Welcome to Sneak Peek, our weekly lookahead at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, plus our best scoops. (Smart Brevity word count: 1,920 words, ~7 minutes)
The summer finale of this season's "Axios on HBO" aired at 6pm ET/PT. More coming in the fall.
Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios
Nearly 100 internal Trump transition vetting documents leaked to "Axios on HBO" identify a host of "red flags" about officials who went on to get some of the most powerful jobs in the U.S. government.
Why it matters: The massive trove, and the story behind it, sheds light on the slapdash way Donald Trump filled his Cabinet and administration, and foreshadowed future scandals that beset his government.
Behind the scenes: In the chaotic weeks after Trump's surprise victory, Trump fired Chris Christie as transition chief. The new team outsourced the political vetting of would-be top officials to the Republican National Committee.
The RNC researchers identified some striking red flags.
The RNC vetted some left field contenders. Nobody we spoke to, including senior members of the transition, could remember why Hollywood talent agent Ari Emanuel was vetted.
Our process: We are publishing a selection of these vetting documents. We redacted personal details that weren't newsworthy, information from spurious sources, material the vetting team described as rumors about contenders’ personal lives, and contact and identification information. All the unredacted information is from public sources.
White House response: "President Trump has assembled an incredible team throughout the federal government who — in spite of 93% negative news coverage — has accomplished undeniable successes like tax cuts, record employment levels, a booming economy ... unleashing energy exploration, rebuilding the military and crushing ISIS," said principal deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley.
Read the leaked vetting documents here.
Go deeper: Our full story on the Axios stream has more highlights from the huge document dump.
Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios
The documents are the product of a hasty, dysfunctional, thrown-together effort to put together a presidential administration. Christie helmed a traditional transition effort during the campaign. Then, after Trump won, Steve Bannon fired him and tossed most of his work.
The result: Trump's original Cabinet, by most counts, was a mess. Some key Cabinet secretaries opposed him on core philosophical issues, and others had lethal ethical problems. Many are now gone.
Behind the scenes: Trump's frazzled transition team foisted the job of political vetting onto a group of young researchers at the Republican National Committee.
They faced trying circumstances. The contenders were such a motley crew that people who other administrations never would have considered looked like real standouts.
Problems: The team foresaw some of the problems that plagued the Trump Cabinet (including Scott Pruitt's ethical issues). But in the rush, they also overlooked a bit.
The response: RNC spokesperson Mike Reed defended the team's work. "It is not abnormal for a presidential transition team to utilize the national party committee as a resource in putting together background briefings on potential nominees and executive branch staff," he said. Read the full statement here.
Between the lines: Nobody we spoke to who worked at the senior levels of the transition could point us to any additional political vetting that was done before Trump announced his nominees. (Hence, the Puzder situation.)
Go deeper: Read our full inside story here, including more from the RNC vetters themselves.
Trump started his presidency on the back foot when it came to personnel. Now, he has confirmed fewer senior administration officials at this stage of his presidency than any of the previous four presidents, according to analysis provided to Axios by the nonpartisan Partnership for Public Service.
Between the lines: The withdrawal numbers we cite above are only the formal withdrawals. This understates the problem, as Trump tends to announce people for senior jobs and then withdraws them before he formally nominates them. (Recent examples: Herman Cain, Stephen Moore, Patrick Shanahan.)
Most of the vetting files had a section called "red flags," where the vetting team noted concerns about potential top officials. Axios' data wizards Chris Canipe and Lazaro Gamio categorized them all — for the nearly 100 people whose vetting documents we received.
President Trump speaks one-on-one with Chuck Todd from the White House in an interview aired this morning on "Meet the Press." Photo: NBC News/Meet the Press
Trump provided some big news and striking statements to NBC's "Meet the Press" host Chuck Todd.
Driving the news: Trump told Todd he's willing to speak with Iran with no preconditions. "I'm not looking for war, and if there is, it'll be obliteration like you've never seen before. But I'm not looking to do that. But you can't have a nuclear weapon. You want to talk? Good ... No preconditions."
Other highlights of the Trump interview:
Photo: Mike Kline (notkalvin)/Getty Images
The House plans to vote on a bill for additional humanitarian and security spending at the southern border.
The Senate will vote to proceed on the National Defense Authorization Act, per a Republican leadership aide. "We expect floor action on the border supplemental package that passed the appropriations committee with near unanimous support this week," the aide added.
President Trump's schedule, per a White House official:
We'll also be watching: