President Donald Trump meets with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in the Oval Office of the White House. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

With the first round of U.S. sanctions on Iran set to resume tonight at midnight, the European Union is taking steps to protect its companies that do "legitimate business" with Iran from being harmed.

The big picture: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has refused to grant broad exemptions to European companies doing business with Iran, citing a need to apply "unprecedented financial pressure on the Iranian regime.” But the EU, frustrated by President Trump's unilateral withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal in May, will exercise a 1996 law to prohibit European companies from complying with sanctions.

"The lifting of nuclear-related sanctions is an essential part of the [Iran] deal — it aims at having a positive impact not only on trade and economic relations with Iran, but most importantly on the lives of the Iranian people. We are determined to protect European economic operators engaged in legitimate business with Iran, in accordance with EU law and with U.N. Security Council resolution 2231. This is why the European Union’s updated Blocking Statute enters into force on 7 August to protect EU companies doing legitimate business with Iran from the impact of U.S. extra-territorial sanctions."
— European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker

The details: Under the "Blocking Statute," which was originally developed (but never implemented) to circumvent a U.S. trade embargo on Cuba, companies that seek to pull out of Iran as a result of the sanctions must first seek authorization from the EU. If they fail to do so, they risk being sued by EU member states.

  • Companies that apply for exemptions must prove that the U.S. sanctions are hurting their business operations.
  • The 1996 law has never actually been exercised, and some diplomats and lawyers have doubts about how effective it can be in protecting firms, per the Financial Times.

A senior U.S. administration official told reporters Monday that they were "not particularly concerned" about the statute. The official claimed that "the messages [European] companies and financial institutions are sending" indicate an appreciation for the goal of the sanctions: to expose the Central Bank of Iran's complicity in helping to fund terror.

Go deeper: The companies hit hardest by Iran sanctions.

Go deeper

Updated 15 mins ago - Science

In photos: Deadly wildfires devastate California's wine country

The Shady Fire ravages a home as it approaches Santa Rosa in Napa County, California, on Sept. 28. The blaze is part of the massive Glass Fire Complex, which has razed over 51,620 acres at 2% containment. Photo: Samuel Corum/Agence France-Presse/AFP via Getty Images

More than 1700 firefighters are battling 26 major blazes across California, including in the heart of the wine country, where one mega-blaze claimed the lives of three people and forced thousands of others to evacuate this week.

The big picture: More than 8,100 wildfires have burned across a record 39 million-plus acres, killing 29 people and razing almost 7,900 structures in California this year, per Cal Fire. Just like the deadly blazes of 2017, the wine country has become a wildfires epicenter. Gov. Gavin Newsom has declared a state of emergency in Napa, Sonoma, and Shasta counties.

Updated 58 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 12:30 a.m. ET: 33,880,896 — Total deaths: 1,012,964 — Total recoveries: 23,551,663Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 12:30 a.m. ET: 7,232,823 — Total deaths: 206,887 — Total recoveries: 2,840,688 — Total tests: 103,939,667Map.
  3. Education: School-aged children now make up 10% of all U.S COVID-19 cases.
  4. Health: Moderna says its coronavirus vaccine won't be ready until 2021
  5. Travel: CDC: 3,689 COVID-19 or coronavirus-like cases found on cruise ships in U.S. waters — Airlines begin mass layoffs while clinging to hope for federal aid
  6. Business: Real-time data show economy's rebound slowing but still going.
  7. Sports: Steelers-Titans NFL game delayed after coronavirus outbreak.

CDC: 3,689 COVID-19 or coronavirus-like cases found on cruise ships in U.S.

Cruise Ships docked in April at the port at Marina Long Beach due to a no-sail order in Long Beach, in California. Photo: Apu Gomes/AFP via Getty Images

There have been at least 3,689 COVID-19 or coronavirus-like illness cases on cruise ships in U.S. waters, "in addition to at least 41 reported deaths," the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said late Wednesday.

Driving the news: The CDC released the data from the period of March 1 through Sept. 29 in an emailed statement confirming the extension of a No Sail Order for cruise ships through Oct. 31, as first reported by Axios' Jonathan Swan on Tuesday in his article revealing CDC director Robert Redfield was overruled in a push to extend the order into 2021.

Get Axios AM in your inbox

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

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!