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AP

On Day 120 of the Trump presidency, Russia has become the administration's unintended but self-imposed mood music and narrative arc — sucking bandwith, draining esprit, looming as a potential calamity.

The price and opportunity cost have already been high — in time, in credibility, in possibility.

And it may just be starting.

Legal scholar Jonathan Turley pointed out on Fox News that the Mueller miniseries may run for years.

The mood among some top Republicans is turning to anger: So much has been squandered. "The damage to the agenda is permanent," said a Republican working to pass Trump's plans.

Et tu, Putin? In an article headlined, "Russia Grows Anxious Over U.S. Political Chaos Engulfing Trump," Bloomberg reports: "Trump's presidency appears hijacked by the U.S. obsession with Russia, one senior Kremlin official said. ... [H]is fate looks increasingly uncertain to Kremlin policy makers."

The Mueller appointment could have been used as a temporary lifeline — an excuse to fence The Swamp, and try to get lawmakers and journalists to focus on Trump's plans, at least until findings emerged.

Several top operatives gave me a similar plan of attack. You'd say: "I'm happy Robert Mueller is going to get to the bottom of this. He's perfect for the job, and I'm eager to cooperate." Then say no more. When you're asked about Russia, point the questioner to your previous statement, then talk about tax reform.

Instead, after a restrained statement when Mueller was named Wednesday evening, the president tweeted the next morning: "This is the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history!"

Asked about the special counsel at an East Room presser yesterday, Trump said: "I respect the move, but the entire thing has been a witch hunt. ... I think it divides the country."

At 2:10 p.m. today, Air Force One takes off from Joint Base Andrews to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, for a nine-day trip that will also take the President to Israel, Italy and Belgium.

Be smart: Absent a gaffe, American presidents always look bigger on the world stage. Trump aides hope this will be the beginning of a reset. One big problem: The Swamp awaits.

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Go deeper

Dion Rabouin, author of Markets
54 mins ago - Economy & Business

The European Central Bank and the market's moment of truth

ECB president Christine Lagarde; Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The biggest event for markets this week will be Thursday's meeting of the European Central Bank's governing council and the press conference following it from ECB president Christine Lagarde.

Why it matters: With interest rates jumping around the globe, investors are looking to central bank heads to see if they will follow the lead of Fed chair Jerome Powell, who says rising rates are nothing to worry about, or Bank of Japan governor Haruhiko Kuroda, who has drawn a line in the sand on rates.

Mike Allen, author of AM
2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Manchin's next power play

Photo: "Axios on HBO"

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), America's ultimate swing voter, told me on "Axios on HBO" that he'll insist Republicans have more of a voice on President Biden's next big package than they did on the COVID stimulus.

The big picture: Manchin said he'll push for tax hikes to pay for Biden's upcoming infrastructure and climate proposal, and will use his Energy Committee chairmanship to force the GOP to confront climate reality.

Why picking a jury for the Derek Chauvin trial is so hard

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The tough task of selecting a jury for former MPD officer Derek Chauvin's trial for the killing of George Floyd is set to begin Monday.

The state of play: "This case may be the most highly publicized criminal trial in a long time. ... That means that it's harder to find people who really have an open mind," Richard Frase, University of Minnesota Law School professor of criminal law, told Axios.