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Former Boris Johnson aide gives scathing testimony on U.K.'s early COVID response

Dominic Cummings, the former chief strategist to U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, delivered bombshell testimony Wednesday on the British government's early response to the coronavirus, apologizing for falling "disastrously short" in a way that cost thousands of lives.

Why it matters: Cummings, a controversial figure known as the architect behind the Brexit campaign, has become one of Johnson's most troublesome critics since resigning from government after a bitter power struggle last year.

  • Cummings has poor public approval ratings — especially after he was accused of breaking the U.K.'s strict COVID lockdown rules last year — but his role as the most powerful aide in Downing Street gave him unique insight into the government's early pandemic response.
  • The U.K. was one of the worst-hit countries in Europe, both in terms of coronavirus death toll and economic damage, but a world-leading vaccine rollout has brought the country back to the brink of normality.


  • Cummings testified that in February 2020, Johnson viewed COVID-19 as a "scare story" and suggested that he could have England's chief medical officer inject him with the virus on live television to reassure the public.
  • Herd immunity — either in September 2020 after a single peak or January 2021 after a second peak — was viewed by the U.K. government as an "inevitability" up until mid-March, Cummings testified. Downing Street has denied that purposely aiming for herd immunity, which would have resulted in mass death, was ever government policy.
  • Cummings testified that on March 13, a health department official went to him and said: "I have been told for years there was a plan for this. There is no plan. We are in huge trouble. I think we are absolutely f**ked. I think we are heading for disaster. We are going to kill thousands of people."
  • Cummings said that Health Secretary Matt Hancock "should have been fired for at least 15, 20 things, including lying to everybody on multiple occasions in meeting after meeting in the Cabinet room and publicly." He said he relayed that opinion to Johnson multiple times.
  • Despite his outsized role in the Conservative Party's landslide 2019 election victory, Cummings insisted that the choice between Johnson and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn shows that British politics is broken: "Any system which ends up giving a choice of two people like that to lead is obviously a system that has gone extremely badly wrong."

American father and son plead guilty to helping former Nissan chair Carlos Ghosn flee Japan

Americans Michael Taylor and Peter Taylor pleaded guilty in a Tokyo court Monday to helping former Nissan chair Carlos Ghosn escape Japan in a box aboard a plane in 2019, per the Wall Street Journal.

The big picture: Ghosn was awaiting trial in Tokyo on financial misconduct charges following his 2018 arrest when he fled to Lebanon. He denies any wrongdoing.

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Reports: Trump DOJ subpoenaed Apple for records of WH counsel Don McGahn

Apple told former Trump administration White House counsel Don McGahn last month that the Department of Justice subpoenaed information about accounts of his in 2018, the New York Times first reported Sunday.

Why it matters: Although it's unclear why the DOJ took the action, such a move against a senior lawyer representing the presidency is highly unusual.

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Pelosi demands Barr and Sessions testify on data subpoenas she says go "beyond Richard Nixon"

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told CNN Sunday that former Attorneys General William Barr and Jeff Sessions should testify before Congress on reports that the Trump-era Department of Justice seized Democrats' and journalists' data records.

Driving the news: DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz announced Friday an internal investigation into the matter, and Pelosi expressed disbelief to CNN's Dana Brash at assertions that neither Barr nor Sessions knew of probes into lawmakers.

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Shipping giant CEO says business have to avoid global politics

The CEO of the world's largest container-shipping company cautions that international firms have to be careful of taking political stances.

  • What they're saying: "We cannot run a global business if we start to have views on politics in every single country that we are in," Maersk CEO Søren Skou tells "Axios on HBO."
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Chamber of Commerce CEO Suzanne Clark defends overture to Democrats

U.S. Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Suzanne Clark told me on "Axios on HBO" that the business group was right to endorse vulnerable House Democrats last year, despite the flak that resulted from Republicans.

  • Clark, who took over the top job in March, said those House Democrats "had really helped push business's number one priority, which was the free trade agreement with Canada and Mexico, over the finish line."
  • "All of the Republicans that we work with on tax, on regulation — those people are really, really important to us," she added: "So we have to be willing to have a different coalition on every issue."
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Nuclear watchdog: “Essential” to have deal with Iran

The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency tells "Axios on HBO" that it's "essential" to have a nuclear deal with Iran because otherwise "we are flying blind."

Driving the news: Director-General Rafael Mariano Grossi sat down with "Axios on HBO" at IAEA headquarters in Vienna, ahead of Iran's June 18 presidential election and a June 24 extension on negotiations seeking to restore curtailed surveillance of Iranian nuclear sites and salvage the 2015 deal.

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U.N. ambassador Thomas-Greenfield sees tough Putin summit

Photo: "Axios on HBO"

Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, U.S. ambassador to the U.N., told me on "Axios on HBO" that President Biden will be candid, frank — and tough — during this week's summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

  • "The president will make clear to the Russians that they cannot harbor cyber terrorists and criminals in their country and not be held accountable for it," she added. "And they need to take the responsibility for dealing with this issue."
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Dems’ go-it-alone approach faces big hurdles as left’s frustrations spill over

If a bipartisan group of lawmakers fails to strike a deal on the infrastructure proposal it's negotiating with the White House, ramming through a package using the partisan reconciliation process isn't a guaranteed solution.

Why it matters: Getting 51 Democratic votes would be a long, uphill battle. And moderates within the party are balking at the cost of President Biden's spending — even as progressives openly lament that the "transformational" change they seek is slipping out of reach.

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