Commerce official resigns amid 5G tensions

Federal staffers were caught off guard Thursday by the abrupt departure of David Redl, the Trump appointee running the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, the Commerce Department's telecom policy shop.

Why it matters: Officials are under intense pressure to make more airwaves available for the private sector to build 5G networks. Divvying up government airwaves amid the "race" to beat China has led to spats between agencies.

The intrigue: In an email to colleagues, Redl said it was with "a heavy heart" that he announced his resignation. Three sources familiar with the situation said his departure comes after disagreements about 5G policies.

  • Redl and FCC Chairman Ajit Pai were at odds over the auction of millimeter-wave spectrum due to NOAA and NASA concerns about possible interference with sensors used for weather data collection. (Politico reported details last month.)
  • Internally, there was friction between Redl and Earl Comstock, deputy chief of staff to Secretary Wilbur Ross, as well as tensions surrounding the administration's 5G announcement last month, two sources said. (NTIA declined to comment.)

What's next: Diane Rinaldo is now the acting NTIA administrator.

Go deeper: Read Axios' deep dive on the 5G future.

What's next

University of Minnesota student jailed in China over tweets

Xi Jinping. Photo: Noel Celis - Pool/ Getty Images

A University of Minnesota student has been arrested in China and sentenced to six months in prison for tweets he posted while in the United States, according to a Chinese court document viewed by Axios. Some of the tweets contained images deemed to be unflattering portrayals of a "national leader."

Why it matters: The case represents a dramatic escalation of the Chinese government's attempts to shut down free speech abroad, and a global expansion of a Chinese police campaign a year ago to track down Twitter users in China who posted content critical of the Chinese government.

Go deeperArrow6 mins ago - World

⚖️ Live updates: Opening arguments begin in Trump impeachment trial

The second day of the Senate impeachment trial of President Trump will see a full day of opening arguments from Democratic House impeachment managers.

What to watch for: Democrats now have 24 hours — spread out over three days — to take their time to lay out their case against the president's alleged abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. It'll also allow them to highlight gaps that could be filled out by additional witnesses and documents from the administration.

This post will be updated with new developments as the trial continues.

Go deeperArrowJan 21, 2020 - Politics

Axios Dashboard

Keep up with breaking news throughout the day — sign up for our alerts.