Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on the day's biggest business stories

Subscribe to Axios Closer for insights into the day’s business news and trends and why they matter

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Stay on top of the latest market trends

Subscribe to Axios Markets for the latest market trends and economic insights. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sports news worthy of your time

Binge on the stats and stories that drive the sports world with Axios Sports. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tech news worthy of your time

Get our smart take on technology from the Valley and D.C. with Axios Login. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Get the inside stories

Get an insider's guide to the new White House with Axios Sneak Peek. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Denver news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Des Moines news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Twin Cities news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Tampa Bay news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Charlotte news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sign up for Axios NW Arkansas

Stay up-to-date on the most important and interesting stories affecting NW Arkansas, authored by local reporters

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

From left: Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Defense Secretary James Mattis, President Donald Trump, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao. Photo: Mike Theiler-Pool / Getty Images

Bloomberg scooped on Friday that Trump wants the Commerce Department to seek the harshest maximum tariffs on global steel imports: 24 percent.  

I’m told that’s accurate, but with one small tweak: Sources tell me the president has told confidants he actually wants a *25* percent global tariff on steel because it's a round number and sounds better.

The big picture: Also, an official with knowledge of the trade discussions told me the White House is preparing to impose tariffs on a "shit ton" — meaning, potentially hundreds — of Chinese products. They'll avoid going through the World Trade Organization — which Trump doesn't trust — and instead use Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974 to unilaterally retaliate against China for stealing Americans’ intellectual property.

  • Timing: Two sources told me Trump has been impatient and wanted these 301 tariffs done yesterday, but the team still hasn't settled on which Chinese products to attack. The team hasn't presented its recommendations to Trump.
  • The free traders — think Steven Mnuchin, Gary Cohn, Kevin Hassett, and Everett Eissenstat — only want tariffs on Chinese products that many other countries also produce (including uranium, consumer electronics and LED light bulbs.) They're trying to blunt any impact on American consumers.
  • However, a former top government trade official told me: "This is how trade wars start. There is zero chance China does not retaliate against us in painful ways..."

What's next: The much bigger fight inside the Trump administration concerns whether they'll put massive tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, as Wilbur Ross' Commerce Department "found that the quantities and circumstances of steel and aluminum imports 'threaten to impair the national security'." That was part of what’s called a Section 232 investigation.

  • Sources with knowledge of the discussions tell me James Mattis, Gary Cohn, Rex Tillerson, and Kevin Hassett all think Wilbur Ross did a terrible job on Commerce’s 232 investigation and strongly disagree with his recommendations. (This is the continuation of an ideological battle that's played out throughout the Trump administration between the free-traders and the protectionists.)
  • One official told me Ross' report doesn’t properly account for the negative impact of these tariffs on downstream jobs — for example, auto suppliers and other U.S. businesses that import steel and aluminum to make their products.
  • Mattis' Defense Department pushed back officially against Ross' recommendations: "DoD continues to be concerned about negative impact on our key allies regarding the recommended options within the reports."
  • The same report conceded that "imports of foreign steel and aluminum based on unfair trading practices impair the national security." But the phrase "unfair trading practices" — and Mattis' subsequent singling out of China — is a clear indication that the Defense Department doesn't support broad tariffs.

The pushback: When I shared these harsh criticisms with the White House and agencies, only Rex Tillerson's team would go on the record to deny our reporting:

  • From Tillerson's team, a State Department official said: "Secretary Tillerson has not expressed this sentiment and wouldn’t speak negatively about another cabinet member."
  • From the White House, Raj Shah said: "We are not responding to rumors and will not get ahead of the President. The process is ongoing, the President is reviewing the report and nothing is confirmed until he’s made a decision... The President’s team at the White House is leading a process that will ensure the President has all the information necessary for him to make a decision in the best interests of the American people."
  • From the Pentagon, spokesman Adrian Rankine-Galloway emailed: "The Department of Defense provides its best military advice to the President. Ultimately, it is the President who decides how his policies will be implemented."

Finally, a Commerce Department official pushed backed against the assertion that Ross didn't properly analyze the impact on the overall economy.

"DOC modeling has not shown any substantial impact on the overall economy as a result of the proposed steel tariffs," the official said. "This is consistent with the finding of the International Trade Commission that the Section 201 (in 2002) had negligible effects on the overall economy...While these were different products than those covered in the 232, they are all steel, and the ITC is an empirical source."

Go deeper

16 mins ago - World

Biden to push vaccine-sharing at UN, but boosters at home

Expand chart
Data: Our World in Data; Chart: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

President Biden will convene world leaders on Wednesday on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly to push them to do more to end the pandemic — though he's also facing criticism for prioritizing boosters at home.

Why it matters: There is still no functional plan in place to vaccinate the world, and past summits of this sort have flopped. The White House hopes that this virtual gathering will produce ambitious promises, accountability measures to track progress, and ultimately help achieve a 70% global vaccination rate this time next year.

GOP operatives accused of funneling Russian cash to Trump

Jesse Benton, spokesman for the Ron Paul campaign, speaking to reporters in the spin room after the CNN Debate on January 1, 2012. Photo: Robert Daemmrich Photography Inc/Corbis via Getty Images

A former senior aide to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Sen. Rand Paul was indicted this month for allegedly funneling $25,000 from a wealthy, unnamed Russian to former President Trump's reelection efforts.

The big picture: The Justice Department alleges that Jesse Benton, 43, the husband of Paul's niece and a veteran Republican staffer, orchestrated a scheme to conceal the illegal foreign donation with another GOP operative, Doug Wead.

Biden to raise refugee admissions cap to 125,000

Afghan refugees arrive at Dulles International Airport after being evacuated from Kabul. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The Biden administration will raise the refugee admissions cap to 125,000 for the next fiscal year beginning in October, the State Department confirmed in a statement Monday.

Why it matters: The move comes as the U.S. contends with resettling tens of thousands of Afghan refugees stateside, and as the world faces "unprecedented global displacement and humanitarian needs," the department wrote.