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

Speaking to a Kentucky Rotary Group Monday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) claimed Congress is is operating the way it should and said the President’s critiques of the legislative process are producing an inaccurate picture of how Congress works.

“Our new President, of course, has not been in this line of work before. I think he had excessive expectations about how quickly things happen in the democratic process,” McConnell said, according to a CNN affiliate.

He said there have been “too many artificial deadlines” created in the public sphere, which has caused confusion over how Congress operates.

“Part of the reason I think people think we’re under-performing is because of too many artificial deadlines unrelated to the reality of the legislature, which may have not been understood,” he said.

McConnell’s comments come a few weeks after his party failed to produce a simple majority to pass a skinny Obamacare repeal bill before the start of the August recess.

The President tweeted after the repeal vote failure, saying Republicans should change Senate rules to allow legislation to pass with 51 votes. McConnell later dismissed President Donald Trump’s tweets, saying he “didn’t have 50 Republicans” to push through the bill.

“The votes are simply not there,” he said at an Aug. 1 press conference.

Back home in Kentucky Monday, McConnell also said he wished the President wouldn’t tweet so much.

“I’ve been, and I will be again today, not a fan of tweeting and I’ve said that to him privately. I think it would be helpful if the President would be a little more on message,” he said.

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Pat Robertson, the televangelist who ran for president in 1988 and founded the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN), is not buying the latest sexual harassment claim against a Fox News host.

In fact, he doesn’t believe any of the network’s previous sexual harassment claims against top Fox News affiliates ever actually happened. It’s all a conspiracy to “destroy the Fox News,” he said.

“If you wanted to destroy the Fox News, you really wanted to destroy them, what would you do? Well you would send some salacious material, ostensibly from one of their popular co-hosts or hosts and you’d send it out and then get it publicized and then you have some woman complain that she had gotten this salacious material from this particular co-host,” he said Monday in a monologue on CBN, referring to the latest sexual harassment scandal involving Eric Bolling, the co-host of “Fox News Specialists” and “Cashin’ In.”

Bolling has been suspended indefinitely while an outside law firm — the same firm that investigated sexual harassment allegations against former Fox chairman Roger Ailes and former host Bill O’Reilly — looks into whether he sent photos of male genitalia to female colleagues, a Fox News spokesperson told TPM.

The news came from a scathing Huffington Post report published Friday, which reported that at least a dozen sources linked to Fox News confirmed that Bolling sent the lewd photos to at least three female colleagues. 

But Bolling is just the latest victim of a conspiracy to destroy the network, according to Robertson, who called Bolling a “straight arrow,” a “dedicated Catholic” who “goes to mass every day” and a “very nice man.”

“Fox is so averse to any kind of legal action that they immediately take the person off the air, so before long you would have decimated the prime time line up of all the Fox hosts. Easy to do? Absolutely. Is it being done? Probably,” he said.

Robertson, who admitted he didn’t “have a lot of firsthand information, so I may be off the wall on it,” said the same thing happened to get rid of O’Reilly, “who was the top getter of audience, the most popular host they had,” and Ailes.

Anybody can make charges, but ladies and gentlemen, if this is going on… I’m not a conspiracy theorist, but it’s so easy to see what’s being done. I think it’s a terrible shame. Fox had better synch up, gird up their loins, people are going after them and know this is a game people are playing,” Robertson said.

Bolling spoke out against the allegations on Twitter Monday, saying he is looking “forward to clearing my name asap.”

Watch the full monologue below, tweeted by Huffington Post reporter Yashar Ali, who broke the Bolling story:

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After facing backlash from President Donald Trump and a Pro-Trump group over his sometimes-critical stance on the Senate Republican’s Obamacare repeal and replace bill, Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV) now has a GOP challenger for his seat in 2018.

Danny Tarkanian announced on “Fox and Friends” Tuesday morning that he is running for Heller’s seat. The Nevada Republican said he plans to campaign on the promise of supporting Trump’s agenda, which he claims Heller hasn’t done.

Heller is widely considered the most vulnerable Republican in 2018 after a pro-Trump group called America First Policies aired a critical television advertisement in Heller’s home state in June. The group attacked Heller for his opposition to Senate Republicans’ health bill. Heller eventually voted to begin debate on Obamacare repeal, as well as a “skinny” repeal bill that failed in the Senate.

“I have so many people that are contacting me over the past couple months saying ‘You gotta run against Dean Heller.’ They understand, as I do, that we’re never going to make America great again unless we have senators in office that fully support President Trump and his America first agenda,” Tarkanian said Tuesday.

Calling Heller one of the “first never-Trump-ers” in Nevada, Tarkanian said Heller helped democratic candidate Hillary Clinton win the state of Nevada. 

“I fully supported Donald Trump until the end of the campaign and now even after President Trump has been elected, Dean Heller has obstructed his agenda,” Tarkanian said. “We need people who are going to support the America first agenda and I will be that person.”

This isn’t Tarkanian’s first bid for a seat in Washington. He’s run several unsuccessful campaigns, including a 2010 bid for Senate and a recent failed run against current Rep. Jacky Rosen (D-NV).

Watch the interview below:

Correction: This post originally misidentified Danny Tarkanian as Jerry Tarkanian.

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Responding to a new report from the New York Times that reveals the Earth has been rapidly warming since 1980, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said Tuesday that climate protection is important, but it shouldn’t take priority over American jobs.

The draft report was compiled by 13 federal agencies and has been approved by the National Science Foundation, but it has not yet been approved for publication by President Donald Trump.

The report found that human activities are primarily responsible for global climate change.

Appearing on the “Today” show Tuesday, Haley was asked if the administration would embrace the results of the study, which was obtained by the New York Times.

Haley said that Americans shouldn’t think that just because the U.S. pulled out of the Paris Climate Accord, “doesn’t mean we don’t believe in climate protection.”

“I think we’re very aware that we need to do that. What we’re saying is, we’re not going to sell out American businesses to do that,” she said, adding she hasn’t seen the report but “I don’t see any reason why we wouldn’t” embrace it.

“I think a lot of this, we’re not saying that climate change is not real, it is real. It’s how do you have that balance between making sure you have jobs and businesses moving and also making sure you protect your climate. The answer is in the middle.”

Watch the interview below:

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Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) is a fan of reforming the U.S. immigration system to a merit-based program, but said the White House-backed plan that would cut legal immigration and favor English-speaking green card applicants is “not going to pass” in the Senate.

“The bill’s not going to pass,” he said during an interview with Florida’s CBS 4 station Sunday. “I think the White House knows that you don’t have 60 votes for that in the Senate.”

The RAISE Act, which was announced last week Sens. Tom Cotton (R-AR) and David Perdue (R-GA) and backed by President Donald Trump, would create a points-based immigration system that favors green card applicants who demonstrate skills, education and language ability over immigrants who have relationships with people already living in the U.S.

It also seeks to cut legal immigration in half over the next decade, which is the piece of the bill that’s kept Rubio from endorsing the plan.

“I don’t want to limit legal immigration, I certainly want to change the way we conduct it,” he said. “Where I probably have a big difference of opinion with this bill is that it sets an arbitrary cap on the number of people that are able to come through with a green card. I don’t think that should be an arbitrary cap, that number should be driven by demand.”

Rubio is not the first prominent Republican member of the former, unsuccessful “Gang of Eight” bipartisan reform effort to come out against the new plan.

Sens. John McCain (R-AZ) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) have also expressed similar opposition to curtailing legal immigration.

The group of eight senators attempted to pass legislation in 2013 that looked at enhancing border security and a path to citizenship, as well as visa reform.

Watch the full interview below:

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The latest Fox News personality to be accused of sexual harassment spoke out on Twitter Monday after being suspended from the network, pending the results of an investigation.

Fox News announced Saturday that it had suspended Eric Bolling, co-host of “Cashin’ In” and “The Fox News Specialists,”  after The Huffington Post reported Friday that Bolling had sent photos of male genitalia to female colleagues.

HuffPost reported that at least three of Bolling’s colleagues had received the unsolicited lewd photos via text message from the host.

Bolling tweeted Monday morning saying he was “overwhelmed by all the support” he had received from fans and that he “look(s) forward to clearing my name asap.”

Rotating substitutes will fill in for Bolling on both shows until the investigation is complete, according to the network. The probe is being conducted by Paul Weiss, the same law firm that looked into allegations of sexual harassment against former Fox chairman Roger Ailes and former host Bill O’Reilly, Fox told TPM on Saturday.

Bolling has been working at Fox News and Fox Business since 2007.

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Despite weeks-old claims from President Donald Trump that he has “very little time” to watch TV, the President launched an attack on Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) on Monday just minutes after the senator appeared on CNN discussing the Russia investigation.

Appearing on CNN’s “New Day” Monday morning, Blumenthal said the investigation into Russia’s involvement in meddling in the U.S. election and “potential collusion” by the Trump campaign “must be pursued.”

“The impanelment of the grand jury shows that Bob Mueller is pursuing this potential wrongdoing by the Russians, the attack on our democracy, seriously and diligently and there is no minimizing or diminishing that attack by the Russians,” he said. “It was purposeful and relentless and it involved propaganda and hacking into our voting machines, or at least attempted to, and potential collusion by the Trump campaign and then obstruction of justice. That investigation must be pursued.”

The President launched his Twitter attack on the senator minutes later, bringing up old reports from the New York Times that Blumenthal lied about serving in Vietnam while he was running for the U.S. Senate and calling him “a phony Vietnam con artist.”

About an hour and a half later, Blumenthal shot back, telling Trump his “bullying hasn’t work before and it won’t work now,” adding, “no one is above the law.”

The President’s tweets follow a recent report from Bloomberg News that said Trump’s new Chief of Staff John Kelly was attempting to rein in the President’s Twitter rants. 

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Despite reports that President Donald Trump’s new chief of staff is working to rein in some of Trump’s Twitter rants, the President sent out a string of tweets Monday morning, railing against the media, bragging about his accomplishments and claiming his base has grown since he was elected.

The tweet-storm was likely triggered by a recent New York Times story on Republicans who are apparently looking into presidential runs in 2020, including Vice President Mike Pence.

Trump blasted the newspaper, saying it has made “every wrong prediction about me.” He went on to brag about the size of his base, saying it’s “far bigger and stronger than ever before.”

He then went on to tout some of what he considers accomplishments so far in his presidency, claiming the “Fake News Russian collusion story, record stock market, border security, military strength, jobs” and “Supreme Court pick” have driven his supporters to stay loyal.

Despite the President’s tweets claiming otherwise, Trump’s approval ratings are lower than ever. A Quinnipiac Poll released last week found that just 33 percent of registered voters approve of the President.

Even Trump’s main base of supporters — white people with no college degree — are losing faith in the President, the poll found. They disapprove of his job performance 50 percent to 43 percent.

Trump ended his rant attacking “24/7 #Fake News.”

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In his latest string of criticism against his political party, Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) said he wishes Republicans had done more to stop the repeatedly debunked “birtherism” conspiracy theory that President Barack Obama is not a U.S. citizen when it first emerged.

While he thinks he personally did enough to stand up against the bogus claims, Republicans as a whole should have done more.

“I wish we had, as a party would’ve stood up for example when the birtherism thing was going along,” he said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “A lot of people did stand up, but not enough. That was particularly ugly.”

President Donald Trump was one of the most vocal proponents of the “birtherism” conspiracy for many years.

He wrote a letter to the editor in the New York Times in 2011, spouting false claims about where the former president was born and the legitimacy of his birth certificate.

He tweeted in 2012 and in 2014 claiming Obama had a fake birth certificate and kept bringing up the issue as late as December 2015.

And as recent as late July, the Senate confirmed Trump’s judicial nomination of Kentucky lawyer and political blogger John Bush, who is known for promoting claims on his blog that Obama wasn’t born in the U.S.

But the fake “birtherism” claim is not the only conspiracy Flake thinks Republicans should stand up against, saying he thinks his party shouldn’t let their political rallies turn into calls to jail political opponents, which was a common outcry at Trump campaign rallies against his then-opponent Hillary Clinton.

“During rallies, when the chants, ‘Lock her up,’ we shouldn’t be the party for jailing your political opponents. And anybody at that rally, anybody at those rallies ought to stand up and say ‘That’s inappropriate, we shouldn’t be doing that,’” Flake said. “I wish we as a party and as elected officials would do more of that and when particularly ugly conspiracy theories come out or simply fake news stuff that is demonstrably false, we ought to stand up and say ‘Hey, that’s just not right.’”

Flake’s comments are just the latest criticism he’s spouted against Trump and the conservative party as he promotes his book “Conscience of a Conservative.”

H/t The Washington Post

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President Donald Trump said late Friday that he and National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster are “working very well together,” supporting the official who has reportedly found himself at odds with other members of his department this past month.

“General McMaster and I are working very well together. He is a good man and very proIsrael. I am grateful for the work he continues to do serving our country,” Trump told reporters in the White House press pool just before 11 p.m. Friday.

Earlier this week McMaster fired Ezra Cohen-Watnick, senior intelligence director for the National Security Council. A White House official said McMaster determined Cohen-Watnick would be better suited for a different position in the administration.

He reportedly tried to fire the senior intelligence director in March, but the President’s son-in-law Jared Kushner intervened.

McMaster has been firing officials on the National Security Council since he arrived at the White House. He replaced his deputy KT McFarland with Army Reserve Major General Ricky Waddell in May, fired staffer Rich Higgins on July 21 and kicked out Trump’s top Middle East adviser Derek Harvey in late July.

McMaster replaced Michael Flynn as national security advisor after Flynn resigned amid investigations into his contacts with Russian officials during the election.

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