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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

A man wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat and carrying an American flag and packing a pistol on his hip showed up at the scene of Santa Fe High School on Friday where a shooting left at least 10 people dead.

The man told a local NBC affiliate that his first instinct when he heard about the shooting was to “get to the school! Make America great again,” he said, adding he was “offering support.”

“Just ‘God bless you all’ will go a long way right now for a lot of people,” he said.

At least nine students and one teacher were killed when a 17-year-old male student opened fire at the the high school on Friday morning, just before 8 a.m. The suspected shooter and another person of interest are in custody. Police found explosive devices near the high school as well.

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President Donald Trump on Friday offered his condolences to the families of the at least eight people killed in a shooting at Santa Fe High School in Texas and said school shootings have “been going on too long in our country.”

Trump’s full comments, delivered at the start of a prison reform discussion at the White House:

Thank you very much. Unfortunately I have to begin by expressing our sadness and heart break over the deadly shooting at Santa Fe High School in Texas that just took place moments ago. We’re closely monitoring the situation and federal authorities are coordinating with local officials. 

“This has been going on too long in our country. Too many years. Too many decades now. We grieve for the terrible loss of life and send our support and love to everyone affected by this absolutely horrific attack to the students, families, teachers, and personnel at Santa Fe High. We’re with you in this tragic hour, and we will be with you forever. 

“My administration is determined to do everything in our power to protect our students, secure our schools and to keep weapons out of the hands of those who pose a threat to themselves and to others. Everyone must work together at every level of government to keep our children safe. May God heal the injured and may God comfort the wounded and may God be with the victims and with the victims families. Very sad day. Very very sad.”

Watch a video of his remarks below:

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A private airplane owned by a now-sanctioned Russian billionaire flew to Seychelles one day before a secret meeting between an associate of President Trump — Blackwater founder Erik Prince — and a Russian government ally, according to a NJ Advance Media report Thursday that cited airport flight data.

The meeting between Prince, the chief of the sanctioned Russian sovereign investment fund Kirill Dmitriev and adviser to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) George Nader, is reportedly of key interest to special counsel Robert Mueller, as he probes the Trump campaign and Russian interference in the 2016 election. Nader reportedly has close ties to members of Trump’s inner circle.

The Washington Post reported in March that a witness told Mueller that the January 2017 meeting was held to establish a backchannel of communication between the U.S. and Russia. Prince — who has reportedly been interviewed by Mueller, according to the Daily Beast — testified before the House Intelligence Committee about the meeting last year. He said the 30 minute discussion was held to explore a business venture with “potential customers” from the UAE and that Dmitriev’s expressed a desire to return to normal trade relations between the U.S. and Russia.

According to NJ Advance Media’s report, the aircraft, which is owned by sanctioned Russian billionaire Andrei Skoch, arrived around 4 p.m. on January 10, 2017, just one day before Prince arrived. NJ Advance reporter Erin Banco also confirmed that the six passengers who were on the plane stayed at the Four Seasons Hotel, which, according to Prince, is where the meeting was held.

Banco reported that it was unclear whether Skoch — who is included on the Treasury Department’s Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons list — attended the meeting.

Read NJ Advance Media’s full report here.

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President Donald Trump on Friday continued his constant tirade against the media, claiming news outlets got his reference to undocumented immigrants as “animals” “purposely wrong” and said the media was “begrudgingly forced to withdraw their stories.”

Trump also tried to clarify his comments on Thursday and said he was referring to members of the MS-13 gang, not all undocumented immigrants.

“When the MS-13 comes in, when the other gang members come into our country, I refer to them as animals. And guess what, I always will,” he told a reporter while he met with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.

But, as TPM has reported, Trump did not specify in his original remark during a “California Sanctuary State Roundtable” on Wednesday that he was talking about violent gang members.

While Trump has continuously attacked the media for years, he tends to pick and choose when he believes media reports. Since the New York Times reported Wednesday that a government informant met with members of his campaign, Trump and Republican allies have seized on the story as evidence that special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe is illegitimate.

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After a junior White House aide’s morbid comments about Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) were leaked to the press two weeks ago, the White House has reportedly replaced its daily communications meetings with something smaller and is mulling shrinking the size of the communications teams, according to reports from The New York Times and CNN.

According to several former and current West Wing aides who spoke with the Times, Trump has become increasing vexed with his communications team in recent months and has complained that he has “the biggest team, and yet gets ‘the worst press.'”

That frustration came to a head when it was leaked that White House special assistant Kelly Sadler, who works on the communications team, mocked McCain for “dying.” The divulgence prompted officials to reduce the number of staff who attend daily communications meetings and further sowed suspicion and distrust within the White House, according to the Times.

The reduction in staff at communications meetings was one of several precautionary measures taken to combat President Donald Trump’s feeling of being undermined by his staff, according to a senior official who spoke with the Times. White House staff are not allowed to bring their personal cellphones into the West Wing and hall monitors have begun scanning the hallways and offices for prohibited phones.

In one recent incident, officials clamped down on staffers after it was revealed that an aide was recording his conversations with Trump to impress friends, several people familiar with the incident told the Times.

According to two officials with knowledge of the matter who spoke with CNN, the plans to reduce the size of the communications team should happen in coming weeks. Staffers won’t be fired outright, but rather pushed out slowly or reassigned to other departments, CNN reported. The move was prompted by the Sadler leak and the objective is to reduce the number of leaks coming from the communications team and restructure the press shop.

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As President Donald Trump and his Republican allies, both in the media and on Capitol Hill, swell their efforts to unveil the identity of an unnamed FBI source who reportedly met with Trump campaign officials as a government informant in 2016, the FBI is taking steps to protect that person if their identity is revealed, The Washington Post reported.

According to unnamed sources familiar with intelligence operations, in the past two weeks the FBI has worked to protect other investigations that person has worked on and is attempting to shield associates of the informant if his or her identity is revealed.

The FBI source is reportedly a U.S. citizen who has provided the FBI and the CIA with information in the past. The person has reportedly helped with the Russia investigation both before and after special counsel Robert Mueller was appointed to probe the Trump campaign and Russian interference in the election, according to the Post.

Members of Trump’s inner circle and conservatives in the media have seized on reports of the informant — first reported by the New York Times on Wednesday — as evidence of a baseless claim that the former administration attempted to “spy” on Trump’s campaign. Trump tweeted on Thursday that if the reports turned out to be true, it would divulge a level of corruption “bigger than Watergate.”

Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani told the Post that the revelations make Mueller’s probe “completely illegitimate.” Other Trump allies claim unveiling details about the informant and his or her work for the FBI could help them get rid of Mueller or deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

“The prior government did it, but the present government, for some reason I can’t figure out, is covering it up,” he told the Post.

The reports follow weeks long efforts by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes’ (R-CA) to get information about the FBI source, as well as the basis and scope of the Russia probe. FBI officials have refused to divulge certain information in order to protect the person’s safety.

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Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) on Wednesday claimed that falling “rock or whatever” is contributing to rising sea-levels and that global warming was actually causing the Antarctic ice sheets to grow, not shrink, trade publication E&E News reported.

During a hearing before the House Science, Space and Technology Committee on how technology can be used to address global warming, Brooks tried to convince Philip Duffy, the president of the Woods Hole Research Center and a former senior adviser to the Global Change Research Program, that soil and rocks falling into the ocean off of cliffs along the coast of California was causing sea levels to rise. He also argued that sedimentary and silt from large rivers, like the Mississippi, were contributing to the problem.

“Every time you have that soil or rock or whatever it is that is deposited into the seas, that forces the sea levels to rise, because now you have less space in those oceans, because the bottom is moving up,” Brooks said, according to the report.

Duffy said that the impact of rocks falling into the ocean was causing “minuscule effects” when assessed on “human time scales.”

Brooks then argued that ice sheets in the Antarctic are growing, not shrinking, which, according to E&E News, was accurate a few years ago, but is not relevant to the global warming debate because “different factors affect the Arctic and Antarctic rates of melting.” Duffy told Brooks that he had satellite records that show “an acceleration” of the shrinkage of the Antarctic ice sheet.

“Well, I’ve got a NASA base in my district, and apparently, they’re telling you one thing and me a different thing,” Brooks reportedly said. “But there are plenty of studies that have come that show with respect to Antarctica that the total ice sheet, particularly that above land, is increasing, not decreasing. Now, you could make a different argument if you want to talk about Greenland or the Arctic.”

Brooks was just one of several Republicans making skeptical claims about the evidence of global warming and what contributes to rising sea levels, according to E&E News.

Read the full report here.

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President Donald Trump’s outspoken lawyer Rudy Giuliani described special counsel Robert Mueller as acting like a mob boss from “The Godfather” when his team discussed whether Trump could be indicted by the special counsel.

In a meeting a few weeks ago, Trump’s lawyers and Mueller’s team agreed that the special counsel would follow Justice Department guidelines, indicating that the federal investigators ultimately would not indict Trump in the Russia probe unless he were impeached, according to the Washington Post.

He didn’t seem to want to give the answer,” Giuliani told the Post. “It reminded me of that scene in ‘The Godfather,’ with Sonny and the Godfather, where he said, ‘Oh, you’re going to take care of us? We can take care of ourselves.’ One of his assistants broke in and said, ‘Well of course, we’re bound by Justice Department policies.’ Mueller looked at him like, ‘Don’t interrupt me.’”

CNN was first to report that Mueller and Trump’s legal team had determined that the Russia probe would end with a report to Congress on potential crimes, not an indictment.

Since joining Trump’s legal team, Giuliani has been regularly making the rounds on TV, advocating for an end to the investigation into the Trump campaign and Russian interference in the 2016 election.

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President Donald Trump on Thursday said a new report that an unidentified government official met several times with two Trump campaign officials in 2016 could make the Russia investigation “bigger than Watergate!”

That tweet came just minutes after Trump tweeted congratulating America for being in “the second year of the greatest Witch Hunt in American History,” using his exasperated pet name for the probe into the Trump campaign and Russian interference in the 2016 election.

While Trump cited former federal prosecutor Andrew McCarthy — who was interviewed on “Fox and Friends” Thursday morning — in his tweet, the New York Times reported Wednesday afternoon that “at least one” government informant met with Trump campaign national security advisers Carter Page and George Papadopolous several times during the 2016 campaign.

The meetings were reportedly part of the FBI’s efforts to determine whether Trump’s campaign was colluding with Russia ahead of the election, according to the Times.

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President Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen has reportedly confided in friends that he’s at his wit’s end with federal investigations into his business dealings, Vanity Fair reported Wednesday.

According to two people familiar with Cohen’s thinking who spoke to Vanity Fair, Cohen is “fuming” over Stormy Daniels’ attorney Michael Avenatti’s release of information about his bank records and has grown weary of all the news coverage surrounding his attempts to sell access to Trump after the 2016 election. Cohen has reportedly confided in friends that he “just can’t take this anymore” and is focused on protecting his family, whom he thinks is suffering because federal investigators want to get to Trump, a friend told Vanity Fair.

Despite his exasperation over the probe, he spends hours every day with his lawyers reading through documents that the government has returned to him after the FBI raided his house, hotel and office last month and has told friends, “I’m not going to roll over.”

Cohen has been bombarded with headlines in recent weeks, ever since the FBI seized documents related to his business dealings and a $130,000 payment he made — and Trump reimbursed — to porn actress Stormy Daniels to keep her quiet about an alleged affair she had with Trump a decade ago. The barrage continued after Avenatti released information related to payments Cohen received from companies like Novartis and AT&T in 2017. Most of the businesses confirmed they made deals with Cohen in order to gain access to Trump.

Read Vanity Fair’s full report here.

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