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Photo: Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call via Getty Images

This scenario seemed unthinkable a month ago, but it's now being privately discussed by sources involved in Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation: If Kavanaugh falls after the FBI investigation this week and Democrats flip the Senate in November, will Trump nominate a compromise Supreme Court justice who's acceptable to Senate Democrats?

The answer: No way, according to sources with direct knowledge of the president’s thinking, both inside and outside the White House.

"If Kavanaugh doesn't make it, it all depends on the midterms," said one of those sources.

  • "If they hold the Senate, OK, regroup, put somebody up next year or maybe end of this year.
  • "But if he [Kavanaugh] doesn’t make it and the Senate flips, I think it's 4-4 for next two years.

"Politically, I think they would rather keep it 4-4 rather than put somebody acceptable on the court," the source added. "He [Trump] needs to run on polarization and the court in 2020."

  • One of Trump's most trusted advisers told me he'd counsel Trump that if Democrats win the Senate, under no circumstances should he nominate a compromise candidate.
  • A senior administration official close to the process told me: "A 4-4 tie is a conservative win. Not as much as a 5-4 majority, but it takes constitutional interpretation out of D.C."
  • And a White House official told me Trump has made clear he'd nominate somebody in Kavanaugh's judicial mold no matter what happens in the midterms. "He sees it as a fundamental promise," the official told me. "They [Democrats] are not going to be rewarded for this. He's not going to undercut allies and reward enemies."

Go deeper

2 hours ago - World

Special report: Trump's U.S.-China transformation

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

President Trump began his term by launching the trade war with China he had promised on the campaign trail. By mid-2020, however, Trump was no longer the public face of China policy-making as he became increasingly consumed with domestic troubles, giving his top aides carte blanche to pursue a cascade of tough-on-China policies.

Why it matters: Trump alone did not reshape the China relationship. But his trade war shattered global norms, paving the way for administration officials to pursue policies that just a few years earlier would have been unthinkable.

McConnell: Trump "provoked" Capitol mob

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said on Tuesday that the pro-Trump mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 was "provoked by the president and other powerful people."

Why it matters: Trump was impeached by the House last week for "incitement of insurrection." McConnell has not said how he will vote in Trump's coming Senate impeachment trial, but sources told Axios' Mike Allen that the chances of him voting to convict are higher than 50%.

3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

GOP leaders skip Trump sendoff in favor of church with Biden

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) in July. Photo by Erin Scott-Pool/Getty Images

Congressional leaders, including House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, will skip President Trump's departure ceremony in Maryland tomorrow morning in favor of attending mass with incoming President Joe Biden ahead of his inauguration, congressional sources familiar with their plans tell Axios.

Why it matters: Their decision is a clear sign of unity before Biden takes the oath of office.

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