Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Denver news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Des Moines news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Minneapolis-St. Paul news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tampa Bay news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Charlotte news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Photo: Eric Baradat/AFP/Getty Images

President Trump’s staff has learned a hard lesson. If the president says something in private, no matter how geopolitically fraught, it's only a matter of time before he blurts it out in public.

Between the lines: Trump’s Wall Street Journal interview this week is just the latest example of this habit. In that interview, he contradicted the White House's official narrative by saying he had revoked John Brennan’s security clearance because of the Russia probe. It's far from the first time Trump has publicly blurted out something that his aides privately implored him to keep under wraps.

Behind the scenes: A source who's spent hours with Trump in confidential White House settings told me the Journal interview brought back bad memories.

  • Not only of Trump's interview last year with NBC's Lester Holt — when the president admitted "this Russia thing with Trump" was on his mind when he fired then-FBI director James Comey — but of other times when Trump blurted out thoughts he'd previously expressed in private that his national security team hoped would stay that way.

The two examples the source gave:

  • In a private meeting last summer, Trump asked senior national security aides, including then-national security adviser H.R. McMaster, what would happen if the U.S. invaded Venezuela. The aides warned Trump against the idea, but he ended up blurting out publicly that he wasn't ruling out a "military option" in Venezuela. (The AP first reported Trump's private comments.)
  • For weeks earlier this year, Trump had been telling national security officials that Syria was a disaster and he wanted to withdraw U.S. troops ASAP. His aides, including Chief of Staff John Kelly, privately urged him not to say anything. When Trump traveled to Ohio for an infrastructure event in March, the text of his speech said nothing about foreign policy, according to a source with direct knowledge of the remarks. But Trump got up on stage and blurted out that the U.S. would be "coming out of Syria, like, very soon."

The bottom line: Trump's aides have learned the hard way that once they hear the president say something privately — no matter how harmful it might be — it's only a matter of time before he blurts it out publicly.

  • "When something is on his mind, everybody will know it soon," the source told me. "The only thing you can do is once you hear him say something privately, start preparing talking points because sooner or later you will hear it in public."

Go deeper

President Joe Biden vows to be "a president for all Americans"

Moments after taking the oath of office, President Joe Biden sought to soothe a nation riven by political divisions and a global pandemic, while warning that "we have far to go" to heal the country and defeat a "virus that silently stalks the the country."

Why it matters: From the same steps that a pro-Trump mob launched an assault on Congress two weeks earlier, the new president paid deference to the endurance of American political institutions.

Updated 42 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Inauguration Day dashboard

U.S. Capitol and stage are lit at sunrise ahead of the inauguration of Joe Biden. Photo: Patrick Semansky - Pool/Getty Images

President Biden has delivered his inaugural address at the Capitol, calling for an end to the politics as total war but warning that "we have far to go" to heal the country.

What's next: Biden and Vice President Harris review readiness of military troops, a long-standing tradition to signify the peaceful transfer of power.

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

In photos: The Biden and Harris inauguration

Joe Biden is sworn in as the 46th president of the United States. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Joe Biden and Kamala Harris were inaugurated as president and vice president respectively in a ceremony at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday morning.

Why it matters: Top Democrats and Republicans gathered for the peaceful transfer of power only two weeks after an unprecedented siege on the building by Trump supporters to disrupt certification of Biden's victory. Trump did not attend Wednesday's ceremony.