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Evan Vucci / AP

It's widely believed inside and out of the White House that nothing and nobody can control the impulses and snap instincts of Donald J. Trump. Many have tried; none have succeeded, in business or politics.

The president himself has set up the ultimate test of his controllability: He has put rigid Marine veterans in charge of his legal and governing fights — and set in motion the appointment of a third Marine vet who looms over his life and presidency.

Meanwhile, a barrage of leaks has pelted the White House, as President Trump heads tonight to his golf club in Bedminster, N.J., for a 17-day vacation. Most surprising were two transcripts of Trump calls with world leaders — a rare breach, and a sign of real animus toward Trump somewhere in the government.

The test:

  • The new White House chief of staff, retired Marine Gen.John Kelly, has imposed military discipline "with a suddenness and force that have upended the West Wing," per the N.Y. Times' lead story: "Kelly cuts off rambling advisers midsentence."
  • For his personal legal team, Trump hired John Dowd, a renowned Washington lawyer who was a captain in the U.S. Marine Corps and a member of the Judge Advocate General Corps. Someone who knows Dowd very well said that he "won't take Trump's s--t" — and would have no hesitation about quitting the team if he was dissatisfied.
  • Russia probe lead prosecutor Robert Mueller was a Marine officer in Vietnam, completing the troika of veterans dominating Trump's life.

The leaks:

  • WashPost front page, "Trump tried to pressure Mexican president on wall," by Greg Miller: "[I]n his first White House call with Mexico's president, Trump described his vow to charge Mexico as a growing political problem, pressuring the Mexican leader to stop saying publicly that his government would never pay. 'You cannot say that to the press,' Trump said repeatedly."Trump to Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull: "This is a killer ... This is a stupid deal. This deal will make me look terrible. ... I look like a dope."Read both transcripts.
  • Wall Street Journal lead story: 'Special Counsel Robert Mueller has impaneled a grand jury in Washington to investigate Russia's interference in the 2016 elections ... The grand jury, which began its work in recent weeks, signals that Mr. Mueller's inquiry will likely continue for months."
  • CNN: "Federal investigators ... have seized on Trump and his associates' financial ties to Russia as one of the most fertile avenues for moving their probe forward ... The web of financial ties could offer a more concrete path toward potential prosecution than the broader and murkier questions of collusion."
  • CNN: "Mueller has issued grand jury subpoenas related to Donald Trump Jr.'s 2016 meeting with a Russian lawyer at Trump Tower."
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Go deeper

Scoop: Gina Haspel almost resigned over plan to install Kash Patel as CIA deputy

Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

CIA Director Gina Haspel almost resigned in early December after President Trump cooked up a hasty plan to install loyalist Kash Patel, a former aide to Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), as her deputy, according to three senior administration officials with direct knowledge of the matter.

Why it matters: The revelations stunned national security officials and almost blew up the leadership of the world's most powerful spy agency. Only a series of coincidences — and last minute interventions from Vice President Mike Pence and White House Counsel Pat Cipollone — stopped it.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: Coronavirus deaths reach 4,000 per day as hospitals remain in crisis mode — CDC warns highly transmissible coronavirus variant could become dominant in U.S. in March.
  2. Politics: Biden says, "We will manage the hell out of" vaccine distribution — Biden taps ex-FDA chief to lead Operation Warp Speed amid rollout of COVID plan — Widow of GOP congressman-elect who died of COVID-19 will run to fill his seat.
  3. Vaccine: Battling Black mistrust of the vaccines"Pharmacy deserts" could become vaccine deserts — Instacart to give $25 to shoppers who get vaccine.
  4. Economy: Unemployment filings explode againFed chair: No interest rate hike coming any time soon —  Inflation rose more than expected in December.
  5. World: WHO team arrives in China to investigate pandemic origins.

NRA declares bankruptcy, says it will reincorporate in Texas

Wayne LaPierre of the National Rifle Association (NRA) speaks during CPAC in 2016. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

The National Rifle Association said Friday it has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and will seek to reincorporate in Texas, calling New York, where it is currently registered, a "toxic political environment."

The big picture: The move comes just months after New York Attorney General Letitia James filed a lawsuit to dissolve the NRA, alleging the group committed fraud by diverting roughly $64 million in charitable donations over three years to support reckless spending by its executives.

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