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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

The wife of the U.S. Treasury secretary, Louise Linton, has called the Instagram picture she posted last month and the subsequent comments-section argument she got into with a follower “indefensible.”

In August, Linton posted on Instagram bragging about flying on a government plane to Kentucky with her husband, and she tagged high-end fashion brands — like Hermès, Tom Ford and Valentino — in her photo. Followers quickly posted comments on the post, calling Linton distasteful and questioning why taxpayers were funding a trip for her and her husband.

Linton fired back, attacking one specific commenter who she called “adorable” for thinking the trip to Kentucky was personal and claiming she and her husband “sacrifice” more than the average taxpayer.

“Do you think the US govt paid for our honeymoon or personal travel?! Lololol. Have you given more to the economy than me and my husband? Either as an individual earner in taxes OR in self sacrifice to your country? I’m pretty sure we paid more taxes toward our day ‘trip’ than you did. Pretty sure the amount we sacrifice per year is a lot more than you’d be willing to sacrifice if the choice was yours,” she wrote in the comments.

She apologized through her publicist a day later and said in a recent interview with Washington Life magazine that she “concede(s) completely to the comments” of her critics.

“My post itself and the following response were indefensible. Period. I don’t have any excuses, nor do I feel any self-pity for the backlash I experienced,” she said. “I sincerely take ownership of my mistake. It’s clear that I was the one would was truly out of touch and my response was reactionary and condescending.”

The Scottish actress, who is married to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, acknowledged she had “no place” talking about sacrifice.

“My husband is very fortunate to be part of the government. It is a great honor and privilege and in no way is his work, or my part in this, any kind of sacrifice,” she said in the cover story interview, where she posed in a series of ball gowns. 

She said she understood why the post became newsworthy, admitted it was “boastful and materialistic” and said she made the post because she was trying to create “this public image that was elegant and stylish.” She said she regretted what she said and should have stuck with posting about the causes she cares about on social media, like animal rescues.

“I feel like I deserved the criticism and my response is ‘thanks for waking me up quickly and for turning me back in the right direction.’ My response is ‘I’m sorry,’” she said.

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Just hours before a scheduled press conference in which Attorney General Jeff Sessions is expected to announce the administration’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in six months, President Trump indicated called on Congress to come up with a legislative solution.

In a short tweet, Trump said called on Congress to “get ready to do your job” when it comes to DACA.

Politico was first to report that the Trump administration was planning to announce Tuesday that he will end DACA, a move that has seen bipartisan pushback.

A few GOP members of Congress, like Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), said they would be supportive of the President’s plan to end the program if it meant the anticipated six-month delay in ending the program was put in place to give Congress time to come up with a solution to help the “dreamers,” undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as minors.

The DACA program was introduced through executive order by former President Barack Obama in 2012 and is designed to protect undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children from deportation.

The announcement coming Tuesday is in response to threats made by several states to sue Trump if he didn’t make moves to end the program by Tuesday.

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Former White House press secretary Sean Spicer will continue his career in front of the podium, but on a different stage.

While Spicer officially resigned in light of the hiring of quickly-ousted communications director Anthony Scaramucci in July, his last official day at the White House was Aug. 31.

Now he’s headed to a new speaker job with Worldwide Speakers Group, according to Politico. Spicer’s first paid speech will be on Sept. 11 in New York City at an annual gathering for Rodman and Renshaw bank.

“We are thrilled to provide Sean for our major trade association, corporate, university and public lecture series customers around the world,” a spokesperson for the organization told Politico in a statement. “With his well-known candor and extensive experience, Sean is uniquely qualified to help audiences understand how the political environment will impact them now and in the future.” 

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Attorney General Jeff Sessions is scheduled to hold a press conference Tuesday at 11 a.m. where he will reportedly announce the administration’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, with a six months delay.

Sessions will not take any questions from reporters following the briefing, according to the Department of Justice’s schedule.

Politico was first to report that President Donald Trump was planning to announce Tuesday that he will end DACA, a move that has seen bipartisan pushback. Sessions will face the cameras instead.

The DACA program was introduced through executive order by Former President Barack Obama in 2012 and is designed to protect undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children from deportation.

The six month delay will reportedly give Congress time to pass legislation to remedy the issue. Several states have threatened to sue Trump if he didn’t make moves to end the program by Tuesday.

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Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) will support President Donald Trump’s plan to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that he reportedly plans to announce Tuesday, according to a statement from Graham’s office.

But only if the reported six-month delay to ending the program is put in place to give Congress time to come up with a legislative solution for the program, he said.

“If President Trump chooses to cancel the DACA program and give Congress six months to find a legislative solution, I will be supportive of such a position,” Graham said in a statement Monday. “I have always believed DACA was a presidential overreach. However, I equally understand the plight of the Dream Act kids who – for all practical purposes – know no country other than America”

Politico was first to report that Trump is planning to announce Tuesday that he is ending DACA in six months. The program grants legal status to undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children.

Graham said he and other members of Congress are already working on bipartisan legislation to help the “dreamers,” as the undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as minors have been labeled.

“I have introduced legislation to solve this problem along with Senator Durbin,” he said. “I look forward to working with President Trump and my colleagues in Congress to find a fair solution to this difficult problem.”

Former President Barack Obama launched the program through an executive order in 2012.

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Former President Barack Obama is planning to speak out if President Donald Trump announces his intentions of ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, Politico reported.

Obama’s current plan is to post a statement on Facebook and Twitter, a source close to Obama told Politico.

Politico was first to report that Trump is planning to announce Tuesday that he is ending DACA in six months. The program grants legal status to undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children.

Obama launched the program through an executive order in 2012 and suggested at his final press availability as president that he may speak out if Trump decided to end the program.

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Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) joined several other GOP members of Congress in breaking with President Donald Trump over reports that he plans to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

In a statement released Monday, Lankford said the U.S. “must confront the nation’s out-of-date” immigration system, but that children shouldn’t be held accountable for the actions of parents who immigrated to the U.S. illegally.

“It is right for there to be consequences for those who intentionally entered this country illegally,” Lankford said in a statement, according to The Hill. “However, we as Americans do not hold children legally accountable for the actions of their parents.”

His statement comes after reports that Trump plans to end the DACA program, with a six month delay. DACA temporarily prevents the children of undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as minors from getting deported while they pursue work permits in the U.S.

Lankford said the U.S. immigration system needs to be reformed, but said that change should be made through Congress.

“We must confront the nation’s out-of-date immigration policy and finally resolve the issues of strong border enforcement and merit immigration,” Lankford said.

“We must confront the nation’s out-of-date immigration policy and finally resolve the issues of strong border enforcement and merit immigration,” he said. “Policy reform must come from the American people through Congress. The Legislative and Executive Branch should put aside passivity and partisanship and finally modernize our immigration laws.”

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After an Associated Press journalist reported this weekend that seven of Houston’s 41 Superfund sites were flooded with several feet of water, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a lengthy statement countering the claims and attacking the reporter.

The reporter, Michael Biesecker, visited seven of the 41 toxic waste sites impacted by Hurricane Harvey’s flooding in Houston and reported that all seven had been “inundated” by water.

The EPA had yet to visit any of the sites, according to the AP story, which noted a study completed under former President Barack Obama’s administration that concluded flooding at these sites could cause the spread of toxic materials.

The EPA responded with a statement calling the reporter lazy for “reporting from the comfort of Washington” even though Biesecker was in Houston and calling the story “incredibly misleading.”

The EPA also attacked Biesecker’s previous reporting and tried to debunk his story, saying the agency had viewed, but not visited, all the toxic waste sites through “aerial imaging.”

Read the full statement below:

Yesterday, the Associated Press’ Michael Biesecker wrote an incredibly misleading story about toxic land sites that are under water.

Despite reporting from the comfort of Washington, Biesecker had the audacity to imply that agencies aren’t being responsive to the devastating effects of Hurricane Harvey. Not only is this inaccurate, but it creates panic and politicizes the hard work of first responders who are actually in the affected area.

Here’s the truth: through aerial imaging, EPA has already conducted initial assessments at 41 Superfund sites – 28 of those sites show no damage, and 13 have experienced flooding. This was left out of the original story, along with the fact that EPA and state agencies worked with responsible parties to secure Superfund sites before the hurricane hit. Leaving out this critical information is misleading.

Administrator Pruitt already visited Southeast Texas and is in constant contact with local, state and county officials. And EPA, has a team of experts imbedded with other local, state and federal authorities, on the ground responding to Harvey – none of which Biesecker included in his story.

Unfortunately, the Associated Press’ Michael Biesecker has a history of not letting the facts get in the way of his story. Earlier this summer, he made-up a meeting that Administrator Pruitt had, and then deliberately discarded information that refuted his inaccurate story – ultimately prompting a nation-wide correction. Additionally, the Oklahoman took him to task for sensationalized reporting.

If you’re reporting on this misleading story then below is a statement from the EPA.

“Once again, in an attempt to mislead Americans, the Associated Press is cherry-picking facts, as EPA is monitoring Superfund sites around Houston and we have a team of experts on the ground working with our state and local counterparts responding to Hurricane Harvey. Anything to the contrary is yellow journalism.” – EPA Associate Administrator, Liz Bowman

The Hill reports EPA finds 13 Superfund sites possibly damaged after Harvey. “The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said Saturday that 13 Superfund sites have been flooded or could be facing damage as a result of Hurricane Harvey. The agency said that two of the sites, which are areas that are polluted with hazardous material and require extensive cleanup, had been inspected and do not require immediate cleanup. Eleven sites have proven to be inaccessible for response teams, however the agency said teams are in place to inspect the areas once flooding from the storm subsides. In total, the EPA said that it had conducted initial assessments at 41 Superfund sites in impacted areas using ‘aerial images’ and contact with with those responsible for regular cleanup activities.”

In June, the editorial board at the Oklahoman reminded their readers of the sensationalized reporting that comes from the Associated Press’ Michael Biesecker. “The disdain that some in the media have for President Trump and members of his administration is evident regularly. Recent coverage related to EPA administrator Scott Pruitt provides an example of interest to locals because of Pruitt’s Oklahoma ties. … An Associated Press story from Washington last week about emails Pruitt sent and received as attorney general did what it could to further establish Pruitt as a minion for the oil and gas industry — which environmentalists see as dead set on ruining the earth as we know it. The AP, a wire service used by media outlets around the world including The Oklahoman, said the emails ‘underscore just how closely’ Pruitt ‘coordinated with fossil fuel companies’ as Oklahoma’s AG, ‘a position in which he frequently sued to block federal efforts to curb planet-warming carbon emissions.’ That’s quite an opening paragraph. Pruitt didn’t just work with energy companies while attorney general — he worked ‘closely’ with ‘fossil fuel companies’ (the ultimate bogey men) to essentially keep global warming from abating. … The fact Pruitt regularly corresponded and dealt with energy industry officials as attorney general of a state where energy is the No. 1 industry should not be surprising nor should it, by itself, be considered nefarious.”

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The White House on Wednesday cleaned up comments President Trump made, when he claimed he had seen the “horror and devastation” of Hurricane Harvey “first hand” when he hadn’t.

It was widely reported that the President did not visit any of the most severely flooded parts of Texas during his visit to the state this week because he said he didn’t want to pull resources from search and rescue efforts.

But he tweeted Wednesday morning, expressing greater sympathy for those impacted by the story after witnessing the damage himself.

Local and White House pool reporters who followed the President’s stops in Corpus Christi and Austin, Texas Tuesday quickly called out Trump for his remarks, claiming he didn’t see any of the worst flooding that has occurred in cities like Houston.

On Wednesday, the White House clarified what Trump meant by his statements, saying the President met with all the officials who witnessed the damage themselves.

He met with a number of state and local officials who are eating, sleeping, breathing the Harvey disaster,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters in a press gaggle Wednesday.

“He talked extensively with the governor, who certainly is right in the midst of every bit of this, as well as the mayors from several of the local towns that were hit hardest. And detailed briefing information throughout the day yesterday talking to a lot of the people on the ground — that certainly is a firsthand account,” she said.

White House counselor Kelly Anne Conway echoed those comments on “Fox and Friends” Thursday morning, saying Trump plans to “get closer to the affected areas” when officials say it’s “appropriate to do so.”

“So the President will go, he will ask Congress for money depending on where the needs are,” she said.

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During an interview with CNN’s Chris Cuomo Wednesday night, top White House aide Kelly Anne Conway bashed the network for trying to politicize suffering victims, refused to talk about how climate change may have caused Hurricane Harvey and then proceeded to brag about the President’s plans for tax reform, job creation and protecting the U.S. border.

Conway dodged questions about what President Donald Trump will do to get Republicans in line to vote for a disaster relief package for victims of Harvey— and keep them from politicizing the funding discussion like some did with Hurricane Sandy. She then proceeded to call out Cuomo and CNN for “playing politics” with the tragedy, despite the network’s continuous coverage of the storm since it approached land last week.

“I answered that already. I think you’re playing politics now with something like a tragedy and Harvey. I’ve answered your questions. The money will be there. We hope that Republicans and Democrats will come together not politicize this,” she said. “I think instead of having the same conversation five different ways over the course of the first three or four minutes of this interview, you could be putting up 1-800 numbers or websites or giving people information about pet rescues or diapers or meals.”

Changing topics, Cuomo asked Conway about climate change, which many climatologists say had an impact on the strength of Harvey. In response, she accused the host of trying to be an “amateur climatologist” who was trying to keep the interview from being about what the White House is doing to help victims of the massive flooding.

“Chris, we’re trying to help the people whose lives are literally underway and you want to have a conversation about climate change. I mean that is— I’m not going to engage in that right now because I work for a President and a vice president and a country that is very focused on helping the millions of affected Texans and god forbid Louisianans,” she said.

“Imagine if we could find ways to reduce the number of the storms. Imagine if we could find out why a 100-year storm happens to happen every other year,” Cuomo shot back.

She then accused him of putting “words in my mouth” and proceeded to list everything the Trump administration has done to aide those in need.

Conway abruptly changed the topic to tax reform.

“Right now, I know that many Houstonians and those living in and around that city are either uninsured or underinsured. They’re facing a lack of housing,” she said. “So we’re going to look at the human factor for quite a while now. If you want to talk about issues also in the news, we could talk about, oh, the President’s play at historic tax reform today in Missouri, Route 66, the heart of American manufacturing and America’s gateway to the west at one point, where he has promised to simplify the tax code that we spend billions of hours and dollars trying to comply with it every year.”

She then jumped into a tangent about how Trump’s tax reform plan will help middle class Americans despite reports that his proposal will provide big tax cuts to the wealthy. 

When asked about a federal judge’s decision to temporarily block the implementation of a tough order against sanctuary cities in Texas while the state handles recovery and relief efforts, she blamed Congress for Trump’s lack of clarity on what he wants to do about DACA immigrants and said “it’s high time” the U.S. protect it’s borders.

“The President has expressed sympathy for many of the so-called Dreamers, they refer to themselves as Dreamers. … He’s also made very clear that he wants an immigration system that respects the law and that is fair, fair to everyone involved,” she said. “We have spent billions of dollars over the years helping other nations protect their own borders. And many Americans agree with him that it’s high time we respect our own.”

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