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Trump at last year's NATO summit. Photo: Christophe Licoppe/Photonews via Getty Images

We reported last week that U.S. national security officials were saying one of the most urgent issues leading into the Trump-Putin summit will be Moscow's covert intrusion into American politics.

What we're hearing: Tony Blinken, who served as deputy national security adviser and John Kerry's deputy in the Obama administration, told us that Trump "has an opportunity to reverse the narrative that he's too hard on our allies and too eager to cozy up to Putin." He would do so by demonstrating a "strong, unified alliance" with NATO members and then "go to Putin and put front and center the widespread concerns across our allies about Russian meddling in our democracies."

  • "That would be a great way to flip the narrative that people are concerned about."

But when you press senior U.S. officials on whether Trump will confront Putin over this interference they tend to avoid leaning in too hard.

  • CNN's Elise Labott asked Secretary of State Mike Pompeo about that very issue recently.
  • Pompeo replied: "Make no mistake; I think President Trump agrees the Russian interfering — Russians interfering in our election — is something that they simply cannot do. I don’t think — I don’t think he’d take any umbrage with that."

Go deeper

2 hours ago - World

Special report: Trump's U.S.-China transformation

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

President Trump began his term by launching the trade war with China he had promised on the campaign trail. By mid-2020, however, Trump was no longer the public face of China policy-making as he became increasingly consumed with domestic troubles, giving his top aides carte blanche to pursue a cascade of tough-on-China policies.

Why it matters: Trump alone did not reshape the China relationship. But his trade war shattered global norms, paving the way for administration officials to pursue policies that just a few years earlier would have been unthinkable.

McConnell: Trump "provoked" Capitol mob

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said on Tuesday that the pro-Trump mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 was "provoked by the president and other powerful people."

Why it matters: Trump was impeached by the House last week for "incitement of insurrection." McConnell has not said how he will vote in Trump's coming Senate impeachment trial, but sources told Axios' Mike Allen that the chances of him voting to convict are higher than 50%.

3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

GOP leaders skip Trump sendoff in favor of church with Biden

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) in July. Photo by Erin Scott-Pool/Getty Images

Congressional leaders, including House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, will skip President Trump's departure ceremony in Maryland tomorrow morning in favor of attending mass with incoming President Joe Biden ahead of his inauguration, congressional sources familiar with their plans tell Axios.

Why it matters: Their decision is a clear sign of unity before Biden takes the oath of office.