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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

The White House defended President Donald Trump’s cryptic assertion that an I.D. is necessary for purchasing groceries, telling reporters Wednesday that Trump was talking about buying alcohol.

“If you go to a grocery store and you buy beer and wine, certainly you’re going to have to show your ID,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said when asked about Trump’s comments from the night before at a rally in Florida. She said he wasn’t talking about himself when he made the comment because Trump doesn’t drink alcohol.

I’m pretty sure everybody in here who has been to a grocery store that’s purchased beer or wine has probably had to show their I.D. If they didn’t, then that’s probably a problem with the grocery store,” she said.

Trump has been criticized for being out of touch since he made the comments on Tuesday night. A reporter even opened the line of questioning by asking “When was the last time the President went to a grocery store?”

Trump defended his push for voter identification policy to prevent voter fraud by claiming on Tuesday that people need a photo I.D. to buy groceries.

“If you go out and you want to buy groceries, you need a picture on a card, you need ID,” he said Tuesday. “You go out and you want to buy anything, you need ID and you need your picture.”

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Late update: Sauer announced his resignation Wednesday afternoon.

An Illinois state lawmaker is expected to resign after allegations surfaced that he posted his ex-girlfriend’s nude photos to a fake Instagram account to trick men into having sexually graphic conversations with him, according to several reports.

Illinois House Republican Leader Jim Durkin issued a statement on Wednesday, calling the accusations “troubling” and saying the lawmaker in question, Rep. Nick Sauer (R), would be resigning.

Politico was first to report on Wednesday that Sauer’s ex-girlfriend, Kate Kelly, had filed a complaint with the Office of the Legislative Inspector General, accusing Sauer of using nude images she had sent the lawmaker when they were dating to “catfish other men.”

“Nick would use this account to direct message men with my photos to engage in graphic conversations of a sexual nature,” she said in the complaint, according to Politico. “The men believed they were communicating with me and Nick shared private details of my life.”

Kelly said she and Sauer, who was running for reelection and is a member of the state House Sexual Discrimination and Harassment Task Force, started a long-distance relationship in 2016 and she moved to Chicago from California in June 2017 to continue the relationship. The two broke up in March after she found out he had been dating other women, according to Politico. In July, Kelly said she found the Instagram account after a man contacted her on her personal Instagram to inform her he had been communicating with someone pretending to be Kelly for four months. Sauer reportedly confessed to Kelly that he had been using her photos to run the fake account for two years to “catfish” at least eight men.  

Kelly has filed a report with the Chicago Police Department. Sauer has not been charged with any crimes, according to Politico.

Sauer did not immediately return TPM’s request for comment.

Read Politico’s full report here.

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White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders is scheduled to deliver an on camera press briefing at 1:00 p.m. ET Wednesday. Watch live below:

President Donald Trump took some swings at a favorite punching bag again on Wednesday: beleaguered Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Claiming special counsel Robert Mueller is “conflicted” and the investigators working for him are a “disgrace to USA!” Trump not-so-subtlety told Sessions to end the Russia probe “right now.”

It appears to be the first time that Trump has directly told his Department of Justice to end the Russia investigation.

While Trump used to regularly lash out at his attorney general for recusing himself from the Russia investigation, which led to the appointment of Mueller, the President has left Sessions alone for months.   

With the trial for his former campaign manager Paul Manafort — who is facing multiple charges, including tax fraud and failure to register as a foreign agent — underway, Trump can’t get the “witch hunt” off his mind. He’s tweeted about the probe into his campaign and Russian interference in the 2016 election nearly daily for weeks.

Moments before the Sessions tweet, Trump posted a quote from Harvard law professor, and Trump defender, Alan Dershowitz, claiming that FBI agent Peter Strzok should have recused himself from the Mueller probe because he sent anti-Trump texts to his girlfriend. Dershowitz also claimed that Mueller was “going to protect these guys,” despite the fact that Mueller removed Strzok from the probe after he discovered the text messages.

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Republican Senators met privately on Monday to quietly contemplate how to respond to the feud that’s emerged between the mega donor Koch network and President Donald Trump, The Washington Post reported Tuesday.

According to Republicans familiar with the discussions who spoke to the Post, Sens. John Cornyn (R-TX), Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and other GOP lawmakers discussed the Koch network’s recent gathering, in which officials criticized Trump’s trade policy and divisiveness, and told attendees that it would support candidates based on values and not political affiliation. Cornyn, who reportedly attended the conference, told those gathered that he was confronted with widespread exasperation with Trump and his policies at the event. In the private meeting, some lawmakers also expressed confusion over the Koch network’s new approach.

“These guys want to change the direction of the country. They don’t understand how hard that is,” McConnell reportedly said.

In response to the Koch officials’ criticism — which was not outright surprising, given the network pointedly did not endorse Trump in 2016 — Trump tore the group of “globalist” donors apart on Twitter Tuesday and suggested  that he had made them “richer.”

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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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