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Head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots. Photo: Patrick Smith/Getty Images

President Trump is appointing a number of sports celebrities, including New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick, to his "Council on Sports, Fitness, and Nutrition," Axios has learned.

Why this matters: Trump signed an executive order in February to rebrand the council so that it's more focused on encouraging kids to take up sports — a theme Ivanka Trump highlighted at the Winter Olympics.

  • President Obama called his version of the group the "Council on Fitness, Sports, and Nutrition." Under the Obama administration, the council focused more on nutrition and Michelle Obama's quest to make school lunches healthier.

What's new: According to a source with direct knowledge, alongside Belichick, Trump will also appoint golfer Natalie Gulbis, three-time Olympic beach volleyball gold medalist Misty May-Treanor, retired Major League Baseball pitcher Mariano Rivera, retired NFL running back Herschel Walker, and Dr. Mehmet Oz.

  • This group includes some old Trump friends and reinforces the truism that one never really leaves Trump's orbit. In the early 1980s, when Trump tried — and failed — to crush the NFL through his purchase of USFL team the New Jersey Generals, his star recruit was Herschel Walker.
  • On Wednesday the New York Times reported that chief of staff John Kelly marveled to donors last week that Trump spent "a long time" on the phone with Belichick.

Behind the scenes: Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar will host the first meeting of the council, the source told me. Ivanka Trump, Azar, and Surgeon General Jerome Adams have all been involved in discussions on the council. The source added:

  • "Studies have shown that children who are involved in sports have greater self-discipline, higher self-esteem, and are better at working with others..."
  • The administration is concerned that "youth sports participation has declined over the last decade, particularly among young girls and children from economically distressed communities."
  • Earlier this week, Trump signed a proclamation designating May 2018 as "National Physical Fitness and Sports Month."
  • "In the coming months, the President will welcome the council members to the White House, and host a sports field day on the South Lawn..."

Go deeper

McConnell, McCarthy say 2017 tax law is "red line" in infrastructure talks

The top Republicans in the House and Senate told reporters after meeting with President Biden at the White House that "there is a bipartisan desire to get an outcome" on an infrastructure package, but stressed that revisiting the 2017 tax cuts is a "red line."

Why it matters: Wednesday marked the first time that Biden has hosted Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) at the White House.

McCarthy: "I don't think anybody is questioning the legitimacy" of Biden's win

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) was asked Wednesday whether he was concerned about elevating Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) to GOP leadership after she has promoted baseless claims about the election. He responded: "I don't think anybody is questioning the legitimacy of the presidential election."

Why it matters: Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) was ousted as House GOP conference chair earlier Wednesday — in a vote that McCarthy supported — over her continued criticisms of former President Trump and his lies about election fraud.

Updated 1 hour ago - World

Gaza crisis: Casualties pile up with no signs of ceasefire from Israel, Hamas

Palestinians in the Gaza Strip leave their neighborhood on Wednesday following an explosion. Photo: li Jadallah/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Tel Aviv — With Israel and Hamas now engaged in their most destructive fight in seven years, the Biden administration is dispatching a State Department official to join the de-escalation efforts.

The latest: The Israeli air force attacked a meeting of senior Hamas military leaders on Wednesday in Gaza and reported it had killed the Gaza City Brigade commander and the heads of Hamas’ cyber arm and weapons research and development department, along with at least three other senior officials.