Sunday's politics & policy stories

Biden faces Dem defections

Rep. Susan Wild (D-Pa.). Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call via Getty Images

Vulnerable House and Senate Democrats are distancing themselves from President Biden over Afghanistan, with one calling the evacuation "egregiously mishandled."

Why it matters: Biden's poll numbers have fallen as the Delta variant spread and the Afghanistan exit proved harrowing. Now, some Democrats in swing states and districts are publicly distancing themselves.

Aug 29, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Twenty days to set 20 years

Rep. Peter Meijer. Photo: Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call via Getty Images

The next 20 years in Afghanistan will be dictated by what happens during the next 20 days, Rep. Peter Meijer (R-Mich.) tells Axios.

Why it matters: The Iraq war veteran visited Kabul exactly a week before the United States' impending withdrawal. "The best-case scenario is the country becomes like Iraq today; the worst-case scenario is it becomes like Syria today. I don't think we know right now what path it's going to take."

Revealed: Biden's ethics exceptions

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Top Biden officials have been excused from the ethics rules President Biden boasts about so they can do work involving large Wall Street banks, a leading defense contractor and prominent national media outlets, records show.

Driving the news: At least 16 Senate-confirmed officials have received waivers to ethics laws and regulations, according to an Axios review of their federal ethics paperwork.

Aug 29, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Former Israel ambassador joins U.S. Iran team

Dan Shapiro. Photo: Michael Brochstein/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Former U.S. ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro has joined the State Department's Iran team as a senior adviser, a senior State Department official tells Axios.

Why it matters: Israel is pressing the Biden administration to start discussing a “Plan B” in case diplomacy with Iran fails. Shapiro, who has a personal relationship with many Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, is equipped to play a key role in any such talks. His portfolio will be the regional aspects of the Iranian issue and coordination with Israel.

Fauci "sticking with" COVID-19 vaccine booster recommendations

Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

NIAID's Anthony Fauci said Sunday that the Biden administration is "sticking with" its recommendation for a third dose of the coronavirus vaccine eight months after receiving the original shots.

Why it matters: Fauci's statements on ABC's "This Week," come as the U.S. sees an uptick in COVID cases, largely due to the highly infectious Delta variant, and after the Biden administration announced it would begin offering booster shots to stay ahead of declining vaccine effectiveness.

Updated Aug 29, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Biden pays respect to fallen service members at Dover AFB

President Biden, first lady Jill Biden and other officials attend the dignified transfer of the remains of a fallen service member at Dover Air Force Base on Aug. 29. Photo: SAUL LOEB / AFP via Getty Images

President Biden and first lady Jill Biden met on Sunday with loved ones of the 13 service members killed in last week's Kabul airport attack and participated in a dignified transfer at Dover Air Force Base.

Why it matters: This is Biden's first visit as president to the Air Force base in Delaware to honor fallen troops. The base serves as the initial transit place for U.S. service members killed overseas.

CDC: Unvaccinated, unmasked teacher caused community-wide outbreak in California

A student rushes to her classroom for the first day of class in Laguna Niguel, California, on Aug. 17. Photo: Paul Bersebach, MediaNews Group/Orange County Register via Getty Images

An unvaccinated elementary school teacher in California infected more than half of her students with COVID-19, ultimately resulting in a community-wide outbreak in Marin County, a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found.

Why it matters: The outbreak, which took place in May, highlights the stakes surrounding a debate across the U.S. among school districts considering implementing stricter measures to curb the spread of the virus, like universal masking in schools.

Updated Aug 29, 2021 - Politics & Policy

U.S. announces joint arrangement to continue evacuating Afghan allies past Aug. 31

A C-17 Globemaster takes off as Taliban fighters secure the outer perimeter, alongside the American controlled side of the Hamid Karzai International Airport on Aug. 29. Photo: Marcus Yam/Los Angeles Times via Getty

The United States, along with 97 other countries, announced Sunday that they had reached an agreement with the Taliban to allow them to continue to get Afghan allies out of the country after the Aug. 31 withdrawal deadline.

Why it matters: "We are all committed to ensuring that our citizens, nationals and residents, employees, Afghans who have worked with us and those who are at risk can continue to travel freely to destinations outside Afghanistan," the joint statement said.

State Department says roughly 250 Americans still want to leave Afghanistan

A military plane leaving Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul on Aug. 27. Photo: Haroon Sabawoon/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Around 250 Americans in Afghanistan still want to leave the country, the Department of State said on Sunday.

Why it matters: The Kabul evacuation mission, which was further complicated by a terrorist attack at Hamid Karzai International Airport last week, is rapidly approaching President Biden's Aug. 31 end date.

U.S. airlifts humanitarian aid to Haiti after deadly earthquake

U.S. Army officers arrive in Haiti to provide support to the country after a 7.2-magnitude earthquake devastated thousands. Photo: Richard Pierrin/Getty Images

The U.S. is now airlifting food, tarps and other supplies into the areas that were hardest hit by the Aug. 14 earthquake in Haiti, AP reports.

Why it matters: Quickly getting resources to remote communities made vulnerable by the earthquake is the focus of the $32 million U.S. relief effort. Aid efforts will be coordinated with several humanitarian groups already in the country.

Aug 29, 2021 - World

American diplomats won't remain behind in Kabul, Blinken says

Image: Screenshot

The United States is "not likely" to have an “on-the-ground diplomatic presence” in Afghanistan after Aug. 31, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Sunday on "Meet the Press."

The big picture: "What is going to happen is that our commitment to continue to help people leave Afghanistan who want to leave and who are not out by Sept. 1, that endures,” Blinken told host Chuck Todd.

Updated Aug 29, 2021 - Politics & Policy

U.S. urges Americans to leave Kabul's airport due to "credible threat"

Taliban fighters walk in front of the main entrance gate of Kabul airport on Aug. 28. Photo: WAKIL KOHSAR/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden said on Saturday that U.S. commanders in Afghanistan told him earlier in the day that the threat of another terrorist attack near Kabul's airport was "highly likely in the next 24-36 hours."

Driving the news: Hours later, the U.S. Embassy in Kabul said in a new alert that Americans should "immediately" leave the airport area due to "a specific, credible threat."