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

President Donald Trump on Friday declared victory over a collusion lawsuit that was filed by a former employee of the Democratic National Committee, alleging the Trump campaign and Roger Stone colluded with Russia and WikiLeaks to publish hacked DNC emails.

“Just won the lawsuit filed by the DNC and a bunch of Democrat crazies trying to the Trump Campaign (and others), colluded with Russia,” he tweeted Friday afternoon.

Despite Trump’s implication that the judge cleared his campaign of collusion with Russia, the lawsuit was tossed by a federal judge on Tuesday because of a jurisdictional technicality.

“It bears emphasizing that this Court’s ruling is not based on a finding that there was no collusion between defendants and Russia during the 2016 presidential election,” Judge Ellen Huvelle wrote in her ruling, according to Politico. “This is the wrong forum for plaintiffs’ lawsuit. The Court takes no position on the merits of plaintiffs’ claims.”

The lawsuit was filed last year by DNC donors — Roy Cockrum and Eric Schoenberg — and staffer Scott Comer, not by the DNC, as Trump suggested in his tweet. The donors and former staffer alleged that the Trump campaign and Stone worked with the Russians to hack the DNC’s emails, and the plaintiffs argued that the publishing of the hacked emails was an invasion of their privacy.

It’s been reported that Stone exchanged messages with WikiLeaks and another account that was reportedly responsible for sharing the files during the campaign. Stone also recently fessed up about his contacts with a Russian national who wanted money in exchange for dirt on Hillary Clinton.  

The DNC has filed its own lawsuit against Russia, the Trump campaign and others related to the email hack.

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Secretary of State Mike Pompeo gifted North Korean leader Kim Jong Un with an Elton John CD that includes his hit song “Rocket Man,” signed by President Donald Trump, North Korean media reported Friday.

Pompeo reportedly brought two gifts for Kim from Trump — the CD and a letter, according to The Chosunilbo. Pompeo would not confirm the CD gift to U.S. reporters embedded with him.

According to a diplomatic source who spoke with Chosunilbo, the “Rocket Man” CD stems from a conversation Trump and Kim had during their denuclearization summit last month. Trump reportedly asked Kim if he had ever heard the song and Kim said he had not.

The CD refers to the moniker Trump gave Kim last year when tensions between the two world leaders had reached a boiling point. Both Kim and Trump traded juvenile insults for months as Kim launched test missiles and Trump threatened to bring “fire and fury” to the regime.

Pompeo is in North Korea for two days to discuss the return of the remains of U.S. soldiers who were killed in the Korean War in the 1950s and dismantlement of a North Korean missile engine test site.

During the summit last month, the two leaders agreed to work together to denuclearize the Korean peninsula, with Trump vowing to end the U.S.-South Korea “war games” and Kim saying he would disassemble his test sites, though there’s been no sign that he’s made any efforts to do so.

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President Donald Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen has recently told at least two friends that he’s not counting on the President to pardon him, even though he hasn’t been charged with any crimes, CNN reported Friday.

In a phone call with one friend, Cohen said “I don’t think so, I just don’t know” when the friend brought up the potential of a presidential pardon, per CNN.

“He’s certain in his mind that he has been dismissed,” the friend told CNN, adding that Cohen lamented, “I don’t know what to think anymore.”

Another friend told CNN that Cohen said he is not “counting” on receiving a pardon.

“His mindset is of someone who is operating under the assumption that he is not getting that, though of course he doesn’t know one way or the other,” the other friend told CNN.

It’s the latest in a string of subtle hints that Cohen — who is under criminal investigation for his business dealings in New York — may be trying to untangle himself from the President, for whom he has said in the past he would take a “bullet.”

On Wednesday, several news outlets noted that Cohen had recently scrubbed his Twitter profile of any reference to Trump. Previously, he had identified himself as the President’s personal lawyer.

On Thursday, news surfaced that Cohen had hired a new lawyer, Lanny Davis, a former special counsel for President Bill Clinton.

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Former Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt survived months of reports on his unethical behavior by lavishing praise on President Donald Trump and making himself a visible figure in the West Wing, The Washington Post reported Thursday evening.

Pruitt mechanically praised the President, calling him “brilliant” and a “political revolutionary,” in the Post’s words. The two men bonded over their shared paranoia, regularly grousing about the “deep state” and former aides who they thought collaborated to upend their agenda, according to White House officials familiar with the meetings who spoke to the Post.  

Trump reportedly enjoyed Pruitt’s presence too, and tried to ignore the constant barrage of news reports on his EPA chief’s scandals, which ranged from excessive spending on flights to scrubbing his official calendar to hide controversial meetings.

But despite the consistent praise, Trump finally decided by Thursday morning that Pruitt’s behavior was too much of a political burden for him to bear. He directed his staff to ask for Pruitt’s resignation without speaking to him and tweeted about the ouster after he received the letter.

By then, Pruitt had few fans left in the White House, according to officials who spoke to the Post.

For Chief of Staff John Kelly, the ousting couldn’t have come soon enough. The top White House aide was reportedly “obsessed” with giving him the boot. Many within Pruitt’s own agency had reportedly already turned against him and the White House press shop told the EPA to stop booking TV appearances for Pruitt, which he just started doing himself, current and former aides told the Post.

In the end, stroking Trump’s ego wasn’t enough to save Pruitt, but he used his near-spiritual resignation letter as one last expression of reverence for the President.

“My desire in service to you has always been to bless you as you make important decisions for the American people. I believe you are serving as President today because of God’s providence,” Pruitt wrote.  

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Longtime radio broadcaster and MSNBC host Ed Schultz died at the age of 64 on Thursday, according to RT America, where Schultz most recently worked as a head news anchor.

Sources told a local news outlet, The Fargo Forum, that Schultz died of natural causes.

“We at RT America are sad to announce the passing of Edward Andrew Schultz,” RT America said in a statement. “Ed Schultz passed quietly early morning on July 5 at his home in Washington, D.C. This announcement comes as a shock to all of us here at RT America.”

Schultz started his broadcasting career at WDAY-TV in Fargo, North Dakota in the 1980s and hosted a conservative talk radio show in Fargo in the 1990s. He had a change of heart in the 2000s and moved on to host a commentary show for MSNBC, “The Ed Show,” in 2009 until mid-2015 when he was let go for soft ratings.

In 2016 the once left-leaning TV personality took a surprising new gig as the head news anchor for RT America, a network that used to be known as Russia Today and that is run by the Russian government.

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During his first formal summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin this month, President Donald Trump plans to meet with the world leader one-on-one, CNN reported.

Aides will be allowed to enter the meeting, which is set for July 16 in Helsinki, Finland, after the two have had a chance to talk on their own. This will be the first time the two have met for a formal summit. Previously, Putin and Trump have had meetings on the margins of other global gatherings.

During his summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, Trump met with the regime leader one-on-one for more than an hour. Trump told reporters ahead of that meeting that he wanted to assess their chemistry up-close.

According to a person familiar with planning who spoke with CNN, Trump hopes to develop a better leader-to-leader relationship with Putin.

Without aides present, there will be no official record of the conversation between the two presidents. Putin and Trump have met once before without aides, for more than an hour at the G20 summit.

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Special counsel Robert Mueller has tapped additional prosecutors to help with the Russia probe as his team of investigators face new court challenges, Bloomberg reported Thursday.

Mueller has selected prosecutors from the Justice Department and the offices of U.S. attorneys, as well as FBI agents to help out, and, as Bloomberg noted, “hand off parts of his investigation eventually.” He’s reportedly tapped investigators from New York, Virginia, Pittsburgh and other places. Mueller already handed off part of the probe — into Trump’s former personal attorney and fixer Michael Cohen — to the Southern District of New York.  

Several current and former officials told Bloomberg that the staff expansion has nothing to do with politics and is spurred on by the increasingly unprecedented number of lawsuits against his probe.

Read Bloomberg’s full report here.

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President Donald Trump may have left his Miss Universe days in the dust, but good looks and a glowing personality remain crucial to winning Trump’s favor.

As the President vets candidates who could become his next Supreme Court justice nominee, Trump’s level of comfort with each candidate is a key factor, according to Axios. Citing a White House official, Axios reported that the person that Trump ultimately picks will be “who he feels most comfortable with in a personal setting.”

The candidate and their spouse’s appearance is also important to Trump, Politico reported, citing one person who said it is paramount to Trump that his pick “looks all-American.”

“Beyond the qualifications, what really matters is, does this nominee fit a central casting image for a Supreme Court nominee, as well as his or her spouse,” a Republican close to the White House told Politico. “That’s a big deal. Do they fit the role?”

Trump has said that he plans to announce his Supreme Court pick on Monday and the President has spent the past week interviewing potential candidates.

But Trump reportedly may jump the gun once he decides on the right person, according to Axios.

“When the President has made up his mind, he wants to go,” an aide told Axios, adding that staffers plan to persuade Trump to stick to his original timeline because the announcement would get more media coverage.

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New York Times reporter Ali Watkins, whose records were seized by the Justice Department as part of a leak investigation, has been assigned a new beat in New York and given a mentor following an internal review of the document seizure and her conduct, according to the Times.

In a memo to staff on Tuesday, the Times executive editor Dean Baquet called the federal government’s actions abhorrent and told employees Watkins was being given a “fresh start” given the nature of the DOJ’s “intrusion” into her work.

“As we learn more, it is clear that the government leak investigation was an attempt to interfere with the work of journalists by an administration whose leader has called the media ‘the enemy of the people’ and has pledged an unprecedented crackdown on disclosures about government activities, threatening to undermine reporters’ ability to inform the public,” he wrote.

But, he said, the review also shed light on the ethical line between “private and professional life” for a journalist. Watkins hasn’t written for the Times since a Senate Intelligence Committee staffer, James Wolfe, was arrested for lying to the FBI about leaking classified information to journalists. Watkins had previously been in a three-year romantic relationship with Wolfe while she covered the Senate Intelligence Committee for The Huffington Post, Buzzfeed News and Politico, but said she told editors at the time she wasn’t using Wolfe as a source.

The DOJ told Watkins in February that years worth of her phone and email records had been seized by the FBI, but she did not inform the Times about the seizure until her colleagues reported on Wolfe’s arrest last month. Since she joined the Times, Watkins has been covering law enforcement in Washington, D.C.

“We are troubled by Ali’s conduct, particularly while she was employed by other news organizations,” Baquet said. “For a reporter to have an intimate relationship with someone he or she covers is unacceptable.”

Baquet called Watkins a talented reporter who made some “poor judgements,” but he placed significant blame on her former editors for allowing her to cover the Senate Intelligence Committee after telling them about the relationship. He said the review found that the Times also dropped the ball in its hiring screenings — Watkins’ disclosed the previous relationship to some editors at the time of her hiring, but not all of the newsroom’s leadership was made aware.

Wolfe has plead not guilty to the federal charges.

Read the Times’ full story here. 

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President Donald Trump used his Twitter account on Tuesday to again mock Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) after she defended herself against threats over the weekend.

Calling the congresswoman one of the “most corrupt people in politics,” Trump said she was causing voters to “flee” from the Democratic Party.

Trump’s “wounded animal” comments likely reference Waters’ remarks at a protest against his administration’s family separation policy over the weekend. In that address, Waters addressed threats she’s received in recent weeks, telling a crowd of demonstrators that if someone wanted to harm her, they “better shoot straight. There’s nothing like a wounded animal.”

Trump has been attacking Waters for days, ever since she encouraged supporters to continue to protest and even heckle Trump administration officials, especially when they’re out to dinner.   

A spokesperson for Waters did not immediately respond to TPM’s request for comment.  

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