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David Shulkin testifies at a House subcommittee this month. Photo: Alex Wong / Getty Images

Trump's Mar-a-Lago buddy Chris Ruddy made a splash on TV today, telling ABC's "This Week" that the president told him yesterday he expected to make "one or two major changes to his — to his government very soon." Ruddy went on to say that "other White House sources, not the president, tell me that Veterans Affairs Secretary David [Shulkin] is likely to depart the Cabinet very soon."

Here's what I know about the Shulkin situation, from conversations with sources involved in the sensitive discussions and with sources — (not Ruddy) — who've spoken with Trump as recently as yesterday: Trump hasn't made any final decisions yet. The president has, however, lost confidence in the VA Secretary and is strongly inclined towards replacing him.

  • Right now, Trump is happy to watch Shulkin twist in the wind for a while. Remember how unhappy we told you John Kelly and others have been about Shulkin's handling of internal problems in his department and especially his freelancing to the New York Times? A prolonged period of job insecurity and public humiliation is a uniquely Trumpian form of payback.
  • The White House — specifically the president, Kelly, the White House Office of Presidential Personnel, and the director of Trump's Domestic Policy Council Andrew Bremberg — have been asking allies for names of people they'd recommend to replace Shulkin.

Behind the scenes: Marvel Entertainment chairman Ike Perlmutter, another Mar-a-Lago friend of the president's, is playing a major backstage role in shaping Trump's thinking about Shulkin. Perlmutter originally recommended Shulkin to Trump, but a source familiar with his thinking tells me Perlmutter "feels betrayed by Shulkin and regrets ever putting his name in front of the president."

  • Trump spent time yesterday with Perlmutter at Mar-a-Lago, and the two discussed various pressing issues at the VA, according to a source with knowledge of their meeting.
  • Perlmutter has recommended at least one potential Shulkin replacement to the White House, according to two sources with direct knowledge.

Go deeper

DiDi to delist from NYSE under Chinese govt pressure

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Chinese ride-hail giant DiDi said it will delist from the New York Stock Exchange, following a Chinese government crackdown on foreign listings.

Why it matters: This reflects how geopolitical tensions are bleeding into the capital markets.

Updated 19 mins ago - Health

Omicron cases confirmed in 5 U.S. states

A healthcare worker inserts a Covid-19 rapid test into a machine in Denver, Colorado. Photo: Daniel Brenner/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Hawaii became on Thursday the fifth state to confirm the newly discovered Omicron variant after New York announced five new cases earlier in the day.

The latest: In Hawaii, the variant was found in an unvaccinated O'ahu resident with moderate symptoms who had previously been infected with COVID-19, per a state health department statement. The variant has also been confirmed in California, Colorado and Minnesota.

Senate Dems receive max donations from Nord Stream 2 lobbyist

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

A major Democratic donor and Nord Stream 2 lobbyist has made maximum campaign contributions this year to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and vulnerable Senate Democrats, campaign finance records show.

Why it matters: If pressure from the White House to vote against reimposing sanctions on the Russia-backed natural gas pipeline weren't enough, Democrats who back such legislation also will be at loggerheads with one of their party's top fundraisers.