planning to introduce next week that he think he can get “all Democrats and a good number of Republicans” onboard with that will say a special counsel can’t be fired when they’re asked to investigate the President and his team, unless there’s a “judicial review” of the firing.

“Not just for Trump, but for any future president. We need a check and balance here,” he said, adding he hopes the President will “calm down” on his attacks on Sessions.

Since last Wednesday, Trump has launched near-daily, public attacks on Sessions, from saying he wouldn’t have hired Sessions if he’d known he was going to recuse himself from the Russia investigation, to calling Sessions “beleaguered” and “weak” on Twitter.

“This is not a diversion. This is unnerving. It is unfair to Jeff Sessions. He’s a good man who deserves better,” Graham said. “Some of the suggestions the President is making go way beyond what is acceptable in a rule of law nation. I hope the President will get good counsel and advice and focus on what he got elected to, which is change the culture in Washington. This is not draining the swamp. What he’s interjecting is turning democracy upside down.”

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On Wednesday, the chair of the White House’s bogus voter fraud panel Kris Kobach sent another request to states asking for publicly available voter registration records, a request the state of California has already shut down.

The latest request outlines a recent legal battle between the President’s Advisory Commission on Election Integrity and the Electronic Privacy Information Center, a group that filed a motion to keep the commission from receiving the voter data. The motion was denied on Monday, which prompted the most recent request.

I appreciate the cooperation of chief election officials from more than 30 states who have already responded to the June 28 request and either agreed to provide these publicly available records, or are currently evaluating what specific records they may provide in accordance with their state laws,” Kobach said in one letter to California Secretary of State Alex Padilla. “Like you, I serve as the chief election official of my state. And like you, ensuring the privacy and security of any non-public voter information is a high priority.”

The commission’s first request for voter data, which asked for everything from voter addresses and political party affiliation to military status and the last four digits of social security numbers, was met with harsh pushback from nearly every state. Most states said they would either not provide the data or only share publicly available information.

In this letter, Kobach said he was only requesting public data, the kind that is “regularly provided to political candidates, journalists and other interested members of the public” and assured the secretaries of state that he would not publicly release any personally identifiable information and that records would be kept “confidential and secure.”

“Once the commission’s analysis is complete, the commission will dispose of the data as permitted by federal law. The only information that will be made public are statistical conclusions drawn from the data, other general observations that may be drawn from the data, and any correspondence that you may send to the commission in response to the narrative questions enumerated in the June 28 letter,” he said.

The letter also asked states to communicate with one of the commission’s staffers about securely submitting state data, a move the commission has made to “address issues raised in recent litigation” about the security of the data transfer portal.

“The Commission will approach all of its work without preconceived conclusions or prejudgments. The Members of this bipartisan Commission are interested in gathering facts and going where those facts lead,” he said.

But Padilla isn’t buying it. Releasing a statement rejecting the request Wednesday, Padilla called the commission a “sham” and said California wouldn’t be sharing any data.

His statement:

“Once again, the President’s sham election commission has requested California voters’ personal data. Once again, my response is no. The commission’s new request does nothing to address the fundamental problems with the commission’s illegitimate origins, questionable mission or the preconceived and harmful views on voting rights that many of its commissioners have advanced. Let me reassure voters: I will not provide this commission with Californians’ personal voter data. I will continue to do everything in my power to protect California citizens’ ability to exercise their rights to register and vote free of barriers and intimidation.”

Read Kobach’s letter to Padilla below:

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As GOP members of Congress launch a unified defense of the attorney general after the President’s weeklong crusade against Jeff Sessions, Vice President Mike Pence backed up the President Wednesday, saying Donald Trump “has been very candid.”

“He was disappointed with the attorney general’s decision to recuse himself and to not know about his intension to do so before he was confirmed as the attorney general of the United States,” Pence said, appearing on Fox News with Tucker Carlson Wednesday night. “The Washington way is to talk behind people’s backs. But that’s not President Donald Trump’s approach. One of the great things about this President is you will always know where you stand.”

The vice president’s comments come after a full week of Trump publicly shaming the attorney general, which started when he told the New York Times last Wednesday that he wouldn’t have hired Sessions if he had known Sessions would recuse himself from the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

Trump has lashed out at Sessions on Twitter almost every day since then, calling him “beleaguered” and “weak” for not doing more to investigate his former presidential opponent Hillary Clinton and calling him out for not replacing acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe because of his supposed conflicts of interest.

Sessions has spoken out once on the attacks, saying he will stay in his position as long as its “appropriate.” 

Pence said the President’s criticism doesn’t mean he doesn’t recognize the “good work the Justice Department has been doing under the attorney general’s leadership.”

“I think one of the President’s virtues is his candor. … People know we have a president who says what he means and means what he says. There’s no attempt to hide his feelings. His expressed disappointment here is very sincere and we will see what happens in the future, but at least the American people know and every member of the cabinet can know that you will always know where you stand with President Trump.”

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