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Lazaro Gamio / Axios

One of the more elusive skills in this White House is the ability to communicate effectively with President Trump. It's no secret he likes things short, simple, graphical.

Someone who was doing it all wrong (although better lately), according to colleagues, is national security adviser H.R. McMaster. It's one of several reasons the two men often don't click.

  • McMaster has briefed in a certain way his whole career: crisp, linear, dry, like a good military man, and leaves nothing to chance. The formality doesn't work with Trump, who sometimes simply tunes McMaster out."
  • Can you believe this guy?" he once asked in a joking-not-joking tone.
  • What doesn't work: Sources who've watched McMaster in action say he over prepares to brief the President. He knows the outcome he wants and wants to stick rigidly to his plan. But Trump likes to be discursive and will frequently turn to others or meander into other subjects while McMaster is briefing him. When Trump finishes his riff, McMaster will often return precisely to the point he left off.
  • This bothers Trump, who has openly wished for the return of Michael Flynn, who was more spontaneous.

Lately, McMaster has started to adjust by making shorter points and a more colloquial tone, according to colleagues. He can be hilarious when telling war stories to his staff, but always transforms into a stiffer guy when he's running a meeting or briefing a superior.

But McMaster's disconnect with Trump extends beyond presentation, to policy. McMaster wants to solve problems with military solutions, and Trumps wants to make a deal. And McMaster has been among the top advisers who have been warning Trump that Putin is not to be trusted — part of the West Wing's divisions on the issue, AP reported.

  • But, but, but: McMaster is still proving to be effective in some key moments. He got his way on troop increases in Afghanistan and on Trump's recent decision, against his instincts, to recertify Iran's compliance with the terms of the nuclear deal. While Trumps growls and sulks, he nevertheless seems to give into generals. But the relationship remains awkward.

What works: A more successful approach with Trump is a more conversational, anecdotal style with lots of references to him — his theories and beliefs, things he has said in the past. Dina Powell, the deputy national security adviser, has been especially adroit at this: She gets the same place McMaster would go, but does it in a personal, leisurely style that engages the boss.

Ditto with Gary Cohn, who goes with the conversational flow, and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who'll say when talking about Chinese currency manipulation, for instance: "But that was before you were on the world stage." Trump is all ears.

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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

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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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