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The Morning Brew: Tobacco companies attempt to block state's new cigarette fee

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It's Friday! Here are a few headlines to start your day. 

Tobacco companies sue to stop state's new cigarette fee

State flags wave in the morning wind on the south plaza of the state Capitol. [Photo by Jim Beckel]
State flags wave in the morning wind on the south plaza of the state Capitol. [Photo by Jim Beckel]

Tobacco companies are suing the state in an effort to block Oklahoma's newly adopted cigarette fee, which is scheduled to go into effect in August. 

The Oklahoman's Dale Denwalt reported: 

If the Oklahoma Supreme Court strikes down the fee, the result could be an instant multimillion-dollar hole in the state budget lawmakers adopted last month.

In a brief filed Wednesday, R.J Reynolds Tobacco Co. and Phillip Morris USA argued that the fee is unconstitutional on several grounds. The tobacco manufacturers lodged the complaint alongside two retailers, a wholesale company and three Oklahoma residents.

Lawmakers adopted the additional $1.50-per-pack fee late in the legislative session as a way to raise money and curb smoking. Officials estimated the fee could bring in more than $200 million through June 2018. Nearly all of the money is earmarked for initiatives to improve Oklahomans' health.

Comey testifies

Americans across the country tuned in to watch Thursday as ex-FBI director James Comey delivered his highly-anticipated testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee. 

The Associated Press reported:

In his opening statement, Comey somberly accused the Trump administration of spreading "lies, plain and simple" in the aftermath of his abrupt ouster, declaring that the administration "chose to defame me and, more importantly, the FBI" by claiming the bureau was in disorder.

He then dove into the heart of the fraught political controversy around his firing and whether (President Donald) Trump interfered in the bureau's Russia investigation, as he elaborated on written testimony released a day earlier.

In that testimony, Comey said that Trump demanded his "loyalty" and directly pushed him to "lift the cloud" of investigation by declaring publicly the president was not a target of the FBI probe into his campaign's Russia ties.

He said that when Trump told him he hoped he would terminate an investigation into Michael Flynn, the ousted national security adviser, he interpreted that as a directive.

President Trump was silent on the matter Thursday, but his personal attorney, Marc Kasowitz, refuted Comey's testimony. Trump's oldest son, Donald Trump Jr., had plenty to say on Twitter.

Early Friday, the president posted on Twitter: "Despite so many false statements and lies, total and complete vindication...and WOW, Comey is a leaker!"

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Related Photos
State flags wave in the morning wind on the south plaza of the state Capitol. [Photo by Jim Beckel]

State flags wave in the morning wind on the south plaza of the state Capitol. [Photo by Jim Beckel]

<figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-1b385d7d5fcf38c00d1be18487ded0cc.jpg" alt="Photo - State flags wave in the morning wind on the south plaza of the state Capitol. [Photo by Jim Beckel]" title="State flags wave in the morning wind on the south plaza of the state Capitol. [Photo by Jim Beckel]"><figcaption>State flags wave in the morning wind on the south plaza of the state Capitol. [Photo by Jim Beckel]</figcaption></figure>
Darla Slipke

Darla Slipke is an enterprise reporter for The Oklahoman. She is a native of Bristol, Conn., and a graduate of the University of Kansas. Slipke worked for newspapers in Kansas, Connecticut, North Carolina and Oklahoma, including a previous... Read more ›

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