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Matt Rourke / AP

Paul Ryan is a master avoider when asked about Donald Trump's latest controversies. On Friday afternoon, however, House Speaker reinforced several strong positions in an interview with Politico reporters Jake Sherman and Anna Palmer.

1. He disagreed with Trump on Russia: Despite Trump's fondness for Vladimir Putin — and the possibility that the President will remove sanctions on Russia — Ryan made clear he's sticking with the hawkish wing of his party. Asked about McCain's suggestion that sanctions on Russia be codified into law, Ryan said Obama's latest wave of sanctions were long overdue and "should stay."

2. And said he'll keep pushing criminal justice reform: Despite Trump's push for 1960s-style law-and-order — and the President's appointment of hardliner Jeff Sessions as Attorney General — Ryan insists criminal justice reform is a priority this year. He said he's spoken to House Judiciary chair Bob Goodlatte and asked him to pick up where he left off last Congress.

3. On torture, he dismissed Trump comments saying torture works: For the second day running, Ryan forcefully emphasized that torture was illegal and would remain so. "The president says things like this," Ryan said. "And I think you and I and everyone else needs to get used to that. We are not going to change the law on torture." (Notable: POTUS said earlier today that he'll defer to Defense Secretary Mattis and not push for torture.)

Go deeper

Most Senate Republicans join Rand Paul effort to dismiss Trump's 2nd impeachment trial

Photo: Joshua Roberts-Pool/Getty Images

Forty-five Senate Republicans, including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, supported an effort to dismiss former President Trump's second impeachment trial.

Why it matters: The vote serves as a precursor to how senators will approach next month's impeachment trial, making it highly unlikely the Senate will vote to convict. The House impeached Trump for a second time for "incitement of insurrection" following events from Jan 6. when a pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol.

Texas judge temporarily halts Biden's 100-day deportation freeze

Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

A federal judge in Texas has temporarily blocked the Biden administration's 100-day freeze on deporting unauthorized immigrants.

Why it matters: Biden has set an ambitious immigration agenda, but he could face pushback from the courts.

1 hour ago - Podcasts

Reddit is running Wall Street

Wall Street is locked in a battle of will between professional investors who live in Greenwich and amateur investors who congregate on Reddit. So far, the amateurs are winning, judging by increases in their chosen stocks, like GameStop and Bed, Bath & Beyond.

Axios Re:Cap goes deeper into what's really happening, the mechanics of stock "shorting" and what it means for the markets' future, with Axios chief financial correspondent Felix Salmon.

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