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 President Donald Trump visited last week, French President Emmanuel Macron told a local weekly newspaper he was hopeful the U.S. would return to the Paris climate accord, an agreement between 200 countries that commit to decreasing greenhouse gas emissions.

“Trump told me that he would try to find a solution in the coming months,” the French president told Le Journal du Dimanche Sunday, according to Reuters. “We spoke in detail about the things that could make him come back to the Paris accord.”

The President withdrew the U.S. from the climate agreement in June, but has said he would be open to returning if a better deal could be reached for the U.S. and has criticized how soft the agreement is on countries like China and India.

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A Fox News host defended Donald Trump Jr. for taking a meeting with a Russian lawyer as part of an effort from the Russian government’s efforts to help President Donald Trump’s campaign, saying she’d take up any offer for damaging information about an opponent even from the devil himself.

“As someone who has ran for office five times, if the devil called me and said he wanted to set up a meeting to give me opposition research on my opponent I’d be on the first trolley to hell to get it,” Jeanine Pirro said on her show Sunday. “And any politician who tells you otherwise is a bald-faced liar.”

A number of conservatives have downplayed the Trump Jr. meeting by placing it in the context of “opposition research.” But nothing about the Trump Jr. meeting — in which the President’s son met with a Kremlin-linked lawyer on the promise of damaging info from the Russian government — resembles commonplace political opposition research.

Pirro railed against the media for covering the Russia story and said there’s no evidence the President’s son broke the law. 

“There is no law that says a campaign cannot accept information from a foreign government. If that were the case everyone on a campaign who talks to a foreign national is committing a crime,” she said.

Pirro seems to be taking the same approach as the President, who tweeted about the meeting again on Monday saying “most politicians would have gone to a meeting” like Trump Jr. did.

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Last month, President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign paid $50,000 to the law firm that is now representing his son as Donald Trump Jr. faces questions about his meeting with a Russian lawyer on the premise of receiving incriminating information about Hillary Clinton from the Russian government.

According to a new filing with the Federal Election Commission, the $50,000 was paid to Alan Futerfas’ firm on June 27, which wasn’t long after White House adviser Jared Kushner updated a portion of his security clearance to reflect meetings with foreign officials, including the meeting between Trump Jr. and the Russian lawyer, CNN reported.

The payment was labeled as a “legal consulting” fee, according to CNN, and could be unrelated to the Trump Jr. Russia story. A campaign is allowed to pay the legal fees of someone associated with it, if the legal issue arises out of a campaign.

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The president of the White House Correspondents’ Association said President Donald Trump’s administration wanted him to publicly criticize an article Politico reporter Tara Palmeri wrote about media access.

Appearing on CNN’s “Reliable Sources” Sunday, the correspondents’ association president and Reuters reporter Jeff Mason confirmed that it was Palmeri’s reporting he’d been asked to condemn.

He refused to do so and didn’t reveal the name of the reporter until this weekend.

Palmeri, who was also on “Reliable Sources” Sunday, said she wasn’t surprised by the revelations, saying she had heard the White House wanted her removed from the association.

Which they don’t have power to do. They’re an independent association. And they were upset because I wrote a story that was completely factual, that over the course of the trip, the president had not given a press conference. That is plain and simple,” she said. “And we also did not get access to senior administration officials regularly until my story came out. After that, we had so much more access to them.”

She criticized the President’s constant attack on the media and defended the work she and others have done to cover the new administration.

“I think at the end of the day, we’re supposed to be balanced. We shouldn’t be pro-Trump or anti-Trump,” she said. “We should just be all about the facts and the issues and I think there is a prerogative to say ‘Oh they’re being anti-Trump,’ but no we’re being critical, it’s our job to be critical regardless of who the president is.”

Trump continued his crusade against the media this weekend, tweeting Sunday that “Fake news is distorting democracy in our country.”

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Richard Painter, the ethics lawyer for the President George W. Bush administration, weighed in on the status of White House adviser Jared Kushner’s security clearance on Twitter, saying if the White House doesn’t revoke it, they might as well “give one to Vladimir Putin himself.”

The tweet comes as the President’s son-in-law faces increased scrutiny after updating the disclosure portion of his security clearance application, revealing names of 100 foreign officials he’s met with that weren’t previously disclosed.

That includes a meeting Kushner had with Donald Trump Jr., a Kremlin-linked lawyer, a former Soviet Union counterintelligence officer and others after Trump Jr. was promised incriminating information about Hillary Clinton as part of an effort by the Russian government to help President Donald Trump’s campaign.

It’s not the first time the Bush-era attorney has weighed in on developments related to the Trump administration’s dealings with Russia.

Painter has been particularly critical of the Trump Jr. meeting, tweeting about comments Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow made over the weekend, blaming the Secret Service for not preventing the President’s son from meeting with the Russian lawyer.

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President Donald Trump has added another lawyer to his team of outside counsel managing investigations into whether the Trump campaign worked with Russia to influence the election, according to reports from Bloomberg and NBC.

Veteran Washington, D.C. lawyer Ty Cobb will start working for the President at the end of the month and will take the lead on responding to media questions about the investigation. He’ll also work closely with Trump’s personal lawyer, Marc Kasowitz, who is the head attorney handling the case for Trump. The hire, which Bloomberg and NBC confirmed through anonymous White House officials, comes after news broke that the President’s son held a meeting with a Kremlin-linked attorney on the premises that he would receive damaging information about Hillary Clinton from the Russian government.

In emails, between Donald Trump Jr. and a family acquaintance who arranged the meeting, that were released by Trump Jr. this week, it’s clear Trump Jr. was led to believe the Russian government wanted to help his father’s campaign. On Friday, a former Soviet counterintelligence officer confirmed to the Associated Press that he was also at the meeting.

According to Bloomberg, which broke the Cobb story, top administrators are bringing Cobb into the mix because they want someone to enforce discipline in the White House on matters related to the Russian investigation. That includes reigning in the President, who is known for ranting on Twitter about the matter.

Other lawyers and spokespeople considered for the role were Matt Whitaker, a former U.S. attorney in Iowa; Laura Ingraham, a conservative radio host; and Washington attorneys William Burck and Emmet Flood, Bloomberg reported.

Cobb is a relative of the famous baseball player by the same name and was chosen for his experience representing key figures who were investigated under the former President Bill Clinton administration.   

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A Republican congressman said Friday that Democrats are taking Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting with a Kremlin-linked lawyer a little too seriously.

“I’m an economist, not a lawyer, but what you got to do is just name the statute that’s been violated. We’re a nation under laws, not under men,” Rep. Dave Brat (R-VA) said in an appearance on CNN. “So if there’s proof that a statute’s been violated, then there is an issue. If there’s not, I think a couple of issues have gotten conflated.”

In June 2016, Trump Jr. — along with Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner and then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort — met with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya amid promises that she would provide damaging information about Hillary Clinton as part of a Russian government effort to aid Trump’s presidential campaign. On Friday, a former Soviet counterintelligence officer confirmed to the Associated Press that he was also at the meeting.

Brat said he doesn’t think any of his Republican or Democratic colleagues are denying that Russia was “messing around in our election,” but he said the main problem is that Democrats are “upset President Trump won the election.”

“So they’ve been saying ‘impeach, impeach’ since day one. That’s obviously more political. … If you find a statute that’s been violated then you got it, but my senators in Virginia are getting apoplectic. Mark Warner’s seeing smoke everywhere he goes, like he’s in a ‘Cheech and Chong’ movie. Kaine now thinks the son is worse than Benedict Arnold,” he said. Warner is the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, one of several congressional panels investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election.

“We’ve gotten a little hysterical and we should just get grounded and remember we’re a country under the law,” Brat said.

He went on to say that “there’s collusion everywhere” and accused some media outlets of colluding.

“I don’t complain about that. It is not illegal. I think it is unethical, but it is not illegal,” he said. “This has been going on for a year. … It’s always some new meeting, we’ll all get excited for a day and will it stick? I don’t know.”

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In an interview with a local TV station, Rep. Bill Flores (R-TX) said he has “issues” with the meeting that Donald Trump Jr. held with a Kremlin-linked lawyer amid promises that she would provide damaging information about Hillary Clinton as part of a Russian government effort to help his father’s campaign.

As a result, Flores said the best thing President Trump could do is get his kids out of the White House.

“It’s a meeting that should not have taken place. I think he thought he was looking out for his father’s best interest, but at first flush it doesn’t look like it was appropriate action,” he told KBTX this week. “I’m going out on a limb here, but I would say that I think it would be in the President’s best interest if he removed all of his children from the White House. Not only Donald Trump, but Ivanka and Jared Kushner.”

Flores said that he wishes President Donald Trump “would get them out of the way” so that the administration could “have a professional staff” and focus on policy issues.

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After the state of Colorado announced it would comply with the White House’s bogus “election integrity” panel’s request to share voter data, hundreds of Denver-area residents cancelled their voter registration to keep their private information safe, according to a report from local KDVR News.

But the man leading the panel, Kansas Secretary of StateKris Kobach thinks it’s just a “political stunt.”

In an interview with Breitbart News Thursday, Kobach said he heard about the wave of residents unregistering, and called the move “interesting” and likened it to a “political stunt.”

“It could be a number of things. It could be, actually, people who are not qualified to vote, perhaps someone who is a felon and is disqualified that way or someone who is not a U.S. citizen saying, ‘I’m withdrawing my voter registration because I am not able to vote,’” he said. “It could be a political stunt – people who are trying to discredit the commission and withdrawing temporarily because they are politically active but planning to get back on the voter rolls before the election next November.”

Kobach is at the helm of a presidential advisory commission that’s been tasked with investigating voter fraud, which President Donald Trump claimed was an epidemic in the U.S. throughout his campaign, despite no evidence to suggest such an issue.

Last month, the commission asked all 50 states to share voter data with the commission, everything from addresses and political party affiliation to military status and the last four digits of social security numbers.

The majority of states either outright rejected the request or were only willing to share publicly available data. Since Colorado indicted it would comply with the request, more than 1,000 people in the Denver area have taken their names off registration rolls, according to KDVR.

On top of the widespread non-compliance and criticism, the commission also faces five different lawsuits from groups like the American Civil Liberties Union and the Lawyers Committee on Human Rights, which filed complaints because the commission isn’t following federal open meeting laws.

“Who knows what’s causing it, but the fact that just studying the issue of voter fraud has tapped such a raw nerve among these organizations like the ACLU tells you that they really, really don’t want a presidential commission finding out what there is to see,” he said.

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Jared Kushner is reportedly pushing for a more aggressive White House defense of the meeting he attended between Donald Trump Jr., Paul Manafort and and a Kremlin-linked lawyer, according to White House aides who spoke to Politico.

According to Politico’s sources, Kushner asked press secretary Sean Spicer and other communication staffers to push out more aggressive talking points on the latest Russia controversy, apparently asking the team to complain more about TV news chyrons, call individual reporters to update their stories with White House statements, release surrogates and get op-eds about the meeting in the Wall Street Journal and The New York Times.

Spicer and deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders argued it would be better to leave the majority of communication to outside legal counsel and had concerns about making the White House defend a meeting they don’t know all the details of, according to Politico.

Kushner’s frustration with the White House communication strategy isn’t new, and he has apparently been pushing for reorganization of that department, saying they need offensive and defensive communications teams. That’s why the President’s son-in-law got his own public relations person, Politico reported.

Two of Politico’s sources suggested White House staffers are taking a step back from the issue because they don’t want to get into legal trouble.

“That’s the other problem is that some of these staffers can’t afford lawyers. You’re talking about hundreds of thousands of dollars, how is [deputy press secretary] Lindsay Walters going to pay for that? How could Spicer pay for that?” a Politico source said.

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