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Carolyn Kaster / AP

Leonard Leo, an influential social conservative who advises the White House on judicial matters, tells me speculation that President Trump has abandoned a core campaign promise on religious rights — based on delays over an executive order — is misguided.

Why this matters: Social conservatives care deeply about the issue — that religious institutions should be exempted from providing contraception in their employee health plans. Several movement leaders have told me privately that they worry Trump has judged this too politically risky to bother with.

But Leo tells me the delay has nothing to do with that. He says senior officials at the Justice Department and the White House are working through complicated negotiations over how to structure health insurance transactions.

Behind-the-scenes: The Trump administration is considering a range of options, from providing blanket exemptions to allowing schemes that would let insurance companies deal directly with employees.

The story making conservatives anxious: A Wall Street Journal report on Tuesday: "The White House is stalling [on fulfilling its promise.] On Monday, government lawyers told a federal court considering one flashpoint issue, a requirement for employee health plans to include contraception, that the administration needed more time to decide its position."

Leo's quote: "The administration is not stepping back. It's doing precisely what it should be doing here... because of the way people are attacking Trump executive orders, it's very important that this thing gets done right and be as litigation-proof as possible, knowing full well they're going to get sued anyway."

Go deeper

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Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

  1. Health: Most vulnerable Americans aren't getting enough vaccine information — Fauci says Trump administration's lack of facts on COVID "very likely" cost lives.
  2. Politics: Biden unveils "wartime" COVID strategyBiden's COVID-19 bubble.
  3. Vaccine: Florida requiring proof of residency to get vaccine — CDC extends interval between vaccine doses for exceptional cases.
  4. World: Hong Kong to put tens of thousands on lockdown as cases surge.
  5. Sports: 2021 Tokyo Olympics hang in the balance.
  6. 🎧 Podcast: Carbon Health's CEO on unsticking the vaccine bottleneck.

Trump impeachment trial to start week of Feb. 8, Schumer says

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. Photo: The Washington Post via Getty

The Senate will begin former President Trump's impeachment trial the week of Feb. 8, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced Friday on the Senate floor.

The state of play: Schumer announced the schedule after reaching an agreement with Republicans. The House will transmit the article of impeachment against the former president late Monday.

9 hours ago - Health

CDC extends interval between COVID vaccine doses for exceptional cases

Photo: Joseph Prezioso/AFP via Getty

Patients can space out the two doses of the coronavirus vaccine by up to six weeks if it’s "not feasible" to follow the shorter recommended window, according to updated guidance from the Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention.

Driving the news: With the prospect of vaccine shortages and a low likelihood that supply will expand before April, the latest changes could provide a path to vaccinate more Americans — a top priority for President Biden.