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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Last week's stunning court filings detonated what one official calls a "reality tremor" that has White House officials and key allies increasingly aware of President Trump’s rising legal and political vulnerability.

What's happening: Some top officials are suddenly much more attuned to the political fallout from the Mueller investigation and are growing more anxious about Trump's re-election prospects, according to people close to the president. And on the outside, some hardcore Trump allies — who have mostly accepted his denials about Robert Mueller — were rattled by the specificity of the Friday night revelations by the special counsel and by federal prosecutors.

One Trump loyalist said after a day of conversation with "hardcore MAGA [Make America Great Again] online influencers": "These are the people most predisposed to believing the 'witch hunt' rhetoric, but they are now expressing real concerns."

  • Even these diehards "start looking at the legal stuff and have a hard time dismissing it all," the loyalist said.
  • "I think SDNY [the Southern District of New York, where prosecutors said Trump directed Michael Cohen to make hush-money payments to women] has changed people’s perceptions. ... That’s viewed as a greater potential threat to Trump directly than Mueller. 'Collusion' is still met with eye rolls."
  • "And even MAGA loyalists are asking why Trump feels the need to go on Twitter with bizarre legal explanations that don’t seem to help."
  • AP reported: "For some Republicans, the implication that the president may have directed a campaign finance violation ... could foreshadow a true turning point in the Republican relationship ... when ... Mueller releases his report."

This new recognition has made outside political savvy one of the top criteria in the frenetic search for the next White House chief of staff after the rejection over the weekend by Nick Ayers.

  • One person involved in the conversations said the White House is looking for a political pro who speaks the language of modern campaigns, and can help focus the administration's message.

That's why David Bossie, deputy campaign manager in 2016, is making a new push for the job.

  • Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, confirmed Sunday's scoop by Axios that Trump is considering him: "The president has a good list of candidates. I’m honored to be one of those."
  • Others who are being mentioned include operative David Urban, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, acting attorney general Matt Whitaker, Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney and former New Jersey governor Chris Christie.

Go deeper:

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Go deeper

The recovery needs rocket fuel

Data: BLS. Chart: Axios Visuals

Friday's deeply disappointing jobs report should light a fire under Congress, which has dithered despite signs the economy is struggling to kick back into gear.

Driving the news: President-elect Biden said Friday afternoon in Wilmington that he supports another round of $1,200 checks.

1 hour ago - Health

CDC: It's time for "universal face mask use"

Photo: Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty

The CDC is urging “universal face mask use” for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic began, citing recent case spikes as the U.S. has entered a phase of “high-level transmission” before winter officially begins.

Why it matters: Daily COVID-related deaths across the U.S. hit a new record on Wednesday. Face coverings have been shown to increase protection of the wearer and those around them, despite some Americans' reluctance to use them.

3 hours ago - World

Saudi Arabia and Qatar near deal to end standoff, sources say

Qatar's prime minister (R) attends the 2019 Gulf Cooperation Council summit in Saudi Arabia. Photo: Fayez Nureldine/AFP via Getty

Saudi Arabia and Qatar are close to a deal to end the diplomatic crisis in the Gulf following U.S.-mediated reconciliation talks this week, sources familiar with the talks tell me.

Why it matters: Restoring relations between Saudi Arabia and Qatar would bring a sense of stability back to the Gulf after a 3.5 year standoff. It could also notch a last-minute achievement for the Trump administration before Jan. 20.