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Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

Shortly after becoming President Trump's acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney conveyed a blunt message to several Cabinet secretaries. According to a senior White House official with direct knowledge and another source briefed on the private conversations, Mulvaney told the Cabinet officials that their "highest priority" over the next year would be deregulation.

What they're saying: "We knew there was one thing we could do without legislation," the senior official told me. When Mulvaney sits down with the president to discuss the Cabinet secretaries' performance, the official said, "Dereg is going to be top of the list."

Why it matters: Trump relishes using the power of the presidency to do whatever he can without Congress.

  • Trump made his most dramatic use of executive power on Friday by declaring a national emergency so he could circumvent Congress and spend billions of dollars for his wall.

This is the latest piece of a trend that may define the modern American presidency. Obama used executive power without apology when Congress blocked his agenda in the latter years of his presidency. And George W. Bush enthusiastically pushed the boundaries of presidential power.

  • Trump has looked for creative ways to use executive power to advance his agenda. His shock-and-awe series of executive orders early in his presidency resulted in protracted court battles, some of which he won.
  • His agencies are sweeping away regulations, including the most aggressive gutting of environmental regulations since at least President Reagan, and maybe ever. 

Behind the scenes: More than half a dozen current and former White House officials told me that after they passed their big tax bill last Congress, a broad consensus emerged: Trump wouldn't get anything else big through Congress before his re-election bid.

  • Trump appears to share that view. Since the tax bill's passage, he has focused on issues where Congress has little power, including foreign policy and trade.
  • While Congress can block his trade deal with Canada and Mexico, the Trump administration has made clear they won't need the Hill’s signoff for the China talks. But there's a trade-off for his legacy: The next president will be able to unilaterally undo any China agreement — just like Trump reversed Obama's Iran deal.

The bottom line: This concentration of power in the executive branch is part of the reason Republicans have invested so much in confirming new judges. In a world of government by executive order, Congress loses its relevance and judges become the surest check on an overreaching executive.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

McCarthy jokes about hitting Pelosi with gavel if he becomes Speaker, in new audio

Kevin McCarthy. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) can be heard saying "it would be hard not to hit" House Speaker Nancy Pelosi with the speaker's gavel if Republicans retake the House in 2022 and he becomes speaker, according to new audio posted to Twitter by a Main Street Nashville reporter.

Driving the news: McCarthy made the comments during a fundraising event in Tennessee, as he was handed an oversized gavel by members of the Tennessee congressional delegation, reports CNN.

Updated 3 hours ago - World

U.S. and U.K. blame Iran for drone strike on oil tanker

Britain's Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab. Photo: Sameer Al-DOUMY / AFP

Secretary of State Antony Blinken and British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said on Sunday that the United States and United Kingdom, respectively, now believe Iran was likely responsible for last week's drone strike on an oil tanker in the Arabian sea.

Why it matters: The United States and Britain now join Israel in accusing Tehran of being behind the July 29 attack off the coast of Oman. Iran has denied involvement.

9 hours ago - Sports

Suni Lee wins bronze medal in uneven bars

Photo: Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

U.S. gymnast Sunisa "Suni" Lee won her 3rd Olympic medal on Sunday, taking home bronze in the individual uneven bars event.

Driving the news: Also on Sunday, U.S. gymnast MyKayla Skinner won the silver medal in the vault on Sunday after stepping in for Simone Biles, who withdrew from the event to prioritize her mental health and well-being.