Skip Navigation
Breaking News
Breaking News
from Washington and beyond

Can U.S.-China Relations Be Fixed?

A surprise meeting between Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Xi Jinping suggests the two countries are trying to fix a broken relationship.

Photo by LEAH MILLIS/POOL/AFP/Getty Images
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken shakes hands with China’s President Xi.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Monday, in what many hope is a sign of improving diplomatic relations. But China may be hoping for something more.

China’s economy is struggling after three years of strict Covid-19 restrictions. The past few weeks have been particularly bleak, with investment slowing and exports shrinking. The housing market has taken a hit, and young people are struggling to find jobs, a long-standing and growing problem in the country. Neither China’s rollback of Covid-19 restrictions nor its continued economic stimulus has jump-started its economy.

The meeting between Blinken and Xi could open the door to economic talks between the two countries. Former President Donald Trump imposed steep tariffs on Chinese goods, making it more expensive for U.S. companies to import from China. President Joe Biden not only left those tariffs in place, but he also convinced Congress to provide large subsidies for the U.S.-based production of certain goods, further weakening China’s economy. Other countries also diversified supply chains away from China during the pandemic.

The growing economic and geopolitical rivalry between the U.S. and China led to a nadir of diplomatic relations between the countries. After months of sky-high tensions between Beijing and Washington—over alleged spy balloons, human rights issues, and even TikTok—both sides seem ready to come to the table. China’s main diplomat for the Western hemisphere, Yang Tao, said Blinken’s visit “marks a new beginning.”

But China did not concede to the U.S.’s main point: improved communication between their militaries. The U.S. considers better military-to-military communication key to avoiding international conflict, particularly over Taiwan. Chinese officials, however, said they are not yet ready to resume contact.

Whatever happens next will prove to be a delicate balancing act for the Biden administration. One of Trump’s most-repeated attacks was accusing Biden of being “soft” on China. This has continued to be a major talking point among Republicans and will no doubt figure heavily during the GOP presidential primary. Biden faces a difficult political task in the coming months: Improve relations with Beijing without damaging his reelection chances.

More on U.S. Foreign Policy

There Is No Democrat’s Case for Ron DeSantis

A Orlando Sentinel op-ed falls into familiar traps in making the case for Florida’s governor.

Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis

The case against Ron DeSantis from a Democrat’s perspective is straightforward and uncomplicated. For one thing, he’s a Republican. And not just any Republican: DeSantis has been one of the most odious and destructive governors in America since January 2019. He has been a vocal opponent not just of efforts to end the Covid-19 pandemic but of the vaccine that did more to control it than anything else; his anti-vaccine advocacy has also spurred on anti-vaccine activists’ assault on safe, protective measures to control diseases like mumps and polio. He has relentlessly attacked his state’s LGBTQ population, signing draconian bills into law that aid the false, dangerous idea that these people are “groomers.” His efforts in Florida have practically single-handedly brought back book banning to America, an extremely troubling development. On top of that, he is, on most issues, a bog-standard Republican: He wants to cut benefits for the poor and pass massive tax cuts for the rich. He is also, it almost goes without mentioning at this point, grotesque and charismaless, and a phenomenally unappealing figure. He has no juice.

Writing in The Orlando Sentinel on Monday, William Cooper—a Democrat and author of Stress Test: How Donald Trump Threatens American Democracy, a book with one of the most non–[citation needed] titles in the history of American publishing—made the case that none of that actually matters because DeSantis went to Harvard and Yale. Here’s Cooper:

But unlike Biden and Trump, DeSantis passes the litmus test. He’s very competent. A Yale- and Harvard-educated lawyer, DeSantis served in the Navy (including on a tour in Iraq) before entering Congress and then becoming Florida’s governor. And he’s effectively achieved his objectives in Florida—regarding both politics and policy.

DeSantis’ competence matters. Why? Because the most important quality to have in a U.S. president is competence. The biggest questions facing the country do not fall comfortably along some left-right axis but instead require prudent and empirically effective leadership to address. How should we approach our global rivalry with China? How should we regulate artificial intelligence? How should we participate in an international economy complicated by dysfunction and violence around the world? And so on.…

A simple question establishes the point. Which candidate would be better at the helm in a global crisis: an 80-year-old who can’t walk straight (Joe Biden); a 76-year-old with the emotional intelligence of a 10-year-old (Donald Trump); or a 44-year-old Harvard-law-trained Navy vet who skillfully runs his home state (Ron DeSantis)?

This is an argument that reduces politics to pure aesthetics—there is no mention of anything DeSantis could do that affects people’s lives in any way. Cooper produces no evidence that DeSantis is “skillfully” managing his home state; he addresses none of the policies that DeSantis has pursued in Florida. The office of the presidency is reduced to an almost symbolic one in which DeSantis is effective simply because he fits some sort of preordained model of what a president should look like (and also because, unlike Trump and Biden, he is not old). Similarly, there is no mention that Biden has skillfully managed an international crisis—Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Ron DeSantis has spent most of the last two years losing a war against Disney. 

It gets worse: 

Indeed, domestic issues matter less and less the more interconnected the world gets—and it’s getting exponentially more interconnected as time marches on. This, in turn, decreases the relevance of a president’s political party and increases the importance of a president’s competence. Far better to get the culture wars wrong but get China right than vice versa. Same with taxation: Better to tilt the code a little more toward the rich if it means we also get smarter regulations protecting humanity from the downside of artificial intelligence. Appoint conservative judges all day long if it means America’s international effectiveness and leadership improves. America’s domestic squabbles just don’t mean as much as they used to. And it’s a sign of our national decadence and complacency that our political focus is nonetheless still insular and myopic. The world is a dangerous and complicated place and the president of the United States should be—above all else—very good at dealing with global challenges.

Setting aside the myopia of this argument—issues that don’t interest Cooper, like gay rights, are reduced to baubles to be cast aside so that we can “regulate artificial intelligence,” whatever he means by that—none of this actually applies to DeSantis. There is no evidence that he could manage foreign affairs any better than Biden or, for that matter, Trump. There is significant evidence that he would arguably make lives for vulnerable people—LGBTQ people and poor people, in particular—worse than Trump.  

DeSantis’s appeal has largely always been this abstract. He does seem more normal than Trump. There are no tweetstorms at three in the morning. There are no indictments about mishandling classified information. And yet, despite the fact that he’s young and possesses his faculties, DeSantis remains a damaging political force. All you have to do is look at what he’s actually doing and saying. 

More on the Interminable 2024 GOP Primary

Federal Judge Orders Trump to Shut Up About Classified Docs

The Department of Justice won its first salvo with Trump, but there will be many more to come.

Photo by JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images

Donald Trump is banned from talking on social media about evidence in the classified documents case, thanks to a protective order issued Monday.

Trump pleaded not guilty last week to 37 counts of keeping classified information without authorization, making false statements, and conspiring to obstruct justice. Federal prosecutors requested the protective order on Friday, arguing they needed to protect “sensitive and confidential” information.

Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart has acquiesced, issuing an order that significantly restricts the ways Trump can access evidence in the case and share it online. Unless he has permission from a judge, Trump is not allowed to share information about the evidence to anyone not involved with the case.

He also cannot see any of the prosecutors’ evidence unless he is in the presence of his lawyers, and he definitely cannot keep any copies of the evidence. If he violates any of these new rules, he could face criminal contempt charges.

Trump also had to sign a form promising, like Bart Simpson writing on the chalkboard, “I will not further disclose or disseminate the Discovery Materials.”

Given Trump’s penchant for just tweeting out important decisions or insider information, it’s unsurprising that Reinhart issued a protective order. This isn’t the first time Trump had to be disciplined before a trial even got underway: In May, the judge presiding over Trump’s Manhattan criminal case on the alleged payment of hush money to Stormy Daniels issued a protective order stating that the people involved in the lawsuit are not allowed to share evidence from the case on social media. Trump can still discuss the case publicly and is only restricted from sharing information about the evidence.

Prosecutors had argued Trump has a “long-standing history” of attacking people involved in his legal disputes. The judge also ordered Trump to attend a hearing specifically to be told to stop trying to intimidate witnesses.

Why Did the DOJ Resist Investigating Donald Trump’s Role in January 6?

A new Washington Post report suggests the Department of Justice did not want to seem “partisan” by investigating the former president’s attempt to overturn a legitimate election.

Photo by Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images
Donald Trump at a rally shortly before his supporters stormed the Capitol

The Department of Justice waited a year to investigate Donald Trump for his alleged role in the January 6 insurrection, The Washington Post reported Monday.

A new investigation by the Post found that the DOJ resisted looking into Trump or members of his inner circle, even as evidence of an organized scheme to overturn the 2020 election piled up. Instead, newly sworn-in Attorney General Merrick Garland and his team opted for a “bottom-up” strategy, focusing first on the rioters and working their way up. Garland and his team refrained from directly investigating the former president out of fear of looking politically partisan.

Just hours after he was sworn into office, Garland met with acting U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia Michael Sherman, who along with the FBI was responsible for prosecuting all crimes related to the January 6 attack. Sherman presented their work, which had resulted at the time in charges for nearly 300 rioters, with nearly 900 in  total identified.

Sherman had made waves when he said Trump could be considered guilty of the attack, but according to the Post’s investigation, his presentation made no mention of investigating Trump or his advisers. Investigators stayed away from Trump, even as more and more evidence appeared of numerous schemes intended to overturn a legitimate election.

More than a year later, in November 2022, Garland finally appointed special counsel Jack Smith to investigate Trump’s alleged mishandling of classified documents and his alleged role in the January 6 attack. The Post attributes this delay to “a wariness about appearing partisan, institutional caution, and clashes over how much evidence was sufficient to investigate the actions of Trump and those around him.”

Sherwin, senior Justice Department officials, and the deputy FBI director all opposed investigating Trump or his allies directly, arguing it was too early, the Post reported. But Garland then continued with this approach, giving Trump more time to spread lies about the 2020 election.

Trump pleaded not guilty last week to 37 counts of keeping classified information, some of it relating to national security, without authorization, making false statements, and conspiring to obstruct justice. He is still under investigation for his role in January 6 and under a separate investigation for his role in trying to overturn the results of the 2020 election in Georgia.

More on Trump's Lawlessness

Donald Trump’s Former Attorney General Thinks He’s a Child

The former president is also seen as a national security risk by many of the people who worked closest with him in his former administration.

Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Two of Donald Trump’s ex-advisers warned over the weekend that the former president poses a massive threat to national security, in light of his recent indictment for allegedly mishandling classified documents.

Former Attorney General Bill Barr called Trump’s conduct “indefensible” on Sunday. Although he defended some of his former boss’s behavior, Barr opposed Trump running for office again.

“Should we be putting someone like this forward as the leader of the country, leader of the free world?” Barr told CBS’s Face the Nation. “He will always put his own interests, and gratifying his own ego, ahead of everything else, including the country’s interest, there’s no question about it.”

“He’s like a … defiant 9-year-old kid who’s always pushing the glass toward the edge of the table, defying his parents to stop him from doing it,” Barr continued. “It’s a means of self assertion and exerting his dominance over other people. And he’s a very petty individual … but our country can’t be a therapy session for, you know, a troubled man like this.”

Also on Sunday, former Defense Secretary Mark Esper told CNN’s State of the Union that Trump’s alleged handling of classified material was “unauthorized, illegal, and dangerous.” He compared Trump’s actions to those of Jack Teixeira, the Massachusetts Air National Guard member accused of leaking sensitive military documents online.

When asked if he thought Trump could ever be trusted with national secrets again, Esper replied, “Based on his actions, again, if proven true under the indictment by the special counsel, no.”

“I mean, it’s just irresponsible action that places our service members at risk, places our nation’s security at risk. You cannot have these documents floating around.”

Trump was charged with a total of 37 counts for keeping classified information, some of it relating to national security, without authorization, making false statements, and conspiring to obstruct justice. Barr and Esper are the latest former Cabinet members to turn on Trump over the indictment.

Former national security adviser John Bolton said the indictment should end Trump’s political career, and former chief of staff John Kelly said Trump was “scared shitless” at the prospect of actually being held accountable for once.

It’s worth noting, though, that all of these men defended Trump during his time in office and continue to justify some of his behavior. Still, their comments underline just how serious the charges Trump faces are and how indefensible his actions were.

Don’t Debate Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

Elon Musk and Joe Rogan aren't interested in the "truth" about vaccines. They just want a circus.

Photo by Chesnot/Getty Images

Dr. Peter Hotez is a respected vaccine scientist, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine and professor of pediatrics and molecular virology and microbiology at Baylor College of Medicine, who has devoted his career to improving global public health. He is also the author of Vaccines Did Not Cause Rachel’s Autism: My Journey as a Vaccine Scientist, Pediatrician, and Autism Dad, a book that draws on his experience as a doctor and the father of an autistic daughter. Podcaster and conspiracy theorist Joe Rogan and profoundly unfunny Twitter CEO Elon Musk spent the weekend trying to bully him into debating Robert F. Kennedy Jr. on the efficacy of vaccines.

The saga started on Saturday, when Hotez shared a Vice article about how Spotify—which signed Rogan to a multiyear exclusive contract in 2021 that is rumored to be worth $200 million—has stopped “even trying to stem” the podcast host’s “vaccine misinformation,” which was focused on Rogan’s three-hour-long interview with Kennedy. “Peter, if you claim what RFKjr is saying is ‘misinformation’ I am offering you $100,000.00 to the charity of your choice if you’re willing to debate him on my show with no time limit,” Rogan tweeted. Musk quickly backed him up, writing, “He’s afraid of a public debate, because he knows he’s wrong.”

Hotez has offered to appear on Rogan’s podcast but has rightfully refused to debate Kennedy on the issue. Given the popularity and influence of Rogan’s show, there are persuasive arguments for appearing, if only to correct the wild statements that are frequently shared about not just the Covid-19 vaccine but all vaccines. But appearing with Robert F. Kennedy Jr. would likely only legitimize those views. Kennedy has spent more than a decade spouting conspiracy theories with no basis in fact about vaccines. As Hotez noted to MSNBC host Mehdi Hasan, “Anti-vaccine disinformation … is now a lethal force in the United States. I offered to go on Joe Rogan but not to turn it into the Jerry Springer show with having RFK Jr. on.”

The goal of the “debate” Rogan is trying to host is not to hash out the truth or to finally decide if vaccines are safe and effective or not. Vaccines are safe and effective: This is settled science. The goal is to sow doubt and confusion over both settled science and the value of expertise, both in medicine and in the wider world. Hotez is right to avoid it. But he is already paying a price: He says he was “stalked” on Sunday by anti-vax protesters who were waiting for him outside his Houston home.

Texas Just Got Closer to Banning Drag Shows

Texas has become the fourth GOP-led state to try to ban drag performances.

Photo by Michael Nigro/Pacific Press/LightRocket/Getty Images
A Drag Story Hour in Ohio

Governor Greg Abbott signed an extreme bill targeting drag performances on Sunday, making Texas the fourth Republican-led state to enact such a law.

The bill passed both the House and Senate in May, following last-minute changes that opponents worry will create a slew of new, unforeseen crimes when the measure goes into effect in September.

The new law will criminalize any performances that occur or could occur in front of a minor if they appeal to “prurient interest” or are of a sexual nature. Performers could be charged with a misdemeanor (and face up to one year in jail, a $4,000 fine, or both), while any business that hosts the show would face a $10,000 fine. The bill’s sponsor stripped out any specific references to drag, but opponents argue the vaguely worded legislation would still target LGBTQ people.

The text was amended during debates to remove specific mentions of the word “drag,” and just before the final vote, lawmakers also removed the definition of “premises,” raising concerns that drag performances in private homes could also be policed.

The law is extremely broad, which actually creates a host of other complications. A group of lawyers previously told The Dallas Morning News that the measure could restrict performances by artists such as Madonna and Miley Cyrus, which often feature sexual dancing. The text could even affect bachelorette parties, if they involved sex toys or other paraphernalia. The new changes could even impact cheerleading and criminalize sexual conduct between consenting 17-year-olds (17 is the age of consent in Texas).

Movie screenings and art history classes could similarly come under fire. And of course, the law will affect its original target: drag performers, Pride parades, and transgender people just trying to live their lives.

Some people say the measure was already singling out LGBTQ people before it was even signed. Kerry Lynn, who runs a business that sends drag queens to people’s homes for birthday or bachelorette party performances, said drag venues and performers have seen a spike in threats over the past year and have been targeted by neo-Nazis.

“Regardless of the content, the proposal of these bills have created an excruciating year for my business and drag performers,” Lynn said when the bill was heard in a House committee in late April. “These words in this bill create movements which become headlines that pave the way for those to feel justified in acting out hostilely and violently.”

Texas is now the fourth state to pass a law banning drag performances. Tennessee was the first, in March, followed a month later by Florida. A Tennessee bill was blocked before it could go into effect, on the grounds that it violated free speech. But LGBTQ groups in Florida are already canceling Pride celebrations in light of the new law. In May, Montana Governor Greg Gianforte signed a drag ban so broad it could prevent glam rock, wrestling, and even performances by Dolly Parton.

Republicans Are Winning Their War on LGBTQ Rights

Approval of same-sex relationships and trans rights is backsliding after years of progress, according to a new Gallup poll.

Photo by JOSEPH PREZIOSO/AFP/Getty Images
Anti-trans activists protesting earlier this year

Americans’ perception of LGBTQ people is backsliding, in a sign that the Republican Party’s dogged campaign to ostracize queer people is working.

Only 64 percent of Americans think same-sex relationships are “morally acceptable,” the research firm Gallup revealed Friday, down from 71 percent this time last year. Gallup conducts an annual Values and Beliefs poll every May.

The biggest driver for that drop is a changing perspective among Republicans. In 2022, 56 percent of Republicans viewed same-sex relationships as morally acceptable. But this year, only 41 percent do.


The Gallup poll also found that more people view transitioning from one gender to another as “morally wrong”—although support among adult Americans has always been low. In May 2021, 46 percent of adults thought changing gender was “morally acceptable,” while 51 percent opposed it. But in 2023, only 43 percent of people say transitioning is morally acceptable, while 55 percent consider it wrong.

Support is even worse for transgender athletes playing on the team that matches their gender identity. In 2021, 34 percent of adults said trans athletes should be able to play on a team that matches their gender. This year, only 26 percent of people support that.

These views again fall mainly along party lines, with changing Republican sentiment one of the biggest drivers for the backslide. People are more likely to support trans rights if they know a trans person, but overall support has still dipped.


It’s no wonder people’s perception has changed. Republicans across the country have passed law after law criminalizing key aspects of LGBTQ identity and well-being. Republican-led state legislatures have banned drag performances, gender-affirming care for minors and adults, and trans girls from playing girls’ sports.

Republicans have cruelly and steadily painted a portrait of LGBTQ people as predators, as villains, and as aberrations. Unfortunately some Americans are listening.

The Teamsters’ Strike Has Already Claimed a Climate Win

Delivery drivers, who have reported temperatures upward of 140 degrees in their trucks, won a suite of protections ahead of strike vote.

A man in a UPS uniform sits in a truck with a towel on his head.
Spencer Platt/Getty Images
A UPS driver keeps a towel on his head while driving in New York City during warm weather.

On Friday, 97 percent of UPS employees represented by the Teamsters voted for a strike as they negotiate a new contract with the logistics company; the current contract is set to expire on July 31. The threat of that strike, though, may well have already claimed a win that could protect delivery drivers from the kinds of extreme heat due to sweep the South this weekend and become ever more common thanks to climate change.

According to a tentative agreement reached with UPS as part of contract negotiations on Wednesday, the company will be mandated to equip all of the recognizable brown “package cars” it purchases after January 1, 2024, with in-cab air conditioning. The existing fleet of package cars and vans will be outfitted with two fans after a new contract is ratified, with additional upgrades to include exhaust heat shields and air induction vents. As of now, most trucks and many loading facilities are not air conditioned. New cars will be dispatched to the hottest parts of the country first, the company stated.

Workers I spoke with credited the pre-vote win to their ongoing contract campaign and the credible threat of a strike.

The protections follow persistent complaints from workers that temperatures in their trucks have reached upward of 140 degrees, conditions made especially dangerous considering the intense physical demands of delivery work. A 2019 investigation by NBC News found that at least 107 UPS workers in 23 states had been hospitalized for heat-related illnesses since 2015.

Last year, 24-year-old driver Esteban Chavez Jr. died after finishing his last delivery in Pasadena, California, having passed out in his truck as temperatures outside reached into the upper 90s. Workers facing similar conditions have reported being reluctant to call 911 for medical assistance when experiencing symptoms of heat stroke or dehydration, fearing retaliation from the company.

UPS reported record profits in 2022.

Giuliani Says Key Biden Informant Is Dead

The Biden whistleblower can’t come to the phone right now. Why? Oh, ’cause they’re dead!

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Former Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani

There’s a new wrinkle in the Republicans’ totally legitimate investigation into Joe Biden: One of their informants is apparently dead, according to Rudy Giuliani.

Republicans have spent all week accusing the president of accepting a massive bribe from Ukraine (conveniently at the same time that Donald Trump was arrested for allegedly stealing and hiding classified documents), and have referred a number of times to a set of recordings that they claim prove his guilt. The GOP learned about these supposed recordings as part of the House Oversight Committee’s months-long investigation into the Biden family, which has yet to produce any actual evidence linking the president to wrongdoing.

House members were allowed last week to see a redacted version of an FD 10-23, a form the FBI uses to note unverified information from confidential sources. Several Republican lawmakers say that not only does the FBI form they saw last week mention this bribe but that a Burisma executive has audio recordings of Biden and Hunter Biden accepting the money. Both Anna Paulina Luna and Marjorie Taylor Greene said that the executive is Burisma owner Mykola Zlochevsky.

But according to Rudy Giuliani, the executive is actually the wife of Burisma co-founder Mykola Lisin. Giuliani told Newsmax over the weekend that Lisin died under suspicious circumstances. He seemed to imply the businessman left the recordings to his wife, but she died before the FBI could interview her.

The FBI “followed up on none of the evidence I gave them,” Giuliani said. “I gave them one witness that any investigator would jump through hoops to go to. Gave them a witness who is a woman, who is the chief accountant at this crooked company Burisma.”

“She was the wife of the former owner, who died under suspicious circumstances. And she was willing to give up all of the offshore bank accounts, including the Bidens’!”

Only right-wing outlets have reported Lisin’s wife’s death. Lisin died in a car crash in 2011—well over a decade ago. Hunter Biden didn’t join the board of Burisma until 2014. And the $10 million bribe Republicans keep mentioning, first pushed by Giuliani and Donald Trump, supposedly occurred in 2016.

What’s more, the FBI did investigate Giuliani’s claim. The bureau, alongside a U.S. attorney appointed by then-President Trump, had reviewed the bribery accusation when it was made in 2020 and found it to be unsubstantiated.

The GOP investigation into Biden is rapidly going off the rails. Multiple Republicans have admitted they don’t know if the recordings even exist, while House Oversight Chair James Comer, who is leading the probe, said he doesn’t know if the audio is “legit.”

Comer also can’t keep track of his informants, while his colleagues are begging more informants to come forward. But given how many informants they supposedly have, it sounds like they can spare a couple.