Wax detainee displayed in prison cell in Tehran. ATTA KENARE / AFP via Getty Images

The Wall Street Journal reports that the White House secretly contacted Iran in December to suggest a "direct channel" between the two countries in order to kick off negotiations to release prisoners held by both the United States and Iran. At least four Americans are known to currently be held by Iran.

Why it matters: The proposal marked the Trump administration's first diplomatic outreach to Iran regarding prisoner negotiations. A 2016 prisoner swap with Iran — which also included the unfreezing of $400 million in Iranian assets — had prompted then-candidate Trump to openly criticize Obama administration policy on the issue.

Plot twist: Iran didn’t respond. The WSJ reports that although there have been at least three additional attempts from D.C. to discuss the release of the prisoners, Tehran has refused to engage with U.S. officials on the offer. The Trump administration has reportedly been considering toughening its policy on Iran's support for militant groups and nuclear capabilities.

Think back: Egyptian American prisoners freed thanks to Trump.

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Updated 29 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Politics: The swing states where the pandemic is raging — Pence no longer expected to attend Barrett confirmation vote after COVID exposure.
  2. Health: 13 states set single-day case records last week
  3. Business: Where stimulus is needed most.
  4. Education: The dangerous instability of school re-openings.
  5. States: Nearly two dozen Minnesota COVID cases traced to 3 Trump campaign events
  6. World: Restrictions grow across Europe.
  7. Media: Fox News president and several hosts advised to quarantine.

Republicans and Dems react to Coney Barrett's Supreme Court confirmation

President Trump stands with Judge Amy Coney Barrett after she took the constitutional oath to serve as a Supreme Court justice during a White House ceremony Monday night .Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

President Trump said Judge Amy Coney Barrett's Senate confirmation to the Supreme Court and her subsequent taking of the constitutional oath Monday was a "momentous day," as she she vowed to serve "without any fear or favour."

  • But as Republicans applauded the third conservative justice in four years, many Democrats including Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) warned of consequences to the rush to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg ahead of the Nov. 3 election, with progressives leading calls to expand the court.
Ina Fried, author of Login
1 hour ago - Science

CRISPR pioneer: "Science is on the ballot" in 2020

Photo: "Axios on HBO"

In her three decades in science, Jennifer Doudna said she has seen a gradual erosion of trust in the profession, but the recent Nobel Prize winner told "Axios on HBO" that the institution itself has been under assault from the current administration.

  • "I think science is on the ballot," Doudna said in the interview.

Why it matters: That has manifested itself in everything from how the federal government approaches climate change to the pandemic.