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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

The American Academy of Diplomacy and the Council of American Ambassadors concurred with the State Department on Friday that the Russian interest in interviewing an American citizen over alleged crimes is “absurd” and “raises serious problems for American diplomacy.”

Arguing that diplomatic immunity is “essential” to the protection of diplomats serving overseas, they said in a statement Friday that the rule also ensures that a diplomat or ambassador is able to do their job of keeping their government “fully and completely informed without hindrance from other states and to carry out foreign policy in all its aspects free of such intervention or the threat of such intervention.”

“Administrations and policies may change but our diplomats must be confident that our government has their back,” the councils said.

During a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday, President Donald Trump reportedly didn’t object to Putin’s interests in interviewing Ambassador Michael McFaul and others for alleged crimes. When asked about it days later, Trump himself called it an “incredible offer” and White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders indicated that Trump might be considering doing so. Sanders later clarified that Trump “disagrees” with Putin’s proposal.

“It is a proposal that was made in sincerity by President Putin, but President Trump disagrees with it,” Sanders said in a written statement. “Hopefully President Putin will have the 12 identified Russians come to the United States to prove their innocence or guilt.”

Read the full statement from the American Academy of Diplomacy and the Council of American Ambassadors below.

“The Russian interest in interviewing Ambassador McFaul in connection with alleged crimes is, as the Department of State spokesman has said, absurd. The request raises serious problems for American diplomacy and those serving our nation as diplomats overseas. Full diplomatic immunities are essential to protecting diplomats in their efforts to keep their government fully and completely informed without hindrance from other states and to carry out foreign policy in all its aspects free of such intervention or the threat of such intervention. American diplomats need to be able to trust that their immunities will be fully preserved by both so long as they are performing their duties and in connection with previously performed duties covered by such immunities under international law. Administrations and policies may change but our diplomats must be confident that our government has their back.

“Were that not to be the case, no diplomat could be secure in carrying out his or her instructions from Washington and confident the United States will not turn them over to a foreign state for investigation of any action they took for the United States while covered by diplomatic immunities. The Russian suggestion that the U.S. government should in any way facilitate the questioning of diplomats covered by immunities during their service in Russia is a concept that should be rejected to assure the full protection of U.S. interests and the diplomats serving those interests.”

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Fox News host Kimberly Guilfoyle is reportedly leaving the network to help Donald Trump Jr. campaign for the 2018 midterm elections, according to Vanity Fair and CNN.

A Fox News spokesperson told TPM: “FOX News has parted ways with Kimberly Guilfoyle.”

Guilfoyle, who is dating Trump Jr., is planning to work for the non-profit, America First Policies, according to a person familiar with the matter who spoke to CNN. A second person familiar with discussions said America First, which supports President Donald Trump’s stances, has been trying to get her to join the organization for a while.

Trump Jr. and his wife Vanessa Haydon are recently divorced. The New York Daily News has been closely documenting Trump Jr. and Guilfoyle’s budding relationship.

This post has been updated.

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The father of two students who survived the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida in February was shot and killed in his own convenience store this week, according to local reports.

The father of four, Ayub Ali, was forced into the back office of his store by the robber, who took money from the cash register and left, according to NBC Miami. The suspect returned minutes later and shot Ali. Police found him in the back room of his store and he was pronounced dead at the hospital.

Two of Ali’s children were in the Parkland high school on Valentine’s Day when a former student entered the school with his own legally purchased AR-15 and other weapons and opened fire on the students and teachers, killing 17 people. Students who survived the attack ignited a nationwide effort to end school shootings.

Ali’s shooting death will likely add fuel to those efforts, which include advocating for common sense gun reform and encouraging other young people to vote out politicians who are largely funded by the National Rifle Association.

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White House staffers who initially planned to leave their jobs after the midterm elections are considering getting out sooner because of President Donald Trump’s performance during a press conference with Vladimir Putin Monday, and his fumbled attempts to clean up his remarks ever since.

According to Politico, morale hasn’t been this low in the White House since Trump blamed “both sides” for violence following the attack of counter-protesters at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia last year.

“People are just depressed,” a Republican close to the White House told Politico. “Nobody wants to take on the public heat of resigning right now, but there are a bunch of people who were thinking maybe they’d leave after the midterms who are very seriously starting to consider accelerating their timetable.”

While staffers may reportedly be eying the exits over Trump’s discombobulated messaging on Russian interference in the 2016 election, senior officials like Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Adviser John Bolton don’t plan to resign because his comments won’t have any concrete impact on policy, Politico reported.

While in Helsinki this week, Trump stood beside Putin and publicly supported the Kremlin chief’s denial of meddling in U.S. elections in 2016, despite declarations to the contrary from his own intelligence agency. Trump made a rare retraction on Tuesday, at the behest of top officials like Vice President Mike Pence and Chief of Staff John Kelly, and told reporters that he misspoke during the presser.

Then, on Wednesday, he appeared to break with his intelligence community’s assessment that Russia is still actively targeting the U.S., but press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders cleaned up that mess for him, telling reporters that Trump’s “no” was an indication that he didn’t want to take any more press questions, not that he didn’t think the U.S. was under attack.

Read Politico’s full piece here.    

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After Legislative Director Marc Short leaves his post at the White House Friday, he’ll head to the University of Virginia to teach at the business school and serve as a senior fellow in the school’s public policy wing, starting in August.

But professors, alumni and others have started an online petition to oppose the university’s “unconscionable” appointment of Short, calling the decision particularly egregious given the upcoming one-year anniversary of the deadly white nationalist attack in Charlottesville, Virginia and the Trump administration’s response to the incident.

“The university should not serve as a waystation for high-level members of an administration that has directly harmed our community and to this day attacks the institutions vital to a free society — the very thing that the University of Virginia, as an institution of higher education, is meant to protect,” the petition said.

Those who signed the petition are concerned that allowing Short on campus could become a “source of trauma” for those still impacted and “healing” from the attack, where one person was killed and dozens injured when a man affiliated with white supremacists drove his car through a crowd of counter protesters.

As we approach the first anniversary of the white nationalist violence against this university, this town, and our friends, neighbors, students, faculty and staff — all of whom are represented among the injured — it is unconscionable that we would add to our university a person who served in a high-level position for the administration that first empowered, then defended, those white nationalists,” the petition said.

While President Trump did eventually condemn white supremacists, he infamously blamed “both sides” for violence during an unhinged press conference in the days following the attack.

When reached by Politico, Short said “I think we could have done a better job expressing sympathy for the victims and outrage at those who perpetrated this evil.”

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Newly minted White House Communications Director Bill Shine, formerly of Fox News, was reportedly subpoenaed by a federal grand jury in New York last year to answer questions about Fox News’ handling of sexual harassment complaints, The New York Times reported Friday.

Shine was ousted from Fox News last year and has been accused in several lawsuits of allegedly helping to enable or hide sexual misconduct by Fox News’ founding chairman Roger Ailes.

Shine voluntarily spoke with federal prosecutors in the U.S. attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York, according to a person familiar with the matter who spoke to the Times. It’s unclear what Shine was asked, but a personal involved in the investigation told the Times that around the same time as Shine’s questioning, prosecutors were investigating whether Shine intimidated or discredited women who complained of sexual harassment at Fox.

Shine was never charged, according to the Times and Ailes died in May of last year. The probe is reportedly no longer active.  

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Following reports that Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) was recently interviewed by lawyers conducting an investigation for Ohio State University over allegations that a former doctor abused wrestlers decades ago when Jordan was a coach for the team, Jordan continued to claim he was under attack from the left.

Jordan was recently interviewed by lawyers who are looking into allegations of rampant, well-known sexual abuse by the wrestling team’s doctor. Jordan told Fox News on Thursday that he couldn’t comment on the details of the probe, but reiterated that he never knew anything, “never heard” or had it reported to him that the wrestling team doctor was sexually abusing athletes.

When asked why the reports that he knew of the abuse only just now surfaced, he called the allegations “sequenced and choreographed.”

“The left and everything they’ve done, I guess you have to look at that. I find all that suspect,” he said.

“I guess I would like to think the reason you see the left coming after me and lies being told is because we’re being effective in doing what we told the American people we’re doing and I also think it has something to do with the fact that  I think President Trump is doing a great job and we’re trying to support and help him make America great again,” he continued.

At least eight former OSU wrestlers have come forward alleging that Jordan knew about the abuse when he was a coach and claimed allegations were widely discussed in the locker room. Jordan has denied knowing about any of the incidents.  

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Rants about the “enemy of the people,” “fake news” and “failing” media are nothing new from President Donald Trump.

But on Thursday morning, Trump made a fresh bombastic claim: the media want the U.S. to go to “war” with Russia.

“The Fake News Media wants so badly to see a major confrontation with Russia, even a confrontation that could lead to war,” he said Thursday morning in a series of Twitter outbursts against the coverage of his summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Despite days of mystifying flip-flops on whether Trump believes his own intelligence community over Putin, he then claimed the media has no interest in reporting that the he has previously acknowledged Russia meddling and thanked his friends at “Fox and Friends” for their coverage.

Reiterating who the “real enemy of the people” is, Trump touched on an issue that his own officials have been scrambling to resolve in the past 24 hours. On Wednesday, Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. told reporters in Moscow that the Trump and Putin had made several “verbal agreements” during their one-on-one session, without aides. Administration officials have reportedly been unable to produce details on what those agreements might be, but Trump alluded to what was discussed in tweets.

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Russia’s ambassador to the United States told the media in Moscow on Wednesday that Presidents Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin had reached several “verbal agreements” on weapons treaties and Syria.

But U.S. officials are scrambling to figure out what those agreements might have been, according to the Washington Post.

The Pentagon and State Department both reportedly did not have a clear idea of what Trump and Putin had agreed to, according to the Post. The State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told the Post that the Department was still “assessing … three takeaways” from the discussion.

While both White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and counselor Kellyanne Conway gave reporters on Wednesday a list of topics the two had discussed, no official has provided any specifics on what was achieved, as the Post noted.

Read the Post’s full report here.   

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Despite messaging that would suggest otherwise, President Donald Trump has known since January 2017 that Russian President Vladimir Putin orchestrated the Kremlin-backed attacks on the 2016 election, The New York Times reported Wednesday.

Just before his inauguration, Trump was shown texts and email proof of Russia’s hacking efforts and disinformation campaign. During that Jan. 6, 2017 meeting, Trump was briefed by then-CIA Director John Brennan — who he now regularly criticizes and just recently called a “bad guy” — former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, Director of the National Security Agency Michael Rogers, former FBI Director James Comey and the head of the U.S. Cyber Command.

Trump was shown evidence of the hacked Democratic National Committee emails on Russian intelligence networks and was told about several sources close to Putin who corroborated his role in the hacking, according to several people who attended or were briefed on the meeting, who spoke with the Times.

According to three people who were in attendance, Trump was “grudgingly convinced” of the meddling, in the Times’ words.

Those findings have all been corroborated by his own intelligence officials.

Read the Times’ full story here.

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