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

Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) said Sunday that even before Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore was accused of sexual misconduct by multiple women, he wasn’t fit to serve in the Senate.

Calling the Republican National Committee’s decision to fund Moore’s campaign a “mistake,” she said she was “disappointed” the committee resumed last week its support of the embattled candidate, whom multiple women have said either pursued relationships or made unwanted sexual advances toward them when they were teens and he was in his 30s.

“I would point out that I did not support Mr. Moore even prior to these allegations of sexual misconduct because I was concerned about his anti-Muslim comment, his anti-LGBT comments, most important of all he’s been removed twice from the Alabama Supreme Court for failure to follow lawful judicial order,” she said on “Face the Nation” Sunday.   

She said her party cares just as much about addressing sexual harassment and assault as Democrats and said members of Congress have a “tough decision to make” about “whether it’s our role as senators to overturn the will of the people” when someone is accused of sexual misconduct after they’ve been elected, like what happened with Sen. Al Franken (D-MN).

There’s a new awakening in our country that this is pervasive, whether we’re talking about Hollywood or Wall Street or the media or Capitol Hill,” she said. “And that’s why I’m joining a bipartisan group of senators who are trying to look at our own procedures on Capitol Hill to assure that allegations of sexual misconduct involving members or staff are dealt with seriously.”

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While Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore has made his name as a self-proclaimed supporter of upholding the rights awarded by the Constitution, he’s not a big fan of all those rights.

In 2011, Moore appeared on a conspiracy-theorists’ radio show, and said if the U.S. got rid of all the amendments after the Bill of Rights, it would “eliminate many problems,” according to audio of the radio show, the “Aroostook Watchmen” show, obtained by CNN’s KFile.

“That would eliminate many problems,” Moore said. “You know people don’t understand how some of these amendments have completely tried to wreck the form of government that our forefathers intended.”

In the interview, Moore specifically cited the 17th Amendment, which allows voters to directly elect senators instead of state legislatures, and the 14th Amendment, which granted citizenship to former slaves.

“The danger in the 14th Amendment, which was to restrict, it has been a restriction on the states using the first Ten Amendments by and through the 14th Amendment,” Moore said. “To restrict the states from doing something that the federal government was restricted from doing and allowing the federal government to do something which the first Ten Amendments prevented them from doing. If you understand the incorporation doctrine used by the courts and what it meant. You’d understand what I’m talking about.”

Other amendments post-Bill of Rights include the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery, the 15th, which prohibited the government from blocking people’s right to vote based on race, the 19th, which gave women the right to vote and the 22nd, which limits the number of times a person can be elected to the presidency to two terms.

Moore’s campaign told CNN that he doesn’t actually believe in eliminating amendments 11 through 27, but was rather speaking about “the overall framework for the separation of powers” in the U.S. government.

In that same interview, Moore questioned the validity of former President Barack Obama’s birth certificate.

Both comments fall in line with controversial remarks Moore has made recently and in the early days of his career in the public eye, from claiming homosexuality should be illegal to saying in September that America was great back when “families were united — even though we had slavery.”

Listen to the interview below:

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Here’s a new entry in the annals of Steve King.

The Iowa Republican congressman known for his racially insensitive rhetoric tweeted on Friday that “diversity is not our strength.”

And, descending further into the catacombs of nativism, he took it further, quoting a statement from the Hungarian prime minister who was advocating for the dissolution of the obligation of countries to accept immigrants.

“Mixing cultures will not lead to a higher quality of life, but to a lower one,” King wrote.

While Friday’s comments may be one of the most forward indications that he has a penchant for ethno-nationalism, King has a long history of making controversial comments, as TPM has documented over the years.

In 2006, while advocating for electric fences along the U.S.-Mexico border, he equated undocumented immigrants to livestock: “We could also electrify this wire with the kind of current that would not kill somebody, but it would simply be a discouragement for them to be fooling around with it. We do that with livestock all the time.”

In 2008, he claimed that former President Barack Obama’s middle name, Hussein, is proof that he is linked to radical Islamic terrorists:

I will tell you that, if he is elected president, then the radical Islamists, the al Qaeda, the radical Islamists and their supporters, will be dancing in the streets in greater numbers than they did on September 11 because they will declare victory in this war on terror.”

Also, unsurprisingly, King’s a birther:

“(I) found a microfiche there of two newspapers in Hawaii each of which had published the birth of Barack Obama… That doesn’t mean there aren’t some other explanations on how they might’ve announced that by telegram from Kenya,” he said in 2012.

In 2013, he said that while some undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. by their parents could be “valedictorians,” most are drug dealers:

Some of them are valedictorians — and their parents brought them in. It wasn’t their fault. It’s true in some cases, but they aren’t all valedictorians. They weren’t all brought in by their parents. For every one who’s a valedictorian, there’s another 100 out there who weigh 130 pounds — and they’ve got calves the size of cantaloupes because they’ve been hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert.”

In September 2016, he called the Congressional Black Caucus, the “self-segregating caucus” and in August this year he defended embattled former sherif Joe Arpaio, who the President pardoned for racially profiling Latinos in his county:

I don’t agree that profiling is wrong. … In fact, if you would take profiling away from the tools of law enforcement, you couldn’t describe a criminal in any way whatsoever.”

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While the journalist who alleged Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) groped her in 2009 wasn’t impressed with the lawmaker’s resignation speech Thursday, she said it proves one thing: That Democrats are “being better on women” that Republicans.

“I thought he said to listen to women and then he talked about himself,” Tina Dupuy said on CNN Friday. “It wasn’t an apology. It was very defiant. … He was talking to the President. He said that it was ironic that someone like Roy Moore and Donald Trump are still in good standing. That’s not irony. That is one party being better on women than the other party.”

During his speech from the Senate floor on Thursday, Franken announced his resignation after weeks of mounting allegations of sexual misconduct against him, but pointed to the “irony” that someone like Trump, who has bragged on video about sexually assaulting women, and Moore, an accused child molester, can have good standing within their political parties.

“I think that’s a false equivalency, people have said to me, ‘Well he’s no Roy Moore’ and I say ‘Well, he’s no Charles Manson either, that’s not what I’m accusing him of,’” Dupuy said. “He calls himself a champion of women, but he does these things that says to the women that you have no ownership over your own body, that your comfort does not matter. That I can touch you and I can do whatever I want to do and it doesn’t matter.”

In an article in the Atlantic Wednesday, Dupuy detailed her account of Franken groping her when the two were at an inauguration party for former President Barack Obama in 2009. She said she asked Franken for a photo because “he was a hero” in 2009. “It was a big deal to have him there,” she said.

“He immediately put his hand on my waist, just grabbed a handful of flesh and squeezed a couple of times,” she said Friday. “What I didn’t put in the article was that I just quit smoking. I just gained 20 pounds. I was uncomfortable being in clothing, let alone having some lawmaker man-handle me.”

At least seven other women have come forward, alleging Franken forcibly kissed them or groped them without their consent in the past. Franken apologized to one woman and said he was sorry the others felt disrespected, but combatted their stories.

While Dupuy didn’t answer questions about whether Franken deserved to lose his career over the allegations, she said it was “important” that he “did not parade his victims in front of an Ethics Committee.”

“I think going through the Ethics Committee process for a victim is cruel,” she said.

She also said Democrats’ “original sin” was believing former President Bill Clinton over the women who accused him of misconduct.

“And we keep making that same mistake over and over again. And I believe with Al Franken, we have stopped doing that,” she said.

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The fiancee of George Papadopoulos said the former Trump campaign adviser was far more involved in the campaign than Trump and other high-level officials have tried to make it seem.

As the first to publicly defend the former campaign aide since it was revealed that he pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russian officials, Simona Mangiante told ABC News that there are “consistent evidences that he was not a coffee boy.”

Her comments reference remarks made by Trump and former campaign adviser Michael Caputo, who have tried to downplay Papadopoulos’ role in the campaign despite evidence that Trump once called him one of his foreign policy advisers. Mangiante said she decided to speak out to combat those characterizations.

“First of all, I would love George to learn how to make coffee because it’s absolutely out of his skills,” she told ABC in an interview that published Friday. “George is a remarkable young man with incredible experience in the field of energy and oil policies. This experience led him to get into the campaign and to advise the President at only 28-years-old.”

She said Papadopoulos set up meetings “all over the world” and was “constantly in touch with higher level officials in the campaign.” She said she has seen emails between her fiancé and former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon and former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, who was also charged last week with one count of lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russian officials.

“He never took any initiative, as far as I know, unauthorized,” she said. “He never took any initiative without the blessing of the campaign.”

Papadopoulos pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI in October and has agreed to cooperate with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election and whether the Trump campaign colluded with the foreign power to win the election. According to court documents, Papadopoulos was charged for lying about his communications with a professor who had “substantial connections to Russian government officials” and promised to provide “dirt” obtained by the Russians on Trump’s opponent, Hillary Clinton.

The court records did not identify the professor, but Mangiante identified him as Joseph Mifsud, whom both she and Papadopoulos have worked for in the past. She told ABC News that they met last year after Papadopoulos reached out to her on LinkedIn because of their connection over Mifsud.

“I know (Mifsud) was interested in George because he was working for Trump,” she said.

She said getting interviewed by the FBI caught Papadopoulos “out of the blue” and she thought he didn’t think it was a big deal at the time.

“As soon as he find out that he committed a mistake, he took responsibility for that and he passed to the right side of history, in my view,” she said, adding that she received a subpoena from Mueller on the same day Papadopoulos plead guilty to the FBI. “It was very brave because he has been the first one and he is helping a lot. … I think he has been the first domino in Russia-gate.”

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Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke spent more than $14,000 this summer to fly in a helicopter to two events in and around Washington, D.C., Politico reported Thursday evening.

The use of the helicopters — which he used so he could attend the swearing-in ceremony for a member of Congress and to go on a horseback ride with the vice president — was justified by his staff as being the only feasible way to accommodate his busy schedule on those days. Both times his department requested the helicopters from the U.S. Park Police.

On June 21, his staff spent $8,000 to fly Zinke and his Chief of Staff Scott Hommel from Capitol Hill, where he attended Rep. Greg Gianforte’s (R-MT) swearing-in ceremony, to an emergency management exercise in Shepherdstown, West Virginia. Staff told Politico they booked the flight because of the lack of time between the two events.

Gianforte replaced Zinke in Congress after he was appointed to the Department of the Interior. The congressman was charged with assault when he body slammed a reporter who was trying to ask him a question just before the election.

Zinke also took a helicopter on July 7 to fly to an event in Yorktown, Virginia and back to D.C. so he could be back in Washington in time to go on a horseback ride with Vice President Mike Pence, according to the documents obtained by Politico. 

Politico acquired the travel logs through a Freedom of Information Act request. The news comes as the Interior Department’s inspector general and the Office of Special Counsel conduct separate probes into Zinke’s mixing of official business travel and political events. 

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Embattled former public radio host Garrison Keillor said he was not given a “full and fair” investigation before Minnesota Public Radio cut ties with him over allegations of sexual misconduct.

“I expect to deal with MPR soon to try to fix the enormous mistake they have made by not conducting a full and fair investigation,” Keillor told the Associated Press in an email.

Keillor claims he has been accused by one former colleague for inappropriately touching her bare back when consoling her and immediately apologized, but MPR’s top executive said the organization was aware of “multiple allegations” against the former host. MPR President Jon McTaggart denied Keillor’s claims that it didn’t fully vet the accusations.

In a statement, MPR said it properly reviewed the complaints from two people who said Keillor committed “multiple incidents of inappropriate behavior” and conducted a full investigation before deciding to fire Keillor on Nov. 30.

The attorney for the former host of largely popular radio show, “A Prairie Home Companion,” said he and Keillor were only aware of one allegation against him and said Keillor expects a “full restoration” of his reputation. 

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Reps. John Lewis (D-GA) and Bennie Thompson (D-MS) announced Thursday night they will not attend the opening for a new civil rights museum in Mississippi because the President is planning to be there on Saturday.

In a joint statement, the two congressmen, who are widely recognized as icons of the civil rights movement, said President Donald Trump’s presence at the event is “an insult” to those who are being celebrated at the new museum.

“The struggles represented in this museum exemplify the truth of what really happened in Mississippi. President Trump’s disparaging comments about women, the disabled, immigrants and National Football League players disrespects the efforts of Fannie Lou Hamer, Aaron Henry, Medgar Evers, Robert Clark, James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner and countless others who have given their all for Mississippi to be a better place,” the two wrote. “After President Trump departs, we encourage all Mississippians and Americans to visit this historic civil rights museum.”

In an interview with Nexstar Media Group later Thursday, Thompson said he “can’t see myself on the same stage with someone as divisive as President Trump,” he said. “I think he has to atone for how he’s mistreated minorities in this country.”

The White House responded by attempting to cast the decision as a sign of disrespect to the “incredible sacrifice civil rights leaders made.”

“We think it’s unfortunate that these members of Congress wouldn’t join the President in honoring the incredible sacrifice civil rights leaders made to right the injustices in our history,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters Thursday after noon, according to the White House press pool report. “The President hopes others will join him in recognizing that the movement was about removing barriers and unifying Americans of all backgrounds.”

The White House response was “laughable,” according to the chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus who pointed out the irony of criticizing two civil rights leaders for choosing not to attend a museum opening that honors them.

“This White House is not serious about civil rights,” Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-LA) said in a statement.

H/t: Politico

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The White House on Thursday again pointed reporters to the President’s attorney for questions about when President Donald Trump knew that former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn lied to the FBI.

When asked why questions about when Trump knew that information should be considered a legal matter, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Trump’s attorneys “feel this is a question that should be answered by them” and claimed she’d ask Trump’s attorney John Dowd to respond to reporters about the topic.

When pressed again about why it’s a legal matter, Sanders said she’s “going to listen to the attorneys on this one.”

“John Dowd will hopefully follow up with you in short order,” she said.

After Flynn was charged with one count of lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russian officials while working for Trump’s transition team, Trump initially said the charges proved that there was no collusion between his campaign and Russia. He later tweeted that he fired Flynn because he lied to Vice President Mike Pence and the FBI, an admission that could characterize his request to then-FBI Director James Comey to drop the case against Flynn as obstruction of justice.

The White House later claimed that one of Trump’s lawyers erroneously wrote the tweet, not the President. 

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Just minutes after Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) announced on the Senate floor Thursday that he would resign, Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton (D) said he has “not yet decided” who he will appoint to fill the embattled senator’s vacated seat.

“Events have unfolded quickly; thus, I have not yet decided on my appointment to fill this upcoming vacancy. I expect to make and announce my decision in the next couple days,” he said in a statement, which comes amid multiple reports that he plans to tap his Lt. Gov. Tina Smith to serve for the next year. Smith is considered a close ally to the governor and reportedly has no interest in running for Congress in a 2018 special election.

Franken’s resignation follows weeks of public allegations from multiple women that the senator forcibly kissed or groped them without their consent in the past. Franken has apologized to one of the women, who shared a photo of Franken appearing to reach toward her chest while she was sleeping. He has also apologized to other accusers, but has combatted or denied other claims.

On Wednesday, nearly a dozen female Democratic senators released statements calling on Franken to resign. Other Democratic senators quickly followed suit.

During his emotional speech on the Senate floor on Thursday, Franken said he was resigning his seat, but “I’m not giving up my voice.” He expressed a desire for all women be heard and have their experiences taken seriously. He said that some of the allegations against him are “simply not true” and “others I remember very differently.”

He also pointed out the irony of President Donald Trump — “who has bragged on tape about his history of sexual assault” — sitting in the White House and “a man who has repeatedly preyed on young girls” running for a seat in the Senate “with the full support of his party.”

In his statement following Franken’s resignation, Dayton said he extended “my deepest regret to the women who have had to endure their unwanted experiences with Senator Franken,” and said his “heart goes out to Al and his family.”

He is very smart, very hard-working, and very committed to Minnesota. I wish him well in his future endeavors,” he said.

Smith released a statement alongside Dayton, thanking Franken for his service while also condemning sexual harassment, which she said “can never be tolerated in our politics, our businesses, or anywhere else.”

It was not immediately clear when Franken’s last day in the Senate will be. The governor will name someone to serve for the next year and a special election will be held in November 2018. That person will serve for the remainder of Franken’s term, which ends in 2020. 

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