Welcome to Sneak Peek, our weekly lookahead for both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue. I'd love your tips and feedback: firstname.lastname@example.org. And please urge your friends and colleagues to join the conversation by signing up for Sneak Peek.
Situational awareness: Trump, at Morristown airport in New Jersey around 4:20 p.m. ET, quoted by pool duty reporter Todd Gillman of the Dallas Morning News: "We are close to making a decision [on the Supreme Court.] It's, well, let's just say it's the four people. Every one you can't go wrong. I'll be deciding tonight or tomorrow sometime by 12 o'clock and we're all gonna be meeting at 9 o'clock. And we have a great country, folks."
Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios
At the end of last week, one of Washington’s most battle-hardened and sought-after lawyers forecast an ominous future for the Trump administration. We thought the lawyer's analysis — told to Mike Allen and me — was worth reproducing in full as it echoes what we're hearing from other attorneys in close touch with Trump's White House.
The big picture: "The Pruitt situation should be a warning sign to the administration about what will happen if the Democrats take the House."
Between the lines: "Pruitt’s ultimate downfall came from the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee agreeing on a bipartisan basis to summon his staffers in for transcribed interviews. The Pruitt 'team' fell apart when he could no longer protect them and they had to hire their own lawyers, turn over documents and answer questions under penalty of perjury."
What's next: "Imagine a world where the constraints are gone and every agency is fair game. That is what may be coming and it will completely immobilize the Administration’s immigration agenda and deregulatory agenda. And the smart aides will leave quickly rather than subject themselves to potentially ruinous legal bills."
But the principle remains: Another top Washington lawyer pointed out that this cycle is entirely predictable, and repeats itself over and over when one chamber is taken over by the opposition party.
The bottom line: This second lawyer, who is familiar with the inner workings of the Trump White House, told us there is "no way" that this "disorganized and dysfunctional bunch" is adequately prepared for the inevitable legal and investigatory onslaught should Democrats win the House in November.
Photo: Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images
President Trump is trolling everyone. Either that or he's genuinely undecided, right up until the final day before he announces, in a prime-time address on Monday night, who he's picked to replace Anthony Kennedy on the Supreme Court.
Sources who've spoken to the president over the past 24 hours tell me, as of Sunday afternoon, that he still truly hasn't made up his mind and is still vacillating in phone calls to friends and advisers between his "final four" judges: Brett Kavanaugh, Amy Coney Barrett, Thomas Hardiman and Raymond Kethledge.
What we're hearing: Kavanaugh has always been the frontrunner — and is a favorite of White House Counsel Don McGahn — but Trump has been mentioning Hardiman more frequently over the past few days.
White House staff — even at a very senior level — have been given no guidance on who Trump has chosen and those who've discussed the decision with him are genuinely of the view that he hasn't made up his mind.
But, but, but: Don't discount the possibility that Trump has made up his mind — or all but done so — and is simply enjoying keeping everyone, even those closest to him, guessing. A source who spent a lot of time talking to Trump during last year's Neil Gorsuch confirmation told me "he loved the drama and theatrics of the announcement where no one knew before he revealed Gorsuch in the East Room."
Behind the scenes: Trump has chosen an interesting cast of characters to surround himself with for his final hours of deliberation. The president spent the weekend hanging at his New Jersey golf club with friends and aides, including Fox News host Sean Hannity, former Fox News co-president Bill Shine (who recently joined the White House in a senior role), chief of staff John Kelly and son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner.
Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images
I fly to Europe this week to cover President Trump as he meets with NATO allies in Brussels, Theresa May in London, then Helsinki for his first one-on-one summit with Russia's Vladimir Putin.
Senior European officials have told Mike Allen and me they are worried about three things:
Behind the scenes: Senior officials from NATO member nations have told us that Trump administration officials, including Defense Secretary Mattis, have sought to reassure them leading into the summit.
Between the lines: The European officials we’ve spoken to would love nothing more than for Trump to take a victory lap and claim credit for them boosting their defense spending. (Anything to avoid divisive scenes in Brussels that would make Putin’s day.) And they would love to believe these reassuring words from Trump administration officials.
The bottom line: But we've yet to speak to a NATO member official who feels confident that Trump will actually say what his aides say he will say. And that's a uniquely severe problem for foreign officials dealing with this administration.
President Trump and British Prime Minister Theresa May at the G7 summit last year. Photo: Jonathan Ernst/AFP/Getty Images
Watch for European leaders to make moves to — hopefully, in their minds — charm and disarm Trump during his consequential visits to the NATO summit and to the United Kingdom for his first visit there.
The Brits have arranged Trump’s visit to the United Kingdom with the apparent goal of keeping him as far as possible from the massive protests against him being planned in central London.
Between the lines: European officials tell me they're setting a low bar for their meetings with Trump. In their wildest dreams, he'd enthusiastically endorse the NATO alliance, commit to staying the course in Syria, and speak out boldly against Russian aggression. But they'll happily settle for none of that, so long as Trump keeps his ally-bashing to a minimum.
Europe is already deeply divided between populist nationalists — some of whom flirt with Vladimir Putin — and globalists who defend multilateral institutions and view Russia as an enemy.
Ivo Daalder, the former U.S. Ambassador to NATO and coauthor of the upcoming book "The Empty Throne: America Abdicates its Global Leadership," tells me he worries Trump will side with the nationalist leaders and hand Putin a win this week.
The bottom line: Daalder laid out his nightmare image — an image I've heard privately described by European officials over the past few weeks: "I can see the picture: Trump being chummy with the nationalists and Merkel, Macron, May and Trudeau on the other side of the room. Making the divide visual."
Photo: Jesco Denzel /Bundesregierung via Getty Images
Trump often saves his harshest words for Germany and its leader Angela Merkel — and their feud could explode this week at the NATO summit.
Trump has perfected what European officials describe as a 10-minute monologue on what he views as Germany's major sins: unfair trade with the U.S. (especially on cars), inadequate defense spending, and loose immigration policy leading to an invasion of radical Islamists.
Between the lines: Merkel is politically weak, domestically, and Trump has been exploiting this situation. He's been hammering away at her for months, saying that he thinks it's hypocritical that Germany views Russia as a bad actor worth confronting and yet at the same time spends a paltry amount on its defense and appears eager to purchase Russian gas.
The big picture: To illuminate how the German political establishment is grappling with a new aggressive America under Trump, I interviewed Karen Donfried, president of the German Marshall Fund of the United States and former senior director for European affairs in Obama's National Security Council.
"Strategic patience" vs. "strategic autonomy": "You had one group that argued robustly that Germany should be exercising strategic patience," she said. "They see Donald Trump as a singular U.S. president and, whether he serves one or two terms, that after that presidency the pendulum would swing back to a United States that exercises a more traditional relationship to its European allies."
The bottom line: "Now, those in the second camp would admit that they are far from being strategically autonomous in 2018 but that that's where their focus should be rather than on limiting damage for a day when the pendulum swings back and the U.S. assumes a more traditional role."
What's next? "You've seen the European Union create — the acronym is PESCO — a permanent structured cooperation on security and defense. And the French have put forward an idea for a European Intervention Initiative, where they're trying to bring together a smaller number of European countries to focus on building up more robust military capabilities that would allow the Europeans to intervene militarily on their own."
The House will pass its Intelligence Authorization Act — setting the funding levels for the U.S. intelligence community.
The Senate will confirm three more nominees, per a leadership source:
President Trump will announce his pick for Supreme Court justice in a televised address on Monday at 9 p.m. ET. He'll then head to Europe for the NATO summit in Brussels, his bilateral talks with British PM Theresa May, and Helsinki for his meeting with Vladimir Putin.
Photo: Kobi Gideon/GPO via Getty Images
My colleague Barak Ravid reports on the Axios stream that Israel has presented the Trump administration with its "red lines" for the nuclear deal the United States is currently negotiating with Saudi Arabia to build reactors in the kingdom.
The big picture: A senior Israeli official told Ravid the Israeli government realized it will not be able to stop the deal — set to be worth billions of dollars for the U.S. — and decided instead to attempt to reach an understanding with the Trump administration regarding the parameters of the deal.