Happy Saturday! 🏀 Situational awareness: Following University of Maryland-Baltimore County's historic upset of Virginia, 74-54, "there are zero perfect brackets remaining in ESPN's Tournament Challenge," per ESPN. "That's out of 17.3 million entries. ... UMBC became the first 16 seed to ever beat a 1 seed." UMBC's mascot: The Retrievers!
White House Chief of Staff John Kelly speaks with guests Thursday at an event with Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar. (Win McNamee / Getty Images)
White House Chief of Staff John Kelly started yesterday with prescient bravado.
Kelly stunned the room by declaring: We all read the same newspapers and watch the same shows. Contrary to what’s been reported, H.R. and I are still here.
Lindsay Reynolds, the first lady's chief of staff, broke the tension by joking: “We thought this was Black Friday — everybody gets fired.”
All of this was before Kelly called in reporters for an off-the-record meeting (Axios didn't attend or make any agreement, so we're able to share the contents with you) where he acknowledged that Trump himself was probably responsible for a significant number of the stories about staffing chaos.
Be smart: Kelly defended McMaster at the senior staff meeting — even though the chief is widely known to be casting about for a replacement.
Go deeper ... "On Leadership" column in WashPost Sunday Business section, "Trump's 'cascade of chaos': When there's too much turnover at the top."
"Attorney General Jeff Sessions late Friday night fired former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe, a little more than 24 hours before McCabe was set to retire — a move that McCabe alleged was an attempt to slander him and undermine" Mueller, per the WashPost lead story:
Axios' Jonathan Swan is told McCabe was informed (with his lawyers cc'd) at least nine minutes before the media.
Vehicles are trapped under the collapsed pedestrian bridge. (Joe Raedle / Getty Images)
"Two days before a pedestrian bridge collapsed at Florida International University, killing at least six people, an engineer with the firm that designed the structure called the state and left a voicemail to report cracking in the concrete span," the Miami Herald reports:
Lesson for leaders: What systems do you have in place at your organization to make sure no such message, literal or figurative, goes unheard?
The New Yorker "Cover Story": "Barry Blitt’s latest cover for the magazine is his fifteenth to feature Donald Trump. ('The gift that keeps on grifting,' in Blitt’s words.)"
"Blitt sends sketches to the magazine each week; this one was chosen from a batch that included riffs on school shootings and the death of Stephen Hawking. Once the image was selected, Blitt honed the cast and contour of certain love handles, then glazed the work in his signature watercolors."
"The new tax law ends a benefit prized by business for impressing customers or courting new ones. And the impact could be felt in the pricey boxes at sports stadiums, or even at Double-A baseball games in small towns with loyal company backers. In Washington, lobbyists who helped craft the Republican tax legislation could now be pinched by it," AP's Marcy Gordon writes:
P.S. Washington, Inc. feeding frenzy ... "Trump’s decision to impose tariffs ... has prompted a stampede by foreign countries and companies and their American partners pressing for exemptions and exclusions that could be worth billions of dollars," per the N.Y. Times lead story, by Ana Swanson and Ken Vogel:
"Once-popular device, long since upstaged by touch-screen rivals, still has its devoted fans," per Wall Street Journal A-Hed (subscription):
"Although ... BlackBerry Ltd. ... no longer makes the phones, they live on through licensing agreements with companies that make and sell BlackBerry-branded hardware with Android operating systems. BlackBerry Ltd. says it will support phones that use its own operating system until at least 2020."
Etching their name in sports lore ... "The University of Maryland-Baltimore County stunned the sports world by pulling off the most surprising upset in college basketball history, trouncing Virginia 74-54 on Friday night to become the first No. 16 seed ever to beat a No. 1 seed in the men’s NCAA Tournament," AP reports from Charlotte.
The big picture ... "The University of Maryland-Baltimore County — a program with a longer name than resume — goes out and beats Virginia," AP's Eddie Pells writes. "College basketball can't die, and nights like last night are why."
"Dozens of programs have been ensnared in an FBI probe and subsequent media reports looking into improper benefits to players provided by unmoored coaches and shady agents."
"When a little guy beats a monster, the way it happened Friday night in Charlotte, tears well up and beautiful stories get told."
☕️ Thanks for a wild week! See you all weekend on Axios.com.