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

During an interview with Fox News just hours after the school shooting in Parkland, Florida that left 17 people dead, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) on Wednesday warned his colleagues to not “jump to conclusions” on gun control policy before the facts of the attack are known.

He said it was not the appropriate time to start talking about policy surrounding the shooting, likely referencing statements from his Democratic colleague Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT), who said on the Senate floor Wednesday afternoon the attack was “a consequence of our inaction.”

“People don’t know how this happened, who this person is, what motivated them, how did they get ahold of the weapon to carry out this attack,” Rubio said. “I think it’s important to know all of that before you jump to conclusions that there’s a law we could have passed that could have prevented it and there may be, but shouldn’t we at least know the facts?”

“We can always have that debate,” he continued. “But if you’re going to have the debate about this particular incident, you should at least know the facts before you run out and prescribe some law you claim could have prevented it.”

The shooting in Rubio’s home state at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Wednesday was the deadliest school shooting since the attack at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut five years ago.

President Donald Trump, who is set to speak on the shooting at 11 a.m. EST Thursday, tweeted Thursday morning, suggesting there were “many signs” that the alleged shooter was “mentally disturbed” and said people already “knew he was a big problem.”

“Must always report such instances to authorities, again and again!” he said.

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President Donald Trump will speak at 11 a.m. EST Thursday to address the school shooting in Parkland, Florida Wednesday that left 17 people dead, according to the White House.

Trump expressed his condolences to the victims’ families via Twitter Wednesday afternoon. He followed up with another tweet Thursday morning saying there were “many signs” that the alleged shooter “mentally disturbed” and calling on “neighbors and classmates” to report “such instances to authorities.”

Watch live below:

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Hours after President Donald Trump offered his condolences to the families of the victims of the shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida Wednesday, he tweeted saying there were “many signs” that the shooter was mentally disturbed and tasked “neighbors and classmates” with reporting “such instances to authorities.”

Just hours before the President offered his condolences to the victims.

“My prayers and condolences to the families of the victims of the terrible Florida shooting. No child, teacher or anyone else should ever feel unsafe in an American school,” he tweeted, adding that he is working with the governor and local law enforcement on the “terrible” attack.

With 17 people dead, the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School has been labeled the deadliest school shooting since the attack at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut five years ago. There have been 18 school shootings so far in 2018, eight of which have resulted in injury or death.

Police identified the suspect in Florida as 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, a former student at the high school who police say has a “very, very disturbing” online presence.

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President Donald Trump on Monday pointed to his 1980s renovation of the Wollman Ice Rink in Central Park — that he suggested he completed for his daughter Ivanka Trump’s benefit  to tout his new $1.5 trillion infrastructure plan.

During a press conference announcing the plan, Trump said the rink renovation “took many, many years” and the city was not “able to open it.”

“And I said, ‘You know, I’d like to be able to have my daughter Ivanka — who is with us — I would like to be able to have her go ice skating sometime before she doesn’t want to ice skate,” Trump said. “And I got involved, and I did it in a few months and we did it for a tiny fraction, tiny fraction of the cost. It’s really no different with a roadway, it’s not different with a bridge or a tunnel or any of the things we’ll be fixing.”

In May 1986, Trump offered to take over the construction and operation of the Wollman Ice Rink after the New York City Parks Department spent six years struggling to finance and complete the renovation. His company completed the project in four months — two less than Trump predicted — and came in nearly $800,000 under budget, according to Forbes.

While Trump’s takeover of the project was widely considered a publicity stunt that escalated his feud with then-New York Mayor Ed Koch, Trump on Monday cited the renovation as evidence that his infrastructure proposal, which hinges on state and private dollars funding infrastructure projects, will succeed.

“It was a big deal at the time. It remains a big deal,” he said. “Sometimes the states aren’t able to do it like we can do it. Or like other people can do it. Or like I used to do it.”

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A “Fox and Friends” co-host on Monday morning pushed back on a White House spokesman’s claims that President Donald Trump, a noted fan of the morning talk show, has been “very clear” about his opinion on domestic violence and abuse.

Co-host Brian Kilmeade asked White House deputy press secretary J. Hogan Gidley to respond to an Axios report that Trump has been privately disgusted by allegations of domestic abuse against his former staff secretary Rob Porter.

“Why won’t he say that publicly?” Kilmeade asked Gidley.

“The President has been very clear that all forms of abuse, all forms of battery against women, is deplorable and disgusting,” Gidley replied.

Kilmeade interrupted, “But he hasn’t said that.”

“Right, but you haven’t talked to him today,” Gidley replied. “I mean, obviously he’s said that multiple times in the past, but in this particular instance, you’re talking about sources that I can’t verify because I have not had that conversation with him.”

Gidley claimed that he has spoken directly to Trump “about issues surrounding this type of behavior and he finds it disgusting.”

“The President deplores — thinks that domestic violence is grotesque. He’s said that on multiple occasions,” Gidley said. “There’s no place for it in this country,  there’s no place for it in the White House and the President won’t stand for it.”

Despite Gidley’s claims, Trump has been actively, publicly supportive of Porter, who resigned when his two ex-wives’ allegations became public last week. Trump on Friday wished Porter well and emphasized that he has maintained his innocence, but did not express any such sympathies for Jennifer Willoughby and Colbie Holderness, the women who say Porter abused them.

On Saturday, after a second White House aide resigned amid abuse allegations, Trump tweeted in defense of those whose lives he claimed “are being shattered and destroyed by mere allegations.”

During his 2016 campaign, Trump similarly defended men who faced allegations of harassment and abuse. After his former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski was arrested and charged with battery after a Breitbart reporter accused him of manhandling her, Trump claimed that Lewandowski was protecting him from the reporter’s pen, which he suggested might have been “a little bomb.”

He also defended former Fox News executive Roger Ailes, who stepped down amid multiple accusations of sexual misconduct, and former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly, who agreed to multiple settlements related to sexual harassment allegations.

Most recently, Trump broke with many in his own party to throw his weight behind former Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore, whom multiple women accused of pursuing romantic relationships with or making sexual advances toward them when they were teens and he was in his thirties.

“He totally denies it,” Trump said in Moore’s defense in the weeks leading up to the Alabama election, which Moore lost.

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Jennifer Willoughby, an ex-wife who came forward with allegations of domestic abuse against a top White House aide last week, was not fazed by President Donald Trump’s dismissal of her accusations over the weekend.

Everyone wants to talk about how Trump implied I am not to be believed. As if Trump is the model of kindness and forgiveness. As if he readily acknowledges his own shortcomings and shows empathy and concern for others,” Willoughby wrote in an op-ed for Time magazine on Sunday. “I forgive him. Thankfully, my strength and worth are not dependent on outside belief — the truth exists whether the President accepts it or not.”

Willoughby and Colbie Holderness, the other ex-wife of former White House aide Rob Porter, came forward last week with allegations of Porter’s history of domestic abuse. While Porter has denied the allegations, he resigned Wednesday. The White House initially defended Porter, but backtracked when photos surfaced of Holderness with a black eye that she allegedly sustained after Porter punched her in the face.

Trump was silent on the issue until Friday, when he told reporters that he wished Porter well and tweeted Saturday that “peoples lives are being shattered and destroyed by mere allegations.”

Read the rest of Willougby’s op-ed here.   

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Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) called out White House Chief of Staff John Kelly Sunday for his reported handling of allegations of domestic abuse against a former White House aide.

“I think in the end, we have got to hear from John Kelly as to what he knew and we haven’t heard that directly from him yet,” Christie said on ABC’s “This Week” Sunday. “This is about competence. And you have to, as chief of staff, be able to competently run the place.”

Kelly came under fire last week after former White House aide Rob Porter resigned when allegations of domestic abuse from two of his ex-wives became public Tuesday. Kelly reportedly already knew about the allegations after Porter’s background check clearance was stalled when his two ex-wives, Jennifer Willoughby and Colbie Holderness, told the FBI about their allegations of abuse.

In his initial statement responding to the allegations, Kelly was fiercely defensive of Porter. It wasn’t until a photo surfaced of Holderness with a black eye — that she allegedly sustained after Porter punched her — that Kelly dialed it back, calling the allegations “shocking.” 

On Sunday, Christie called the accusations “credible” and said there was “clearly” a “breakdown in the process” to approving hires.

“So ultimately this is the decision of the White House,” Christie said. “And so depending upon when it was presented, whether it was presented to Chief of Staff Preibus or whether it was presented ultimately (the) first time to Chief of Staff Kelly, along with the White House counsel, they’re the decision-making parties here that present that information to the President. So clearly there was a breakdown in process.”

While Porter has denied the allegations, he resigned from his post at the White House last week. Trump has been publicly defensive of Porter, telling reporters last week that he wished Porter well and tweeting Saturday that “peoples lives are being shattered and destroyed by mere allegations.”   

Watch the Christie interview below:

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Fox News has removed a controversial column penned by executive editor John Moody about diversity in the Olympics because it did not go through the “proper vetting process,” a Fox News insider told TPM Friday.

The column, titled “Darker, Gayer, Different,” slammed the U.S. Olympics for its efforts to attract a diverse group of athletes for the Winter Games. 

“Unless it’s changed overnight, the motto of the Olympics, since 1894, has been ‘Faster, Higher, Stronger.’ It appears the U.S. Olympic Committee would like to change that to ‘Darker, Gayer, Different.’ If your goal is to win medals, that won’t work,” Moody wrote Wednesday in the since-deleted column.

“Complaining that every team isn’t a rainbow of political correctness defeats the purpose of sports, which is competition,” he continued, according to Media Matters. “At the Olympic level, not everyone is a winner. Not everyone gets a little plastic trophy to take home.”

Screenshot of what appears in place of John Moody’s “Darker, Gayer, Different” column.

A Fox News spokesperson told TPM that the column was removed because it “does not reflect the views or values” of the network.

An insider at the network told TPM the column did not go through the “proper vetting process” before it was published.

“In terms of John Moody, he has zero editorial oversight on any platform, his title is a formality and he hasn’t performed that function for years,” the source told TPM. “Editors were too deferential given his longevity and they didn’t give (the column) much oversight. … That’s why it was removed.”

The column sparked outrage among LGBT and civil rights groups, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

Moody has been with Fox News since 1996 and is currently the executive vice president and executive editor.

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Is Hope Hicks next on the chopping block?

As one of President Donald Trump’s closest aides, Hicks has had one of the longest tenures in the Trump White House. But the President has reportedly become increasingly exasperated with his communications director in recent days for her handling of the White House’s response to allegations of domestic abuse against former aide Rob Porter, CNN reported Friday.

Sources familiar with the matter told CNN that Trump believes Hicks let her relationship with Porter — whom she recently reportedly became romantically involved with, according to CNN and CBS — muddle her judgement in drafting a statement in Porter’s defense when his ex-wives’ allegations of abuse became public Tuesday. According to CNN’s sources, Trump was not consulted when Hicks wrote the statement and he thinks the communications director put her own interests above his.

Trump is also reportedly “very disturbed” by the coverage of Porter’s alleged abuse and subsequent resignation and is becoming increasingly frustrated with Chief of Staff John Kelly for his handling of the situation.

On Tuesday, The Daily Mail first reported that both of Porter’s ex-wives — Jennifer Willoughby and Colbie Holderness — have accused him of domestic abuse. The White House and Kelly quickly released statements defending Porter and his character. After seeing the photos of Holderness’ black eye that she said she sustained when Porter punched her, Kelly backtracked and put out a statement calling the allegations “shocking.” Kelly is under fire for his botched response to the allegations and for reportedly having previous knowledge of the ex-wives’ allegations.

Trump has reportedly been asking aides what they think of Budget Director Mick Mulvaney in recent weeks, which aides think means he’s considering Mulvaney as a potential candidate for a new chief of staff, according to CNN.

Porter has denied the accusations and called them a “smear campaign,” but ultimately resigned on Wednesday.

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President Donald Trump asks intelligence officials to give him oral presentations of the President’s Daily Briefing rather than reading the brief himself, as most previous presidents have done, The Washington Post reported on Friday.

Trump prefers to rely on oral presentations — featuring graphics, videos and maps —rather than reading the report because that’s his “style of learning,” the Washington Post reported, citing an unnamed source with knowledge of the situation.

He asks “edge” questions during the oral presentations, an unnamed senior administration official told the Washington Post, and has complained that briefers are “talking down to him.”

Other unnamed officials told the Washington Post that Trump asks direct questions of his briefers such as, “Why can’t I just pull out of Afghanistan?”

The daily briefing — which is a highly classified roundup of important intelligence, compiled before dawn — is typically delivered first thing in the morning. According to the Washington Post, Trump reportedly receives the in-person briefing he prefers once every two or three days. The last president who may not have regularly read the intelligence briefing was Richard Nixon.

During his presidential transition in 2016, Trump turned away opportunities to be briefed on classified intelligence.

“You know, I’m, like, a smart person,” he said in December 2016.“I don’t have to be told the same thing in the same words every single day for the next eight years.”

A month later, Trump said that his briefings on global threats made him realize that he has “got to get it right,” but indicated that he preferred to see those global issues summed up in one-page briefings in listicle form.

“I like bullets or I like as little as possible,” he said. “I don’t need, you know, 200-page reports on something that can be handled on a page. That I can tell you.”

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