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Axios Apr 17
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A two-year study of broken politics in America

An aerial shot of Trump standing before Congress
President Trump delivers the 2018 State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress. Photo: Aaron P. Bernstein/Bloomberg via Getty Images

After more than two years of exploring why American politics is so broken, Jon Ward of Yahoo News today posts his conclusion: weakened political parties, driven by "the deeper issue of a loss of understanding even of what institutions are and why they exist."

The bottom line: "Populism is popular these days, and many Americans want to make the political system more fair. ... But ... anti-party reforms have gone too far and are now having a multitude of negative impacts."

  • "People blame dysfunction on the establishment and call for more reform. The reform further weakens the ability of parties and party leaders and increases dysfunction and chaos."
  • "Democrats are resisting empowering their own party officials as they head into the 2018 midterms and toward a 2020 showdown with President Trump. They are going to reduce their number of superdelegates in the primary."
  • Why it matters: "Anti-establishment thinking has been one of the most constant and dominant trends of the last half-century. ... Yet ... institutions can protect us from the abuse of power."
  • Worthy of your time.

Mike Pompeo’s first foreign trip

Mike Pompeo
CIA Director Mike Pompeo testifies on worldwide threats. Photo: SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

If he is confirmed as Secretary of State tomorrow, Mike Pompeo will embark on his first foreign trip as secretary to Brussels for the NATO Summit, Axios has learned. Bloomberg first reported the contingency planning for the potential trip.

The details: “The acting secretary John Sullivan is ready to go to the NATO summit in Brussels Thursday,” a senior administration official told Axios. “The secretary-designate Mike Pompeo is prepared to travel to the meeting of foreign ministers to reaffirm our commitment to NATO and coordinate the alliance’s response to Russian aggression.”

Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect the latest developments.

Haley Britzky 13 hours ago
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Cohen is pleading the Fifth in Stormy Daniels case

Michael Cohen walking next to photographers.
Michael Cohen. Photo: Yana Paskova/Getty Images

Michael Cohen is excersising his Fifth Amendment rights regarding his role in the payoff of former porn star Stormy Daniels, according to court papers he filed on Wednesday, CNN reports.

What they're saying: Cohen wrote in the filing that "[b]ased upon the advice of counsel, I will assert my 5th amendment rights in connection with all proceedings in this case due to the ongoing criminal investigation by the FBI and U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York." Trump has previously said, "If you're innocent, why are you taking the Fifth Amendment?"