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Photo: Manuel Balce Ceneta / AP

The Trump administration is expected to notify Congress this week that it's dramatically lowering the number of refugees admitted into the United States over the next fiscal year.

Three officials close to the process say the consensus among the Department of Homeland Security and the State Department is to set a cap on the refugee intake somewhere in the range of 40,000 refugees over the next year — far fewer than the 110,000 refugees President Obama said he wanted to welcome into the U.S. in fiscal year 2017 and a reduction from the 50,000 cap that Trump set earlier this year.

What's next: Trump needs to make his final decision on the refugee cap before October 1 (the deadline for the annual decision on refugee admissions required by the Refugee Act of 1980.) A White House official told me that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke will head to Capitol Hill on Wednesday to consult Congress, before a final decision is made.

Behind-the-scenes

State Department: Two sources close to the process say that Tillerson signed off on a State Department memo recommending that Trump accept a maximum of 45,000 refugees in the next fiscal year.

  • A number of State career officials are unhappy and believe the U.S. should accept a significantly higher number, given the scale of suffering in countries like Iraq and Syria. A senior source at the State Department said many career employees believe the White House is walking away from America's global leadership and harming Tillerson's ability to conduct diplomacy by so dramatically reducing the intake of refugees.
  • A source close to Tillerson said the Secretary of State didn't think now was the time for a "philosophical argument about American diplomacy." The source said Tillerson was "practical" and agreed with the consensus view within the Trump administration that the administration can help exponentially more people by investing in refugee settlement near Iraq and Syria. "It isn't about making America the permanent destination; it's about helping to stabilize these places on the ground," the source said. "You can't stabilize a community by moving to Albany."

Homeland Security: Sources close to the refugee decision process told me the Department of Homeland Security recommended a refugee intake cap slightly lower than Tillerson's 45,000. Homeland Security officials plan to shift resources from processing refugees in foreign countries to vetting the asylum seekers already in the U.S. (some of whom are considered potential security risks.)

White House: Trump's top policy adviser Stephen Miller has advocated for a far lower cap of 20,000 refugees, according to sources close to the process. But other senior administration officials thought Miller's desires were unrealistic and would diminish America's standing with allies.

  • Per a WH official: "The president's strategy on refugees is guided first and foremost by the safety and security of the American people. The United States can also help a larger number of refugees by resettling them in their home region and enabling their eventual safe return home."
  • Trump's final decision will be the culmination of an interagency decision-making process that's run far more smoothly than the administration's early bumbling efforts to roll out the travel ban and other controversial policies.

Bottom line: Trump's refugee decision reflects, as much as anything, how starkly different his worldview is from Obama's. The previous administration wanted to expand the refugee intake amid the horrors in Syria and Iraq; and top officials viewed the program as core to America's leadership and moral standing in the world. The Trump administration officials involved in the process — that I've spoken to — regard an argument over the U.S. intake of refugees as relatively insignificant, with one telling me it "sounds lovely" to take several thousand more, but doesn't put a dent in the larger problem.

Go deeper

Mike Allen, author of AM
2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Biden's "overwhelming force" doctrine

President-elect Biden arrives to introduce his science team in Wilmington yesterday. Photo: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

President-elect Biden has ordered up a shock-and-awe campaign for his first days in office to signal, as dramatically as possible, the radical shift coming to America and global affairs, his advisers tell us. 

The plan, Part 1 ... Biden, as detailed in a "First Ten Days" memo from incoming chief of staff Ron Klain, plans to unleash executive orders, federal powers and speeches to shift to a stark, national plan for "100 million shots" in three months.

Off the Rails

Episode 2: Barbarians at the Oval

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

Beginning on election night 2020 and continuing through his final days in office, Donald Trump unraveled and dragged America with him, to the point that his followers sacked the U.S. Capitol with two weeks left in his term. This Axios series takes you inside the collapse of a president.

Episode 2: Trump stops buying what his professional staff are telling him, and increasingly turns to radical voices telling him what he wants to hear. Read episode 1.

President Trump plunked down in an armchair in the White House residence, still dressed from his golf game — navy fleece, black pants, white MAGA cap. It was Saturday, Nov. 7. The networks had just called the election for Joe Biden.

Fringe right plots new attacks out of sight

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Domestic extremists are using obscure and private corners of the internet to plot new attacks ahead of Inauguration Day. Their plans are also hidden in plain sight, buried in podcasts and online video platforms.

Why it matters: Because law enforcement was caught flat-footed during last week's Capitol siege, researchers and intelligence agencies are paying more attention to online threats that could turn into real-world violence.