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

To help viewers understand her opinion on news that Donald Trump Jr. held a meeting Kremlin-linked lawyer to get dirt on his father’s opponent, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway used cue cards during a Fox News interview.

Appearing on “Hannity” Wednesday night, Conway claimed the American people are pushing back against the mainstream media, saying ratings are low — “Not yours, Sean, congratulations on your incredible ratings,” she clarified — and questioned why the press is covering Trump Jr.’s meeting with a Russian lawyer instead of the President’s meeting with the Russian president.

“Do you realize the President of the United States sat with the president of Russia less than a week ago for two hours and 15 minutes, and yet we are talking about this? Do you realize we’ve got people in the media now, between their lower third chyrons and what comes out of their mouths, they talk more about Russia more than America? Thank you for talking about America so often,” she said to host Sean Hannity.

Conway said there was “zero usable information” that came out of Trump Jr.’s meeting with a Kremlin-linked lawyer during the campaign and held up a cue card with the words “Conclusion?” and “Collusion” written on it in bold, with an “X” through the word collusion.

“I want to review in case you run out of time. This is for the people at home. What is the conclusion? Collusion? No, we don’t have that yet,” she said, scribbling over the word with a red marker and then holding up a new set up cards with the words “Illusion” and “Delusion” written in bold letters.

“I see illusion and delusion. So just so we’re clear, everyone, four words, conclusion, collusion, no. Illusion, delusion, yes. I just thought we’d have some fun with words, Sesame’s Grover word of the day, perhaps, Sean, because you’re absolutely right. To date, they basically set out this Venus fly trap and said ‘One day we’ll catch something.’”

She went on to say the American people “appreciate” the fact that Trump Jr. released his emails and appeared on the Hannity show “for all to see.”

“Compare that to hiding and furtiveness that we saw during the last campaign by the other side,” she said, with Hannity adding he was going to buy her a “white board.”

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The Donald Trump family acquaintance, who recently made headlines for his role in arranging a meeting between Donald Trump Jr. and a Kremlin-linked attorney who he claimed wanted to share information to help the Trump campaign, is a big fan of the American President.

And he isn’t shy about boosting Trump on social media.

While Trump was running for President last summer, Rob Goldstone, a publicist from the UK who lives in New York, according to his Facebook page, made several posts on social media about the likelihood of a Trump win, and even making fun of then-candidate Hillary Clinton.

Goldstone was thrust into the spotlight this week after Donald Trump Jr. released a series of emails on Twitter Tuesday, showing how the meeting between Trump Jr., the President’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, then-campaign manager Paul Manafort and a Kremlin-linked attorney transpired. Goldstone arranged the meeting and told Trump Jr. in emails that the meeting with the “Russian government attorney” was part of an effort for the Russians to help with the Trump campaign. And, even after the release of the emails Tuesday, if there were any question about whether the meeting took place at Trump Tower on June 9, 2016, Goldstone confirmed it.

He checked in at the building on Facebook that day, with the caption: “Preparing for a meeting.”

Goldstone’s ties to the Trump empire start with his client Emin Agalarov, a Russian pop star whose father, Aras Agalarov, is a Moscow-based real estate developer who partnered with Trump in 2013 to bring the Miss Universe pageant to Russia. Aras Agalarov — sometimes referred to as the Donald Trump of Russia — was working with Trump to bring a Trump Tower to Russia, but the deal never panned out.

The President also appeared in one of Emin Agalarov’s music videos in 2013 that also featured Miss Universe contestants.

Trump Jr.’s emails revealed that Emin Agalarov asked Goldstone to contact the Trump campaign about “incriminating information” from the Russia government that would help then-candidate Trump.

A few months ago Goldstone posted a “throw back” photo of Trump and Emin Agalarov on Facebook.

A day after Trump was elected president, Goldstone reportedly posted a selfie on Instagram wearing a Russia t-shirt. That Instagram account has since been made private, but his Facebook posts are still public.

Looking back over the past year of Facebook posts, Goldstone rarely goes a single day without updating his friends about his recent travels, latest meals, newest selfies and current political opinions.

But since he made news as the publicist at the center of a political firestorm on Sunday, his Facebook posts have halted. His most recent post was a photo of the sign at the front entrance to a bath house in Athens, Greece, on July 9.

A frequent traveler, Goldstone’s social media presence is mostly lighthearted, with Facebook posts often featuring photos of the food he’s eating at restaurants, friends he’s spending evenings out with and scenic shots of his travels.

One post shows him entering a money-blowing machine:

And one consistent theme is Goldstone’s apparent love of hats.

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The President took to Twitter again Wednesday morning to reassure the public that the White House is “functioning perfectly” and that he has “very little time” to keep up with the news on TV.

The top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee doesn’t buy it.

“There is no evidence, I think, that this White House is functioning normally,” Rep Adam Schiff (D-CA) said on MSNBC. “All the evidence is quite to the contrary in terms of the tremendous dysfunction in the administration. That is largely the President’s own making. In the national security and foreign policy area that I do so much work in, you constantly have conflicting signals sent out about what the policy of the United States is.”

Schiff pointed to President Donald Trump’s comments following his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin when he said the two world leaders didn’t discuss sanctions, and then “within 24 to 48 hours you have his own press secretary basically saying that is not true,” Schiff said. “You could come up with any number of examples of this, both in terms of foreign policy as well as domestic policy.”

He also said it may be the President’s most “comical” statement yet to suggest that he doesn’t have time for TV.

“It seems like he doesn’t have time for anything else, given the constant attacks he’s making against people who are TV hosts, some of the most pernicious attacks. So, really hard to take these most recent tweets and statements very seriously,” he said.

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A columnist and longtime defender of President Donald Trump’s innocence regarding Russia blasted Donald Trump Jr. on Tuesday, saying it’s not a good defense that the President’s son’s meeting with a Kremlin-linked lawyer promising dirt on Hillary Clinton wasn’t fruitful.

“I’d say it’s a hell of a defense to say your collusion was incompetent and that it didn’t work out,” Charles Krauthammer said, appearing on Fox News Tuesday. “The fact is, this is not just opposition research. This is not just somebody coming out of the woodwork in Indiana, where the story about the Clintons — this is a foreign power. Not just any foreign power. … This is our most serious foreign adversary, one could argue, in the world.”

He said the Trump team’s defense of there being no evidence of collusion with the Russians to influence the 2016 election was one that he supported for six months, until news broke that Trump Jr. met with a Russian lawyer to find out information that the Russian government wanted to give the family as a sign of support for the Trump campaign.

“There was nothing to show that the Trump administration was aware of or supporting the Russians interfering in our election and this just showed up today in black and white, released by Don Jr. himself,” he said. “This is not released in the anti-Trump media. So you see it in black and white. This is not to say that collusion is a crime. It never was. But it is to say that the denial of collusion is very weak right now because it looks as if, I don’t know if there’s any other explanation, Don Jr. was receptive to receiving the information.”

Krauthammer said that Trump Jr. claiming he didn’t get any useful information out of the meeting with a Russian lawyer is “not a very good defense.”

“If you get a call to go to a certain place in the middle of the night to pick up stolen goods and it turns out the stolen goods don’t show up, but the cops show up, I think you’re going to have a very weak story saying, ‘Well, I got swindled here,’” he said. “Look this is incompetence, they got swindled.”

“When you get information that the Russians want to dig dirt on your opponent and give it to you and support you in your election, you go to the FBI. You don’t go to the meeting,”Krauthammer said.

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The chairman of the House Oversight Committee is frustrated that Republicans have spent so much time defending President Donald Trump and his administration in light of Donald Trump Jr.’s emails, which seemingly confirm that the President’s campaign was willing to work with the Russian government to gain an electoral advantage.

Appearing on Fox News Tuesday evening, Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) said he was “troubled on three levels” after reading the chain of emails that Trump Jr. released, revealing what led to the meeting between the President’s son, his son-in-law Jared Kushner, then-campaign manager Paul Manafort and a Kremlin-linked lawyer. When asked what disturbed him most, Gowdy said words like “‘Russian government’s efforts to help the Trump campaign,’ ‘official documents.’”

“Those are the kind of words that for months and months, Republicans have been saying, ‘There is no evidence of collusion between Trump, the Trump campaign, or even hangers-on,’” he said. “And here we have this meeting that may amount to nothing, but here we are on a Tuesday on a week when we ought to be discussing infrastructure and tax reform, and we are still talking about Russia, and frankly (it) came up with some good reason because this email, we should have known about it before yesterday.”

He wouldn’t say whether the President’s son committed a crime and said he’d rather “let Bob Mueller sort out all the criminality” of the emails.

“That is not the job of Congress, it is not the job of the New York Times,” he said.

Gowdy said he was “troubled” from a legal level, a political level and a “medical” level, saying he’s worried about the health of people who worked for President Donald Trump’s campaign.

“The third, which is more of a medical issue, is the amnesia of people that are in the Trump orbit. Someone close to the President needs to get everyone connected with that campaign in a room and say, ‘From the time you saw ‘Dr. Zhivago’ until the moment you drank vodka with a guy named Boris, you list every single one of those, and we are going to turn them over to the special counsel,’” he said, referencing the 1965 movie. “Because, this drip, drip, drip, it is undermining the credibility of this administration.”

Along with his work as the chair of the Oversight Committee, Gowdy is also helping the House Intelligence Committee in its investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election and whether the Trump campaign assisted in that interference.

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The top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee said the method used to gauge whether the Trump campaign would be interested in help from the Russian government is consistent with Kremlin practices.

Speaking to reporters at the Capitol Tuesday afternoon, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) said the circumstances of the meeting between Donald Trump Jr., White House adviser Jared Kushner, then-campaign manager Paul Manafort and Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya was “very much consistent with Russian practices.”

“(It’s) essentially their operating procedures where they will use civilians, they’ll use often oligarchs, they’ll use others, they’ll look for relationships. Here I think the emails made quite clear that the Russian government was in possession of damaging information. They thought the way to get that to the campaign to test whether Donald Trump wanted this information was to go through people he had done business with, and this was in fact a formality the Russians use elsewhere,” he said.

“Who had they done business with? Well, they had done business with a gentleman that is known as the Russian Donald Trump, who had worked on the Miss Universe pageant, who had business discussions with the president over having a Trump Tower in Russia, so they go to this oligarch, they go to the son who knows the son of the now-President,” Schiff added. “They find out, yes, there is a deep interest in this, and then they dispatch this advocate for the Kremlin.”

He said it’s possible Veselnitskaya was chosen to meet with the Trump campaign because “she gives them some deniability, as opposed to someone who has a direct connection with the government. Now obviously this is something we need to determine, but it would be consistent with Russian tradecraft to do exactly this.”

He called the emails leading up to the meeting “very significant” and “deeply disturbing” and said that since there was “constantly evolving stories” from Trump Jr., Congress “cannot rely on any public representations that are made by the family about their contacts with the Russians.”

“We have now seen a very demonstrable pattern of obfuscation and dissembling about these meetings. … It is absolutely not only a breach of norms but a breach of civic responsibility to the country. If you get approached by foreign government offering to interfere in a presidential election, you go to the FBI. You report it. That’s what a decent citizen would do,” he said.

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Following news that Donald Trump Jr., White House adviser Jared Kushner and then-campaign manager Paul Manafort took a meeting with a Kremlin-linked lawyer knowing it would be part of the Russian government’s efforts to support President Donald Trump’s campaign, the White House won’t say whether the President’s son-in-law still has security clearance.

When asked about Kushner’s clearance at an off-camera White House press briefing Tuesday, deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders repeatedly dodged questions about the meeting and said the White House has “never discussed the security clearance” of a staff member.

The meeting between Kushner, Trump Jr., Manafort and the Russian lawyer came to light after Kushner filed a revised version of a form required for his security clearance, which followed previous reports that the President’s son-in-law failed to disclose his contacts with foreign officials, like with the Russian ambassador to the U.S.

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After Donald Trump Jr. tweeted the email exchange that led to his meeting with a Kremlin-linked lawyer, Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) said Republicans have always known Russia is “a bad actor.” She wants to know whether Trump Jr. was tricked into taking the meeting.

“It has taken the Democrats 50 years to admit Russia is a bad actor. … We know that Russia always is trying to influence activity in the United States and they are not a good actor. They are not our friend,” she said in an interview on Fox News. She added she’d like to know more about the Clinton Foundation’s links to Russia and former President Barack Obama’s conversations with the country.

“Let’s look at all of it holistically and let’s get to the bottom of what transpired with this and find out if Don Jr., if there was something that was a wrongdoing or if he was duped into taking a meeting on another issue,” she said, following the narrative perpetuated by some Republicans that the Trump family doesn’t know when they’re making mistakes because they aren’t politicians.

She also railed against the media for focusing its coverage on the “shiny object of the day” rather than what Congress and the administration is doing to create jobs and provide health care. 

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Vice President Mike Pence is putting careful distance between himself and revelations of a meeting between Donald Trump Jr. and a Kremlin-linked lawyer in June 2016, which took place just a little more than a month before he joined President Donald Trump’s campaign. Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort — Trump’s campaign manager at the time — also sat in on the meeting.

“The Vice President is working every day to advance the President’s agenda, which is what the American people sent us here to do. The Vice President was not aware of the meeting. He is not focused on stories about the campaign, particularly stories about the time before he joined the ticket,” Pence’s press secretary Marc Lotter said in an email to TPM.

The usually vocal-on-Twitter President has also been closed-lipped about news that his son met with a Russian lawyer under the premise that he would receive incriminating information about Hillary Clinton’s that would help Trump’s campaign. He hasn’t tweeted anything about the meeting since it was revealed over the weekend.

On Tuesday morning Trump Jr. released the emails between himself and family friend Rob Goldstone that led to the meeting, which confirm that the President’s son took the meeting to get information about Clinton and that the Russian government wanted to help the Trump campaign.   

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An independent journalist, who said he spent a year chasing the story about Donald Trump Jr. meeting with a Kremlin-linked lawyer to get information that would help his father’s campaign, launched a tweet-storm after Trump Jr. released the email chain that lead up to the Russia meeting.

Jared Yates Sexton, who has been published in the New York Times, Politico and The New Republic, called the story the “dumbest and biggest crime in the history of American politics” and said Trump Jr. “just released the smoking gun.”

He lamented the fact that he had spent a full year chasing the story and the President’s son “just hit tweet.”

Trump Jr.’s tweets came moments before the New York Times published a piece outlining the contents of the emails, which confirm that the President’s son took the meeting in order to get information about Hillary Clinton’s dealings with Russia that would help his father’s campaign.

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