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

Despite criticism that the President has still not condemned white supremacy after a self-proclaimed member of the fringe group drove a car into a crowd of counter protestors at a white supremacy rally this weekend, Attorney General Jeff Sessions defended the President saying he made a “very strong statement.”

“He said what happened in Charlottesville is unacceptable and we need to find out what happened, that it’s wrong and we need to study it and see what as a nation we can do to be more effective against this kind of extremism and evil,” he said on the “Today” show Monday. “It was a good statement delivered just a few hours after the event. The next day, yesterday, they explicitly called out the Nazis and the KKK.”

The hosts of the show pushed back, saying that statement came from an unnamed White House spokesperson, not President Donald Trump himself. Sessions said the name on the statement was irrelevant.

“I’m sure he will talk again about it soon. He will be speaking to the people today. I’m not sure what he will say, but that’s my understanding. He’s been firm on this from the beginning. He is appalled by this,” Sessions said.

Sessions’ rhetoric is similar to Vice President Mike Pence’s defense of the President, who said Trump “clearly and unambiguously condemned the bigotry, violence and hatred” and questioned why the media was spending more time criticizing the President’s words than “criticizing those who perpetrated the violence to begin with.”

Watch the interview below:

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Following President Donald Trump’s failure to condemn white supremacy after violence broke out at a rally in Charlottesville, Va. Saturday, the city’s mayor joined the chorus of Republican and Democratic politicians alike criticizing the President for not taking a harder stance against racism and white supremacists groups following the attack.

“Look I think a lot of this speaks for itself. We saw the campaign they ran, we saw the folks they surround themselves with, we saw with David Duke, people like that, say about the President. I’m kind of finished talking about the President,” Mayor Michael Signer (D) said, appearing on “Morning Joe” Monday. “The nation is speaking with one voice about what they saw here and what needs to happen next.”

He said he hopes his city will become “synonymous” with the move to “at long last turning the page on this horrific chapter in American politics where bigots and the fringe of the fringe were invited to the mainstream out from the shadows where they belong. That, I think, just came to an end this weekend,” he said.

The mayor’s comments follow remarks he made over the weekend, accusing Trump of “courting” white supremacists after Trump initially failed to condemn the fringe group for the attack at a rally where a self-proclaimed white supremacist drove his car into a crowd of counter protestors, leaving three dead and dozens injured.

Signer called the attack “modern day domestic terrorism” and said the issues that arise as southern cities work to change the confederacy narrative in their communities are “extremely complicated.”

“Anybody trying to reduce them to a tweet, to something that will fit into 140 characters just doesn’t fit into the debate,” he said.

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The former chief justice of Alabama’s Supreme Court is in the lead ahead of Tuesday’s Republican primary election, a move toward filling Attorney General Jeff Sessions former seat in the Senate, according to a poll released by the Trafalgar Group Friday.

The poll showed Moore leading the field, with 35 percent support. That’s more than 10 percentage points ahead of Sen. Luther Strange (R-AL), who garnered 23 percent in the poll.

Moore — who was removed from the state Supreme Court twice for refusing to take down a 10 Commandments monument and ordering other judges to not issue same-sex marriage licenses in 2016 — announced his Senate bid in April.

Strange was appointed to fill the seat by former Gov. Robert Bentley, who resigned amid allegations of his use of state resources to hide an affair with a top aide. Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey took over, calling for a special election in April.

Strange earned President Donald Trump’s endorsement on Tuesday, with the President tweeting that Strange has “done a great job” representing Alabama and that he has Trump’s “complete and total endorsement.”

Just 3 points behind Strange, Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) garnered 20 percent in the poll. Brooks launched his campaign in May, but announced last month he would withdraw from the race if Trump were to fire Sessions as attorney general to make room for Sessions to run for his seat.

The President spent at least two weeks publicly attacking Sessions on Twitter and expressing frustration over the attorney general’s decision to recuse himself from the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

“Brooks had momentum and we believe short of Trump’s endorsement tweet, Brooks would have overtaken Strange for second place,” Trafalgar senior strategist Robert Cahaly said in a statement. “Of course last minute campaign activity and presidential tweets could change this thing again.”

Just over 8 percent of voters are undecided, according to the poll, and just over 6 percent are supporting state Sen. Trip Pittman.

The poll surveyed 1,439 likely primary voters from Aug. 8 to Aug. 10. It has a +/- 2.59 percentage point margin of error.

The Republican nominee will face one of the eight Democratic candidates vying for a primary win: Michael Hansen, Doug Jones, Robert Kennedy Jr., Jason Fisher, Will Boyd, Vann Caldwell, Brian McGee or Nana Tchienkou.

If no one one candidate earns 50 percent of the vote, a run-off election will be held Step. 26. The general election will be in December. 

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The National Riffle Association’s response — or lack thereof — regarding the death of  legal gun owner Philando Castile, who was killed by police when attempting to show the officer his firearm registration, struck a chord with one Democratic member of Congress.

On Thursday, NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch sent out a tweet storm explaining why the NRA didn’t stand up for Castile, saying it was because Castile was in the possession of “a controlled substance” and a firearm when he was pulled over.

“Which is illegal. Stop lying,” she tweeted.

Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-NY) retweeted Loesch’s statement, asking if Castile had been a white man, would the NRA have stayed silent on the matter.

“You’re the ones lying,” she said.

Moments later Rice tweeted again, calling the NRA and Loesch “domestic security threats” that are growing under President Donald Trump.

Loesch responded by retweeting Rice’s comments and saying “Wow. This is an elected official.”

Loesch immediately started retweeting her Twitter mentions of NRA members scoffing at Rice’s comments. She asked the congresswoman to explain how she and “millions of members” are domestic security threats and said she “never called for jihad, burned campus or private property.”

Loesch then likened herself and NRA members to the ms-13 gang that Trump recently announced he has worked to eradicate in Long Island, where Rice’s district is located.

Rice has not tweeted since calling the NRA a security threat, but her critique is not the first time Loesch and the NRA have come under fire in recent months.

In June, the NRA put out a video  — featuring Loesch calling on conservatives to fight the left with a “clenched fist of truth” — that received widespread backlash for seeming to condone violence against Democrats.

This month, the group attacked the New York Times, claiming it was going to “fisk” the newspaper because the NRA has “had it” with the Times’ “constant protection of your Democrat overlords. We’ve had it with your pretentious, tone-deaf assertion that you are, in any way, truth- or fact-based journalism.”

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While House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon called pro-Trump commentator Jeffrey Lord after Lord was fired by CNN for tweeting a Nazi salute, according to a report from Penn Live.

“It’s Stephen K. Bannon. I have to take this,” Lord told the reporter, who was sitting in Lord’s living room when he received the call

Bannon reportedly called Lord to show support and encourage him to keep fighting. Lord wouldn’t provide details on what the two spoke about.

Bannon, Lord and President Trump have previously spoken highly of one another and Lord has received special access to Trump during visits to Pennsylvania, according to Penn Live.

The call comes after Lord was fired from CNN after he tweeted “Sieg Heil!” at the president of Media Matters for America. The Media Matters president had pointed out a spelling error in one of Lord’s columns.

A CNN spokesperson confirmed the firing to TPM Thursday, saying “Nazi salutes are indefensible.”

A White House spokesperson did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Bannon’s call. 

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President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort told authorities about his meeting with Donald Trump Jr., White House adviser Jared Kushner and a Kremlin-linked lawyer three months ago, according to a Bloomberg News report published Thursday.

The meeting initially came to light in July when the New York Times reported Trump Jr. had arranged to meet with the Russian lawyer. He initially said the meeting was held to discuss adoptions.

On July 11, Trump Jr. published the entire email chain that lead up to the meeting on Twitter, which revealed he knew the meeting was going to be about gaining damaging information about then-opponent Hillary Clinton and that it was part of the Russian government’s efforts to help the Trump campaign.

At the time, he claimed his father didn’t know anything about the meeting, but at the end of July, the Washington Post reported that Trump helped dictate his son’s initial statement on the meeting.

Manafort apparently disclosed the meeting to authorities about two months before the information came to light, according to Bloomberg. He told authorities about the meeting in response to congressional requests for information about contacts with Russia during his time working for the Trump campaign.

The information comes as news about special counsel Robert Mueller’s federal investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election digs deeper into Manafort.

On Wednesday, news broke that the FBI conducted a pre-dawn raid of Manafort’s home in July.

On Thursday, Politico reported that investigators pressed Manfort’s son-in-law for Jeffrey Yohai for information in order to pressure Manafort to cooperate with the probe.

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After telling reporters Thursday afternoon that his “fire and fury” comment maybe “wasn’t tough enough,” the President took his rhetoric one step further.

On Friday morning President Donald Trump tweeted that the U.S. military has solutions “fully in place, locked and loaded, should North Korea act unwisely.”

The tweet follows a week-long back-and-forth of statements between North Korea and the U.S. after the United Nations passed sanctions against the country last weekend for its repeated missile tests.

Earlier this week, it was reported that North Korea had developed a nuclear warhead that could fit inside a ballistic missile.

Trump’s language escalated at this point. Speaking to reporters Tuesday he said North Korea would be met with “fire and fury and, frankly, power the likes of which this world has never seen before” if it didn’t stop with the threats.

North Korea responded by making threats against Guam, a U.S. territory.

During a visit to Guam Thursday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson dialed back the President’s rhetoric, saying Americans can “sleep well” at night.

Later Thursday Trump told reporters that maybe his “fire and fury” comment “wasn’t tough enough.”

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In a letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, more than 60 House Democrats expressed their “profound concern” over President Donald Trump’s “fire and fury” statements about North Korea and to remind Tillerson that any attack on North Korea “must be debated and authorized by Congress.”

“These statements are irresponsible and dangerous, and also senselessly provide a boon to domestic North Korean propaganda which has long sought to portray the United States as a threat to their people,” the letter, spearheaded by Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), said.

They urged Tillerson and the rest of the administration to make sure the rhetoric surrounding North Korea’s threats is met with the “utmost caution and restraint.” The lawmakers said the President would be held responsible by Congress and the American people if a “careless and ill-advised miscalculation results in conflict that endangers our service members and regional allies.”

The House members outlined the recent history of conflicts with North Korea and the diplomatic action the previous three presidential administrations had taken over military action.

“We look forward to working with you to support crucial diplomatic initiatives and avoid catastrophic war,” they said.

The letter follows remarks made by the President this week when asked how the U.S. should respond to news that North Korea had developed a nuclear warhead that could fit inside a missile. Trump told reporters the threats “will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.”

North Korea responded by threatening to attack Guam, a U.S. territory. On Thursday, Trump said his original rhetoric maybe “wasn’t tough enough.” 

Tillerson, for his part, has worked to deescalate Trump’s comments, by telling reporters Thursday that “Americans should sleep well at night.”

Read the full letter below:

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Keeping the pressure on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), President Donald Trump told the Kentucky Republican to “get back to work.”

Trump is currently at his golf course in Bedminster, New Jersey, where he is spending a 17-day working vacation.

The Thursday afternoon tweet comes after two days of Trump lashing out against the top Republican for failing to get a simple majority of GOP senators onboard to pass a “skinny” Obamacare repeal bill last month.

The President was apparently responding to comments McConnell made to constituents Monday in Kentucky, where he said that President Donald Trump has “excessive expectations” about how quickly Congress can pass legislation.

On Wednesday afternoon and Thursday morning Trump tweeted that he doesn’t think he had excessive expectations because McConnell failed to repeal and replace Obamacare after seven years of saying he would.

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) delivered the final blow to McConnell’s repeal bill last month, joining Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) in their opposition to the plan during a tense, late-night vote.

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Amid news that the FBI conducted an early morning raid at the home of President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, Politico reported Wednesday evening that federal prosecutors also approached Paul Manafort’s son-in-law to increase pressure on Manafort.

Earlier this summer, investigators approached Jeffrey Yohai, who has partnered with Manafort on business deals. The move caused “real waves” among Manafort’s family and friends, according to sources familiar with the investigation, who spoke to Politico on condition of anonymity.

The investigators were trying to get “into Manafort’s head,” another source said.

While Manafort has not been accused of any wrongdoing, some see the recent FBI raid of Manafort’s Alexandria, Va. home as a clear sign of criminal activity on Manafort’s part.

The former campaign manager is one of the key players at the center of federal and congressional investigations into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

Experts on white-collar crime told Politico the tactic — approaching Manafort and his son-in-law — is common when seeking to gain information about someone higher up on the ladder who is being investigated.

Manafort’s legal team, however, has denied any suggestions that he is cooperating with investigators.

“Paul’s been forthcoming, but he’s not a cooperating witness and any suggestion to that effect is silly,” Manafort spokesman Jason Maloni told Politico in July.

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