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Alex Brandon / AP

Friends and colleagues say President Trump, chief strategist Steve Bannon and policy guru Stephen Miller think they're off to a terrific start. They see complaints about the travel ban as media misinformation and hype — amplified by Republicans they don't like and that they know will never like them.

On a conference call with reporters last night, a senior administration official said: "It really is a massive success story in terms of implementation on every single level."

And asked about the softening yesterday of the administration's stand on green-card travelers from the seven restricted countries, a senior administration official told Axios' Jonathan Swan: "The only issue is the media created an issue that never existed, and then asked us to resolve an issue that never existed. … The EO [executive order] is not going to be changed."

Despite the bravado, others who are high-up inside the administration worry that the ham-handed handling of the ban and its rollout are indicative of bigger problems ahead. These sources say:

  • Big decisions, and edits to crucial documents, are made in the dark of night, with scant input beyond the inner circle. "There are a few guys who keep everything to themselves," said a top official.
  • The insular inner circle is getting more insular, as it amasses more power.
  • No force within the West Wing is a sure-fire counterweight to Bannon/Miller.
  • The inner circle, resentful of leaks, seeks little input from the Cabinet, outside allies or Hill leaders. A leadership aide told us yesterday afternoon: "Congressional leaders had no hand in drafting this and haven't been briefed from the White House on how it works."
  • Trump is showing no signs of WANTING order: He loves the competing views, internally and externally, allowing him to be the (usually last-minute) decider.
  • The place oozes paranoia. So every bad move is simply chalked up to media-hate.
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Go deeper

In photos: Protests outside fortified capitols draw only small groups

Armed members of the far-right extremist group the Boogaloo Bois near the Michigan Capitol Building in Lansing on Jan. 17. About 20 protesters showed up, AP notes. Photo: Seth Herald/AFP via Getty Images

Small groups of protesters rallied outside fortified statehouses over the weekend ahead of President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration Wednesday.

The big picture: Some protests attracted armed members of far-right extremist groups but there were no reports of clashes, as had been feared. The National Guard and law enforcement outnumbered demonstrators, as security was heightened around the U.S. to avoid a repeat of the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol riots, per AP.

6 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Trump to issue at least 100 pardons and commutations before leaving office

Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

President Trump plans to issue at least 100 pardons and commutations on his final full day in office Tuesday, sources familiar with the matter told Axios.

Why it matters: This is a continuation of the president's controversial December spree that saw full pardons granted to more than two dozen people — including former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort, longtime associate Roger Stone and Charles Kushner, the father of Trump's senior adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner.

  • The pardons set to be issued before Trump exits the White House will be a mix of criminal justice ones and pardons for people connected to the president, the sources said.
  • CNN first reported this news.

Go deeper: Convicts turn to D.C. fixers for Trump pardons

Schumer's m(aj)ority checklist

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

Capitalizing on the Georgia runoffs, achieving a 50-50 Senate and launching an impeachment trial are weighty to-dos for getting Joe Biden's administration up and running on Day One.

What to watch: A blend of ceremonies, hearings and legal timelines will come into play on Tuesday and Wednesday so Chuck Schumer can actually claim the Senate majority and propel the new president's agenda.