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Illustration:Rebecca Zisser/Axios

We’re starting to see the worst collateral damage of President Trump's war with his own Justice Department. The rift has dominated (even defined) his presidency. And it looks like it’s getting worse.

A former administration official told Axios: “It’s a 'Deep State' he created. Whether it existed before or not, it does now.”

Yesterday's astonishing leak: Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein "suggested last year that he secretly record President Trump in the White House to expose the chaos consuming the administration," and discussed the possible invocation of the 25th amendment, per the N.Y. Times.

  • "[M]emos written by F.B.I. officials, including Andrew G. McCabe, then the acting bureau director, ... documented Mr. Rosenstein’s actions."

Timing: The conversations came on May 16, 2017–just a week after Trump fired FBI Director James Comey, a seven-day window when tensions between the White House and Main Justice hit a fever pitch, threatening to cripple both institutions.

The fallout ... Rosenstein's unconvincing denial: "I never pursued or authorized recording the President and any suggestion that I have ever advocated for the removal of the President is absolutely false."

  • The leak triggered a fevered debate among Justice Department watchers: Was Rosenstein joking when he made those explosive comments? It’s a vital question — but in a way, it also isn’t. After all, in normal times, the deputy attorney general doesn’t joke about secretly recording the president.

Trump last night at a rally in Missouri: ""You've seen what happened in the FBI and the Department of Justice. The bad ones, they're all gone. They're all gone ... But there is a lingering stench and we're going to get rid of that, too."

Be smart: The leak is a tiny indication of how much special counsel Robert Mueller knows, and has known for months.

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Go deeper

California governor declares drought emergency in most counties

A sign in April on the outskirts of Buttonwillow in California's Kern County, one of the top agriculture producing counties in the San Joaquin Valley, after historically low winter rainfall. Photo: Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) extended a drought emergency declaration to cover 41 of the state's 58 counties on Monday.

Why it matters: Most of California and the American West are experiencing an "extreme" or "exceptional" drought, per the U.S. Drought Monitor. Newsom and other officials are concerned California could experience a repeat of the catastrophic 2020 wildfire season.

3 hours ago - World

Jerusalem crisis escalates after Hamas and Israel trade rocket fire

Israeli air strikes in the southern Gaza Strip on May 10. Photo: Said Khatib/AFP via Getty Images

Nine children were among 20 Palestinians killed in Israeli airstrikes after Hamas fired dozens of rockets at Jerusalem for the first time since 2014 Monday, per AP and Reuters.

The big picture: The rockets come after escalating violence in Jerusalem has injured 250 Palestinians and several Israeli police officers during protests over the planned evictions of Palestinian families from their homes that began Friday.

Pelosi's Republican playbook

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

As Republicans fight among themselves, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is showing the myriad ways she deals with the GOP herself.

Between the lines: We've seen Pelosi cut opponents off at the knees, like she did with President Trump, or pretend to forget their names, as she did to Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.). Now she's feeding oppo research against her House counterpart, Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), so others can use the same harsh rhetoric to frame the Republicans as the party of dysfunction.