Mar 16, 2018

Axios PM

1 juicy scoop: More from Kelly's closed door briefing

Axios' Jonathan Swan obtained details from an off-the-record briefing John Kelly gave today to White House reporters.

  • The chief of staff acknowledged that his boss, Donald Trump, is likely speculating about staff moves to people outside the White House and that reporters are then talking to those people. And that’s how a good deal of news is likely being made about all the possible replacements.
  • Axios was not invited to the off-the-record session and is therefore not bound by the rules. We got our information from three sources familiar with the meeting, who paraphrased the discussion.

Details from Swan's initial story, which published during the White House briefing:

  • Kelly cast Trump’s own conversations as a significant contributing factor to stories about the staff changes.
  • He disputed the reports about H.R. McMaster imminently leaving the White House.
  • Kelly defended HUD Sec. Ben Carson, including on that $31,000 dining room set, by saying the table could last for 80 or 100 years and has lasting value.

Swan can now report even more details from that meeting, including:

  • Kelly was asked about staffing changes and he said none today.
  • He said it would be great if the Army gave H.R. McMaster a 4th star. 
  • Kelly said he has been talking with Trump about what a good job Jeff Sessions is doing. He went above and beyond to defend Sessions, talked about how Sessions is doing a good job and said the press only reports about 3% of what he does. 
  • He said Deputy A.G. Rod Rosenstein and FBI Director Chris Wray are also doing good jobs. 
  • Kelly said that Larry Kudlow’s past cocaine habit won’t be a problem for his security clearance, as it is public knowledge. Kelly joked that the 1990s were “a crazy time.”
2. What you missed
Pedestrians walk by the latest work by British street artist Banksy in New York City. The work draws attention to the jailed Turkish artist Zehra Doğan, who was jailed for nearly three years over a painting. Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images
  1. Russia plans to expel British diplomats in retaliation for the U.K.'s decision to kick out 23 Russian diplomats over the the nerve agent attack on ex-spy Sergei Skripal.
  2. Rep. Louise Slaughter, a Democrat who had represented New York's 25th congressional district since 1987, has died at age 88 after suffering a head injury in her Washington home.
  3. John Bailey, the president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, is currently being investigated for reports of sexual harassment, Variety reports.
  4. The Justice Department is broadening its probe into Wells Fargo's questionable practices to include the bank's wealth management operations, reports the WSJ, citing people familiar with the situation.
  5. Danny Tarkanian announced today he's running for Congress in Nevada's 3rd district instead of the U.S. Senate. This immediately followed a Trump tweet calling for that course of action.
3. 1 fun look behind the curtain

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Axios' Rebecca Zisser details how the above illustration, for an Erica Pandey story on China and North Korea, got made:

  • "We cut off the bottom of a coconut water carton since it's fairly square and froze a layer of ice at the bottom."
  • "Then we added the image of Kim Jong-un and a little more water and froze that... and then did the same thing with Xi Jinping."
  • "The trickiest part was trying to get the images to freeze in the right location — we had to just push them around in the water until they were close to what we wanted and then hope they stayed in place while the ice froze."

Break the ice...