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

At least two Democrats have called for the interpreter, who assisted President Donald Trump during his one-on-one meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, to testify before Congress.

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Rep. Joe Kennedy (D-MA) have pushed for the congressional hearing in tweets in recent days. Shaheen suggested that the interpreter could at least “help determine” what Trump “shared/promised Putin on our behalf.” Kennedy recommended that Republicans take action if they are “as outraged as they claim” and “issue the subpoena today.”

Trump’s press conference with Putin was met with bipartisan backlash after the President publicly supported Putin’s denial of meddling in the 2016 election and blamed both the U.S. and Russia for the decline in relations. But Republicans have appeared to ease up on their criticism of Trump in the past 24 hours, particularly after the President told reporters that he misspoke during the press conference.

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The most well-documented Russia apologist in Congress, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), criticized the recent indictment of a 29-year-old woman who allegedly attempted to set up a back channel between Russia and U.S. politicians through the NRA.

Rohrabacher called the indictment of Mariia Butina “bogus,” according to Politico. Butina, according to the indictment, allegedly spoke with a Russian official about his plans to “meet with a U.S. Congressman during a Congressional Delegation trip to Moscow in August 2015.” Rohrabacher said he’s unaware if he is the member of Congress mentioned in the indictment, but told Politico he had dinner with Butina, “along with another member, along with a visiting delegation to Russia.”

“It’s ridiculous. It’s stupid,” Rohrabacher told Politico. “She’s the assistant of some guy who is the head of the bank and is a member of their Parliament. That’s what we call a spy? That shows you how bogus this whole thing is. … This is an attempt to undermine the president’s ability to have better relationships with Russia.”

While Rohrabacher has repeatedly found himself in the middle of incidents being investigated by special counsel Robert Mueller, he hasn’t been accused of any misconduct. He told Politico he thinks he should be exempt of any wrongdoing in relation to his communications with Russian officials because he is the “chairman of the committee who has jurisdiction to oversee America’s relations with Russia.”

Butina was indicted this week for conspiring against the United States and failing to register as a foreign agent.

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During a lukewarm interview with Fox News’ Tucker Carlson, recorded just after the press conference with Vladimir Putin on Monday, President Donald Trump argued that he’s “not pro-Russia,” but the country “really helped us” win some wars.

“It’s incredible,” he told Carlson Monday. “You look at World War I and World War II, there was Germany. And in World War II, Russia lost 50 million people and helped us win the war. I was saying to myself the other day, you know, Russia really helped us. I’m not pro-Russia, pro-anybody, I just want to have this country be safe, I don’t want nuclear weapons– even people thinking about it.”

The interview aired on Fox Tuesday night.

In the interview that took place on the heels of the summit with Putin, where Trump received intense backlash for publicly defending Putin’s denial of Russian interference in the 2016 election, Trump also criticized the FBI and former intelligence official John Brennan.

In reaction to Trump’s press conference — where he also blamed both the U.S. and Russia for poor relations — Brennan called Trump’s behavior treasonous and suggested that his national security team should resign over Trump’s performance.

“Well I think Brennan is a very bad guy and if you look at it, a lot of bad things happened under his watch,” he said. “I think he’s a very bad person. I also think that when you watch Peter Strozk and Lisa page, when you watch all the things that have happened, Comey, take a look at that and McCabe, who’s got some pretty big problems I assume.”   

“You look at the deception, the lies and what’s gone on in the last fairly long period of time– before I won. Long before I won, I mean during the campaign I guess probably during the Republican, when I was fighting against 17 other Republicans — this has been going on for a long time,” he continued, repeating a darling, but tired talking point. “But these are people, in my opinion are truly bad people. They are being exposed for what they are and it’s a shame that it has to happen, but it’s really hurt our country.”

As Think Progress noted on Tuesday, despite calling reporters into the Cabinet Room on Tuesday to clarify a slip of tongue he claims he made during the press conference — “The sentence should have been, ‘I don’t see any reason why I wouldn’t or why it wouldn’t be Russia.’” — he didn’t clarify that in interviews with Fox News recorded just after the Putin presser.

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President Donald Trump on Tuesday attempted to walk back his public support of Vladimir Putin’s denials of Russian meddling in the 2016 election, by correcting one word he from his press conference on Monday.

“In a key sentence in my remarks said the word would instead of wouldn’t,” he said. “The sentence should have been, ‘I don’t see any reason why I wouldn’t or why it wouldn’t be Russia.’ … Sort of a double negative. So you can put that in, and I think that probably clarifies things pretty good by itself.”

Trump said he realized he need to clarify that word choice after reading through the transcript of the press conference, which he requested because he couldn’t figure out why the media was being so critical.

“I came back and I said, ‘What is going on? What’s the big deal?'” he said. “I thought it would be obvious, but I would just like to clarify just in case it wasn’t.”

The rare correction from Trump comes one day after his joint presser with Putin, where he blamed both the U.S. and Russia for a deterioration of relations between the two countries and appeared to embrace Putin’s denial that Russia interfered in the 2016 election.

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The chairman for Ohio’s Belmont County Republicans was sitting in his law firm’s office on Monday when the press conference between President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin began.

At the time the local GOP official, Chris Gagin, an attorney with McCamic, Sacco & McCoid, was still satisfied with his political role in rural Belmont County: working to get Republicans who support the economic growth of southeast Ohio’s coal country elected to public office.

He’d turned on the coverage of the press conference to “see how the President handled himself” on the global stage, not necessarily expecting to feel particularly jarred or mobilized to leave the county position he has held since April 2016.

“When there was that final question that was directly posed to Trump, ‘Do you believe the intelligence community or Putin?’ and when he wouldn’t say that he believes our intelligence community over the Russian president and when he said that Putin had been ‘very strong’ and forceful in his denials, something just snapped,” Gagin told TPM Tuesday. “When (Trump’s) most fundamental obligation is to represent the security interest of the United States, that was my last straw.”

Gagin emailed a resignation letter to the rest of his committee “immediately” after the press conference, feeling that as a county party chairman, whose job is “purely political,” he couldn’t continue in the role, especially leading up to a midterm and presidential election cycle that’s bound to be dominated by Trump-aligned candidates.

“Heading into 2020, if you’re not fully committed to the President and his policy — I mean, our objective is to get candidates elected,” he said.

Trump unilaterally shocked the masses, including his own staff, on Monday when he went off the rails during the freewheeling presser with Putin. When asked point-blank “who do you believe” regarding the U.S. intelligence community’s sweeping assessment that Russian interfered in the 2016 election, Trump waffled. He said he didn’t see “any reason why it would be (Russia)” in the same breath that he touted his “great confidence in my intelligence people,” while seconds later praising Putin for being “extremely strong and powerful in his denial today.”

Trump’s behavior sparked immediate outrage. Current and former government officials and lawmakers reacted with disbelief. Former intelligence officials labeling Trump as Putin’s puppet. Even his most ardent supporters in conservative media were deeply critical.

Despite a staggering amount of calls for “patriots” to resign in objection to Trump’s performance at the summit Monday, Gagin said he might be “the only one in the country” who felt he couldn’t stay in his position with good conscience. One former Iowa state lawmaker — Ken Rizer — did announce in a Facebook post after the summit on Monday that he had left the Republican Party over Trump’s “misguided leadership” on the foreign policy front.

While he anticipates being “ostracized locally,” Gagin’s “pretty sure” he will be one of the few who quits in objection to what some are calling the darkest moment in American history, especially given he’s a more moderate Republican who switched to the GOP in 2013 after feeling that Democrats had “moved too far left.”

“Unless you have an attack of conscience, there’s nothing forcing you to do anything. … Unless someone in the intelligence community makes that decision, I don’t think you’ll see (more). There’s too many fearful of going against the President in the Republican Party and, quite frankly, there is nowhere else to go,” he said.

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At least two state- and local-level Republicans have resigned or left the Republican Party over President Donald Trump’s performance at a press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday.

A county Republican Party chairman, Chris Gagin, serving in southeast Ohio, announced he was resigning via Twitter on Monday, explicitly citing Trump’s remarks at the press conference as rationale for his departure, saying he could no longer support Trump’s agenda as a Republican Party leader, was first to report.

In Iowa, a former state lawmaker and retired Air Force pilot, Ken Rizer, said he was leaving the Republican Party because of Trump’s “erratic and misguided leadership” on foreign affairs, according to the Des Moines Register.

Several former intelligence officials, including former FBI Director James Comey and Former CIA Director John Brennan, have called on “patriots,” including members of Trump’s national security team, to resign in objection to Trump’s behavior at the summit. Following a closed-door, one-on-one meeting with Putin, Trump shocked the masses by publicly offering his support of Putin’s denial of Russian meddling and blaming both the U.S. and Russia for the decline in relations between the two nations.  

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Following President Trump’s unhinged presser with Russian President Vladimir Putin, former FBI Director James Comey, whose firing has fueled parts of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Trump and Russian meddling in the election, urged “patriots” to speak out.

“Patriots need to stand up and reject the behavior of this President,” he tweeted.

Trump has been criticized by dozens of lawmaker and former intelligence officials for his performance during a press conference with Putin Monday, when he offered his support of Putin’s denial of Russian meddling and blamed both the U.S. and Russia for the decline in relations between the two nations.  

Comey’s full-throated criticism of the President is notable, but hardly surprising. Comey’s been engaged in a publicity tour for months promoting the book he wrote about his firing. Despite admitting to it in an interview shortly after he ousted Comey that the “Russia thing” prompted his decision to fire Comey, Trump has since denied that rationale.

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In the days leading up to his planned summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin, aides spent hours preparing President Donald Trump to take a tough stance on Putin, advice that was largely ignored by the President, The Washington Post reported.

According to one person familiar with the planning who spoke to the Post, Trump’s behavior during the press conference with Putin was “very much counter to the plan.” Another person familiar with the discussions said ahead of the meeting the President was bombarded with messages about Russia’s annexation of Crimea and its election interference and was surrounded by advisers who told him to posture strong against Putin.

Prominent members of Trump’s national security team, like National Security Adviser John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, even tried to push Trump to take a hard stance against Putin or at the very least, look at Putin in a less rosy light.  

But Trump “made a game-time decision” to blame both the U.S. and Russia for disintegrated relations and to publicly support Putin’s denials of Russian interference in the 2016 election, according to the Post. One official who spoke with the newspaper denied that Trump’s remarks in Finland were autonomous.

Read the Post’s full report here. 

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Just minutes after he left journalists, lawmakers and former government officials in shock when he sided with Russia during a freewheeling press conference with Vladimir Putin, President Donald Trump doubled down on his support of Putin’s denial of Russian meddled in the 2016 election.

Recounting his one-on-one conversation with Putin during an interview with Fox News’ Sean Hannity after the presser, Trump lamented that the Russia probe had placed a “wedge” between the U.S. and Russia

It is very sad what is happening to our country because of this,” he said. “When you see this thing going on and I will tell you, it has driven a wedge between us and Russia, maybe we’ve just knocked down that wedge, but it has driven a wedge and President Putin said, one of the early things that he said when we started, it’s really a shame because we could do so much good.”

He also grumbled that journalists chose to ask questions about special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe during the press conference, when they could’ve asked about “nuclear proliferation” or humanitarian aid in Syria.

And we get questions on the witch hunt and I don’t think the people out in the country buy it, but the reporters like to give it a shot,” he said. “I thought that President Putin was very, very strong. … And he also said there’s absolutely no collusion, which you know and everybody that watches your show knows, and I think most of the country knows and and Tucker [Carlson] standing right over there definitely knows because he gets it.”

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House Oversight Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-SC) on Monday released a blistering statement reiterating that Russia interfered in the 2016 election and calling on a number of officials on President Trump’s team to inform him that “it is possible to conclude Russia interfered with out election in 2016 without delegitimizing his electoral success.”

Read Gowdy’s full statement below:

Russia is not our friend. Russia attempted to undermine the fundamentals of our democracy, impugn the reliability of the 2016 election, and sow the seeds of discord among Americans. Our intelligence community, including the current one, concluded this, as did the Majority House Intelligence Committee report, as did our fellow Americans who served on grand juries which returned true bills on two separate occasions. I am confident former CIA Director and current Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, DNI Dan Coats, Ambassador Nikki Haley, FBI Director Chris Wray, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and others will be able to communicate to the President it is possible to conclude Russia interfered with our election in 2016 without delegitimizing his electoral success.

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