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

President Donald Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani is continuing to stall on giving special counsel Robert Mueller’s team any clear answers on whether the President will sit for questioning in Mueller’s Russia probe, according to the Washington Post.

Giuliani told the Post on Monday that he is writing a letter to send to Mueller that will express a “real reluctance” to answering questions about obstruction.

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Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) called out his home state’s capital for a wild news story about a sword-wielding naked man, comparing the stunning tale to something a reader would find on the “Florida Man” Twitter account.

In the story Sasse shared, a naked man carrying a sword allegedly approached the car of another man and tapped on the car window with the sword. The man inside the vehicle grabbed his rifle and chased the naked man in to the woods, according to the Lincoln Journal Star. 

The “Florida Man” Twitter account evolved from a meme and generally refers to the peculiar delinquencies that seem to be regularly committed by Floridians.

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A man of the Sikh faith was brutally attacked and told to “go back” to his home country while he was out putting up campaign signs for Rep. Jeff Denham (R-CA) last week, according to a local CBS affiliate.

The man, Surjit Malhi, had just finished putting up a sign for Denham and was walking back to his truck when two men reportedly approached him, threw sand in his eyes and beat Malhi in the head, shoulders and neck, all while shouting that he should “go back to your country!”

The men also reportedly vandalized Malhi’s truck with hate symbols and the same “go back” message.

Malhi, a Republican and longtime active member of the Turlock, California community, who has reportedly raised thousands of dollars for people who are homeless or victims of California wildfires, told the local CBS that he was surprised by the attacks.  

“I’m American 100 percent, no doubt, so they say, go back to my country? This is my country,” Malhi told CBS. “If you are a real American and you love America, you should not do that. That is not the American way.”

Police are still looking for the two suspects and the attack is being investigated as a hate crime.

A spokesperson for Denham’s office and the local police department didn’t immediately respond to TPM’s request for comment.  

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In the latest round of online backlash against far-right conspiracist Alex Jones, Apple removed all Jones and Infowars podcasts from its iTunes and Podcast applications, Buzzfeed reported.

In a statement to Buzzfeed, Apple said it took down Jones’ content because the company doesn’t “tolerate hate speech.”

“Apple does not tolerate hate speech, and we have clear guidelines that creators and developers must follow to ensure we provide a safe environment for all of our users. Podcasts that violate these guidelines are removed from our directory making them no longer searchable or available for download or streaming. We believe in representing a wide range of views, so long as people are respectful to those with differing opinions.”

Jones, who propagates many far-right theories on his show, is currently being sued by the parents of one of the 20 children who was killed in the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. Apple’s decision to drop Jones is just the latest in a series of actions to censor Jones. Spotify last week removed parts of Jones’ podcast that contained hate speech, Facebook has suspended him from posting and YouTube recently deleted four of his videos.

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President Donald Trump on Sunday cryptically blamed the sweeping wildfires in California, that have killed at least 21 people, on “bad environment laws” and suggested that the state should cut down trees to prevent the fire spread.

It is unclear what exactly prompted the President’s tweets, but a few news outlets have suggested he might have been referring to a July 19 report from the Herald and News about Republicans’ efforts to change California’s water policies.

Axios also suggested Trump might have been referencing some endangered species protection policies.

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Former White House Communications Director Hope Hicks was spotted boarding Air Force One on Saturday ahead of President Donald Trump’s rally in Ohio, according to reporters in the White House press pool.

According to multiple news outlets, it is unclear why Hicks — who reportedly spoke with reporters off-the-record after the campaign rally — was on the flight. A White House spokesperson did not immediately return TPM’s request for comment.

Hicks left the White House in February, amid criticism for her role in crafting a statement of support for White House aide Rob Porter after he was accused of abusing two of his ex-wives. Hicks and Porter were dating at the time. Porter resigned after a photo of one of his ex-wives with a black eye was made public.

Hicks also left just after she testified before the House Intelligence Committee that she occasionally told “white lies” for Trump.

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The National Rifle Association may soon be “unable to exist” or “pursue its advocacy mission” because the gun rights group is in profound financial jeopardy, according to a legal complaint obtained by Rolling Stone.

According to the complaint, an ongoing lawsuit against New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New York state financial regulators has bled the NRA dry and the not-for-profit is facing “irrecoverable loss and irreparable harm.”

In recent months, New York took action to ban the sale of “Carry Guard,” an NRA-branded insurance for NRA members that was designed to help cover the legal fees after a member fired a legal gun. The state ruled in May that the liability insurance was illegal and the NRA’s insurance companies stopped selling it, according to Rolling Stone.

In the court document filed in July, the NRA claims that the state of New York lobbied to get several other financial service providers — like insurance companies and banks — to break with the gun rights group, which has made it difficult to operate. The group alleges in the complaint that the NRA will soon have to dissolve its media operation, which it can’t continue without insurance.

The suit asks the court to keep state regulators from “interfering with, terminating, or diminishing any of the NRA’s contracts and/or business relationships with any organizations.”

“The NRA will suffer irrecoverable loss and irreparable harm if it is unable to acquire insurance or other banking services due to Defendants’ actions.”

Read the filing below:

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Alleged Russian spy Mariia Butina talked openly about her contacts with Russian intelligence officials when she got drunk, CNN reported Thursday.

According to people who knew her at American University where she attended graduate school, on at least two occasions Butina bragged about her Russian government connections after she had imbibed and even said the Russian government was connected to her Moscow gun rights group. According to CNN, classmates were unnerved by her comments and reported her to law enforcement twice.

Other classmates told CNN that in classes she was a constant defender of Vladimir Putin and claimed that she was a middleman between President Trump’s campaign and the Russian government.

Butina’s drunken admissions parallel those of George Papadopolous, a former Trump campaign official who spilled secrets to Australia’s top diplomat about Russia having dirt on Hillary Clinton while inebriated at a wine bar in Britain. That drunk conversation was what launched the FBI’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Butina was arrested in July after the FBI raided her apartment and was charged with conspiracy and acting as an agent of Russia. She allegedly spent years attempting to infiltrate the National Rifle Association and fostering relationships with high-level conservatives.

She’s pled not guilty to the charges, which her lawyer says are completely unfounded.

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It's Lonely In The Minority

Now that they’re in the minority, this is the press corps covering House Republicans…