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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

President Donald Trump started off the weekend by calling out the leaders of the Puerto Rican government for having “poor leadership” skills in their efforts to recover from the widespread devastation the islands suffered after Hurricane Irma and Maria.

But San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz, who Trump directly attacked in his tweet, is taking the high road after a few days of back and forth public critiques between herself and the federal government.

Cruz tweeted Saturday morning that the only goal is to save lives and said Puerto Rico “cannot be distracted by anything else.”

Trump’s remarks Saturday morning were likely in response to Cruz expressing frustration with the administration’s characterization of relief efforts in the U.S. territory.

On Thursday, Acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke said the federal government’s recovery efforts in Puerto Rico were a “good news story,” a comment Cruz strongly combatted during an interview with CNN Friday.

Well, maybe from where she’s standing it’s a good news story,” Cruz said. “When you are drinking from a creek, it’s not a good news story. When you don’t have food for a baby, it’s not a good news story. When you have to pull people down from their buildings — I’m sorry, but that really upsets me and frustrates me.”

Trump tweeted Saturday morning blaming her and others and saying the hurricane recovery should be a “community effort.”

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Longtime vocal critic of President Donald Trump, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) mocked Trump and former Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price for not being “rich enough” to fit into “Trump’s world.”

Before Price’s resignation was announced Friday, Trump told reporters that he has some “great secretaries” and that some of his cabinet secretaries actually own their private planes, which “solves that.” He was referencing reports that Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos frequently travels using a private plane that she owns and pays for herself.

Not long after news of Price’s resignation broke, Schiff tweeted that Price committed the “one unpardonable sin in Trump’s world: Being rich, but not rich enough to own his own private jet.”

Price resigned on Friday after a week’s worth of reports that he had spent more than $1 million of taxpayer money to travel in private jets since coming to the White House.

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In response to pushback from San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz — who expressed frustration with the administration’s characterization of its response to devastation in Puerto Rico on Friday — President Donald Trump first blamed the U.S. territory’s leadership.

He then returned to his usual line of critique: blaming the media.

In a Saturday morning tweet storm, Trump lashed out at Cruz, blaming her and other’s in Puerto Rico for having “poor leadership” and claiming the disaster relief should be a “community effort.”

About 40 minutes later he tweeted again, saying the media is responsible for the critiques of his response to the recovery efforts and said specifically that CNN and NBC are “going out of their way to disparage our great First Responders” as a way to “get Trump.”

His comments follow his repeated critiques of the media for not showing the federal government’s recovery efforts in Puerto Rico in a good light. Trump has brought special attention to the U.S. territory’s debt in recent days, at one point suggesting that Puerto Rico’s “broken infrastructure” and debt may have contributed to the devastation.  

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Two Republican senators introduced legislation Thursday that would permanently waive a decades-old shipping restriction law for Puerto Rico.

The waiver would help aid hurricane recovery efforts and would also give the island the “sustainable relief it needs to rebuild.”

President Donald Trump granted the U.S. territory a 10-day waiver to the Jones Act Thursday morning, but Sens. John McCain (R-AZ) and Mike Lee (R-UT) would like to see the hurricane-ravaged U.S. territory exempt from the law permanently.

The Jones Act, also called the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, restricts shipping between American ports to American ships with American crews only, which ends up making it twice as expensive to ship things from the U.S. to Puerto Rico as it is to ship from other foreign ports in the world, according to a joint statement from McCain’s and Lee’s offices.

McCain said he welcomed the President’s 10-day waiver, but said it was “insufficient to help the people of Puerto Rico recover and rebuild.”

“Our legislation would permanently exempt Puerto Rico from the Jones Act, an antiquated, protectionist law that has driven up costs and crippled Puerto Rico’s economy,” McCain said in a statement. “For years I have fought to fully repeal the Jones Act, which has long outlived its purpose to the benefit of special interests.”

Lee said it was “far time to repeal” the law, which he said gives “foreign corporations an edge over American businesses and makes disaster response harder.”

This is the fourth time McCain has introduced legislation to end the Jones Act since 2010 and the second time he’s done it this year. Earlier this week, he sent a letter to the Department of Homeland Security asking them to waive the law to help with hurricane recovery efforts.

Trump indicated Wednesday he may not lift the Jones Act for Puerto Rico because “a lot of shippers” don’t want it waived, despite the fact that he lifted the restrictions when Hurricane Harvey and Irma hit the U.S. earlier this month.

Correction: This post originally referred to Puerto Rico as a “country.” It is a territory of the U.S.

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While he made it clear that he believes “people have a right to express themselves,” House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) said Thursday that he thinks the protests during the national anthem at football games are “misguided.”

Ryan wouldn’t comment on President Donald Trump’s remarks about the protests because he said he hadn’t seen all of Trump’s statements. But Ryan defended Trump’s stance that the protests are seen as disrespectful because they involves the American flag and the national anthem.

“What I don’t think people see from the get-go is when you do it on the flag and the anthem, it looks like you’re protesting against the ideals of America, the patriotism, the people who put their lives on the line, given their life for the country,” he said to reporters Thursday. “So I just don’t think — I think it’s misguided to protest the anthem and the flag.”

He said the protests don’t translate well because people see it as disrespectful to the country, rather than a “political issue.”

“That’s the point I think some people are missing in this debate,” he said.

Ryan’s home state football team, the Green Bay Packers, are planning to stand during the anthem Thursday night and lock arms. The team has invited fans to do the same as a sign of unity, according to The Green Bay Press Gazette.

On Sunday, as many teams across the NFL showed some sign of protest during the anthem, most of the Packers players locked arms and stood during the anthem and three sat.

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Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-LA), the chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, had some harsh words for President Donald Trump on Thursday in the wake of the President’s continuous criticism of the National Football League and the players who have taken a knee during the national anthem to protest police brutality and racial profiling in the U.S.

Richmond wrote a letter to Trump to “express my utter disgust” with the way he has handled race relations in the U.S. in general, but also specifically related to his “divisive response” to NFL protests, according to the letter published by CNN.

As President of the United States, your use of profane, sexually derogatory language in addressing American citizens, or anyone for that matter, is unbecoming of the office you now hold,” he said, referencing Trump’s remarks in Alabama on Friday when he called any player who kneels during the national anthem a “son of a bitch” who deserves to be fired.

He said Trump’s lack of empathy or understanding for the “very painful history and substantive policy concerns” of African Americans is representative of everything black people have to lose under his administration.

He also re-sent Trump a 125 page policy book highlighting the Congressional Black Caucus’ concerns related to the “criminal justice system, racial profiling and police brutality, among many other issues” as well as letters to members of the administration on the topic. He asked the President to actually read the documents, saying he’s it’s “evident” he hasn’t.

“Almost everything you have done and said on the topic of race or on issues that implicate race demonstrate a shocking lack of knowledge for an adult public official in the 21st century,” he wrote.

Read the full letter at CNN.

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In his first interview since being shot  during a GOP Congressional baseball practice in June, Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) said he didn’t realize until “later” how much damage had been done “internally.”

“I mean, my femur was shattered. The hip and pelvis had serious damage where the bullet went through and, you know, did some damage to areas that had to be shored up with steel plates,” he said, during a segment of his interview with 60 Minutes that was released Thursday.

After the shooting, Scalise spent four days unconscious in the hospital. He praised the doctors who did so much to repair all of the “damage.”

“They did a phenomenal job of rebuilding, you know, kind of the, rebuilding Humpty Dumpty. I mean, there were, there was a lot of damage inside that had to get fixed,” he said. “They put me back together again.”

The rest of the interview will air on 60 Minutes on Sunday at 7:30 p.m. EST.

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The President has authorized a shipping waiver to help get relief aid to Hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a tweet Thursday morning.

Sanders said President Donald Trump had authorized a waiver to the Jones Act for Puerto Rico that would be effective “immediately.”

The Jones Act dates back to the 1920s and restricts shipping between American ports to American ships with American crews only, which ends up making it just as expensive to ship things from the U.S. to Puerto Rico as it is to ship from any other port in the world, according to members of Congress who asked the President to lift the restriction.

Trump indicated Wednesday he may not lift the Jones Act for Puerto Rico because “a lot of shippers” don’t want it waived, despite the fact that he lifted the restrictions when Hurricane Harvey and Irma hit the U.S. earlier this month.

Sanders said the President waived the restriction at the request of Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello. 

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More than 30 House Democrats have filed an amicus brief asking a federal judge to reject President Donald Trump’s pardon of controversial former Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

Trump announced he would pardon Arpaio of his criminal contempt of court conviction for racially profiling against Latinos while serving as county sheriff in Maricopa County in Arizona. Arpaio was an early Trump supporter and the President said he was treated “unbelievably unfairly.

But House Democrats think his pardon is unconstitutional and intrudes on the judicial branch, Politico reported.

“A full and unconditional presidential pardon….effectively deprives the Court of ‘the independent means of self-protection,’ and makes the Court dependent on the Executive,” the House members wrote. “The pardon here is an intentional usurpation of the Court’s authority by the President. President Trump does not pretend that his pardon of the Defendant is based upon the considerations of grace that usually justify the exercise of the pardon power.”

Arpaio was found guilty of contempt of court in July and Trump pardoned the former sheriff on Aug. 25.

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Continuing his tirade against the National Football League, President Donald Trump suggested in an interview with Fox News, which aired Thursday, that NFL team owners may be “afraid of their players.”

“I have so many friends that are owners and they’re in a box. I’ve spoken to couple of them and they say ‘we are in a situation where we have to do something.’ I think they’re afraid of their players if you want to know the truth. I think it’s disgraceful and they’ve got to be tough and they’ve got to be smart because you look at the ratings, the ratings are going way down,” he said, continuing on his usual line of insult by blasting a private group’s television ratings.

He claimed that “most people” agree with him on his stance that football players should stand during the national anthem instead of kneeling in protest and he called on the NFL to enforce its “rule that’s been in existence for a long time.”

“The NFL and players really have to do the honor of the country. It’s for the honor of the country. They have to respect our country. They have to respect our flag and our anthem,” he said.

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