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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

Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore attempted on Monday evening to refute allegations about Moore being banned from a mall in his hometown and debunk the allegations of one of his accusers.

“On Monday evening, the Moore Campaign unveiled statements from key witnesses that completely bust the story of Beverly Nelson and Gloria Allred and further reveal an unconscionable bias on the part of state and national press to hide the truth from Alabama voters who will undoubtedly see through the ‘fake news’ and elect Judge Moore for the man that they have always known him to be,” one of the statements said, referencing Nelson’s accusations that surround her encounter with Moore at the Olde Hickory House restaurant. The second statement about the mall also attacked the media.

Nelson came forward with her attorney Allred last week after The Washington Post first reported that Moore allegedly pursued relationships or made unwanted sexual advances toward multiple women when they were teens and Moore was in his 30s.

Nelson said Moore allegedly offered her a ride home from the Olde Hickory House restaurant where she worked when she was 16. He then allegedly parked his car near dumpsters behind the building and attempted to force her to have sex with him, she said. Nelson has also gone public with her high school yearbook, which she claims Moore signed.

Moore has vehemently denied all the accusations against him and his campaign’s main line of defense has been questioning the legitimacy of the signature in Nelson’s yearbook. In Monday evening’s statements, the campaign quoted multiple witnesses who worked at Olde Hickory House, attempting to poke holes in Nelson’s account of the incident.

A former waitress said the restaurant didn’t hire anyone under the age of 16, but Nelson said she was 15 when she started. Two former employees questioned the location of the dumpster, saying it was on the side of the building, not the back. A few of Moore’s witnesses said there wasn’t an entrance to the building from the back of the parking lot and another former employee said the restaurant never closed before 11 p.m., which they said contradicts Nelson’s claims that the restaurant closed at 10 p.m. the night of the alleged assault.

The campaign also claimed that these witness accounts had been shared with multiple news outlets, but “the outlets have failed to report.”

The second statement included quotes from three former employees of Gadsden mall, one of whom oversaw mall security, attempting to discredit reports that Moore was banned from the mall because of his alleged behavior toward teenage girls.

One witness, Johnnie V. Sanders, who the Moore campaign said was an employee of Gadsden Mall from the late 1970s to the mid-2000s, said there was a different “prominent” man who was banned from the mall for similar reasons and said he may have been confused with Moore.

“There was a prominent man of Etowah County, whom is now deceased that was banned for reasons such as the allegations against Judge Moore. However, due to respect for the family, I decline to reveal his name,” Sanders said in the statement. “Despite allegations against other patrons of the mall, I never heard of Roy Moore’s name come in conversation with any such misconduct against women or a supposed banning from the Gadsden Mall.”

Moore campaign strategist Brett Doster said the campaign put out the statements to combat the “one-sided reporting” on the accusations against the former judge.

“The people of Alabama are tired of false accusations and one-sided reporting from the liberal media,” Doster said in the statement. “Truth matters or it doesn’t and the Moore Campaign will deliver the truth about the character of Judge Roy Moore to affirm what the people of Alabama are already convinced of.”

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Calling Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore “a terrible nominee” for the GOP, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said if Moore is blocked from a mall in his hometown, he probably doesn’t belong in Congress.

“It seems clear to me that Roy Moore had a problem for a very long time when it came to young girls, to the point that he was put on a watch list at the mall when he was in his 30s, for pursuing teenage girls at the mall,” Graham said Monday on Fox News Radio’s “The Brian Kilmeade Show.” “If you can’t go to a mall in Alabama, maybe you shouldn’t go to the Senate.”

Graham is one of many senior Republicans calling on Moore to step aside from the Alabama Senate race after allegations surfaced that Moore pursued relationships or made unwanted sexual advances toward teenage girls when he was in his 30s. Multiple women have come forward with similar accusations, including one who said she was just 14-years-old when Moore allegedly made unwanted advances toward her. The Washington Post first reported on the allegations. More reports surfaced after the Post’s with additional accusers. Other reports claimed that Moore was banned from the local mall.

Moore has denied all of the allegations, claiming he doesn’t know the women who have come forward and saying it’s all a political attack on him from the media. He’s refused to drop out of the race.

“After you add all this up, it’s pretty clear to me that I believe the accusers here. Because somebody says something in large numbers doesn’t make me believe them, it’s just putting the puzzle together,” Graham said. “I just think Roy Moore is going to probably lose this seat, which will make it really hard for us to do health care and anything else President Trump wants to do and almost any Republican in Alabama could win this seat.”

Graham called the seat – currently held by Sen. Luther Strange (R-AL), who was appointed after former Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) was confirmed as attorney general – “almost impossible” for a Republican to lose. Moore won the Republican primary election against Strange during a special runoff election.

“If we had a contest, design a system that would make us lose Alabama, we would win a prize for what we have today,” he said. “How effective can you be coming into the Senate with this hanging onto you?”

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Sen. Al Franken’s (D-MN) tribute to David Letterman will be cut from Monday night’s PBS special honoring the longtime comedian, according to a PBS spokesperson, who said including Franken would be a distraction in the wake of sexual misconduct allegations against the senator.

“PBS and WETA, the producing station, felt that the inclusion of Senator Franken in the broadcast at this time would distract from the show’s purpose as a celebration of American humor,” a PBS spokesperson told Variety in a statement Monday. “Every year, this program is edited for both length and content to keep it entertaining and focused on its intended purpose as a celebration of American humor.”

The PBS special was recorded in October and will feature a variety of A-list comedians, like Jimmy Kimmel, Bill Murray, Amy Schumer and Martin Short. The show will be broadcast Monday night at 8 p.m EST, without Franken, who was a comedian before he became a senator.

Two women have come forward with different allegations of sexual misconduct by Franken. Last week, LA radio host Leeann Tweeden accused Franken of “aggressively” kissing her and groping her while she was sleeping back in 2006 when the two were performing in a USO tour together. She published a photo with her account of the accusations, which appears to show Franken grabbing toward her chest. Franken apologized in two separate statements and asked for the Senate Ethics Committee to probe the incident.

A second woman came forward on Monday, telling CNN that Franken allegedly grabbed her rear while the two posed for a photo together at the Minnesota State Fair in 2010. In a statement, Franken — who has been outspoken about combatting violence and harassment against women as a senator — said he was sorry the woman, Lindsay Menz, felt “disrespected” by their encounter, but said he didn’t remember taking the photo.

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Rob Goldstone, the British publicist who helped arrange a meeting between Donald Trump Jr., a Kremlin-linked lawyer and several key members of President Donald Trump’s campaign in June 2016, said he is ready and willing to talk to special counsel Robert Mueller, who is probing Russian interference in the 2016 election.

During an interview with The Sunday Times, Goldstone said he used “hot-button language” when he wrote an email to Trump Jr. last year describing the nature of a proposed meeting with a Russian lawyer and promising incriminating information about then-presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, according to CNN. He said he would voluntarily talk to Mueller in order to set the record straight.

“I’m keen to talk to them and put my recollection of events in the public record,” he said. “After the story initially broke, it seemed to quieten down for a while. But now it’s back in the news with such force, I feel it’s time for me to explain what happened.”

Mueller has been in conversations with Goldson’s lawyers about having him come to the U.S. for an interview, but no date has been set, CNN reported last week.

Goldstone’s emails to Trump Jr. in June 2016 flung the gates of Mueller’s investigation wide open as he, as well as Congressional committees, looked into Russian meddling and whether the Trump campaign worked with Russia to influence the election. In the email exchange, which Trump Jr. posted on Twitter this past summer, Goldstone offered the President’s son a meeting with a “Russian attorney” who had “incriminating” information about Clinton that was being offered as “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.”

Goldstone said he used “puffed up” language to try to get Trump Jr. to agree to the meeting and said he wrote the email in “three minutes. I never thought it would be read by the world.”

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Leigh Corfman, one of the first women to go public with allegations of sexual misconduct against Alabama Senate Republican candidate Roy Moore, said her decision to come forward was not politically motivated.

She’s voted as a Republican for “years and years and years,” she said Monday during an interview with NBC’s “Today” show.

“But this isn’t political for me. This is personal. It’s very close to my heart and I’ve lived with this for a very long time,” she said, speaking publicly for the first time since The Washington Post detailed the incidents surrounding the inappropriate sexual encounters Moore allegedly pursued with her when she was just 14-years-old and the former judge was in his 30s. Multiple women have come forward since the story broke Nov. 9 and Moore has denied all the allegations, calling it a political attack from the media.

Many of Moore’s supporters have argued that if Corfman and the other women were telling the truth, they would’ve come out earlier in Moore’s political career.

Corfman said she weighed coming forward for years during his various campaigns, but decided against it because she was a single mother with young children.

“When you’re in that situation, you do everything you can to protect your own,” she said Monday. “I sat in the Courthouse a lot thinking ‘I’m going to go in, I’m going to confront him.’ This was 2000, 2001, and I wanted to walk into his office and say, ‘Hey remember me? You need to knock this stuff off. I need to go public.’ My children were small so I didn’t do it.”

She said the second time she contemplated coming forward with her allegations her children were older and she asked them to make the decision. Her kids were afraid of the social repercussions of their mother coming forward, so they decided not to do it at the time, she said.

“So when The Washington Post sought me out, I didn’t go looking for this, this fell in my lap. It literally fell in my lap and I had to make a decision,” she said. “I told them at that time, the reporters, they were all just wonderful to me, that if they found additional people that I would tell my story.”

Moore and his wife, Kayla Moore, have also floated accusations that the women who came forward were paid by the Post to make up their stories, which Corfman strongly refuted.

“Absolutely not, absolutely not. If anything, this has cost me. I’ve had to take leave from my job,” she said.

When asked by “Today” show host Savannah Guthrie what she makes of Moore’s defense that he doesn’t know who she is, Corfman responded chillingly.

“I wonder how many mes he doesn’t know,” she said.

Watch the full interview below:

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Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) said he is a fan of the Republican tax bill that’s currently moving its way through the Senate, but he thinks his party leaders are exaggerating its importance to 2018 reelections for members of his party.

“To pretend this tax bill is world-changing is the way politicians in Washington, D.C. regularly pretend that every bill being debated is the thing that will usher in heaven,” he said to reporters after speaking to a group of 500 evangelical conservatives Saturday, the Associated Press reported.

Republicans passed the $1.5 trillion bill through the House last week, but it has been met with some tension in the Senate. Senate Republican leaders hope to tack on a provision to its version of the tax plan that would repeal Obamacare’s individual mandate, but some key Republicans, like Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), have already expressed concern over including that in the Senate bill.

Regardless of whether Republicans are able to drum up the votes they need to pass some type of major tax legislation – the party has failed to pass major legislation since President Donald Trump was elected, like not being able to repeal and replace Obamacare – Sasse wouldn’t equate tax reform to immediate reelection for Republicans. A bigger threat to the party are the efforts by former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, who is challenging nearly all Republican senators seeking reelection in 2018, Sasse said.

Bannon “is trying to run to the front of the parade” of conservatives’ frustration with the Republican establishment, he said, according to AP. “The party I’m in is going through a split between two sides. … The really, really important debates of our time, the really big things we need to do, really can’t be reduced to a political spectrum of right versus left.”

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The people of Alabama understand the “battle” former Judge Roy Moore is facing in his Senate bid, according to Kayla Moore, the wife of embattled Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore.

Kayla Moore spoke as the headliner at a press conference with his supporters Friday from the steps of Alabama’s state capitol, in an effort to stand by Roy Moore and attack the people who apparently seek to destroy his shot at the U.S. Senate.

The “liberal press” — specifically The Washington Post — supporters of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, Roy Moore’s opponent Doug Jones and the Washington Republican establishment were among the culprits waging a war against her husband, Kayla Moore said. She thanked all of Roy Moore’s supporters for their “prayers,” messages and phone calls since the Post first reported on the allegations of multiple women who claim Roy Moore pursued relationships or unwanted sexual contact with them when they were teenagers and he was in his 30s.

“We are in a battle. … The people of Alabama know him. They have seen what he has done, fighting for life, fighting against abortion and fighting for the acknowledgement of God. Fighting for traditional marriage and fighting for the Second Amendment and our rights, given by God, protected by our Constitution,” she said in remarks that were consistently interrupted by cheers from the crowd gathered.

“So the liberal press, The Washington Post, who endorse Hillary Clinton and also endorsed our opponent, gets involved in the race along with the human rights campaign, the DNC and the Washington establishment,” she said. “All of the very same people who were attacking President Trump are also attacking us. I personally think he owes us a thank you.”

She claimed the Post had called “everybody I have ever known for the last 40 years” and said the publication prints “whatever anyone says” without fact-checking claims.

In its initial story about the allegations against Roy Moore, the Post reporters said they first started pursuing the story when they heard multiple rumors about the misconduct while working on a different story in Alabama. The Post was able to corroborate every account from the women with additional witnesses, including some of the women’s mothers and friends who knew about the alleged incidents when they first happened.

Both Roy and Kayla Moore have repeatedly denied all the allegations against Roy Moore and have called out one woman who claimed the former judge sexually assaulted her and signed her yearbook when she was in high school. Roy Moore’s attorney has asked for the yearbook to be turned over to a third party to examine whether the signature is real, which has been the campaign’s main line of defense against the reports.

Kayla Moore has been publicly attacking The Washington Post for the past week. On Wednesday, she posted the name and phone number of a Post reporter who had been calling friends of the Moore family, claiming the paper was on a witch hunt against them. She’s since edited the post to remove the reporter’s name and number, but added a link that lets people report “inappropriate news organization contact” on the campaign website. The family has also threatened to sue the Post and a local news outlet, AL.com

Kayla Moore ended the press conference, which featured testimony from multiple women, defending her husband’s credentials and his history of being a “gentleman.”

“I have been married to my husband for over 32 years. He was a graduate of West Point and served our country in Vietnam and has always been an officer and a gentleman,” she said. “He is a loving father and a grandfather. Most important, he is a Christian. So let me set the record straight … He will not step down.”

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Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI) is a big fan of the “me too” movement and said she has had “too many” instances throughout her life where she’s been the victim of sexual misconduct, but she said it’s going to take more than a social media hashtag to make systemic changes.

During an interview with CNN on Friday morning, Dingell spoke about a “prominent, historical” figure in Congress who she said used to act aggressively toward her. She also recounted an instance in which she said this man placed his hand on her leg and was trying to move it up her thigh before she took his hand off. A female colleague noticed the contact and switched seats with her.

“We watch out for each other. That’s the other thing we need to do, but we’ve got to change. People need to speak up, men and women need to speak up and say it’s not okay,” she said.

CNN host Alisyn Camerota pressed Dingell several times throughout the interview to share who the man was, but Dingell refused, saying there are still “consequences” to the “me too” stories.

“Women are still going to play the consequences. That’s what I want to figure out. How do we protect the survivor so that in the end they’re not labeled a troublemaker? It sounds great for the moment, but are they going to be able to get the next job?” she said.

For too many women those ‘me too’ stories are going to have consequences,” she continued. “Economic, if you’re a waitress, if you’re on the factory floor or small business, if you target the small business, where’s their job? … I would still pay a price if I were to name some of them.”

Dingell’s remarks follow the introduction of legislation Wednesday — spearheaded by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) — that would overhaul the way Congress handles sexual harassment complaints. That bill was spurred on by a number of people who have gone public with stories of sexual harassment and assault by prominent men, from Capitol Hill to Hollywood.

After movie mogul Harvey Weinstein was accused by several prominent actresses of sexual misconduct, people across the world started sharing their personal stories of harassment and assault online, using the hashtag #metoo.   

When LA radio host Leeann Tweeden shared her story of alleged sexual misconduct by Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) on Thursday, she tweeted a link to an op-ed with the same “me too” hashtag.

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Leeann Tweeden, the LA radio host who came forward with sexual misconduct allegations against Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) Thursday, said she didn’t share her story to lead Franken to resign from Congress.

“That’s not my call. I didn’t do this to have him step down. I think Al Franken does a lot of good things in the Senate, you know, I think that’s for the people of Minnesota to decide,” Tweeden said on Good Morning America Friday. “I’m not calling for him to step down, that was never my intention. … I just wanted him to understand what he did was wrong.”

Tweeden went public with her story of alleged sexual misconduct on Thursday, claiming Franken “aggressively” kissed her while they were rehearsing for an USO tour in 2006 and allegedly groped her while she was sleeping. Franken initially apologized and disputed parts of her claims, but put out a statement later Thursday asking for Congress to conduct an ethics probe into the allegations against him. The alleged incidents occurred before Franken held public office.

Tweeden said Thursday she accepted Franken’s apology and thanked him for his sincere reaction. On Friday she said she came forward because she wanted to contribute to changing the culture that looks at sexual harassment and assault as a joke.

“How he treated me and how abusers, who, I think, do that under the guise that it’s funny or that ‘I can get away with it because I’m a comedian’ and ‘it was funny,’” she said. “It’s never funny, but when you shine a light and go ‘that’s the culture, that the change that we need to make’ and go ‘that’s never funny,’ but people have gotten away with that forever.”

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President Donald Trump has been selective about his outrage over recent accusations of sexual misconduct involving high-profile politicians.

While the President hasn’t personally offered any response to mounting allegations of inappropriate sexual conduct toward teenage girls when Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore was in his 30s, Trump on Thursday was quick to condemn Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) for new groping allegations.

Trump called the 2006 photo of Franken reaching out toward an LA radio host’s chest while she was sleeping “really bad.” Trump seemed to suggest that Franken may have done more than what the photo reveals. He also called Franken a hypocrite for championing women’s rights when he had alleged inappropriate sexual behavior in his past.

Los Angeles radio host Leeann Tweeden wrote an op-ed Thursday with her story about Franken’s alleged sexual misconduct — claiming he “aggressively” kissed her during a 2006 USO tour rehearsal and groped her while she was sleeping. Franken initially apologized, but disputed part of her version of the story. He put out a longer, more apologetic statement later Thursday and asked Congress to conduct an ethics probe into the allegations.

While the White House has said Trump thinks the allegations against Moore are “very troubling,” the President’s personal silence on Moore since the news broke last Thursday is deafening.

At least eight women have come forward in the past week alleging that Moore pursued relationships or made unwanted sexual advances toward them when they were teenagers and Moore was in his 30s. One woman said Moore attempted to initiate a sexual encounter with her when she was 14. On Monday, another woman accused Moore of sexually assaulting her when she was 16.

Moore has denied all accusations and has responded by trying to discredit the accusers and threatening to sue The Washington Post — which broke the first story — and the Alabama Media Group, which publishes several local Alabama newspapers.

As more men and women across the country come forward with stories of sexual misconduct by men in powerful positions, Trump has been noticeably quiet on the issue.

During the campaign Trump himself faced accusations of sexual misconduct by multiple women. In the infamous “Access Hollywood” tape that surfaced during the campaign, Trump bragged about his aggressive behavior toward women.

Trump has repeatedly denied all the allegations, claiming recently they’re all “fake” and “made up.”

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