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Photo: Paul Morigi/WireImage

A scene that caught the attention of West Wing officials and national security lawyers today: Omarosa let NBC's "Meet the Press" host Chuck Todd play tapes of White House chief of staff John Kelly, whom she secretly recorded while he was firing her.

Why this matters: It's extraordinary enough to secretly record a White House colleague and then play the tape on television. But it's even more stunning that the conversation happened in the Situation Room — the most secure area in the West Wing, reserved for the most sensitive conversations, many of them dealing with highly classified intelligence.

Behind the scenes: I spoke to several Trump officials who've spent time in the SitRoom. They say Kelly and the White House lawyers — especially Uttam Dhillon, who was recently appointed to head the Drug Enforcement Administration — used the SitRoom to talk with staff they were accusing of serious breaches, including problems with their clearances.

  • You have to lie and intentionally subvert the rules to get a recording device into the SitRoom, which is actually a group of several secure meeting rooms.
  • When White House officials enter the secure area — after getting buzzed in while a security officer watches through a keyhole camera — they immediately enter a lobby with a wall of lockers. They are required to put their phones and any other electronic devices, like Apple watches, in the lockers. They hold onto the locker key while they take their meeting in one of the conference rooms.
  • In the recording Omarosa played on "Meet the Press," Kelly refuses to elaborate on the "pretty serious integrity violations" he tells her she committed.

The bottom line: Omarosa says Kelly threatened her and she made her secret recording to protect herself. And to be clear: the conversation was not classified, meaning she may not have broken federal law. But national security lawyers I've spoken to say it’s nonetheless disturbing.

  • Josh Geltzer, who was a senior director for counterterrorism in Obama's NSC, told me: "Bringing a recording device into a secure facility like the SitRoom is wildly in violation of protocol. Devices like that represent vulnerabilities that hostile actors can exploit to hear sensitive conversations — that's why they're kept out so strictly in the first place."

Go deeper

By the numbers: Where the earmarks are wanted

Expand chart
Data: House Committee on Appropriations; Chart: Danielle Alberti/Axios

The Dallas-Fort Worth area is being targeted for the largest collective earmark request in the country, according to a detailed breakdown of overall requests released by the House Appropriations Committee.

Why it matters: House appropriators are trying to balance bipartisan momentum for infrastructure investment with "pork-barrel" spending's checkered political history. The data dump is an effort to provide transparency for what are now termed "community project funding" requests.

Democrats open to user fees for infrastructure deal

President Biden sits Thursday with Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) as they discuss his $2.3 trillion infrastructure proposal. Photo: T.J. Kirkpatrick/The New York Times/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Some Senate Democrats are open to paying for a compromise infrastructure package by imposing user fees, including increasing the gas tax and raising money from electric car drivers through a vehicle-miles-traveled charge.

Why it matters: By inching toward the Republican position on pay-fors, some Democrats are bucking President Biden's push to offset his proposed $2.3 trillion plan by focusing only on raising taxes on corporations and the wealthy.

Progressive legal advocacy group spinning off from sponsor

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

A leading progressive legal advocacy group is spinning off from the sprawling dark money network that seeded it, the group tells Axios.

Why it matters: Demand Justice's decision to separate from the Sixteen Thirty Fund, a "fiscal sponsor" for scores of largely left-wing organizations, will provide the public with its first detailed look behind the curtain of the influential progressive nonprofit.