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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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Mike Allen, author of AM
2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Biden's "overwhelming force" doctrine

President-elect Biden arrives to introduce his science team in Wilmington yesterday. Photo: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

President-elect Biden has ordered up a shock-and-awe campaign for his first days in office to signal, as dramatically as possible, the radical shift coming to America and global affairs, his advisers tell us. 

The plan, Part 1 ... Biden, as detailed in a "First Ten Days" memo from incoming chief of staff Ron Klain, plans to unleash executive orders, federal powers and speeches to shift to a stark, national plan for "100 million shots" in three months.

Off the Rails

Episode 2: Barbarians at the Oval

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

Beginning on election night 2020 and continuing through his final days in office, Donald Trump unraveled and dragged America with him, to the point that his followers sacked the U.S. Capitol with two weeks left in his term. This Axios series takes you inside the collapse of a president.

Episode 2: Trump stops buying what his professional staff are telling him, and increasingly turns to radical voices telling him what he wants to hear. Read episode 1.

President Trump plunked down in an armchair in the White House residence, still dressed from his golf game — navy fleece, black pants, white MAGA cap. It was Saturday, Nov. 7. The networks had just called the election for Joe Biden.

Fringe right plots new attacks out of sight

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Domestic extremists are using obscure and private corners of the internet to plot new attacks ahead of Inauguration Day. Their plans are also hidden in plain sight, buried in podcasts and online video platforms.

Why it matters: Because law enforcement was caught flat-footed during last week's Capitol siege, researchers and intelligence agencies are paying more attention to online threats that could turn into real-world violence.

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