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Trump and Obama in the Oval Office. Photo: Win McNamee / Getty

The Trump administration’s most audacious legislative idea ever will never see the light — but it shows how this White House has been looking for ways to salt the earth for its Democratic successors.

The theory: Last year, the head of the White House Domestic Policy Council, Andrew Bremberg, told senior administration officials and Hill staff about an idea he had to tie the hands of future Democratic presidents. The idea would be for Trump to introduce a series of hardcore left-wing regulations — e.g. on climate change, the environment, labor and health care. Then, the Republican-controlled Congress would disapprove of these regulations using a law called the Congressional Review Act. That would bar future administrations introducing “substantially similar” regulations.

Why it won't happen: Trump administration officials are no longer seriously entertaining this idea, largely because Bremberg and others have recognized that it's politically infeasible. Republicans only have a one-vote margin in the Senate, and there's no way Mitch McConnell would waste precious floor time on such a moonshot.

But there are two reasons Bremberg and some senior players in the conservative legal community took this idea seriously:

  • It could be good politics. If the plan was executed quickly and perfectly — within the space of a week, for example — congressional Republicans could take a victory lap, saying they've prevented future presidents from regulating the heck out of the economy like Obama.
  • It could be a policy win for Hill Republicans, who would say they're giving some predictability to the business community about future executive actions.

In their first year of controlling Washington, Republicans have used the CRA more than a dozen times to undo regulations.

Why this matters: Though a top Republican source calls it “an evil genius idea that unfortunately will never happen,” it shows that this White House is equal parts creative and devious, with top aides already looking to hamstring their Democratic successors.

Go deeper

Scoop: Gina Haspel threatened to resign over plan to install Kash Patel as CIA deputy

CIA Director Gina Haspel. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

CIA Director Gina Haspel threatened to resign 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 revelation 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 5 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.

John Weaver, Lincoln Project co-founder, acknowledges “inappropriate” messages

John Weaver aboard John McCain's campaign plane in February 2000. Photo: Robert Schmidt/AFP via Getty Images)

John Weaver, a veteran Republican operative who co-founded the Lincoln Project, declared in a statement to Axios on Friday that he sent “inappropriate,” sexually charged messages to multiple men.

  • “To the men I made uncomfortable through my messages that I viewed as consensual mutual conversations at the time: I am truly sorry. They were inappropriate and it was because of my failings that this discomfort was brought on you,” Weaver said.
  • “The truth is that I'm gay,” he added. “And that I have a wife and two kids who I love. My inability to reconcile those two truths has led to this agonizing place.”

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