May 16, 2019

Trump tells defense secretary he doesn't want war with Iran

Trump and Shanahan (L) in a meeting witht he top U.S. military brass. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

President Trump told acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan and other top officials on Wednesday that he does not want his "maximum pressure" campaign against Iran to escalate to war, the NY Times reports.

Between the lines: National Security Adviser John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have been sounding the alarm about impending attacks from Iran and warning of "unrelenting force" if necessary. Trump has long been wary of a new military engagement in the Middle East, and this is the clearest signal yet that the current standoff with Iran is no exception.

The big picture: Trump's sanction campaign appears likely to cripple the Iranian economy, and his administration has insisted it won't ease up until the Iranian regime fundamentally changes its behavior. There's no sign that's about to happen.

  • With Bolton and Pompeo amplifying their rhetoric and the U.S. dispatching additional military hardware to the region, fears of a miscalculation that leads to war have become acute, particularly among European allies.
  • The Times reports that the recent flurry of threats and activity from the administration was due to intelligence showing Iran placed missiles on boats in the Gulf and could potentially strike U.S. troops or allied interests.
  • Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's supreme leader, said Tuesday that "we don't seek a war, and they don't either." He added that Tehran is not interested in negotiations and insisted, “our resoluteness is more unwavering than theirs.”

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Federal court temporarily halts "Remain in Mexico" program

Migrant wearing a cap with U.S. flagin front of the border between Guatemala and Mexico. Photo: Jair Cabrera Torres/picture alliance via Getty Image

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court's earlier injunction on Friday, temporarily stopping the Trump administration from enforcing the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) — known as the "Remain in Mexico" policy.

Why it matters: Tens of thousands of migrants seeking asylum have been forced to wait out their U.S. immigration court cases across the border in Mexico under the policy. The Trump administration has long credited this program for the decline in border crossings following record highs last summer.

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Coronavirus updates: WHO raises global threat level to "very high"

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens.

The World Health Organization raised its global risk assessment for the novel coronavirus to "very high" Friday, its highest risk level as countries struggle to contain it. Meanwhile, National Economic Council director Larry Kudlow this morning tried to reassure the markets, which continued to correct amid growing fears of a U.S. recession.

The big picture: COVID-19 has killed more than 2,860 people and infected about 83,800 others in almost 60 countries and territories outside the epicenter in mainland China. The number of new cases reported outside China now exceed those inside the country.

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Bernie's plan to hike taxes on some startup employees

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Sens. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) introduced legislation that would tax nonqualified stock options at vesting, rather than at exercise, for employees making at least $130,000 per year.

The big picture: Select employees at private companies would be taxed on monies that they hadn't yet banked.