1 big thing: "Headed for certain crisis"
When President Trump makes more changes in his West Wing (insiders suspect August or September, but who knows?), any new faces are likely to be in the mold of Anthony Scaramucci, age 53, the pugilistic Wall Streeter known as "Mooch" who was named White House communications director, beginning Aug. 15.
The announcement: "Scaramucci, a successful entrepreneur, financier, and founder of SkyBridge Capital, ... will oversee the entire communications operation, including message development and strategy. He will report directly to the President." (Usually would report to the chief of staff.)
The President is building a wartime Cabinet, for political and legal war. One longtime ally who's likely to have a more visible, frequent role: Newt Gingrich, husband of Callista Gingrich, Trump's choice for ambassador to the Vatican.
Trump relishes fights, and creates plenty of them. But now he's in a real one, with special counsel Bob Mueller signaling that he plans an expansive, exhaustive investigation aimed at Trump, his relatives, and current and former political lieutenants.
One West Wing confidant says Trump really might dismiss Mueller. So POTUS needs "a group that can fight through what could end up being something quite amazing."
"We're going to see out-and-out political warfare, and not over ... Medicaid," the confidant said.
Be smart: As Matt Miller, the MSNBC contributor and former Obama Justice Department official, tweeted after the revelation that Trump was digging dirt on Mueller and contemplating pardons:
"Takeaway from the Post & NYT pieces is we are headed for certain crisis. Trump just will not, cannot allow this investigation to go forward."
2. What the President is reading right now
What the President is tweeting this morning (most recent first):
- "My son Donald openly gave his e-mails to the media & authorities whereas Crooked Hillary Clinton deleted (& acid washed) her 33,000 e-mails!"
- So many people are asking why isn't the A.G. or Special Council looking at the many Hillary Clinton or Comey crimes. 33,000 e-mails deleted? ... What about all of the Clinton ties to Russia, including Podesta Company, Uranium deal, Russian Reset, big dollar speeches etc."
- "While all agree the U. S. President has the complete power to pardon, why think of that when only crime so far is LEAKS against us.FAKE NEWS."
- "This morning I will be going to the Commissioning Ceremony for the largest aircraft carrier in the world, The Gerald R. Ford. Norfolk, Va."
- "The Failing New York Times foiled U.S. attempt to kill the single most wanted terrorist,Al-Baghdadi.Their sick agenda over National Security."
- "A new INTELLIGENCE LEAK from the Amazon Washington Post,this time against A.G. Jeff Sessions.These illegal leaks, like Comey's, must stop!"
3. "Trump thought Mooch killed it"
The day's stunning dominoes ("Abrupt chain reaction for Trump" is the five-column head in the WashPost):
- Trump, backed by Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, settles on "Mooch" to head comms, largely because he likes the financier's feistiness defending POTUS on cable.
- Trump doesn't consult his senior aides. They flip out, both because of personal grievances with Mooch, and their belief that heading White House comms requires Washington skills and experience. Some staff learns about the move when Axios' Jonathan Swan pops the story Thursday night.
- In a 10 a.m. meeting, chief of staff Reince Priebus, chief strategist Steve Bannon and press secretary Sean Spicer object vehemently. Trump ignores them.
- Spicer quits ("the last straw," a source close to Spicer told me), drawing applause when he graciously tells his staff he wants Scaramucci to have a clean slate.
- Scaramucci goes to the podium in the White House briefing room and announces that Sarah Huckabee Sanders (daughter of Mike Huckabee), who has been Spicer's top deputy, will be press secretary.
- Asked by ABC's Jon Karl about the time on Fox Business in 2015 that he called Trump "another hack politician," Scaramucci parries: "[H]e brings it up every 15 seconds, OK? (LAUGHTER) ... So, Mr. President, if you're listening, I personally apologize for the 50th time for saying that."
Phew. As Spicer told Fox's Sean Hannity last night (not as a quip, but as part of an argument about working tirelessly to advance Trump's agenda): "We had a very successful Made in America week this week, garnering over millions of impressions."
Some atmospherics from all-terrain Jonathan Swan:
- Trump thought Mooch killed it. He was pumped about it.
- Very bipolar West Wing. Source tells me Reince's people seemed "kind of freaked" about what happened. And certainly in the dark.
- They were trying to spin the new narrative that Reince and Anthony are BFFs and that Reince was "100%" supportive of Trump making Mooch comms director. The President would laugh if you told him that.
- Jared, Ivanka and Hope Hicks were all pushing for Mooch and very happy with it.
- Bannon went in hard, lost badly but seemed to have moved on very quickly. Doesn't want to dwell on it.
- What we're watching: Will Mooch add to the team, and possibly some unexpected names from outside of politics?
4. "Apparent discrepancy": spy heat for Sessions
"Russia's ambassador to Washington told his superiors in Moscow that he discussed campaign-related matters, including policy issues important to Moscow, with [Attorney General] Jeff Sessions during the 2016 presidential race," according to a WashPost scoop at top of column 1 ("Kislyak's reports implicate Sessions)," by Adam Entous, Ellen Nakashima and Greg Miller:
- "Ambassador Sergey Kislyak's accounts of two conversations with Sessions ... were intercepted by U.S. spy agencies."
- "Sessions initially failed to disclose his contacts with Kislyak and then said that the meetings were not about the Trump campaign."
- "One U.S. official said that Sessions — who testified that he has no recollection of an April encounter — has provided 'misleading' statements that are 'contradicted by other evidence.'"
Four more headlines from the news day of a lifetime:
- CNN's Dana Bash: "Mueller sent a notice, called a document preservation request, asking White House staff to save 'any subjects discussed in the course of the June 2016 meeting' with a Russian lawyer at Trump Tower. ... Request includes text messages, emails, notes, voicemails."
- Don Jr. and Manafort "have agreed to be interviewed by staff of the Senate Judiciary Committee but will not appear at a public hearing next week." (NBC's Frank Thorp and Phil Helsel)
- "Jared Kushner 'inadvertently omitted' more than 70 assets worth at least $10.6 million from his personal financial disclosure reports, according to revised paperwork ... He reported owning an art collection worth between $5 million and $25 million." (AP)
- Ivanka Trump "got $2.5 million in salary and severance when she resigned from the Trump Organization in January. She received $787,500 as an advance for her book, 'Women Who Work.' ... [T]he young couple resigned from a wide array of corporate positions: Kushner stepped down from 266 such posts, while Trump resigned from 292 positions." (WashPost)
5. Bite du jour
HANNITY: Have you been thinking about this for a while?
HANNITY: So it was really sudden?
SPICER: Well, I knew what the right thing to do is. I think I have a pretty good compass, and I made a decision that it was in the best interest not of just myself, but ... for the President and for this administration, was to step aside and let Anthony and Sarah lead the team.
6. Dems to unveil "Better Deal" on Monday
Senate and House Dems, after an intensive process spanning seven months, on Monday will unveil a new economic agenda, meant to counter the perception that Democrats are only the anti-Trump party, with no message of their own.
Top Dems see the new message as the key to turning things around after their losses in the presidential race and this year's House special elections.
An opening theme/frame: "excessive corporate power and its impacts."
Pollster Geoff Garin writes in a memo kicking off the project: "[T]he Democratic policies related to curbing excessive corporate power that are being highlighted in the first day of the rollout have real resonance with voters and are strongly supported by a significant majority of Americans."
The agenda's big idea: "Too many families in America today feel that the rules of the economy are rigged against them. Special interests have a strangle-hold on Washington — from the super-rich spending unlimited amounts of secret money to influence our elections, to the huge loopholes in our tax code that help corporations avoid paying taxes."
"If the government goes back to putting working families first, ahead of special interests, we can achieve a better deal for the American people that will raise their pay, lower their expenses, and prepare them for the future."
7. "Trump's favorite foe"
- On the White House atmosphere: "We're used to a team of rivals. We are not used to a team of the Bloods and the Crips. ... [T]hese are rival gangs. ... I need to add in some new gang names, too, because Bloods and the Crips makes it sound like there are only two teams. There's something like six."
- On Trump's mental state: "I think that he has an amazing belief in his own ability to will what he thinks into reality. And I think that he thinks of reality as something that is subjective. So I think that what people characterize as 'he's out of touch' or 'he's not understating this' or 'he seems off,' or whatever — I think he has an amazing capacity to try to draw the world as he wants it."
- How Trump really feels about the press: "I think that he loves the press. I think he lives, at least loosely, by the theory that, if not all press is good press, that most press is good press. I think you find the press has been his nurturer and validator for thirty to forty years."
- "This is a person who courted the tabloids aggressively in New York City in the nineteen-eighties. He found a way to make himself a commodity for the gossip pages and play the tabloids off each other. He likes attention, and he likes media. He loves to manipulate the media. He's a master at it."
8. A prophet for the Trump era
Cover of tomorrow's WashPost Outlook, a 3,200-word piece by associate editor Carlos Lozada, "Trump's Presidency, Huntington's America: The writings of late Harvard political scientist Samuel Huntington anticipated our political and intellectual battles — and point to the country we may become":
Huntington, like Trump, wanted America to be great, and came to long for a restoration of values and identity that he believed made the country not just great but a nation apart. However, if that path involves closing ourselves off, demonizing newcomers and demanding cultural fealty, then how different are we, really, from anywhere else? The central agony of the Trump era is that rather than becoming great, America is becoming unexceptional.
9. A grand bargain with Wall Street
Barron's cover story by William D. Cohan, an M&A investment banker for 17 years and author of "Why Wall Street Matters" (free link for Axios readers):
To ease up on regulatory speed limits without causing another economic calamity, Trump should strike a grand bargain with Wall Street. In exchange for the smarter regulation that the banking industry seeks, and seems on the verge of getting, he should insist that Wall Street adhere to several postcrisis rules, including those that require higher bank capital and reduced balance-sheet leverage and that require derivatives to be traded on exchanges where their prices can be determined more easily.
And, as part of the grand bargain, Trump should also insist that Wall Street reform its outdated compensation system, which rewards bankers, traders, and executives for taking big risks with other people's money, but fails to hold them accountable when things go wrong, as happened in 2008.
10. 🎶 1 lit jam (and many great memories)
Tim Berry, Axios EVP and former chief of staff to House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, has such cool musical taste that his kids use his Spotify playlists.
Berry emailed me Friday afternoon that picking 1 Lit Jam was "[d]evilishly hard, especially since today is the 30th anniversary of the release of Appetite for Destruction, and my current playlist that I'm listening to has about a thousand songs."
Time passes ... "I'm locked up on picking an actual song, so I'm going to go completely off the wall: If there was one live show I wish I could go back in time and see, it would be Sam and Dave circa 1966. This clip includes You Don't Know Like I Know and Hold On, I'm Comin'.
"My brother, sister and I grew up driving around on summer weekends in a Cadillac convertible with my record-collecting dad, listening to Stax/Volt classics and buying old records at yard-sales. That stays with you for a lifetime. Thanks, Dad."