🌝 Good Thursday morning!
To White House insiders, this is the most dangerous phase of Donald Trump's presidency so far, from the brewing trade war with China that he denies is a trade war, to the perilously spontaneous summit with North Korea:
Be smart: Trump’s closest confidants speak with an unusual level of concern, even alarm, and admit to being confused about what the president will do next — and why.
Ian Bremmer, president founder of the Eurasia Group, tells me that a key point in his forthcoming book — "Us vs. Them: The Failure of Globalism," out April 24 — is that variations on these worries extend across the globe:
Bremmer, in a letter to clients, also makes a smart counter-case about Trump, who has had three foreign policy wins:
In all three cases, Bremmer points out, Trump "managed to accomplish something that previous administrations had not":
But, but, but: Bremmer, after making those points, notes the greater dangers of this approach — a fear shared by many inside the White House.
How has EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt hung on through the increasingly lurid coverage of his ethics in office? AP this morning says he's finally in trouble, with the White House refusing to defend his conduct:
Not good. But Pruitt, perhaps the most activist member of Trump's Cabinet, has survived more waves of problematic stories than traditional Washington would expect.
Axios' Jonathan Swan explains that Pruitt’s allies are back-channeling three messages to Trump to try to save Pruitt:
Swan's bottom line: If there are legitimately bad facts still unreported, then it’s hard to see how he survives.
As Mark Zuckerberg preps for debut appearance before Congress next week, the once media-shy Facebook CEO has given numerous interviews and held an hour-long conference call with reporters yesterday, Axios' David McCabe and Sara Fischer report:
The game plan is to create a highlight reel of privacy and accountability improvements for Zuckerberg to play for lawmakers next week, including:
The company is also trying to minimize any surprise disclosures that Zuckerberg could be forced to reveal at the witness table:
P.S. Shane Savitsky, who edits Axios AM, notes that his Pizza Precept doesn't apply to New York.
"The impact of retaliation by China could drown out the GOP message that tax cuts are delivering prosperity, which the party is counting on to save their majorities in the House and Senate," per Bloomberg's Sahil Kapur.
And China's threats of retaliation are scaring farmers in the GOP's rural base and across Trump country, creating a potential drag for Republicans in November's midterms. Bloomberg's Josh Green:
An exception ... The WashPost's Erica Werner writes from Akron that Ohio workers love the tariffs despite their potential effect on statewide politics:
But there are signs of a pullback ... N.Y. Times 2-column lead, "White House Edges Back From Brink of Trade War: Hints That Tariffs on China May Never Go Into Effect," by Ana Swanson and Keith Bradsher:
"GM to stop production of the Chevrolet Sonic, Ford plans to end U.S. sales of Fiesta and Taurus amid Detroit’s broader exodus from passenger cars," the Wall Street Journal's Mike Colias and Christina Rogers report on A1 (subscription):
"Russia brazenly and implausibly denies its actions, and we have failed to impose sufficient costs. The Kremlin’s confidence has grown, as its agents conduct their sustained campaigns to undermine our confidence in ourselves and in one another."— Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, to the Atlantic Council, in his last public remarks as national security adviser
"Saudi heir Mohammed bin Salman is pitching his plan to disrupt the Middle East" — TIME cover story by Karl Vick:
The N.Y. Times' Kyle Spencer introduces us to the "homework therapist":
☕️ Thanks for reading! See you on Axios.com ...