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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

Ben Geman, author of Generate
7 mins ago - Economy & Business

GM's shrinking deal with Nikola

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

General Motors will no longer take an equity stake in Nikola Corp. or build its pickup truck, under a revised deal that still envisions GM as a key tech supplier for Nikola's planned line of electric and fuel cell heavy trucks.

Driving the news: The revised agreement Monday is smaller in scope than a draft partnership rolled out in September that had included a $2 billion stake in the startup and an agreement to build its Badger pickup.

55 mins ago - Technology

Exclusive: Facebook's blackout didn't dent political ad reach

Photo: Valera Golovniov/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Americans saw more political ads on Facebook in the week before the 2020 election than they did the prior week despite the company's blackout on new political ads during that period, according to Global Witness, a human rights group that espouses tech regulation.

Why it matters: The presidential election was a key stress test for Facebook and other leading online platforms looking to prove that they can curb misinformation. Critics contend measures like the ad blackout barely made a dent.

Wall Street wonders how bad it has to get

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Wall Street is working out how bad the economy will have to get for Congress to feel motivated to move on economic support.

Why it matters: A pre-Thanksgiving data dump showed more evidence of a floundering economic recovery. But the slow drip of crumbling economic data may not be enough to push Washington past a gridlock to halt the economic backslide.

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