Welcome to Sneak Peek, our weekly lookahead for both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, plus my best scoops. I'm in Helsinki for President Trump's first one-on-one summit with Vladimir Putin, on Monday.
D.C. readers — On Tuesday, join Axios' Mike Allen in kicking off the Axios360 Hometown Tour. He'll discuss how trade and Washington's economic policies are affecting America's communities with Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, former US Trade Rep. Ron Kirk, Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke, and Agriculture Committee Chair Rep. Mike Conaway. RSVP here.
Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios
Earlier this year in the thick of his election campaign, Vladimir Putin released a propaganda video promoting Russia's "invincible" new generation of nuclear weapons.
Why it matters: One scene in particular caught President Trump's attention, according to sources with direct knowledge. The motion graphic in Putin's video appeared to show missiles raining down on Florida — the home of Trump's Mar-a-Lago club.
Trump stayed publicly silent. But privately, he raged. He told aides he understood this was Putin playing up to the crowds for his election but even so it was "over the line," said a source familiar with Trump's private comments.
Trump lashed out at the Russian president in a phone call, according to sources with direct knowledge. A source with knowledge of the president's conversations with Putin told me this direct criticism from Trump was unprecedented in their recollection. "Usually it's a bit of a love fest," in their phone calls, the source said.
Between the lines: Here's what I've pieced together, according to sources with knowledge of the incident, including one source who has reviewed the transcript of the Trump-Putin call but recalled it to me from their memory rather than written notes...
A source with direct knowledge of President Trump's phone calls with Putin tells me the Russian president shows a keen understanding of what makes Trump tick.
I asked the source what Putin says to Trump during these calls. "Oh, things like 'the economy's so strong' or 'you're doing a great job' or 'I saw whatever happened on the news recently and you handled it so well'," the source recalled.
"The president loves that stuff."
There’s a lot out there in the public domain about Trump and Russia, and much, surely, still to be discovered.
The big picture: Here's what I've learned about the incidents and themes that have defined the relationship, from dozens of conversations over many months with sources who have privately discussed Putin and Russia with Trump.
On election meddling: Trump's top intelligence official, Dan Coats, said Friday the "warning lights are blinking red" and invoked 9/11 to describe the cyberattacks against the U.S.
On Ukraine: Trump is wildly contradictory. On one hand, his administration has been tougher than Obama's ever was by selling sophisticated anti-tank missiles to the Ukrainians to fight Russia. On the other hand, Trump privately told world leaders at the G7 he thought Crimea — which Putin illegally invaded — might as well belong to Russia because the residents speak Russian.
On sanctions: Trump erupted last summer when the Senate passed its Russia sanctions package with a veto-proof majority.
When I asked President Trump on Friday what were the three or four things he wanted to achieve from his meeting with Putin, his answers contained no detail.
But one little riff stuck out. He said: "I think... that would be a tremendous achievement if we could do something on nuclear proliferation."
While it's impossible to predict what Trump will say to Putin on the weighty subject, here's a primer on the two treaties that should be in focus:
1. New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (aka "New START"): Ratified by Obama in 2011, this has been one of America's more successful arms control treaties with an adversary. The agreement allows the U.S. and Russia to conduct thorough inspections to ensure the other is complying.
2. The Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (aka the INF Treaty): Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev signed the INF Treaty in 1987, to ban the Cold War rivals from having ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles that could fly between 500 and 5,500 kilometers.
Photo: Stefan Rousseau-WPA Pool/Getty Images
In an interview with "CBS Evening News" anchor Jeff Glor on Saturday, President Trump first named the European Union — a group of some of America's closest allies — when Glor asked him to name his "biggest foe globally right now."
Why it matters: To call the EU a "foe" is a stunning statement, even for Trump, who has made no secret he regards Europeans as freeloaders who scam the U.S. on trade.
Behind the scenes: Before he addressed the black tie dinner at Blenheim Palace on Thursday night, May's team arranged for Trump to have a private audience with more than a dozen leaders of British companies, including BP, that do significant business in America.
The bottom line: At the next day's lunch at the Prime Minister's country estate, Chequers, Trump told the Brits he wouldn't have guessed Britain was the biggest foreign direct investor and that it was responsible for so many jobs in America. Progress of a sort, after that interview.
On Thursday, Trump will host a workforce development event at the White House, with business leaders, workers and cabinet secretaries.
Between the lines: I have no idea, yet, to what extent these actions will be substantive or promotional/symbolic — because what you see above is all the detail I've been able to get out of the White House so far.
Why the issue matters: The U.S. jobless rate is around the lowest it's been this century, but millions of jobs remain unfilled. It's partly because American workers lack the skills — many of them highly technical — needed to fill them.
The House will pass another 2019 spending bill. This bill includes funding for the Department of the Interior, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Forest Service and other agencies.
The Senate will confirm two more circuit court judges, bringing their total so far in the Trump administration to 24, a leadership source told me.
President Trump's schedule, per a White House official:
Jamie Spencer-Churchill, Duke of Marlborough, in 2015. Photo: Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images
Trump's hosts at Blenheim Palace on Thursday night were the owners of the estate — the Duke and Duchess of Marlborough.
James Spencer-Churchill, the 12th Duke of Marlborough, is a colorful character. Among other incidents, his father tried to disinherit him after a string of misadventures including a high-profile road rage incident and a month in prison for forging drug prescriptions.
He and the Duchess proved gracious hosts. But the Duke stumbled at moments during his remarks, according to a source at the dinner. At one point he apologized, blaming poor lighting.
"We were thinking," the source told me, "it's your house!"