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Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios
Early on in the January government shutdown, there was a meeting in the White House Situation Room between President Trump, then-Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, administration staff and congressional leaders from both parties.
So Nielsen, visibly frustrated with Pelosi, turned to Kevin McAleenan, then her deputy (last week, Trump gave him her job). He was sitting along the wall with the other staff, behind the main table.
A senior White House official said Trump "was trying to say Kevin has credibility on the issue and worked in another administration."
Between the lines: It's a bit ironic that Trump's pick to make DHS more aggressive is someone he called "an Obama guy."
Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios
Much of Washington has spent the weekend on pins and needles preparing for this week's release of the Mueller report. But in one particular quarter, people seem quite relaxed.
Behind the scenes: Two of the president's top advisers who will be handling the response to Mueller’s report were watching the Masters when I called them about it this weekend. By all accounts, the president himself is also taking a fairly blasé approach. The subject has barely come up, if at all, in recent senior staff meetings, according to two sources with direct knowledge. And in recent calls to aides and allies, Trump has barely mentioned it.
Another lawyer who has dealt with Mueller's team said, "My guess is, it's probably going to be, when it's put all together by Mueller's team, it's going to look more like obstruction to the casual eye than it might be legally."
What's next: The president's outside legal team will not read the report alongside his White House lawyers. Rather, the two groups of attorneys plan to go through it separately. A senior Trump adviser said the two groups will write separate responses — with the outside response likely more aggressive than the White House's institutional response.
Another source involved in Trump's response told me they haven't decided what they will release in response to the Mueller report. "We have multiple documents," the source said. "No decision on release until we know what we are responding to. May not release anything."
President Trump and King Abdullah II walk the colonnade of the White House, June 25, 2018. Photo: Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Images
In a closed-door meeting with members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last month, King Abdullah II of Jordan said the White House had given him zero visibility into the most fraught part of their peace plan: how it proposes to divide Israeli and Palestinian territory.
Any U.S. peace plan between the Israelis and Palestinians will also impact Jordan, which borders the West Bank, has a majority Palestinian population and has a special status in Jerusalem's holy sites according to the 1994 Israel-Jordan peace treaty.
The sources who were in the room with King Abdullah told me and Alayna that he meets with the committee almost every time he's in D.C., and he usually speaks with caution. But he seemed less so this time, a source in the room said.
A Jordanian official with knowledge of the discussion told Axios: "His Majesty was asked about the plan and said he did not yet see it and therefore cannot comment. He also believes that an economic plan without a political one is not sufficient."
Behind the scenes: Sources with direct knowledge tell Axios that only five or six people in the entire U.S. government have seen the political side of the plan, making it one of few secrets the White House has been able to keep.
Why it matters: The White House's Arab partners who will need to sell a peace deal remain in the dark about its political dimensions.
What's next: The White House peace plan isn't expected to be public before mid-June, and it's unclear if the White House will reveal the whole thing at once. Some on the team, according to sources in touch with them, hope to roll out the economic side first.
A currency trader counts Iranian rial banknotes. Photo: Ali Mohammadi/Bloomberg/Getty Images
Iran's economy has been in free-fall since President Trump withdrew the U.S. from the Iran nuclear deal and reimposed strict sanctions on its government. And the administration's unprecedented move on Monday designating the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a foreign terrorist organization is expected to further damage its economy, Alayna writes.
The big picture: "Our sanctions have denied the regime many billions in revenue that it would otherwise spend on terrorism, missile proliferation, and proxies,” said Brian Hook, who helms Iran policy at the State Department. “The positive effects are increasingly visible. We will continue to use all the tools at our disposal to press the regime to change its destructive policies."
Yes, but: Iran's leaders have shown no signs, so far, that they're willing to concede an inch to the Americans. Most analysts we've spoken to believe the regime can endure even greater stress than they've suffered to date, noting it outlasted long bouts of dire economic conditions since the early 1980s.
What's next: The administration faces a major decision next month. After withdrawing from the nuclear deal, the Trump administration let eight countries keep buying Iranian oil without facing U.S. sanctions. On May 2, the administration will have to decide whether to keep those waivers in place.
Photo: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg/Getty Images
The House and Senate break for a two-week Easter recess.
President Trump's schedule, per a White House official:
Ivanka Trump is in Africa with USAID administrator Mark Green for a "women's economic empowerment summit" with West African leaders in the Ivory Coast, and a "women's economic dialogue at the Africa Union in Ethiopia," per a White House aide. They are there to promote the United States' Women's Global Development and Prosperity (W-GDP) initiative.