Susan Walsh / AP

The huge number of vacancies throughout the top ranks of government is concentrating power in the West Wing — to Jared's benefit, and with the effect of balls getting dropped.

"Too few people are doing too much, and it's keeping the Cabinet weak," said one outside adviser to the West Wing. "In a Cabinet of people who are used to being superstars, no one has been able to negotiate to get a high-powered team in."

"Bannon will tell you: We're doing things differently — that's the way it used to be," said a veteran of past Republican White Houses. "But there are some actual functions of government that need to be carried out by these buildings."

The belittlement of the Cabinet is most apparent in the invisibility of Sec. State Rex Tillerson, a 65-year-old former corporate titan who's now operating in the shadow of 36-year-old Kushner.

"I don't know what Rex does every day," a friend said. "[SecDef] James Mattis is home alone."

According to the Political Appointee Tracker of the Partnership for Public Service, of 553 key positions in the Trump administration requiring Senate confirmation, 486 have no nominee, 24 are awaiting nomination, 21 have been nominated and 22 confirmed.

The partnership shared the latest historical equivalents with Axios AM. As of today:

  • Trump: 21 nominations, 22 confirmed.
  • George H.W. Bush: 72 nominations, 27 confirmed.
  • Bill Clinton: 69 nominations, 44 confirmed.
  • George W. Bush: 65 nominations, 32 confirmed.
  • Obama: 120 nominations, 54 confirmed.

As Trump might tweet: Big difference!

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Go deeper

Amy Harder, author of Generate
33 mins ago - Energy & Environment

Climate change goes mainstream in presidential debate

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty

The most notable part of Thursday’s presidential debate on climate change was the fact it was included as a topic and assumed as a fact.

The big picture: This is the first time in U.S. presidential history that climate change was a featured issue at a debate. It signals how the problem has become part of the fabric of our society. More extreme weather, like the wildfires ravaging Colorado, is pushing the topic to the front-burner.

Finally, a real debate

Photo: Morry Gash/AP

A more disciplined President Trump held back from the rowdy interruptions at tonight's debate in Nashville, while making some assertions so outlandish that Joe Biden chuckled and even closed his eyes.

  • A Trump campaign adviser told Axios: "He finally listened." 

The result: A real debate.

Biden to Trump: "I have not taken a penny from any foreign source ever in my life"

Former VP Joe Biden pushed back Thursday against allegations from President Trump, saying he had never profited from foreign sources. "Nothing was unethical," Biden told debate moderator Kristen Welker about his son Hunter's work in Ukraine while he was vice president.

Why it matters: Earlier on Thursday, Hunter Biden's former business partner, Tony Bobulinski, released a statement saying Joe Biden's claims that he never discussed overseas business dealings with his son were "false."