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Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

President Trump is cutting against historical and political norms on a trifecta of big issues at the heart of U.S. domestic, economic and security policy.

Driving the news:

  • Trump is seeking to kill "Obamacare" through the courts over the objection of his own attorney general and top GOP congressional leaders.
  • The White House is publicly pushing the Fed to cut interest rates, something prior administrations never contemplated doing.
  • The president is again publicly threatening to close ports of entry on the U.S. southern border. "I'm not playing games," Trump said Friday in Florida.

The State Department said the U.S. will cut off aid to the Central American countries of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras — the Northern Triangle. Trump said: "No money goes there anymore. ... We stopped payment." The WashPost reports that the escalation involves hundreds of millions of dollars.

A Trump administration official familiar with the situation told Axios that the president "is definitely serious about" closing the border and "has talked about it quite a few times and wanted to do it several times."

  • The source said Trump's idea would mean that day laborers could cross the border, but that it would otherwise be a "total no entry." 

But administration officials privately say it's unlikely Trump will follow through on his threat, and they acknowledge that they're nowhere near prepared to execute on such a radical plan on the president's threatened timeline of this week.

  • The widespread view within the White House and at the Department of Homeland Security is that it's a terrible and unworkable idea.
  • Trump administration officials have been discussing the impracticalities, such as U.S. citizens coming and going across the border.
  • But Trump wants it. So "it's being looked into, what it could and would look like," the administration official said.

The backdrop: A swelling number of asylum seekers from Central America is straining the immigration system to the breaking point, AP reports.

  • Hundreds of officers who usually screen cargo and vehicles at ports of entry have been reassigned to help manage migrants.
  • An administration official told Axios: "This is the result of a broken immigration system that fails the nation and fails to effectively promote any of the goals it should — economic prosperity, public safety and national security, protecting vulnerable populations, and welcoming legal immigrants."
Subscribe to Axios AM/PM for a daily rundown of what's new and why it matters, directly from Mike Allen.
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Go deeper

Updated 4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Supreme Court backs religious groups on New York coronavirus restrictions

Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled late Wednesday that restrictions previously imposed on New York places of worship by Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) during the coronavirus pandemic violated the First Amendment.

Why it matters: The decision in a 5-4 vote heralds the first significant action by the new President Trump-appointed conservative Justice Amy Coney Barrett, who cast the deciding vote in favor of the Catholic Church and Orthodox Jewish synagogues.

USAID chief tests positive for coronavirus

An Air Force cargo jet delivers USAID supplies to Russia earlier this year. Photo: Mikhail Metzel/TASS via Getty Images

The acting administrator of the United States Agency for International Development informed senior staff Wednesday he has tested positive for coronavirus, two sources familiar with the call tell Axios.

Why it matters: John Barsa, who staffers say rarely wears a mask in their office, is the latest in a series of senior administration officials to contract the virus. His positive diagnosis comes amid broader turmoil at the agency following the election.

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
11 hours ago - Health

COVID-19 shows a bright future for vaccines

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Promising results from COVID-19 vaccine trials offer hope not just that the pandemic could be ended sooner than expected, but that medicine itself may have a powerful new weapon.

Why it matters: Vaccines are, in the words of one expert, "the single most life-saving innovation ever," but progress had slowed in recent years. New gene-based technology that sped the arrival of the COVID vaccine will boost the overall field, and could even extend to mass killers like cancer.