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Mitch McConnell walks to the Senate floor in July. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is muscling out President Trump as the dominant day-to-day Republican powerbroker on Capitol Hill. 

Why it matters: Trump’s power persists, and will live on post-presidency. But McConnell — in his cunningly quiet but methodical way — is flexing his authority. It's a taste of a tension that will help define the next four years.

With President Trump offstage and in denial, McConnell conferred the Republican Party's validation of Joe Biden as president-elect, declaring on the Senate floor yesterday: "The Electoral College has spoken. So today, I want to congratulate President-elect Joe Biden."

  • Biden called to thank the Kentucky gentleman for the remarks, and told reporters: "There are things we can work together on. ... I'm looking forward to working with him."

A year-end coronavirus deal is alive — because McConnell says it is. McConnell said Tuesday: "We're not leaving here without a COVID package."

In his party's most consequential turning of the page, McConnell yesterday privately warned GOP senators not to join Trump’s extended assault on the Electoral College results.

  • McConnell said on a caucus call that any shenanigans on Jan. 6, when Congress will confirm the result in a joint session, would yield a “terrible vote” for Republicans.
  • In a real change of tune for the party, McConnell insisted there's "zero sentiment" for an objection.

What's next: Whether Republicans keep the Senate majority or not, McConnell will be the party's last word on what lives and dies from Biden's Hill agenda.

  • "He is the obstacle to — and facilitator of — progress," a longtime McConnell associate told Axios.

The bottom line: Remember that McConnell called his autobiography "The Long Game."

  • He played it, and won. We're about to see an epic next round.
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Go deeper

Off the Rails

Episode 3: Descent into madness ... Trump: "Sometimes you need a little crazy"

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photos: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Beginning on election night 2020 and continuing through his final days in office, Donald Trump unraveled and dragged America with him, to the point that his followers sacked the U.S. Capitol with two weeks left in his term. This Axios series takes you inside the collapse of a president.

Episode 3: The conspiracy goes too far. Trump's outside lawyers plot to seize voting machines and spin theories about communists, spies and computer software.

President Trump was sitting in the Oval Office one day in late November when a call came in from lawyer Sidney Powell. "Ugh, Sidney," he told the staff in the room before he picked up. "She's getting a little crazy, isn't she? She's really gotta tone it down. No one believes this stuff. It's just too much."

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7 mins ago - Technology

Scoop: Google is investigating the actions of another top AI ethicist

Google CEO Sundar Pichai. Photo by Mateusz Wlodarczyk/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Google is investigating recent actions by Margaret Mitchell, who helps lead the company's ethical AI team, Axios has confirmed.

Why it matters: The probe follows the forced exit of Timnit Gebru, a prominent researcher also on the AI ethics team at Google whose ouster ignited a firestorm among Google employees.

1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Joe Biden's COVID-19 bubble

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The incoming administration is planning extraordinary steps to protect its most prized commodity, Joe Biden, including requiring daily employee COVID tests and N95 masks at all times, according to new guidance sent to some incoming employees Tuesday.

Why it matters: The president-elect is 78 years old and therefore a high risk for the virus and its worst effects, despite having received the vaccine. While President Trump's team was nonchalant about COVID protocols — leading to several super-spreader episodes — the new rules will apply to all White House aides in "high proximity to principals."