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Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

The President of the United States admitted, on the record, that he misled the American people about the infamous Russia meeting in Trump Tower.

The big picture: It’s one of the most striking public reversals in modern presidential history, even though he made a similar point before, and even though it was done casually via an early morning tweet. It involves Russia, Air Force One, a presidential son, shady operatives, allegations of collusion and a federal probe — all in one. 

Trump tweeted: "Fake News reporting, a complete fabrication, that I am concerned about the meeting my wonderful son, Donald, had in Trump Tower. This was a meeting to get information on an opponent, totally legal and done all the time in politics - and it went nowhere. I did not know about it!"

  • This is the same president who dictated a statement to the media saying the meeting was about primarily about the adoption of Russian children, not campaign dirt offered by shady Russians with connections to Putin.
  • Why it matters: It’s a striking acknowledgment about a central moment in an international debate over international collusion — and a central moment being scrubbed for illegalities by special counsel Bob Mueller.

Trump implicitly made the same acknowledgment over a year ago, during a press conference in Paris with French President Emmanuel Macron:

  • "I think from a practical standpoint, most people would have taken that meeting.  It’s called opposition research, or even research into your opponent."
  • "I’ve had many people — I have only been in politics for two years, but I’ve had many people call up — 'Oh, gee, we have information on this factor or this person, or, frankly, Hillary.' That’s very standard in politics."
  • "Politics is not the nicest business in the world, but it’s very standard where they have information and you take the information."

But the context is new, with Mueller's probe — then just ramping up — clearly focused on that meeting and the statement that followed:

  • Bob Bauer, a former White House counsel to President Obama who's now a law professor at NYU, said the new tweet weakens an argument for Trump's lawyers "that he shouldn’t have to interview with Mueller because he doesn’t know anything."
  • Bauer added: "He said something like this before. But one could read into this tweet ... that the meeting was entirely about opposition research, and that is definitely a change."
  • "That will certainly get the prosecutors’ attention. Why the course of misrepresentations, if he doesn’t have something to hide?"
  • Michael Barbaro, host of the N.Y. Times podcast "The Daily," pointed out on Twitter: "One of the strangest things about our free-wheeling Tweet presidency is that Trump routinely admits/acknowledges things, in writing, that might require hard-fought testimony from other presidents."

Be smart: Trump insiders believe the president will wind up giving an interview to Mueller.

  • Trump wants to, he thinks he can make his own best case, and no one around him can restrain him.
  • Said one associate: "He just can't help himself."
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Go deeper

Updated 5 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

  1. Health: Pfizer and Moderna boosters overwhelmingly prevent Omicron hospitalizations, CDC finds — Omicron pushes COVID deaths toward 2,000 per day — The pandemic-proof health care giant.
  2. Vaccines: The case for Operation Warp Speed 2.0 — Starbucks drops worker vaccine or test requirement after SCOTUS ruling — Kids' COVID vaccination rates are particularly low in rural America.
  3. Politics: Biden concedes U.S. should have done more testing — Arizona says it "will not be intimidated" by Biden on anti-mask school policies — Federal judge blocks Biden's vaccine mandate for federal workers.
  4. World: American Airlines flight to London forced to turn around over mask dispute — WHO: COVID health emergency could end this year — Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older — Austria approves COVID vaccine mandate for adults.
  5. Variant tracker

Arizona governor sues Biden administration over COVID funds tied to mandates

A teacher prepares a hallway barrier to help students maintain social distancing at John B. Wright Elementary School in Tucson, Arizona, on Aug. 14, 2020. Photo: Cheney Orr/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) filed a lawsuit Friday against the Biden administration for ordering the state to stop allocating federal COVID relief funds to schools that don't comply with public health recommendations such as masking, the Arizona Republic reports.

Why it matters: The Treasury Department said last week that the state would have to pay back the money if Ducey does not redesignate the $173 million programs to ensure they don't "undermine efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19."

Federal judge blocks Biden's vaccine mandate for federal workers

President Biden speaking from Eisenhower Executive Office Building on Jan. 21. Photo: Yuri Gripas/Abaca/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A federal judge in Texas blocked the Biden administration from enforcing its coronavirus vaccine mandate for federal workers on Friday, citing the outcome of last week's Supreme Court ruling that nullified the administration's vaccine-or-test requirement for large employers.

Why it matters: It's a blow to President Biden's efforts to increase the U.S.' vaccination rates, though much of the federal workforce has already been vaccinated against the virus.

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