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Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

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Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

Over the first two years, President Trump could get away with largely extending his campaign bluster: Build a "big, beautiful wall" and get Mexico to pay for it, withdraw from foreign entanglements, deliver "incredible" healthcare, slash drug prices and fundamentally change the U.S.-China relationship.

Between the lines: Now he faces a new reality that's driven by Democrats in Congress and the need to deliver on his lofty promises.

Trump’s dawning reality:

The only path to a wall is by taking executive action, probably by declaring a national emergency, and finding himself caught up in yet another court fight.

Nobody at a senior level in the White House thinks they’ll get any legislating done in a Congress now dominated by a newly-elected anti-Trump, and unapologetically progressive, House Democratic majority.

Trump has thrown China off balance with harsh tariffs and deserves credit for highlighting Beijing’s abuses more than any recent president. Congress and the business community are surprisingly receptive to Trump’s tough line on China.

  • But he now needs to deliver the structural changes he promised — fundamentally changing China’s behavior. If all this results in is a bribe — China goes on a short-term U.S. shopping spree in exchange for Trump leaving them alone — then all the bluster will be worthless.

The American healthcare system remains an unaffordable mess.

  • Trump is using executive powers to make some reforms to drug pricing, which have angered the pharmaceutical lobby. But the chances of Congress passing something substantial this year are minimal.

After declaring — unequivocally, as always — that he was getting U.S. troops out of Syria, Trump’s administration is now grinding through a complicated and unclear process.

  • Republicans are pushing back and many, including Sen. Lindsey Graham, are pushing Trump toward retaining a skeletal U.S. presence in Syria as part of a long-term "stabilization" mission.
  • The bottom line: It’s still unclear when or even if the U.S. military will fully withdraw from Syria. It's even more unclear in Afghanistan, though Trump says he’s optimistic about the ongoing talks with the Taliban.

Go deeper

Mike Allen, author of AM
44 mins ago - Economy & Business

America on borrowed time

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Economic recovery will not be linear as the world continues to grapple with the uncertainty of the pandemic.

Why it matters: Despite being propped up by an extraordinary amount of fiscal stimulus and support from central banks, the state of the global economy remains fragile.

Scoop: Gina Haspel threatened to resign over plan to install Kash Patel as CIA deputy

CIA Director Gina Haspel. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

CIA Director Gina Haspel threatened to resign in early December after President Trump cooked up a hasty plan to install loyalist Kash Patel, a former aide to Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), as her deputy, according to three senior administration officials with direct knowledge of the matter.

Why it matters: The revelation stunned national security officials and almost blew up the leadership of the world's most powerful spy agency. Only a series of coincidences — and last minute interventions from Vice President Mike Pence and White House counsel Pat Cipollone — stopped it.

Updated 13 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: Coronavirus deaths reach 4,000 per day as hospitals remain in crisis mode — CDC warns highly transmissible coronavirus variant could become dominant in U.S. in March.
  2. Politics: Biden says, "We will manage the hell out of" vaccine distribution — Biden taps ex-FDA chief to lead Operation Warp Speed amid rollout of COVID plan — Widow of GOP congressman-elect who died of COVID-19 will run to fill his seat.
  3. Vaccine: Battling Black mistrust of the vaccines"Pharmacy deserts" could become vaccine deserts — Instacart to give $25 to shoppers who get vaccine.
  4. Economy: Unemployment filings explode againFed chair: No interest rate hike coming any time soon —  Inflation rose more than expected in December.
  5. World: WHO team arrives in China to investigate pandemic origins.

You’ve caught up. Now what?

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