Evan Vucci / AP

Vladimir Putin has ordered the U.S. to cut its diplomatic staff in Russia by 755 by September 1 in response to the latest round of sanctions passed by Congress, the NY Times reports. That's believed to be more than half of the U.S. embassy staff in Russia, though not all of those removed will be American diplomats.

The Russian response was announced Friday, but it was unclear the number was so large.Trump hasn't yet signed the sanctions, but the White House said Friday that he would.Putin, in televised announcement: "We waited for quite some time that maybe something will change for the better, had such hope that the situation will somehow change, but, judging by everything, if it changes, it will not be soon."Axios' Steve Levine notes, "this is one of the biggest expulsions of any type from any country in modern history." For context, in retaliation for Russia's meddling in the U.S. election, the U.S. expelled 35 Russian diplomats in December.

Why it matters: This is a direct challenge to President Trump, and will complicate his goal of pursuing better relations with Russia.

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2020 election strategy: Hire all the lawyers

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The coronavirus has sent overall U.S. unemployment into the double digits — but it's a sort of full-employment act for election law attorneys.

The big picture: The prospect of extended court fights over COVID-19-related voting changes, an absentee ballot avalanche, foreign interference and contested presidential results has prompted a hire-all-the-lawyers binge by candidates and campaigns — not just in swing states but around the country.

Right-wing media defanged by dissolving anti-Biden storylines

Data: NewsWhip; Chart: Naema Ahmed/Axios

The three biggest anti-Joe Biden storylines in right-wing media over the last year have either fizzled or are getting less online traction than they used to, according to data from NewsWhip provided exclusively to Axios.

Why it matters: This dynamic has rendered a formidable media ecosystem less effective in boosting President Trump as we move into the heart of the 2020 campaign.

A coronavirus alarm bell is going off in the Midwest

Data: The COVID Tracking Project; Note: Positive rate shown is the 7-day average from June 1 to Aug. 6, 2020; Cartogram: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

A cluster of states in the Midwest are seeing more of their coronavirus tests coming back positive — potentially an early indicator of a growing outbreak.

The state of play: A high positive rate means that a higher share of those getting tested are sick. That could be because there are more sick people, or because a state isn't doing enough testing.