Photo: Jorge Silva/AFP/Getty Images

Trump's red line on Russia is Vladimir Putin. The president is loath to criticize him by name or call him out in one-on-one conversations. But he has taken some tough steps against Russia that his predecessor didn't. An example: sending lethal arms to Ukraine. 

Why this matters: It's part of the Trump paradox. He still believes the U.S. and Russia have plenty of shared interests and wants to mend the relationship. He also thinks the only way to do this is by building a warm personal relationship with Putin, according t0 people who have discussed the issue privately with Trump. But this dual-track strategy — be nice personally and tough administratively — becomes more fantastical every time Trump authorizes a harsh action against the Kremlin. 

  • Today's actions — expelling the Russian diplomats – make sense when you bear this in mind. 
  • The Trump administration has taken a fairly tough action against Russia, along with NATO allies, but Trump himself is loathe to brag about it. He let his press secretary Sarah Sanders announce the expulsion through an emailed statement to the media. 

Behind the scenes: British Prime Minister Theresa May asked for Trump's support in expelling the Russian diplomats, but he was only willing to do so if other NATO allies — like France and Germany — would act together, a senior administration source told me.

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Updated 24 mins ago - World

China says U.S. is "endangering peace" with high-level visit to Taiwan

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar during a June briefing in Washington, DC. Photo: Joshua Roberts/Getty Images

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar announced Tuesday night he will lead a delegation to Taiwan "in the coming days."

Why it matters: It's the highest-level visit by a U.S. cabinet official to Taiwan since 1979. Azar is also the first U.S. Cabinet member to visit the island state in six years. The visit has angered China, which views Taiwan as part of its territory. Chinese officials accused the U.S. early Wednesday of "endangering peace" with the visit, AFP reports.

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 3:30 a.m. ET: 18,543,662 — Total deaths: 700,714 — Total recoveries — 11,143,031Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 3:30 a.m. ET: 4,771,236 — Total deaths: 156,807 — Total recoveries: 1,528,979 — Total tests: 57,543,852Map.
  3. States: New York City health commissioner resigns in protest of De Blasio's coronavirus response — Local governments go to war over schools.
  4. Public health: 59% of Americans support nationwide 2-week stay-at-home order in NPR poll.
  5. Politics: Trump's national security adviser returns to work after coronavirus recovery Republicans push to expand small business loan program.
  6. Sports: Indy 500 to be held without fansRafael Nadal opts out of U.S. Open.
Updated 2 hours ago - World

At least 100 killed, 4,000 injured after massive explosion rocks Beirut

Photo: Anwar Amro/AFP via Getty Images

A major explosion has slammed central Beirut, Lebanon, damaging buildings as far as several miles away and injuring scores of people.

Driving the news: At least 100 people have been killed and over 4,000 injured in the blast — and the death toll is likely to rise, the Lebanese Red Cross said, per AP. Prime Minister Hassan Diab said the explosions occurred at a warehouse that had been storing 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate for the past six years.