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President Trump with King Salman in Saudi Arabia last year. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

In an interview on Fox today, President Trump appeared to change his claim that Saudi Arabia had committed to pumping an additional 2 million barrels of oil a day, saying instead that OPEC countries "are going to have to put out more oil."

Why it matters: Resurrected U.S. sanctions on Iran will reduce OPEC supply to the market, and are already pushing up prices. In a tweet yesterday, Trump asserted that he had persuaded Saudi King Salman to raise production, but last evening, the White House said it was more like Salman agreed only to meet global demand. The new interview with Maria Bartiromo suggests that any commitment in the conversation may have been even vaguer.

Thought bubble: For the last several years, shale has obliterated the four-decade-long U.S. economic dependence on OPEC oil. But Trump's conversation with Salman put the U.S. back in the pre-shale age, when American presidents routinely went to the Saudis asking and sometimes pleading for boosts or cuts in production for U.S. economic purposes.

  • As a number of analysts have been pointing out in recent days and weeks, one spillover effect of Trump's aggressive posture toward Iran is to give Saudi Arabia and other OPEC members, as well as Russia, an even stronger hand in global markets.

Late last night, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders issued a readout of Trump's conversation with King Salman that backed off his original tweet, stating instead:

"In response to the President’s assessment of a deficit in the oil market, King Salman affirmed that the Kingdom maintains a two million barrel per day spare capacity, which it will prudently use if and when necessary to ensure market balance and stability, and in coordination with its producer partners, to respond to any eventuality."

Between the lines: That summary is consistent with prior statements by Saudi officials that they stand ready to respond to the demands of the tightened oil market.

  • This Twitter thread by Hedgeye Risk Management's Joe McMonigle has some helpful insights, noting at one point: "Don’t focus too much on 2 [million barrels per day] number. Trump likely doubled 1 mbd number to give Saturday morning tweet some sizzle. (US reportedly asked for 1 mbd before OPEC meeting.) Trump’s real barometer is oil price not production number."

One level deeper: The White House is facing a tricky dynamic. It's trying to punish Iran with sanctions that, if successful, would lead a steep cut in Iranian barrels on global markets.

  • But a big drop in Iranian exports combined with Venezuela's collapse could put upward pressure on U.S. gasoline prices absent an aggressive response by other producers. Pump prices are higher than they were over the last couple years, creating election year risks for Republicans.

Go deeper: Trump's pyrrhic OPEC outcome.

Go deeper

Updated 8 hours ago - Politics & Policy

U.S. sounds alarm on Ukraine

Conscripts line up at a Russian railway station yesterday before departing for Army service. Photo: Sergei Malgavko/TASS via Getty Images

The Biden administration is "deeply concerned" by new intelligence — detailed for Axios and other outlets — showing Russia stepping up preparations to invade Ukraine as soon as early 2022.

Why it matters: Most of this was known from public sources and satellite imagery, but the administration is sending a stronger signal by releasing specific details from the intelligence community.

CNN fires Chris Cuomo

Photo: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for CNN

CNN said Saturday evening it has fired one of its star anchors, Chris Cuomo, following new revelations from a legal review made by the company into Cuomo's involvement in the management of his brother's sexual harassment scandal.

Why it matters: Saturday's firing speaks to how much pressure CNN was under by employees and critics to address Cuomo's behavior.

Updated 11 hours ago - Energy & Environment

Electric car prices could go up before they come down

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The secret to affordable electric vehicles is cheaper batteries. But after years of falling prices, battery costs are now headed in the wrong direction.

Why it matters: Costlier batteries could drive up the price of electric vehicles — threatening the auto industry's transition away from fossil fuels, and, in turn, society's fight against climate change.