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.

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Hurricane Zeta has killed at least one person after a downed power line electrocuted a 55-year-old in Louisiana as the storm moved into Alabama overnight.

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Taiwan on Thursday marked no locally transmitted coronavirus cases for 200 days, as the island of 23 million people's total number of infections reported stands at 550 and the COVID-19 death toll at seven.

Why it matters: Nowhere else in the world has reached such a milestone. While COVID-19 cases surge across the U.S. and Europe, Taiwan's last locally transmitted case was on April 12. Experts credit tightly regulated travel, early border closure, "rigorous contact tracing, technology-enforced quarantine and universal mask wearing," along with the island state's previous experience with the SARS virus, per Bloomberg.

Go deeper: As Taiwan's profile rises, so does risk of conflict with China

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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

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