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    Russia investigation is back in the spotlight

    President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with business leaders in the State Department Library on the White House complex in Washington, Tuesday, April 11, 2017. Carlos G. Muniz, a former top aide to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi involved in her office’s decision not to pursue legal action against Trump University has been chosen to serve as the top lawyer at the Education Department. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
    Evan Vucci/AP
    President Donald Trump.

    Welcome to Trump Today, a one-stop entry point for the latest news on the 45th president of the United States.

    Afternoon update

    “Are we going to get involved with Syria? No,” Trump told a Fox News interviewer. But he also said that Russian President Vladimir Putin, in backing Syrian leader Bashar Assad, was backing “truly an evil person.” And he said it was “very bad for Russia” and the world.


    Putin met with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Wednesday, despite the acccusations the two countries were hurling at each other over the Syrian chemical attack last week that killed dozens of civilians. US-Russian differences were on stark display again at a news conference held by Tillerson and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov after the meeting.

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    In what could be a broken campaign promise and another shift from tough rhetoric on trade policy, the United States probably won’t name China a currency manipulator, a top outside adviser to President Donald J. Trump said.

    Republicans should be worried, even though they pulled out a victory Tuesday in a Kansas special election, the Globe’s James Pindell writes in his “Ground Game” analysis.

    Trump spoke by phone with Chinese President Xi Jinping about rising tensions with North Korea, as reports said the Japanese navy was joining the US navy off the Korean coast. Trump tweeted Wednesday morning that the two had spoken about the “menace of North Korea.” (See tweet below.)

    The morning headlines


    The FBI won a court’s permission last summer to monitor the communications of Carter Page, a former adviser to Trump’s campaign. The surveillance was part of an investigation into contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia, which wanted to sway the election to Trump. The court order means that agents successfully argued they had probable cause to believe Page was acting as an agent of a foreign power.

    Page was recently in the news because of revelations, contained in documents in a 2015 federal espionage case, that he had met with a Russian intelligence operative in 2013 and provided him documents. Page said the documents were innocuous. The Russians, in a colorful conversation tapped by the FBI, didn’t appear to have a high opinion of him.

    Eric Thayer/New York Times
    Paul Manaford

    Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chairman, received at least some of the payments noted in a mysterious handwritten “Black Ledger” in Ukraine in August. Ukraininian investigators believe the ledger contains evidence of off-the-books payments from a pro-Russian political party. Manafort has questioned the ledger’s legitimacy.

    Russia wanted Trump in the White House, according to US intelligence officials. But it may not have foreseen this: With Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in Moscow for tense meetings, the White House accused the Russian and Syrian governments of trying to confuse the world community about Syria’s chemical weapons attack last week that killed dozens of civilians. Russian President Putin, who backs Syria, had questioned the US assessment of the attack. The White House released a declassified report laying out its intelligence.

    “Geopolitical whiplash” — that’s the condition that the international community is suffering after Trump’s abrupt switch from coziness to confrontation with Russia, the New York Times reports.


    Tension has risen over North Korea’s drive to become a nuclear power. Chances are small of an actual clash between the United States and the hermit kingdom, but there’s always a chance of a misstep.

    White House press secretary Sean Spicer publicly apologized after comparing Adolf Hitler to Syrian leader Bashar Assad and inaccurately stating that Hitler did not gas his own people. Spicer was ignoring the Nazi death camps where Hitler murdered millions of German Jews in gas chambers, the Globe’s Annie Linskey reports.

    Today’s schedule

    The big items on Trump’s schedule Wednesday were meetings with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. The two were also slated to hold a joint press conference at 4 p.m. Trump has taken varying positions on NATO, from backing the military alliance to calling it “obsolete.” US-Russian relations will also likely be discussed.

    Trump will also meet with House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte.

    Press secretary Spicer will not hold a briefing for the media.

    What’s he been tweeting?

    Trump tweeted on Wednesday morning about his phone call with the Chinese president.

    He also hailed the Republican congressional win in Kansas.

    On Tuesday afternoon, he talked up a “great” meeting he had with corporate chief executives. On Tuesday night, he promoted an appearance on Fox News slated for early Wednesday morning in which he made his .

    More headlines

    Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff
    Elizabeth Warren

    With anti-Trump energy boosting her, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren has accumulated a $9.2 million war chest that will make it tough for anyone to challenge her reelection, the Globe’s Victoria McGrane reports.

    In the first congressional race since Trump was elected, Republicans fended off a spirited Democratic challenge in Kansas that was fueled by opposition to Trump.

    The Trump administration has suspended a weekly report on “sanctuary cities” that was intended to shame the communities into cooperating with the federal government on immigration enforcement. US Immigration and Customs Enforcement is analyzing the report’s methodology.

    Attorney General Jeff Sessions visited the US-Mexico border Tuesday and announced what he described as a new, tougher approach to immigration prosecutions. He said he wanted to rid US cities and the border of ‘‘filth’’ brought on by drug cartels and criminal organizations.

    Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer says that if Trump wants to overhaul the tax code, he should release his own tax returns. Schumer says questions will be raised about whether Trump is making tax changes because “it’s good for him.” Trump has refused to release his past tax returns.

    The briefing

    Here’s a transcript of Spicer’s briefing Tuesday, where he made news with his comments on Hitler. And here’s video: