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 his first visit to flood-stricken Texas on Tuesday, the President will likely not visit any of the “really damaged areas” hit by Hurricane Harvey, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters aboard Air Force One Tuesday afternoon.

The President indicated he wants to be “very cautious” about not allowing any of his activities to get in the way of search and rescue efforts, she said. The weather will also impact travel plans for the day, she said, and the schedule will be very “fluid.”

After President Donald Trump arrives in Corpus Christi, he and the first lady will meet with Gov. Greg Abbott, his wife and FEMA administrator William “Brock” Long, who are on the ground there.

Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and John Cornyn (R-TX) will also meet with the President there and will join the group for a “bit of the day,” Sanders said.

The Corpus Christi visit will focus on local response and recovery efforts. When the President arrives in Austin, he will receive a briefing focused on statewide plans.

Secretaries Tom Price, Ben Carson, Administrator Linda McMahon and acting Secretary of Homeland Security Elaine Duke will accompany Trump on the trip and each plans to meet with Abbott’s cabinet counterpart in order to establish communication and “lay the foundation for what we know is going to be a long recovery effort,” she said.

Trump plans to visit the state again on Saturday to different parts of the state, Sanders said. 

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Ousted White House adviser Sebastian Gorka said Tuesday that the President wants him to support the Trump agenda from “the outside” now.

Gorka claimed he resigned — the White House has said he was removed — because “there are a lot of people” in the White House who don’t agree with Trump’s “Make America Great Again” agenda.

“That’s why I left so we can support the President from the outside because that’s why he was elected and he is not going to give up,” he said on “Fox and Friends.” “The question is are the people around him going to support him? At least the people on the outside like myself, Steve Bannon, we are going to support him to the fullest.”

Gorka said Trump reached out to him on Saturday after the controversial White House aide left the White House.

“He thanked me for my service, and he also said ‘I am sticking to the agenda,’ he is sticking to the agenda. He wants me to help him on the outside, especially in the media, to support him,” he said. “That’s exactly what I’m going to do.”

Since leaving the White House, Gorka has claimed that the President isn’t being served well by the people surrounding him and criticized National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster for his “Obama administration lens” for failing to describe ISIL in religious terms.

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Rep. Lou Barletta (R-PA), an ally of President Donald Trump, announced a bid for U.S. Senate on Tuesday.

After talking to Mary Grace and our family, many people across Pennsylvania and saying a few prayers, I’ve decided to run for the United States Senate,” he said in a video he posted to Twitter. “I don’t see running for the Senate to represent Pennsylvania as an opportunity. I see it as a responsibility.”

Two other Republican state representatives have announced bids for the seat occupied by incumbent Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA).

An early supporter of Trump, Barletta served on the transition team’s executive committee and was also under consideration to serve as labor secretary in the Trump administration but he declined, saying he could serve the country better in Congress. 

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Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) has put forward a provision that would make deep cuts to resources committed to special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into President Donald Trump’s campaign and its ties to Russian officials, Politico reported.

The amendment is one of hundreds filed as part of the government spending package the House is set to review when it returns from recess next week.

The proposal would end funding for the investigation within six months of passage and would prohibit the probe from touching any event that occurred before June 2015, when Trump launched his campaign.

“Congress should use its spending power to clarify the scope and limit the duration of this investigation,” he said in a statement to Politico, calling the investigation a “fishing expedition.”

The move comes just a day after Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), head Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, told USA Today that the committee should have “two to three times” its current resources for the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

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Freshly removed from the White House, former chief strategist Steve Bannon is breaking with the President and supporting former Alabama Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore in the upcoming primary run-off election, Politico reported.

President Donald Trump has been vocal about his support for Moore’s opponent Sen. Luther Stranger (R-AL), who was appointed to take Attorney General Jeff Session’s seat when he joined the administration.

The President tweeted his endorsement of Strange multiple times before the August 15 primary and even recorded a robocall for the senator ahead of the election. Strange also has the support of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).

But Bannon — who left the White House more than a week ago and has rejoined the conservative website Breitbart News — said he wanted to rally conservatives to back Moore, according to Politico sources who attended a recent, secret Conservative Action Project meeting.

Moore is a favorite among evangelicals. He was ousted as state chief justice in 2000 for refusing to remove a Ten Commandments monument from the Alabama judicial building.

He ran for election again in 2012, but was suspended in 2016 for directing judges not to issue same sex marriage licenses.

Since no candidate received at least half the vote in the Aug. 15 primary the state will hold a Sept. 26 runoff election. In the first primary, Moore finished with 39 percent of the vote and Strange received 33 percent.

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A 26-year-old man who claimed he was stabbed after being mistaken for a “neo-Nazi,” admitted to local Colorado police that he made up the whole story after he accidentally cut himself with a knife, according to The Denver Post and BuzzFeed.

On Aug. 16, the man, Joshua Witt, told Sheridan, Colorado police that a man had approached him while he was getting out of his car in a Steak ’n Shake parking lot and tried to stab him.

Witt’s false report came days after a white nationalist rally turned violent in Charlottesville, Virginia earlier this month. A man affiliated with the white nationalist group has been charged with second degree murder for allegedly driving his car through a crowd of counter protesters, killing one woman.

Witt posted photos of his injuries on Facebook shortly after, saying he “apparently” looked like a “neo-Nazi and got stabbed for it. … Luckily I put my hands up to stop it so he only stabbed my hand.” The post has since been removed, BuzzFeed reported. 

Police began to question his story after they couldn’t find surveillance video evidence of the alleged attacker fleeing the scene as Witt had claimed. They also found video of Witt purchasing a knife from a sporting goods store around the same time he reported that the attack took place, the Denver Post reported. 

“Where he was confronted with the all the information listed above, Mr. Witt subsequently admitted to accidentally cutting himself with the knife while parked in his car in front of the sporting goods store and admitted making up the story about being attacked,” Sheridan police said in their statement.

Witt, a U.S. Navy boatswain’s mate who lives in San Diego, was charged with falsely reporting a crime to authorities.

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Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) has activated the state’s entire National Guard to aid in search and rescue efforts as Texans evacuate flooded homes in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.

That will put an additional 3,000 people on the ground in parts of Texas most deeply impacted by the category-four storm when it made landfall over the weekend, the governor’s office announced Monday.

“It is imperative that we do everything possible to protect the lives and safety of people across the state of Texas as we continue to face the aftermath of this storm,” Abbott said in a statement. “The Texas National Guard is working closely with FEMA and federal troops to respond urgently to the growing needs of Texans who have fallen victim to Hurricane Harvey and the activation of the entire Guard will assist in the efforts already underway.”

Deploying the entire National Guard brings the number of guardsmen on the ground in Texas to 12,000. The additional guardsmen will help with search and rescue efforts, as well as helping in the recovery efforts once people are safe.

“We will not rest until we have made every effort to rescue all of those in harm’s way,” Major General John Nichols said. “We will remain here as long as we are needed.”

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Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) signed a bipartisan automatic voter registration bill into law Monday, after initially vetoing the bill over concerns that it would increase voter fraud.

The new law makes Illinois the 10th state to pass laws that automatically register residents to vote when they apply for or renew their driver’s licenses and state IDs.

Automatic registration will be run through the secretary of state’s office and should be fully implemented by the 2018 election, NBC Chicago reported.

The bill passed unanimously in the state General Assembly in July and is designed to open up voting access to rural voters, military personnel and senior citizens.

Common Cause Illinois, the group that championed the bill, predicted there are more than 2 million Illinois residents who are eligible to vote, but aren’t registered.

The law will be the farthest reaching automatic voter registration law in the country, Chicago Sun Times reported.

The news comes amid backlash over the White House’s bogus election integrity commission.

The presidential advisory group has requested voter data from all 50 states as a means of investigating cases of voter fraud, even though voter fraud is exceedingly rare. President Trump claimed that millions of illegal votes caused him to lose the popular vote to Hillary Clinton.

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Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) on Sunday expressed how rattled he is by the magnitude of flooding hitting his state and especially his home town of Houston, following the onset of category-three Hurricane Harvey over the weekend.

“We’ve been seeing resources pouring into the region both from the state of Texas and at the federal level, but this is a 500-year flood, and Harvey is predicted to stay here and keep dumping a significant amount of water on the region,” he said on Fox News Sunday, using the term often coined by governmental officials to describe a flood of exceptional vastness.

He also expressed shock over photos and videos of flooding he had seen of parts of the region, like at major airports.

“At least one of the runways was completely underwater. It looked like a lake. I’ve never seen anything like it,” he said.

Cruz mentioned he had spoken with President Donald Trump and the Vice President, but did not elaborate on their conversation. He said the main priority for state and federal officials right now is “the preservation of life.”

“We are still in an active disaster situation,” he said. “Priority number one is saving lives, getting people out of life-threatening situations.”

The hurricane and subsequent flooding has been described by government agencies as a “landmark” event, with the Federal Emergency Management Agency director saying he predicts the department will be working on relief and recovery efforts in Texas for “years” to come.

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Freshly removed from the White House, former White House adviser Sebastian Gorka offered his personal criticism of National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, lambasting his view on “the threat of Islam.”

“(McMaster) sees the threat of Islam through an Obama administration lens, meaning that religion has nothing to do with the war we are in,” Gorka told The Jerusalem Post Sunday. “He believes — and he told me this in his office — that all of these people are just criminals. That is simply wrong.”

The criticism follows Gorka’s consistent rhetoric surrounding Islam– that the violent extremism displayed by Islamic terrorist groups is inherent to the religion itself.

His remarks comes just two days after news broke that Gorka was no longer employed at the White House. Gorka claimed he had resigned, but a White House spokesperson told reporters Friday that was not the case.

Civil rights groups, like the Council on American-Islamic Relations, praised Gorka’s ouster over the weekend, saying his “extremist and Islamophobic views” should have “disqualified him from any government position.”

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