Jun 18, 2019

Behind the scenes of Patrick Shanahan's final Oval Office meeting

Former acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan (L). Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

About half an hour before President Trump tweeted that Patrick Shanahan would no longer be his defense secretary, Shanahan left the Oval Office on Tuesday after finally telling Trump he was pulling out.

Why it matters: As early as this morning some top White House officials were under the impression that Shanahan was still committed to getting himself confirmed as Defense Secretary, according to a senior White House official who was involved in the internal conversations.

  • Yesterday, rumors were flying around that Shanahan had already offered Trump his withdrawal, but White House officials denied that when Axios approached them.
  • Today, Yahoo News and USA Today published more details about allegations of domestic violence from Shanahan's divorce records.

Behind the scenes: Shanahan came to the White House late morning and discussed his situation with Trump.

  • Top staff in the room for the meeting included chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, White House counsel Pat Cipollone, national security adviser John Bolton, press secretary Sarah Sanders and deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley, per a source with direct knowledge.
  • Shanahan told Trump that he didn't want to be a distraction for the Department of Defense or for the president and it would be better for the president and better for his own family if he were to withdraw his own nomination, said a source with direct knowledge of the conversation.
  • Shanahan said the domestic abuse allegations from his divorce records would be "a distraction," the source said.
  • Trump told Shanahan he would support him either way and wasn't pressuring him to drop out, the source added.
  • After Shanahan left the room, Trump discussed with his staff how he would announce the decision, the source added. Trump decided he wanted to announce Mark Esper as acting secretary of Defense and would do so via tweet. Trump has a good rapport with Esper, who is close to Trump confidants David Urban and Mike Pompeo. (Esper was in Pompeo's and Urban's West Point class.)

Between the lines: The White House Counsel's Office and other top White House officials have known about Shanahan's divorce records for more than a month, according to White House sources. But Trump told reporters he first found out about the domestic abuse allegations yesterday.

Go deeper

Federal judge strikes down Florida law requiring felons to pay fines before voting

Gov. Ron DeSantis. Photo: oe Raedle/Getty Images

A federal judge on Sunday ruled that a Florida law requiring convicted felons to pay all court fines and fees before registering to vote is unconstitutional.

Why it matters: The ruling, which will likely be appealed by state Republicans, would clear the way for hundreds of thousands of ex-felons in Florida to register to vote ahead of November's election.

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 5:30 p.m. ET: 5,375,648 — Total deaths: 343,721 — Total recoveries — 2,149,412Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 5:30 p.m. ET: 1,639,872 — Total deaths: 97,599 — Total recoveries: 361,239 — Total tested: 13,784,786Map.
  3. World: White House announces travel restrictions on Brazil, coronavirus hotspot in Southern Hemisphere Over 100 coronavirus cases in Germany tied to single day of church services — Boris Johnson backs top aide amid reports that he broke U.K. lockdown while exhibiting symptoms.
  4. Public health: Officials are urging Americans to wear masks headed into Memorial Day weekend Report finds "little evidence" coronavirus under control in most statesHurricanes, wildfires, the flu could strain COVID-19 response
  5. Economy: White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett says it's possible the unemployment rate could still be in double digits by November's election — Public employees brace for layoffs.
  6. Federal government: Trump attacks a Columbia University study that suggests earlier lockdown could have saved 36,000 American lives.
  7. What should I do? Hydroxychloroquine questions answeredTraveling, asthma, dishes, disinfectants and being contagiousMasks, lending books and self-isolatingExercise, laundry, what counts as soap — Pets, moving and personal healthAnswers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingHow to minimize your risk.
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it, the right mask to wear.

Subscribe to Mike Allen's Axios AM to follow our coronavirus coverage each morning from your inbox.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

White House announces new coronavirus travel restrictions on Brazil

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro with Trump, March 19, 2019. Photo: Jim Lo Scalzo-Pool via Getty Images

The White House announced that beginning at 11:59 pm ET on Thursday, President Trump would suspend entry of non-U.S. citizens who have been in Brazil in the past 14 days in an effort to stop the imported spread of the coronavirus.

Why it matters: Brazil has reported nearly 350,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus — the second-most in the world behind the U.S. — and has emerged as a Southern Hemisphere hotspot as other heavily affected countries in Asia and Europe have managed to get their outbreaks under control.