Pompeo meets with Lavrov in Helsinki. Photo: Valery Sharifulin/TASS via Getty Images

With the a deadline to impose further Russia sanctions looming, the Trump administration has reached out to the Kremlin in hopes of avoiding another tit-for-tat escalation with Moscow, the Washington Post's John Hudson reports.

What to watch: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo certified earlier this month that Russia had illegally used chemical weapons in the poisoning of Russian ex-double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter in England. That triggered automatic sanctions under a 1991 law, and gave the administration three months to pick from a menu of further penalties, some of which could hit Russia hard. Pompeo has requested a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov before that deadline, and Lavrov has accepted, per Hudson.

Why it matters: President Trump wants to improve relations with Russia, but has been compelled to respond forcefully to Russian acts of aggression. He wants to break the cycle of escalation. As Hudson writes, "the wide discretion the Trump administration has in choosing the severity of the sanctions gives Pompeo room to negotiate, but he will eventually have to answer to Congress."

“The Trump administration currently has a two-sided Russia policy: imposing even more punitive sanctions on Moscow at the direction of Congress and then reaching out for dialogue at the direction of President Trump. The Russians look at this and think everything is unpredictable. And they think that since Helsinki, they can’t rely on things improving because the sanctions keep coming."
— Angela Stent, Russia expert and former Bush administration official, to the Post.

Go deeper: Trump's dueling Russia policies.

Go deeper

Trump commutes Roger Stone's sentence

Roger Stone arriving at his sentencing hearing on Feb. 20. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

President Trump on Friday evening commuted the sentence of his longtime associate Roger Stone, according to two senior administration officials. Stone in February was sentenced to 40 months in prison for crimes including obstruction, witness tampering and making false statements to Congress.

Why it matters: The controversial move brings an abrupt end to the possibility of Stone spending time behind bars. He had been scheduled to report to prison on July 14.

Updated 7 hours ago - Health

Which states have set single-day coronavirus records this week

Data: COVID Tracking Project and state health department data compiled by Axios; Map: Danielle Alberti and Naema Ahmed/Axios

13 states this week surpassed records set just last week for their highest number of coronavirus infections in a single day, according to the COVID Tracking Project and state health department data. 16 states in total reported new highs.

The big picture: The United States' alarming rise in coronavirus cases isn't just due to increased testing — particularly where the number of cases has grown fastest over the last month, Axios' Andrew Witherspoon and Caitlin Owens report.

Updated 8 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 6:30 p.m. ET: 12,389,660 — Total deaths: 557,279 — Total recoveries — 6,830,596Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 6:30 p.m. ET: 3,169,611 — Total deaths: 133,885 — Total recoveries: 983,185 — Total tested: 38,856,341Map.
  3. Public health: The reality of the coronavirus bites.
  4. Trade: Trump says he's no longer considering phase-two trade deal with China because the pandemic damaged the two countries' relationship.
  5. 🎧 Podcast: Rural America has its own coronavirus problem.