Evan Vucci / AP

Trump and Putin perfectly staged their first meeting so that both men could get what they needed out of it, politically.

"The deal": Sources close to Trump told us he went into the meeting believing it was still possible to strike a deal with Russia.

Now we have a better understanding of what that means: Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says they spent a good amount of the meeting discussing a solution to the Syrian conflict, and we saw a gift-wrapped victory, with the post-meeting announcement of a ceasefire. Tillerson held out the possibility of larger cooperation — which should be understood as possibly a deal that would encompass fighting ISIS together and resolving the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

Best of both worlds...

  • Sources who've spoken to Trump privately over the past few months say he's never fully bought into the intelligence community's assessment that Russia interfered in the election to help him win. He believes to his core it's a politically-motivated "fake" attack by Democrats.
  • Still, Trump's advisers knew that if he didn't "confront" Putin over the election hacking then that would be the headline in every newspaper and on every cable news show after the meeting. It would drown out everything else they discussed and accomplished.
  • So Trump took a middle course: he raised the issue with Putin but Tillerson made clear in his briefing after the meeting that Trump has no intention of continuing to litigate the issue. They want to move on, Tillerson said.

Putin got what he wanted: he got the respect and recognition he craved. Trump said it was an "honor" to meet him, and Tillerson described the two leaders' chemistry in glowing terms. (They were having such a great chat, Tillerson said, that even when they'd run well over the allotted 30 minutes and Melania Trump came in to try to get her husband to leave, they ignored her and continued talking for another hour.) Putin can also spin the election hacking conversation to his advantage. The Russian spin is that Trump accepted Putin's assurance that he had nothing to do with the election hacking. (A Trump official has already disputed this to NBC News.)

The upshot: Trump, like many presidents before him, still believes he can reshape the U.S-Russia relationship. Today's meeting appears to have reinforced that view.

Go deeper

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Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

As the coronavirus poses risks and concerns for the youngest and oldest Americans, the generations in the middle are buckling under the increasing strain of having to take care of both.

Why it matters: People that make up the so-called sandwich generations are typically in their 30s, 40s and 50s, and in their prime working years. The increasing family and financial pressures on these workers means complications for employers, too.

Why Scranton matters again in 2020

Biden and Clinton visit Biden's childhood home in Scranton in 2016. Photo: Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images

The hometown of Joe Biden and "The Office" is polishing its perennial status as a guidepost for the nation's political mood.

Driving the news: Biden returns to Scranton, Pa., today with a campaign stop just outside the city limits at a metalworking plant, where he'll deliver remarks on a plan to create jobs and "help America build back better."

Updated 21 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 5 a.m. ET: 12,051,561 — Total deaths: 549,735 — Total recoveries — 6,598,230Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 5 a.m. ET: 3,055,144 — Total deaths: 132,309 — Total recoveries: 953,420 — Total tested: 37,532,612Map.
  3. 2020: Houston mayor cancels Texas Republican convention.
  4. Public health: Deaths are rising in hotspots — Déjà vu sets in as testing issues rise and PPE dwindles.
  5. Travel: United warns employees it may furlough 45% of U.S. workforce How the pandemic changed mobility habits, by state.
  6. Education: New York City schools will not fully reopen in fallHarvard and MIT sue Trump administration over rule barring foreign students from online classes.