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Alex Brandon / AP

What we'll be listening for at 9 p.m. ET:

  1. The real state of our Union is unsettled — on edge. Does the president acknowledge that, and do anything to alleviate it?
  2. If he tries to break the ice with humor about himself, what trait does he choose?
  3. What will Trump say that's tailored directly to lawmakers, to balance the bulk of his speech, which'll be aimed beyond the chamber?
  4. Can Trump convince Republicans that there's a clear path to success on his big-ticket agenda items: health care, taxes, infrastructure?
  5. Will Democrats have a "You lie!" moment?
  6. How will Trump handle it?
  7. What will he say about Russia?
  8. What will he say about the media?
  9. How closely does he stick to the prompter?
  10. Does he deliver on aides' promise of a sunny speech?

Go deeper

13 hours ago - World

Maximum pressure campaign escalates with Fakhrizadeh killing

Photo: Fars News Agency via AP

The assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, the architect of Iran’s military nuclear program, is a new height in the maximum pressure campaign led by the Trump administration and the Netanyahu government against Iran.

Why it matters: It exceeds the capture of the Iranian nuclear archives by the Mossad, and the sabotage in the advanced centrifuge facility in Natanz.

Scoop: Biden weighs retired General Lloyd Austin for Pentagon chief

Lloyd Austin testifying before Congress in 2015. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Joe Biden is considering retired four-star General Lloyd Austin as his nominee for defense secretary, adding him to a shortlist that includes Jeh Johnson, Tammy Duckworth and Michele Flournoy, two sources with direct knowledge of the decision-making tell Axios.

Why it matters: A nominee for Pentagon chief was noticeably absent when the president-elect rolled out his national security team Tuesday. Flournoy had been widely seen as the likely pick, but Axios is told other factors — race, experience, Biden's comfort level — have come into play.

Updated 15 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: WHO: AstraZeneca vaccine must be evaluated on "more than a press release."
  2. Politics: Supreme Court backs religious groups on New York COVID restrictions.
  3. World: Thailand, Philippines sign deal with AstraZeneca for vaccine.
  4. Economy: Safety nets to disappear in December Black Friday shopping across the U.S., in photosAmazon hires 1,400 workers a day throughout pandemic.
  5. Education: National standardized tests delayed until 2022.