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

A middle-aged Bronx man, armed with throwing knives and a bullet proof vest, was arrested outside of Trump Tower in New York after claiming he went there to try to find first daughter Ivanka Trump.

Police said the man, Adames Benitez, was stopped outside the building in Manhattan Thursday evening. Benitez claimed he was a U.S. senator, that he owned the building and that he was trying to reach the first lady, according to a report from New York Daily News.

In addition to the knives and the vest, he had a fake ID and a weighted sock on him. Police said Benitez was emotionally disturbed and he was brought to a hospital for treatment.

He was charged for the fake ID and for criminal possession of a weapon. Trump was not at her apartment at the time of the incident, as she is currently in Hamburg, Germany at the G20 Summit.

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There will likely only be a half-dozen people in the room when President Donald Trump and President Vladimir Putin meet for the first time Friday, according to Axios and NBC News.

An official familiar with the meeting told Axios that Trump, Putin, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and translators will be the only people present.

The meeting will take place at 3:45 p.m. local time (9:45 a.m. EST), according to a schedule from the White House. The meeting comes as Trump faces mounting pressure to seek sanctions against Russia for interfering in the 2016 presidential election.

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The South Carolina Election Commission will not be sharing any voter data the White House’s bogus “election integrity” commission, citing state laws that prohibits sharing that type of information with any agency outside the state, according to a statement from the spokesperson for the agency, Chris Whitmire.

The S.C. State Election Commission (SEC), in considering the request for voter data made by the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity (PACEI), has carefully reviewed applicable state law and has consulted with the South Carolina Attorney General’s office.  The SEC has determined that release of voter data to anyone who is not a registered South Carolina voter is not permitted by state law. The agency may only provide voter data to registered South Carolina voters. This rule is not specific to the PACEI request and applies to any request for voter data from any individual or organization from outside the state.”

Whitmire said some of the information requested by the President’s election integrity panel is either not collected by the state’s election commission or is never released.

At no time does the SEC release Social Security Numbers, in whole or in part, to anyone, whether a voter or not. The SEC has no data on a voter’s party affiliation, as South Carolina does not have registration by party. At no time does the SEC have any information about how people vote, only information about which elections a voter has participated in,” the statement said. 

The President’s election integrity panel asked all 50 states to share voter data information with the commission, from voter’s addresses and party affiliations to the last four digits of social security numbers. At least 44 states have responded saying they either won’t provide any of the requested data or just a portion of it. Most states have cited privacy concerns as reason for their refusal.

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R), who is the vice chair of the panel, released a statement Wednesday combatting media reports that 44 states have refused the request. He said only 14 states had outright refused to share the voter data.

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Following in his father’s footsteps, first son Eric Trump blasted the media on Thursday morning, saying the press focuses all of its coverage on “nonsense” and “garbage.”

Appearing on “Fox and Friends,” Trump claimed that markets and job growth are at an “all time high,” yet the media is focused on covering whether the President colluded with Russia to meddle in the 2016 election.

“If you look at the amount of coverage that has been directed to that story and all that nonsense and garbage versus the amount of coverage directed to the fact that the Dow is at an all-time high, that the S&P 500 is at a all-time high, that the Russell 2,000 is at an all time high,” he said. ”I mean, we’re thriving as a nation. Everybody wants to get focused on nonsense. On garbage. On distractions.”

He went on to say his family feels personally betrayed by some members of the media who used to be family friends, and are now spewing “visceral hatred.” He specifically called out CNN host Anderson Cooper for “rolling his eyes” at top White House aide Kellyanne Conway.

“I mean, there are people that I know who know we are good people, quality people, you know, nice people, honest people, sincere, whatever other words you can put to it. You had a relationship with them, you were friends with them. That’s not that they shouldn’t ask tough questions. That’s the job. And then you look at the visceral hatred and it’s visceral, you look at their approach, you look at the negativity to everything,” he said.

He said he blames the negative narrative in the news about his father on “some boss at one of these networks” who is telling the reporters to “spew a line of garbage.”

“And, listen, it’s hurtful in a certain way, but you know what I’ll say about my father, he is an incredible fighter, and he will never stop fighting,” he said.

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A majority of Americans — about 54 percent — think President Donald Trump did something either illegal or unethical when it comes to Russia’s involvement in the U.S. election, a recent NPR survey found.

Of those who believe the President was involved in some type of wrongdoing with Russia, about a quarter think Trump did something illegal, and 29 percent think his actions were probably unethical, but didn’t break the law.

Thirty-six percent of those surveyed think the President didn’t do anything wrong, according to the poll, which was conducted by NPR, PBS NewsHour and Marist poll.

Nearly three-quarters of Republicans think Trump did not do anything wrong regarding Russia — 73 percent — with 15 percent indicating they think he did something unethical, but not illegal. Just 4 percent of the Republicans surveyed think Trump was involved in illegal activities with Russia.

Democrats’ views are the polar opposite, with 41 percent saying they think the President did something illegal and 39 percent saying his actions will probably prove to be unethical. Thirteen percent of Democrats think he hasn’t done anything wrong.

Despite the split along party lines, the majority of Americans, nearly 60 percent of the 1,205 adults surveyed from June 21 to June 25, think Trump’s campaign personnel did something wrong regarding Russia.

The poll comes after Trump addressed questions about Russia’s involvement in the U.S. election while in Poland Thursday, saying “nobody really knows” what happened with Russia and placed the blame for any Russian meddling on former President Barack Obama’s administration.

The survey had a 2.8-percentage-point margin of error.

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During a press conference in Poland with President Andrzej Duda Thursday, President Donald Trump jumped at another opportunity to slam the U.S. media, specifically CNN, saying the news outlet took a video Trump tweeted over the weekend “too seriously.”

The video, which the President tweeted Sunday with the hashtags “#FraudNewsCNN” and “#FNN,” features Trump tackling someone with a CNN logo superimposed on their face at a wrestling meet. Critics have said the social media post encourages violence against journalist.

CNN wrote a story about the Reddit user who originally created the video, but did not reveal the person’s identity. The network has faced criticism for how it handled the article, with many accusing CNN of blackmailing the Reddit user.

Trump told reporters in Poland Thursday that the outlet has been “fake news for a long time.”

“I think what CNN did was unfortunate for them, as you know now, they have some very serious problems. They’ve been fake news for a long time, they’ve been covering me in a very dishonest way,” he said. “But CNN and others, NBC equally is bad, despite the fact that I made them a fortune with ‘The Apprentice,’ but they forgot that. But CNN has really taken (the video) too seriously and I think they’ve hurt themselves very badly, very very badly.”

He went on to say that not all U.S. media are “fake news,” but that America needs a more fair press.

“What we want to see in the United States is honest, beautiful, free, but honest press, we want to see fair press. I think that’s a very important thing,” he said. “But we don’t want fake news, bad thing. Very bad for our country.”

While Trump has always been critical of the press, in the past week his rampage against the media has escalated, tweeting attacks against CNN and the hosts of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” show. 

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Following criticism from officials at the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum in Poland about a video he filmed inside the gas chambers at Auschwitz, Rep. Clay Higgins (R-LA) retracted his video Wednesday. He said in a statement that his intent was to “offer a reverent homage to those who were murdered in Auschwitz” and remind viewers that “evil exists.”

“I filmed the Auschwitz message with great humility. My intent was to offer a reverent homage to those who were murdered in Auschwitz and to remind the world that evil exists, that free nations must remember, and stand strong. 

“However, my message has caused pain to some whom I love and respect. For that, my own heart feels sorrow. Out of respect to any who may feel that my video posting was wrong or caused pain, I have retracted my video. 

“The atrocities that happened at Auschwitz were truly despicable, and we must never let history repeat itself in such a way. I have always stood with Israel and all Jewish people, and I always will. We live in a dangerous world, and massive forces of evil do indeed yet exist. We must all stand united against those evils. My Auschwitz video has been removed, and my sincere apology for any unintended pain is extended.”

Museum officials took to Twitter Tuesday to speak out against the Congressman and his video, saying the former gas chambers are meant to be observed with “mournful silence” and that the site of the gruesome murders is “not a stage.”

The video that was published to YouTube Saturday — and has since been removed — shows Higgins filming himself inside the gas chambers at Auschwitz as he explains how people were killed there during the Holocaust and said the deaths at Nazi concentration camps are why “homeland security must be squared away” and why the U.S. military “must be invincible.”

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Arkansas will join the batch of other states that have refused to hand over all the voter data the President’s election fraud panel requested last week, Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) announced Wednesday, saying he won’t share his state’s “most sensitive data.”

I have spoken with Secretary of State Mark Martin and recommended that our state not provide all the voter information requested by the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity. The request is simply too broad and includes sensitive information of Arkansas voters. The Secretary has indicated that he will not provide Arkansas voters’ most sensitive data.

“While we remain committed to ensuring the integrity of and confidence in our electoral process, providing all of the information requested is not in the best interest of Arkansas voters. I continue to have confidence in the Secretary of State’s efforts to ensure that Arkansas’ elections are free and fair.”

Since the election integrity commission sent a letter to all 50 states requesting data — from date of birth and address to military status and the last four digits of social security numbers — 41 states have announced they won’t share the private data, a member of the panel has resigned and a privacy advocacy group has filed suit against the commission.

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Continuing its 29-year tradition of broadcasting an annual reading of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, National Public Radio accompanied that broadcast with line-by-line tweets of the founding fathers’ statement Tuesday.

But some Twitter users interpreted the tweets as an attack on President Donald Trump, calling NPR “propaganda” and said the radio station was “calling for a revolution.”

Several of the Twitter users who responded negatively to NPR’s posts deleted their accounts or deleted the tweets, with one user saying he made a “dumb comment,” but questioned whether most Americans would be able to identify the Declaration of Independent if it were read to them.

NPR Spokeswoman Allyssa Pollard said the tweets were shared by thousands of Twitter users and started a “lively discussion” online.

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A GOP congressman is facing backlash from officials at the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum in Poland after posting a video of himself walking around inside an Auschwitz gas chamber and using the memorial as a “stage” to promote the U.S. military.

Museum officials spoke out against Rep. Clay Higgins (R-LA) on Twitter Tuesday, retweeting a story about the recent video from New Orleans Online and saying “there should be mournful silence” inside a former gas chamber.

“It’s not a stage,” officials said.

Later Tuesday, the Auschwitz Memorial account tweeted a photo of the sign visitors see when entering the building that holds the first homicidal gas chambers of Auschwitz that says “Please maintain silence here: remember their suffering and show respect for their memory.”

Filming himself inside the gas chambers, Higgins’ video, which published on YouTube Saturday, features the U.S. representative explaining what happened to the millions of people killed during the Holocaust and said the deaths at Nazi concentration camps are why the U.S. military “must be invincible.”

“The cyanide pellets activated when they hit oxygen. After about 20 minutes everyone was dead and then slave labor would go in the room and drag bodies of those poor souls out and bring them and incinerate them in these ovens,” Higgins said, filming with the camera toward his face as he showed his audience around the gas chamber memorial. “There were three sets of ovens like that. This is why homeland security must be square away, why our military must be invincible.”

He went on to film and explain the “suffocation cells” at the memorial and said “this is why we must remember these things, man’s inhumanity to man can be quite shocking.”

As he left the museum he spoke to the camera again, saying the world is a “much smaller place” than it was during World War II and said the U.S. is “susceptible to terror like this, horror like this.”

“It’s hard to walk way from gas chambers, ovens, without a very sober feeling of commitment, unwavering commitment to make damn sure the United States of America is protected from the evils of the world,” he said.

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