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Former CIA Director John Brennan told NBC News' Chuck Todd on Sunday that Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) has been given "increased confidence" by his relationship with the White House, which may explain his alleged action against journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

The big picture: The White House is still considering responses to the disappearance and potential murder of Khashoggi at the hands of Saudi Arabia. Trump said there would be "severe punishment" if the kingdom is found to be at fault, but has been vocally opposed to cutting off arms deals. Brennan said Trump is "siding up to authoritarian leaders around the globe ... condemnation of the press that's critical of him, [and] continued dishonesty and denials of reality ... has encouraged MBS to go along this road."

Chief White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow

Kudlow told ABC News' George Stephanopoulos that Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is waiting to see what else comes out about Khashoggi, but still plans to attend the Saudi investment conference — despite many other participants pulling out in protest.

"At the moment, he is intending to go because of the importance of the issue of ending terror financing. ... Mr. Mnuchin will make up his mind as the week progresses and as new information surfaces."
A tweet previously embedded here has been deleted or was tweeted from an account that has been suspended or deleted.
Senator Marco Rubio

Rubio told CNN's Jake Tapper that Mnuchin should not go to the conference and pretend it's "business as usual," and a weak response from the U.S. could undermine the U.S.' "ability to stand for morality and human rights all over the world."

"I don't think any of our government officials should be going and pretending as it's business as usual, until we know exactly what's happened here."
Senator Bernie Sanders

Sanders, a frequent critic of the U.S.' support of the Saudis in the war in Yemen, also told Tapper there has to be sanctions and a stopping of arms sales.

"We cannot have an ally who murders in cold blood. ... I think one of the strongest things we can do is not only stop military sales, not only put sanctions on Saudi Arabia, but most importantly, get out of this terrible, terrible war in Yemen.

Go deeper

Updated 38 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Harris breaks tie as Senate proceeds with lengthy debate on COVID relief bill

Photo: Oliver Contreras/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Senate on Thursday voted 51-50 — with Vice President Kamala Harris breaking the tie — to proceed to debate on President Biden's $1.9 trillion coronavirus rescue package, likely setting up a final vote this weekend.

The state of play: Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) is forcing the Senate clerk to read the entire 628-page bill on the floor, a procedural move that will likely add 10 hours to the 20 hours already allotted for debate.

2 hours ago - World

Netanyahu campaigns against Biden's plan to save Iran deal

Netanyahu campaigns at a gym last month. Photo: Pool/AFP via Getty

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu indirectly criticized the Biden administration for its intention to return to the Iran nuclear deal and told his supporters he was prepared to "stand against the entire world" to stop it.

Why it matters: This is a major change of tune for Netanyahu, who had been careful in his statements on the Iran deal and avoided publicly criticizing President Biden. The statement was part of Netanyahu's attempt to rally his base ahead of Israel's election on March 23.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Tech: "Fludemic" model accurately maps COVID hotspotsVirtual doctor's visits and digital health tools take off.
  2. Politics: Schumer says Senate will stay through weekend to vote on COVID relief — Republican governor of West Virginia says there's no plan to lift mask mandate.
  3. World: Canada vaccine panel recommends 4 months between doses.
  4. Business: Firms develop new ways to inoculate the public.
  5. Local: Ultra-rich Florida community got vaccinations in January.

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