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

Since Friday, when special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation announced indictments against 13 Russian nationals for meddling in the 2016 election, President Donald Trump has launched a Twitter campaign against Democrats and former President Barack Obama to shove blame away from his campaign for the interference.

Trump tweeted Monday questioning why Obama, who “was president up to, and beyond, the 2016 election” didn’t “do something about Russian meddling” and continued along that line of criticism into Tuesday morning, when he tweeted thanking his favorite show, “Fox and Friends,” for broadcasting a timeline of Obama’s “failures” “against Russia.”

Trump tweeted a quote that Obama made in October 2016 during a press conference, responding to then-candidate Trump’s allegations of widespread voter fraud. At the time Obama combatted Trump’s claims, saying “there is no serious person out there who would suggest somehow that you could even rig America’s election, in part because they’re so decentralized.”

“I’d invite Mr. Trump to stop whining and make his case to get votes,” Obama said in October 2016. The “Fox and Friends” segment Trump referenced also quoted similar remarks from the former president.

Trump seized on Obama’s statement on voter fraud to try to paint his predecessor as a hypocrite and claimed the “whole game changed” when he won the election and the “Russian excuse became the narrative of the Dems.”

Trump has repeatedly pointed to the Obama administration’s partial knowledge of Russian meddling leading up to the election as proof that Obama “didn’t want to hurt Hillary.”

In October 2016, the intelligence community under Obama accused Russia of hacking into the email servers of “U.S. political organizations.” In December 2016, Obama closed two Russian diplomatic compounds and expelled 35 diplomats in response to the interference. In June, The Washington Post reported that the Obama administration had received intelligence in August 2016 about a Russian President Vladimir Putin led campaign to get Trump elected.

Former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson testified in June that the Obama administration was hesitant to make a statement about the Russian meddling because of Trump’s claims of voter fraud.

“One of the candidates, as you’ll recall, was predicting that the election was going to be rigged in some way,” Johnson said in June. “And so we were concerned that by making the statement, we might in and of itself be challenging the integrity of the election process itself.”

Read More →

President Donald Trump and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney set aside their differences on Twitter Monday evening, when the President tweeted a “full support” endorsement of the Republican Utah Senate candidate and Romney embraced the backing.

Trump said Romney would make “a great senator” and “worthy successor” to retiring Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), a Trump favorite.

Within minutes, Romney, also the former 2012 Republican presidential nominee, responded, thanking Trump for his support and saying he hopes “over the course of the campaign I also earn the support and endorsement of the people of Utah.”

Relations between the Senate hopeful and the President have not always been so cheery.

In 2016, Trump said Romney “choked like a dog” during his 2012 presidential bid against former President Barack Obama. Romney’s been highly critical in return and has consistently criticized Trump’s fitness for office since he became a serious political contender.

During the 2016 Republican primaries, Romney called Trump a “phony” and joined efforts to block Trump’s GOP nomination at the Republican convention. More recently, Romney criticized Trump’s full-throated embrace of former Republican Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore, denounced the President’s response to the deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia last summer and called out Trump on Twitter for the President’s reported “shithole” comments about African nations.

Before moving into the White House, Trump considered Romney for secretary of state, but eventually tapped former Exxon Mobile CEO Rex Tillerson for the gig. Critics speculated Trump was simply trying to humiliate Romney with the courtship.

NEW YORK, NY – NOVEMBER 29: (L to R) President-elect Donald Trump and Mitt Romney dine at Jean Georges restaurant, November 29, 2016 in New York City. President-elect Donald Trump and his transition team are in the process of filling cabinet and other high level positions for the new administration. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

When asked about the status of their relationship before Trump tweeted his endorsement Monday, Romney told the Associated Press that they had talked on the phone in recent months and that the two had “a cordial and respectful relationship.”   

Read More →

President Donald Trump will attend his first dinner with journalists at the Gridiron Club on March 3 this year after chastising the nation’s top media outlets consistently throughout his first year in office.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders released a statement Monday confirming Trump’s plans to attend the prestigious journalism club’s annual dinner, but said the President has not yet made a decision about the White House Correspondents’ Dinner.

“Several people have inquired about the President’s participation in Gridiron and WHCA dinner — the President is planning to attend the gridiron dinner, but no decision has been made regarding the WHCA dinner at this time,” Sanders said in her statement. “Will keep you posted when there is an update.”

Last year, Trump skipped both the Gridiron and the Correspondents Association’s dinner. He announced the decision on Twitter last year: “I will not be attending the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner this year. Please wish everyone well and have a great evening!” he tweeted.

Trump was the first president since Ronald Reagan to skip the annual affair. Reagan had to take a rain check in 1981 because he was recovering in the hospital from an assassination attempt.

Trump has been increasingly hostile toward the media since taking office and during his campaign. He regularly uses his Twitter platform to castigate individual journalists and cry “Fake News” about reporting that does not paint him in a favorable light. Trump released a list of “Fake News Award” winners on the Republican National Committee’s website in January. The “awards” were primarily a list of mistakes that were promptly corrected or retracted by news outlets.

While in Davos, Switzerland last month at the global economic summit, some of Trump’s complaints about the “fake news” media were met with boos and hisses from the crowd.

H/t: Axios. 

Read More →

While on an unofficial business trip to promote the Trump family’s real estate projects in India this week, Donald Trump Jr. plans to give a speech on foreign policy at a summit attended by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The speech, entitled “Reshaping India Pacific Ties: The New Era of Cooperation,” will be delivered at a global business summit on Friday evening, The Washington Post reported. Modi will reportedly give a speech on “Preparing India for the Future” at the same event.

Trump Jr. also plans to spend part of the trip meeting with investors and business leaders, as well as attending an advertised $38,000-per-ticket “conversation and dinner” event with Trump Tower Delhi National Capital Region buyers, according to the Post.

Trump Jr. will also to travel to Mumbai to attend a presentation at the new Trump Tower there, a project that will be developed by a firm owned by a state legislator from Modi’s political party. An employee of the development firm, who spoke to the Post on condition of anonymity, said part of the deal for the new Trump Tower was that then-private citizen Donald Trump would visit and do promotions there every couple of years. The election changed that, he said.

“Ideally we’d have preferred Ivanka,” the employee told the Post. “She has a better public image. But it makes sense for Donald Trump Jr. to do it.”

Mixing meetings with investors with a speech on foreign policy in the same trip raises ethical concerns that President Trump vowed to avoid upon entering the Oval Office. Before inauguration, Trump pledged his company would make no new foreign investments and said he would donate any of his company’s profits from foreign governments to the Treasury Department. As head of the Trump organization while his father is in office, Trump Jr. is reportedly not properly tracking those profits.

Read More →

The Pentagon is considering soliciting donations to fund the President’s requested military parade, which could cost between $3 million and $50 million, according to preliminary estimates from a defense official who spoke with CNN. 

Because there is currently no money set aside for a parade in the military budget, the Pentagon would likely use those private donations to offset the cost of the non-military components of the event, according to CNN. Budget director Mick Mulvaney said Wednesday that he estimates the parade could cost between $10 million to $30 million.

Defense officials are also concerned about the lack of available troops to attend a parade, CNN reported. A large-scale parade would require weeks of planning and the transportation of equipment, like tanks, to Washington, D.C. days ahead of time in order to prepare, according to the official who spoke with CNN.

The Army has prepared five different parade options for President Trump to consider: “small, medium, heavy, hybrid and a multimedia display,” according to CNN.

The small or medium option would include troops that are stationed in Washington, D.C. in ceremonial units and equipment that’s located nearby in Maryland and Virginia. The heavy option would require bringing in active duty troops, according to the official who spoke with CNN.

Department of Defense Secretary James Mattis has previously said his department is preparing options for Trump, but this is the first glimpse at what those choices could entail.

After attending France’s Bastille Day parade during a visit last year, Trump reportedly told aides he wanted a similar parade and suggested publicly that it could be held on the Fourth of July. Pentagon officials are weighing holding the event on Veterans Day in November, according to CNN, but there’s been no official word on if or when the parade will occur.

Read More →

After unleashing his rage on a variety of people and topics in a string of tweets Sunday evening, President Donald Trump wrapped up the weekend by attacking “a very insecure” Oprah Winfrey.

He told his millions of followers that he hopes she runs for president so she can be “exposed and defeated.”

As is often the case, Trump was using his Twitter platform to respond to something he saw on television. In this instance, it was an episode of “60 Minutes” that aired Sunday evening, featuring Winfrey interviewing a panel of Michigan voters about their quality of life under the Trump administration. Trump claimed her “questions were biased and slanted, the facts incorrect.”

“Hope Oprah runs so she can be exposed and defeated just like the others!” he said.

A full year into office, Trump is likely referencing his previous political opponents, like former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the string of Republicans he defeated in the primary election.

While Winfrey has adamantly denied she is planning a presidential bid, her speech upon receiving a lifetime achievement award at the Golden Globes last month sparked widespread speculation about her 2020 intentions.

“I am actually humbled by the fact that people think that I could be a leader of the free world, but it’s just not in my spirit,” she told “60 Minutes Overtime” in a segment posted online.

Read More →

Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Friday said he would conduct a review of the FBI’s failure to investigate a tip it received in January warning the bureau about the behavior of the 19-year-old charged with killing 17 people in a Florida school shooting Wednesday.

In a statement, Sessions said he would make the review of the FBI and the Department of Justice’s practices “a top priority.”

“It is now clear that the warning signs were there and tips to the FBI were missed. We see the tragic consequences of those failures,” he said. “The FBI in conjunction with our state and local partners must act flawlessly to prevent all attacks. This is imperative, and we must do better.”

The FBI released a statement on Friday acknowledging the bureau had failed to follow up on a tip from a person close with the alleged shooter, Nikolas Cruz. According to a statement from the agency, the person informed the FBI in January of Cruz’s “gun ownership, desire to kill people, erratic behavior and disturbing social media posts, as well as the potential of him conducting a school shooting.”

Florida Gov. Rick Scott on Friday called the inaction from the FBI unacceptable and demanded that FBI Director Chris Wray resign.

Read the full statement from Sessions below

“It is now clear that the warning signs were there and tips to the FBI were missed. We see the tragic consequences of those failures.

“The FBI in conjunction with our state and local partners must act flawlessly to prevent all attacks. This is imperative, and we must do better. I have ordered the Deputy Attorney General to conduct an immediate review of our process here at the Department of Justice and FBI to ensure that we reach the highest level of prompt and effective response to indications of potential violence that come to us. This includes more than just an error review but also a review of how we respond. This will include possible consultation with family members, mental health officials, school officials, and local law enforcement.

“We will make this a top priority. It has never been more important to encourage every person in every community to spot the warning signs and alert law enforcement. Do not assume someone else will step up–all of us must be vigilant. Our children’s lives depend on it.”

Read More →

President Donald Trump on Saturday pointed to tweets from Facebook’s advertising executive to attack the media’s coverage of the Russia investigation and again claim that he’s innocent of collusion.

In a series of tweets on Saturday, Trump taunted the “Fake News Media” for not reporting that the “Russian group” that was indicted by special counsel Robert Mueller for interfering in the 2016 election Friday was formed in 2014.

“Long before my run for president. Maybe they knew I was going to run even though I didn’t know!” he said.

He then retweeted Facebook’s Vice President of advertising who said the majority of the Russian advertisement spending happened after the election. The Facebook executive claimed that information has gotten little coverage because it doesn’t fall in line with the “main media narrative of Trump and the election.”

“The Fake News Media never fails. Hard to ignore this fact from the Vice President of Facebook Ads, Rob Goldman!” he said.

He then retweeted another post by Goldman, who claimed that after reviewing the advertisements, he felt the main goal of the Russians’ Facebook ad campaign was not to sway the election, but rather divide Americans.

After Mueller’s team announced it was filing criminal charges against 13 Russian nationals and three Russian entities Friday, the White House and Trump released statements claiming the indictment proves there was no collusion between Trump and the Russians.

Mueller’s 37-page indictment details the Russian Internet Research Agency’s concerted efforts – starting in 2014 – to interfere “with the U.S. political and electoral processes, including the presidential election of 2016.”

Read More →

While former Secretary of State and President Trump opponent Hillary Clinton remained silent on news of an indictment against 13 Russian nationals for interfering in the 2016 election, her spokesperson lashed out on Trump on Twitter, calling him “un-American.”

“Time will tell us more, but Russia went to great lengths to undermine our democracy and the President won’t protect us,” he said. “No matter you politics, it’s un-American.”

In a bombshell indictment on Friday, special counsel Robert Mueller charged 13 Russian nationals and three Russian entities with criminal charges related to interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Mueller released a 37-page indictment detailing the Russian Internet Research Agency’s concerted efforts – starting in 2014 – to interfere “with the U.S. political and electoral processes, including the presidential election of 2016.”

All 13 defendants have been charged with “conspiracy to defraud the United States.” Three defendants were also charged with conspiracy to commit wire and bank fraud, and five were charged with “aggravated identity theft.”

Clinton has been vocal in the past about the legitimacy of Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling and whether the Trump campaign colluded with the foreign power to win the election. Trump on Friday reiterated the response he usually takes when new information is revealed about the investigation, insisting the development proves there was “no collusion!” between his campaign and Russia.

Read More →

Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) on Friday said that FBI Director Chris Wray should resign over the bureau’s failure to act on a tip it received in January about the alleged gunman who attacked a Florida high school on Wednesday, leaving 17 people dead.

“The FBI’s failure to take action against this killer is unacceptable,” Scott said in a statement. “We constantly promote ‘see something, say something,’ and a courageous person did just that to the FBI. And the FBI failed to act. ‘See something, say something’ is an incredibly important tool and people must have confidence in the follow through from law enforcement. The FBI director needs to resign.”

The FBI on Friday said that it failed to follow up on a tip from a person close to Nikolas Cruz, the alleged shooter. According to a statement from the agency, the person informed the FBI of Cruz’s “gun ownership, desire to kill people, erratic behavior and disturbing social media posts, as well as the potential of him conducting a school shooting.”

Scott is considering running to represent Florida in the Senate and is reportedly close with President Donald Trump, who has recently launched an all-out attack on the FBI because he believes some officials are biased against his presidency.

Read More →