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.

Go deeper

When U.S. politicians exploit foreign disinformation

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

U.S. political actors will keep weaponizing the impact of widespread foreign disinformation campaigns on American elections, making these operations that much more effective and attractive to Russia, China, Iran or other countries backing them.

Why it matters: Hostile powers’ disinformation campaigns aim to destabilize the U.S., and each time a domestic politician embraces them, it demonstrates that they work.

50 mins ago - Technology

Samsung debuts Note 20, new foldable smartphone

The Galaxy Note 20 Ultra. Photo: Samsung

Samsung unveiled its crop of new mobile devices Wednesday, including two versions of the Note 20 smartphone, an updated foldable device, two tablets and a watch.

Why it matters: The new devices aim to give Samsung an early start in the second half of the year, with products aimed at parents buying fresh gear for the back-to-(home)school season.

Joe Biden will no longer travel to Milwaukee for Democratic convention

Photo: Mark Makela/Getty Images

Joe Biden will no longer be traveling to Milwaukee the week of Aug. 17 to accept his nomination in person at the Democratic National Convention due to COVID-19 concerns, the DNC announced Wednesday.

Why it matters: No planned speakers will travel to Milwaukee, meaning that the convention will be entirely virtual — unlike the hybrid event that the party had previously been planning. Biden will accept the nomination from his home state of Delaware.