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Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios
World leaders are learning to play President Trump using his own set of predictable negotiating tricks. The most vivid example of this: French President Emmanuel Macron bragging to Trump that he was jamming him by stealing "The Art of the Deal" techniques, Axios has learned.
The scene: Perched on white leather armchairs in their bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the NATO Summit in Brussels, Trump and Macron soon turned to the unavoidable subject: The expanding trade war between the United States and Europe.
During their tête-à-tête, Trump suggested to Macron that he tell the European Union they ought to negotiate with the U.S., according to a source familiar with the conversation.
Macron replied that no, actually he was not in favor of negotiating under threat.
Why it matters: Like many foreign leaders, Macron has learned that the only language the U.S. president understands is the un-nuanced, transactional language of dealmaking and the blunt projection of strength. It's why Trump is drawn to strongmen and belittles those he considers "weak" like Canada's Trudeau (whom Trump publicly refers to as "Justin.")
What we're hearing: A senior Trump administration official told me another story that illuminates this part of Trump's mindset. As we know, Trump was glued to the television as former FBI director James Comey testified before Congress on March 20 of 2017.
The Chinese have absorbed this lesson the best. They have engaged in a trade war with no armistice in sight. Trump has threatened the Chinese with tariffs on more than $500 billion of Chinese imports; but, as we've reported, he's playing a dangerous game. China is fully prepared to retaliate and out-wait America.
The bottom line: President Xi is playing Trump's game with a much better political hand. The Chinese leader enjoys the advantages of authoritarianism — "president for life" as Trump admiringly calls him.
Not every foreign leader is eager to play hardball with Trump. The Germans, in particular, are much more inclined to compromise. Angela Merkel badly wants a trade deal to prevent Trump from carrying out his threat to put 25% tariffs on car imports into the U.S., according to two senior European officials privy to internal discussions.
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker plans to meet Trump at the White House on Wednesday. And European officials tell me they expect him to come armed with proposals including a "plurilateral trade deal" that would involve the trade of cars and car parts — an obsession of Trump's.
Between the lines: Senior European officials have told me they're working under the assumption that Trump wants his car tariffs before the November midterm elections. So they're already discussing their retaliatory measures.
President Donald Trump walks to the podium before introducing Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh as his nominee to the United States Supreme Court. July 9, 2018. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
In the early evening of July 9th, Donald Trump stood in the gold draped East Room of the White House with a small group of senior advisers to rehearse his announcement of Judge Brett Kavanaugh as his nominee for the Supreme Court.
Trump stepped on and off the podium, riffing with his aides. While this was going on, Bill Shine, the former co-president of Fox News, was meticulously obsessing over the camera shot which looked out upon a red carpet, according to a source familiar with the situation.
What we're hearing: Trump has been frustrated that some of his previous appearances on camera have not had the production values of the prime time TV shows he spends so much time watching.
Yes, but: As a senior administration official pointed out to me, Shine's official role is much larger than being a high-end TV producer. He oversees the entire White House press and communications operations. "And if ever there was a week when [Trump's concern] went from 'how does it look' to 'how does it sound', it was this one," the official told me, referring to the attempted clean-up after Helsinki.
First look ... Sneak Peek readers know how obsessed President Trump is with his own press coverage. Here's a fresh window into his media mind, in this exclusive preview from Sean Spicer's book, The Briefing: Politics, The Press, and The President (Regnery), out July 24:
Spicer, calling Trump in the residence the evening before St. Patrick's Day, 2017:
Spicer's pre-briefing ritual:
Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh speaks while US President Donald Trump listens. Photo: MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images
On Monday, the right's deepest-pocketed judicial group will launch the latest phase of its campaign to pressure key Democratic senators to confirm Trump's nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, to the Supreme Court.
The Judicial Crisis Network will run a new round of ads targeting red-state Democrats in West Virginia, North Dakota, Indiana, and Alabama. The ad buy, worth $1.5 million, takes JCN spending to $5.3 million since Justice Anthony Kennedy retired from the court.
Why this matters: JCN was the most powerful outside group that helped confirm Trump's first justice, Neil Gorsuch. The group, which can legally protect its donors' anonymity, spent millions flooding the airwaves on Gorsuch's behalf.
The House will consider a series of health care bills, which Republican members hope will give them something positive to tell voters about one of their most vulnerable issues in November's midterm elections.
The Senate will vote on Monday night to confirm Robert Wilkie as Trump's new secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs.
President Trump's schedule, per a White House official:
Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios
A Trump campaign tale that never made it into the papers...
Jason Miller was excited. The legendary college basketball coach Bobby Knight was visiting Trump Tower and the campaign's senior communications adviser thought it would be a great opportunity to get Knight in front of the beleaguered Trump team for one of the coach's inspirational halftime speeches.
Behind the scenes: About 30 Trump communications staff and volunteers were gathered in the war room. Cable news blared on eight TVs that never switched off. Miller came out of his office to give the team a rare "ra ra speech," a "let's go get 'em speech... let's fight hard today and here's what we're pushing," according to two sources who were in the room for the occasion.
"Sure, sure. Happy to, Jason," Knight replied, in the recollection of the source. "You know, I love Donald Trump. He's a great man. He's gonna be a great president. I'm confident that he's gonna win.
Knight kept going, attacking the centerpiece of the Trump campaign, as Miller stood by agog and staff tried to suppress their laughter.
"I go everywhere," Knight said, "all over the country. And people tell me 'Donald Trump is awesome but I don't understand the wall.'"
Miller appeared befuddled. "Jason was like, 'Uh, thanks for that coach. Alright everybody, let's get back to work,'" the source recalled. Then everybody returned to their desks for another day in an office that often resembled The Office.