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

During an interview Monday with Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, a “Fox and Friends” co-host compared the 9/11 national monument for the victims of Flight 93 to Confederate monuments.

Zinke, who was a Navy SEAL instructor on 9/11, appeared on Fox from Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where he was visiting the Flight 93 memorial with Vice President Mike Pence on the 16th anniversary of the terrorist attack Monday.

He called the monument an “example of Americans sticking together.”

“They are heroes and this monument, if you have not seen it, you know, drive out and take a look at it, it’s magnificently designed and magnificently done,” Zinke said.

“Do you worry 100 years from now someone is going to take that memorial down like they are trying to remake our memorials today?” co-host Brian Kilmeade asked, referencing moves to take down Confederate monuments and statues across the country in the wake of a violent white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia last month.

White nationalists gathered to protest the removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville. The rally turned violent, and a man affiliated with white supremacists allegedly drove his car through a group of counter-protesters, killing one woman.

Zinke slightly evaded the question, saying he is “one that believes … we should learn from history.”

“And I think our monuments are a part of our country’s history. We can learn from it. Since we don’t put up statues of Jesus, everyone is going to fall morally short,” he said. “I think reflecting on our history both good and bad is a powerful statement and part of our DNA. I’m an advocate, again, of learning from our monuments. … Monuments are not Republican, Democrat, Independent. Monuments are a tribute to all of us.”

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White House Social Media Director Dan Scavino tweeted a video of an airplane moving through a flooded tarmac on Sunday, claiming it was the Miami International Airport, according to a Buzzfeed News reporter who got a screen shot of the tweet before it was deleted.

In his tweet, Scavino said he was sharing information about Hurricane Irma from social media with the President and Vice President, as the storm pummeled the Florida coastline Sunday.

Just 10 minutes after the tweet was shared, the Miami International Airport’s Twitter account corrected the White House official, saying the video was not from their airport, Buzzfeed was the first to report.

The video is apparently from the Mexico City Airport last month.

Scavino tweeted an hour later saying he had deleted the tweet and that it had been among “100s of videos/pics I am receiving re:Irma.”

Throughout the weekend, the social media director shared several different videos circulated by news outlets and residents on Twitter.

Scavino used to be President Donald Trump’s golf caddy as a teenager and eventually became the general manger of the Trump National Golf Club in Westchester before he was appointed to the White House. 

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Speaking to reporters Sunday evening, President Donald Trump praised the search and rescue work of the U.S. Coast Guard, saying the Coast Guard’s “brand has improved” because of Hurricane Irma relief efforts.

I think we’re really well coordinated as well as you could possibly be,” he said. “And I’ll tell you what, we have great people, and a group that really deserves tremendous credit is the United States Coast Guard. What they’ve done — I mean, they’ve gone right into that, and you never know. When you go in there, you don’t know if you’re going to come out. They are really — if you talk about branding, no brand has improved more than the United States Coast Guard.”

He also thanked the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for its “incredible” work, but said he thinks “the hard part is now beginning.”

He said the “power of those hurricanes” is what concerned him most.

“Probably, I saw somebody say 57 years now. Now, who knows what that means? But it’s about the biggest ever recorded at land, and unfortunately, we got it,” he said, adding he hoped there weren’t “too many people” in the path of Hurricane Irma.

“I hope there aren’t too many people in the path. You don’t want to be in that path. That’s a path you don’t want to be in. We tried to warn everybody. For the most part, they’ve left, but that’s a bad path to be in,” he said.

His comments come after Hurricane Irma pummeled the east and west coast of the state of Florida over the weekend, causing widespread devastation. The latest hurricane comes not long after Hurricane Harvey hit Texas, flooding several parts of the state.

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After President Donald Trump shocked his own party and sided with Democrats on their proposal to increase the debt ceiling for just three months, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Friday she thinks the President will continue to reach across the aisle if that’s what it takes to make a “deal.”

I think that the most important thing is that the deal got done. The President acted on it. And he worked with Democrats to get it done and I think he’s going to continue to work with whoever is interested in moving the ball forward to help the American people,” Sanders said at a White House press briefing. 

I think the biggest message is that we’re a lot less focused on what makes Congress happy and what makes Americans better and stronger, and that was the decision that the President made that this was something that was important to get done and he was willing to work with Democrats to make sure it happened,” she said. 

Her remarks come after many Congressional Republicans expressed frustration with Trump for choosing the Democrat’s plan instead of siding with his party, which wanted at least a six month debt ceiling increase.

The debt limit increase was tied to a $15.3 billion Hurricane Harvey relief package, which passed both the House and Senate, with about 90 Republican voting against the measure in the House and 17 against it in the Senate.

Some Republicans, like Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC), said they weren’t concerned with the President’s decision to side with Democrats because they think it’s a one-time thing. Meadows told MSNBC Friday that Trump’s move was a “one-off,” not a “trend,” because the President felt he needed to do something to get the hurricane relief funding in place.

But Sanders told reporters Friday that the President will continue to “have bipartisan efforts.”

That was something that the President talked about during the campaign, and certainly something that I think the American people expect and one of the reasons they voted for him, and I certainly would expect to continue to see that,” she said. “This is a government that is always going to pay its debts and wants to make sure that our bills get paid and that we can support the needs that we have (in) our country, like we’re having to do right now in a time of disaster relief efforts and so that’s certainly a priority moving forward.”

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Fox News is not offering Sean Spicer a contract with the network, Axios reported Friday.

TPM reached Spicer on his cell phone Friday, but he said he would not comment on the topic. 

Politico first reported Monday that Spicer had landed a job with the Worldwide Speakers Group and is set to give his first paid speech on Sept. 11 in New York.

Spicer is in talks for several consultancies “foreign and domestic, traditional TV deals, non-traditional TV deals, multiple publishers and a very cool gig” which will be announced next week, a source close with Spicer told TPM.

“Remember, he has only been out of the White House and able to do this for six days,” the source said.

While Spicer announced his resignation in July, his last day at the White House was August 31. 

Spicer resigned from his post after President Donald Trump hired quickly ousted Anthony Scaramucci as communications director. Since then, there’s been speculation that Spicer was searching for a network TV deal.

CNN told a New York Times reporter in July that it would not hire Spicer as a contributor.

Shortly after Spicer resigned from his job as press secretary, Politico and The New York Post reported that ABC’s “Dancing With The Stars” was interested in having Spicer join the show.

Politico also confirmed with several unnamed sources that Spicer met with ABC’s news division, CBS, NBC and Fox while he was in New York on July 26. 

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The islands and low-lying parts of Palm Beach County in Florida were ordered to evacuate Friday because of Hurricane Irma, an area that includes President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort.

More than 100,000 Palm Beach residents were told to evacuate Friday, the Miami Herald reported. All of Florida is under a state of emergency and several other counties are under mandatory evacuation. The hurricane is expected to make landfall in south Florida on Saturday.

Several of Trump’s properties may be impacted by Hurricane Irma. Mar-a-Lago, which Trump has repeatedly visited since becoming President, is located just off the ocean in Palm Beach.

The President also owns three golf courses in the counties that have been forced to evacuate and an 11-bedroom mansion in St. Martin, which experienced widespread devastation when Irma hit the island earlier this week.

“We are closely monitoring Hurricane Irma,” a Trump Organization spokesperson told CNN on Wednesday. “Our teams at the Trump properties in Florida are taking all of the proper precautions and following local and Florida State Advisories very closely to ensure that everyone is kept safe and secure. We continue to send our thoughts and prayers to victims of Hurricane Harvey and are praying for those that are in the path of Hurricane Irma.”

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President Donald Trump’s move to side with Democrats on the debt ceiling this week may have some Republicans “freaked out,” but not Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC).

“I don’t get freaked out much about anything,” Meadows said on MSNBC Friday. “Right now I think this is more of a one-off than a trend that we’re going to be looking at going forward.”

Meadows’ remarks come after the President met with Democratic and Republican congressional leaders Wednesday and opted to side with Democrats’ proposal to increase the debt ceiling for three months rather than the longer-term increase that Republicans were pushing for.

Meadows said the move does put him in a “negotiating disadvantage,” but the President made that decision because he “wasn’t given a whole lot of options.”

“Here’s the thing, because of the hurricane relief there wasn’t a whole lot of options when you look at this you either had an 18-month clean debt limit or what was agreed to, a three-month clean debt limit. So when given two bad options, obviously, you can’t be too critical of anybody,” he said. “Our grass roots are very confused. They’re saying, ‘Is this President going to cut deals with Democrats from here on out? And I would suggest that that’s not the case and that’s based on talking not only to the President but also talking to Speaker Ryan and others.”

When asked about reports that he and other members of the House Freedom Caucus are meeting secretly to oust House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) from his position, Meadows denied the claims saying he believes Ryan is “up to the task.”

“I can tell you, there is no plan, there is nothing there and I can tell you, that if I was working on a plan to depose the speaker, you wouldn’t be reading about it in the press,” he said.

Watch the full interview below:

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Two Democratic lawmakers have introduced legislation that would remove statues of people who voluntarily served the Confederate States of America from the U.S. Capitol.

Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) are sponsoring the bicameral bill that calls for the removal of the Confederate monuments from the National Statuary Hall within 120 days.

The bill has three additional sponsors in the Senate and 46 sponsors in the House.

“The National Statuary Hall Collection is intended to honor American patriots who served, sacrificed, or made tremendous contributions to our nation,” Booker said. “Those who committed treason against the United States of America and led our nation into its most painful and bloody war are not patriots and should not be afforded such a rare honor in this sacred space.”

The bill comes in response to the violent white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia last month, which resulted in the death of a counter protester, Lee said.

The group of white supremacists gathered to protest the removal of a Robert E. Lee statue in a Charlottesville park. Counter-protesters came to rally against the group and a man affiliated with the white supremacists allegedly drove his car through a crowd of counter protesters, killing a woman named Heather Heyer.

In the wake of the violent rally, Lee said it is “abundantly clear that much work remains to root out racism from our society.”

Across the country, Confederate statues and monuments pay tribute to white supremacy and slavery in public spaces. These hateful symbols should have no place in our society and they certainly should not be enshrined in the U.S. Capitol,” she said.

The Statuary Hall in the Capitol was created in 1864 and allowed each state to pick two people to memorialize with statues there.

Under Booker and Lee’s bill, coined the Confederate Monument Removal Act, states would be allowed to take back their statues or they will be given to the Smithsonian, according to a statement from Booker’s office.

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Just before President Donald Trump sided with the Democrats this week and raise the debt ceiling for three months, instead of the six months Republicans were asking for, Speaker of the House Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) called the Democrats’ plan “ridiculous.”

Now he’s on board.

Appearing on Fox New Thursday night, Ryan defended the President saying his decision was “perfectly reasonable and rational.”

“What he’s trying to do is clear the decks so we can get focused on our big things like tax reform. I’ve spoken to the President a lot about this,” he said. “I talked to him this morning, he wants to clear the decks so we can basically get our job done and focus on our big issues like tax reform, border security and the rest.”

He said the second part of the President’s plan was to make sure relief funds for the hurricane recovery efforts didn’t become a political issue.

“He wanted to make this a bipartisan moment where we weren’t fighting each other in Washington about hurricane aid,” he said. “He just wanted to get it done, get it out of the way so that aid is flowing to the states that need it right now so we can go and then focus on things like tax reform.”

He defended Trump again.

“So it’s perfectly reasonable and rational why he’s doing what he’s doing,” he said.

Watch his comments below:

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