Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told Congress Thursday that the United States is primarily in Syria to suffocate ISIS. "Our role in Syria is the defeat of ISIS. We are not going to engage in the civil war [between Bashar al-Assad's government and forces of opposition] itself," he said, but added that "at times you are going to see contrary impulses."

The backdrop: President Trump has been foreshadowing military strikes against Syria in response to a chemical attack in the city of Douma that was allegedly carried out by Assad's government. Mattis told lawmakers, "I believe there was a chemical attack, and we’re looking for the actual evidence."

Go deeper

10 mins ago - Health

If Trump replaces Ginsburg, the ACA really is at risk

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The Supreme Court vacancy created by Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death leaves the Affordable Care Act in much greater jeopardy than it was just a few days ago.

The big picture: Conventional wisdom had held that Chief Justice John Roberts would likely join with the court’s liberals to save the ACA once again. But if President Trump is able to fill Ginsburg’s former seat, Roberts’ vote alone wouldn’t be enough to do the trick, and the law — or big sections of it — is more likely to be struck down.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
15 mins ago - Energy & Environment

Nikola founder steps aside amid allegations of fraud

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

Nikola announced Monday that executive chairman Trevor Milton, who is also the company's founder, is out as the electric and fuel cell truck startup reportedly faces federal inquiries into a short-seller's allegations of inaccurate or misleading statements.

Why it matters: It's the latest move in a head-spinning series of events for Nikola.

College students give failing grade on return to campus

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

College students are learning less, partying less and a majority say the decision to return to campus was a bad decision, according to a new College Reaction/Axios poll.

Why it matters: The enthusiasm to forge something resembling a college experience has dissipated as online learning, lockdowns and a diminished social life has set in.