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

While politicizing the anguish of families whose loved ones were killed by an undocumented immigrant, President Donald Trump on Friday said that Americans are better than immigrants.

I always hear that, ‘Oh, no, the population is safer than the people that live in the country.’ You’ve heard that, fellas, right? You’ve heard that,” he said. “I hear it so much. And I say, ‘Is that possible?’ The answer is it is not true. You hear it is like they are better people than what we have, than our citizens. It is not true.”

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Attorney General Jeff Sessions finds it “painful” that more than 600 members of his church denomination have filed a complaint against him over his “zero tolerance” arrest policy for immigrants caught crossing the border. But, he said, he knows he has a lot of “critics.”

During an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network on Thursday, Sessions said he tries to address “legitimate” concerns, but that it was his duty to “ensure within my realm that the laws are faithfully carried out in our country.” He didn’t specify whether he thought the concerns laid out in the church law complaint — alleging child abuse, immorality, racial discrimination and false use of scripture — were legitimate.

It is painful,” he said. “I have critics from a lot of different areas. I think our church people are really concerned about children – that’s what I’m hearing. I feel it. I think there’s a legitimate concern there and I’m pleased to work with the President to address those concerns.”

He also suggested that if Methodist clergy and laity are concerned about “laws” they should go to Congress.

On Monday, more than 600 Methodists filed a formal complaint with Sessions’ two home churches in Alabama and Virginia and the district superintendents for those regions, alleging that Sessions’ “zero tolerance” policy does not align with values outlined for members of the Methodist church in the denomination’s “Book of Discipline.” While formal church complaints rarely spur any type of disciplinary retaliation, the most dramatic result could be expulsion from the Methodist church. 

Other protestant and evangelical denominations have spoken out about “zero tolerance,” Sessions’ misuse of a Bible verse to fortify the policy and the separation of immigrant children from their parents as a result of the illegal immigration crackdown.

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President Donald Trump has fully embraced a far-right conspiracy theory that the images and audio of devastated children distraught after being ripped from their parents arms are fake.

In a tweet Friday morning, President Donald Trump called the media coverage of traumatized immigrant children and parents “phony stories of sadness and grief,” orchestrated by Democrats for political gain. Then, in an unhinged twist, he defended the validity of the images because they existed during the Obama administration, but his predecessor “did nothing about it!”

Earlier this week, conservative commentator Ann Coulter said during an interview on Fox News that the crying children recently separated from their families were “actors.” She warned the President to not “buy” the show.

He seems to have listened.

Trump’s tweet comes just days after Trump appeared to believe the stories of grief-stricken families, signing an executive order Wednesday that called for the detainment of families together, but sought to abolish a federal protection that limits how long a child can be held in detention.

Republicans, at Trump’s behest, are scrambling to piece together an immigration plan to address the issue of family separation, which was created by his administration’s “zero tolerance” policy. Apparently peeved on Friday morning, Trump told GOP lawmakers to “stop wasting their time on immigration” because Democrats have indicated they won’t support Republican immigration bills. In the Senate, Republicans would need at least 10 Democrats to jump onboard for a bill to move to the House.

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In a return to his darling habit of lashing out against the Senate filibuster rule, President Donald Trump told Republicans in Congress that they should “stop wasting their time on immigration” until after the “Red Wave” laps over Washington’s shores.

Before tweeting out a series of Republican candidate endorsements on Friday morning, Trump lamented the Senate’s 60-vote filibuster rule and shouted down Democrats for being “obstructionists.” He then offered advice to his own party, likely reacting to news that House Republicans are dawdling to bring an immigration bill to the floor. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) said late Thursday that he would delay a vote on the legislation until next week, after already postponing a scheduled vote from Thursday to Friday.

“Republicans should stop wasting their time on immigration until after we elect more Senators and Congressmen/women in November,” Trump tweeted, alleging Democrats are “just playing games.”

The rushed effort to pass immigration legislation has reached a near panic in recent days, as lawmakers grapple with how to respond to Trump’s demands that Congress fix his own administration’s immigration policies, in the midst of an onslaught of reports of family separations at the border.

On Wednesday, Trump signed an executive order that would require families who are caught crossing the border illegally be detained together, while also seeking to roll back federal protections for immigrant children who are detained.

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Less than a month after announcing it had canceled the popular, working class family centered sitcom “Roseanne” over a racist tweet, ABC has decided to launch a spin-off of the show, sans the main character.

The New York Times reported Thursday that Roseanne Barr reached a settlement with ABC, which will exempt the network from having to pay Barr for the new spin-off. In a statement to the Times, Barr said she “regrets” her actions and agreed to the financial settlement so that “200 jobs of beloved cast and crew could be saved, and I wish the best for everyone involved.”

The new 10-episode show is set to air this fall with a working title of “The Conners,” which will focus on the other principal characters from “Roseanne,” played by John Goodman, Laurie Metcalf and Sara Gilbert. The main character is expected to be Darlene, Roseanne’s youngest daughter. The plot will focus on a “sudden turn of events” that changes the daily life of the Conners family, according to an ABC statement shared with the Times.

In its short reboot life, “Roseanne” was a knockout. The show, a critical success in the 1980s to 1990s, focused heavily on working class America and the tensions that arise in families when members hold opposing political ideologies. The show was cancelled on May 29, mere hours after Barr — a real life Trump supporter — tweeted a racist comment about Valerie Jarrett, a former adviser to President Barack Obama.

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A new security measure included in the White House’s latest attempt to reorganize the federal government could do away with Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt’s controversial, multi-million dollar around-the-clock security detail, ABC News reported.

The new proposal assigns the U.S. Marshal Service (USMS) to provide security for executive branch officials, “rather than employing separate protective details with separate resources and authorities,” the proposal said. The measure would make the USMS responsible for protecting the heads of the Departments of Labor, Energy, Commerce, Veterans Affairs, Agriculture, Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, the Interior, and the Environmental Protection Agency.

U.S. Marshals already provide security services for federal judges and administration officials like Education Department Secretary Betsy Devos and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, according to ABC.

The move could save the White House millions, especially if Pruitt is forced to comply.

The EPA administrator has been embroiled in ethical scandals non-stop in recent months, particularly for conduct related to his excessive spending habits. In just his first year, Pruitt has spent $3.5 million on his around-the-clock security detail, which the EPA claims he needs because of the unprecedented amount of of threats he’s received against his personal safety, like people yelling swear words at him in airports.

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While President Donald Trump was running for office, his personal attorney and fixer Michael Cohen quietly reviewed National Enquirer articles and cover photos of Trump and his opponents before they were sent for publication, The Washington Post reported Thursday.

According to people familiar with the matter who spoke to the Post, National Enquirer executives regularly shared digital copies of stories and photos with Cohen. If there were “no objections, the story could be published,” one of the Post’s sources said.

Executives for the National Enquire and American Media Inc. — The Enquirer’s parent company that was just subpoenaed by federal prosecutors earlier this week as part of their probe into Cohen’s business dealings — denied they participated in such a practice.

The custom of sharing stories with Cohen pre-publication could fold into the federal probe of Cohen and a slew of his potential financial wrongdoings, including the possible violation of campaign finance laws. In April, Cohen’s house, hotel and office were raided by the FBI, which seized financial records, including those related to a $130,000 payment he made to a porn actress, who alleged having an affair with Trump, just days before the 2016 election.

Trump was reportedly fascinated with negative stories about his opponents, particularly ones about Hillary Clinton’s health. The people familiar with the matter told the Post that a September 2015 article about Clinton only having six months to live was shared with Cohen before publication. Cohen also spoke with AMI officials about Trump’s other opponents, like Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina and other Republican candidates.

The National Enquirer endorsed Trump — who regularly pitches story ideas to the tabloid — in the 2016 election, garnering Trump glowing coverage.

Read the Post’s full story here. 

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In the week since New Jersey Republican House candidate Seth Grossman called diversity “a bunch of crap” and “un-American,” the National Republican Congressional Committee-endorsed candidate has doubled down on his anti-diversity rhetoric.

In a statement released earlier this week, Grossman announced his opposition to a new set of diversity initiatives the New Jersey Department of Law and Safety plans to enact, calling them a “mockery of the law” that will “put the public in great danger” because it could spark civil war.

“Our nation was founded in 1776 with the idea that we are all created equal and endowed by our creator with equal and unalienable rights,” he said. “If you want to know where this evil and un-American perversion of ‘diversity’ will take us, go to Afghanistan, Lebanon, or Syria. Those countries are divided into dozens of diverse groups with different languages, different religions, and different ethnic groups who hate each other, are afraid of each other and who kill each other.”

He then accused New Jersey Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy of wanting to “turn New Jersey into Afghanistan” and suggested Murphy should slap the New Jersey Rutgers University basketball team — which has a predominantly African American roster of players — with similar “diversity quotas” and “see if it helps them win more games.”

“The greatness of America is not ‘diversity’ as virtue or end result. The greatness of America is overcoming diversity to create one united nation with single language, Constitution, and culture of liberty,” he said. “In our American culture of liberty and equal opportunity, we must judge, hire, promote, and reward everyone by his or her own talent, character, work, and achievement– not by checking off diversity boxes.”

By Wednesday, Grossman went as far as to claim that “diversity has a special dog whistle meaning” for Democrats like former President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. In an op-ed in the Ocean City Sentinel, he bashed Affirmative Action as “un-American” and suggested allowing women to vote didn’t impact voter turnout.

“Until the Civil War, most adult men and women were married and considered themselves a single economic and social unit who made most decisions together,” he wrote. “’Progressives’ who expected radical change were surprised to see little or no change in election outcomes when women started voting.”

While maintaining his disdain for diversity in an interview with WHYY Radio, he did admit that he enjoys multiculturalism in one area of American life— his food choices.

“Of course, I love diversity,” he told WHYY on June 15. “I like to go to Chinese restaurants, Italian restaurants, Mexican restaurants, Vietnamese. I grew up in Atlantic City, probably the most multiracial, multicultural, multi-sexual-preference city in America, even back in the 1950s when I was growing up.”

Earlier this month, Grossman won a four-way primary to face Democrat Jeff Van Drew in November— a race seen as key to national Democrats’ plans to win back the House of Representatives. On June 6 — before a video of him calling diversity “a bunch of crap” in April was recorded and surfaced by American Bridge to the 21st Century — the NRCC announced its endorsement of the candidate.

Since then, the New Jersey GOP, a former adviser to Gov. Chris Christie and the NAACP have all condemned Grossman for his comments.

The NRCC did not respond to TPM’s request for comment on whether it still supports the candidate.

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As the first lady spoke with officials at a detention facility for immigrant minors on the border about reuniting children with their parents on Thursday afternoon, President Trump told reporters that he’s directed his Cabinet officials to reunite the families his administration ripped apart in the first place.

Trump returned to a exhaustive talking point that “Democrats and court-ordered loopholes” prevent families from being detained together and “lead to family separation, no matter how you cut it.”

I signed a very good executive order yesterday but that’s only limited,” he said. “No matter how you cut it, it leads to separation ultimately. I’m directing HHS, DHS and DOJ to work together to keep illegal immigrant families together during the immigration process and reunite these previously separated groups.”

He then went on to blame the Obama administration for the family separation policy, despite the fact that his administration enacted the “zero tolerance” policy that has led to an uptick in the arrests and criminal charges being brought against anyone caught crossing the border illegally.

Under previous administrations, families were often detained together, which is what Trump would like to see happen again with his new executive order. The “court ordered loopholes” comment references a 1997 court decision that limits how long an immigrant child can be detained, which the Trump administration has cited as its rationale for separating families when parents are arrested.

Before his comments on Thursday, it was unclear whether the administration planned to make efforts to reunite those already separated from their parents. 

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After musing that Russian President Vladimir Putin should rejoin the G-7 group of economic allies and suggesting publicly that he’d like to meet with Putin again, President Donald Trump is set to meet with Putin in mid-July, CNN reported Thursday.

According to two sources familiar with the matter who spoke to CNN, Trump and Putin will meet around the time that Trump is in the UK and taking part in a NATO summit, despite Trump’s interest in having Putin come to Washington, D.C. Moscow reportedly wanted the meeting to be in a neutral location and the source told CNN it will likely take place in Vienna.

Trump’s National Security Adviser John Bolton plans to visit Moscow and has taken charge of communications between the two countries, a spokesperson told reporters on Thursday.

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