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Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp. Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

One of the more surprising recent political moments was when President Trump publicly lambasted Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp. It's rare — and politically damaging — for a Republican official to get steamrolled the way Kemp did last week.

Why it matters: Trump was encouraging governors to "liberate" their states, which anti-lockdown protesters saw as an endorsement. He offered guidelines for reopening the economy safely but said he'd leave it up to the governors to decide what was right for their states.

  • Kemp moved more aggressively than Trump recommended, green-lighting the opening of hair salons, spas, tattoo parlors and bowling alleys in Georgia.
  • Trump, in general terms, had offered support to Kemp in their previous phone calls, leading Kemp to believe the president had his back on his plan.
  • But in a Tuesday phone call, Trump told Kemp he disagreed with those moves and thought he was going too fast on some of those communal businesses. 

Behind the scenes: Two sources who've discussed Kemp with Trump told me there's more to it than a simple policy disagreement.

  • "You've got to understand, Trump feels he made Brian Kemp, and he's right," one said. "Kemp would not be governor without Trump. Would it hurt him to be a little bit grateful and to take his advice once in a while?"
  • In response to Axios' reporting, Kemp's press secretary Cody Hall said in a statement: "Governor Kemp is grateful for President Trump's leadership in the fight against COVID-19 and values his insight as our state takes measured steps forward that will protect the lives — and livelihoods — of all Georgians."

Between the lines: Both sources who spoke to Trump about Kemp said the president remained irritated by Kemp's earlier decision to ignore Trump's recommendation to appoint Rep. Doug Collins to the vacant Senate seat in Georgia.

  • Kemp instead appointed Kelly Loeffler. And Trump has watched with alarm as Loeffler has since been hammered for stock trades she made during the early days of the coronavirus outbreak, including buying stock in a company that makes videoconferencing software.
  • Trump has paid close attention to Loeffler's weak polling numbers (an internal poll from the Collins campaign showed Collins with more than twice as much support as Loeffler).
  • Sources close to Trump doubt he'll endorse Loeffler in her race against Collins, even though Senate Republican leadership backs her. But Trump hasn’t decided yet.

Go deeper

45 million Americans under winter storm watches near New England

Computer model projection showing the winds moving around the powerful East Coast storm on Saturday Jan. 29, 2022. Image: https://earth.nullschool.net

Nearly 45 million Americans are under winter weather alerts and warnings from North Carolina to northeastern Maine, as a major winter storm threatens the region.

Why it matters: It is predicted to be the biggest blizzard since 2018 to strike the Northeast with more than 2 feet of snow possible in parts of eastern Massachusetts, according to the National Weather Service.

2 hours ago - World

Australian PM pledges $700M for climate change-threatened Great Barrier reef

A green sea turtle is flourishing among the corals at Lady Elliot island in Australia's Great Barrier Reef. Photo: Jonas Gratzer/LightRocket via Getty Images

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced Friday a AU$1 billion ($703 million) investment plan for the Great Barrier Reef.

Why it matters: The nine-year plan for projects including water quality improvement, reef conservation and supporting some 64,000 tourism jobs comes months ahead of this year's federal election. It has been criticized by scientists and environmental groups for failing to tackle climate change.

Judge nixes Gulf of Mexico oil leases in climate-focused ruling

Tug boats prepare to tow the semi-submersible drilling platform Noble Danny Adkins through the Port Aransas Channel into the Gulf of Mexico on December 12, 2020 in Port Aransas, Texas. Photo: Tom Pennington/Getty Images

A federal judge on Thursday canceled the Biden administration's late 2021 sale of new oil-and-gas drilling leases in the Gulf of Mexico.

Why it matters: The ruling that the greenhouse gas emissions analysis by the Interior's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) was insufficient is a win for green groups that challenged the decision, as they seek to curb fossil fuel production.