Aug 23, 2018

Axios PM

By Mike Allen
Mike Allen

Situational awareness: Category 4 Hurricane Lane is pelting the Hawaiian Islands with potentially devastating amounts of rain, pounding surf, and high winds.

  • The storm is forecast to move very close to, and possibly make landfall on, Maui and Oahu through Saturday. Rainfall totals on the Big Island are approaching 2 feet.
1 big thing: Inside Trump and Sessions' awkward meeting

Photo: Saul Loeb, Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images

President Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions followed their nasty war of words this morning with a meeting this afternoon where they didn't say a word about their confrontation, a source with direct knowledge tells Axios' Jonathan Swan.

  • Per a second source with knowledge of the Oval Office meeting, attended by Jared Kushner, Kellyanne Conway, Sessions, Trump and Mercedes Schlapp: “No acknowledgment, not even a passing mention” of the morning’s events. “To the point where I don’t even know if he [Trump] was aware of his [Sessions’] statement."

Why it matters: This tracks with Trump's aversion to in-person confrontation. Sessions has been mostly mute in the face of sustained criticisms from his boss on the Justice Department's handling of the Mueller investigation, which scored a major win this week with Paul Manafort's eight felony convictions.

Trump, in a Fox News interview that aired this morning (via AP):

"You know the only reason I gave him the job? Because I felt loyalty, he was an original supporter," Trump said, criticizing Sessions because he, according to the president, "never took control of the Justice Department."

Sessions via a spokeswoman at noon today:

"I took control of the Department of Justice the day I was sworn in… The actions of the Department of Justice will not be improperly influenced by political considerations ... I demand the highest standards, and where they are not met, I take action."

What they're saying:

  • Republican senators Lindsey Graham (S.C.) and Chuck Grassley (Iowa) signaled before the Sessions statement that Trump may fire him after the midterms.
  • Graham: "The president’s entitled to an attorney general he has faith in ... I think there will come a time, sooner rather than later, where it will be time to have a new face and a fresh voice at the Department of Justice. Clearly, Attorney General Sessions doesn’t have the confidence of the president.”
  • Grassley said in an interview that he’d be able to schedule hearings to confirm a new attorney general, despite previously stating he was too busy to address the issue, per Bloomberg.

Meanwhile, Sen. John Cornyn defended Sessions while speaking to reporters:

  • “I think it would be bad for the country, it would be bad for the president, it would be bad for the Department of Justice for him to be forced out under these circumstances. So I hope he stays the course and I hope cooler heads prevail."

P.S. As Axios' Stef Kight scooped, Trump is shelving any endorsement of a reform bill until after the election. That's in alignment with Sessions.

Bonus: Pic du jour

Photo: Ahmad Al-Rubaye/AFP/Getty Images

Muslim pilgrims head on the walkway to the pillars where they will partake in the symbolic stoning of the devil at the Jamarat Bridge in Mina, near Mecca, which marks the final major rite of the Hajj pilgrimage.

2. What you missed
  1. Reality Winner has been sentenced to five years in prison. The 26-year-old former NSA contractor pleaded guilty to leaking a classified report about Russian hacking in the 2016 presidential election. The backdrop.
  2. Google has uncovered a misinformation attack connected to the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting. Go deeper.
  3. Trump says the market would crash if he were impeached. He told Fox News today: "I think everybody would be very poor." What history tells us.
  4. The Trump administration is moving ahead with a proposal that would require drug companies to include the sticker prices of their products in direct-to-consumer advertising — part of Trump's blueprint for lower drug prices. Go deeper.
  5. The DNC walked back an assertion that it had detected a "sophisticated" hacking attempt, announcing instead that it was simply a subcontractor's unauthorized security test. Go deeper.
  6. "Trump asked his lawyers for their advice on the possibility of pardoning his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort several weeks ago," Washington Post's Carol Leonnig reports.
Bonus: NewsGuard is here

NewsGuard Technologies, a new service that uses trained journalists to rate thousands of news and information sites, is launching its first product today: web extensions that let users view vetted, non-partisan trust ratings for news and information websites.

  • Why it matters: It's the first look at the services to be offered by NewsGuard, co-founded by journalist Steven Brill and former Wall Street Journal publisher Gordon Crovitz. The labels, which have been researched and assigned by journalists, are being placed on the most trafficked news and information websites in the U.S.

Go deeper.

3. 1 historic thing

"Alice Dunnigan, First Black Woman to Cover White House, Will Get Statue at Newseum" — N.Y. Times' Karen Zraick reports.

  • "Alice Allison Dunnigan endured poverty, segregation and sexism as she fought to fulfill her dream of becoming a journalist."
  • "She went on to become the first black woman accredited to cover the White House."
  • "Now, she will be honored with a 6-foot bronze statue at the Newseum, a museum in Washington dedicated to the press and the First Amendment."

Worthy of your time.

Mike Allen