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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

Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh has privately informed senators that he believes the appointment of a special counsel by the Justice Department is appropriate, CNN reported.

But, according to sources familiar with the matter who spoke to CNN, he has held onto his questioning of whether a sitting President can be indicted and has indicated that it’s up to Congress to impeach a president. Kavanaugh reportedly has been careful to not weigh in on the constitutionality of special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe nor share his views on a presidential subpoena.

After conversations with the nominee, Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) told CNN that he is not concerned that Kavanaugh is doubtful about the legality of Mueller’s probe.

Read CNN’s full report here.

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Special counsel Robert Mueller has forwarded potential cases about the Podesta Group and other high profile lobbyists and operatives to federal prosecutors in New York, CNN reported.

According to people familiar with the matter who spoke to CNN, the inquiries concern whether the lobbyists failed to register as foreign agents with the Justice Department when doing work on behalf of groups affiliated with Ukraine. The operatives in question, who have not been charged with any crimes: Democratic lobbyist Tony Podesta, former Minnesota GOP Rep. Vin Weber’s work for Mercury Public Affairs and former Obama White House counsel Greg Craig. According to CNN’s sources, there is not yet any indication that any of the men will be criminally charged.

Mueller took a similar approach with the investigation into President Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen, handing over the probe into his financial dealings to the Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York this spring.

Read CNN’s full report here.

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Fully embracing his lawyer’s defense that collusion is “not a crime,” President Donald Trump tweeted on Tuesday morning that it doesn’t even matter that collusion “is not a crime” because there was none.

While Trump has said that collusion isn’t a crime in the past, it’s notable that he is seizing on his lawyer Rudy Giuliani’s talking points, especially given how muddied Giuliani’s message on the topic has been the past two days.

Trump’s legal team is publicly denying the illegality of collusion around the same time as it negotiates with special counsel Robert Mueller about a potential presidential interview. Trump’s lawyers reportedly have told Mueller’s team Trump would be willing to testify if they kept their questions limited to the collusion case, and not touching issues associated with obstruction of justice.

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President Trump claimed on Twitter Tuesday that he had spoken with the National Rifle Association about 3-D printed guns and asserted that publishing instructions for making the weapons “doesn’t seem to make much sense!”

The tweet came just an hour after “Fox and Friends” ran a story on the attorneys general of eight states and the District of Columbia who filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration to keep blueprints for 3-D printed guns offline.

After reaching a settlement with the federal government in June, a Texas-based company plans to publish the instructions for 3-D printing weapons starting Aug. 1. The company, Defense Distributed, settled with the federal government after fighting the Obama administration in court for five years. The Obama administration argued that publishing the instructions for printing the weapons was a violation of firearm export laws, while Defense Distributed claimed the State Department was violating its First and Second Amendment rights.

Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed the lawsuit against the Trump administration in federal court in Seattle Monday and is asking the court for a temporary restraining order to keep the blueprints from going live on Wednesday.

“I have a question for the Trump Administration: Why are you allowing dangerous criminals easy access to weapons?” Ferguson said in a statement. “These downloadable guns are unregistered and very difficult to detect, even with metal detectors, and will be available to anyone regardless of age, mental health or criminal history. If the Trump Administration won’t keep us safe, we will.”  

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Treasury Department Secretary Steven Mnuchin said his department is currently reviewing whether it can give out a $100 billion tax cut to the wealthy without congressional approval, according to The New York Times.  

The Treasury Department is looking at adjusting capital gains taxes — primarily paid by the uber wealthy — to account for inflation, Mnuchin told the Times. The measure was not included in the $1.5 trillion tax cut Congress passed and Trump signed into law last year. This tax cut would benefit the top 10 percent of earners in the U.S., according to the Times.

Mnuchin said he had not yet determined if his department had the jurisdiction to act without Congress.

“If it can’t get done through a legislation process, we will look at what tools at Treasury we have to do it on our own and we’ll consider that,” Mnuchin told the Times. “We are studying that internally, and we are also studying the economic costs and the impact on growth.”

Read the Times’ full piece here.

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While President Donald Trump proclaimed on Twitter in recent weeks that North Korea is “no longer a Nuclear Threat,” the regime continues to construct new missiles, according to U.S. intelligence officials who spoke with the Washington Post.

U.S. spy agencies have recently seen satellite photo evidence that North Korea is building at least two intercontinental ballistic missiles at the factory where it created its first missile that it said could reach the United States. The officials who spoke to the Post said the evidence doesn’t show that North Korea is growing its nuclear potential, but that it is still working on constructing modern weapons.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Congress last week that the regime also continues to secretly produced the material used in making nuclear weapons.

While North Korean leader Kim Jong-un did follow through with one agreement he made with Trump — to return the remains of U.S. soldiers who were killed in the Korean War — the secret construction of additional weapons is just the latest indication that Trump may have determined his success in denuclearizing North Korea too soon.

Kim signed an agreement to work toward denuclearization during a summit with Trump last month, and Trump spent the wake of the meeting praising the brutal regime leader’s character and intelligence. It is unclear whether Kim will follow through on any of those promises as the country’s officials have discussed plans to deceive Washington about their unclear arsenal, according to the Post.

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President Donald Trump lashed out at the “globalist” Koch Network on Twitter Tuesday, just days after a Koch official criticized Trump’s leadership skills and “divisive” rhetoric at a network gathering over the weekend.

He called the mega donor network “a total joke” in “real Republican circles” and “highly overrated,” while suggesting he personally made the Koch brothers “richer.”

Over the weekend, Koch network co-chair Brian Hooks cited Trump’s “tremendous lack of leadership” as contributing to the “deterioration of the core institutions of society” and said the “divisiveness of this White House is causing long-term damage.”

Several other officials at the gathering spoke out against Trump’s escalation of trade tensions with U.S. allies and Congress’ complacency in increasing federal spending.

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After some vacillating on whether he would support President Donald Trump’s nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, in true Rand Paul (R-KY) form, the senator announced Monday that he would support the conservative judge’s nomination.

In a tweet on Monday, Paul said he felt comfortable supporting Kavanaugh after meeting with him in person. He said he was still concerned about the judge’s record on issues like warrantless data collection, but felt that Kavanaugh would adhere to the Constitution.

Paul, who said last week that he was “honestly undecided” on Kavanaugh, is well known for waffling on key conservative issues and gaining media attention for his wavering, only to predictably vote along party lines, like he did most recently in the confirmation of Mike Pompeo as secretary of state.

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Officials with the Libertarian-leaning network of donors tied to billionaire Charles Koch decried President Donald Trump for his “divisive” rhetoric at a gathering over the weekend, The Washington Post reported. 

Koch network co-chair Brian Hooks cited Trump’s “tremendous lack of leadership” as contributing to the “deterioration of the core institutions of society” and said the “divisiveness of this White House is causing long-term damage.”

Hooks specifically called out Trump and his allies in Congress who have been supportive of Trump’s trade policy and uptick in federal spending. Charles Koch himself was careful to not call out the President personally, but rather suggested that partisan politics has caused a divide in the U.S. “long before Trump.”

“We’ve had divisiveness long before Trump became president and we’ll have it long after he’s no longer president,” he said. “I’m into hating the sin, not the sinner. … I don’t care what initials are in front, or after, somebody’s name. . . . I’d like there to be many more politicians who would embrace and have the courage to run on a platform like this.”

Known for its support of Republicans, the group announced it would spend as much as $400 million this year on policy and the political campaigns of Republicans running to hold the Senate.

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