Sep 1, 2018 - Politics

Trump’s tight, lonely corner

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

You're president of the United States, running the most powerful nation on earth — stock markets soaring, joblessness sinking, the world in a season of relative peace and prosperity.

The bottom line: But President Trump has never been more isolated from allies he needs most.

  • The public is against him: A new Washington Post/ABC News poll found a record 60% of Americans view him unfavorably.
  • Guess who those same people like a lot better: Robert Mueller (63% support his investigation) and Attorney General Jeff Sessions (64% say he shouldn't be fired; 62% side with him on the Mueller probe). 
  • His legal team is shrinking. Not only is top White House lawyer Don McGahn leaving soon, but McGahn deputy counsel Annie Donaldson is expected to leave soon after. "[T]he White House Counsel’s Office has dwindled to about 25 lawyers, down from roughly 35," per the WashPost.
  • His allies are buckling, with embarrassing admissions in the plea deal by personal lawyer Michael Cohen.
  • Immunity has been granted to his gossip shield, David Pecker, CEO of the National Enquirer's publisher; and Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg.
  • Tensions with staff run high as ever. He has never been close to many of his top staffers, and this is more true than ever. 
  • The N.Y. Times' Maggie Haberman tweets: "His aides say he is behaving as if he is cornered."

Be smart ... Everything in Trump's life has been about going big: The buildings got bigger, the deals got bigger, the bankruptcies got bigger —which only made the comebacks bigger, which made winning the presidency all the bigger.

  • The corner feels small, and he keeps being told the one big move he fantasizes about making — staring down Mueller under the bright lights, one on one — could destroy it all. 

What's next

Bolton alleges in book that Trump tied Ukraine aid to investigations

Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

President Trump's former national security adviser John Bolton alleges in his forthcoming book that the president explicitly told him "he wanted to continue freezing $391 million in security assistance to Ukraine until officials there helped with investigations into Democrats including the Bidens," the New York Times first reported.

Why this matters: The revelations present a dramatic 11th hour turn in Trump's Senate impeachment trial. They directly contradict Trump's claim that he never tied the hold-up of Ukrainian aid to his demands for investigations into his political opponent Joe Biden.

Honoring Kobe Bryant: Sports stars, politicians and celebrities mourn NBA great

Kobe Bryant on court for the Los Angeles Lakers during the Sprite Slam Dunk Contest on All-Star Saturday Night, part of 2010 NBA All-Star Weekend at American Airlines Center in Dallas in February 2010. Photo: Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

Sports stars, politicians and celebrities paid tribute to NBA legend Kobe Bryant, who was killed in a California helicopter crash alongside his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, and seven others on Saturday. He was 41.

What they're saying: Lakers great Shaquille O'Neal said in an Instagram post of his former teammate, "There's no words to express the pain I'm going through now with this tragic and sad moment of losing my friend, my brother, my partner in winning championships, my dude and my homie. I love you brother and you will be missed."

Go deeperArrow3 hours ago - Sports

What's next: Trump's broader travel ban

A sign for International Arrivals is shown at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. Photo: Ted S. Warren/AP

President Trump is expected to announce an expanded travel ban this week, which would restrict immigration from seven additional countries — Nigeria, Myanmar, Sudan, Belarus, Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan and Tanzania, per multiple reports.

  • The announcement would come on the third anniversary of Trump's original travel ban, which targeted Muslim-majority nations, per Axios' Stef Kight.