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

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) did not appear happy with Democratic leaders’ decision to not attend a meeting with President Donald Trump after the President criticized the Democratic lawmakers ahead of the gathering.

“I never refused to go to a meeting that President Obama called, a bipartisan meeting,” McConnell told reporters Tuesday afternoon. “It never occurred to me that I could just say to President Obama ‘I’m not showing up.’ That strikes me as a lack of seriousness about the matter before us, which is the funding of the federal government of the United States for the rest of this fiscal year.”

The Senate Republican leader’s comments about “never” refusing a meeting with Trump’s predecessor aren’t entirely accurate. In 2010, House Democratic leader Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD) criticized McConnell and other Republican leaders, saying he was “disappointed” that Republicans were too busy to accept a bipartisan meeting with Obama and Democratic leaders, the Wall Street Journal reported. At the time, a McConnell spokesperson said the White House made the mistake of announcing the meeting before checking to see if he was available for it.

Democratic leaders Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) released a statement Tuesday saying they weren’t going to attend the President’s “show meeting” since it was clear Trump already had made up his mind about not reaching across the aisle.

“Given that the President doesn’t see a deal between Democrats and the White House, we believe the best path forward is to continue negotiating with our Republican counterparts in Congress instead,” Schumer and Pelosi said in their statement.

Trump met with congressional Republicans on Capitol Hill Tuesday and was scheduled to meet with Democratic and Republican leaders. But he tweeted Tuesday morning “I don’t see a deal!” before they were scheduled to talk. 

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A federal judge in Washington, D.C. on Monday blocked President Donald Trump’s ban on transgender individuals serving in the military, after five transgender service members filed a lawsuit against the President’s orders.

Trump announced his decision to ban transgender people from serving in the military in “any capacity” in a tweet in July. He made it official with a memorandum in August, saying it was unclear whether transgender troops serving openly would impact “military readiness and lethality” and claiming any medical needs of transgender individuals, like gender reassignment surgeries and hormones, would be too expensive for the Department of Defense to pay for.

President Barack Obama’s administration lifted the ban on transgender individuals serving openly in the military in June 2016. The Obama-era policy was supposed to go into full effect in July 2017.

At the end of June, Secretary of Defense James Mattis said he wanted to push back the enlistment date six months so the Department of Defense could further review the policy. After Trump announced his ban, Mattis said his department was still reviewing the policy.

In October, the D.C.-based Judge Collen Kollar-Kotelly issued an injunction that would force Trump to allow transgender individuals to enlist openly beginning Jan. 1. The second injunction was issued Monday to clarify that the Department of Defense cannot defer the Jan. 1 deadline for allowing enlistment any further, according to court documents.

Kollar-Kotelly isn’t the first federal judge to rule against Trump’s ban. In a parallel lawsuit, Maryland-based federal Judge Marvin Garbis last week temporarily blocked Trump’s directive and called his tweets about the policy change “shocking” as well as “capricious, arbitrary and unqualified.”

Garbis’ order will not only temporarily allows transgender troops to openly enlist in the military, but also allows current service members to receive any scheduled transition-related medical care, according to court documents obtained by NPR.

“President Trump’s tweets did not emerge from a policy review, nor did the Presidential Memorandum identify any policymaking process or evidence demonstrating that the revocation of transgender rights was necessary for any legitimate national interest,” Garbis wrote in his directive last week. “Based on the circumstances surrounding the President’s announcement and the departure from normal procedure, the court agrees wit the D.C. court that there is sufficient support for plaintiff’s claims that ‘the decision to exclude transgender individuals was not derived by genuine concern regarding military efficacy.”

Both cases are still pending in federal court, but the injunctions released in recent weeks indicate the Garbis and Kollar-Kotelly believe the plaintiffs are likely to win their suit.

Read Kollar-Kotelly’s Monday injunction here.

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Beleaguered former White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci went on CNN Tuesday morning to defend the President and his latest controversy: referring to Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) as “Pocahontas” during a ceremony honoring Native American code talkers.

Claiming he’s not a President Donald Trump “loyalist,” Scaramucci said his “objective” take was that the remark wasn’t meant to be demeaning.

“That’s the President’s style,” he said.

“It’s a little shock jockey and listen, I think it’s the style that got him elected,” Scaramucci said in a relatively lukewarm interview on CNN’s “New Day” with Chris Cuomo. “I don’t think he would be in the Oval Office if he didn’t have that style. I think people voted for him because he’s expressed a level of the discontent about the current order of operations inside of Washington and I think he used that kind of style and that kind of delivery system to do that.”

When asked what the President’s style has to do with using what some have called a racial slur to criticize a sitting senator in front of the Native American war veterans who used the Navajo language as a form of coded message during World War II, Scaramucci attempted to create solidarity with Cuomo over their shared Italian heritage.

“Listen you’ve been victims of racial slurring because of your ethnic heritage, so have I. What do you do in a situation like that? I tell you what I do,” he said as he theatrically brushed fake insults off his shoulder. “And that’s what you do, you have to do that.”

Scaramucci said he thinks people are getting a little too “micromanaging” about “each other’s languages and the whole political correctness movement.”

“I think most people in general are tired of that,” he said. “You are, I am, and maybe you are not, I don’t know, you work at CNN. But I am a little tired of it.”

Thanking Scaramucci for his “cheap shot,” Cuomo called Scaramucci a hypocrite, saying that conservatives would be outraged if a Democratic president had said or done the same thing.

I have heard so many things from the other side and one of the funniest things from my 11 days inside the White House was somebody sent me a clip from late night comedians and I mean you want to talk about cheap shots, and low ball shots, most of them were ethnic slurs and most of them were racially charged attacks on me,” he said.

“They’re comedians, they’re jokers, not the President of the United States,” Cuomo shot back.

“I understand all that, but my point is, I don’t see it as such a big deal as perhaps you do,” Scaramucci said.

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Saying it may not be possible to “regain Minnesotans’ trust,” the editorial staff at the Minneapolis Star Tribune said Sen. Al Franken’s (D-MN) apology for the allegations of sexual misconduct that have come out against him in recent weeks doesn’t go far enough.

In an editorial published Monday evening, the newspaper’s editorial board called Franken’s press conference apology Monday afternoon a “necessary move,” but said the senator appears to only be sorry for what the women think he did.

With a Senate ethics investigation looming, Franken remains on politically shaky ground,” they wrote. “It’s debatable whether he is, as he said, ‘holding myself accountable.’ Without saying he didn’t do it, he nevertheless has countered every allegation except the one that carries indisputable proof — the infamous photo of him appearing to grab at (Leeann) Tweeden while she slept. Under such circumstances, Franken’s apology is less a statement of accountability and more akin to ‘I’m sorry for what you think I did.’”

Franken was recently accused by Tweeden, an LA radio host, who said Franken aggressively kissed her and groped her while she was sleeping when the two performed on a USO tour together in 2006. Several other women have come forward since, saying Franken groped their butts while they were taking photos with him. Franken apologized when the Tweeden allegations came out and asked for the Senate Ethics Committee to probe the allegations. He has since apologized on several occasions for making the other women feel disrespected, but claims he doesn’t remember them or taking the photos.

The editorial team said it thinks Franken is trying to “ride out the political storm” by saying he needs to get back to work, but they think the damage may be irreversible.

“Franken is right — he has much to do to regain Minnesotans’ trust. It may not be possible. As he continues his reflection, we urge the senator to consider what is best for Minnesota and to weigh that more heavily than what might be best for his political career,” they said.

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Speaking to a crowd of supporters in Henagar, Alabama Monday night, Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore said the allegations of sexual misconduct against him hurt him personally because they’re just “dirty politics” and a “sign of the immorality of our time.”

“I know the seriousness of charges like this and they should be serious if it happens. If a young lady is abused, and I’ve represented many victims in cases such as this, I have not seen one who wants her picture posted on national TV, especially in a political advertisement,” he said. “The truth is, this is not really odd at all, this is simply dirty politics and it’s a sign of the immorality of our time.”

Moore has been accused by multiple women of either pursing relationships or making inappropriate sexual advances toward them when they were teenagers and Moore was in his 30s. One woman alleges she was just 14 when the alleged misconduct occurred.

Moore has flatly denied all of the allegations, reiterating Monday night that he doesn’t know any of the women who have come forward.

“Now just two weeks remaining (until the election), pictures of young children, whose names are not mentioned that I do not know, appear conveniently on the opposition’s ads,” he said, referencing his opponent, Democrat Doug Jones. “These allegations are completely false, they’re malicious, specifically I do not know any of these women nor have I ever engaged in sexual misconduct with anyone.”

Moore said that he is a “fighter” and he plans to “take off the gloves” in the last few days leading up to the election in December, saying “it’s a little odd” that in his 40 years of public service in Alabama, “never once has this been alleged.”

“I’m a fighter. I don’t hesitate to say that. I’ve been that way my whole life. My opponent will allow our Constitution to be totally undermined and disregarded. And I oppose that,” he said.

Watch part of the speech below:

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Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) on Sunday suggested that his colleague, Sen. Al Franken (D-MN), should consider resigning over allegations of sexual misconduct.

In an interview with CBS Miami, which was recorded Wednesday but aired Sunday, Rubio said that even the accusations that Franken has admitted to so far should be enough to make him “consider resigning.” But Rubio said he would wait until the completion of an ethics probe before he makes a final judgement.

“I think the allegations against him, many of which he’s admitted, are horrifying, but at this point he’s going to be before the ethics committee and I would say in fairness, he has, although I don’t know, the things he’s already admitted to to be outrageous and offensive and I do think on that alone he should consider resigning,” he said. “But he’s going to go through the same process (as Roy Moore would if he were elected) and there’s going to be evidenced testimony and I think we’ll have to make a decision based on that. And we may end up voting on that.”

Several women have come forward in the past two week, claiming Franken groped them during photos opportunities. One LA radio host said Franken forcibly kissed her when the two were on a USO tour in 2006. She’s also shared a photo that appears to show Franken reaching toward the woman’s breasts while she slept.

Franken has since apologized for the allegations that the radio host, Leeann Tweeden, brought forward and has said he’s sorry that the other women felt “disrespected,” but claims he doesn’t remember the photos. During an interview with a Minnesota TV station on Sunday he couldn’t unequivocally deny that he had ever placed his hand on a woman’s butt during a photo.

When asked whether groping a woman’s butt is grounds for expulsion from the Senate, Rubio said “I believe it is,” especially when it occurs during a person’s Senate term.

“Now we’re saying even before you served in the Senate (and) there’s evidence that you did in the past, thats something we could expel you for,” he said. “And look, everything that’s happening now is an important conversation that’s long overdue in our country about what’s appropriate and … I think it’s a moment of reckoning. A lot of this has been occurring for a long time and for a variety of reasons it never came forward.”

Rubio also had some harsh words for Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore, saying he finds the women who have come forward with accusations against Moore to be “credible.” Rubio said if Moore is elected he anticipates Moore “will find himself immediately in an ethics situation or some other hearing where perhaps even more will be revealed.”

“I don’t think anything he’s done or said in the last two weeks has been convincing or effective,” he said.

Multiple women have come forward accusing Moore of pursuing relationships or making inappropriate sexual advances toward them when they were teenagers and he was in his 30s. One woman said she was only 14-years-old when the alleged misconduct occurred. Moore has denied any wrongdoing.

Watch the interview below:

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Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) said a lawsuit filed by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau acting director — who was appointed by outgoing CFPB head Richard Cordray — Sunday evening is “just the latest” example of “lawless” behavior by the agency. Cotton also suggested anyone who disobeys President Trump’s pick for the post, Budget Director Mick Mulvaney, should be fired.

“The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is a rogue, unconstitutional agency,” Cotton said in a statement posted on Twitter Monday morning. “Leandra English … doesn’t have a legal leg to stand on, as her own general counsel has conceded and the Department of Justice has concluded. The President should fire her immediately and anyone who disobeys Director Mulvaney’s orders should be fired summarily. The Constitution and the law must prevail against the supposed resistance.”

English, who was appointed as acting director of the agency by Cordray on his way out, filed a lawsuit Sunday night to keep Mulvaney from leading the bureau. In her lawsuit, English cited the Dodd-Frank Act as rationale for what allows her to hold the post until a new director is confirmed by the Senate.

Trump named Mulvaney acting director upon Cordray’s resignation. The White House and the Department of Justice said Trump’s authority surpasses that of the previous director — who was appointed by former President Barack Obama — citing the Vacancies Reform Act.

The agency’s legal counsel has even sided with the White House, saying in a memo obtained by Politico that “the President possesses the authority to designate an acting director for the bureau” and advising all staff to follow Mulvaney’s direction. Both English and Mulvaney were on site Monday, both claiming to run the agency, CNN reported.

Republicans have been vocal critics of the department ever since it was created as a watchdog group for consumers after the 2008 financial crisis. In his previous job as a member of Congress, Mulvaney called the agency a “joke” and is expected to overhaul much of what it has done.

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President Donald Trump pitched a new reality TV concept on Twitter Monday morning.

Claiming he is everyone’s “favorite President,” Trump suggested holding a “contest” to see which news network is “the most dishonest, corrupt and/or distorted” in it’s coverage of “your favorite President (me).”

He made sure to indicate that the contest would definitely include CNN, but definitely not Fox News, and the winner would receive the prize of a “FAKE NEWS TROPHY.”

Trump has made it crystal clear that he hates CNN since the 2016 campaign. He even spent time tweeting about the network over the holiday weekend, saying Fox News is “MUCH more important in the United States than CNN” and said the network represents the U.S. “very poorly” to the rest of the world. That was met with a swift rebuke from CNN.

The President also criticized another news organization Monday that he regularly calls out for its negative coverage of him, NBC, saying “their rates are terrible, nobody cares!” Trump’s “Apprentice” franchise, which contributed to his fame and wealth, aired on NBC.

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Former 2016 presidential candidate Carly Fiorina said Sunday that the President all but endorsing Roy Moore, despite mounting allegations of sexual misconduct against him, is “all about politics” and isn’t reflective of the recent uprise in harassment allegations being taken more seriously in the public eye.

“That’s why when politicians talk about this it doesn’t have a lot of credibility. This has been going on in politics for a long time. Democrats try and defend their own, Republicans try and defend their own,” she said on “Fox News Sunday.”

“It’s a little bit like what George Washington warned us 200 years ago: The problem with politics and political parties is they care about winning above all else. Donald Trump cares about a vote in the Senate— no more, no less,” she said.

President Donald Trump has defended GOP Senate candidate Moore against multiple women’s allegations that Moore pursued relationships or made inappropriate sexual advances toward them when they were teenagers and Moore was in his 30s. The accusations against Moore are just the latest in a string of women coming forward alleging sexual harassment and assault against powerful men in politics, as well as media and Hollywood. Fiorina said she believes the women.

“I think in virtually all of the cases, there has been corroboration of the women’s stories. In virtually every case, it’s not one woman who comes forward, it’s not only one woman. It’s three or four or five or six,” she said. “I think what we all need to think about, but frankly particularly men need to think about, in virtually all of these cases people knew what was going on. You cannot tell me that no one knew what was going on with Roy Moore or John Conyers or Al Franken or Charlie Rose or Roger Ailes or (Harvey) Weinstein. People knew. Men knew and women knew.”

Fiorina said she thinks the culture that protects men who harass women won’t change until other men start to come forward and stop respecting the men who “abuse their position of power in return for sex.”

“Every single one of the men who has been exposed in the last several weeks was respected and so, I think men need to decide— ‘I’m not going to respect a man who disrespects women, I’m going to withhold my respect from him. Unless he respects others.’ That will be a watershed moment,” she said.

In a Medium post published last week, Fiorina hinted at her own experiences with harassment in the workplace. When asked about those incidents on Sunday, she said she has “of course” been harassed throughout her career.

“Every women I know has,” she said. “I don’t mean I’ve been raped or assaulted in some of the ways these women have. But what was I groped by a friend of my family? Of course. Was I propositioned? Of course. Was I introduced as a bimbo? Of course. Did I have on occasion men banging on my hotel room door and then lying about it the next morning? Of course. … The perennial abuse of power by men over women has been with us for a long time.”

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Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said he thinks the President is “mistaken” to think Alabama Senate Republican candidate Roy Moore will be a legislative win in Congress and that his party should learn a lesson from nominating “somebody like Roy Moore.”

“I don’t know what winning looks like for Roy Moore,” Graham said, appearing on “State of the Union” on CNN Sunday. “If he wins, you get the baggage of him winning. … If you lose, you give the Senate seat to a Democrat at a time where we need all the votes we can get. The moral of the story is, don’t nominate somebody like Roy Moore who could actually lose a seat that any Republican could win.”

Graham’s comments come after President Donald Trump all but endorsed Moore over the weekend when he railed against Moore’s Democratic opponent Doug Jones on Twitter and defended himself for originally endorsing incumbent Sen. Luther Strange (R-AL)

“The last thing we need is Alabama and the U.S. Senate is a Schumer/Pelosi puppet,” Trump tweeted Sunday morning. “Jones would be a disaster!”

Trump has previously defended Moore against the allegations of sexual misconduct against him by multiple women who claim Moore pursued relationships or made inappropriate sexual advances toward them when they were teenagers and Moore was in his 30s. But top congressional Republicans’ opinion on the matter are in stark contrast with the President’s. Republicans like Graham, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) have called the allegations against Moore credible and said Moore should step aside.

“From a party perspective, we’ve got to look long term, not short term. What I would tell President Trump, ‘If you think winning with Roy Moore is going to be easy for the Republican Party, you’re mistaken,’” Graham told CNN Sunday. “I’m not going down the road he’s going, that’s up to the President.”


Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) appeared alongside Graham on “State of the Union” Sunday and was also asked about groping allegations against his fellow Democratic Sen. Al Franken (D-MN), who was recently accused of sexual misconduct by two women. Franken has apologized and asked the Senate Ethics Committee to probe the accusations.

“Al Franken has acknowledged what he did was wrong and it was wrong. He’s also submitted his whole case to the Senate Ethics Committee. I think that was the right thing to do,” Durbin said. “Let’s have a hearing, an investigation. Let’s let this reach whatever conclusion it’s going to reach, but through due process. … You have to say Al Franken has faced it and he’s done it in a responsible way. I think that’s the way to approach it.”

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