Apr 21, 2017

Trump to open diplomatic channel with Putin aide

Mikhail Klimentyev / Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP

Trump is about to appoint a special envoy to communicate directly with one of Putin's top aides, Vladislav Surkov, according to a BuzzFeed News report.

The precedent: Obama also had a direct channel with Surkov to work out agreements, and German and French diplomats are supportive of the connection. Surkov serves as the head of the administration of the president, which is akin to the White House chief of staff, according to The Daily Beast, and some say he has long been the mastermind behind Putin's political strategy.

It's because of Ukraine: A pair of ceasefire deals have been largely unsuccessful in brokering peace between Russia and Ukraine, which have been clashing in the Donbass region since 2014. This is the US' way of supporting a move toward peace. Surkov has been the political supervisor of the disputed Donetsk and Luhansk regions for the Kremlin since September 2014, according to the International Crisis Group.

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Pro-Trump warrior takes the helm of U.S. intelligence

Richard Grenell in Berlin. Photo: Sean Gallup/Getty Images

By picking Ambassador Richard Grenell to be acting director of national intelligence, President Trump has slotted a pro-Trump warrior into the ultimate apolitical role.

What they're saying: James Clapper, the longest-serving DNI (2010-2017), tells Axios it's "very worrisome installing a partisan with no real intelligence experience in this position."

Coronavirus kills 2 Diamond Princess passengers as Israel confirms first case

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. U.S. numbers include Americans extracted from Princess Cruise ship.

Two elderly Diamond Princess passengers have been killed by the novel coronavirus — the first deaths confirmed among the more than 600 infected aboard the cruise ship — as Israel confirmed its first case among evacuees from the ship.

The big picture: COVID-19 has now killed more than 2,200 people and infected over 76,000 others, mostly in mainland China, where the National Health Commission announced 118 new deaths since Thursday.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 51 mins ago - Health

California's "woman quota" law seems to be working

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

When California passed its boardroom law requiring public companies based there to have at least one female director, there were concerns it would spark a gold rush for the same handful of well-known women — but that hasn’t happened.

Why it matters: Of the 138 women who joined all-male California boards last year, 62% are serving on their first company board, per a study by accounting firm KPMG. That means a majority of companies aren't contributing to so-called overboarding in corporate America.