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Photo Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios. Photos: Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Donald Trump changed how to run for president. Next, he changed the Republican Party. Now, he’s changing the presidency and the boundaries of executive power. 

In the past week, Trump has purged internal dissenters, imported loyalists, pardoned political and financial criminals and continued a running commentary on live Justice Department criminal cases — despite an unprecedented public brushback from his attorney general.

  • And in what could prove to be the week's most consequential move, Trump yesterday named Rick Grenell, ambassador to Germany and one of the most dependable Trump family allies, as acting director of national intelligence — a sensitive job overseeing 17 U.S. spy agencies. The DNI has access to all the nation's secrets, and helps shape what a president sees and knows.

Why it matters: Trump does everything bigger and bolder than any predecessor dared — and all nakedly in the open, fearing no consequences from a Republican Party he fully commands.

  • Other presidents lamented disloyal servants, but rarely purged them en masse and in public. Trump told staff after his impeachment acquittal that he felt surrounded by "snakes" and "bad people" he wanted ousted.
  • Other presidents plugged loyalists into key jobs — but rarely made that the prerequisite. To run the powerful presidential personnel office, Trump last week tapped John McEntee, 29, who has no experience in staffing governments, and was fired by his former chief of staff John Kelly — but is a favorite of the family.
  • Other presidents pardoned criminals — but never in a big batch in the middle of a re-election race, after getting lobbied on TV. Trump's 11 pardons and commutations this week included Rod Blagojevich, a Democrat and former Illinois governor whose wife, Patti, had appealed to Trump on Fox News. Blagojevich told cameras that he's now a "Trumpocrat."
  • Other presidents pressured their Justice Department, but never so nakedly and publicly. Trump, asked this week if he agreed with Attorney General Bill Barr that White House tweets made it impossible to do the job, said: "I do agree with that. I think that’s true. ... I'm allowed to be totally involved. I'm actually, I guess, the chief law enforcement officer of the country."

Between the lines: Rush Limbaugh said Trump called this week with a bit of advice after the radio host mocked the idea of Pete Buttigieg at fall debates — "gay guy kissing his husband on stage, next to Mr. Man, Donald Trump":

  • "Rush, I just got to tell you something. Never apologize."

The bottom line ... One sign of how extraordinary this is: Trump has pushed Barr — who has a maximalist view of presidential power, and is sympathetic to Trump's view that career prosecutors have overreached — to publicly plead with him to stop, and even make it known he's considering resigning.

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Go deeper

Collins helps contractor before pro-Susan PAC gets donation

Sen. Susan Collins during her reelection campaign. Photo: Scott Eisen/Getty Images

A PAC backing Sen. Susan Collins in her high-stakes reelection campaign received $150,000 from an entity linked to the wife of a defense contractor whose firm Collins helped land a federal contract, new public records show.

Why it matters: The executive, Martin Kao of Honolulu, leaned heavily on his political connections to boost his business, federal prosecutors say in an ongoing criminal case against him. The donation linked to Kao was veiled until last week.

How cutting GOP corporate cash could backfire

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Companies pulling back on political donations, particularly to members of Congress who voted against certifying President Biden's election win, could inadvertently push Republicans to embrace their party's rightward fringe.

Why it matters: Scores of corporate PACs have paused, scaled back or entirely abandoned their political giving programs. While designed to distance those companies from events that coincided with this month's deadly siege on the U.S. Capitol, research suggests the moves could actually empower the far-right.

9 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Kaine, Collins pitch Senate colleagues on censuring Trump

Sen. Tim Kaine speaks with Sen. Susan Collins. Photo: Andrew Harnik/AP via Getty Images

Sens. Tim Kaine and Susan Collins are privately pitching their colleagues on a bipartisan resolution censuring former President Trump, three sources familiar with the discussions tell Axios.

Why it matters: Senators are looking for a way to condemn Trump on the record as it becomes increasingly unlikely Democrats will obtain the 17 Republican votes needed to gain a conviction in his second impeachment.