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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios
Top officials inside the White House have taken their first steps to prepare for an onslaught of investigations if Democrats win the House. According to a source with direct knowledge:
Why this matters: Polls show Republicans will probably lose the House in November. And Trump's team, including the understaffed White House Counsel's Office, must batten down the hatches for an onslaught from the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue.
What they're saying: Over the past month, my colleague Evan Ryan and I have been interviewing lawyers who worked in the Obama and Clinton White Houses. We wanted to find out what it's like being inside a White House when the opposite party controls Congress and trains its investigative fire on the president.
"Subpoenas flowing into a White House create paralysis," said Neil Eggleston, who was Obama’s White House counsel and an associate counsel in the Clinton administration.
The big picture: Lawyers from previous White Houses mostly agreed on one thing: The better analogy for what's coming for Trump is not the Obama White House, but Clinton's.
The bottom line: For the most part, the staff who work in the Trump West Wing — beyond the Counsel's Office — have no idea what may be coming for them. But senior staff are now finally preparing for a tough new normal under House Democrats.
Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images
Here are the looming legal dangers for the Trump White House, foreseen by former White House lawyers interviewed by Evan Ryan and me:
1. Compartmentalization: One reason Bill Clinton survived a presidency of investigations was, according to his former staff, his almost supernatural ability to compartmentalize. He put the investigations in a psychic and literal box: A separate team handled them, from a communications war room to his lawyers. Clinton avoided publicly discussing the scandals.
Compare that to Trump. The president relishes discussing the Mueller probe, not only with his staff but on Twitter and in public interviews.
2. Legal talent: Whoever ends up replacing McGahn as White House counsel "needs to put together what is in effect the best litigation and investigation law firm in this city," Bill Clinton's White House Counsel Jack Quinn told us.
3. Competent and focused investigators: Incompetent, distracted and overzealous Republican congressional investigators helped both the Clinton and Obama administrations survive years of aggressive oversight.
The bottom line: Obama's White House Counsel Bob Bauer, who has thought considerably about these pitfalls and opportunities, told Axios: "An impeachment process is a legal process, and to defend against the inevitable political attacks, it must be carefully structured and well-presented to the public."
Attorney Michael Avenatti. Photo: Ethan Miller/Getty Images
Michael Avenatti was a hot conversation topic Saturday night at Trump Hotel, where administration officials gathered for happy hour with advisers from the outside groups who poured money and energy into confirming Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.
At one point in the evening, a senior person at one of the outside groups joked that Avenatti might have been on the Republican payroll. "You guys put Avenatti up to it, right?" the person said, according to a source at the party.
I asked Avenatti on Sunday what he made of this criticism. "This is complete garbage," he said, "and reflects an effort by the Republicans to discredit me in light of the comments recently made by Steve Bannon and others. They are threatened by me and rightfully should be."
Donald Trump speaks during a rally at the Kansas Expocenter on Oct. 6. Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images
President Trump is in full midterm campaign mode, with rallies in three states this week.
Behind the scenes: Trump has been asking staff for months to amp up his political travel. He said earlier this year he wanted to campaign "six or seven days a week" for Republicans, but according to a source with direct knowledge, the Secret Service wasn't thrilled with that idea.
Two very disturbing international stories that will dominate Washington this week:
1. Alleged murder of Saudi journalist: "Turkey has concluded that Jamal Khashoggi, a prominent journalist from Saudi Arabia, was killed in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul last week by a Saudi team sent “specifically for the murder,” two people with knowledge of the probe said Saturday," per WashPost. (Saudi Arabia’s consul-general told Reuters on Saturday his country was helping search for Khashoggi, and he dismissed talk of his possible abduction.)
2. China detains anti-corruption leader: "The Chinese Communist Party announced late Sunday that the missing president of Interpol, Meng Hongwei, was under investigation on 'suspicion of violating the law' and was 'under the supervision' of an anticorruption watchdog tied to the party," per the NYT.
The House is on recess until the midterm elections.
The Senate will vote to advance on a Water Infrastructure bill that has already passed the House, and they'll vote to confirm three of Trump's nominees:
President Trump's schedule, per a White House official:
Derrick Lewis (top) beats on Alexander Volkov of Russia to a knock out on Oct. 6. Photo: Harry How/Getty Images
While Hollywood mourns the Kavanaugh confirmation, another group of entertainers seems surprisingly enthusiastic about the happenings in Washington. This weekend, two UFC fighters gave shout-outs to the Trump administration after winning mixed martial arts fights.
But that's not all. Lewis wasn’t the only UFC fighter to wax political this weekend after knocking out an opponent. Nik Lentz, a vocal Trump supporter, praised the newest Supreme Court justice in his post-fight interview.
Between the lines: UFC President Dana White, who has been a staunch Trump booster for years, spoke at the RNC and recently told The Hill he will never say anything bad about the president. And Trump’s relationship with the sport goes back decades. When mixed martial arts was largely relegated to the cultural fringe, Vice reports that Trump helped it “take its first step into cultural legitimacy in the U.S., opening the doors of his Trump Taj Mahal casino in Atlantic City to the UFC on November 17, 2000.”