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

Following President Trump’s unhinged presser with Russian President Vladimir Putin, former FBI Director James Comey, whose firing has fueled parts of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Trump and Russian meddling in the election, urged “patriots” to speak out.

“Patriots need to stand up and reject the behavior of this President,” he tweeted.

Trump has been criticized by dozens of lawmaker and former intelligence officials for his performance during a press conference with Putin Monday, when he offered his support of Putin’s denial of Russian meddling and blamed both the U.S. and Russia for the decline in relations between the two nations.  

Comey’s full-throated criticism of the President is notable, but hardly surprising. Comey’s been engaged in a publicity tour for months promoting the book he wrote about his firing. Despite admitting to it in an interview shortly after he ousted Comey that the “Russia thing” prompted his decision to fire Comey, Trump has since denied that rationale.

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In the days leading up to his planned summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin, aides spent hours preparing President Donald Trump to take a tough stance on Putin, advice that was largely ignored by the President, The Washington Post reported.

According to one person familiar with the planning who spoke to the Post, Trump’s behavior during the press conference with Putin was “very much counter to the plan.” Another person familiar with the discussions said ahead of the meeting the President was bombarded with messages about Russia’s annexation of Crimea and its election interference and was surrounded by advisers who told him to posture strong against Putin.

Prominent members of Trump’s national security team, like National Security Adviser John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, even tried to push Trump to take a hard stance against Putin or at the very least, look at Putin in a less rosy light.  

But Trump “made a game-time decision” to blame both the U.S. and Russia for disintegrated relations and to publicly support Putin’s denials of Russian interference in the 2016 election, according to the Post. One official who spoke with the newspaper denied that Trump’s remarks in Finland were autonomous.

Read the Post’s full report here. 

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Just minutes after he left journalists, lawmakers and former government officials in shock when he sided with Russia during a freewheeling press conference with Vladimir Putin, President Donald Trump doubled down on his support of Putin’s denial of Russian meddled in the 2016 election.

Recounting his one-on-one conversation with Putin during an interview with Fox News’ Sean Hannity after the presser, Trump lamented that the Russia probe had placed a “wedge” between the U.S. and Russia

It is very sad what is happening to our country because of this,” he said. “When you see this thing going on and I will tell you, it has driven a wedge between us and Russia, maybe we’ve just knocked down that wedge, but it has driven a wedge and President Putin said, one of the early things that he said when we started, it’s really a shame because we could do so much good.”

He also grumbled that journalists chose to ask questions about special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe during the press conference, when they could’ve asked about “nuclear proliferation” or humanitarian aid in Syria.

And we get questions on the witch hunt and I don’t think the people out in the country buy it, but the reporters like to give it a shot,” he said. “I thought that President Putin was very, very strong. … And he also said there’s absolutely no collusion, which you know and everybody that watches your show knows, and I think most of the country knows and and Tucker [Carlson] standing right over there definitely knows because he gets it.”

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House Oversight Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-SC) on Monday released a blistering statement reiterating that Russia interfered in the 2016 election and calling on a number of officials on President Trump’s team to inform him that “it is possible to conclude Russia interfered with out election in 2016 without delegitimizing his electoral success.”

Read Gowdy’s full statement below:

Russia is not our friend. Russia attempted to undermine the fundamentals of our democracy, impugn the reliability of the 2016 election, and sow the seeds of discord among Americans. Our intelligence community, including the current one, concluded this, as did the Majority House Intelligence Committee report, as did our fellow Americans who served on grand juries which returned true bills on two separate occasions. I am confident former CIA Director and current Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, DNI Dan Coats, Ambassador Nikki Haley, FBI Director Chris Wray, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and others will be able to communicate to the President it is possible to conclude Russia interfered with our election in 2016 without delegitimizing his electoral success.

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House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) issued a statement on Monday forcefully combatting statements President Donald Trump made standing next to Russian President Vladimir Putin, when Trump claimed he didn’t “see any reason why it would be [Russia]” that meddled in the 2016 election after Putin said the country did not.

Ryan said there was “no question” that Russia interfered in the election and urged Trump to “appreciate that Russia is not our ally.”

“There is no question that Russia interfered in our election and continues attempts to undermine democracy here and around the world. That is not just the finding of the American intelligence community but also the House Committee on Intelligence. The president must appreciate that Russia is not our ally. There is no moral equivalence between the United States and Russia, which remains hostile to our most basic values and ideals. The United States must be focused on holding Russia accountable and putting an end to its vile attacks on democracy.”

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Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper joined the chorus of lawmakers, U.S. officials and former intelligence operatives who were dumbfounded by President Donald Trump’s performance during a presser with Putin.

Clapper said Trump’s meek behavior was “amazing and very, very disturbing.”

“You know, like everyone else, I’m struggling with some way to capture or describe what we just witnessed. It is truly unbelievable,” he told CNN Monday. “On the world stage in front of the entire globe, the President of the United States essentially capitulated and seems intimidated by Vladimir Putin. So it was amazing and very, very disturbing.”

“He just is very reticent about direct personal confrontation,” he continued. “So just as he did in the UK with Theresa May, bad mouth her in an interview, but yet when faced with a personal confrontation, a personal engagement, he won’t do it. It’s even worse when it’s our arch adversary, Russia, and his opposite person, Vladimir Putin. … While he likes to project the image of being a tough guy, he really isn’t.”

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Republican Sen. Ben Sasse (NE) issued a harsh retort to President Donald Trump’s unprecedented behavior during a presser with Vladimir Putin, countering Trump’s assertion that the U.S. is also to blame for the decline in relations with Russia and calling Trump’s comments “bizarre and flat-out wrong.”

“This is bizarre and flat-out wrong,” he said in a statement. “The United States is not to blame. America wants a good relationship with the Russian people but Vladimir Putin and his thugs are responsible for Soviet-style aggression. When the President plays these moral equivalence games, he gives Putin a propaganda win he desperately needs.”

Former CIA Director John Brennan reacted to President Donald Trump’s performance at a press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin with outrage on Monday, calling on Trump’s secretary of state, national security adviser and chief of staff to resign over the President’s behavior.

I cannot understand how the national security team can continue to abide by this and how Pompeo and Bolton and Kelly can continue in their jobs,” he told MSNBC after the press conference on Monday. “This, I think, rises to the point of good American patriots resigning in objection to that performance by Donald Trump. I’m at a loss of words to describe just how outrageous his words, his statements, his behavior has been.

“And one can only conclude that he fears Vladimir Putin and that one-on-one discussion, who knows what was discussed there,’ he continued. “And how Mr. Putin now is the master puppeteer of Donald Trump, the person who is in our oval office. Outrageous.”

Brennan tweeted similar remarks minutes earlier, calling the performance “treasonous.”

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CNN host Anderson Cooper responded to President Donald Trump’s behavior at a press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday, calling it “one of the most disgraceful” performances by an American President in front of a Russian leader that he had ever seen.

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President Donald Trump on Monday said both the U.S. and Russia are to “blame” for the decline in relations between the two countries, adding, “we have both made some mistakes.”

“I hold both countries responsible,” he said. “I think that the United States has been foolish. I think we have all been foolish. We should have had this dialogue a long time ago, a long time frankly before I got to office. I think we’re all to blame.”

He then patted himself on the back for stepping “forward along with Russia” to open a dialogue and suggested they could “do some great things together,” specifically citing nuclear proliferation.

Ahead of his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday, Trump tweeted that it’s his predecessors’ “foolishness” and “stupidity,” as well as the Russia probe, that has pushed the relationship between the two powers to be worse than ever before.

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