Jun 21, 2018

Go deeper: The biggest blunder of the Trump presidency

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

The Pope, the U.N., Bono, every living first lady (including his wife), a conservative radio host (Hugh Hewitt) who said this could be his Katrina, a Republican senator (Ted Cruz), a top aide (Kellyanne Conway), his oldest daughter — all of their condemnation and concern about caged kids at the border left Trump realizing he had a massive problem.

The big picture: But none of them convinced him to cave. TV was the tipping point.

[Get more stories like this by signing up for our daily morning newsletter, Axios AM]

  • A person who knows Trump's mind told me: "The President watches more cable news than most Americans. So he experienced an overdose of the outrage and the media frenzy. None of the White House messaging seemed to be helping. So he decided, mostly on his own rather than at the urging of advisers, that some action was required to change the narrative."

So in a dramatic retreat he had hoped to avoid, Trump signed an executive order ending the administration's policy of separating children at the southern border if their parents were caught entering the U.S. illegally.

  • The details, via AP: "The order does not end the 'zero-tolerance' policy that criminally prosecutes all adults caught crossing the border illegally. But, at least for the next few weeks, it would keep families together while they are in custody, expedite their cases and ask the Defense Department to help house them. It also doesn’t change anything yet for the some 2,300 children taken from their families since the policy was put into place."
  • Trump continued to talk tough on immigration during a rally last night in Duluth, Minn.: "We’re going to keep families together and the border is going to be just as tough as it’s been." The crowd chanted: "Build the wall!"

Mark Penn of The Stagwell Group, an expert on swing voters who has counseled the Clintons and top corporations, told me that outrage about the policy had blunted the momentum Trump was enjoying from the economy and the North Korea summit.

  • Penn: "This goes right at these independent women that he needs to hold onto — the moms of America who voted for Trump. Remember that most independent suburban women voted Trump. This did the most damage with exactly that group."

Be smart ... A source close to Trump tells me: 'This was the biggest communications fail I’ve seen out of this White House, and that’s really saying something. The President, senior staffers, Cabinet members, and outside surrogates all trumpeted different talking points."

  • "Immigration is a political battleground that typically gives the administration the upper hand. But they gave up home-field advantage on an epic scale."

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 2:30 p.m. ET: 905,279 — Total deaths: 45,371 — Total recoveries: 190,710Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 2:30 p.m. ET: 199,092 — Total deaths: 4,361 — Total recoveries: 8,362Map.
  3. Federal government latest: Vice President Mike Pence said that White House modeling suggests "Italy may be the most comparable area to the United States" in terms of coronavirus impact.
  4. State updates: Florida and Pennsylvania are the latest to issue stay-at-home orders, totaling 34 states and Washington, D.C.
  5. 2020 update: West Virginia is latest state to delay its primary — Bernie Sanders urged Wisconsin to delay April 7 primary.
  6.  🎧 Podcast: The Defense Production Act
  7. What should I do? Answers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingQ&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk.
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

Subscribe to Mike Allen's Axios AM to follow our coronavirus coverage each morning from your inbox.

West Virginia is latest state to delay primary due to coronavirus

Photo: Barbara Davidson/Getty Images

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice rescheduled the state's May 12 primary election to June 9 on Wednesday, citing fears surrounding the coronavirus pandemic, AP reports.

Why it matters: 23 other states and the District of Columbia haven't held primaries yet. The White House is recommending, for now, that Americans practice social distancing and gather in groups of no more than 10 people — while many states have issued stay-at-home orders.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Florida governor issues stay-at-home order

Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis ordered a statewide stay-at-home order on Wednesday after the number of coronavirus cases in the state rose to nearly 7,000.

Why it matters: DeSantis has been criticized for declining to order any statewide mandates to curb the spread of coronavirus as Florida — home to a significant elderly population — has increasingly become a hotspot. The order will go into effect Thursday at midnight and last for 30 days.