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July 7, 2017

Michael McFaul, former U.S. ambassador to Russia, deemed the White House "weak" after President Trump on Friday apparently took Russian President Vladimir Putin's word that Russia did not interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential election — a contradiction of U.S. intelligence agencies' overwhelming consensus to the contrary. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov reported the conversation after Trump and Putin's first-ever meeting during the G-20 summit in Germany, though a senior Trump administration official has since denied Trump accepted Putin's assurances.

McFaul argued that while there can be "disagreements with Russia about policies," there cannot be "disagreements about basic facts," like that Russia meddled in the U.S. election:

McFaul also scoffed at Putin and Trump's apparent focus on how to "move forward," as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson put it, given it was the leaders' first-ever face-to-face meeting. After Putin annexed Crimea, "propped up" Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and meddled in the U.S. elections, "of course, he wants to 'move on,'" McFaul wrote. Becca Stanek

9:20 a.m. ET
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Republicans are hopeful about the chances of CIA Director Mike Pompeo getting confirmed as secretary of state later this week, although he does not appear likely to get a favorable recommendation from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee when it votes Monday, NPR reports. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has been a vocal "no," and no Democrats on the panel support Pompeo's nomination. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) can still push Pompeo's nomination to a full Senate vote, though it would be unprecedented.

In the full Senate vote, there is still a chance Pompeo might not get confirmed due to the narrow 51-49 Republican majority. Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) remains on the fence, and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) is absent. As Axios notes: "If Paul and Flake vote no, [Republicans will] need two red state Democrats to vote yes." Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) is already on board and Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Doug Jones (D-Ala.), and Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) are expected to also potentially swing.

President Trump expressed his frustration Monday morning on Twitter, writing: "Hard to believe Obstructionists May vote against Mike Pompeo for Secretary of State. The Dems will not approve hundreds of good people, including the Ambassador to Germany. They are maxing out the time on approval process for all, never happened before. Need more Republicans!"

Pompeo was confirmed as CIA director last year by the Senate in a 66-32 vote. Jeva Lange

8:41 a.m. ET

Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, gave birth to a baby boy Monday morning. The baby, the third child of the duchess and Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, will be fifth in line to the British throne, behind his sister, 2-year-old Princess Charlotte; brother, 4-year-old Prince George; father, William; and grandfather, Prince Charles. The baby will nudge uncle Prince Harry back to sixth in line to the throne.

While the baby's name has not yet been shared, bookmakers expect a traditional name like "Arthur," "Albert," or "Philip." As royal commentator Richard Fitzwilliams told the BBC, "You want a name that resonates, a name that's got family links, and is popular." Jeva Lange

8:20 a.m. ET
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The latest version of President Trump's travel ban faces a showdown in the Supreme Court this week. The justices will hear oral arguments on Wednesday in a challenge to the policy. The first two versions of the ban targeted people from only a handful of predominantly Muslim countries. The third version also includes restrictions on certain travelers from North Korea and Venezuela, although those restrictions were not challenged. The lead plaintiff, the state of Hawaii, argues that the policy still violates the Constitution by favoring people of other faiths over Muslims. The Supreme Court in December ruled that most of the ban could take effect while the legal challenge was working its way through the courts. Read more at Reuters. Harold Maass

7:53 a.m. ET

President Trump attacked New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman on Twitter Saturday — which happened to be Haberman's daughter's birthday, she told CNN's Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota on Monday's New Day. Trump was reacting to an article Haberman co-wrote about Trump's reportedly abusive treatment of lawyer/fixer Michael Cohen and speculation on whether Cohen would flip on Trump if prosecutors threaten him with a long jail term.

Trump's tweets drew special scrutiny because of the bizarre Haberman attack and because it wasn't clear who he was calling a "drunk/drugged-up loser" — Haberman guessed it was Sam Nunberg, not Roger Stone, because Trump is "too aware of what Stone could do to him to be that direct" and has been scared of Stone "for years." The topic is clearly "hitting a nerve" with Trump, and he and his lawyers "are very anxious" about the Cohen investigation, Haberman told CNN.

"The story was really not about destroying their relationship — the president has destroyed their relationship pretty handily on his own over a long period of time," Haberman said. Trump "is abusive, according to almost everybody I speak to, to most people in his orbit, and family not excepted from that. But he is particularly abusive to Cohen over the years, and then the question becomes, does that come back to haunt him?" Cuomo jumped in to point out that nobody knows what charges, if any, Cohen faces, but "everybody knows" Trump's description of Haberman's skills and sources "is silly. There are few reporters that he's given more access to."

Cuomo and Haberman went on to analyze the "drugged-up loser" part of Trump's tweet and how it fits in with his compassionate campaign rhetoric about the opioid crisis. "This is how he really feels about addicts," Haberman said. "We know that he had a brother who died of alcoholism, we know that he considers addiction to be weak." Peter Weber

6:41 a.m. ET

Prince died two years ago from an accidental overdose of fentanyl-spiked ersatz Vicodin, but right after prosecutors in Minnesota said there was not enough evidence to charge anyone in his death last week, Prince's estate reminded everyone why people are still mourning him two years later, cracking open the vault to release his original 1984 recording of "Nothing Compares 2 U." Prince wrote the song for his side project, The Family, formed with the remnants of The Time, but he did not release any of his recordings of the song until a live duet with Rosie Gaines in 1993 — three years after Sinead O'Connor made the song famous with her No. 1 version.

Prince's original recording of "Nothing Compares 2 U," accompanied by previously unreleased rehearsal footage from 1984, is different than either subsequent version, starting off with an "I Am The Walrus" keyboard riff and ending with a saxophone. You can listen below. Peter Weber

6:07 a.m. ET

If you don't know who Ryan Zinke is, don't feel too bad — President Trump pretty clearly isn't sure what his interior secretary does, John Oliver said on Sunday's Last Week Tonight, kicking this off with a NSFW analogy. "Zinke's job is to serve as a steward of America's public lands, although so far he's overseen the largest reduction of federal land protection in the nation's history," he noted. Also, Zinke is a serial exaggerator or outright fabulist and, "it turns out, may well be an extremely weird man,"

As evidence of his quirkiness, Oliver cited the fact that like Queen Elizabeth II, ZInke flies his own special flag when he's at the Interior Department headquarters, plus his minting of a special coin and, most persuasively, his decision to grab Vice President Mike Pence's wife, Karen Pence, for a dance during a political rally. "You might not have even heard of him before tonight, but he is an important, deeply strange man," Oliver said. "If I may sum him up in the way he would sum himself up in a campaign ad, Zinke is an oil-friendly, coin-commissioning, non-bin-Laden-killing weirdo who throws second ladies around, and he is not a f---ing geologist — America." Watch below — yes, there is NSFW language. Peter Weber

5:27 a.m. ET
Ludovic Marin/AFP/Getty Images

French President Emmanuel Macron arrives in Washington on Monday as guest of honor for the first state visit hosted by President Trump. Macron has suggested he will try to use his carefully cultivated relationship with Trump to steer him away from ripping up the Iran nuclear deal, pulling out of Syria, and raising tariffs against European nations on May 1. Trump will host Macron and his wife for a dinner Monday at Mount Vernon, George Washington's historic residence, and a state dinner at the White House on Tuesday; no Democratic members of Congress were invited, in a break from tradition.

Macron will also meet one-on-one with Trump, hold a town hall at George Washington University, and give an address to a joint session of Congress on Wednesday, the anniversary of a 1960 address by French President Charles de Gaulle.

Macron, universally seen as the European leader with the best rapport with Trump, hosted Trump last July and clearly impressed him with French hospitality. By cultivating a warm relationship with Trump, reportedly including near-weekly phone conversations, "Macron has made a gamble, given Mr. Trump's unpopularity, that he can court him but not be tarnished by him — or even that he can burnish his own reputation as a leader who is so psychologically astute that he can gain the ear of an American president who is in many respects his polar opposite," The New York Times reports. So far, Macron has little to show for his efforts — Trump pulled out of the Paris climate agreement and appears poised to kill the Iran nuclear deal, for example. But aides say he feels he needs to try. "Sometimes I manage to convince him, sometimes I fail," Macron told the BBC in January. Peter Weber

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