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Evan Vucci / AP

Sources at the White House described scenes of confusion in the hours following news of Trump firing Comey. Internally, at least at a fairly senior level, people were scrambling to figure out what happened.

The firing was done in such haste that his own comms shop couldn't catch up, and the vast majority of White House staff learned about it on TV when the news broke, per White House sources. There was a meeting in Spicer's office with about 20 staffers after they announced the news, which happened as Chuck Schumer was on TV giving his response to the news of the firing.

  • Democrats were on message within minutes: special prosecutor, constitutional crisis, Nixonian. Republicans did not have a coherent response.
  • This left Trump exposed in a way that horrified his officials, and the White House response was so weak that Trump took to Twitter as his own crisis communications manager.
  • From a White House official: "it's insane. The whole thing is just insane."
  • The big takeaway: how exposed White House officials and Trump confidants felt. They didn't have the information, the preparation, the tools, to defend the President.

The big questions: Where were the surrogates who could defend Trump's decision? Jason Miller and Kellyanne Conway were "one-man flak jackets," per multiple people, but where were the law enforcement and AG surrogates?

Go deeper

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: Coronavirus cases rose 10% in the week before Thanksgiving.
  2. Politics: Supreme Court backs religious groups on New York coronavirus restrictions.
  3. World: Expert says COVID vaccine likely won't be available in Africa until Q2 of 2021 — Europeans extend lockdowns.
  4. Economy: The winners and losers of the COVID holiday season.
  5. Education: National standardized tests delayed until 2022.
4 hours ago - Health

Standardized testing becomes another pandemic victim

Photo: Edmund D. Fountain for The Washington Post via Getty

National standardized reading and math tests have been pushed from next year to 2022, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) announced Wednesday.

Why it matters: There’s mounting national evidence that students are suffering major setbacks this year, with a surge in the number of failing grades.

4 hours ago - World

European countries extend lockdowns

A medical worker takes a COVID-19 throat swab sample at the Berlin-Brandenburg Airport. Photo by Maja Hitij via Getty

Recent spikes in COVID-19 infections across Europe have led authorities to extend restrictions ahead of the holiday season.

Why it matters: "Relaxing too fast and too much is a risk for a third wave after Christmas," said European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

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