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Top White House officials and sources close to White House counsel Don McGahn tell Axios that McGahn will step down this fall — after Brett Kavanaugh is confirmed to the Supreme Court, or after the midterms. The president later confirmed Axios' reporting in a tweet.

The big picture: This potentially puts a successor in charge of fielding a blizzard of requests or subpoenas for documents and testimony if Democrats win control of the House in the midterms. And if the White House winds up fighting special counsel Robert Mueller, an epic constitutional fight could lie ahead.

  • We're told that Trump has not formalized a successor.
  • But McGahn has told a confidant he would like his successor to be Emmet Flood, a Clinton administration alumnus who joined the White House in May to deal with the Russia probe.
  • Flood also served for two years during George W. Bush’s second term as his top lawyer handling congressional investigators. 

A source familiar with Flood's thinking said: “The reason he can represent both Bill Clinton and Donald Trump is because he thinks these investigators come and basically put a target on their backs, trying to overturn every aspect of their lives searching for a crime."

  • "He feels that is a judicial and constitutional hazard."

Three senior administration officials tell us they hope Flood is the pick:

  • He’s trusted and respected inside the White House.
  • Most importantly, sources familiar with their interactions say Flood has — as well as any lawyer can — figured out how to talk to Trump.
  • The president focuses his attention when Flood talks to him: Trump reacts to the authority Flood carries as a heavyweight lawyer handling the topic that potentially poses an existential threat to the Trump presidency.

The timing for a McGahn departure is right for both sides, the officials say:

  • McGahn, whom some Trump allies fear coughed up too much information during his extensive cooperation with Mueller’s team, would leave on a high note, after the confirmation of Justice Neil Gorsuch, and the expected confirmation of Judge Brett Kavanaugh.
  • McGahn ran point on Trump's record run of conservative judicial selections, which has endeared Trump not only to his base but also to Republicans skeptical of his presidency.
  • In Flood, Trump would get a White House counsel with impeachment chops from the Clinton years, and little internal baggage.
  • McGahn has told a confidant that he doesn't expect to leave Trumpworld entirely after he leaves the White House. He privately said he expects to continue to be of assistance to the president through the re-election campaign.

Be smart: McGahn has had, at times, a strained relationship with the president.

  • A defender of McGahn's, who has been an uncomfortable bystander while the president has torn shreds off of McGahn, told Axios that McGahn did the best he could under very trying circumstances, and often had to bat back unreasonable and legally problematic requests.

Get more stories like this by signing up for our daily morning newsletter, Axios AM. 

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Go deeper

FAA clears more planes after 5G fears

Photo: David McNew/Getty Images

The Federal Aviation Administration said Thursday it had approved nearly 80% of the U.S. commercial fleet to perform low-visibility landings at airports with new 5G services after fears of signal interference limited 5G rollout.

Why it matters: The FAA approvals will help provide more certainty after the agency raised fears that 5G signals could reduce the accuracy of certain equipment, known as radio altimeters, that helps planes land and take off in inclement weather.

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
3 hours ago - Economy & Business

Peloton stock tanks on report of production halt

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Peloton stock fell by as much as 25% on Thursday, following a CNBC report that the connected fitness company will temporarily halt production on its bikes and treadmills.

Why it matters: Peloton is viewed by many as a proxy for consumer behavior in the pandemic era, as its popularity surged when gyms closed and people wanted to exercise at home.

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

  1. Health: Omicron pushes COVID deaths toward 2,000 per day — The pandemic-proof health care giant.
  2. Vaccines: No evidence that healthy children, teens need boosters, WHO says — Starbucks drops worker vaccine or test requirement after SCOTUS ruling — Kids' COVID vaccination rates are particularly low in rural America.
  3. Politics: Biden concedes U.S. should have done more testing — Arizona says it "will not be intimidated" by Biden on anti-mask school policies.
  4. World: American Airlines flight to London forced to turn around over mask dispute — WHO: COVID health emergency could end this year — Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older.
  5. Variant tracker