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

1 hour ago - Economy & Business

Eyeing the end of gas-powered cars

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Gasoline-powered cars may be going the way of the woolly mammoth, even if it will take decades to replace them and seems hard to fathom today.

The big picture: Internal combustion engines (ICEs) have powered automobiles for more than 100 years. But the shift to electric vehicles, slow to materialize at first, is now accelerating due to tightening government policies, falling costs and a societal reckoning about climate change.

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam tests positive for coronavirus

Photo: Zach Gibson/Getty Images

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) and his wife, Pamela, both tested positive for coronavirus, his office announced on Friday.

The state of play: The Northams were tested after one of their staff "who works closely within the couple's living quarters" tested positive. The governor is asymptomatic, while his wife is "experiencing mild symptoms." They plan to isolate at home for 10 days.

Ina Fried, author of Login
3 hours ago - Technology

Amazon wants to flood America with Alexa cameras and microphones

Photo: Amazon

In a Thursday event unveiling a slew of new home devices ahead of the holidays, Amazon made clearer than ever its determination to flood America with cameras, microphones and the voice of Alexa, its AI assistant.

The big picture: Updating popular products and expanding its range to car alarms and in-home drones, Amazon extended its lead in smart home devices and moved into new areas including cloud gaming and car security. The new offerings will also fuel criticism that the tech giant is helping equip a society built around surveillance.

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