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Photo: Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

An uncomfortable pair of stories for the White House:

  1. "Russia’s dirty tricks ... And why the West’s response is inadequate" — The Economist cover editorial
  2. "A Russian oligarch [who was indicted by Mueller last week and is] believed to control the Russian mercenaries who attacked U.S. troops and their allies in Syria this month was in close touch with Kremlin ... in the days and weeks before and after the assault," according to the Washington Post.

Economist:

  • What happened: Special counsel Robert "Mueller alleges that in 2014 Russia launched a conspiracy against America’s democracy, and he believes he has the evidence to withstand Russian denials and a court’s scrutiny."
  • Trump "should have spoken out against Mr Putin and protected America against Russian hostility. "
  • "Republican leaders in Congress are failing their country: at the least they should hold emergency hearings to protect America from subversion in the mid-term elections."
  • Why it matters: "[W]ith Mr. Trump obsessively blaming the FBI and Democrats, it looks as if America does not believe democracy is worth fighting for."
  • Zing: "Were Mr. Trump to sack [Mueller] now, it would amount to a confession."

WaPo:

  • "In intercepted communications in late January, the oligarch, Yevgeniy Prigozhin, told a senior Syrian official that he had 'secured permission' from an unspecified Russian minister to move forward with a 'fast and strong' initiative that would take place in early February.
  • Why he matters: The oligarch — nicknamed "Putin's chef" — "is known to have close ties to Russian President Vladi­mir Putin, forged when [the oligarch] was a restaurateur in St. Petersburg and expanded through what became Prigozhin’s wide-ranging business empire, including extensive contracts with Russia’s Defense Ministry."
  • Why this news matters: "[T]he attack marked the biggest direct challenge to the U.S. military presence in eastern Syria since U.S. Special Operations forces began deploying there in 2015 in support of their Syrian allies in the fight against the Islamic State."

Go deeper

Mike Allen, author of AM
36 mins ago - World

Courage vs. coddling with China

Peng Shuai of China serves during the China Open in Beijing in 2017. Photo: Andy Wong/AP

The women's professional tennis tour suspended tournaments in China Wednesday out of concern for Peng Shuai, on the same day that a top business voice made excuses for Beijing.

Why it matters: Ahead of February's Winter Olympics in Beijing, some sports figures are taking on the regime — while Big Business shrinks from confrontation with the world's second-largest economy.

56 mins ago - Sports

What to know about the first MLB lockout since 1995

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Hope you enjoyed the recent flurry of free-agent activity, because it's likely the last non-lockout-related MLB news for a while.

Driving the news: The owners locked out the players after the collective bargaining agreement expired at midnight last night, leading to MLB's ninth work stoppage — and first since 1995.

Biden extends mask mandates for travelers into 2022

President Biden delivers remarks at the White House on Dec. 1. Photo: Anna Moneymaker via Getty Images

President Biden will announce new testing protocols for international travelers on Thursday and extend masking requirements through March as the U.S. prepares to fight the Omicron variant this winter, according to senior administration officials.

Driving the news: The U.S. will tighten pre-departure testing protocols starting early next week by requiring all inbound international travelers to take COVID-19 tests within one day of their departure rather than three.