Jim Comey, who at 6 foot 8 has at least five inches on Donald Trump, has loomed over his campaign and presidency for months — first through his bombshell statements about Hillary's email, then by doggedly pursuing the Russia investigation and eventually getting fired for his zeal.
Next week, Comey comes out of the shadows, with Senate Intelligence Committee testimony scheduled for 10 a.m. Thursday that promises to be the most gripping television to come off of Capitol Hill since the Clinton impeachment hearings or Watergate.
Leaks about Comey's conclusion that Trump was pressuring him, and his real-time documentation in potentially devastating memos, has the White House and its allies worried that this could be their worst week since taking office. The signs of worry:
Quote of the week ... Jeremy Bash to Nicolle Wallace on MSNBC: "Pro tip: If you want to exert executive privilege, don't fire the guy."
I'm told that in addition to Ivanka Trump, the presidential confidants making a last-minute pitch to soften the Paris deal included national security adviser H.R. McMaster, who argued to President Trump that he could accomplish what he needed to domestically, while adding significant caveats that would avoid alienating allies.
Trump rejected the advice in part because he thought a clean exit looked stronger, and partly because he was tired of all the conflicting advice he was getting.
But the biggest reason was all about that base: Using the muscle memory from the campaign, Trump is increasingly obsessed with his core voters. Officials explain that Trump and his inner circle learned in the darkest days of the campaign that they could power through by doubling down and focusing on the the base, so they're bringing those instincts to government.
CNN's Jim Acosta, on White House unwillingness to say whether Trump still thinks climate change is a hoax: "It guarantees the question will be asked over and over again."
WashPost lead story, "Europe's view of U.S. ties darkens," by Michael Birnbaum in Brussels: "The pullout left the United States a global outlier and, many European leaders and experts said, a severely diminished force in the world. And it gave China fresh weight in a newly unbalanced landscape where longtime U.S. allies are searching for stability."
Sneak peek at Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference, in San Jose next week ... "Apple set to turn up the volume in battle of talking helpers," by Tim Bradshaw in S.F.: "[T]he company is expected to up its game against Amazon's voice-controlled Alexa and Google's advances in computer vision, with new outlets for its own talking helper Siri and an overhaul of its iOS operating system."
Axios exclusive, "Apple Music executive Bozoma Saint John plans to leave the company," by Ina Fried:
American consumers aren't spending with the gusto you'd expect, what with U.S. unemployment plumbing a 16-year low of 4.3%, wages ticking up, and the stock market hitting record highs, Barron's columnist Kopin Tan writes in "The Surprising Threat to the American Economy":
P.S. Wall Street Journal 5-column lead, "Jobless Rate Falls to 16-Year Low [since may 2001]]: Fewer jobs are being created, though, in a sign firms are struggling with labor shortages," by Eric Morath:
"After a robust start to the year, the economy has added an average 121,000 jobs over the past three months. That is about two-thirds of the growth rate recorded last year."
Axios AM kicks off a new Saturday treat: "My 6 Big Things" — a quick weekend breakfast conversation with one of the world's most interesting and consequential people.
Our debut guest is Kevin Systrom, CEO and co-founder of Instagram — 700 million people, connected by the power of visual communication:
Thank you, Kevin. And happy weekend, all! See you tomorrow morning.