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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 islands and low-lying parts of Palm Beach County in Florida were ordered to evacuate Friday because of Hurricane Irma, an area that includes President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort.

More than 100,000 Palm Beach residents were told to evacuate Friday, the Miami Herald reported. All of Florida is under a state of emergency and several other counties are under mandatory evacuation. The hurricane is expected to make landfall in south Florida on Saturday.

Several of Trump’s properties may be impacted by Hurricane Irma. Mar-a-Lago, which Trump has repeatedly visited since becoming President, is located just off the ocean in Palm Beach.

The President also owns three golf courses in the counties that have been forced to evacuate and an 11-bedroom mansion in St. Martin, which experienced widespread devastation when Irma hit the island earlier this week.

“We are closely monitoring Hurricane Irma,” a Trump Organization spokesperson told CNN on Wednesday. “Our teams at the Trump properties in Florida are taking all of the proper precautions and following local and Florida State Advisories very closely to ensure that everyone is kept safe and secure. We continue to send our thoughts and prayers to victims of Hurricane Harvey and are praying for those that are in the path of Hurricane Irma.”

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President Donald Trump’s move to side with Democrats on the debt ceiling this week may have some Republicans “freaked out,” but not Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC).

“I don’t get freaked out much about anything,” Meadows said on MSNBC Friday. “Right now I think this is more of a one-off than a trend that we’re going to be looking at going forward.”

Meadows’ remarks come after the President met with Democratic and Republican congressional leaders Wednesday and opted to side with Democrats’ proposal to increase the debt ceiling for three months rather than the longer-term increase that Republicans were pushing for.

Meadows said the move does put him in a “negotiating disadvantage,” but the President made that decision because he “wasn’t given a whole lot of options.”

“Here’s the thing, because of the hurricane relief there wasn’t a whole lot of options when you look at this you either had an 18-month clean debt limit or what was agreed to, a three-month clean debt limit. So when given two bad options, obviously, you can’t be too critical of anybody,” he said. “Our grass roots are very confused. They’re saying, ‘Is this President going to cut deals with Democrats from here on out? And I would suggest that that’s not the case and that’s based on talking not only to the President but also talking to Speaker Ryan and others.”

When asked about reports that he and other members of the House Freedom Caucus are meeting secretly to oust House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) from his position, Meadows denied the claims saying he believes Ryan is “up to the task.”

“I can tell you, there is no plan, there is nothing there and I can tell you, that if I was working on a plan to depose the speaker, you wouldn’t be reading about it in the press,” he said.

Watch the full interview below:

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Two Democratic lawmakers have introduced legislation that would remove statues of people who voluntarily served the Confederate States of America from the U.S. Capitol.

Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) are sponsoring the bicameral bill that calls for the removal of the Confederate monuments from the National Statuary Hall within 120 days.

The bill has three additional sponsors in the Senate and 46 sponsors in the House.

“The National Statuary Hall Collection is intended to honor American patriots who served, sacrificed, or made tremendous contributions to our nation,” Booker said. “Those who committed treason against the United States of America and led our nation into its most painful and bloody war are not patriots and should not be afforded such a rare honor in this sacred space.”

The bill comes in response to the violent white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia last month, which resulted in the death of a counter protester, Lee said.

The group of white supremacists gathered to protest the removal of a Robert E. Lee statue in a Charlottesville park. Counter-protesters came to rally against the group and a man affiliated with the white supremacists allegedly drove his car through a crowd of counter protesters, killing a woman named Heather Heyer.

In the wake of the violent rally, Lee said it is “abundantly clear that much work remains to root out racism from our society.”

Across the country, Confederate statues and monuments pay tribute to white supremacy and slavery in public spaces. These hateful symbols should have no place in our society and they certainly should not be enshrined in the U.S. Capitol,” she said.

The Statuary Hall in the Capitol was created in 1864 and allowed each state to pick two people to memorialize with statues there.

Under Booker and Lee’s bill, coined the Confederate Monument Removal Act, states would be allowed to take back their statues or they will be given to the Smithsonian, according to a statement from Booker’s office.

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Just before President Donald Trump sided with the Democrats this week and raise the debt ceiling for three months, instead of the six months Republicans were asking for, Speaker of the House Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) called the Democrats’ plan “ridiculous.”

Now he’s on board.

Appearing on Fox New Thursday night, Ryan defended the President saying his decision was “perfectly reasonable and rational.”

“What he’s trying to do is clear the decks so we can get focused on our big things like tax reform. I’ve spoken to the President a lot about this,” he said. “I talked to him this morning, he wants to clear the decks so we can basically get our job done and focus on our big issues like tax reform, border security and the rest.”

He said the second part of the President’s plan was to make sure relief funds for the hurricane recovery efforts didn’t become a political issue.

“He wanted to make this a bipartisan moment where we weren’t fighting each other in Washington about hurricane aid,” he said. “He just wanted to get it done, get it out of the way so that aid is flowing to the states that need it right now so we can go and then focus on things like tax reform.”

He defended Trump again.

“So it’s perfectly reasonable and rational why he’s doing what he’s doing,” he said.

Watch his comments below:

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The top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee thinks Congress should look into crafting new legislation that would regulate advertisements that are sold and posted on social media sites, like Facebook and Twitter.

Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA), who is helping lead a probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, said on MSNBC Thursday that there is a “gray murky area in the law” right now concerning advertisements that can be sold on social media sites.

He suggested instituting regulations similar to those enforced by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that apply to television advertisements.

“If you put up content on television, even if I can’t find who funded the content, we know whether that content— if it is affecting an election, if it is foreign-based content and you can look at the content,” he said. “Under the internet, we’re not even able, as the American public, to look at the type of ads that these Russians were posting on some of these pages and some of these sites. I think we need to revisit that perhaps from a legal standpoint as well.”

Warner’s remarks come after The Washington Post reported that Facebook officials told congressional investigators that it discovered it had sold $100,000 worth of political advertisements to a Russian company during the 2016 election.

Some of the ads named President Donald Trump and then-opponent Hillary Clinton and some of the accounts that promoted the ads were potentially linked to a “troll farm” in St. Petersburg, Facebook said.   

Warner did not specifically name laws enforced by the FCC, but said people have the right to know if content is “being sponsored by foreign governments.”

“We ought to look at that content no matter who is sponsoring if it is in a political context,” he said.

Warner said he would like to see Facebook and Twitter officials come before his committee because The Washington Post findings “may be just the tip of the iceberg.”

“I’ve got lots of questions about not just Facebook, (but) Twitter and others. … But what is more important is how many other fake accounts or page views or groups that these internet trolls could create that would then in effect reinforce the ads which would push up this news or this hateful information higher on a Facebook news feed,” he said.

“We also had public testimony earlier in the year, from a NATO expert, actually, that let’s take another one of the social media firms, Twitter, that said that 8 percent of all of the Twitter accounts are fake,” he said. “How many of those originate out of Russia? And how many of those were used in the process? We don’t know.” 

Watch the interview below:

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While some members of his party are upset about the President’s decision to side with Democrats and tie Hurricane Harvey aid to a three-month debt ceiling increase, one GOP representative said he’s “fine” with the President’s decision.

“He had to” do it, Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY) said Thursday.

Appearing on CNN’s “New Day,” host Chris Cuomo asked Collins whether he viewed President Donald Trump’s decision as a move that gave Democrats too much leverage, or a decision that “cut out the partisan ‘BS’” in order to get something done.

Collins said he’s on “the latter side, that Donald Trump went to the source.”

“He had to. We have a filibuster issue when it comes to the debt ceiling, so he went to Sen. Schumer. We have 52 Republicans, we don’t have 60, so he went where he needed to go to find out what Sen. Schumer’s appetite was on the debt ceiling,” he said. “I think Trump did what he thought was best.”

Calling Trump the “CEO of the country,” Collins said he’s “fine” with Trump’s decision because it gives Congress more time to focus on “some of the other issues” like tax reform, health care and other big ticket items.

He said he hadn’t heard that other members of his party were upset about the cross-party deal.

Yesterday in our conference we got the distinct impression this is exactly what we were going to see. And clearly, some people — and I’m one of the folks who would say why do we have a debt celling? It’s because we spend more than we bring in. We run deficits. We have to pay our bills,” he said, adding that he’s always been an advocate for an automatic increase in the debt ceiling when Congress runs out of money.

“We have to pay our bills,” he said. “So really, it’s a vote we have to take. We’ve always taken it, we always will.”

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U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley was initially offered a different position in President Donald Trump’s administration — secretary of state.

But she reportedly turned it down.

Haley, the former governor of South Carolina who backed two of Trump’s opponents in the months leading up to the 2016 election, recently told CNN that she said no to Trump’s job offer because she didn’t think she was qualified to lead American diplomacy at that level.

I’m very aware of when things are right and when they are not,” she told CNN. “I just thought he could find someone better.”

But Trump didn’t want to take no for an answer. He asked his former Chief of Staff Reince Priebus to reach out again with a different job offer: U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

She told CNN she was interested in the position, but she had some conditions. She wanted to be considered part of the administration, like previous ambassadors had been, and she wanted to be able to speak her mind when she felt she needed to.

“I said, ‘I am a policy girl, I want to be part of the decision-making process,’” she said, telling CNN about her conversation with Trump. “He said, ‘done.’ And I said, ‘I don’t want to be a wallflower or a talking head. I want to be able to speak my mind.’ He said, ‘That is why I asked you to do this.’ In all honesty, I didn’t think they were going to take me up on everything I asked for. And they gave me all that. So how do you turn that down?”

When she arrived in New York she said she spent a lot of time catching up with the “massive learning curve” she faced in the new gig, saying it was “a lot of reading” and “a lot of deep dives.”

Despite her position in the Trump administration, Haley hasn’t always been loyal to the President.

While serving as governor of South Carolina, Haley backed then-presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and threw her weight behind Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) during the general election.

She led efforts to remove Confederate flags from her state capitol building after a white supremacist killed nine people at the Mother Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. She was reportedly critical of Trump and his response to a violent white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, where a counter-protester was killed.   

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President Donald Trump’s response to the attack at a violent white supremacist rally, that left one counter protester dead, has pushed a New York State lawmaker to introduce a bill that would strip Trump’s name from a state park.

Assembly member Nily Rozic, a Democrat from Queens, has started a petition to change the name of the Donald J. Trump state park to honor Heather Heyer, the woman who was killed when a man affiliated with white supremacists allegedly drove his car through a crowd of counter protesters at the Charlottesville, Virginia rally in July.

The bill will direct the state parks department to change the name to the “Heather D. Heyer State Park” and cites the parks’ policy that “state parks should foster and strengthen the sense of purpose, well being and identity of the citizens of this state,” Buzzfeed reported.

“The renaming would acknowledge that its current designation does not reflect the goals of uplifting and unifying New Yorkers,” Rozic told Buzzfeed.

Renaming the park is just one of many actions that those opposed to the President can take to resist the Trump administration’s policies, she said. 

“Across the nation, we have spoken out against the policy proposals the Trump Administration has put forth that are discriminatory, divisive, and misguided. Since January 2017, we have organized protests and rallies in defense of our values while pledging to uphold progress that has taken place on the local level,” she wrote in the petition.

“The events that unfolded in Charlottesville are a reminder that the work ahead requires us to stand united in the face of hate. It was for this reason that Heather, who worked as a paralegal, had joined so many others that day to push back against the rise in racist, xenophobic, anti-Semitic rhetoric that has no place in our communities,” she said.

Trump donated the 430-acres of land to the state in 2006 under the condition that New York prominently display his name at the park, Buzzfeed reported in February 2016 when a different state legislator was trying to remove Trump’s name from the space.

The park is now mostly abandoned, but Rozic thinks the change would send a message.

“We believe that re-naming Donald J. Trump State Park to Heather D. Heyer State Park would not only honor her name and her activism, but serve as a reminder of how important it is for us to denounce those who seek to divide us,” she said.

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President Donald Trump’s move to side with Democrats on their plan to tie aid for Hurricane Harvey to a three-month debt limit increase has stunned many congressional Republicans, from members of the party’s leadership who sat in on the meeting to GOP representatives who were pushing for at least a 12-month increase.

Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-ND) said he “gasped” when he heard the news and had to seek clarification before he believed the President had sided with Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) over GOP leadership.

“I will tell you that I gasped when I heard it. In fact, I sought clarification when the President told us before the flight — I sought clarification to make sure I understood that applied to the debt ceiling and the CR (continuing resolution), and not just the CR,” he said. “When we received that confirmation, I said, ‘Wow.’ I was at a dinner last night where that was not in anybody’s dream.”

Despite being sidelined by the President’s move, Cramer — who made the comments on board Air Force One Wednesday evening on his way back from his visit to his home state with the President — said he trusts Trump.

“For me personally, I trust the President’s negotiating ability. I think he felt this was the best deal he could get,” he said. “The speaker and the leader felt the same, or they wouldn’t have agreed to it. Now it’s going to be a tough sell in our conference, there is no question about it.”

He said he “gasped” because he’d had “enough conversations with members over the last couple of days to know they wanted to go at least outside of next November.”

“Voting to raise the debt ceiling more than once in an election cycle is too many and once is about one too many,” he told reporters.

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In her third memoir, set to be released next week, Hillary Clinton reportedly owns many of her mistakes that lead to her defeat last November, but she also places some of the fault on her former Democratic opponent and former FBI Director James Comey.

She said her biggest fault was running a “traditional” campaign instead of a “reality TV show” campaign like Donald Trump did. Trump’s camp “relentlessly stoked Americans’ anger and resentment,” she wrote, according to CNN. The network purchased the new book, titled “What Happened,” a week before its widespread release.

“I think it’s fair to say that I didn’t realize how quickly the ground was shifting under all our feet,” she said. “I was running a traditional presidential campaign with carefully thought-out policies and painstakingly built coalitions, while Trump was running a reality TV show that expertly and relentlessly stoked Americans’ anger and resentment.”

Her critique of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) ties into her disdain for Trump, saying Sanders’ attempts to damage her image during the primaries made way for Trump to latch onto the “crooked Hillary” rhetoric that was so emboldening for his base.

The Comey letter that announced the FBI was continuing its investigation into Clinton’s emails just days before the election was also a major death blow, she said, according to CNN.

But her comments during a CNN town hall about putting coal miners out of business is the mistake she said she “regrets the most.”

She wrote that she thinks sexism was also clearly at play and a crucial part of her defeat. She questions why after years of holding so many public offices, the public still doesn’t like her.

“What makes me such a lightning rod for fury? I’m really asking. I’m at a loss,” she wrote. “I think it’s partly because I’m a woman.”

In the new memoir, she also reportedly dives into her relationship with her husband, former President Bill Clinton; her frustration with the media; and her regret over not being able to face Russian President Vladimir Putin as a U.S. president, according to CNN.

“There’s nothing I was looking forward to more than showing Putin that his efforts to influence our election and install a friendly puppet had failed,” she writes. “I know he must be enjoying everything that’s happened instead. But he hasn’t had the last laugh yet.”

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