Lazaro Gamio / Axios

Sean Spicer kicked off today's off-camera briefing with a readout of the White House statement condemning the chemical gas attack in Syria as "reprehensible," and claiming it was a consequence of "weakness" by the Obama admin. He dodged questions about whether there was a connection with last weeks' announcement that the U.S. was pulling back on its efforts to oust Assad. Other takeaways:

  • Blackwater: Spicer dismissed reports that Erik Prince had a secret meeting to establish a Trump-Putin back channel "as flimsy as best," adding that "I get someone may have visited an island but there is no proof they... met with an individual nor that they had any ties."
  • Susan Rice: Spicer said "there are more questions than answers at this point" about her role in unmasking Trump transition officials caught up in surveillance and that "there is a civil liberties component to this that should be very troubling."
  • Healthcare round 2: "There are more and more people coming to the table with ideas on how to grow that vote," said Spicer, adding that "the president would like to see this done" but he doesn't want to raise expectations.
  • Slashing regulations: Spicer says Trump has signed 12 congressional review acts to reduce regulations, while "past presidents signed one."

Go deeper

Louisiana braces for 3rd hurricane in 2 months as Zeta closes in

The probable path of Zeta, per the National Hurricane Center. Photo: NHC/NOAA

Zeta strengthened into a hurricane again early Wednesday and was on track to make landfall in southeastern Louisiana by the afternoon, per the National Hurricane Center.

The state of play: Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) requested a pre-landfall Federal Declaration of Emergency in a letter to President Trump on Tuesday.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Unrest in Philadelphia after fatal police shooting of Black man

Demonstrators rally on Tuesday near the location where Walter Wallace was killed by two police officers in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Photo: Mark Makela/Getty Images

The Pennsylvania National Guard was mobilized Tuesday during a tense second night of protests in Philadelphia over the fatal police shooting of Walter Wallace, a 27-year-old Black man.

Driving the news: Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney (D) and Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw said in a joint statement a "full investigation" would be launched to answer questions that arose from video that captured part of Monday's incident.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Politics: Obama: Trump is "jealous of COVID's media coverage."
  2. Health: Hospitals face a crush.
  3. Business: Winter threat spurs new surge of startup activity.
  4. Media: Pandemic causes TV providers to lose the most subscribers ever.
  5. World: Putin mandates face masks.