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Evan Vucci / AP

Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Sanders surprised reporters for a second day in a row when she appeared at the briefing podium Wednesday instead of Sean Spicer. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials also spoke, with Sanders claiming that if the White House had announced the guests ahead of time, the media wouldn't have covered them. Other highlights from the off-camera briefing:

Sarah Sanders

  • Is Trump running for reelection? "Of course."
  • On Manafort retroactively registering as a foreign agent: Sanders said she can't speak for the 2016 campaign team.
  • What are Trump's policy preferences on Medicaid? Sanders said she didn't have that information.

ICE acting Director Thomas Homan

  • On separating families: "Families of U.S. citizens get separated every day" and people who are in the U.S. illegally have "put themselves in that position."
  • On notion immigrants are "more dangerous": Homan conceded that undocumented immigrants do not commit more crimes than native born Americans.
  • Number of illegal immigrants in U.S.: "11 to 12 million" said Homan, and noted that he "never heard" of the 30 million estimate Trump used in his 2016 campaign.
  • On ICE's reputation: "People think I'm standing up here and I'm the devil. Why am I so strong on this? If you saw what I saw over the last 33 years, I wouldn't get half the bad media that I get."

Go deeper

Ina Fried, author of Login
12 mins ago - Technology

Scoop: Google is investigating the actions of another top AI ethicist

Google CEO Sundar Pichai. Photo by Mateusz Wlodarczyk/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Google is investigating recent actions by Margaret Mitchell, who helps lead the company's ethical AI team, Axios has confirmed.

Why it matters: The probe follows the forced exit of Timnit Gebru, a prominent researcher also on the AI ethics team at Google whose ouster ignited a firestorm among Google employees.

1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Joe Biden's COVID-19 bubble

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The incoming administration is planning extraordinary steps to protect its most prized commodity, Joe Biden, including requiring daily employee COVID tests and N95 masks at all times, according to new guidance sent to some incoming employees Tuesday.

Why it matters: The president-elect is 78 years old and therefore a high risk for the virus and its worst effects, despite having received the vaccine. While President Trump's team was nonchalant about COVID protocols — leading to several super-spreader episodes — the new rules will apply to all White House aides in "high proximity to principals."

Justice Department drops insider trading inquiry against Sen. Richard Burr

Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) walking through the Senate Subway in the U.S. Capitol in December 2020. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Getty Images

The Department of Justice told Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) on Tuesday that it will not move forward with insider trading charges against him.

Why it matters: The decision, first reported by the New York Times, effectively ends the DOJ's investigation into the senator's stock sell-off that occurred after multiple lawmakers were briefed about the coronavirus' potential economic toll. Burr subsequently stepped down as chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee.