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John Walters. Courtesy photo.

The Hudson Institute, a conservative think tank that's been a center for political dialogue and forums for both Democrats and Republicans during the Trump era, has tapped its longtime COO John Walters as its new leader, Axios has learned.

The big picture: While left and center-left think tanks empty to help stock the incoming Biden administration, conservative groups are shuffling their leadership and welcoming back scholars and analysts who worked for President Trump.

Details: Walters, who was drug czar for President George W. Bush, has been serving as Hudson Institute's chief operating officer while also overseeing research and directing its substance abuse policy center. During the Bush administration his focus included countering narcoterrorism in Colombia, Mexico and Afghanistan.

  • Hudson's outgoing president and CEO Ken Weinstein will stay at Hudson as its Walter P. Stern distinguished fellow. He'd stepped down from day-to-day operations last spring in what turned out to be an ill-fated effort to become U.S. ambassador to Japan. His nomination was voted out of committee but never received a vote on the Senate floor.

Flashback: Weinstein is credited with nearly tripling the institute's annual budget, from $7.5m in 2005 to $20m in 2019, with an endowment of more than $60m.

  • “Ken turned Hudson into the policy powerhouse that it is today,” said Sarah May Stern, chair of Hudson's board of trustees. "Under John's leadership, Hudson will continue to build on all that has been accomplished through his shared efforts with Ken."

Go deeper

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse under scrutiny for elite club affiliations

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse during a Senate hearing on Capitol Hill in February. Photo: Susan Walsh-Pool/Getty Image

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) said in a statement Wednesday that he is a member of an exclusive Rhode Island sailing club that lacks diversity.

Why it matters: Whitehouse has repeatedly spoken out against systemic racism and come under scrutiny this week for his family's affiliation with elite clubs. This is the second such club accused of lacking diversity that the senator has been linked to in recent days

3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Border Democrats want migrants vaccinated

Rep. Filemon Vela (D-Tex.) Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Some Democrats representing border districts want President Biden to vaccinate migrants crossing into the U.S. — especially if he lifts public health restrictions that have prevented them from claiming asylum on American soil.

Why it matters: Inoculating migrants treads a fine line of protecting the U.S. population while possibly incentivizing more migration with the offer of free COVID-19 vaccines. Republicans are likely to pounce on that.

3 hours ago - World

State Dept. fears Chinese threats to labor auditors

A space for media is designated by Chinese authorities near a mosque in the Xinjiang region of China. Photo: Greg Baker/AFP via Getty Images

The State Department is concerned organizations performing supply-chain audits in China are coming under pressure from Chinese authorities.

Why it matters: U.S. law prohibits importing products made through forced labor, but it's becoming increasingly difficult to verify whether products from China are tainted.