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

President Donald Trump and President Vladimir Putin had a “very robust and lengthy exchange” on the subject of Russia interfering with the 2016 election, but eventually agreed the two countries should figure out a way to “move forward” from the issue, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told reporters after the leaders’ first in-person meeting.

The President pressed President Putin on more than one occasion regarding Russian involvement. President Putin denied such involvement. As I think he has in the past,” Tillerson said. “The two leaders agreed, though, that this is a substantial hindrance on the ability of us to move Russian-U.S. relationships forward and agreed to exchange further work regarding commitments of non-interference, in the affairs of the United States and our democratic process as well as those of other countries. So more work to be done in that regard.”

The President apparently brought up the sanctions on Russia that have been discussed in Congress in recent weeks, but “focused” on talking about how to move on from the scandal, according to Tillerson, who sat in on the meeting.

“It’s not clear to me that we will ever come to some agreed upon resolution of that question between the two nations. So the question is, what do we do now? And I think the relationship, and the President made this clear as well, it’s too important. And it’s too important to not find a way to move forward. Not dismissing the issue in any way, and I don’t want to leave you with that impression,” Tillerson said.

He said the two Presidents agreed to continue discussing how to secure a commitment that the Russian government won’t interfere in U.S. affairs both now and in the future.

“(They discussed) how do we create a framework in which we have some capability to judge what is happening in the cyber world and who to hold accountable, and this is obviously an issue that’s broader than just U.S.-Russia, but it certainly, we see the manifestation of that threat in the events of last year so I think, again, the President’s rightly focused on how do we move forward from what may be simply an intractable disagreement at this point,” Tillerson said.

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During the Vice President’s visit to the NASA Kennedy Space Center Thursday, where he advocated for getting “American boots” on Mars, Vice President Mike Pence was photographed touching space equipment clearly labeled “Do Not Touch.”

The photo was captured while the vice president and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) were touring the Operations and Checkout Building at the space center by Director Robert Cabana. The equipment was some type of “critical space flight hardware,” according to sign posted on the apparatus.

The internet responded accordingly.

Taking to Twitter on Friday, the Vice President laughed it off, saying Rubio “dared me to do it!” and posting a photoshopped picture of himself petting a porcupine instead of the space equipment.

Memes aside, a NASA spokesperson said the signs just function as a “reminder” and that it was “absolutely okay” for Pence to touch the surface of the equipment.

“The signs are there as a day-to-day reminder, including the one visible on the titanium Forward Bay Cover for the Orion spacecraft,” NASA spokesperson Jen Rae Wang said in an email to TPM. “Procedures require the hardware to be cleaned before tiles are bonded to the spacecraft, so touching the surface is absolutely okay. Otherwise, the hardware would have had a protective cover over it like the thermal heat shield, which was nearby.”

The vice president visited the space center to discuss President Donald Trump’s plans for space exploration, which he said would include a return to the moon and “American boots on the face of Mars.”

“Extending our nation’s leadership in space is one of the greatest challenges of our day. And just as we have risen to the challenges that came before, so too we will rise to meet the new challenges that lie ahead,” he said. “That’s why just last Friday, President Donald Trump signed an executive order to relaunch the National Space Council and guide a new era of space leadership by the United States of America.”

h/t Mashable.

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Speaking to the press amid their first in-person meeting Friday, President Donald Trump said the conversation with Russia President Vladimir Putin is “going really well.”

“We’ve had some good talks. We’re going to talk now and obviously that will continue, but we look forward to a lot of positive things happening for Russia, for the United States and for everyone concerned. It’s an honor to be with you,” Trump said, turning to Putin for a handshake. The pair were seated in white chairs, accompanied by translators, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Russia Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov.

Putin acknowledged the two had spoken on the phone several times “on very important bilateral and international issues.”

“But phone conversations are never enough definitely,” Putin said. “If you want to have a positive outcome in bilaterals and be able to resolve most international policy issues that will really need personal meetings.”

“I’m delighted to meet you in person and hope, as you said, our meeting will yield positive results,” Putin added, wrapping up the two Presidents’ comments to the press.

Correction: This post originally quoted Putin as saying “one conversation is never enough” with Trump. The Russia president said “phone conversations are never enough.”

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Every U.S. president since Jimmy Carter has visited the Warsaw Ghetto Memorial during visits to the Polish city, but not President Donald Trump, who was in Warsaw this week on his way to the G-20 summit in Germany, according to The Washington Post.

Leaders of the Jewish Community of Warsaw released a statement criticizing Trump’s decision to skip the visit to the memorial, calling the move to “break with that laudable tradition” a “slight.”

Ever since the fall of Communism in 1989, all US presidents and vice-presidents visiting Warsaw had made a point of visiting the Monument to the Heroes of the Warsaw Ghetto. They did this in the name of the American people, who had played such a central role in bringing down Fascism, and in that of the universal commemoration of the victims of the Shoah, and condemnation of its perpetrators, that people of all nationalities and religions express. For the Jews of Poland, rebuilding in a democratic Poland their communal life, after the horror of the Shoah and the devastation of Communism, this gesture meant recognition, solidarity and hope. We deeply regret that President Donald Trump, though speaking in public barely a mile away from the Monument, chose to break with that laudable tradition. We trust that this slight does not reflect the attitudes and feelings of the American people.”

The statement was signed by the organization’s president Anna Chipczynska, President of the Union of the Jewish Communities in Poland, Lesław Piszewski and Michael Schudrich, the chief rabbi of Poland.

While the President didn’t stop by the Warsaw Ghetto, his daughter Ivanka Trump, who is Jewish, paid a visit and posted about the “moving” experience on Twitter.

The memorial is the site of the former ghetto where Jews were trapped by Nazis starting in 1940 awaiting transportation to concentration camps. It was dedicated in 1948 to the 13,000 Jews who died in the 1943 uprising there.

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A middle-aged Bronx man, armed with throwing knives and a bullet proof vest, was arrested outside of Trump Tower in New York after claiming he went there to try to find first daughter Ivanka Trump.

Police said the man, Adames Benitez, was stopped outside the building in Manhattan Thursday evening. Benitez claimed he was a U.S. senator, that he owned the building and that he was trying to reach the first lady, according to a report from New York Daily News.

In addition to the knives and the vest, he had a fake ID and a weighted sock on him. Police said Benitez was emotionally disturbed and he was brought to a hospital for treatment.

He was charged for the fake ID and for criminal possession of a weapon. Trump was not at her apartment at the time of the incident, as she is currently in Hamburg, Germany at the G20 Summit.

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There will likely only be a half-dozen people in the room when President Donald Trump and President Vladimir Putin meet for the first time Friday, according to Axios and NBC News.

An official familiar with the meeting told Axios that Trump, Putin, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and translators will be the only people present.

The meeting will take place at 3:45 p.m. local time (9:45 a.m. EST), according to a schedule from the White House. The meeting comes as Trump faces mounting pressure to seek sanctions against Russia for interfering in the 2016 presidential election.

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The South Carolina Election Commission will not be sharing any voter data the White House’s bogus “election integrity” commission, citing state laws that prohibits sharing that type of information with any agency outside the state, according to a statement from the spokesperson for the agency, Chris Whitmire.

The S.C. State Election Commission (SEC), in considering the request for voter data made by the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity (PACEI), has carefully reviewed applicable state law and has consulted with the South Carolina Attorney General’s office.  The SEC has determined that release of voter data to anyone who is not a registered South Carolina voter is not permitted by state law. The agency may only provide voter data to registered South Carolina voters. This rule is not specific to the PACEI request and applies to any request for voter data from any individual or organization from outside the state.”

Whitmire said some of the information requested by the President’s election integrity panel is either not collected by the state’s election commission or is never released.

At no time does the SEC release Social Security Numbers, in whole or in part, to anyone, whether a voter or not. The SEC has no data on a voter’s party affiliation, as South Carolina does not have registration by party. At no time does the SEC have any information about how people vote, only information about which elections a voter has participated in,” the statement said. 

The President’s election integrity panel asked all 50 states to share voter data information with the commission, from voter’s addresses and party affiliations to the last four digits of social security numbers. At least 44 states have responded saying they either won’t provide any of the requested data or just a portion of it. Most states have cited privacy concerns as reason for their refusal.

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R), who is the vice chair of the panel, released a statement Wednesday combatting media reports that 44 states have refused the request. He said only 14 states had outright refused to share the voter data.

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Following in his father’s footsteps, first son Eric Trump blasted the media on Thursday morning, saying the press focuses all of its coverage on “nonsense” and “garbage.”

Appearing on “Fox and Friends,” Trump claimed that markets and job growth are at an “all time high,” yet the media is focused on covering whether the President colluded with Russia to meddle in the 2016 election.

“If you look at the amount of coverage that has been directed to that story and all that nonsense and garbage versus the amount of coverage directed to the fact that the Dow is at an all-time high, that the S&P 500 is at a all-time high, that the Russell 2,000 is at an all time high,” he said. ”I mean, we’re thriving as a nation. Everybody wants to get focused on nonsense. On garbage. On distractions.”

He went on to say his family feels personally betrayed by some members of the media who used to be family friends, and are now spewing “visceral hatred.” He specifically called out CNN host Anderson Cooper for “rolling his eyes” at top White House aide Kellyanne Conway.

“I mean, there are people that I know who know we are good people, quality people, you know, nice people, honest people, sincere, whatever other words you can put to it. You had a relationship with them, you were friends with them. That’s not that they shouldn’t ask tough questions. That’s the job. And then you look at the visceral hatred and it’s visceral, you look at their approach, you look at the negativity to everything,” he said.

He said he blames the negative narrative in the news about his father on “some boss at one of these networks” who is telling the reporters to “spew a line of garbage.”

“And, listen, it’s hurtful in a certain way, but you know what I’ll say about my father, he is an incredible fighter, and he will never stop fighting,” he said.

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A majority of Americans — about 54 percent — think President Donald Trump did something either illegal or unethical when it comes to Russia’s involvement in the U.S. election, a recent NPR survey found.

Of those who believe the President was involved in some type of wrongdoing with Russia, about a quarter think Trump did something illegal, and 29 percent think his actions were probably unethical, but didn’t break the law.

Thirty-six percent of those surveyed think the President didn’t do anything wrong, according to the poll, which was conducted by NPR, PBS NewsHour and Marist poll.

Nearly three-quarters of Republicans think Trump did not do anything wrong regarding Russia — 73 percent — with 15 percent indicating they think he did something unethical, but not illegal. Just 4 percent of the Republicans surveyed think Trump was involved in illegal activities with Russia.

Democrats’ views are the polar opposite, with 41 percent saying they think the President did something illegal and 39 percent saying his actions will probably prove to be unethical. Thirteen percent of Democrats think he hasn’t done anything wrong.

Despite the split along party lines, the majority of Americans, nearly 60 percent of the 1,205 adults surveyed from June 21 to June 25, think Trump’s campaign personnel did something wrong regarding Russia.

The poll comes after Trump addressed questions about Russia’s involvement in the U.S. election while in Poland Thursday, saying “nobody really knows” what happened with Russia and placed the blame for any Russian meddling on former President Barack Obama’s administration.

The survey had a 2.8-percentage-point margin of error.

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During a press conference in Poland with President Andrzej Duda Thursday, President Donald Trump jumped at another opportunity to slam the U.S. media, specifically CNN, saying the news outlet took a video Trump tweeted over the weekend “too seriously.”

The video, which the President tweeted Sunday with the hashtags “#FraudNewsCNN” and “#FNN,” features Trump tackling someone with a CNN logo superimposed on their face at a wrestling meet. Critics have said the social media post encourages violence against journalist.

CNN wrote a story about the Reddit user who originally created the video, but did not reveal the person’s identity. The network has faced criticism for how it handled the article, with many accusing CNN of blackmailing the Reddit user.

Trump told reporters in Poland Thursday that the outlet has been “fake news for a long time.”

“I think what CNN did was unfortunate for them, as you know now, they have some very serious problems. They’ve been fake news for a long time, they’ve been covering me in a very dishonest way,” he said. “But CNN and others, NBC equally is bad, despite the fact that I made them a fortune with ‘The Apprentice,’ but they forgot that. But CNN has really taken (the video) too seriously and I think they’ve hurt themselves very badly, very very badly.”

He went on to say that not all U.S. media are “fake news,” but that America needs a more fair press.

“What we want to see in the United States is honest, beautiful, free, but honest press, we want to see fair press. I think that’s a very important thing,” he said. “But we don’t want fake news, bad thing. Very bad for our country.”

While Trump has always been critical of the press, in the past week his rampage against the media has escalated, tweeting attacks against CNN and the hosts of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” show. 

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