February 12, 2021

Today's newsletter — edited by Glen Johnson — is 519 words, a 2-minute read.

1 big thing: 🇬🇧 Scoop - Team Biden eyes McCain, Flake as ambassadors

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Biden officials are weighing nominating prominent Republicans to ambassadorships — including Cindy McCain and Jeff Flake — to highlight the importance of bipartisanship in U.S. foreign policy, according to people familiar with their thoughts, Axios' Margaret Talev and Hans Nichols report.

Why it matters: President Biden hasn't put any Republicans in his Cabinet, but a move like this would symbolize a return to the Truman-era adage that partisan politics stops "at the water's edge."

  • It also would signal to other nations the Trump era is over, and Biden speaks for all Americans, not just Democrats.

What we are hearing: McCain, the widow of Sen. John McCain, has been discussed for the United Kingdom, while Flake, a former senator from Arizona, has been mentioned for South Africa, as well as postings in Europe.

The potential nominations of two Arizona Republicans who clashed with former President Trump and endorsed Biden also could boost Democrats, signaling a big-tent approach in a once-red state the new president won by some 10,000 votes.

  • Biden aides say it's premature to discuss either name and that no decisions have been made about ambassadorships.

Go deeper.

2. Inside Trump's impeachment defense

Trump defense attorneys Bruce Castor (left) and Michael van der Veen. Photo: Michael Reynolds/EPA/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Donald Trump's legal defense will focus entirely on process, Axios' Alayna Treene has learned.

Why it matters: The attorneys representing the former president know it's fruitless to continue defending his actions preceding the Capitol attack. Instead, they'll say none of that matters because the trial itself is unconstitutional — an argument many Republican senators are ready to embrace.

  • The House impeachment managers homed in Thursday on how Trump repeatedly encouraged violence among his supporters and how it affected not just lawmakers but the largely minority support staff who care for and protect them in the Capitol.

What we're hearing: Trump's lawyers will focus, beginning tomorrow, on four key points about the impeachment:

  1. It’s unconstitutional.
  2. No due process.
  3. Violates First Amendment.
  4. Won’t unify the country.
A compilation of impeachment exhibits is seen in a montage.
A compilation of today's impeachment manager slides. Photo: Congress.gov via Getty Images

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3. White House urged to disclose virtual "visitors"

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Political transparency groups are asking the White House to disclose information about the people who participate in virtual White House meetings, according to a letter obtained by Axios' Lachlan Markay.

Why it matters: Biden has committed to releasing White House visitor logs on a quarterly basis. But good-government advocates say disclosure of in-person meetings isn't sufficient with COVID forcing so much remote work via teleconference.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters last week: "At this point, there’s not a discussion of making virtual meetings a part of what’s released."

  • Virtual meetings "shouldn't serve as an end-run around transparency," said Jordan Libowitz, a spokesperson for Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, one of the letter's signatories.
  • The White House declined to comment on the letter, which was being sent Friday.

Go deeper.

4. Trump's final-year record for regulations

Reproduced from GW Regulatory Studies Center; Chart: Sara Wise/Axios

The Trump administration published a record number of regulations considered economically significant during its final year, spurred on by the coronavirus and a last-minute policy push.

Why it matters: It's hard to know the long-term impact, but any single rule "could entail hundreds of millions, if not billions, of dollars in annual costs and benefits," George Washington University expert Daniel Perez told Axios' Stef Kight.

  • Some will be harder than others for Biden to retract.

Go deeper.

5. Pic du jour

Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

More than a month after the Jan. 6 attack, a pair of workers replace broken glass and make repairs on the main doors leading into the U.S. Capitol Rotunda.

  • Some in the public had suggested the damage remain — as a reminder.

🙏 Thanks for reading. We're going to be off for President's Day week. You can follow impeachment news at Axios.com, and also sign up for email delivery of Sneak and our other free newsletters through this link.