Feb 9, 2019

The Trump resist, delay, deflect plan

Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

President Trump watched live cable coverage of yesterday's chippy Hill testimony by acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker, and liked what he saw.

The big picture: "He liked the combative approach," said an outside West Wing adviser familiar with Trump's thinking. "He thought the Democrats were grandstanding." Inside the White House, according to the adviser, here were the lessons learned: Do not give an inch, push back, resist, delay, deflect.

  • The officials recognize a key flaw in this strategy: Some Trump Cabinet members, likely bound for the witness chair, don't have the experience or agility to pull a Whitaker.

Longtime Hill watchers struggled to remember a time when an administration witness had treated a committee with such disdain:

  • In the most memorable moment, Whitaker sassed House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.): "Mr. Chairman, I see that your five minutes is up," using the committee's rules to bat away a question.
  • MSNBC host Ari Melber called Whitaker "remarkably rude … at times a jerk" to members who were asking straightforward questions.
  • Remember: The Senate is expected to confirm Bill Barr as attorney general as soon as next week. So Whitaker's performance is mainly a window into Whitaker.

A House Democratic leadership aide familiar with the new majority's investigation strategy told me after yesterday's hearing:

  • "We watched Dems, having been frustrated for two years with little to no oversight from the Republicans, demanding answers from a top administration official — the first under this new Congress — who came in belligerent and unwilling to cooperate is even the smallest ways."
  • "This is no means the end."

The GOP's gamble: The White House recognizes that it can do little to resist the House Dems' demands for testimony. Republicans just hope that over time, they can argue to their base that Dems have been guilty of overreach and "show trials."

  • A Republican political operative and Capitol Hill veteran told me: "It doesn’t take long for ordinary voters — who are very different from people in Washington — to start seeing participating committee members as pompous, rude and belittling, and begin to side with whoever is sitting in the hot seat."

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In photos: Authorities issue warning as Americans venture out for Memorial Day weekend

Venice Beach in Los Angeles on May 24. Photo: David McNew/Getty Images

Authorities urged Americans to maintain social distancing and wear masks against the coronavirus amid reports of packed beaches and bars during the Memorial Day weekend.

Driving the news: Law enforcement stepped up beach patrols, authorities on Florida's Gulf Coast closed parking lots because they were full and there were crowded scenes at Lake of the Ozarks bars in Missouri, per AP, which reports a shooting injured several people at a packed Daytona Beach in Florida.

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 9:30 p.m. ET: 5,405,029 — Total deaths: 344,997 — Total recoveries — 2,168,408Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 9:30 p.m. ET: 1,642,021 — Total deaths: 97,698 — Total recoveries: 366,736 — Total tested: 14,163,195Map.
  3. World: White House announces travel restrictions on Brazil, coronavirus hotspot in Southern Hemisphere Over 100 coronavirus cases in Germany tied to single day of church services — Boris Johnson backs top aide amid reports that he broke U.K. lockdown while exhibiting symptoms.
  4. Public health: Officials are urging Americans to wear masks headed into Memorial Day weekend Report finds "little evidence" coronavirus under control in most statesHurricanes, wildfires, the flu could strain COVID-19 response
  5. Economy: White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett says it's possible the unemployment rate could still be in double digits by November's election — Public employees brace for layoffs.
  6. Federal government: Trump attacks a Columbia University study that suggests earlier lockdown could have saved 36,000 American lives.
  7. What should I do? Hydroxychloroquine questions answeredTraveling, asthma, dishes, disinfectants and being contagiousMasks, lending books and self-isolatingExercise, laundry, what counts as soap — Pets, moving and personal healthAnswers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingHow to minimize your risk.
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it, the right mask to wear.

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Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Republicans sue California over mail-out ballot plan

California Gov. Gavin Newsom during a February news conference in Sacramento, California. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

President Trump accused Democrats of trying "Rig" November's general election as Republican groups filed a lawsuit against California Sunday in an attempt to stop Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) from mailing ballots to all registered voters.

Driving the news: Newsom signed an executive order this month in response to the coronavirus pandemic ensuring that all registered voters in the state receive a mail-in ballot.