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A Syrian soldier looks at destroyed buildings in Eastern Ghouta. Photo: STR / AFP / Getty Images

The State Department has put $200 million in recovery effort funds to Syria on hold, after the White House directed it to do so, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Why it matters: Per the Journal, this signals that the administration is re-evaluating U.S. presence in the region. President Trump said on Thursday said that the U.S. would be "coming out of Syria...very soon," and that "other people" should take care of it.

  • But, but, but: Trump's statement conflicted with what the Pentagon said on Thursday, and State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said she knew of no plans to leave Syria.
  • Per the Journal, the State Department spent $200 million "on stabilization work in Syria, including removing unexploded weapons and restoring water, power and electricity" last year, and had designated $225 million for those same services this year.

What to watch for: Two of the biggest powers with a presence in Syria are Iran and Russia, and if the U.S. exits the region it would "raise concerns about ceding" it to those countries. Per the WSJ, the move "would unnerve Israel and Saudi Arabia."

Worth noting: A state department official tells Politico, "The White House ordered the freeze to the State Department funding following a news report the president read noting the U.S. had committed an additional $200 million to support earlier recovery efforts in Syria."

Go deeper

Justice Department drops insider trading inquiry against Sen. Richard Burr

Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) walking through the Senate Subway in the U.S. Capitol in December 2020. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Getty Images

The Department of Justice told Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) on Tuesday that it will not move forward with insider trading charges against him.

Why it matters: The decision, first reported by the New York Times, effectively ends the DOJ's investigation into the senator's stock sell-off that occurred after multiple lawmakers were briefed about the coronavirus' potential economic toll. Burr subsequently stepped down as chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Netflix tops 200 million global subscribers

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Netflix said that it added another 8.5 million global subscribers last quarter, bringing its total number of paid subscribers globally to more than 200 million.

The big picture: Positive fourth-quarter results show Netflix's resiliency, despite increased competition and pandemic-related production headwinds.

Janet Yellen plays down debt, tax hike concerns in confirmation hearing

Treasury Secretary nominee Janet Yellen at an event in December. Photo: Alex Wong via Getty Images

Janet Yellen, Biden's pick to lead the Treasury Department, pushed back against two key concerns from Republican senators at her confirmation hearing on Tuesday: the country's debt and the incoming administration's plans to eventually raise taxes.

Driving the news: Yellen — who's expected to win confirmation — said spending big now will prevent the U.S. from having to dig out of a deeper hole later. She also said the Biden administration's priority right now is coronavirus relief, not raising taxes.

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