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The judge ruled images of the suspect in court must blur his face. Photo: Mark Mitchell-Pool/Getty Images

An Australian man accused of killing 49 people in 2 New Zealand mosques smiled and gave a "white power" sign during his court appearance Saturday morning local time, witnesses say.

The details: Brenton Harrison Tarrant, 28, did not enter a plea when he appeared in Christchurch District Court, charged with the murder of one person who was killed in Friday's attacks in the most populous city on New Zealand's South Island. Only the media was allowed to watch proceedings and the judge ordered the suspect's face to be blurred. Reporters attending the proceedings said they saw Tarrant smile and make an upside-down "OK" gesture, which is a symbol used by white power groups.

The big picture: Police will allege the suspect was equipped to continue when police stopped him, according to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. Police still have 2 other people in custody they arrested in connection with the attacks, but they have released a 4th person.

What she's saying: "The offender was mobile," Ardern said at a press conference. "There were two other firearms in the vehicle that the offender was in, and it absolutely was his intention to continue with his attack."

What's next? Police said more charges were likely to be laid. Tarrant is due to appear again on April 5.

Go deeper

Dems race to address, preempt stimulus fraud claims

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Biden officials are working to root out the systematic fraud in unemployment and Paycheck Protection Program claims that plagued the Trump administration’s efforts to boost the economy with coronavirus relief money, Gene Sperling told House committee chairmen privately this week.

Why it matters: President Biden just signed another $1.9 trillion of aid into law, with Sperling tapped to oversee its implementation. And the administration is asking Congress to approve another $2.2 trillion for the first phase of an infrastructure package.

7 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Biden close to picking Nick Burns as China ambassador

Nicholas Burns. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Nicholas Burns, a career diplomat, is in the final stages of vetting to serve as President Biden’s ambassador to China, people familiar with the matter tell Axios.

Why it matters: Across the administration, there's a consensus the U.S. relationship with China will be the most critical — and consequential — of Biden's presidency. From trade to Taiwan, the stakes are high. Burns could be among the first batch of diplomatic nominees announced in the coming weeks.

Biden's Russian sanctions likely to achieve little

President Biden announces new sanctions against Russia. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Despite bold talk from top administration officials, there's little reason to think the Russia sanctions package President Biden announced Thursday will do anything to alter Russian President Vladimir Putin's behavior or calculus.

Why it matters: While it's true some elements of the package — namely, the targeting of Russia's sovereign debt — represent significant punitive measures against Moscow, it leaves plenty of wiggle room for the Russian president.