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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Photo: Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will visit Israel two weeks from now, as the campaign for the country's April 9 election enters its final stages. Pompeo's visit will be part of a regional trip that will include Lebanon and Kuwait.

Why it matters: A visit by the secretary of state in a country during an election campaign is a bit unusual. Pompeo is expected to be in Jerusalem for a summit between Israel, Greece and Cyprus to be held on March 20 — three weeks before the election. The visit is unusual also because Prime Minister Netanyahu will visit Washington four days later and meet President Trump at the White House.

  • State Department deputy spokesperson Robert Palladino said in the press briefing today that Pompeo's visit is not a message of support for one of the political parties in Israel. He added: "Israel is an ally. We're not gonna get involved in the domestic politics of another country."
  • In a CNN interview with Jake Tapper a few days ago, Pompeo was asked about the deal Netanyahu cooked with the far-right, ultranationalist "Jewish Power" party. Pompeo answered: "The United States is not going to get involved in an election, to interfere in an election of a democracy, and we will allow the Israeli people to sort this out."

Pompeo is expected to meet Netanyahu during his visit to Jerusalem, but it's unclear if he is going to meet Netanyahu's main political rival — retired Gen. Benny Gantz, who is leading in the polls. Unlike previous secretaries of state, Pompeo has not met any members of the opposition during his trips to Israel.

The big picture: Pompeo will arrive in Israel against the backdrop of three indictments against Netanyahu for bribery, fraud and breach of trust. The State Department refrained from commenting on Netanyahu's indictments.

But one senior U.S. official did comment on Netanyahu's indictments — President Trump. He was asked about it by an Israeli reporter during his press conference in Hanoi after the summit with Kim Jong-un, and responded:

"I just think he’s been a great prime minister, and I don’t know about his difficulty, but you’re telling me something that, you know, people have been hearing about. But I don’t know about that. I can say this, that he’s done a great job as prime minister. He’s tough, he’s smart, he’s strong. He is very defensive. His military has been built up a lot."

Many in Israel saw Trump's remarks as an endorsement of Netanyahu. U.S. officials told me that was not the case and that Trump was only describing his appreciation to Netanyahu in response to a question. In any case, Netanyahu was quick to use Trump's remarks in his election ads.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Scoop: Gina Haspel threatened to resign over plan to install Kash Patel as CIA deputy

CIA Director Gina Haspel. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

CIA Director Gina Haspel threatened to resign in early December after President Trump cooked up a hasty plan to install loyalist Kash Patel, a former aide to Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), as her deputy, according to three senior administration officials with direct knowledge of the matter.

Why it matters: The revelation stunned national security officials and almost blew up the leadership of the world's most powerful spy agency. Only a series of coincidences — and last minute interventions from Vice President Mike Pence and White House counsel Pat Cipollone — stopped it.

Updated 10 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: Coronavirus deaths reach 4,000 per day as hospitals remain in crisis mode — CDC warns highly transmissible coronavirus variant could become dominant in U.S. in March.
  2. Politics: Biden says, "We will manage the hell out of" vaccine distribution — Biden taps ex-FDA chief to lead Operation Warp Speed amid rollout of COVID plan — Widow of GOP congressman-elect who died of COVID-19 will run to fill his seat.
  3. Vaccine: Battling Black mistrust of the vaccines"Pharmacy deserts" could become vaccine deserts — Instacart to give $25 to shoppers who get vaccine.
  4. Economy: Unemployment filings explode againFed chair: No interest rate hike coming any time soon —  Inflation rose more than expected in December.
  5. World: WHO team arrives in China to investigate pandemic origins.

John Weaver, Lincoln Project co-founder, acknowledges “inappropriate” messages

John Weaver aboard John McCain's campaign plane in February 2000. Photo: Robert Schmidt/AFP via Getty Images)

John Weaver, a veteran Republican operative who co-founded the Lincoln Project, declared in a statement to Axios on Friday that he sent “inappropriate,” sexually charged messages to multiple men.

  • “To the men I made uncomfortable through my messages that I viewed as consensual mutual conversations at the time: I am truly sorry. They were inappropriate and it was because of my failings that this discomfort was brought on you,” Weaver said.
  • “The truth is that I'm gay,” he added. “And that I have a wife and two kids who I love. My inability to reconcile those two truths has led to this agonizing place.”

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