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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 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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Discussing his plan to incorporate border security legislation with a revitalization of the DREAM Act, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said President Donald Trump needs to talk with his chief of staff about what it would take to secure the U.S. border.

It’s not just about a wall, he said Wednesday on CNN.

I’ve been to the border a lot, a 2,200 mile wall is not necessary. Quite frankly I don’t think it makes a lot of border security sense,” he said. “We do need a wall in some places, but (Chief of Staff) John Kelly is probably the smartest guy I know on border security. He was the head of the southern command as a Marine. So my advice to the President would be, ‘You come up with the border security plan that’s reasonable that will secure the border.’”

If Trump can do that, Graham said he thinks he can “get Democrats on board” for legislation that would combine border security with the DREAM Act. 

The DREAM Act is a bill that would allow undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as minors the opportunity to earn temporary and potentially permanent residency by attending college or joining the military. The legislation has been brought before Congress multiple times, but has never passed.

“We actually need to do both,” Graham said, referencing securing the U.S. border and helping protect Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients from deportation, a program that the administration just announced it would end in six months.

Lets do two things. Make a down payment on fixing a broken immigration system and give these kids the life they deserve. … Let somebody like John Kelly advise the President, and the President needs to own border security and (it) needs to be something we can pass,” he said. “And in return, Democrats, they are going to have to understand that most Americans want to treat these kids fairly but also want to secure the border. There’s a deal to be had here and the President’s got to help sell it.”

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If any of the 39 Microsoft employees who are recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) face legal challenges when the program ends, the tech company will defend them in court, President and CLO Brad Smith wrote in a blog post Tuesday.

He called the administration’s decision to end DACA, which protects undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as minors from deportation, is “a big step back for our entire country.”

When Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the decision to end the program in six months on Tuesday, he passed the buck to Congress to come up with a plan before the program ends.

Smith urged Congress to make passing legislation to protect DACA recipients its top priority this fall.

We say this even though Microsoft, like many other companies, cares greatly about modernizing the tax system and making it fairer and more competitive,” he said. “But we need to put the humanitarian needs of these 800,000 people on the legislative calendar before a tax bill. … In short, urgent DACA legislation is both an economic imperative and a humanitarian necessity.”

He called DACA recipients young people who are “part of our nation’s fabric” and said “they belong here.” He said Microsoft will work with other companies and the business community as a whole to “vigorously defend the legal rights” of all recipients.

“For the 39 Dreamers that we know of who are our employees, our commitment is clear. If Congress fails to act, our company will exercise its legal rights properly to help protect our employees,” he said.

If those Microsoft employees are deported, Smith said the company will back them up.

“If the government seeks to deport any one of them, we will provide and pay for their legal counsel. We will also file an amicus brief and explore whether we can directly intervene in any such case. In short, if Dreamers who are our employees are in court, we will be by their side,” he said.

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A Trump administration memo distributed Tuesday guided legislators to stick to the talking points that DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, recipients should prepare for deportation, according to multiple reports.

The Department of Justice officially announced Tuesday that it would end DACA in six months. The program, which was created by former President Barack Obama through executive order, protects undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as minors from deportation.

And while the White House and President Donald Trump are urging Congress to come up with a legislative solution for the issue, the talking points from the Trump administration told Congress that DACA recipients should “prepare for and arrange their departure from the United States.”

“The Department of Homeland Security urges DACA recipients to use the time remaining on their work authorizations to prepare for and arrange their departure from the United States — including proactively seeking travel documentation — or to apply for other immigration benefits for which they may be eligible,” the document said, which ABC obtained and confirmed with two congressional sources and one White House official. 

CNN was first to report on the memo. ABC News and NBC News also obtained the memo.

The guidance comes in contrast to public statements from the administration.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders dodged questions about whether DACA recipients would be deported once the six month window closes and instead told reporters Tuesday the administration has “confidence that Congress will actually do their job.” She said that DACA recipients would not be a priority for deportation.

The President himself tweeted Tuesday night that if Congress fails to come up with a solution, he would “revisit” the issue in six months.

This post has been updated.

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Attorney General Jeff Sessions made the announcement that the White House will rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program instead of the President because it’s a legal issue, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters Tuesday.

“It’s in large part a big part of the legal process. This was deemed illegal by, I think, just about every legal expert that you can find in the country, including many of (former President Barack) Obama’s own attorneys said that this was not (a) lawful program,” she said at a press briefing. “And therefore, it would be the Department of Justice to make a legal recommendation and that’s what they did.”

Sessions announced Tuesday morning that the administration would end the DACA program in six months in order to give Congress time to come up with a legislative solution for the immigration issue.

The White House said it made the decision this week because several states threatened to sue President Donald Trump if he didn’t make moves to end the program by Tuesday.

The DACA program was introduced through executive order by Obama in 2012 and is designed to protect undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children from deportation.

When asked again why Trump didn’t make the announcement himself — since he was so vocal about ending the program, but treating DACA recipients “with heart” — Sanders said the President has already “spoken about this numerous times in the past” and gave a near-identical response the second time.

“This was a legal issue because there was a court decision that had to be made with a timeline not placed— that the administration created, but a timeline that was created by the attorney generals in those states that were forcing this issue and this decision (was) to take place by today,” she said. “It was a legal decision and that would fall to the attorney general, and that’s why he would be the one making the announcement.” 

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