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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

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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The spokesperson for Virginia Republican Senate candidate Corey Stewart, who has twice called for an investigation into his Democratic opponent and who doesn’t have the support of even the most conservative fundraising group, has taken a racist page from President Trump’s book by labeling majority-black communities “shitholes.”

The Daily Beast reported Sunday that Stewart spokesperson Rick Shaftan has expressed racist views on Twitter in the past, largely in reaction to protests over the killings of African-American men by police.

In the protests that erupted after Ferguson, he tweeted about “crazed black people” looting liquor stores and suggested that it would be foolish to start a business in a “black neighborhood.” He tweeted similar sentiments after a black man was killed by police in Baltimore and he called Memphis, New Orleans and Baltimore, all majority-African American cities, “shitholes.”

Stewart himself is a neo-Confederate apologist and the National Republican Senatorial Committee has not endorsed him.

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CBS Corporation’s leadership discussed this weekend whether the company’s C.E.O Leslie Moonves should step aside pending an ongoing investigation into allegations against Moonves and the company’s handling of harassment complaints, The Wall Street Journal reported Monday.

According to three people familiar with the matter who spoke to WSJ, the CBS board plans to select a committee on Monday to supervise the probe. CBS announced the investigation on Friday afternoon, just before the New Yorker published an article outlining the allegations of six women who worked with Moonves between the 1980s and late 2000s, who claimed he sexually harassed them.

The allegations involve several instances of unwanted physical contact and kissing. Moonves told the New Yorker that he regretted making any women uncomfortable, but said he did not retaliate professionally against anyone for rejecting his advances.

The probe — which will be conducted by an outside law firm — will look into the allegations against the C.E.O. and CBS’ workplace culture as a whole, according to WSJ’s sources.

Read the WSJ’s full story here. 

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Following his swear-in on Monday, new Veteran’s Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie intends to reassign several high-level staffers who were appointed by President Donald Trump and have been at the heart of ongoing morale issues within the VA, The Washington Post reported.

According to three people familiar with the matter who spoke to the Post, Wilkie told Trump about his plans to shake things up this week in an effort un-politicize the agency that’s been historically viewed as nonpartisan. Wilkie reportedly told Trump about the proposed staffing changes while the two were aboard Air Force One en route to a veterans event in Kansas City, Missouri.

The agency has been leaderless since Trump fired former secretary David Shulkin, an Obama appointee, over ethical issues that Shulkin believes were politicized by Trump-appointees within the agency. Shulkin particularly clashed with Peter O’Rourke, a former Trump campaign worker who was appointed as his second-in-command.

Wilkie reportedly plans to reassign O’Rourke — who has been serving as acting secretary — to a less prominent role within the agency

Read WaPo’s full report here.

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As John Kelly quietly tucks a year of service as President Trump’s chief of staff under his belt, Trump’s friends and outside advisers suggest Kelly has no actual power over Trump, who reportedly wishes he didn’t have to deal with a head staffer, Politico reported.

Kelly’s increasingly waning influence in the West Wing is perhaps best illustrated in Trump’s penchant for scheduling meetings for himself on a whim. As one former White House official told Politico, Trump regularly makes appointments for the day based on what “Fox and Friends” decides to cover that morning.

“He comes down for the day, and whatever he saw on ‘Fox and Friends,’ he schedules meetings based on that,” a former White House official told Politico. “If it’s Iran, it’s ‘Get John Bolton down here!’ … If he’s seen something on TV or [was] talking to Hannity the night before, he’s got lots of flexibility to do whatever he wants to do.”

Trump reportedly makes his own schedule in a black appointment book and keeps track of the meetings he schedules on the fly with the help of his personal aide Madeline Westerhout, who then reports Trump’s appointments to Kelly’s office.

Kelly — whom a Republican close to the White House called a “chief of staff in name only” — is reportedly aware of how useless his efforts to maintain order have become. He regularly jokes with staff that he is “leaving and I’m not coming back” and has swapped early morning work hours for workout sessions at the gym.

Read Politico’s full report here. 

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