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Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios
President Trump was bluffing when he tweeted that he knows the successor to White House counsel Don McGahn, and instead he is vacillating about new legal leaders as he girds for open warfare with Democrats and Robert Mueller. The newest name on the president's mind: Fannie Mae general counsel Brian Brooks, two sources with direct knowledge tell me.
Emmet Flood, the White House attorney dealing with Mueller's investigation, looked set to take the job.
Trump tweeted on Aug. 30: "I am very excited about the person who will be taking the place of Don McGahn as White House Councel [sic]!"
The president's insistence on a loyalist could pose problems for Flood, who's by far the most qualified to handle a season of investigations:
Be smart ... A top Washington lawyer summed up the stakes: "If they lose [Flood] they are f--ed. Because they are never going to find a decent white-collar type to fill Emmet's shoes."
Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios
It's hard to overstate the extremity and variety of pressures bearing down on President Trump and his understaffed White House:
Bottom line: Taken together, it's a jaw-dropping list of problems, and Trump's "fine-tuned machine" is creaking under this stress. We're at a hinge point in the Trump presidency, and staff sound as unsettled as I've heard them in the 19 months since he took office.
President Trump is expected to declassify, as early as this week, documents covering the U.S. government's surveillance of Trump campaign adviser Carter Page and the investigative activities of senior Justice Department lawyer Bruce Ohr, according to allies of the president.
The big picture: Republicans on the House Intelligence and Judiciary committees believe the declassification will permanently taint the Trump-Russia investigation by showing the investigation was illegitimate to begin with. Trump has been hammering the same theme for months.
House Freedom Caucus chairman Mark Meadows, who is close to Trump, told Axios earlier today: "After two years of investigations and accusations from both sides of the aisle about what documents indicate, it is past time for documents to be declassified and let the American people decide for themselves if DoJ and FBI acted properly."
The bottom line: President Trump has been hyping, and congressional Republicans have been calling for, the declassification of these documents. It's now put up or shut up time. We should find out very soon whether these documents are as explosive as advertised.
My colleague Mike Allen, who's covered a few midterm elections in his time, says it's rare to see so much evidence of a trend accumulate so many months out, only for all the signals to be proven wrong.
Yes, the punditocracy is being cautious about 2018 because it has fresh memories of how humiliating it felt to wake up on Nov. 9, 2016, with Donald Trump as president.
Bottom line: The signals look every bit as bad for Republicans as they did for House Democrats when they got wiped out in the 2010 Tea Party wave.
Go deeper: Read the Washington Post's Dan Balz on the under-covered battle for the Senate.
The House will try to pass a package of three spending bills. It's the first package expected to emerge out of conference. (Nine of the year's 12 spending bills are currently in conference, being hashed out between House and Senate negotiators.)
The Senate will confirm Charles Rettig, a Beverly Hills tax lawyer friendly with Trump, to head the IRS. Senate leadership has not announced when they'll pass the bipartisan opioids package, but it's expected soon. And the Senate will continue to work on spending bills.
President Trump's schedule, according to a White House official:
It took three hours. Three hours after The New Yorker's Ronan Farrow published fresh sexual assault allegations against Les Moonves on Sunday, CNN's Brian Stelter broke the news that CBS' longtime chief executive is out.
These allegations, from 6 additional women, churn the stomach and throw Moonves into a special category reserved for monsters like Harvey Weinstein.
Why this matters: Moonves is the most powerful and highly paid executive in television. As Stelter writes: "Moonves is the first CEO of a Fortune 500 company to leave his job amid harassment allegations in the year since two investigations of Harvey Weinstein (one of them by Farrow) jump-started the #MeToo Movement."
Now Moonves is gone, leaving behind a network in turmoil.