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

The latest Senate Obamacare repeal bill would “uniquely” and “disproportionately” hurt a key sponsor’s home state, according to the Louisiana Department of Health.

Louisiana Health Secretary Rebekah Gee wrote a letter Monday to Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) to share her “deep concerns” with the repeal and replace bill that he’s helped  to craft.

The Graham-Cassidy-Heller-Johnson legislation would repeal much of the Affordable Care Act and would transform Medicaid and Obamacare subsidies into block grants controlled by individual states.

As Senate Republicans jockey to get 50 votes to support the bill, Gee warned Cassidy that his plan to cut Medicaid expansion would jeopardize coverage for 433,000 Louisiana residents, a move that would be a “detrimental step backwards for Louisiana.”

“As you know, in only one year, we’ve been able to provide more than 433,000 Louisianians with coverage, resulting in more than 100,000 primary care visits, tens of thousands of screenings for cancer and thousands of new mental health services. These treatments have saved lives,” she said, adding that if the bill became law the state would have to end all its efforts and “thousands of Louisiana citizens would lose coverage and access to critical health care services.”

She said she is concerned with the funding formula for per capita caps contained in the new legislation, which are no different than what was included in this summer’s Better Care Reconciliation Act, she said. She claims these caps will result in “profound cuts” to their state’s most “vulnerable” and would create budget instability for the state.

Gee also took issue with the bill’s plan to weaken consumer protections that would hurt those with pre-existing conditions, which she said will inevitably drive up the cost of care, pushing more people out of the workforce and into public assistance programs.

An analysis by Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates Louisiana will lose $3.2 billion through 2026, making it the 8th “biggest loser” of the states that would be impacted by the bill, Gee said.

“The legislation you’ve introduced this past week gravely threatens health care access and coverage for our state and its people. It also relies on the closed-door and hurried process of budget reconciliation,” she wrote. “A generational bill as transformative as this one, that would overhaul aspects of nearly one-fifth of this country’s economy, should be done through regular order with public hearings.”

She ended the letter urging Cassidy to tackle “underlying issues” of sky-high pharmaceutical costs and “broken care-delivery models.”

Read the full letter below:

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Democrat Dan Helmer is vying to unseat Republican incumbent Rep. Barbara Comstock in Virginia’s 10th Congressional district.

And the widely unknown Democratic hopeful made some waves this week, but not for the right reason.

In a recently released campaign ad, Helmer, a U.S. Army veteran, performed a parody of the the bar scene in “Top Gun” where Maverick sings “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’” to Charlie.

In Helmer’s incredibly awkward rendition, he sings “You’ve Lost That Centrist Feelin’” to a woman who is suppose to be Comstock.

The Washington Post has already dubbed it “cringe-worthy” and Slate has decided it’s the worst ad of 2018.

But Twitter can’t agree on whether it’s horrible or genius.

See for yourself below:

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The President’s oldest son and one of his top advisers are no longer being protected by Secret Service agents, The New York Times and Fox News reported Tuesday.

Donald Trump Jr. requested the removal of the agents so he could have more privacy, according to the Times, which reported it wasn’t clear whether that meant his entire family would no longer be protected by the agency.

Fox News reported his wife Vanessa Trump would no longer have protection either.

White House counselor Kellyanne Conway’s protection has ended as well, both outlets reported. A White House official told the Times that Conway is not required by statute to be protected by the agency, but President Donald Trump requested her coverage in the early days of his presidency after Conway received several threats against her safety.

The news follows USA Today reports 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. The director has been in talks with lawmakers about raising the compensation cap from $160,000 a year to $187,000, but no legislation has passed yet, according to USA Today.

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A longtime, vocal critic of an Obama-era nuclear deal with Iran, President Donald Trump on Monday was noncommittal about honoring the pact.

Trump was asked about the historic pact during a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ahead of Trump’s first address before the United Nations General Assembly this week. “You’ll see very soon. You’ll be seeing very soon,” Trump told reporters.

“We are talking about it constantly. Constantly. We are talking about plans constantly, we’ll see,” Trump added.

Trump has called the 2015 deal — which limits Iran’s ability to develop a nuclear arsenal in exchange for lifting sanctions against the country — the “worst deal ever negotiated.”

Trump and Netanyahu share a mutual disdain for the deal, and Trump has already signaled he’d like to withdraw certification of the agreement in October and push for new U.S. sanctions against Iran, The Guardian reported.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said there would be consequences if the U.S. withdrew.

“Exiting such an agreement would carry a high cost for the United States of America and I do not believe that Americans would be willing to pay such a high cost for something that will be useless for them,” Rouhani told CNN. “It will yield no results for the United States, but at the same time it will generally decrease and cut away and chip away at international trust placed in the United States of America.”

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Following a warm embrace from Hollywood Sunday night, former White House press secretary Sean Spicer said it was an “honor” to be part of Stephen Colbert’s joke at the Emmys.

While joking with the audience about President Donald Trump’s obsession with ratings, Colbert, who hosted the Emmys, questioned when Hollywood would know how large of an audience they had that evening.

“Is there anyone who can say how big the audience is? Sean do you know?” Colbert asked as Spicer walked out on stage rolling a mobile podium that resembled his old stand at the White House, but read “The Emmys Hollywood.”

Spicer then repeated his now-infamous, aggressive broadside about the crowd size, mocking himself and the remarks he made during his first White House press briefing on the day of Trump’s inauguration.

“This will be the largest audience to witness an Emmys period, both in person and around the world,” he said.

Afterward, Spicer told the Hollywood Reporter that it was an “honor” to be a part of the ceremony and said he thought the idea would be funny when Colbert’s producers pitched it to him.

“It’s an honor. I have a lot of respect for folks who do what they do in film and on television, so it’s a real honor to be invited,” he said after the ceremony. “I had a conversation with Stephen (Colbert) and his executive producer. … They came up with a concept and I thought it was kinda funny. I said I’d be there.”

The appearance was met with applause and laughter from the audience and Spicer was reportedly bombarded by photo requests from A-listers at the award show’s after parties, but not everyone was pleased with the joke. Many critics have said Spicer shouldn’t be given a free pass for lying to the public.

When asked about whether he anticipated any negative reactions to the joke, Spicer said he wasn’t concerned about that part of it.

“I was more worried about the logistical reactions. I’ve never wheeled a podium before. The one I’m used to is pretty stationary,” he said.

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President Donald Trump used his Twitter platform again this weekend to call North Korean leader Kim Jong Un “Rocket Man” and to retweet another obscure, doctored video of himself hitting a golf ball and knocking over former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

But that’s just the President’s “sense of humor,” according to one Republican member of Congress, who said the President’s comedy could be refreshing to all the “stuffy” diplomats at the United Nations this week.

Appearing on CNN Monday morning, Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY) was asked about Trump’s most recent tweets and how they might impact his first appearance at the UN General Assembly.

“Most of them are pretty stuffy, the folks,” he said. “They’re all hung up on protocol, who shakes whose hand first and what line do you stand in? One thing about President Trump, he doesn’t stand on protocol at all. Whether it’s the way he interacts with crowds and calls people up on stage. He’s just a fun guy, he really is, if anyone would get to know him. So I think the stuffy diplomats at the UN are going to be taken aback a bit.”

He said Trump uses his Twitter account as a way to speak directly to people like they’re “having a cup of coffee.”

Rocket man was, I thought, poking at Kim Jong-un in a frankly pretty funny way so I think, to get under his skin,” he said. “And he’s also talking to, let’s face it, whenever he’s tweeting, President Trump is talking straight to his base. They enjoy it. He’s delivering a message.”

While he wouldn’t outright condemn the President’s retweet of the video that appears to show violence against Clinton, Collins said he doesn’t “retweet or forward anything from my account” as a general rule of thumb.

Because anything and everything could be taken out of context. I just have established in myself if I get an e-mail from someone, even if I think it’s hysterical, I don’t forward it on because the next person may not think so,” he said.

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Calling his line of questioning during former FBI Director James Comey’s June 8 testimony in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee “a colossal screw-up,” Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) said he got distracted by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) just minutes before it was his turn to question Comey.

During an interview with Esquire last week, McCain said his staff had meticulously prepared for the hearing, but he messed up by asking questions about why the FBI was still pursuing the investigation into Russia meddling in the 2016 election when it had already ended the probe into Hillary Clinton’s private email server, even though those are two separate investigations that had nothing to do with each other.

McCain told Esquire that a staffer had given him an iPhone with an email from Graham displayed on it, asking McCain to ask Comey some additional questions. McCain didn’t have the password for the iPhone and claimed that after the phone went black he couldn’t unlock it to keep reading.

“I was looking at it and, naturally, the message fades,” McCain told Esquire. “I think, ‘What the fuck am I going to do here?’”

He said he wanted to make sure he asked the questions Graham had sent him because he values their relationship.

“I can’t tell you how important our relationship is, and I knew that this must be important. So I started out trying to remember what was on the app, and, anyway, to make a long story short, I fucked it up,” he said.

McCain said later that he was attempting to ask Comey about his willingness to step beyond his role and publicly state his beliefs about Clinton’s emails and whether he would make the same type of statements about whether President Donald Trump attempted to obstruct justice.

“It was a colossal screw-up. That was such an important hearing. That wasn’t just an ordinary Senate hearing,” McCain said.

McCain originally had another explanation for his line of questioning. Shortly after the hearing he suggested that he was tired after staying up late to watch an Arizona Diamondbacks game.

“Maybe going forward I shouldn’t stay up late watching the Diamondbacks night games.”

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Mocking the President was the theme of the night at the 2017 Emmys award show Sunday evening, with celebrities and host Stephen Colbert taking digs at President Donald Trump at every turn.

A Trump ally even made a surprise appearance to join in on the sneering, and to make fun of himself.

As Colbert spoke about how much Trump cares about ratings, he quipped about how he hoped the award show churned out “big numbers” in terms of viewers, but said there was no way of knowing how big the audience was just yet.

“Is there anyone who can say how big the audience is? Sean do you know?” Colbert asked as former White House press secretary Sean Spicer walked out on stage rolling a mobile podium that became a staple of actress Melissa McCarthy’s impersonation of Spicer on Saturday Night Live.

“This will be the largest audience to witness an Emmys period, both in person and around the world,” he shouted, mocking himself and the remarks he made during his first White House press briefing on the day of Trump’s inauguration when he scolded journalists for reports that the crowd was larger at former President Barack Obama’s inaugurations.

That hostility displayed toward journalists in the briefing room is what inspired McCarthy’s award winning impersonation of Trump’s former press secretary.

Spicer resigned in July over the hiring of quickly-ousted Anthony Scarmucci as communications director. He officially left the White House at the end of August.

Watch a clip of the appearance below, courtesy TMZ:

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White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Friday spent the second day in a row suggesting that an ESPN anchor should be fired for critical comments against President Trump.

After suggesting Wednesday that ESPN anchor Jemele Hill should be fired for calling Trump a “white supremacist,” Sanders said Friday that ESPN should simply be consistent in doling out punishment for political statements by its broadcasters. Sanders also said she stands by her assertion that Hill’s criticism constitutes a fireable offense.

“I think the point is that ESPN has been hypocritical. They should hold anchors to a fair and consistent standard. ESPN suspended a long-time anchor Linda Cohn, not too long ago for expressing a political viewpoint,” she said Friday. “The network’s public editor has said there’s been a perception that the ESPN has become political an that has harmed the network. This is clearly a political statement. They should be consistent in whatever guidelines they have set themselves in that front.” 

When pressed by reporters on why she was using the White House podium to suggest a sports news anchor gets fired, she said it’s “not a decision that I am going to make.”

“It is not my decision to make for a private company. I was asked specific about that individual. I made a comment. I stand by it. I think ESPN needs to stand by the standard that they have set in their own actions that they have taken about previous employees. I really don’t have much to add on that front,” she said.

Her remarks come after Hill published several tweets calling Trump a “bigot” and saying he’s a “white supremacist who has largely surrounded himself w/ other white supremacists.” 

During the White House press briefing Wednesday, Sanders suggested Hill should be fired. Hill later apologized to ESPN for the tweets. ESPN said in a statement that Hill has a right to her personal beliefs, but that it was inappropriate to use her ESPN platform to share them. ESPN accepted Hill’s apology.

On Thursday morning, Trump tweeted about the sports network, saying it is “paying a really big price for it’s politics” claiming people are “dumping” the network in record numbers.

“Apologize for the untruth!” he said.

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