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Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

Shortly after word leaked that Kelly Sadler had taken a nasty shot at John McCain, President Trump convened a meeting in the Oval Office for a tiny group of communications staffers, according to sources familiar with the gathering. Sadler, Mercedes Schlapp, Raj Shah, and John Kelly all gathered in front of the Resolute Desk for a conversation with Trump about the leaking problem. They were the only people in the room, though the door to the outer Oval was open. 

What happened: The president told Sadler she wouldn’t be fired for her remark. He added, separately in the conversation, that he’s no fan of McCain. Then Trump, who had grown obsessed with the leaking problem, told Sadler he wanted to know who the leakers were. Sadler then stunned the room: To be completely honest, she said, she thought one of the worst leakers was Schlapp, her boss.

  • Schlapp pushed back aggressively and defended herself in the room. And in follow up conversations after the meeting, some of Schlapp’s colleagues also came to her defense. (In a prior meeting, she had said, "You can put this on the record: I stand with Kelly Sadler"). Sadler went on to name other people she also suspected of being leakers.
  • The allegation — like a previous internal meeting to deal with leaking — ultimately got leaked to us.

Be smart: Trump administration officials have told me that "X is a leaker" has in this White House become synonymous with "I don’t like X." Everyone knows the leaker accusation has become the most powerful weapon you can wield against somebody you don't like, especially to Trump.

  • No one ever says "X leaked Y, and here's the evidence." It's just "X is a leaker."
  • If White House officials had a shred of evidence their colleagues were leakers then the colleagues would be perp walked off the premises immediately. Now, saying it in front of Trump is taking it to the next level.

Go deeper: White House leakers leak about leaking.

Get more stories like this by signing up for our weekly political lookahead newsletter, Axios Sneak Peek. 

Go deeper

Heat dome sends temperatures soaring from Oregon to Louisiana

Forecast maximum temperatures in degrees Fahrenheit on Thursday, July 29, 2021. (WeatherBell)

The Pacific Northwest is once again in the midst of a heat wave after already seeing its worst such event on record this summer. Temperatures are soaring into the low 100s in some areas, while dangerous heat is also affecting the South Central states and Gulf Coast.

Why it matters: The occurrence of yet another heat wave during a drought in the West is ratcheting up wildfire risks. The heat itself is a major public health risk, since extreme heat is typically the biggest annual weather-related cause of mortality in the U.S.

Biden calls on Congress to extend eviction moratorium as deadline looms

Photo: Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

President Biden called on Congress on Thursday to extend the CDC's national eviction moratorium due to the threat of the Delta variant, after the Supreme Court ruled that the administration couldn't extend it past July 31 without specific legislation.

Why it matters: Millions of tenants across the country face the threat of eviction in the coming days. The moratorium was first implemented in September 2020 and extended several times to prevent a wave of evictions caused by pandemic-related economic decline.

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
2 hours ago - Economy & Business

The mental health deal boom

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The positive social media response to Simone Biles withdrawing from Olympic competition highlights how the artificial line between health care and mental health care is finally beginning to dissolve. And startup investors have taken notice.

By the numbers: Venture capital investments in mental health startups rose 72.6% between Q1 2020 and Q1 2021, per CB Insights.