The Atlantic Politics & Policy Daily: Good Cop, Bad Cop

Allies spin Trump’s chumminess with Putin as part of a complex routine in which he plays “good cop” to the rest of his administration’s bad cop. Plus: $1.6 billion to return to the moon.

Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP

What We’re Following Today

It’s Tuesday, May 14.

(Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP)

‘Good Cop, Bad Cop’: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with Russian President Vladimir Putin today, and Trump allies are trying to spin the president’s chumminess with Putin as just one part of a complex U.S. strategy toward Russia, Peter Nicholas and Kathy Gilsinan report. But who’s really being played here?

Moon Money: The Trump administration wants to put American astronauts on the moon again by 2024—and it’s asking Congress for $1.6 billion to do it. But 2024 is awfully soon, reports Marina Koren, and NASA has a long way to go to get a moon mission off the ground.

The Tariffs Start Coming and They Don’t Stop Coming: The Trump administration said it’s preparing to impose $300 billion in additional tariffs on Chinese imports, in retaliation against China’s retaliation. But Trump’s approach fundamentally misunderstands how tariffs work, argues Annie Lowrey: “The Chinese government is no more apt to fork over billions of yuan for Trump’s tariffs than Mexico’s government is to pay for a border wall. Rather, tariffs fall on the American importers of Chinese goods, who often pass those cost increases onto American consumers.”

The Root of a Conspiracy Theory: There’s a program that’s paid out about $229 million a year from 2013 to 2017 to people who claim they’ve been injured by vaccines. This federal-government initiative has “long percolated at the heart of misinformation and misunderstanding” over the safety of vaccines, writes James Hamblin. He looks at how the program came to be; why the government, not drug companies, is making payouts to alleged victims; and how the program became a flash point for conspiracy theorists.


Louisiana Lieutenant Governor Billy Nungesser shows the president his Trump socks in Lake Charles, Louisiana. (Leah Millis / Reuters)

Ideas From The Atlantic

The Supreme Court’s Worst Decision of My Tenure (John Paul Stevens)
District of Columbia v. Heller, which recognized an individual right to possess a firearm under the Constitution, is unquestionably the most clearly incorrect decision that the Supreme Court announced during my tenure on the bench.” → Read on.

Revisionism Is Winning in American Politics (Megan Garber)
“Amnesia is a powerful force in part because it can be deeply preferable to the alternative: Remembering—recognizing—reckoning—is hard. It is so much easier to look around and give a shrug and conclude that, all things considered, it’s time to move on.” → Read on.

Rashida Tlaib Has Her History Wrong (Benny Morris)
“But the historical reality was quite different from what Tlaib described: The Palestinians indirectly, and in some ways directly, aided in the destruction of European Jewry.” → Read on.

Russia Has Americans’ Weaknesses All Figured Out (Jim Sciutto)
“U.S. military commanders, national-security officials, and intelligence analysts have a definitive answer: Russia is an enemy ... But the public has been slow to catch on, polls suggest, and Trump has given Americans little reason to believe that their president recognizes Russia’s recent actions as a threat.” → Read on.

Democrats Need to Place China at the Center of Their Foreign Policy (Thomas Wright)
“There is an incentive to think about new approaches that draw a stark contrast with Trump but also depart from the Obama administration. Democrats need a powerful foreign-policy message that connects with domestic politics. Competing responsibly and effectively with China is the best one they have.” → Read on.

What Else We’re Reading

We Must Restore the Dignity of Work. All Work. (Avi Woolf, The Bulwark)
How Democrats Who Beat Republicans Last Year Plan to Keep Their Seats (Jennifer Steinhauer, The New York Times) (🔒 Paywall)
Restrictive Abortion Bill Weighs on Alabama Republicans (Emily Wax-Thibodeaux, The Washington Post) (🔒 Paywall)

About us: This newsletter is a daily effort from The Atlantic’s politics writers: Elaine Godfrey, Madeleine Carlisle, and Olivia Paschal. It’s edited by Shan Wang.

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