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February 3, 2018
Handout/The Associated Press

The Department of Defense on Friday revealed a new strategy for American nuclear policy focused on building up smaller nuclear weapons that are easier to use.

The Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) is an effort to "look reality in the eye," said Defense Secretary James Mattis, and "see the world as it is, not as we wish it to be." The announcement included swipes at former President Obama's policy of nuclear reduction, which Deputy Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette said has happened while "every one of our potential nuclear adversaries has been pursuing the exact opposite strategy."

The "low yield" bombs the NPR features can do damage similar to that of the U.S. nuclear strikes on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. Russia, the only country whose nuclear arsenal rivals the United States' stockpile, already has weapons this size that the Trump administration now wishes to match.

Indeed, though it addressed other nations, the NPR targeted Russia with much of its deterrence language. In the past, U.S. and Russian strategies of nuclear development have differed, with Washington favoring larger, longer-lasting weapons and Moscow preferring to constantly update a collection of smaller, more mobile bombs. Critics warn the 2018 NPR's shift toward direct competition could create a "new nuclear arms race." Bonnie Kristian

12:07 p.m. ET
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Lordy, there are tapes.

Michael Cohen, President Trump's former longtime attorney, reportedly made recordings of Trump discussing payments to former Playboy model Karen McDougal two months before the 2016 election, The New York Times reported Friday.

Lawyers familiar with the case say that the FBI seized the recordings when agents raided Cohen's office earlier this year. McDougal says she had an affair with Trump in 2006, which Trump denies, and Cohen is being investigated for potential campaign finance violations over allegedly paying hush money to prevent the affair allegations from going public ahead of the election.

Trump's new lawyer Rudy Giuliani said that the payment was ultimately never made, and that the recordings prove Trump did nothing wrong. "Nothing in that conversation suggests that he had any knowledge of it in advance," said Giuliani, calling it "powerful exculpatory evidence." Read more at The New York Times. Summer Meza

10:46 a.m. ET
Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for The Hollywood Reporter

Former Fox News executive Bill Shine was questioned by federal prosecutors in a sexual harassment case. He still got a top White House job.

Before becoming President Trump's fourth communications director, Shine was subpoenaed by a grand jury as part of a criminal investigation into sexual harassment at Fox News, documents obtained by The New York Times reveal.

The subpoena related to former Fox News CEO Roger Ailes, who left the company after a flood of sexual harassment allegations. Shine eventually stepped down as co-president in the wake of the scandal as well. (Shine was never accused of harassment himself, but of covering up the bad behavior of others.) He was called in to testify about how Fox News handled those allegations, but opted for a closed-door interview with a U.S. district attorney's office, a source tells the Times.

It's not known what Shine revealed in the interview, and he was never charged in relation to the Fox News scandal. But it raises the question of what other documents may still be unsealed, and why the White House would hire someone still embroiled in so much controversy — even if Trump does love a good Fox News connection. Kathryn Krawczyk

9:47 a.m. ET
iStock.

The national debt is becoming more important than America's children.

Investment in U.S. kids fell below 10 percent of annual federal spending in 2017 and is projected to shrink even more, a new study by the Urban Institute Kids' Share has found. Adults, on the other hand, hog 45 percent each year.

Spending on children through tax provisions, education, and health care totaled $375 billion of America's $3.9 trillion in federal spending in 2017. Most of that number — $180 billion — seemingly went to adults anyway through dependent exemptions and other tax provisions. Only $42 billion went to childhood education last year.

Federal spending on children was only about 3.2 percent of the budget back in 1960. But it grew from there, peaking at 10.4 percent in 2010, per the study. Childhood spending has since shrunk and, if it continues as projected, will fall to 6.9 percent by 2028. Meanwhile, the national debt is growing, and America will likely be spending more on its debt's interest than on its children in two years.

Those shrinking numbers can partly be attributed to America's aging population, the study suggests. As baby boomers reach Medicare-receiving age, money spent on their Social Security and health care is only projected to grow.

At least the federal budget isn't something millennials can be blamed for ruining. Kathryn Krawczyk

9:43 a.m. ET
Robert MacPherson/AFP/Getty Images

The Second Amendment just went DIY.

The government has settled a lawsuit that will allow people to download files to 3-D print firearms, CNN reported Friday. The settlement concludes a years-long legal battle with Cody Wilson, a "post-left anarchist" who sued after the State Department told him to take plans for a 3-D printed handgun off the internet.

Officials originally told Wilson that posting the plans could violate trade laws that prohibit the export of guns, since people anywhere in the world could theoretically download the files. Now, Wilson's plans are exempted from export restrictions, making them available to anyone who finds them online starting Aug. 1.

The handgun, nicknamed "The Liberator," is made out of ABS plastic, which is the same material as Lego bricks, reports CNN. Anyone with a 3-D printer can make their own Liberator, provided they can procure a metal firing pin to complete the weapon. Wilson himself was surprised that the government backed down without going to trial, telling CNN that officials suddenly "folded their tent" and even agreed to pay nearly $40,000 of Wilson's legal fees.

Gun control advocates are concerned that "ghost guns" like Wilson's will make it easier for people who would fail a criminal background check to get a firearm anyway, since they are untraceable without serial numbers or government regulation. Wilson, however, is excited at the prospect of developing a collection of files for people to download plans for other firearms. As his nonprofit's website says, "the age of the downloadable gun formally begins." Read more at CNN. Summer Meza

9:01 a.m. ET
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

When it comes to filling the soon-to-be-empty seat on the Supreme Court, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is playing hardball.

In a private meeting Wednesday, McConnell apparently told senior Republicans he may keep pushing back the confirmation vote for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh until right before the November midterms, sources tell Politico. Why? Because Democrats keep trying to surface the nominee's long paper trail, and McConnell, it seems, is sick of it.

Even before President Trump had announced his nominee to replace retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy, Democrats were dead-set on a strategy of resistance, warning Trump's pick could cement a conservative majority on the nation's highest court and spell disaster for issues like reproductive rights. Since then, Democrats have been requesting every piece of Kavanaugh's records in an attempt to find something they can use to fight his confirmation.

McConnell is apparently ready to retaliate. He's already canceled the Senate's August recess, and is looking to drain Democrats' campaign time even more by delaying Kavanaugh's confirmation vote, per Politico. The delay would mean red-state Democrats wouldn't be able to leave the Capitol and utilize valuable campaign time until the Kavanaugh vote, and his potential confirmation would serve them a crushing defeat just days before voters head to the polls.

If Democrats manage to flip the Senate this fall, that could give them the 50 votes they need to defeat Kavanaugh's nomination. But McConnell has already pledged to hold the vote before the midterms, even if it's at the very last minute. Kathryn Krawczyk

8:40 a.m. ET

President Trump said in an interview on CNBC's Squawk Box on Friday that he was prepared to impose tariffs on all $500 billion in Chinese imports if China doesn't ease its trade policies toward the U.S. "I'm ready to go to 500," Trump told CNBC's Joe Kernen.

The Trump administration so far has hit China with tariffs on $34 billion in Chinese goods, prompting China to respond in kind. The Trump administration is now reviewing potential levies on $200 billion in Chinese products, and China has threatened to retaliate again if Trump goes through with the proposal. Trump said the tariffs are necessary to get China to treat U.S. companies fairly, and stop forcing them to hand over their technology for access to Chinese markets. Harold Maass

6:00 a.m. ET
YouTube/The Late Show with Stephen Colbert

President Trump surprised everyone — his own director of national intelligence included — on Thursday by seemingly inviting Russian President Vladimir Putin to Washington. This sent Stephen Colbert into a conniption fit on Thursday's Late Show.

"It is hard to imagine you could be this shocked every day by the Trump administration," Colbert said. "I mean, freshly shocked!" Americans were horrified by Trump's Monday meeting in Helsinki with Putin, Colbert said, and since then, people within the administration have been "trying to put distance between Trump and Putin." But then the president had to sabotage those efforts with a tweet (what else?), suggesting he and Putin were arranging a second meeting. That made Colbert spit out his coffee.

"Second meeting. Second meeting?!" Colbert gasped. "Because the first one went so well! ... Nothing could have gone worse than your meeting in Helsinki!" So what's Trump thinking? Colbert says one thing's for sure: Trump is in Putin's pocket. "The reason remains, why? There's only two possible answers: Either Putin has something on him, or he's an idiot." Either way, somebody has to break it to Trump that Putin doesn't have his interests at heart, so Colbert staged a tearful intervention. Watch below — but beware, there's some NSFW language. Jessica Hullinger

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