May 14, 2019

After a year of delays, President Trump is expected to sign an executive order this week prohibiting American firms from purchasing and using telecommunications equipment from foreign companies that present a national security risk, three U.S. officials told Reuters on Tuesday.

While the order will not list the names of any specific companies or countries, the goal is to set Trump up so he can ban U.S. businesses from buying equipment from China's Huawei, the world's third-largest maker of smartphones, Reuters reports. U.S. officials say Huawei equipment could be used by China to spy on Americans, an allegation the company denies.

The order cites the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, which authorizes the president to regulate commerce in the event of an unusual and extraordinary threat, officials told Reuters. Last year, Trump signed a measure banning the U.S. government from using equipment from two Chinese companies: Huawei and ZTE Corp. Catherine Garcia

3:23 a.m.

At the right-wing news channel One America News Network, "there's still serious doubts about who's actually president," as OAN correspondent Pearson Sharp said in a March 28 report. OAN "has become a kind of Trump TV for the post-Trump age," The New York Times reported Sunday, and some of its "coverage has not had the full support of the staff." One OAN producer, Marty Golingan, said the network had lurched to the right since he joined in 2016.

The "majority" of his colleagues "did not believe the voter fraud claims being run on the air," Golingan told the Times, and "a lot of people said, 'This is insane, and maybe if [Dominion Voting Systems] sue us, we'll stop putting stories like this out.'" He said OAN's news director, Lindsay Oakley, reprimanded him for referring to "President Biden" in news copy.

Golingan was fired Monday. He had told the Times' Rachel Abrams he would wear being sacked as "a badge of honor."

Of 18 current and former OAN staffers Abrams interviewed, 16 said their employer had broadcast reports they consider misleading, in accurate, or untrue. But several said they have bills to pay and few other job prospects. "We're not Nazis," one producer told Abrams. "Just, like, everyday people." Peter Weber

2:33 a.m.

President Biden hosted another bipartisan group of 10 lawmakers on Monday to discuss his infrastructure proposal, and once again everyone said the meeting was cordial and respectful, Biden and his guests expressed a willingness to compromise on the size and scope of the bill, and the Republicans said they won't support raising the corporate tax rate to pay for the package.

Biden wants to raise the corporate tax rate to 28 percent, from 21 percent, to fund $2.25 trillion in spending. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) has suggested a 25 percent rate, and there's speculation Democrats will settle around that number. "You could see a 2 or 3 percent increase — maybe not all the way to 28 but 25," Rep. Charlie Crist (D-Fla.), who was at Monday's meeting, told The Wall Street Journal. GOP lawmakers were "more in favor of user fees so that whoever was benefiting from that particular infrastructure project would be paying for it in the long run," said Rep. Carlos Giménez (R-Fla.), another participant.

Sens. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) and John Hoeven (R-N.D.) both said after the meeting they favor paying for new infrastructure with gas taxes, user fees, and other mechanisms that don't hit corporations. "There is broad support for infrastructure, and I believe a bipartisan bill is possible, but we need to find agreement to make these updates in a targeted way that doesn't raise taxes," Hoeven said.

Biden opposes user fees, gas taxes, or any other funding mechanism that hits the middle class, and the opposition from Romney and Hoeven suggests he'll get no GOP support for raising corporate taxes, Axios says. Biden told Republicans he won't wait forever for a counteroffer. "He'd like for the Republicans to, you know, for us to come back with some kind of proposal on infrastructure by about mid-May," Giménez said.

Meanwhile, "progressives are warning the president not to get too attached to his GOP friends," Politico reports. Biden "should approach the negotiations with an open mind and an open heart, but he should not delay," Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) said. "We can't end up months from now with no real progress and no real infrastructure bill."

"I personally don't think the Republicans are serious about addressing the major crises facing this country," added Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). "Maybe I'm wrong, but we're certainly not going to wait for an indefinite period of time. ... They have something to say? Now is the time to say it." Peter Weber

1:40 a.m.

The Biden administration is considering measures that would force tobacco companies to reduce the amount of nicotine in all cigarettes to nonaddictive or minimally addictive levels, people familiar with the matter told The Wall Street Journal.

The administration is also weighing whether to ban menthol cigarettes, the Journal reports. Federal data shows that every year, 226 billion cigarettes are sold in the U.S., and about a third are menthol cigarettes. Menthol creates a cooling sensation in the throat, making menthol cigarettes an attractive product for young people and new smokers, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says some studies have shown people who smoke menthols have a harder time quitting than those who smoke non-menthol cigarettes.

The Food and Drug Administration and National Institutes of Health have also funded research that showed when nicotine was almost completely removed from cigarettes, smokers were more likely to quit or turn to alternatives that are less harmful, like lozenges or gum, the Journal reports. Annually, 480,000 deaths in the U.S. are linked to cigarettes.

A spokesman for Altria, the maker of Marlboro, told the Journal that any action "must be made on science and evidence and must consider the real-world consequences of such actions, including the growth of an illicit market and the impact on hundreds of thousands of jobs from the farm to local stores across the country." The Journal notes that if the Biden administration goes through with reducing nicotine and banning menthols, it will take years for the policies to go into effect and they will likely face multiple legal challenges. Catherine Garcia

12:38 a.m.

Former Vice President Walter Mondale (D), who died Monday, led a successful effort to reform the filibuster in 1975, when he was a U.S. senator from Minnesota. Before Mondale and James Pearson (R-Kan.) introduced a resolution to reform cloture, the parliamentary mechanism to end a filibuster, at the beginning of the 94th Congress, a two-thirds majority of senators present and voting were needed to break a filibuster; Mondale and Pearson pushed for three-fifths of all senators voting and present.

Senate Rule XXII, which governed cloture, "in its present form, has protected the right of debate at the expense of the right to decide," Mondale told his Senate colleagues. "Rule XXII has significantly impaired the ability of this body to function."

Sen. James Allen (D-Ala.) led the opposition to the measure, and after several rancorous weeks of debate, the Senate agreed to a compromise resolution in which three-fifth of the entire Senate, or 60 senators, had to agree to invoke cloture and thwart a filibuster. That rule still stands for legislative filibusters, though once again there is clamor for reform amid obstruction.

Earlier in his Senate career, Mondale supported a simple majority of 51 senators to quash a filibuster. And he and Pearson briefly set a precedent for a 51-vote cloture, James Wallner explained in 2019. But Mondale had changed his mind by then. "As I see it, it is an issue between the ability to paralyze, on the one hand, and the ability to require full ventilation of an issue, on the other," he said in 1971. "In my opinion, there are crucial issues which demand full consideration by the Senate."

By 2011, Mondale was ready for another round of cloture reform. In 1975, senators hoped lowering the threshold to 60 votes from 67 "would preserve debate and deliberation while avoiding paralysis, and for a while it did," he wrote in a 2011 New York Times op-ed. "But it's now clear that our reform was insufficient for today's more partisan, increasingly gridlocked Senate." Mondale suggested lowering the threshold to 55 votes, or "requiring a filibustering senator to actually speak on the Senate floor for the duration of a filibuster."

"I still would like to keep some of the filibuster," Mondale said in 2013. "I think the Senate should be different from the House. I'm looking for that mysterious line between requiring debate and consultation on the one hand and paralysis on the other hand. ... What we clearly have today is paralysis." Peter Weber

12:30 a.m.

The coronavirus pandemic is continuing to pose an "unprecedented risk" to travelers, the State Department said Monday, and travel advisories are being updated to "outline current issues affecting travelers' health."

The changes "better reflect" the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's travel health notices, the State Department said, and will "result in a significant increase in the number of countries at Level 4: Do Not Travel, to approximately 80 percent of countries worldwide." The advisories also take into account "logistical factors," the State Department said, like "in-country testing availability and current travel restrictions for U.S. citizens."

Level 4 is the highest travel advisory level, and there are now about three dozen countries with this designation, CNN reports. The CDC is recommending that people delay international travel until they are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, adding that even those who have been inoculated "are at increased risk for getting and possibly spreading new COVID-19 variants." Catherine Garcia

April 19, 2021

Former President Jimmy Carter is mourning the death of his former vice president, Walter Mondale, saying in a statement that Mondale was a "dear friend, who I consider the best vice president in our country's history."

Mondale died Monday at his home in Minnesota, at the age of 93. Carter, 96, and Mondale spent four years in the White House, losing their re-election bid in 1980. They were the longest-living post-presidential team in U.S. history, Axios reports.

Carter praised Mondale for using his "political skill and personal integrity to transform the vice presidency into a dynamic, policy-driven force that had never been seen before and still exists today." Not only was Mondale an "invaluable partner and an able servant of the people of Minnesota, the United States, and the world," Carter said, but also "provided us all with a model for public service and private behavior." Catherine Garcia

April 19, 2021

On the day before he died, former Vice President Walter Mondale spoke with Vice President Kamala Harris on the phone, one of several conversations he had on Sunday with current and former politicians, his friend and former staffer Tom Cosgrove told Axios.

Mondale, who served under former President Jimmy Carter, died Monday at age 93. More than three decades before Harris became the country's first female vice president, Mondale, as the 1984 Democratic presidential nominee, picked Geraldine Ferraro as his running mate, making her the first woman to run on a major-party presidential ticket.

In a statement, Harris said Mondale was "so generous with his wit and wisdom over the years," and during their conversation, she "thanked him for his service and his steadfastness. I will miss him dearly." It wasn't just Harris that Mondale chatted with over the weekend, Cosgrove said — he also spoke with Carter, President Biden, former President Bill Clinton, and Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz (D). Mondale and his family believed that "death was imminent," Axios reports, but after his phone calls, he "perked up," Cosgrove said.

Mondale also wrote an email to be sent upon his death to 320 former staffers, including many who worked for him decades ago. In the email, shared with Axios, Mondale thanked them for their work and declared that "never has a public servant had a better group of people working at their side! Together we have accomplished so much and I know you will keep up the good fight. Joe in the White House certainly helps." Cosgrove told Axios that Mondale was concerned about what would happen to democracy if former President Donald Trump had been re-elected. "There was a difference after the inauguration — a letting go," Cosgrove said. "There was a big exhale of relief." Catherine Garcia

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