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Photo: "Axios on HBO"

Chatting confidently about what he'd do as commander-in-chief, Pete Buttigieg told me for "Axios on HBO" that he "wouldn't put it past" President Trump to allow the border "to become worse in order to have it be a more divisive issue, so that he could benefit politically."

What he's saying: "The president needs this crisis to get worse, even though it makes a liar out of him," Buttigieg said at his campaign HQ in South Bend, Ind. "I don't think he's worried about that. ... I don't think he cares if it gets better. But he certainly doesn't benefit from comprehensively fixing the problem."

Mayor Pete is surfing the unique euphoria of a surging presidential campaign:

  • So on the cusp of the first debate 10 days from now, the idea of this intellectual 37-year-old as commander-in-chief is no longer as far-fetched.
  • Last week, when he outlined his foreign policy vision ("America and the World in 2054: Reimagining National Security for a New Era”), he spoke in front of a pointedly presidential eight American flags.

Here's more of what he told "Axios on HBO"...

Buttigieg suffered depression after deployment:

  • Mayor Pete says that although he wasn't diagnosed with PTSD after returning from Afghanistan after a seven-month deployment in 2014, "there's a level of depression ... that I went through when I came back."
  • It lasted about a year. "Of course, it's the effect of having been exposed to danger," he said. "I think, also, some moral pressure ... Any time, in any way, you are even remotely involved in killing, it takes something out of you, and it takes a lot of work to process that."
  • Watch the clip.

Buttigieg "almost certain" we've had gay presidents:

  • Asked about likely attacks from Republicans, the mayor said that "we've probably had excellent presidents who were gay — we just didn't know which ones. ... I mean, statistically it's almost certain."
  • So, who? "My gaydar doesn't even work that well in the present, let alone retroactively."
  • Watch the clip.

Buttigieg wouldn't move the U.S. embassy in Israel:

  • Asked if he'd move the the embassy back to Tel Aviv from Jerusalem, the mayor replied: "I think what's done is done. ... Look, we need a big-picture strategy on the Middle East. I don't know that we'd gain much by moving it to Tel Aviv."
  • So Trump did the right thing by moving the embassy? "I didn't say that," Buttigieg shot back.
  • "Here's the problem with what he did. ... [Y]ou don't do that without getting some kind of concession. Instead, we've seen the Israeli government continue to act in ways that are detrimental to peace."
  • Watch the clip.

Go deeper: Pete Buttigieg on the issues, in under 500 words

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Go deeper

Biden embarks on a consequential presidency

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Donald Trump tried everything to delegitimize the rival who vanquished him. In reality, he's set Joe Biden on course to be a far more consequential U.S. president than he might otherwise have become.

The big picture: President Biden now confronts not just a pandemic, but massive political divisions and an assault on truth — and the aftermath of the assault on the Capitol two weeks ago that threatened democracy itself.

Updated 21 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Inauguration Day dashboard

U.S. Capitol and stage are lit at sunrise ahead of the inauguration of Joe Biden. Photo: Patrick Semansky - Pool/Getty Images

President Biden has delivered his inaugural address at the Capitol, calling for an end to the politics as total war but warning that "we have far to go" to heal the country.

What's next: Representatives from all branches of the military escort the 46th president to the White House.

Inaugural address: Biden vows to be "a president for all Americans"

Moments after taking the oath of office, President Biden sought to soothe a nation riven by political divisions and a global pandemic, while warning that "we have far to go" to heal the country and defeat a "virus that silently stalks the the country."

Why it matters: From the same steps that a pro-Trump mob launched an assault on Congress two weeks earlier, the new president paid deference to the endurance of American political institutions.