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Andrew Harnik / AP

Operation Normal achieved supremacy yesterday β€” and a new phase of Trump's presidency begins.

Sound smart: conservatives should have seen this coming. Trump goes where the applause is loudest. If that means being a full-throated birther, fine! If that means inciting hysterics about Mexicans, game on! If that means hugging NATO or smiling at corporate cronyism, Trump's your man! It would be a hoot if he came full circle and morphed into Michael Bloomberg.

The list of his shifts:

  • Centrist forces led by Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump were ascendant, now are dominant.
  • Trump's salvo in the N.Y. Post was an invitation for Steve Bannon to change his approach, or resign.
  • Trump changed his stances on NATO, Chinese currency and the Ex-Im Bank. (White House officials say he's not reversing himself β€” these targets are hearing his concerns and coming his way.)
  • SecState Rex Tillerson was finally in the spotlight.
  • All this follows the successful Xi meeting at Mar-a-Lago, and the Syrian intervention over Bannon's objection.

Where all this could lead: Nicholas Burns, former Under Secretary of State, to Brian Williams on MSNBC:

"If you think back, Brian, to Henry Kissinger's famous triangulation in 1972, the opening to China: It was strengthening our relationship with China in order to leverage the ... Soviets, in many ways. ... Time after time in the last few days, we've seen very tough rhetoric by Rex Tillerson against the Russians ... So, a very tough line against Russia. A very soft, friendly, conciliatory line against China. ... I think Trump feels he's got an opening with China and really not much business to do with Putin at this time."

The coverage: N.Y. Times front page, "Wall Street Wing Seems to Be Edging Populists" ... WashPost front page, "Trump backs off fiscal pledges and adopts centrist policies that he once fought" ... Wall Street Journal p. A6, "Trump Voices NATO Commitment ... President makes sharp break in rhetoric from his campaign."

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Go deeper

Oath Keepers leader denied bail on Capitol riot sedition charge

Oath Keepers co-founder Elmer Stewart Rhodes. Photo: Susan Walsh/AP

A federal judge ordered Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes to remain jailed Wednesday until trial on charges stemming from the Capitol riot.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Kimberly Priest Johnson e in the t figure charged in the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection had access to weapons and his alleged "continued advocacy for violence against the federal government" gave credence to prosecutors' view that, if released, Rhodes could endanger others.

GOP to use Supreme Court fight to target vulnerable Dems

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Conservatives know they're unlikely to stop President Biden from filling a Supreme Court vacancy, but they plan to target Senate Democrats who face competitive re-election fights and are all but certain to vote for the successor to Justice Stephen Breyer.

Between the lines: The general strategy will be to tie those Democrats to positions seen as political liabilities in states like Arizona, Georgia and New Hampshire, where incumbents are seeking re-election this year, an operative briefed on early strategy talks told Axios.

4 hours ago - World

U.S. and NATO answer Putin in writing while bracing for Ukraine invasion

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg. Photo: Dursun Aydemir/Anadolu Agency via Getty

The U.S. and NATO provided Russia with written proposals on Wednesday to advance a "diplomatic path forward," even as they warned that Russia could invade Ukraine within days.

Why it matters: This is a delicate diplomatic balancing act. The U.S. and NATO want to show they're serious about diplomacy but unwilling to compromise on "core principles" β€” all without providing Vladimir Putin with an additional pretext for escalation.