Photo: J. Scott Applewhite / AP

Robert Mueller's special counsel team is "bracing for an array of challenges to its authority," per Politico, as the Russia investigation heats up and the criminal case against former campaign officials Rick Gates and Paul Manafort gets closer to a trial.

Why it matters: Mueller has been on "an early winning streak," Politico reports, as his team has avoided attempts to block subpoena power and limit his scope of questioning. But former White House prosecutor Julie Myers Wood told Politico the typical response for a defense lawyer is "distort, detract, deny," and Mueller is already beginning to see these tactics take shape against his investigation.

  • Manafort's lead attorney, Kevin Downing, said he might try to keep prosecutors from presenting some of their evidence during the trial.
  • One of President Trump's attorney's, Jay Sekulow, said they would "lodge formal objections" with either Mueller or Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein if the investigation began looking into old Trump real-estate deals, Politico reports.
  • Downing intends to file pre-trial motions calling into question "the legal basis and sufficiency of the charges," and more.

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What to expect from the final debate of the 2020 election

Trump and Biden at the first debate. Morry Gash-Pool/Getty Image

Watch for President Trump to address Joe Biden as “the big guy” or “the chairman” at tonight's debate as a way of dramatizing the Hunter Biden emails. Hunter's former business partner Tony Bobulinski is expected to be a Trump debate guest.

The big picture: Trump's advisers universally view the first debate as a catastrophe — evidenced by a sharp plunge in Trump’s public and (more convincingly for them) private polling immediately following the debate.

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Politics: Chris Christie: Wear a mask "or you may regret it — as I did" — Senate Democrats block vote on McConnell's targeted relief bill.
  2. Business: New state unemployment filings fall.
  3. Economy: Why the stimulus delay isn't a crisis (yet).
  4. Health: FDA approves Gilead's remdesivir as a coronavirus treatment How the pandemic might endMany U.S. deaths were avoidable.
  5. Education: Boston and Chicago send students back home for online learning.
  6. World: Spain and France exceed 1 million cases.

FBI: Russian hacking group stole data after targeting local governments

FBI Headquarters. Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Energetic Bear, a Russian state-sponsored hacking group, has stolen data from two servers after targeting state and federal government networks in the U.S. since at least September, the FBI and Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency said on Thursday.

Driving the news: Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe announced Wednesday that Iran and Russia had obtained voter registration information that could be used to undermine confidence in the U.S. election system.