Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on the day's biggest business stories

Subscribe to Axios Closer for insights into the day’s business news and trends and why they matter

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Stay on top of the latest market trends

Subscribe to Axios Markets for the latest market trends and economic insights. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sports news worthy of your time

Binge on the stats and stories that drive the sports world with Axios Sports. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tech news worthy of your time

Get our smart take on technology from the Valley and D.C. with Axios Login. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Get the inside stories

Get an insider's guide to the new White House with Axios Sneak Peek. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

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

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

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Denver news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Des Moines news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Twin Cities news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Tampa Bay news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Charlotte news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Nashville news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Nashville newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Columbus news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Columbus newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Dallas news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Dallas newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sign up for Axios NW Arkansas

Stay up-to-date on the most important and interesting stories affecting NW Arkansas, authored by local reporters

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The United States officially recognized Juan Guaidó as the rightful (if interim) president of Venezuela; it has also pledged a paltry $20 million of humanitarian assistance to the country.

The state of play: A top sovereign-debt lawyer has proposed one huge next step the White House (and only the White House) could take. It would be much more effective than $20 million in cash — and it would cost nothing at all.

If Guaidó does take power, he will immediately be faced with more than $90 billion in outstanding debt, the vast majority of which is in default.

  • Creditors have already begun the rush to the courthouse, trying to turn those debts into judgments that can in turn be used to seize Venezuela's assets around the world. (Among those assets: Citgo, the giant oil refiner.)
  • Venezuela has an enormous and fractious range of creditors, including not only bondholders but also sovereigns (Russia and China are the two big ones), as well as corporations that have won international arbitration proceedings against the country.
  • All of those creditors have been waiting for the Nicolás Maduro regime to come to an end. At that point they will start laying claim to Venezuela's assets, which ultimately include some 300 billion barrels in oil reserves. That's the largest store of oil in the world.

If the fight over Venezuela's debts were to be halted for a few years, that would give the Guaidó regime, working with the IMF, time to get the domestic economy back on its feet. The debts racked up by the Hugo Chávez and Maduro administrations will have to be dealt with at some point, but given the scale of Venezuela's humanitarian disaster, court fights in New York should not dominate Guaidó's priorities.

The solution to the debt problem is presented in an important paper by Lee Buchheit and Mitu Gulati. Buchheit, the doyen of sovereign debt restructurings, explains that the U.S. government can unilaterally call an effective standstill to court proceedings by declaring Venezuelan assets temporarily immune from attachment by U.S. courts.

  • The Obama administration did exactly that for Iraq in 2011, 2012 and 2013. All it took was an executive order from President Obama.
  • Obama's executive order was a matter of national security. Today, the U.S. foreign-policy and national-security apparatus is focused on the Americas. Trump says that he "will continue to use the full weight of United States economic and diplomatic power" in Venezuela.

The bottom line: It is extremely rare for the U.S. government to prevent established legal mechanisms from running their natural course. But it can be done and has been done in the past. If Trump were to sign an executive order preventing creditors from attaching Venezuela's assets, that would be by far the greatest gift he could bequeath a fledgling Guaidó administration.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Ben Geman, author of Generate
7 hours ago - Energy & Environment

Key clean power provision likely won't survive in Dems' spending bill

A construction worker walks along a dirt road at the Avangrid Renewables La Joya wind farm in Encino, New Mexico, on Aug. 5, 2020. Photo: Cate Dingley/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A pillar of Democrats' plans to speed deployment of zero-carbon electricity is likely to be cut from major spending and tax legislation they are struggling to move on a party-line vote, per multiple reports and a Capitol Hill aide.

Driving the news: The New York Times, citing anonymous congressional aides and lobbyists, reports that West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin (D) has told the White House he "strongly opposes" the Clean Electricity Performance Program.

Updated 9 hours ago - World

Fatal stabbing of British MP David Amess declared a terrorist incident

Police outside Belfairs Methodist Church in Leigh-on-Sea, England, on Oct. 15. Photo: John Keeble/Getty Images

Authorities have declared the death of David Amess a terrorist incident, hours after the Conservative Party lawmaker in the U.K. was fatally stabbed while meeting with local constituents in a church in eastern England on Friday.

The big picture: The Metropolitan Police has found "a potential motivation linked to Islamist extremism."

Biden: DOJ should prosecute those who defy Jan. 6 subpoenas

President Biden speaks with reporters at Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks, Connecticut. Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden said Friday that the Justice Department should prosecute those who defy subpoenas from the Jan. 6 select committee.

Why it matters: The president's remarks come one day after Donald Trump ally Steve Bannon failed to show up for a deposition before the committee.