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 in South Korea representing the U.S. delegation to the Olympics Sunday, White House senior adviser Ivanka Trump suggested to NBC News that she isn’t entirely sold on arming teachers, but said it’s a topic that “needs to be discussed.”

“To be honest, I don’t know,” she said, responding to a question about whether training teachers to carry concealed weapons would make students safer. “Obviously there would have to be an incredibly high standard for who would be able to bear arms in our school, but I think there is no one solution to creating safety.”

Ivanka Trump then dodged a question about whether she advises her father on this topic and rather said it wasn’t necessarily a “bad idea” to arm “qualified” school staff.

I think that having a teacher who is armed who cares deeply about her students or his students and who is capable and qualified to bear arms is not a bad idea, but it is an idea that needs to be discussed,” she said.

In response to shooting at a Florida high school that left 17 people dead, President Donald Trump has seized on the idea of arming 10 to 40 percent of teachers and school staff members who are “adept” at using weapons or who have a military background. During a speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference last week, he claimed that teachers “love” their students more than security guards do, and would likely be more willing to use a weapon to defend them.

Surveillance footage revealed last week that during the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida on Feb. 14, an armed security guard and several deputies waited outside the school or took cover after the shooting started. One guard later resigned.

In addition to suggesting that some teachers should be armed, President Trump has also proposed increasing the age limit from 18 to 21-years-old for purchasing a rifle, which the National Rifle Association opposes.

He’s also said he wants background checks for gun purchases to undergo comprehensive reform, so factors like a person’s mental health history are included in the check.

Watch a clip of the NBC News interview with Ivanka Trump below:

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President Donald Trump on Friday said that White House chief of staff John Kelly will ultimately “make that call” regarding whether to waive or revoke Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner’s interim security clearance.

During a press conference with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, Trump responded to a question about Kushner’s clearance with praise for his daughter Ivanka Trump, as well as Kushner’s “outstanding” work.

“I think he has been treated unfairly,” Trump said of Kushner. “He is a high-quality person. He works for nothing. Nobody ever reports that. He gets zero. He doesn’t get a salary, nor does Ivanka, who is now in South Korea. Long trip. Representing her country. And we cannot get a better representative.”

Trump also touted Kushner’s work in the Middle East and claimed that Kelly — who he said “is doing a terrific job, by the way” — inherited a “broken” security clearance system. He left it up to Kelly to “make that call” regarding whether to waive Kushner’s security clearance.

“It shouldn’t take this long,” Trump said, apparently referring to the process of receiving a permanent security clearance.

He claimed that some of the staff members still waiting for a permanent clearance are “people with not a problem in the world,” and said Kelly will decide what to do about Kushner’s interim clearance.

“That will be up to Gen. Kelly. Gen. Kelly respects Jared a lot. And Gen. Kelly will make that call,” Trump said. “I won’t make that call. I will let the general, who is right here, make that call.”

Former White House staff secretary Rob Porter, who was fired earlier in February amid allegations of domestic abuse, operated under an interim security clearance while the FBI probed the allegations. According to several reports, White House officials were aware of both the allegations against Porter and the impact on his clearance.

Kelly last week announced that he will revoke top clearances for any aide with an interim security clearance whose background check has been pending since last June or earlier.

Kushner, who has quietly updated his personal financial disclosure with foreign contacts and financial assets several times since he started working in the West Wing, has worked under an interim clearance for more than a year.

Trump on Friday said that Kelly is “going to do what’s right for the country” with regard to Kushner’s clearance.

“I have no doubt he will make the right decision,” Trump said. “Okay?”

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At the Conservative Political Action Conference Friday, President Donald Trump again called for the arming of teachers in order to prevent school shootings. He suggested that if a teacher had a gun in Parkland, Florida last week, “the teacher would have shot the hell out of” the gunman “before he knew what happened.”

Trump also doubled down on his claim that 10 to 20 percent of teachers are likely “gun adept” or have served in the military before becoming teachers and would likely be willing to carry a concealed weapon at school. He pointed to reports that the school resource officer at the high school in Florida stayed outside instead of entering the building when shots were fired as evidence that it would be better to arm teachers than hire security guards. He then claimed that teachers “love” their students more than a security guard does.

“These teachers love their students and the students love their teachers in many cases,” he said. “And I would rather have somebody that loves their students and wants to protect their students than somebody standing outside that doesn’t know anybody and doesn’t know the students, and frankly, for whatever reason, decided not to go in even though he heard lots of shots being fired inside.”

The President said there were not “enough tears in the world” to mourn the 17 people who were killed in the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School last week and said his administration is interested in talking to all Americans about how to stop mass shootings.

“We have to do something that works,” he said.

Before telling the crowd of conservatives that he supports comprehensive background check reform, Trump reiterated his backing of the Second Amendment and claimed that there is “nobody” who respects the National Rifle Association as much as him. But alas, “we really do have to strengthen up, really strengthen up background check. We have to do that,” he said.

Trump notably did not mention that he also supports increasing the minimum age for rifle purchases nor his call to ban bump stocks. The NRA has been vocal about its opposition to increasing the rifle purchasing age to 21 and has only asked for a “review” of the bump stock device that allows semi-automatic weapons to function like automatic rifles.

Earlier in his speech, Trump called on supporters to vote in the midterm elections, claiming if Democrats win, they’ll “take away your Second Amendment.

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President Donald Trump on Friday reminded the crowd at the Conservative Political Action Conference to get “off their ass” and vote in the midterms so that Democrats don’t “take away your Second Amendment.”

“Don’t be complacent,” he said. “If they get in, they will repeal your tax cuts, they will put judges in that you wouldn’t believe. They’ll take away your Second Amendment, which we will never allow to happen. They’ll take away your Second Amendment. Remember that. They will take away those massive tax cuts, and they will take away your Second Amendment.”

He then asked the crowd whether they’d rather have their “massive” tax cuts or their Second Amendment rights. The crowd’s reaction was clearly in favor of guns.

“Second Amendment, tax cuts? Second Amendment? I’m going to leave it at the Second Amendment,” he said. “I don’t want to get into that battle.”

The comments about gun rights come as Trump has indicated his support for at least three proposals that would tighten gun laws, in the wake of the most recent school shooting at a Florida high school that left 17 people dead.

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During his second speech as president at the Conservative Political Action Conference Friday, President Donald Trump made a joke about his bald spot, saying he tries “like hell to hide” it.

“What a nice picture that is,” he said, referencing a video feed of himself speaking.
“Look at that. I would love to watch that guy speak,” he said, as he turned around and pretended to fix the back of his hair.

“Oh, boy. Oh, I try like hell to hide that bald spot, folks. I work hard at it. Doesn’t look bad. Hey, we’re hanging in. We’re hanging in. We’re hanging in there, right? Together we’re hanging in.”

The joke comes after a video of the wind blowing Trump’s bald spot out into the open went viral weeks ago.

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CNN host Alisyn Camerota confronted National Rifle Association spokeswoman Dana Loesch on Friday over her comments at CPAC claiming that many in the media “love” mass shootings.

“Dana, it’s just malicious, actually, that you would say that,” Camerota said. “I don’t know anybody in the media who likes mass shootings, you’re wrong on every single level. … How dare you?”

But Loesch defended her comments, saying the media loves the “ratings aspect of it.”

“It’s true because it’s wall-to-wall coverage. They put the murderer’s face up on loop, on televisions all across America, even more than they discuss the victims or survivors. That individual’s name has been mentioned and is still mentioned on your network,” Loesch said.

Loesch claimed that CNN has been equally “malicious” because it has allowed “accusations against me and millions of law abiding Americans to be indicted as child murders” to stand without correction.

“That NRA members are somehow complicit in this, you’ve allowed that to stand uncorrected on your network,” she said.

Camerota then suggested that the NRA actually “does bare some responsibility” for coming up with solutions to gun violence and said the group needs to “come to the table.”

“No, we absolutely do not. We’re parents too. We want to be able to make sure our kids are also safe,” Loesch said.

“Of course you do!” Camerota said. “You have a stake in this and you have to come up with solutions.”

Loesch then went on to repeat the NRA’s line blaming the FBI for failing to act on a tip about the alleged shooter and calling on politicians to force states to submit criminal records to the National Crime Information Center so that background checks work better. She also said the NRA is opposed to a Trump-supported proposal to increase the age for purchasing a rifle to 21 because when she was 20, she felt that she needed a rifle to protect herself.

The NRA has been heavily criticized in recent days from those in who support tightening gun laws after the latest mass shooting at a Florida high school that left 17 people dead.

Watch a clip of the interview below:

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President Donald Trump on Thursday lashed out at CNN, as well as MSNBC, after a Florida high school shooting survivor told Fox News that CNN gave him scripted questions at the town hall discussion with the survivors of the massacre.

“’School shooting survivor says he quit CNN Town Hall after refusing scripted question,’” Trump tweeted, tagging Fox News host Tucker Carlson, who interviewed the student Thursday evening. “Just like so much of CNN, Fake News. That’s why their ratings are so bad! MSNBC may be worse.”

Appearing on “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” Colton Haab, who is a junior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where 17 people were killed in a mass shooting last week, said that CNN tried to rewrite one of his questions during the town hall discussion. He said he quit the event because he considered it a “waste of time.”

CNN tweeted and released a statement denying the student’s claims.

“CNN did not provide or script questions for anyone in last night’s town hall, nor have we ever,” the network’s communications team said in a tweet.

CNN hosted a town hall discussion on gun violence Wednesday evening between lawmakers, including Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), the NRA and the student survivors and parents of victims of the shooting last week.

The tweet comes as conspiracy theorists on the far-right have spread baseless claims that the students who have been vocal about gun control since the shooting are actors being paid by far-left, anti gun groups.

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A spokesperson for President Trump’s former campaign official Paul Manafort said Friday that Manfort is “confident that he will be acquitted of all charges” after special counsel Robert Mueller on Thursday filed a new indictment against Manafort and his former business partner Rick Gates.

“(Manafort) is innocent of the allegations set out in the newly filed indictments and he is confident that he will be acquitted of all charges,” Manfort’s spokesperson Jason Maloni said in a statement to CNN. “The new allegations against Mr. Manafort, once again, have nothing to do with Russia and 2016 election interference/collusion. Mr. Manafort is confident that he will be acquitted and violations of his constitutional rights will be remedied.”

In October, Manfort and Gates were indicted on charges of conspiracy against the U.S., conspiracy to launder money and making false statements. Mueller filed an additional 32-count indictment against the two on Thursday, with charges ranging from making false statements on tax returns, failure to report foreign bank and financial accounts and bank fraud. The indictment also alleges Manafort and Gates misled lenders and exaggerated their income in order to obtain loans.

The additional charges are the latest in a string of indictments against Trump campaign associates as Mueller investigates Russian interference in the 2016 election. Last week, Mueller announced an indictment against 13 Russian nationals for their work for a Russian troll farm to meddle in the election.

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During the White House press briefing Thursday, deputy press secretary Raj Shah dodged questions about President Trump’s personal lawyer admitting last week that he paid a porn star $130,000 out of his own pocket.

While Trump’s lawyer, Michael Cohen, admitted to giving money to porn star Stephanie Clifford, who goes by the stage name Stormy Daniels, he did not say the money was designed to keep Clifford quiet about an alleged affair she had with the President, as the Wall Street Journal has reported.

When CBS’ Major Garrett asked if Trump was aware of the payout, Shah deflected.

“I haven’t asked him about it. That matter has been asked and answered in the past,” he said.

Garrett pressed further, saying the White House hasn’t addressed the allegations since Cohen admitted to the payout last week. Shah repeated that he hadn’t asked the President about the matter.

“Can you ask him about it?”

“I’ll get back to you,” Shah said.

In an interview with In Touch magazine conducted in 2011 but published this year, Clifford detailed the alleged affair she had with Trump, but has since denied it happened. The White House has denied the allegations as well.

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President Donald Trump tripled down on his calls for arming teachers as a solution to stopping school shootings Thursday, by suggesting that teachers who carry a gun might get “a little bit of a bonus.”

During a meeting with state and local officials at the White House, Trump reiterated his philosophy that allowing “highly adept people, people who understand weaponry, guns” to have a concealed carry permit at school would make students safer and would likely deter attacks.

“You won’t have, in my opinion, you won’t have these shooters because these people are cowards,” he said. “They are not going to walk into a school if 20 percent of the teachers have guns. It may be 10 percent, it may be 40 percent. Now, what I’d recommend doing is the people that do carry, we give them a bonus. We give them a little bit of a bonus.”

He said he wants to do more to “harden” schools instead of softening them and suggested that a “gun free zone” for someone who wants to be a killer is “like going in for the ice cream.”

“We have to get smart on gun-free zones. That means nobody has a gun except them,” he said, referencing those who attack schools. “Nobody’s going to be shooting bullets in the other direction. They see that it is such a beautiful target, they live for gun free zones.”

He also suggested there are lots of “coaches, who I guarantee you have plenty of experience with weapons” and veterans who go into teaching after serving in the military who would be willing to carry a gun on school grounds. He said it would be best to arm teachers because it would be too expensive for large schools to hire “100 to 150 security guards.”

“Instead of advertising the school has no guns, we are gun free, do the opposite,” he said. “Nobody is going to attack that school. Not everybody agrees with us. I think a lot of people do agree with us but I think we need hardened sites, you come into our schools, you are going to be dead.”

Trump’s comments Thursday afternoon follow his Twitter tirade on Thursday morning, when he made similar suggestions and attacked the media for not accurately conveying his desire to arm teachers.

During a listening session with the school shooting survivors and parents of victims on Wednesday, Trump suggested that arming teachers would “very well solve your problem,” with school shootings.

Not all Republicans agree. When asked about the idea during a town hall discussion on Wednesday, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) said he would not be comfortable with giving teachers license to carry a gun in school.

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