Aug 24, 2018

Axios PM

By Mike Allen
Mike Allen

Good afternoon ...

Situational awareness: Sen. John McCain has decided to stop medical treatment for the brain cancer that was diagnosed last summer, his family announced today.

  • "Our family is immensely grateful for the support and kindness of all his caregivers over the last year, and for the continuing outpouring of concern and affection from John's many friends and associates, and the many thousands of people who are keeping him in their prayers. God bless and thank you all.”
1 big thing ... Hell week: Fear and fury

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The immunity deal for the Trump organization's chief financial officer leaves no doubt: This has been, unequivocally, the worst week of Donald Trump's presidency.

The big picture: The warning lights of growing legal jeopardy are flashing red. His former lawyer and campaign manager are going to jail, the lawyer has implicated him in a federal crime, and now his CFO and the head of the National Enquirer have been given immunity to share what they know.

Why it matters, from Axios' Jonathan Swan: For the first time, I’m hearing real fear and concern in the voices of Trump allies.

The latest:

  • Trump organization CFO Allen Weisselberg has been granted immunity to talk to federal prosecutors about the payments former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen made during the 2016 campaign to two women who had affairs with Trump, per the Wall Street Journal.
  • That follows the news of another immunity deal with David Pecker, CEO of American Media, Inc., which publishes The National Enquirer, over the same issue. Pecker was friendly with Trump, and the Associated Press reports that the National Enquirer had a safe with records of damaging stories about Trump that were bought and buried — a practice called "catch and kill."
  • And Cohen's guilty plea set the stage by accusing "Individual-1" — guess who — of ordering him to pay the hush money to keep the women from talking about the affairs. That would be a violation of campaign finance law.

All of this goes way beyond the Robert Mueller investigation. This is now in the hands of federal prosecutors, and they can keep going regardless of what happens with the Russia probe — including, possibly, digging into Trump's business affairs.

  • Unlike Cohen, who was involved in quixotic projects and sleazy side deals to hush up women, Weisselberg has true and deep visibility into the Trump Organization.

What we don't know: The Weisselberg immunity deal might not mean he's ready to spill a lot of secrets. Any good white collar lawyer would request immunity for their client. We don't even know for sure that federal prosecutors are looking for anything in the Trump organization, other than evidence of campaign violations.

  • A top Washington white collar attorney tells Swan: “Could be really big deal but unclear if it’s limited to past Cohen stuff which culminated in his plea or if it’s ongoing. But clearly prosecutors thought he had something of value in return for giving immunity. There had to be some 'showing' by his counsel to get the immunity.”

The bottom line: Trump's legal peril is getting worse, not better.

Go deeper:

Bonus pic: McCain in his element

McCain talks to reporters in October after a Senate Armed Services Committee briefing. Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images

2. What you missed
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Data: Associated Press-National Opinion Research Center poll of 1,055 adults conducted August 16-20. Margin of error ±4.2%; Chart: Chris Canipe/Axios
  1. President Trump ordered Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to cancel his upcoming trip to North Korea, saying it wasn't making enough progress on denuclearization. What could happen next.
  2. Hurricane Lane remains a Category 3 and is causing "catastrophic" flooding on the Big Island of Hawaii. The latest.
  3. The Kremlin informants who tipped off U.S. intelligence about Russia's 2016 interference have gone silent, cutting off a critical source of information about Russia's 2018 plans, the New York Times reports.
  4. The S&P 500 closed at an all-time high this afternoon, beating the January record by two points, the Associated Press reports.
  5. T-Mobile's data breach may have affected as many as 2 million customers. The details.
  6. Trump-backed Republican Troy Balderson was officially declared the winner of the special election for Ohio's 12th congressional district, more than two weeks after election day. What's next.
  7. Former Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Tom Frieden was arrested this morning on allegations of forcible touching, sex abuse and harassment. What he's accused of.
3. 1 beach read

Illustration: Axios Visuals

One of President Obama's summer reads is a memoir I had picked up a few days earlier, at the recommendation of Jon Ward: "Educated," the first book by Tara Westover (Random House).

  • From her bio: "Born in Idaho to a father opposed to public education, she never attended school. She spent her days working in her father's junkyard or stewing herbs for her mother, a self-taught herbalist and midwife. She was seventeen the first time she set foot in a classroom. After that first encounter with education, she pursued learning for a decade, graduating magna cum laude from Brigham Young University in 2008."
  • From the book: ""I wanted to get away from the junkyard and there was only one way to do that ... by getting a job so I wouldn't be at the house when Dad rounded up his crew. The trouble was, I was eleven."

Thanks for reading during this epic week. Please encourage your friends to sign up here for PM.

  • I always love your notes: Please just reply to this email, or hit me at mike@axios.com.
Mike Allen