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White House, Democrats remain "trillions of dollars apart" on stimulus talks

The Trump administration and Democrats have not agreed to any "top-line numbers" and remain "trillions of dollars apart" on coronavirus stimulus negotiations, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows said Wednesday.

The state of play: Meadows told reporters, "At this point we’re either going to get serious about negotiating and get an agreement in principle or — I’ve become extremely doubtful that we’ll be able to make a deal if it goes well beyond Friday.”


  • Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who is negotiating on behalf of the White House alongside Meadows, added: "I think we need to see some real compromise on some of the big issues. And if we can reach a compromise on these big issues, I think everything else will fall into place."
  • He continued: "If we can't reach an agreement on these mitigations then I don't see us coming to an overall deal. And then we'll have to look at the president taking actions under his executive authority."

What to watch: Trump said at a briefing Wednesday that his administration is "exploring executive actions to provide protections against eviction." Meadows added on CNN that the White House legal team is looking at extending enhanced unemployment benefits via executive order, citing "some of the flexibility we have from the previous CARES Act."

The other side: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who has insisted that the price tag for the next coronavirus relief package should be $3.4 trillion, said on MSNBC Wednesday that the White House does not have the power to extend unemployment benefits via executive order.

  • "He may be able to extend the moratorium on evictions," Pelosi said. "But unless you have some money with that — it's helpful but it's not the whole thing."
  • "Again, he can't do the money without the Congress of the United States. The power of the purse begins in the House."

Go deeper ... Rand Paul: Republicans should apologize to Obama for complaining about spending

Justice Department drops lawsuit against John Bolton over Trump book

The Justice Department on Wednesday dropped its lawsuit against President Trump's former national security adviser John Bolton over the publication of his tell-all book, “The Room Where it Happened.”

Why it matters: The move comes a year after the Trump administration sued Bolton in federal court, claiming he breached his contract by failing to complete a pre-publication review for classified information.

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Fed may raise rates sooner, as inflation is higher than expected

The Federal Reserve kept rates unchanged at its latest policy meeting,but a shift in sentiment emerged as to how soon it should begin raising rates.

Why it matters: The Fed's rock bottom rates policy and monthly asset purchases helped the U.S. markets avoid a meltdown during the COVID crisis last year. But as the economy recovers, a chorus is growing for the Fed to at least consider a timeline for pulling back its support before things get overheated.

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Naftali Bennett: How Israel's new PM plans to handle relations with Biden

New Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett is signaling he intends to move cautiously at first on issues like Iran and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, an approach that will suit the Biden administration just fine.

Why it matters: Bennett is aiming to avoid an early confrontation with the U.S., and his fragile and ideologically diverse government will have a hard time taking any groundbreaking steps on foreign policy in the first place.

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Biden: Consequences for Russia would be "devastating" if opposition leader Navalny dies

President Biden said he warned Russian President Vladimir Putin during Wednesday's summit that if jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny dies in prison, the consequences "would be devastating for Russia."

Why it matters: Although the White House had previously warned the Russian government over Navalny's imprisonment, Biden personally delivered the message to Putin on Wednesday.

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Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy will support Juneteenth bill

House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy will support a bill to make Juneteenth a federal holiday when it comes to the floor later Wednesday, his office tells Axios.

Why it matters: The House is slated to pass a bill making June 19 — Juneteenth — a federal holiday that memorializes when the last enslaved people in Texas learned about their freedom under the Emancipation Proclamation.

  • It will then go to President Biden for his signature just days before the occasion and one day after the Senate passed the bill unanimously.

Biden says he raised human rights issues in Putin summit

President Biden said he raised issues including nuclear arms control, cybersecurity, election interference and violations of human rights in Russia in his meeting with Vladimir Putin in Geneva on Tuesday.

What he's saying: "My agenda is not against Russia or anybody else. It's for the American people," Biden said at a press conference following the summit, which was shorter than expected.

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Putin calls talks with Biden "constructive," says ambassadors will return to posts

Russian President Vladimir Putin of Russia said Wednesday that his summit with President Biden was "constructive," and that the countries had agreed their ambassadors would imminently return to their posts in Moscow and Washington.

What he's saying: "Many of our joint positions are divergent but nevertheless I think both sides manifested a determination to try and understand each other and try and converge our positions," Putin told reporters at a press conference immediately following the meetings.

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Southwest heat wave intensifies, 40 million likely to see 100-degree temperatures

A punishing and long-enduring heat wave is intensifying in parts of the West and Southwest, with heat warnings and advisories in effect across seven states Wednesday. The heat will not relent until late in the weekend.

Threat level: In the coming days, 40 million are likely to see temperatures reach or exceed 100 degrees.

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