Trump and Giuliani in 2016. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Top House Republican sources tell Axios that one impeachment survival strategy will be to try to distance President Trump from any Ukraine quid pro quo, with Rudy Giuliani potentially going under the bus.

What they're saying: A Republican member of one of the impeachment committees told Axios: "[T]his is not an impeachment of Rudy Giuliani, it's not an impeachment of Ambassador Sondland. It's an impeachment of the president of the United States."

  • "So the point is as long as this is a step removed, he's in good shape. ... If it's a step removed from the president, he doesn't lose any Republicans in the House."

A top House GOP leadership aide said: "Substance is focus. [The co-leadoff witness, Bill] Taylor says [he had a] 'full understanding.' But from who? Not POTUS. That’s big."

  • An uber-connected Republican added: "Rudy will be cut loose because he was rogue."

What the president is thinking: "Trump is frustrated with the slippery slope it creates [by] saying it's bad but not impeachable," the GOP member added.

  • "Then it gets to bad but impeachable. I think the real problem becomes the slippery slope. ... It's more just a function that he believes there ought to be a strong defense based on the merits of what happened, not on the process."

A top Democratic aide told Axios the party's goal for the hearings is "Mueller on steroids": "Simpler crime witnessed by credible people. Mueller did exceptional work but nobody read his 400+ page report (except a few of us masochists)."

  • A Democratic official who helped shape the strategy told me the narrative will be: "The president abused his power to rig and fix elections in his favor. Our challenge is to keep it that simple: What kind of democracy do we want?"
  • Look for Democrats to say Trump would do it again if not held accountable.

P.S. ... Republican senators are "too busy" to watch today, per AP's Alan Fram:

  • Millions of Americans will be watching. But of eight Senate Republicans questioned, seven said they wouldn't be watching or that it wasn't a priority.
  • "Tomorrow I'm going to be paying attention to what we're doing in the Senate," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said.

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Trump commutes Roger Stone's sentence

Roger Stone arriving at his sentencing hearing on Feb. 20. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

President Trump on Friday evening commuted the sentence of his longtime associate Roger Stone, according to two senior administration officials. Stone in February was sentenced to 40 months in prison for crimes including obstruction, witness tampering and making false statements to Congress.

Why it matters: The controversial move brings an abrupt end to the possibility of Stone spending time behind bars. He had been scheduled to report to prison on July 14.

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Which states have set single-day coronavirus records this week

Data: COVID Tracking Project and state health department data compiled by Axios; Map: Danielle Alberti and Naema Ahmed/Axios

13 states this week surpassed records set just last week for their highest number of coronavirus infections in a single day, according to the COVID Tracking Project and state health department data. 16 states in total reported new highs.

The big picture: The United States' alarming rise in coronavirus cases isn't just due to increased testing — particularly where the number of cases has grown fastest over the last month, Axios' Andrew Witherspoon and Caitlin Owens report.

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Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 6:30 p.m. ET: 12,389,660 — Total deaths: 557,279 — Total recoveries — 6,830,596Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 6:30 p.m. ET: 3,169,611 — Total deaths: 133,885 — Total recoveries: 983,185 — Total tested: 38,856,341Map.
  3. Public health: The reality of the coronavirus bites.
  4. Trade: Trump says he's no longer considering phase-two trade deal with China because the pandemic damaged the two countries' relationship.
  5. 🎧 Podcast: Rural America has its own coronavirus problem.