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U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, left, and South Korea's Defense Minister Song Young-moo hold a joint press conference. Photo: Jung Yeon-Je / AP

Sen. Chris Murphy introduced a bill this afternoon that would bar President Trump from launching a first strike on North Korea, except in situations of imminent threat or authorization from Congress. The co-sponsors include Sens. Bernie Sanders, Liz Warren and Cory Booker, along with Brian Schatz, Tammy Duckworth, Jeff Merkley, and Tom Udall.

Why it matters: Democrats have been expressing concerns that Trump's rhetoric and tweeting about using the military option against North Korea could march the U.S. into an unprovoked war. And given some of the high-profile senators backing this bill — and the questions other Democrats raised about North Korea at a hearing yesterday — it's a good bet you'll hear about the issue again, even if the bill itself doesn't advance.

Already at the hearing on a new authorization for the use of military force Monday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis faced questions from democrats about whether Trump had the legal basis to launch a first strike against the North, and they hedged their answers.

  • "I think it's time that we start taking President Trump seriously when he repeatedly threatens military action against North Korea," Murphy told reporters on a call Tuesday.
  • Part of Murphy's concern is that Trump has shown "a willingness to ignore the advice of his advisors on critical issues," he said.
  • At stake: If the U.S. were to launch at North Korea, that risks the North's retaliation, which could include risking the lives of U.S. service members in the region as well as American allies and innocent civilians, with artillery, unconventional weapons, or chemical and biological weapons.
  • Could it pass? Murphy thinks "it has a very good chance of passing" if brought for a vote. However, he noted he thinks Republicans may "see this as a vote that could divide" the caucus, and admitted they may need to "force a vote on it."

Go deeper

Inside Patch's new local newsletter platform

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Patch, the hyperlocal (and profitable) local digital news company, has built a new software platform called "Patch Labs" that lets local news reporters publish their own newsletters and websites, sources tell Axios.

Why it matters: It follows a growing trend of journalists going solo via newsletters at the national level.

Scoop: Politico stars plot new Playbook

Anna Palmer and Jake Sherman. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Three of Politico’s biggest reporting stars plan to launch a competitor to the company’s Politico Playbook franchise, sources tell me. 

Why it matters:  Jake Sherman, Anna Palmer and John Bresnahan will launch a daily newsletter in 2021 as a stand-alone company, the sources say. In effect, they will be competing against the Playbook franchise they helped create and grow. 

Ben Geman, author of Generate
32 mins ago - Energy & Environment

Big Oil's big reckoning

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

There doesn't seem to be an oil major that's got it all figured out between the pandemic, cloudy demand and price outlooks, and the unknown path through a world getting a bit more serious about climate.

Driving the news: ExxonMobil yesterday afternoon showed the latest signs of its struggle to position itself as it announced large write-offs and a big rethink of long-term spending.

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