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 toned down his rhetoric on North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and hinted that he’s warming up to the idea of diplomacy with the regime while in South Korea on Tuesday, just 125 miles away from Pyongyang.

Saying he hopes the leader will “come to the table” and “make a deal” Trump said he thinks the U.S. is “making a lot of progress” on efforts to counter North Korea.

“Yes, I think we’re making a lot of progress. Yes, we’re showing great strength. I think they understand we have unparalleled strength. There has never been strength like it,” Trump said during a press conference with South Korean President Moon Jae-in. “I do see certain movement, yes.”

Those comments are a far cry from the President’s previous “fire and fury” remarks and tweets about Kim — whom he has dubbed “rocket man” — and the rogue regime’s efforts to build up a nuclear weapon arsenal and threaten the U.S. and its allies.

“We have many things happening that we hope, we hope — in fact, I’ll go a step further — we hope to God we never have to use,” Trump said, adding: “North Korea is a worldwide threat that requires worldwide action.” 

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President Donald Trump took some time away from his dinner with South Korean President Moon Jae-in Tuesday evening to get in some Twitter campaigning for his favorite candidate in the Virginia gubernatorial race, despite that candidate’s lukewarm embrace of the President’s support.

Ripping Democratic Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam for being “weak on crime” and “weak on our GREAT VETS,” Trump praised former Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie, saying the candidate would “totally turn around” the high crime rates and economy in Virginia.

“Vote today, ASAP!” he said.

Tuesday’s tweets aren’t the first time the President has attempted to embrace Gillespie. On Oct. 26 he tweeted about the Republican candidate, baselessly claiming Northam “doesn’t even show up to meetings/work” and suggesting that Gillespie is in favor of preserving Confederate statues.

But while campaigning later that day, Gillespie failed to mention the Presidential endorsement and dodged questions from TPM at a campaign event about Trump.

As of Tuesday morning, Northam had a modest lead over Gillespie, TPM reported.

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Tom Steyer wants President Trump to be impeached. Fox News decided to impeach his new ad instead.

On the same day that Fox News first ran an advertisement funded by Steyer, a Democratic mega-donor, President Donald Trump tweeted about Steyer, calling him “wacky” and “totally unhinged.”

Just four days later, the outlet stopped playing the advertisement. “Due to the strong negative reaction to their ad by our viewers, we could not in good conscience take their money,” Jack Abernethy, Fox News co-president, said in a statement obtained by TPM on Monday.

Steyer, through his attorneys, said he was not given an explanation for the cancellation of the advertisement.

Trump likely saw the ad for the first time when it aired on “Fox and Friends.” The early morning program is known as Trump’s favorite source of news, and Trump tweeted a thank you to “Fox and Friends” for its “really great job and show!” just minutes after the Steyer tweet.

While Fox claims the audience reaction is what sparked the removal of the advertisement, Steyer’s lawyer sent a letter to Abernethy, claiming Fox News is censoring a private citizen in order to appease the President.

“It is no coincidence that the cancellation of the advertisement, in the second week of its run, came on the heels of a tweet from President Trump, criticizing the spot and Mr. Steyer personally. The only plausible explanation seems to be that Fox News capitulated to political pressure from the Trump administration itself,” Steyer’s lawyer Brad Deutsch said in a letter to Abernethy on Nov. 3, which was obtained by The Washington Post. “President Trump has threatened retaliation against broadcasters who provide him with negative coverage and Fox News appears to have answered these threats with servility.”

In the video, Steyer outlines all of Trump’s “dangerous” moves as President thus far, and said that a Republican Congress “once impeached a President for far less.”

“Yet today people in Congress and his own administration know that this President is a clear and present danger who’s mentally unstable and armed with nuclear weapons, and they do nothing,” he said.

Read the letter Steyer’s lawyer sent Fox News below:

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Former FBI Director James Comey is no longer hiding behind an American theologian and ethicist’s avatar on Twitter.

On Monday, Comey tweeted from his new Twitter handle, @Comey, saying he’s “glad to be part of the Twitterverse” and said he was “grateful to Reinhold for the cover these last few years.”

Comey has been on Twitter since February 2014, according to his profile, recently tweeting under the handle @FormerBu, and the name Reinhold Niebuhr, a famous theologian and ethicist best known for the “Serenity” prayer.

Comey has been slowly navigating his way back into the public sphere since President Donald Trump abruptly fired him not long after he confirmed his agency was investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 election and links between the Trump campaign and the Russian government.

On Thursday, the title of Comey’s new memoir was released, “A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies and Leadership,” a not-so-subtle reference to his claims that Trump asked him to pledge loyalty to the President.

He’s also started speaking in a political science course at Howard University — despite his convocation speech at the university getting derailed by protesters — and posting moody nature pictures on Twitter, promising to “tweet in useful ways.”

Trump’s firing of Comey is what prompted the probe by special counsel Robert Mueller, who recently filed charges against three former Trump campaign affiliates.

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Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) on Monday didn’t directly answer questions about whether gun control laws should be reevaluated after a gunman opened fire on a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas on Sunday, killing 26 people and wounding 20 others.

During an interview on CNN, “New Day” host Chris Cuomo asked Abbott what rules needed to be reviewed after news came out that the gunman was able to purchase a gun after being denied access to buy a firearm by the state of Texas.

“Obviously people want answers, but equally obviously, here we are, less than a day after the event happened where there are more unknowns than there are knowns, Abbott said. “How was it that he was able to get a gun? By all the facts that we know, he was not supposed to have access to a gun. So, how did this happen? That’s just one of the unknowns out there, we are in search of answers to these questions and the answers will be coming to light here in the coming days and before we can solve the problem we need to know the answers to all these multitude of questions.”

When asked again, Abbott said that the most important thing is the community’s response to the tragedy and said speaking to the family of the victims of “this heinous crime” was “probably the toughest thing I’ve had to do as governor.”

“Everybody knew the people who were victims of this crime and the one thing I took away from last night is this is a strong faith-based community and they are relying upon their faith to strengthen them and that strength remains very strong even today,” he said.

The alleged shooter, Devin Kelley, was discharged from the Air Force for assaulting his spouse and served time for the abuse. Authorities were still looking for a clear motive Monday, but reported the man’s in-laws attended the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, but weren’t in attendance on Sunday.

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Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and former state attorney general, said the American people and Congress “should feel misled” by revelations that Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross owns holdings in a company that has ties to the Russian president’s son-in-law.

During an interview on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” Monday, Blumenthal suggested the inspector general for Ross’ department should launch an investigation into why Ross didn’t divest from the company when he was confirmed as head of the Department of Commerce.

“I feel misled and the American people ought to feel misled and the Congress should feel misled because Wilbur Ross came to our committee. He claimed to be divesting and selling all these interests and, in fact, he has retained an ownership stake in a company, Navigator, that does business with this Russian energy giant,” Blumenthal said Monday. “He probably makes more money from shipping gas for Russia than he does as commerce secretary when he goes to negotiate trade agreements.”

The Guardian first reported on Ross’ holdings on Sunday, citing documents from the so-called “Paradise Papers.” Ross has a stake in Navigator shipping company, which has a partnership with Sibur, a Russian gas company owned by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s son-in-law.

“We ought to have hearings in the Commerce Committee. He came before it and he apparently deliberately concealed these ownership interests,” Blumenthal said. “There ought to be hearings and if he fails to give a convincing and compelling explanation, he should resign because this stake in a company with such close ties to Putin’s son-in-law, a Russian oligarch, subject to sanctions, raises profound questions about whether he can put the nation’s interest above his own.”

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While Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) thinks President Donald Trump has the “right attitude” on fighting the war on terror, he said the Trump administration is following in former President Barack Obama’s footsteps when it comes to handling terror suspects.

The Department of Justice was “woefully unprepared for this moment,” he said on “Fox News Sunday.” “The explanations I got from the Department of Justice about the legal reasoning, made me so mad I could not see straight. They said the reason they didn’t declare the New York guy an enemy combatant, even though he pledged allegiance to ISIL … is because there’s no evidence of command and control. That is ridiculous.”

Graham and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) pushed the Trump administration to name Sayfullo Saipov, the man suspected of killing eight in a terror attack in New York City last week, an enemy combatant, which would have allowed the military or CIA to interrogate him without a lawyer. Instead, federal prosecutors filed charges on Nov. 1, placing the suspect in civilian court even though Trump complained about the criminal justice system, calling it a “joke” and “a laughingstock.” He even suggested early on that he’d like to see the suspect placed in Guantanamo Bay or receive capital punishment.

It’s hard to catch a terrorist alive … and when you do you should try to gather intelligence,” Graham said. “I wanted to hold him a longer period of time, let military, CIA interrogate him about what he knows about terrorism, how he got radicalized. He said he was a soldier of the Caliphate, ISIL claimed he was a soldier of the Caliphate. We talked to him one day in the hospital, read him his Miranda Rights, we throw him right in court and can’t get intelligence going forward. … So when it comes to Trump policy, they are using Obama’s playbook and they’ve got a lot of Obama people held over, and I want to see that change.”

Watch a clip of the interview below:

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President Donald Trump’s close relationship with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe didn’t keep him from publicly voicing his concerns with the country’s trade and manufacturing policies during the first leg of his 12-day visit to Asia.

While speaking to U.S. and Japanese business leaders on Monday morning, Trump praised the two countries’ “cherished” relationship and then switched gears, asking top Japanese auto firms to “try building your car in the United States instead of shipping them over” and then immediately claiming his comments weren’t “rude.”

I also want to recognize the business leaders in the room whose confidence in the United States — they’ve been creating jobs — you have such confidence in the United States, and you’ve been creating jobs for our country for a long, long time,” he said. “Several Japanese automobile industry firms have been really doing a job.  And we love it when you build cars — if you’re a Japanese firm, we love it — try building your cars in the United States instead of shipping them over. Is that possible to ask? That’s not rude. Is that rude? I don’t think so.”

He then pointed out the leaders of Toyota and Mazda, shook their hands and thanked them for investing in a new U.S. manufacturing plant, which he said will create “as many as 4,000 new jobs in the United States.”  

“That’s big stuff. Congratulations,” he said, promising to give approvals “almost immediately” anytime Japanese auto companies decide they want to build new plants in the U.S.

Earlier in his speech, he congratulated Japan on “winning” for “the last many decades” and said the U.S. would do more trade with Japan than it would have if he had stayed in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which Trump pulled out of in January.

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A former foreign policy adviser for Donald Trump’s campaign who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russia, was “stupid” and “had no business” sitting in on the March 2016 foreign policy meeting, according to former Trump campaign adviser Michael Caputo.

That meeting is under fresh scrutiny after recently unsealed court documents show that’s where George Papadopoulos offered to connect Trump with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

He was invited in because at the time the campaign was really reeling from criticism that it had no foreign policy or other advisers,” Caputo said during an interview with MSNBC Friday. “Donald Trump prided himself on running a lean and mean campaign. That group was slap dash put together in a way another campaign wouldn’t do it. Papadopoulos had no business being there.”

Caputo — who earlier this week labeled Papadopoulos a “coffee boy” — questioned why Papadopoulos wasn’t awarded a position with the State Department or on the transition team if he was the “kind of guy that had the credentials that would lead him to be in charge of collusion with Russia.”

When asked why the young foreign policy adviser would suggest that the President should meet with Putin if he didn’t think it would curry favor with Trump, Caputo was quick to shoot Papadopoulos down again.

“I think the term of art is he’s stupid,” he said. “This kid was foolish. He proposed something that nobody had any interest in. If you think that Donald Trump sitting there silently and listening and nodding his head is some kind of ideas that he thought it was a good idea to meet with Putin, you’re exaggerating things.”

Caputo’s latest effort to discredit Papadopoulos falls in line with the response Trump and the White House has taken to news that Papadopoulos was encouraged by campaign supervisors to set up a meeting with Russian officials if feasible. Trump has called Papadopoulos a “liar” and a “low level volunteer,” even though he called him an “excellent guy” when naming him as a member of his foreign policy team in 2016.

Watch a clip of the interview below:

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President Donald Trump listened when a campaign adviser floated the idea of arranging a meeting between the then-candidate Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin, according a former campaign national security adviser JD Gordon.

“He heard him out,” Gordon told CNN on Thursday of the March 31, 2016 meeting in which foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos suggested the encounter.

Gordon’s account of the meeting falls in line with multiple reports that the President didn’t rule out the suggestion, but he didn’t agree to it either. Then-Alabama senator and now Attorney General Jeff Sessions reportedly shut down the suggestion, according to several reports.

The President himself said he has little memory of the meeting with Papadopoulos, telling reporters Friday that it “took place a long time (ago), don’t remember much about it.”

In October, Papdopoulos pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russian officials, according to recently unsealed court documents, which also reveal that Papadopoulos told Trump and his advisers that he could help arrange a meeting with the then-candidate and Putin.

Since the Papadopoulos findings from special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe came out Monday, Trump and the White House have worked to distance the President from his former foreign policy adviser, with Trump calling him a “low level volunteer,” a “liar” and even a mere “coffee boy.”

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