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Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios
Shortly after word leaked that Kelly Sadler had taken a nasty shot at John McCain, President Trump convened a meeting in the Oval Office for a tiny group of communications staffers, according to sources familiar with the gathering. Sadler, Mercedes Schlapp, Raj Shah, and John Kelly all gathered in front of the Resolute Desk for a conversation with Trump about the leaking problem. They were the only people in the room, though the door to the outer Oval was open.
The president told Sadler she wouldn’t be fired for her remark. He added, separately in the conversation, that he’s no fan of McCain. Then Trump, who had grown obsessed with the leaking problem, told Sadler he wanted to know who the leakers were.
Sadler then stunned the room: To be completely honest, she said, she thought one of the worst leakers was Schlapp, her boss. Schlapp pushed back aggressively and defended herself in the room. And in follow up conversations after the meeting, some of Schlapp’s colleagues also came to her defense. (In a prior meeting, she had said, "You can put this on the record: I stand with Kelly Sadler"). Sadler went on to name other people she also suspected of being leakers.
The allegation — like a previous internal meeting to deal with leaking — ultimately got leaked to us.
Be smart: Trump administration officials have told me that "X is a leaker" has in this White House become synonymous with "I don’t like X." Everyone knows the leaker accusation has become the most powerful weapon you can wield against somebody you don't like, especially to Trump.
Photo: Kevin Dietsch, Pool/Getty Images
Two of Trump's top economic advisers, including Larry Kudlow, fear that one of the proposals closest to his heart — automobile tariffs — would kill American jobs. And his lawyers aren't sure the national security argument underpinning the idea is solid.
Meanwhile, U.S. allies and free traders have been freaking out over a Trump request to use a “national security” law — the same one he used to impose massive steel and aluminum tariffs — to put new tariffs of as much as 25% on automobile imports.
Here’s what I’ve learned, from sources with knowledge of the sensitive discussions inside the Trump administration:
Why this matters: Auto tariffs would have massive consequences for the global economy. But they’re far from a lock. And they're not imminent — the White House Counsel’s Office has told the Trump team the process will take months to sort through.
The big unanswered question, per a top trade lawyer: "Will the Commerce Department formally initiate this soon? All we have so far is a press release. Until we see a formal federal register notice and timeline for hearing/etc, few observers will think it's "real."
Photo: South Korean Presidential Blue House via Getty Images
Shortly after Trump announced he was canceling the summit with Kim Jong-un — and before Trump publicly signaled the summit might still happen after all — I received a prescient email from John Park, the director of the Korea Working Group at the Harvard Kennedy School.
Park is impeccably connected in South Korea and his email is worth reproducing in full:
The latest, per WaPo's Anna Fifield, reporting from Seoul: "A team of U.S. officials crossed into North Korea on Sunday for talks to prepare for a summit between President Trump and Kim Jong Un, as both sides press ahead with arrangements despite the question marks hanging over the meeting..."
Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images
Trump is getting back on the campaign trail, hitting rallies in the states where he's still fairly popular, and raising money for select Republican candidates heading into November's midterm elections. He's been doing this sporadically since inauguration, but the pace is quickening.
This week Trump hits two states for campaign-style events:
What's next: I've been told we'll see incrementally more campaigning for the president from June until November, but we shouldn't expect every week to look as heavy on political travel as this one.
The House and Senate are on break until the week of June 4.
President Trump's schedule:
I was searching for a story to share that would be worthy of Memorial Day weekend, but I'd rather point you to CNN anchor Jake Tapper's Twitter feed.
Tapper, who has spent countless hours interviewing veterans and telling their stories in print and on television, has spent the day tweeting pictures and thumbnail sketches of American heroes who've died in the past century's wars.