April 13, 2017 12:02 PM EDT

President Trump likes to cast himself as “flexible” and that trait has been on stark display this week as he flip-flops on key policy positions from the campaign — and in some cases from just weeks ago. He’s shifted on NATO, whether to keep on Fed Chair Janet Yellen, the Export-Import Bank, and China’s status as a currency manipulator — and that was just Wednesday. It marks a pronounced shift from the populist agenda he championed in 2016 toward those of a more conventional Republican politician, and reflects the weakened status of Chief Strategist Steve Bannon after months of infighting inside the White House. Yes, this marks a major shift from Trump’s go-it-alone strategy, as he seeks to tack to the center on key issues that have created a wedge between himself and his party. But Trump has always had nationalistic tendencies, and he’s on all sides of these issues before. Only time will tell how permanent this shift is, but it’s a clear indication that Trump is unhappy with the direction of his presidency as he nears the 100 days mark, and is willing to upset even his most fervent supporters if it means he can bridge the partisan divide.

Meanwhile, Trump’s foreign policy is increasingly being defined by countries around the globe rather than by his Administration. When Trump makes phone calls, the White House releases brief and often substance-less statements. When Secretary of State Rex Tillerson visited with Russian President Vladimir Putin Wednesday, he left his press corps behind. Other governments are filling the vacuum, providing their own — self-serving — “readouts” of these meetings and interactions, which can have the effect of putting the Administration in a reactive position right out of the gate.

Trump dumps on Bannon. Manafort registers as a foreign agent. And inside the grassroots movement to groom a new generation of Democratic candidates

Here are your must reads:

Must Reads

Trump Says Dollar ‘Getting Too Strong,’ Won’t Label China a Currency Manipulator
President leaves open possibility of renominating Fed Chairwoman Janet Yellen [Wall Street Journal]

Inside the Grassroots Movement to Groom a New Generation of Democratic Candidates
TIME’s Alex Altman on the Democrats struggling to rebuild from the ground up

Trump Administration Moving Quickly to Build Up Nationwide Deportation Force
Agencies considering loosening standards to speed hiring [Washington Post]

Rex Tillerson and Vladimir Putin Meet in Moscow Amid Ongoing Tensions
Awkward encounter in Moscow [Associated Press]

Trump Says It’s Likely Russia Knew of Syrian Gas Attack in Advance
Comes amid escalating war of words with Kremlin [New York Times]

Sound Off

“I said it was obsolete. It’s no longer obsolete.” — President Trump on NATO at a Wednesday press conference

“So what happens is I said we’ve just launched 59 missiles heading to Iraq and I wanted you to know this. And he was eating his cake. And he was silent.” — Trump in an interview with Fox Business misstating the country he bombed—and plugging his club’s dessert offerings

Bits and Bites

US intelligence intercepted communications between Syrian military and chemical experts [CNN]

After Campaign Exit, Manafort Borrowed From Businesses With Trump Ties [New York Times]

President Trump Claimed He ‘Didn’t Know’ Steve Bannon Before the Campaign. That’s Not True [Associated Press]

President Trump Says Voter Fraud Is a Huge Problem. A Top Republican Election Official Disagrees [Center for Public Integrity]

South Korea’s Foreign Minister Seeks to Assure Seoul that U.S. Won’t Act Alone on North Korea [TIME]

President Trump: NATO Is ‘No Longer Obsolete’ [TIME]

President Trump and China’s Xi Jinping Gave Very Different Reports of Their Phone Call [TIME]

Former Trump Campaign Chair Paul Manafort Will Register as a Foreign Agent [Associated Press]

Climate Change Deniers Have President Trump’s Ear. But Now They Want Results [TIME]

Does Each Trip President Trump Takes to Mar-A-Lago Cost Taxpayers $3 Million? [Associated Press]

President Trump Told Xi Jinping About Syria Attacks Over ‘The Most Beautiful Piece of Chocolate Cake’ [TIME]

 

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