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Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios
In President Trump's view, self-driving cars are a menace to society. A skeptic of cutting-edge technology — as his tweets about Boeing's "complex" planes emphasized — Trump has privately said he thinks the autonomous vehicle (AV) revolution is "crazy" and that he'd never let a computer drive him around.
Why it matters: Most Americans share Trump's view: 71% of U.S. drivers would be afraid to ride in a self-driving vehicle, per AAA. Yet his own administration is encouraging AV development by removing barriers and issuing voluntary guidance instead of regulations. And we see no evidence Trump has imposed his personal views on the policy process.
Behind the scenes: In conversations on Air Force One and in the White House, Trump has acted out scenes of self-driving cars veering out of control and crashing into walls. He's said he doesn't think autonomous vehicles make sense, according to four sources who've heard him discuss the subject.
In one of the early 2017 meetings with CEOs in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, Elon Musk and Trump shared a lighthearted exchange about Tesla's "Autopilot" technology. Trump told Musk he preferred traditional cars, according to a source who was in the room.
While Trump is in no hurry to see automated vehicles, Chao is actively promoting the technology.
The bottom line: Currently, there are no federal regulations on self-driving cars — just a hodgepodge of state rules.
Between the lines: A source who has discussed autonomous vehicles with Trump says he thinks it wouldn't take much for the president to rapidly reverse his administration's hands-off approach to hands-free vehicles. Trump already calls self-driving cars out-of-control death traps, so any news fueling that fear could jolt him into action.
Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios
Since taking office and replacing his Rolls-Royce with an armored Cadillac called "the Beast," Trump seems to have spent more time thinking about cars than any other industrial sector, per aides past and present.
Why it matters: Trump wants to restore American auto manufacturing to what he considers its mid-20th-century greatness, according to aides. But his ideas for saving the industry are creating angst for its top execs.
Over many months, I've interviewed sources who've discussed the auto industry with the president. And my colleague Joann Muller, who is based in Detroit and has covered the auto industry for 20 years, has been talking to industry executives about Trump's policies.
As with most relationships, it's complicated:
Now Trump is threatening to slap 25% tariffs on imported vehicles and car parts — which no one in the industry has asked for. As we've previously reported, most of Trump's senior economic advisers — with the notable exception of Peter Navarro — think new car tariffs are a terrible idea.
Trump's bargaining chips have expensive implications for the auto industry — and for consumers. Ford CEO James Hackett said last September that Trump's steel tariffs would cost the automaker about $1 billion in profits.
"There are 137,000 Americans who design, build, sell and maintain American-built Toyota vehicles. They deserve to know if they’re a security threat. And consumers need to know if their costs for American-made vehicles are going to go up."— James Lentz, CEO, Toyota Motor North America
Over the past two years, Trump has latched onto all kinds of ideas he thought would help the car industry. But the auto industry asked for almost none of them.
One backdoor move that died: making foreign car companies adhere to higher fuel economy standards than American companies.
Unwinding Obama-era fuel economy standards is popular with conservatives, but the auto industry is wary.
The bottom line: "There's political uncertainty everywhere you look, which is worse than any technological uncertainty because it has a chilling effect on investments," John Bozzella, president and CEO of the Association of Global Automakers, told Joann.
Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images
Rudy Giuliani has vanished from your television. The last time the president's once-ubiquitous attack dog did a major TV appearance was on Sunday, Jan. 20, when he went on NBC's "Meet the Press" and CNN's "State of the Union."
Between the lines: Sources familiar with Giuliani's thinking say he views a major part of his job as trying to undermine public confidence in the Mueller probe and harden the support of Republican voters for Trump to protect him against impeachment. So for Giuliani to stay off TV for an extended stretch is odd.
Instead, Giuliani tripped over himself, saying the Trump Tower Moscow talks may have lasted up until November 2016. The claim was both unhelpful and, in the White House's view, incorrect.
Since that weekend, the president's most prominent lawyer has kept his head down. He has only made one on-camera appearance: a March 8 hit on the streaming channel of the Washington newspaper The Hill, where he said Paul Manafort's surprisingly short jail sentence was fair.
Giuliani's response: When I asked Giuliani about all of this, he texted that he has spent hours with Trump in the last month and hasn't heard any complaints about his TV appearances from the president.
Giuliani said he decided to stay off TV so as "not to upset the apple cart, not to create unnecessary, additional, needless friction" with the Mueller team.
I asked the president's lawyer if he thought this brief cease-fire would have a meaningful effect on the Mueller report, given that Giuliani has attacked Mueller and his team relentlessly for the previous year.
Screenshot: CBS' "Face the Nation."
On today's episode of CBS' "Face the Nation," host Margaret Brennan pressed White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney on Donald Trump's history of anti-Muslim rhetoric.
The key exchange:
Behind the scenes: We often hear this exact line from administration officials as justification for Trump's rhetoric: "Take the words and put them in one category and take the actions and put them in another." A senior European government official told me former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis often used the same line privately with allies to try to assuage their concerns about Trump.
Photo: Keith Brofsky/Getty Images
The House and Senate are on recess.
President Trump's schedule, per a White House official:
Photo: Matthew Busch/Getty Images
Donald Trump is a car nut. And people who've worked for him say he's always been particular about which cars he likes to drive, who he likes to drive him around, and which right-wing talk radio hosts he likes to listen to in the car.
Behind the scenes: On some Fridays during the 2016 campaign, Trump would hop in his Rolls-Royce and drive from Trump Tower in Manhattan to one of his nearby golf clubs.
Before he became the Republican nominee and got his Secret Service detail, Trump would sometimes just go for a cruise. "He'd be driven into a TV studio to record an interview and he'd say afterwards, 'Let's drive a couple blocks and listen to the radio.'" By radio, he meant right-wing talk shows: Rush, Sean Hannity, sometimes conservative Mark Levin in the evenings, and sometimes provocateur Michael Savage.
Between the lines: Over the past decade, Trump has spent countless hours honing his feel for the Republican base by listening to right-wing talk radio on his drives.
As president, Trump still loves driving past the lines of people on the street on the way to rallies. "Let's turn the lights on so they can see me," he sometimes says, according to a source familiar. A White House source who's joined him for car rides told me Trump likes to recognize the people who wait in line for hours to see him — plus, he craves the attention.
During the early days of the campaign, before getting Secret Service protection, Trump would ride in the front seat. People used to chase the car with MAGA hats, photos of him and other memorabilia. He would open the window at stop lights and sign things or he'd tell the driver to pull over.
Trump chafed when Secret Service ended these impromptu stops. "We've lost the magic," he'd gripe. As president riding in his armored Cadillac, he'll say, "Come on let me out. They'll go crazy. ... Stop the car for one second and open the door." They always say no.