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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

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

White House stands by imperiled Tanden nomination after Senate panel postpones hearing

Neera Tanden. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/The New York Times/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Senate Homeland Security Committee is postponing a confirmation hearing scheduled Wednesday for Neera Tanden, Axios has learned, a potential death knell for President Biden's nominee to lead the Office of Management and Budget.

The latest: Asked Wednesday afternoon whether Tanden has offered to withdraw her nomination, Psaki told reporters, "That’s not the stage we’re in." She noted that it's a "numbers game" and a "matter of getting one Republican" to support the nomination.

Acting Capitol Police chief: Officers were unsure of lethal force rules on Jan. 6

Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Acting U.S. Capitol Police Chief Yogananda Pittman wrote in prepared remarks for a House hearing on Thursday that officers in her department were "unsure of when to use lethal force" during the Jan. 6 insurrection.

Why it matters: Capitol Police did deploy lethal force on Jan. 6 — shooting and killing 35-year-old Ashli Babbit — but have faced questions over why officers appeared to be less forceful against pro-Trump rioters than participants in previous demonstrations, including those over Black Lives Matter and now-Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

United CEO is confident people will feel safe traveling again by 2022

Axios' Joann Muller and United CEO Scott Kirby. Photo: Axios

United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby believes that people will feel safe traveling again by this time next year, depending on the pace of vaccinations and the government's ongoing response to the pandemic, he said at an Axios virtual event.

Why it matters: Misery for global aviation is likely to continue and hold back a broader economic recovery if nothing changes, especially with new restrictions on international border crossings. U.S. airlines carried about 60% fewer passengers in 2020 compared with 2019.

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