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Screenshot via Fox News

President Trump spent 50 minutes of his 73rd birthday on the phone with the hosts of "Fox & Friends" Thursday — the latest in a series of free-wheeling interviews with one of his favorite TV shows.

The big picture: The chat covered the hottest topics of the news cycle — from Sarah Sanders' White House departure to Kellyanne Conway's Hatch Act violation — and Trump even managed to break some news on the border.

  • Trump used the call to clarify his statement that "there isn't anything wrong with listening" to intelligence on political opponents gathered by foreign nations, arguing that it would be impossible to know whether something should be reported to law enforcement without first looking at it.
"First of all, I don't think anybody would present me with anything bad because they know how much I love this country. Nobody's gonna present me with anything bad. Number two, if I was, and of course you have to look at it because if you don't look at it you're not gonna know if it's bad. How are you gonna know if it's bad? But of course, you give it to the FBI or report it to the attorney general or somebody like that."

Other highlights from the call:

  • Trump said he would not fire White House counselor Kellyanne Conway after a civil service watchdog determined she repeatedly violated the Hatch Act: "It looks to me like they're trying to take away her right of free speech."
  • He backed up Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's accusation that Iran is responsible for attacks on oil tankers near the Strait of Hormuz: "Iran did do it. You know they did it because you saw the boat, I guess one of the mines didn't explode and it's probably got essentially Iran written all over it."
  • The president did not commit to endorsing Vice President Mike Pence should he decide to run for president in 2024: "You're talking about a long time, so you can't put me in that position."
  • He broke news, announcing that former acting ICE head and current Fox News contributor Tom Homan will join his administration as a White House "border czar."
  • Trump refused to say who he was considering to replace Sarah Sanders as White House press secretary, but did rule out former White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci: "I like Anthony and think he's been very nice, but I think Anthony should stay where he is right now."

The president also chimed in on some of his possible 2020 opponents, saying that he thinks it's a three-way race for the Democratic nomination between former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Sen. Bernie Sanders.

  • Biden: "He doesn't have — he never did have what it takes."
  • Warren: "I would love to run against her, frankly."
  • Sanders: "[He's] not doing well at all. I would have liked, frankly, to run against him."
  • Sen. Kamala Harris: "I don't see Kamala."
  • Mayor Pete Buttigieg: "I think that's a joke — Mayor Pete."

Flashback: The highlights from Trump's 47-minute call to "Fox & Friends" last October

Go deeper

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Chart: Axios Visuals. Data: Census Bureau/Bureau of Economic Analysis

The details of the blockbuster fourth quarter GDP report released Thursday morning tell a vivid story of how the underpinnings of the world economy have been reshaped by the pandemic.

One example: In the arithmetic around U.S. economic output, trade acted as a more severe drag last year than it has in a generation.

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Pandemic gave cover to online dating scams

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Crooked Casanovas used online dating scams to steal an estimated $500 million from lonely victims last year, according to a new analysis of government fraud data by Atlas VPN, an internet security provider.

Why it matters: The isolation of the lingering pandemic provided cover to fraudulent suitors who had an excuse for not meeting up in person even as they fleeced their would-be lovers out of gift cards, money — even cryptocurrency.

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Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

  1. Health: Omicron is finally burning out — It's very difficult to get access to antiviral COVID treatments — Axios-Ipsos poll: Omicron's big numbersAnother wave of death — FDA limits use of Regeneron and Lilly antibody treatments.
  2. Vaccines: Pfizer begins clinical trial for Omicron-specific vaccine — The shifting definition of fully vaccinated.
  3. Politics: Navy discharges 45 sailors for refusing vaccine — Spotify to remove Neil Young's music after his Joe Rogan ultimatum — New York Supreme Court grants stay for indoor mask mandate.
  4. World: U.K. to lift travel testing requirement for fully vaccinated — Beijing Olympic Committee lowers testing threshold ahead of Games.
  5. Variant tracker