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Russia probe special counsel Robert Mueller. Photo: J. Scott Applewhite / AP

Just minutes before the senior-most White House staff walked into Roosevelt Room for their morning meeting with Chief of Staff John Kelly, their phones lit up with news alerts of the first indictments in the Mueller probe.

The big picture: Nobody was surprised to learn that former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort is the first to be publicly indicted, along with his business partner Rick Gates, for alleged money laundering, failing to disclose foreign lobbying, and tax violations.

There are no TVs in the Roosevelt Room, a venue Kelly deliberately seeks out for its lack of distractions, but this distraction was unavoidable this morning.

The internal White House position, summarized by two sources: "Ty will take care of it." Ty Cobb, the White House lawyer handling the Mueller investigation, conveyed the message to staff this morning that there'd be no response to the Manafort news.

One of those sources told me "people are relieved it's Manafort and not Flynn" who was indicted:

"[Manafort] is further removed because he wasn't here when Trump was elected … because it's Manafort it's purely a campaign matter. Nobody internal will be weighing in. That's the holding position."

Other sources close to the situation admitted they're less relaxed about where these indictments could lead.

I've had dozens of conversations about this subject with administration officials over the past months, and while nobody I've spoken to genuinely thinks collusion with Russia happened on the campaign, plenty worry about what Bob Mueller's crack team of financial investigators will turn up on Trump and his allies.

Manafort left the campaign in August, but his business partner, Gates, never fully left Trumpworld:

  • Gates raised money for the campaign and worked with the RNC. He worked with Trump's close friend Tom Barrack on the inauguration preparations. A former administration official spotted Gates at the White House several times early in the Trump administration; and he was, until March, working for a pro-Trump outside group, "America First Policies."
  • In other words: Just as Manafort can't be dismissed as a marginal figure in the campaign — something Sean Spicer absurdly tried to argue when he was press secretary — nor can the White House spin that Gates was a nobody.
  • "If there's any blowback it's going to be because Gates was not completely cut off," a former Trump campaign official told me.
  • A source who ran into Gates last week — before the CNN story broke about the imminent indictments — said his usually jovial associate looked "pretty dispirited."

Go deeper

Tech's war for your wrist

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Tech's biggest companies are ramping up competition for the real estate between your hand and your elbow.

The big picture: The next big hardware platform after the smartphone will likely involve devices for your eyes, your ears and your wrists.

37 mins ago - World

Tokyo Olympics to allow up to 10,000 fans at each event

Tokyo 2020 president Seiko Hashimoto (L) and IOC President Thomas Bach on Monday. Photo: Rodrigo Reyes Marin/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Organizers of the Tokyo Olympics said Monday that venues can be filled up to 50% capacity when the Games kick off on July 23, with a maximum of 10,000 Japanese spectators at each event, AP reports.

Why it matters: Medical experts advising the Japanese government had recommended against allowing fans, citing the low vaccination rates in Japan and the potential for new variants to drive up infections.

58 mins ago - Health

The psychology behind COVID-19 vaccine lotteries

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

NBA season tickets. Scholarships. A chance at $5 million. The list of lotteries and raffles states are launching to drive up COVID-19 vaccination rates is growing, and some local officials are already reporting "encouraging" results.

Driving the news: The reason why, some psychologists and public health experts say, is that the allure of lotteries for many people is simply that the prospect of winning a great prize seems better than passing up the chance, regardless of the odds.