Sunday’s top stories

Exclusive: Zelensky "surprised" and "disappointed" by Biden pipeline move

Volodymyr Zelensky. Photo: Sergei Supinsk/AFP via Getty Images

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky says he learned through the press — not any direct heads-up — that President Biden had decided to stop trying to block a Russian pipeline that Ukraine sees as a dire national security threat.

Driving the news: Zelensky used an hourlong Zoom interview with Axios on Friday to beseech Biden to meet with him face to face before a June 16 summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin — offering to join him "at any moment and at any spot on the planet."

New WTO boss opens up about her "impossible job"

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the first woman and first African to become director-general of the World Trade Organization, forged her strength through traumas few political leaders could imagine — let alone endure.

Driving the news: In a remarkable interview with "Axios on HBO" — her first extended, in-person TV interview since taking the job in March — the MIT-trained economist and development expert opened up about her nearly "impossible job" and the experiences that shaped her, including her mother's kidnapping.

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Thousands of Haitian migrants are living in a temporary encampment in Del Rio, Texas.
Mike Allen, author of AM
Jun 6, 2021 - World

"Axios on HBO": Blinken vows to hold China accountable on COVID origins

Secretary of State Antony Blinken told "Axios on HBO" the Biden administration is determined to "get to the bottom" of COVID-19's origins, and said the U.S. will hold China accountable.

Why it matters: "The most important reason we have to get to the bottom of this is that's the only way we're going to be able to prevent the next pandemic or at least do a better job in mitigating it," he said during a wide-ranging interview in the State Department's Benjamin Franklin State Dining Room.

Ina Fried, author of Login
Jun 6, 2021 - Technology

Roblox CEO: Human reviewers are key to keeping the metaverse safe

Photo: Axios on HBO

Roblox CEO David Baszucki says in an "Axios on HBO" interview that he is confident that his company can keep kids safe even as adults and children mix in increasingly complex digital worlds.

Why it matters: Roblox is among the companies trying to create a Ready Player One-like "metaverse," while trying to avoid the dystopian future often associated with such virtual environments.

Progressive dam about to break

Rep. Mondaire Jones (D-N.Y.) arrives at a news conference with Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) on April 27. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

House progressives are getting fed up with efforts to accommodate Republican senators — and Joe Manchin. Look for them to start demanding swift action — and threatening payback.

Why it matters: The White House is under growing pressure to accede to the left's demand to bust the filibuster. That rule effectively requires the support of 10 Republicans for most measures in this 50-50 Senate, rather than the simple majority that most Democrats want.

Manchin says he won't vote for Democrats' sweeping election reform bill

Sen. Joe Manchin. Photo: Michael Swensen/Getty Images

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) wrote in a Charleston Gazette-Mail op-ed Sunday that he will not support congressional Democrats' expansive election and anti-corruption bill, suggesting the measure is partisan.

Why it matters: Manchin's opposition to H.R. 1, known as the For the People Act, puts the bill in tenuous footing in the evenly split Senate. The West Virginia senator said any elections-related legislation should be the result of both parties coming together.

Felix Salmon, author of Capital
Jun 6, 2021 - Economy & Business

Fears of a foreclosure crisis are waning

Data: Black Knight; Chart: Axios Visuals

The federal government's foreclosure moratorium — designed to help homeowners weather the pandemic — is ending later this month. But that doesn't mean foreclosures are about to come roaring back.

Why it matters: The housing market is very tight, and people who lose their homes right now can find it very hard to find somewhere else to live. The good news, however, is that foreclosures are almost certain to remain extremely uncommon until 2022 at the earliest.

Hundreds of places with racist names dot the U.S.

Illustration: Annelise Capossela

More than 1,000 towns, lakes, streams, creeks and mountain peaks across the U.S. still bear racist names, according to a federal board under the Department of the Interior.

Why it matters: The legacies of sites with names such as Squaw Lake, Minn., and Dead Negro Spring in Oklahoma endure, even amid a national push to remove Confederate monuments and change designations of public buildings named for racists.

El Salvador's president announces plan to make bitcoin legal tender

El Salvador's President Nayib Bukele in the Legislative Assembly building in San Salvador, El Salvador, last Tuesday. Photo: Camilo Freedman/Bloomberg via Getty Images

El Salvador's President Nayib Bukele said Saturday he will send a bill to the Central American country's Congress next week to make bitcoin legal tender.

Why it matters: If the legislation is passed by lawmakers, El Salvador would become the first country to formally adopt the digital currency.

Jun 6, 2021 - World

U.S. donating COVID vaccines to Taiwan amid reports China blocking doses

Sen. Tammy Duckworth outside the U.S. Capitol last Tuesday. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

The U.S. will donate 750,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses to Taiwan, Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) announced after arriving in the capital, Taipei, on a bipartisan congressional visit Sunday.

Why it matters: The island state is facing spiking coronavirus cases, and officials say their efforts to obtain vaccines are being impeded by China's government, which considers Taiwan to be part of its territory.

Georgia's Kemp booed and Raffensperger censured at state GOP convention

Combination images of Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and Gov. Brian Kemp.

Gov. Brian Kemp (R) was booed at the Georgia GOP convention, where a resolution was passed to censure Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger for ignoring former President Trump's pressure to overturn the state's 2020 election results.

Why it matters: The action shows the grip Trump has on the Republican Party in the state.

Trump endorses N.C. Rep. Ted Budd for Senate as Lara Trump declines to run

Rep. Ted Budd on stage with Former President Trump at the N.C. GOP state convention in Greenville, North Carolina, on Saturday. Photo: Melissa Sue Gerrits/Getty Images

Former President Trump said Saturday that North Carolina Rep. Ted Budd has his "complete and total endorsement" to replace the state's retiring Republican U.S. Sen. Richard Burr.

Why it matters: The 2022 race for Burr's seat is set to be one of the most watched in the U.S. It could determine the balance of power in the Senate, which is technically split 50-50, with Vice President Kamala Harris having the tie-breaker vote.