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July 13, 2017

Good Thursday morning. His fave city: President and First Lady arrive in Paris for Bastille Day, celebrating French national pride.

lf you're in downtown D.C. this morning, please join us at 8 (doors open 7:30) for a live roundtable by "Meet the Press" moderator Chuck Todd and Axios CEO Jim VandeHei, plus conversations on the economy with Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan and House Financial Services Chair Jeb Hensarling. AJAX, 1011 4th Street NW (near L Street). Deets here.

1 big thing: ​The dumbing down of normal

One of the casualties of the first six months of the Trump presidency is a common understanding of what is normal in our politics. It's easy to grow numb to abnormal actions, words and tactics. But even our readers who love or feel loyalty to Trump need to remember:

  • It's not normal for the presumptive nominee's son to take a meeting with a Russian lawyer who claims she has dirt compiled by Russian governmental forces who want to see your guy win.
  • It's not normal for the President to sign off on a public cover-up of that meeting when confronted with the facts.
  • It's not normal for the President to hold a Cabinet meeting that consists of his staff gushing over him.
  • It's not normal for the President to undermine his West Wing staff by continually asking friends and visitors for their opinions on various replacement options.
  • It's not normal for the President to make a deal with his Russian counterpart for an "impenetrable Cyber Security unit," let his Treasury Secretary out on a Sunday show to enthusiastically defend the idea, then pull the plug that night after ridicule from fellow Republicans.
  • It's not normal for the President to interrupt his day to watch the press briefing on TV, and critiquing the answers à la "SportsCenter."
  • It's not normal for the President to obsess about cable-news coverage of himself, and instantly react to stories before checking the specifics.
  • It's not normal for the President to irritate and offend key allies by failing to re-articulate the country's devotion to their alliance, only to offer the reassurance weeks later, after the damage is done.
  • It's not normal for the President to publicly criticize the mayor of London on the basis of flawed facts, right after a terror attack that killed seven.
  • It's not normal for the President to attack TV news hosts by name, including a personal attack on a woman's intellect and appearance.

Be smart: It's just not normal.

Why it matters: We're getting inured to the daily whirlwind. Each day's jaw drop or outrage seems to be topped by tomorrow's. Keep your head, even if all about you are losing theirs.

2. Trump: "What can the legal team do?"

Trump interview with Reuters' Steve Holland ... "Seated at his Oval Office desk, Trump said he did not fault his son for holding the meeting, writing it off as a decision made in the heat of an upstart ... campaign."

  • Trump: "[I]t was a wild time. And we would meet with many people. ... [A] person comes in, sits, leaves, quickly. It was a 20-minute meeting, I guess, from what I'm hearing. Many people, and many political pros, said everybody would do that. If you got a call and said, 'Listen I have information on Hillary and the DNC,' or whatever it was they said, most people are going to take that meeting, I think. ... I think many people would have held that meeting."
  • "And you have to understand, when that took place, this was before Russia fever. There was no Russia fever back then ... Most of the phony politicians who are Democrats who I watched over the last couple of days — most of those phonies that act holier-than-thou, if the same thing happened to them, they would have taken that meeting in a heartbeat."
  • "The mood in the White House is fantastic. ... We have done more in five months than practically any president in history. ... The White House is functioning beautifully. The stock market has hit a new high."
  • On whether his legal team is serving him well: "The problem is, I didn't do anything. I didn't do anything. This isn't a question of defense. I didn't do anything. I had no relationship to Russia. So I said, what can the legal team do?"
  • "The only frustration is that this Russia story is a hoax made up by the Democrats."

3. Senior administration official: "a 'sh-tstorm'"

Don Jr. on the cover of TIME, where David Von Drehle writes: "The most pressing question of our time might be: How bad is it?"

  • "This much is now clear, thanks to Trump Jr.'s Twitter stream: whether the Trumps teamed up with the Russians or not, they certainly wanted to."
  • On whether Jared Kushner read the emails: "Kushner maintains that he failed to read to the bottom of the email invitation to the meeting, so he did not understand the Russian promise it contained. 'It was on the fourth page of a forwarded conversation,' said a source familiar with Kushner's knowledge."
  • "The #FakeNews defense won't work when the Trump family is the one tweeting the potentially incriminating emails. And all of Washington has awakened to the fact that the Russia issue has spiraled beyond anyone's control."
  • TIME Washington Bureau Chief Michael Scherer will be on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" at 7:40 a.m.

4. "They're used to horrendous situations"

If you click only one thing ... The debut of our video debrief series, Axios Sourced, with a mobile Jonathan Swan giving his download on the mood in the West Wing:

  • "I'm not hearing a whole lot of people saying, 'Oh, no, this was wonderful, and totally kosher.' ... Even Trump's biggest Kool-Aid drinkers are privately saying that this is really bad. ... What this has created is a credibility gap."
  • "Inside the White House, it doesn't feel like a crisis moment, because there's nothing they can do. ... They are deflecting all of these questions to outside counsel. ... I mean, these people are not snowflakes. ... I think this time, there was an instinctive feeling this is the worst thing that's dropped on them so far."
  • Click here to see the video by Axios' Rob Groulx, Eli and the team.

Trump will get his wall ... "Scoop: Trump lawyers want wall between Kushner, president," by Jonathan Swan: "Trump's outside legal team wants to wall off Jared Kushner from discussing the Russia investigation with his father-in-law."

  • "The team contends that it ... just wants to protect the president."
  • "Members of Trump's legal team are frustrated that Kushner has been discussing the investigation with the president."

P.S. Tracy Sefl for WashPost, "I've done political opposition research. Donald Trump Jr. has no idea what it is": "When done well, it's a thoughtful, directed process of compiling known facts and figures about relevant life and career elements of an opponent to bolster an argument. ... There are lines that trained and talented political operatives wouldn't cross."

5. "The natural world has come calling"

N.Y. Times Quote of the Day ... Adrian Luckman, a lead researcher for a team monitoring the Larsen C ice shelf in Antarctica, which lost a chunk of ice the size of Delaware this week. Scientists fear that continued warming threatens the rest of the ice shelf: "This is a big change. Maps will need to be redrawn."

"Warnings from Antarctica," by Fen Montaigne, the senior editor at Yale Environment 360 and the author of "Fraser's Penguins: A Journey to the Future in Antarctica," on "[T]he destabilization of the Larsen C Ice Shelf ... pales in comparison with the threat from the increasing instability of the glaciers and ice shelves holding back the enormous West Antarctic Ice Sheet. If much of that ice sheet thaws and slides into the sea this century or next, global sea levels could rise by up to 17 feet."

6. Here comes the brand new Senate health bill

"One important thing to keep in mind as Senate Republicans unveil their revised health-care bill today: This is not necessarily the final bill," Axios' Sam Baker writes. "The parliamentarian could still change it. Negotiations with individual senators could still change it."

Our field guide to Version 1.1.

7. Data du jour

Worth the click ... "America in the Age of Disruption," by Bruce Mehlman of Mehlman Castagnetti Rosen & Thomas: "We're Only 12% Into Trump's First Term." (40 slides on 1 page)

8. "Saved his bacon"

New Republic's September cover story, "Trump's Russian Laundromat," by Craig Unger:

"The very nature of Trump's businesses — all of which are privately held, with few reporting requirements — makes it difficult to root out the truth about his financial deals. ... For the past three decades, state and federal investigators, as well as some of America's best investigative journalists, have sifted through mountains of real estate records, tax filings, civil lawsuits ...

"[N]o one has documented that Trump was even aware of any suspicious entanglements ... Taken together, the flow of money from Russia provided Trump with a crucial infusion of financing that helped rescue his empire from ruin, burnish his image, and launch his career in television and politics."

9. What POTUS is watching

"Behind the Scenes at 'Fox & Friends,' America's Most Influential Morning Show (Seriously)," by Hollywood Reporter's Marisa Guthrie:

"It's possible the show has had as much influence on Trump as he seems to have had on it. 'We were doing Donald Trump issues before Donald Trump was Donald Trump," says [co-host Steve] Doocy. 'I mean, we were doing immigration, we were doing sanctuary cities, we were doing terrorism, all that stuff years before he was interested in running for president. We're pretty much just doing the exact same stuff for 20 years.'"

10. 1 fun thing

A standing ovation for Michelle Obama as takes the stage of the ESPY Awards in L.A. to honor the late Special Olympics founder Eunice Kennedy Shriver. PEOPLE magazine's account:

"The former first lady ... presented the Arthur Ashe Courage Award to Shriver's son, Timothy Shriver, who now chairs the Special Olympics."

Mrs. Obama, before being joined by Special Olympians: "I am here tonight to honor a remarkable woman, a woman who believed that everyone has something to contribute and everyone deserves a chance. When we give others the chance to fulfill their greatest potential, we all win ... Through her passionate service, she made our world more welcoming, inclusive and fair."

P.S. L.A. Times front page, "Disneyland can't work its magic on wait times: It tries to ease crowding but lines keep growing," by Hugo Martin and Ben Poston: "Disney has faced queuing problems for so long that it has become a pioneer in line management, dating back to the early days of the park when it used stanchions and tape to create switchbacks that are now widely used at airports."

"A Times analysis found that the average wait time for the resort's most popular rides in the first six months of the year was 24.4 minutes, a 28% increase over the same period in 2015 ... [T]he ride with the longest average wait time ... was Space Mountain, at 65 minutes."