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July 12, 2017

Good Wednesday morning. You're invited … to join Axios and NBC News tomorrow at 8 a.m. in downtown D.C. to discuss the economy in 2017. "Meet the Press" moderator Chuck Todd and Axios CEO Jim VandeHei will host conversations with Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan and House Financial Services Chair Jeb Hensarling. Doors open at 7:30 a.m. RSVP here.

1 big thing: Jared's judgment

In the media, the focus is on the son. In the West Wing, colleagues are watching the son-in-law.

Several top officials describe Jared Kushner in very similar ways: a good guy with good intentions, now under rising scrutiny because of a combination of naiveté and hubris.

He was used to how things were done in business (and New York real estate, no less) — whereas in public life, anything can come out, and everything is under a microscope. This was true for many inside Trump Inc. during the fast-and-loose days of the campaign and transition.

"Everything is being treated as bigger than it is, but he's in the big leagues now," said a Republican friendly to Kushner. "He's trying to bravado his way through his lack of experience."

Some colleagues have started to wonder if he and Ivanka will return to New York for this school year, at least a year ahead of plan. But we're told he has made no moves to do that. Others note a change in his demeanor amid the growing Russia probe: less swagger, more concern.

The Republican said: "Everyone's telling him: 'Stick it out, because you're the only voice of sanity. If you go, it's the end of the world.'"

What worries Jared allies are three meetings, all of which he delayed disclosing, with a Russian lawyer (the Don Jr. meeting), banker and diplomat.

The lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, told NBC News' Keir Simmons that Kushner left the meeting after seven to 10 minutes of the 20- to 30-minute meeting. And the reddest flag about the meeting ("part of Russia and its government's support for Mr. Trump") was on the fourth page of the email that Don Jr. forwarded to Jared — subject line, "Russia - Clinton - private and confidential."

Jared's defense: Jared has the most impressive legal team of any of the family members, including two of the biggest names in the business, Jamie Gorelick and Abbe Lowell.

Gorelick said in a statement: "[D]uring the campaign and transition, he had over 100 calls or meetings with representatives of more than 20 countries, most of which were during transition. Mr. Kushner has submitted additional [federal disclosure] updates and included, out of an abundance of caution, this meeting with a Russian person, which he briefly attended at the request of his brother-in-law, Donald Trump Jr. As Mr. Kushner has consistently stated, he is eager to cooperate and share what he knows."

The view in Kushner's orbit is that the brutal new revelations are more P.R. problems than legal problems. And if he makes progress with his Middle East peace efforts, perceptions would be very different.

Why it matters: Kushner is the one figure in the Russia probe who helped run the campaign, the transition and the White House. No one has spent more time with Trump throughout the past year — and has seen or knows more.

2. Trump v. everyone

President Trump increasingly feels (and knows) that he's fighting virtually every force in U.S. and global politics — even those who initially wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt or seem friendly.

The only people truly on his side are the 40 percent of voters who continue to cheer his middle finger to the powerful.

All those forces — basically permanent Washington, plus crucial world leaders — are deeply suspicious of Trump, and see an increasing duty to thwart him for moral or practical reasons.

"What goes around, comes around," said one of Washington's Republican pillars. "He was very critical of each of those groups. So why are they going to go to the man for him? He has done so many things outside the norms of behavior."

There's been a huge swing in the barometric pressure for these groups:

  • CEOs, many of whom whom engaged with this White House over the opposition of employees and shareholders, face increasingly intense resistance to oppose him.
  • Outside of the Saudis, the Poles and Putin, very few world leaders want to get his back or offer cover.
  • Most elected Republicans in town would privately prefer a President Pence. When push comes to shove, they may not protect Trump. Indeed, their natural impulse will be to throw him overboard.
  • Finally, there's M & M: Bob Mueller and big media, all combing through every meeting, business deal, and foreign contact by Trump and his staff.

Axios' Jonathan Swan, on congressional Republicans: "For the moment, they'll stay quiet and muscle through because they want their tax reform, and they need a Republican president to sign it. But when [stuff] really hits the fan he'll have very little goodwill on the Hill to back him up."

"Trump burned so much goodwill when he trashed the House health care bill as 'mean' after lobbying the hell out of them and celebrating with them in Rose Garden. That was a really profound moment — that he'd throw them under bus so casually on a piece of legislation that were already so leery about supporting.".

Be smart: Trump increasingly questions the loyalty of everyone, including his own staff and personal lawyer. Every day, it feels like the walls are closing in and it's unclear who to trust.

3. Intrigue on sourcing

Axios' Jonathan Swan texts me, citing "sources familiar":

  • People internally think the initial leaks came either from Democrats on the Hill privy to the information, or from the FBI. Perhaps both.
  • It's the second N.Y. Times story — the one that pegs source as "three advisers to the White House" — that has set everyone on edge. People in the White House are attributing blame, in some cases, with 100% certainty and 0% evidence.
  • Colleagues who already distrust each other are telling reporters that their enemy was probably the leaker.
  • The dominant theory internally is that the initial leak came from people in Congress — either members or staff — who were briefed by Paul Manafort or his legal team on the meeting.
  • Even the most Kool Aid-drinking Trumpers admit it's a PR disaster. Many are quick to say how stupid Don Jr. is. All say there's no crime. Tellingly, however, we've heard nobody in the Trump orbit question the ethics of him taking that meeting.

4. The conversation: Trump privately rages

  • Donald Trump Jr., to Sean Hannity on Fox News: ""In retrospect I probably would have done things a little differently. ... [T]his is before the Russia mania, this is before they were building this up in the press. For me, this was opposition research."
  • Trump tweets this a.m.: "My son Donald did a good job last night. He was open, transparent and innocent. This is the greatest Witch Hunt in political history. Sad!"
  • Rachel Maddow, opening her MSNBC show: "This is either the end of things, or things are about to get very, very weird. ... This is where plots end, right? ... But this is not a novel. This is not a movie. This is our real life."
  • AP's Jonathan Lemire and Julie Pace: "The public has not laid eyes on the president since his return from Europe Saturday. But in private, Trump has raged against the latest Russia development, with most of his ire directed at the media, not his son, according to people who have spoken to him in recent days."
  • WashPost A1, "A staff under 'Category 5' siege," by Phil Rucker and Ashley Parker: "The mind-set of Trump Jr. over the past few days has evolved from distress to anger to defiance, according to people close to him."
  • N.Y. Times' Peter Baker and Maggie Haberman: "Advisers said the president ... had ... trained ... ire on Marc E. Kasowitz, ... who is leading the team of private lawyers representing him. Mr. Trump, who often vents about advisers in times of trouble, has grown disillusioned by Mr. Kasowitz's strategy."

5. Could a machine replace your job?

Education level creates a big divide in Americans' execptations for the future, according to "Making it in America: The View from America," a national survey developed by Burson-Marsteller, and conducted by research firm PSB:

  • "Thirty-eight percent of Americans with a college education or more think the American economy is headed in the right direction compared to 30 percent of those with a high school education or less."
  • "When it comes to job security and the role of automation, only 14 percent of Americans with a college education or more say a machine could replace their job in five years, versus 30 percent with a high school education or less."
  • Don Baer, Burson-Marsteller Worldwide Chair and CEO: "The survey results suggest if business and government work together to provide training and opportunity for the jobs of the future, Americans believe they can succeed."
  • See the full deck.

6. Senators' shorter summer

Mitch McConnell delayed the Senate's summer recess, due to start July 31, until Aug.11, after some Republicans argued members shouldn't return home until they pass a health care bill.

Axios' David Nather, on where the bill is going: "What did ... McConnell get for the extra two weeks of work on the Senate health care bill? A revised bill, to be released [tomorrow] morning, that's likely to leave Senate Republicans in about the same place they were before: divided and stuck."

7. Big brother at the airport

The Trump administration intends to require all U.S. citizens flying abroad to submit to face scans, per AP's Frank Bajak and David Koenig:

  • Privacy advocates consider it an ill-advised step toward a surveillance state.
  • Why it matters: "They fear the data will eventually be retained in databases searchable by law enforcement, intelligence agencies and even partner foreign governments."
  • Senate hearing today at 2:30 p.m.

8. The talk of tech

"Giving up the ghost: investors bail on Snap," by Reuters' Anya George Tharakan and Lewis Krauskopf: "Morgan Stanley, a lead underwriter on the company's initial public offering, slapped a price target of $16 on the stock — a buck below its March IPO price. Analyst Brian Nowak wrote ... '[W]e have been wrong about Snap's ability to innovate and improve its ad product this year.'"

"Snap shares got slammed, slumping 9% in heavy trading volume to close at $15.47. It was a 47 percent bump down from the $29.44 intraday high they hit the day after the IPO."

P.S. Wall Street Journal front page, "Paying Professors: Inside Google's Academic Influence Campaign," by Brody Mullins and Jack Nicas: "Over the past decade, Google has helped finance hundreds of research papers to defend against regulatory challenges of its market dominance, paying $5,000 to $400,000."

9. Scarborough publicly leaves GOP

"Morning" Joe Scarborough, appearing with Mika Brzezinski on Stephen Colbert's "Late Show": "This is well before Donald Trump was elected president that my party has betrayed their core values."

Colbert: "But aren't you a Republican?"

Scarborough: "Um I am a Republican but I'm not going to be an Republican any more. [Cheers, applause.] I'm going to become an independent." (Video)

"Valerie Jarrett, top Obama adviser, working on book," by AP National Writer Hillel Italie: The book for Viking will combine personal history and civic advice. It's currently untitled, and scheduled for 2019: "I don't want to just tell my story ... I want to share the experiences, life lessons and values that have shaped who I am and my ideas for the future." Jarrett was represented by CAA.

10. 1 fun thing

"Wiz Khalifa's 'See You Again' takes YouTube top spot from 'Gangnam Style,'" by Lisa France:

  • "Wiz Khalifa's video ... featuring singer Charlie Puth hit nearly 2.9 billion views on YouTube on Tuesday morning."
  • "'Gangnam Style' held the most viewed video record on YouTube for five years, after surpassing Justin Bieber's 'Baby' in November of 2012."
  • "The new record comes just days before the five-year anniversary of the release of 'Gangnam Style' on YouTube."
  • "'See You Again' averaged over three million views per day, just this year alone."
  • "The song was featured in the 2015 action film 'Furious 7' where it played during the end credits in a tribute to the movie's star, Paul Walker, who was killed in a car crash before the film was released."
  • See the video.

Bonus ... "L.A. is a virtual lock to host 2024 or '28 Olympics" L.A. Times: "Los Angeles is all but guaranteed to host the Summer Games for a third time after Olympic leaders made the unusual decision ... to name two winners in the bid race between L.A. and Paris, giving 2024 to one city and 2028 to the other."