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Alexander F. Yuan / AP

The Trump administration is moving toward returning two diplomatic compounds to Russia that were seized by the Obama administration on the grounds that they were used for espionage, the Washington Post reports.

Flashback: In December, Obama ordered the compounds — in Maryland and New York — closed and expelled 35 alleged Russian spies in retaliation for the Kremlin's meddling in the 2016 election.

Why it matters that the administration is even considering the move:

  1. This would completely undermine Obama, and the U.S. response to Russia's election interference.
  2. It would be a major concession to Russia, particularly if nothing is given in return, at a time when the very mention of Russia carries a whiff of scandal and intrigue.
  3. On a more basic level, it would mean re-opening compounds from which Russian spies reportedly operated for decades.

Where things stand, per the Post: In early May, Sec of State Tillerson raised the possibility of returning the compounds if construction was allowed to move ahead on a new U.S. consulate in St Petersburg, but dropped the condition about the consulate days later after meeting with the Russian Foreign Minister and U.S. Ambassador in Washington. It's not a done deal, though — a Tillerson adviser said "the U.S. and Russia have reached no agreements."

The Flynn connection: Michael Flynn, the former national security advisor, discussed the Obama administration's sanctions with Russia's ambassador and "indicated that U.S. policy would change" under Trump. He then misled other officials about the discussions, and was subsequently fired.

Bonus anecdote: I spoke with locals in Centreville, Maryland the day after the compound there was closed about the espionage in their backyard, and what they thought would happen next. Smoky Sigler, then president of the town council, predicted that once Trump was in office he'd wait a few months, then let the Russians back in. "They'll be back," he told me. As crazy as it sounded at the time, he may well be proved right.

Go deeper

"Atmospheric river" swings Northern California from drought to flood

Satellite view of the bomb cyclone swirling off the coast of the Pacific Northwest and the atmospheric river affecting California on Oct. 24. Photo: CIRA/RAMMB

A series of powerful "atmospheric river" storms are delivering historic amounts of rainfall across parts of drought-stricken California and the Pacific Northwest — triggering widespread power outages and flooding.

Why it matters: The strong atmospheric river, packing large amounts of moisture, is causing Northern California to whiplash from drought to flood.

“You blew it”: GOP activist turns on corporations over vaccine mandates

The chairman of the American Conservative Union said on "Axios on HBO" he accepts "Joe Biden is my president, and I want him to succeed," but predicted Republicans retake the House and Senate in 2022 — with greater than 50% odds Donald Trump runs in 2024.

The big picture: In a joint interview with his wife, Mercedes, Matt Schlapp also refused to share their vaccination status. And he told corporate America "you blew it" by embracing vaccine mandates and liberal social stances that have alienated GOP voters and politicians.

3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Pelosi expects “billionaire’s tax” to pay for Biden social spending

Photo: Yasin Ozturk/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Sunday she expects the chamber to pass the bipartisan infrastructure plan by week’s end, and alternatives to corporate tax hikes and a “billionaires tax” will be used to finance President Biden’s promised expansion to the social safety net.

Why it matters: Pelosi’s comments come as House and Senate leaders try to wrap up a deal. What will get cut — and how the remainder will be paid — are linchpins to a final agreement.

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