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The general view of the Donald Trump Jr. email bombshell, according to sources within and close to the White House: no crime, all perception. They know it was politically awful, but have decided there was no real crime.

Their main areas of focus: 1) Who leaked this? Who is the mole? 2) How do we deal with this?

On the leaker:

  • Many of our White House sources are playing amateur detective, some with whackier theories than others, and some of which turn on people within the White House. Suspicion spread between people who worked in campaign and in White House, and while no one we've spoken to has any evidence to support their theories, it's not stopping them from speculating.
  • It's creating a very tense environment, and a number of administration officials can't believe the level of foolishness required for Don Jr. to not only do this but to have such a conversation over email.
  • There's a lot of internal anger over who gave this information to the NYT, which cited three people with knowledge of the emails in its report last night.

On the pushback:

  • There's an emerging strategy to turn this back around on the Democrats.
  • An extreme example of this approach is Roger Stone, who texted Axios: "The president can turn the tables and dominate the dialogue by ordering the indictment of [James] Clapper, [John] Brennan, [Susan] Rice and [former president Barack] Obama for the wholesale unconstitutional surveillance of Americans... I would seriously arrest [and] perp walk every one of these criminals, making as big a show of it as possible."
  • Although Stone is a longtime confidant of Trump, this in no way reflects the strategy preferred by current White House staffers. With that said, there are already internal conversations about turning this into a conversation about Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, and the way they handled sensitive intelligence.

Go deeper

Omicron pushes COVID deaths toward 2,000 per day

Expand chart
Data: N.Y. Times; Cartogram: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

The U.S. Omicron wave may be peaking, but now COVID deaths are climbing as cases continue to soar in most of the country.

The big picture: Omicron’s stranglehold in the U.S. started about a month ago. Its death toll — while almost certain to be smaller than previous waves of the pandemic — is only now starting to take hold, and deaths will likely continue to rise for several weeks.

Tax season nightmare ahead for understaffed IRS

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

The IRS will start accepting 2021 tax returns in less than a week, and the filing delays and administrative headaches to come might eclipse last year — which was “one of the worst filing seasons," according to an independent advocacy agency within the IRS.

Why it matters: For taxpayers, especially with complex or paper filings, this means headaches, delayed refunds, and mistakes.

Reports: CIA finds "Havana Syndrome" unlikely caused by foreign campaign

CIA Director William Burns testifies during a Senate hearing on Capitol Hill last April. Photo: Saul Loeb-Pool/Getty Images

A preliminary CIA report rules out a foreign global campaign as the cause of a mysterious illness known as "Havana syndrome" that's afflicted American and Canadian diplomats around the world, per multiple reports.

Why it matters: Some lawmakers had suggested the sometimes debilitating illness was due to directed energy attacks. But CIA officials told the New York Times that most of the 1,000 cases reported to the government could be "explained by environmental causes, undiagnosed medical conditions or stress." This finding has angered some victims, per the NYT.

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