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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

Updated 13 hours ago - Sports

The potential GOAT of chess faces intriguing challenger

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The World Chess Championship between Norway's Magnus Carlsen and Russia's Ian Nepomniachtchi began on Friday, 1,094 days after Carlsen won his fourth consecutive title.

Why it matters: During the long, COVID-fueled layoff, chess entered a new era, and with the championship finally here, the age-old game is ready for its close-up.

Department of Interior proposes raising cost of drilling on public lands

A horizontal drilling rig and a pump jack sit on federal land in Lea County, New Mexico. Photo: Callaghan O'Hare/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Oil and gas companies should pay more to drill on federal lands and waters, the Department of the Interior argued in a report released Friday, saying that the current rates were "outdated."

Driving the news: The Department of Interior report said that the federal government's oil and gas leasing and permitting program "fails to provide a fair return to taxpayers, even before factoring in the resulting climate-related costs that must be borne by taxpayers."

15 hours ago - Health

U.S. to restrict air travel from 8 countries over new COVID variant concerns

A COVID-19 vaccine is administered. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The U.S. will impose new air travel restrictions in response to the Omicron variant, a new COVID strain first detected in South Africa, President Biden announced Friday.

The big picture: Air travel from South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi will be restricted starting on Monday.