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July 12, 2018

Last September, Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh gave a speech about late Chief Justice William Rehnquist at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, and he had a lot of nice things to say about Rehnquist's opposition to Roe v. Wade, rejection of "a wall of separation between church and state," and push to weaken the rights of suspects against police, the Los Angeles Times reports. The speech is illuminating because Kavanaugh is "not writing as a judge," said Drexel University law professor David S. Cohen. "This is him telling us his own views. And while he doesn't come out and say 'the dissent is right,' it is pretty clear he agrees with Rehnquist" that Roe was a mistake.

Kavanaugh called Rehnquist his "first judicial hero," and explained why he believed the justice's dissent in the 7-2 Roe decision was correct. "It is fair to say that Justice Rehnquist was not successful in convincing a majority of justices in the context of abortion, either in Roe itself or in later cases such as Casey," Kavanaugh said. "But he was successful in stemming the general tide of free-wheeling judicial creation of unenumerated rights that were not rooted in the nation's history and tradition." Kavanaugh said Rehnquist also moved the ball on dismantling the "wall" between church and state — a bad metaphor "based on bad history" — and weakened but did not end the "exclusionary rule" that prohibits police from using illegally obtained evidence.

"All three of areas of law — abortion, religion, and police searches — are likely to be in flux if Kavanaugh is confirmed and joins the high court this fall," the Times notes. And although Kavanaugh did not mention it, Justice Anthony Kennedy — whom Kavanaugh would replace — cast the deciding vote against Rehnquist's efforts to overturn Roe in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, allow prayer at public school events, and gut the "exclusionary rule." Read more at the Los Angeles Times. Peter Weber

9:40p.m.

After holding the lead for a week, Rep. Mimi Walters (R-Calif.) is now trailing her Democratic challenger in Southern California's 45th congressional district, Democratic law professor Katie Porter, by 261 votes.

Orange County released its latest ballot count on Tuesday evening. Walters was ahead of Porter by three percent on Election Day last Tuesday, but by Monday, her lead had dropped to 1,000. The Los Angeles Times says that typically in California, the last ballots counted are provisional or mailed late, and those usually favor Democrats.

In races that have been called, Democrats won three of 14 seats held by Republicans in California. Catherine Garcia

9:00p.m.

If Jennifer Senior could go back to the summer of 2017, she would have written a very different review of the book Conscience of a Conservative.

Senior, now a New York Times opinion columnist, was a book critic when Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) released his tome. In the Times on Tuesday, Senior writes that she gave the book a "mostly kind review," but now, she's "seriously reconsidering" it. Flake has "always been a class act," Senior said, and she applauded him for being the first Republican senator to "call President Trump the domestic and international menace that he is." But while Flake loudly asserted that he was standing up to Trump, he still went along and voted with the president 84 percent of the time. "Jeff Flake's book couldn't even convince Jeff Flake," Senior said.

Flake may have said he really, truly believed Trump posed a threat to democracy, but his voting record paints a different picture. Flake had ample opportunities to "align himself with the opposition," like the late Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who voted against repealing the Affordable Care Act. Instead, he said he had misgivings about Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, yet still voted to confirm him. Trump is now the face of the Republican Party, Senior said, which is "heavy with nativists, populists, protectionists, assorted supremacists." Flake has urgently called for a return to the party's roots, but that has had "zero effect," and instead of his book being a critique of Trump, it "was a tragedy." Catherine Garcia

7:42p.m.

President Trump spent much of his Monday meeting with his legal team, going over questions from Special Counsel Robert Mueller and writing out responses, people close to Trump told ABC News Tuesday.

Mueller is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russian officials, and his questions for Trump center around Russian meddling, ABC News reports. Trump and his lawyers were expected to work on his responses during a Tuesday meeting as well.

So far, 32 people have been indicted by Mueller, with six pleading guilty — including Trump's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn — and three sentenced to prison. Catherine Garcia

6:51p.m.

On Tuesday, Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson's campaign filed a federal lawsuit to extend the statewide recount of last week's Senate race.

Nelson ran against Florida's current governor, Republican Rick Scott. Scott has a slight lead over Nelson, ahead by just .14 percent. By Florida law, when the top two candidates are within half a percentage point, counties must conduct a machine recount. That's been the case this month in the governor, U.S. Senate, and agriculture commissioner races.

The deadline for the recount is 3 p.m ET Thursday, which the Palm Beach County elections supervisor has said will be "impossible to meet," USA Today reports. Nelson's campaign said the lawsuit "seeks to allow all local elections officials in the 67 Florida counties the time they say is needed to finish a legally mandated and accurate recount because the race was so close." Catherine Garcia

5:06p.m.

When the House's newest members are sworn in this January, they'll join what will become the most diverse Congress in U.S. history. But most of that diversity, it seems, is coming from one side of the aisle.

With a wave of women and people of color winning their races last week, Democrats will have a majority in the 116th Congress, which is more than 60 percent "women, minorities and LGBTQ representatives," reports The Associated Press. Republicans' new House coalition, meanwhile, is nearly entirely white. A set of headshots shared by The Washington Post's Erica Werner makes that contrast very obvious.

Despite the increasingly diverse ranks, the majority of incoming House Democrats — 131 of the 228 decided seats, or 57 percent — are white, per USA Today. And of the 198 incoming Republicans, 191 are white, 96 percent.

Top House aides are actually less racially diverse than the legislators they work for, The New York Times reported. Just 13.7 percent of House staffers are people of color, a fact that likely prompted House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to launch a House diversity office on Thursday. It'll "help recruit and retain diverse employees to work in Congress," a Pelosi aide tells AP, and could be voted on as soon as the next Congress takes its seats. Kathryn Krawczyk

4:20p.m.

Juul announced on Tuesday that it will temporarily halt the sale of its flavored nicotine pods in all retail stores and will discontinue its social media promotions.

The e-cigarette company has conceded to mounting pressure from the Food and Drug Administration, as it completes the process of regulating the sales of e-cigarettes in convenience stores and gas stations, reports The New York Times. The hope is to curb the rise of teen vaping.

As of Tuesday morning, Juul has stopped accepting retail orders for its mango, fruit, creme, and cucumber flavored pods to over 90,000 retail stores. CNBC reports that customers are still able to buy all Juul flavors on its website, while the four tobacco and menthol-flavored pods remain in stores.

In a statement posted on the San Francisco-based company's website, CEO Kevin Burns addressed the purpose of this change. "By deterring social media promotion of the Juul system by exiting our accounts, we can better prevent teens and non-smokers from ever becoming interested in the device," he said.

The FDA is still set to release its proposal later this week, outlining strict requirements for age verification of online sales and restricting sales of cartridge-based flavored e-cigarettes to shops. “Our intent was never to have youth use Juul," said Burns. "But intent is not enough. The numbers are what matter and the numbers tell us underage use of e-cigarettes is a problem.” Amari Pollard

4:06p.m.

First lady Melania Trump on Tuesday called for a member of the Trump administration to be fired, and it looks like she may soon get her wish.

On Tuesday, the first lady's spokesperson, Stephanie Grisham, said in a statement that Deputy National Security Adviser Mira Ricardel "no longer deserves the honor of serving in this White House." NBC News reported earlier in the day that President Trump was likely to fire Ricardel following a "series of run-ins" with the office of the first lady. For instance, reports Bloomberg, Ricardel threatened to withhold National Security Council resources unless she or someone else from the NSC could travel with the first lady on her recent trip to Africa.

That's not all, though. Melania Trump's staff has told the president they believe Ricardel is responsible for leaking negative stories about her to the press, The Wall Street Journal reports, adding that Ricardel has feuded with Defense Secretary James Mattis as well. President Trump had reportedly already told his wife he would have Ricardel removed from office, the Journal reports. Her firing appeared to be imminent, especially because The Washington Post's Josh Dawsey writes that Ricardel is "among the most despised aides in the West Wing, if not the most." Ricardel was hired in May, and CNN reports she's one of National Security Adviser John Bolton's "key allies in the administration."

The statement from the first lady was particularly surprising considering, as CNN's Kate Bennett points out, Ricardel had joined the president at his Diwali ceremony right before its release. Not long after, the Journal reported that Ricardel had been fired and was escorted from the building, although a White House official denied this report, telling CNBC she is "still at her desk." When asked if she would still be there tomorrow, the official said, "We'll see." Brendan Morrow

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