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."

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Updated 20 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 6:30 p.m. ET: 18,643,633 — Total deaths: 703,127 — Total recoveries — 11,206,409Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 6:30 p.m. ET: 4,811,128 — Total deaths: 157,690 — Total recoveries: 1,528,979 — Total tests: 58,239,438Map.
  3. Public health: Florida surpasses 500,000 confirmed casesFauci calls U.S. coronavirus testing delays "totally unacceptable."
  4. Business: America's next housing crisis.
  5. States: Virginia launches contact tracing app using specs from Apple and Google.
  6. Politics: White House, Democrats remain "trillions of dollars apart" on stimulus talks.
45 mins ago - World

How new tech raises the risk of nuclear war

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

75 years after Hiroshima and Nagasaki, some experts believe the risk of the use of a nuclear weapon is as high now as it has been since the Cuban missile crisis.

The big picture: Nuclear war remains the single greatest present threat to humanity — and one that is poised to grow as emerging technologies, like much faster missiles, cyber warfare and artificial intelligence, upset an already precarious nuclear balance.

White House, Democrats remain "trillions of dollars apart" on stimulus talks

Meadows and Mnuchin. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

The Trump administration and Democrats have not agreed to any "top-line numbers" and remain "trillions of dollars apart" on coronavirus stimulus negotiations, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows said Wednesday.

The state of play: Meadows told reporters, "At this point we’re either going to get serious about negotiating and get an agreement in principle or — I’ve become extremely doubtful that we’ll be able to make a deal if it goes well beyond Friday.”