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 former director of the Central Intelligence Agency and retired four-star general blasted President Donald Trump in an op-ed Tuesday, claiming Trump took a peaceful protest that was “within the tolerance of normal American political discourse” and turned it into a moment for political gain with his base.

The former head of the CIA, Gen. Michael Hayden, is a lifelong Steelers fan and has never been happy with the San Francisco 49ers’ former quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s protests against police brutality, he said. But the President’s reaction to the whole protest was disappointing enough to make him say, “put me down with Kaepernick.”

As a 39-year military veteran, I think I know something about the flag, the anthem, patriotism, and I think I know why we fight,” Hayden wrote in an op-ed in The Hill. “It’s not to allow the President to divide us by wrapping himself in the national banner.”

Trump exacerbated the rise in protests by calling any player who knelt during the national anthem at the start of football games a “son of a bitch” who should be fired.

The comments pushed players, owners and coaches across the country to make some type of statement on Sunday and Monday. The President has tweeted about the topic more than a dozen times and has made several public statements about the protests, saying those who take a knee are disrespecting the flag and the country.

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President Donald Trump’s loyalty to Sen. Luther Strange (R-AL) was already dwindling on Friday when he made a campaign stop in Alabama to stump for the incumbent candidate ahead of Tuesday’s Republican primary run-off election.

During the rally he questioned whether he’d made a “mistake” in supporting Strange and said if Strange lost the nomination, he would come back to campaign for his opponent.

After former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore clenched the Republican nomination Tuesday night for the race for Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ former seat, Trump was quick to throw his weight behind the controversial conservative, tweeting his congratulations late Tuesday.

The two also reportedly talked on the phone sometime before 11:15 p.m.

Trump say’s he’s already a fan.

“Spoke to Roy Moore of Alabama last night for the first time. Sounds like a really great guy who ran a fantastic race. He will help to #MAGA!” Trump tweeted Wednesday morning.

Moore tweeted a photo of himself on the phone Tuesday night, confirming he was talking to the President.

“I look forward to working with the President to win in December!” he said.

The budding friendship comes after Trump spent months stumping for Strange, who was backed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnel (R-KY) and was appointed to Sessions’ seat by the state’s former governor.

When Moore was declared the winner of the Republican nomination, Trump reportedly deleted several tweets he’d posted encouraging people to vote for Strange.

Moore is known as a religious conservative who has a controversial past. He was twice kicked off of the Alabama Supreme Court for refusing to remove a monument of the ten commandments from the court and refusing to recognize same-sex marriage.

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Repeating his rhetoric that the U.S. is “totally prepared” to take military action against North Korea if it needs to, President Donald Trump told reporters Tuesday he plans to “fix the mess” that previous administrations left him regarding North Korea.

Responding to questions about reports that North Korea’s top diplomat thinks that Trump’s tweets about Kim Jong Un were a declaration of war, Trump said “it will be devastating” for North Korea if the U.S. decides to take military action against the country.

“[Kim] is acting very badly. He is saying things that should never, ever be said. And we’re replying to those things, but it’s a reply, it’s not an original statement,” he said during a press conference with Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy at the White House.

On Saturday Trump tweeted that if North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho “echoes thoughts of Little Rocket Man, they won’t be around much longer!”

Ri told reporters Monday that Trump’s tweet was a “declaration of war” and that the country has “every right” to “shoot down the United States strategic bombers even (sic) they’re not yet inside the airspace border of our country.”

Trump said the country should have been “handled 25 years ago, 20 years ago, 15 years ago, 10 years ago, five years ago and it could’ve been handled much more easily.”

“You had various administrations, many administrations which left me a mess. but I’ll fix the mess. So we’ll see what happens with North Korea,” he said.

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Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Tuesday said he thinks American universities have transformed into shelters “for the fragile ego” and equated student protesters to members of the Ku Klux Klan.

The American university was once the center of academic freedom—a place of robust debate, a forum for the competition of ideas,” he said during remarks on free speech at Georgetown University’s law school. “But it is transforming into an echo chamber of political correctness and homogenous thought, a shelter for fragile egos.”

He cited instances on college campuses that he claimed were either a violation of students’ freedom of speech — like students who were arrested in Michigan for passing out copies of the Constitution — or a university’s attempt to shut down diversity of thought.

Specifically he spoke about a “frightening” incident at Middlebury College in Vermont, in which a guest speaker was invited to the school to debate with a professor. Protesters shut down the discussion by shouting, he said.

When the debaters attempted to move to a private broadcasting location, the protestors—many in masks, a common tactic also used by the detestable Ku Klux Klan — pulled fire alarms, surrounded the speakers, and began physically assaulting them,” he said. “In short, Middlebury students engaged in a violent riot to ensure that neither they nor their fellow students would hear speech they may have disagreed with.”

The guest speaker who was invited to the private liberal arts school for a debate was Charles Murray, the controversial co-author of “The Bell Curve,” which argues that there may be intellectual differences between races.

The protest turned violent at one point after students shut down the debate. Many of the protesters were wearing masks and hoods, according to the Atlantic and The New York Times.

Ahead of Sessions’ appearance at Georgetown, at least 130 students were uninvited to the event, according to a press release from members of the Georgetown Law American Constitution Society. While the event was meant to be limited to small group of students, some members claim it was the students who discussed protesting the speech online who were uninvited.

A protest was held outside while Sessions spoke Tuesday.

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The mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico asked President Trump on Tuesday to focus on the people in crisis in the U.S. territory instead of Puerto Rico’s debt.

After being criticized for obsessing over NFL protests instead of the devastation in Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma and Maria, Trump finally tweeted about the crisis Monday night, but seemingly blamed the U.S. territory’s debt and “broken infrastructure” for the widespread wreckage.

“Texas and Florida are doing great, but Puerto Rico, which was already suffering from broken infrastructure and massive debt, is in deep trouble,” he tweeted, saying the electrical grid was already in “terrible shape” and mentioning the “billions” the territory owes Wall Street.

In response, San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz asked Trump to treat hurricane relief and Puerto Rico’s debt as “two different issues.”

With all due respect, these are two different topics,” she said on CNN’s “New Day” Tuesday morning. “One topic is the massive debt, which we know we have and it’s been dealt with. But you don’t put debt above people, you put people above debt. So, what we are asking for and what — what I’m asking for, and this is my comment, nobody else’s comment — is let’s deal with the two issues in a separate way.”

She said the U.S. has a “moral imperative” to help out the islands, which she described as being in “dire need”

When somebody is in need, when somebody is in dire need, when somebody is in a life or death situation, there’s a human, moral imperative to deal with that situation first and then deal with any other situations coming your way,” she said, calling the situation a “humanitarian crisis.”

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More than 130 Georgetown University law students have been uninvited to Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ speech about free speech on campus set for Tuesday afternoon, according to a statement from the Georgetown Law American Constitution Society.

Sessions’ speech will condemn the recent rise in opposition to unrestricted free speech on college campuses and will end with a question and answer session with one of the law school professors, according to the university’s student publication, The Hoya.

“It is extraordinarily hypocritical that AG Sessions wants to lecture future attorneys about the importance of free speech on campus while excluding the wider student body from his very own ‘safe space,’” the constitution society president Daniel Blauser said in a statement. “We welcomed the debate, but sadly the school seems to want to limit attendance to help ensure a sympathetic audience.”

The event was meant to be restricted to a small group of students, but the lottery page to sign up for seats was “circulated more generally by students,” Blauser told TPM.

The uninvited students received a message from the school informing them their ticket had been revoked due to an “error.” The event was intended for members of the Center for the Constitution’s student invitation list, which includes Center fellows and those enrolled in the class of the professor who’s leading the question and answer session, according to the school email.

But Blauser said some of the students whose tickets were revoked met that criteria, but also happened to be involved in online discussions about protesting the event.

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After reportedly requesting the removal of Secret Service protection in order to have more privacy, Donald Trump Jr. is being guarded by the agency again, CNN reported Monday evening.

The Secret Service reportedly pushed back on Trump Jr.’s initial request to cut off the service, but eventually approved it. White House adviser Kellyanne Conway’s protection ended around the same time as Trump Jr.’s did.

It was not clear what prompted the move to bring back the agency’s protection, CNN reported.

The news follows a USA Today report that the agency has become overburdened by the size and lifestyle of the Trump family, which frequently travels around the globe for business and leisure.

In August, the Secret Service director said the agency couldn’t pay more than 1,000 of its agents because they had already met their salary and overtime caps for the year. 

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Calling her use of private email for official business while she was Secretary of State a “dumb mistake” but an even “dumber scandal,” former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton was smug about news that members of the President’s administration used private email accounts for public business.

After President Donald Trump repeatedly claimed throughout the 2016 campaign that Clinton should be put in jail for her private account, Politico reported Sunday that his son-in-law Jared Kushner had a private email account that he used to talk with other White House officials about government business.

Clinton told SiriusXM’s Zerlina Maxwell Monday that the news reveals the Trump campaign “knew there was no real basis for their hyperventilating.”

“It’s just the height of hypocrisy, it is something that if they were sincere about it, I’d think you’d have Republican members of Congress calling for an investigation,” she said. “I haven’t heard that yet and I don’t think we will.”

She said the investigation into her emails was “overblown, untrue and really aimed to score political points.”

“I take full reasonability for it,” she said. “Our country had to go through it, which I regret.”

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After President Donald Trump tweeted Monday night attacking Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) for his opposition to Republican senators’ last-ditch effort to repeal and replace Obamacare, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) defended his “dearest friend.”

During a CNN debate between Graham and Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA), both cosponsors of the latest bill, and single payer health care backers Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Graham said McCain has “earned the right” to vote “any way he wants.”

He said McCain wants to repeal and replace Obamacare just as much as other Republicans, but he wants to see a bipartisan solution. McCain’s opposition doesn’t mean he’s for “Bernie care,” a plan Graham said would “bankrupt the country,” be the end of health care “as we know it” and would be the “end of innovation.”

“So, Senator McCain is talking about a better process. John, if you’re listening, if we fall short, we’ll try to have a better process,” he said. “So to any American who has a problem with John McCain’s vote, all I can tell you is John McCain was willing to die for this country and he can vote anyway he wants to and it doesn’t matter to me.”

McCain announced his opposition to the measure on Friday, saying he could not vote for it “in good conscience” because of the process and the lack of effort made to find a bipartisan solution to health care.

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The White House on Monday firmly pushed back on reports that North Korea’s top diplomat thinks that President Donald Trump declared war with his tweet about Kim Jong Un this weekend.

“Not at all, we’ve not declared war on North Korea and frankly the suggestion of that is absurd,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in response to questions about the reports.

“It’s never appropriate for a country to shoot down another country’s aircraft when it’s over international waters,” she said. “Our goal is still the same. We continue to seek the peaceful denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. That’s our focus, doing that through both the most maximum economic and diplomatic pressures as possible at this point.”

After listening to North Korea Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho speak at the United Nations, Trump warned Saturday that the diplomat “won’t be around much longer” if he kept up the same rhetoric as Kim, whom Trump has taken to calling “Rocket Man.”

Ri told reporters Monday that Trump’s tweet was a “declaration of war” and that the country has “every right” to “shoot down the United States strategic bombers even they’re not yet inside the airspace border of our country,” according to the Associated Press.

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