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A welder at Schuff Steel in Phoenix, Arizona. Photo: Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

President Trump is determined to impose tariffs to protect the U.S. steel and aluminum industries from foreign competition. But his administration’s “national security” rationale is unsupported by its own reports and risks opening a dangerous new loophole for the U.S. and other nations to exploit.

Why it matters: The current trading system reflects American priorities — from intellectual property protections to rules that require science-based regulation of food safety — and has served the world well for decades. Short-term benefits for U.S. steel and aluminum firms will be offset by harm to other industries from a less stable trading environment governed by weakened norms.

In fact, WTO rules provide a different avenue that would protect these industries without undermining the trading system. Governments have agreed to “bind” their tariffs at or below a scheduled amount that varies by product.

These tariffs can be imposed to raise revenue or to protect domestic industry and can be renegotiated through a detailed and transparent set of procedures. In order to raise tariffs on particular products, the requesting government has to either offer lower tariffs on other products or allow its trading partners to raise some of their own tariffs.

The bottom line: There is a legal means to achieve Trump's ends, but instead the administration is opening up a loophole that cannot easily be contained, with “national security” providing thin cover for an escalating spiral of protectionism and retaliation by trading partners.

Simon Lester is an analyst at the Cato Institute’s Herbert A. Stiefel Center for Trade Policy Studies.

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Data: Chamberlain, 2020, "United States of America Cabinet Appointments Dataset" Chart: Will Chase/Axios

It's harder now for presidents to win Senate confirmation for their Cabinet picks, an Axios data analysis of votes for and against nominees found.

Why it matters: It's not just Neera Tanden. The trend is a product of growing polarization, rougher political discourse and slimming Senate majorities, experts say. It means some of the nation's most vital federal agencies go without a leader and the legislative authority that comes with one.

Exclusive: Hundreds of kids held in Border Patrol stations

Migrants cross the Rio Bravo to get to El Paso, Texas. Photo: Herika Martinez/AFP via Getty Images

More than 700 children who crossed from Mexico into the United States without their parents were in Border Patrol custody as of Sunday, according to an internal Customs and Border Protection document obtained by Axios.

Why it matters: The current backup is yet another sign of a brewing crisis for President Biden — and a worsening dilemma for these vulnerable children. Biden is finding it's easier to talk about preventing warehousing kids at the southern border than solving the problem.

Pompeo plots 2024 power play

Mike Pompeo in Washington on Feb. 12. Photo: Samuel Corum/Getty Images

Mike Pompeo has quickly reentered the political fray, raising money for Republicans, addressing key political gatherings and joining an advocacy group run by Donald Trump's former lawyer.

Why it matters: The former secretary of state is widely considered a potential 2024 presidential contender. His professional moves this week indicate he's working to keep his name in the headlines and bolster a political brand built largely on foreign policies easily contrasted with the Biden White House.