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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

One of the hardest things about reporting on President Trump is his tendency to propose wild ideas out loud and then repeat them before coming to his senses or getting talked off the ledge.

The big picture: The media, us very much included, break news on controversial ideas that never happen, leaving all of us to wonder: Was this a real idea killed by exposing it or a POTUS brain blip? It’s the virtual reality dimension of this presidency.

An off-the-top-of-our-head list:

In some cases, Trump follows through, or at least comes very close:

  • Trump signed off on an order to evacuate families of service members from South Korea. Allies would have viewed that as a prelude to war, and former White House chief of staff John Kelly and former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis managed to stop it. But the order was drafted, per sources who were there at the time.
  • The U.S. won't leave the WTO, in all likelihood. But the administration drafted legislation, as scooped by Swan, that would effectively blow up the nation's WTO commitments.

Remember: Trump has already withdrawn the U.S. from the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Paris climate agreement, and he's done what no president dared: move the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

  • The president has been so globally disruptive that you can’t ignore his private venting — even stuff that sounds unlikely.
  • He has begun withdrawing from Syria. Is anyone willing to bet against him doing the same in Afghanistan?
  • And even though he never withdrew from KORUS (the US-Korea Free Trade Agreement) — which aides viewed as potentially calamitous — an order was drafted, as Bob Woodward recounts in "Fear."

Be smart: Trump blurts out most ideas that roll through his mind. The most frustrating part for top officials is they must quickly move the machinery of government to conform to — or more often to terminate — the suggestions. 

  • P.S. Trump has suggested the shutdown could drag on as long as a year. It sounds unthinkable and absurd. But so did the travel ban. 

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Dominion sends cease and desist letter to My Pillow CEO Mike Lindell

Photo: Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

Dominion Voting Systems on Monday sent a cease and desist letter to My Pillow CEO Mike Lindell over his spread of misinformation related to the 2020 election.

Why it matters: Trump and several of his allies have pushed false conspiracy theories about the company, leading Dominion to take legal action. It's suing pro-Trump lawyer Sidney Powell for defamation and $1.3 billion in damages, and a Dominion employee has sued Trump himself, OANN and Newsmax.

Off the Rails

Episode 5: The secret CIA plan

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer, Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Zach Gibson/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 5: Trump vs. Gina — The president becomes increasingly rash and devises a plan to tamper with the nation's intelligence command.

In his final weeks in office, after losing the election to Joe Biden, President Donald Trump embarked on a vengeful exit strategy that included a hasty and ill-thought-out plan to jam up CIA Director Gina Haspel by firing her top deputy and replacing him with a protege of Republican Congressman Devin Nunes.

Updated 5 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

  1. Health: CDC director defends agency's response to pandemic — CDC warns highly transmissible coronavirus variant could become dominant in U.S. in March.
  2. Politics: Empire State Building among hundreds to light up in Biden inauguration coronavirus tribute.
  3. Vaccine: Fauci: 100 million doses in 100 days is "absolutely" doable.
  4. Economy: Unemployment filings explode again.
  5. Tech: Kids' screen time sees a big increase.