Jul 28, 2018

When wild conspiracies come to life

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Think back to the wild conspiracy theories that once floated through your head, or the minds of friends and critics of President Trump: collusion with Russia ... Hidden hush money ... Shady business dealings that only insiders like fixer Michael Cohen knew of — and they'd never tell.

The big picture: Trump has done almost nothing to dispel these theories since taking office.

Now, think about July, 2018: With millions wondering if Vladimir Putin has damaging info about Trump, and suspecting they have a secret pact, the president does something almost unheard of in history: He meets alone with Putin for two hours. Then, with everyone looking for a public signal of Putin's power over Trump, the president shows so much deference at their press conference you would think he was meeting with the Pope. 

  • Then the tape of Trump talking about pre-election payments to a Playboy model surfaces (on CNN, to boot!). The tape + Trump’s admission that he paid off porn star Stormy Daniels = confirmation of what so many thought pre-election happened just as suspected. There was after all a pre-election scramble to silence women — and now it’s on full display for all to see. 
  • Then Cohen, the Trump boot-licker who had claimed he'd take a bullet for the president, indeed takes a bullet — and aims at his sugar daddy, leaking word he wants Robert Mueller to know he will testify that Trump knew of the infamous Russian meeting to discuss dirt on Hillary Clinton. (Trump denies that.) If true — and given Cohen’s jam and reputation, it remains an if — this is the kind of smoking gun that lives in infamy. 

Be smart: Who the hell knows how this wild saga ends? But it’s striking how much of it was foreseeable — and foreseen.

Go deeper

The rematch of the century

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The weekend's biggest sporting event is Wilder-Fury II, which despite its name is not an action movie sequel starring Jean-Claude Van Damme but, rather, a boxing match starring arguably the two best heavyweights in the world.

The backdrop: In their first meeting in December 2018, Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury put on a memorable show at Staples Center, with Fury surviving a brutal right hand in the 12th round to earn a split-decision draw.

Pro-Trump warrior takes the helm of U.S. intelligence

Richard Grenell in Berlin. Photo: Sean Gallup/Getty Images

By picking Ambassador Richard Grenell to be acting director of national intelligence, President Trump has slotted a pro-Trump warrior into the ultimate apolitical role.

What they're saying: James Clapper, the longest-serving DNI (2010-2017), tells Axios it's "very worrisome installing a partisan with no real intelligence experience in this position."

Coronavirus kills 2 Diamond Princess passengers as Israel confirms first case

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. U.S. numbers include Americans extracted from Princess Cruise ship.

Two elderly Diamond Princess passengers have been killed by the novel coronavirus — the first deaths confirmed among the more than 600 infected aboard the cruise ship — as Israel confirmed its first case among evacuees from the ship.

The big picture: COVID-19 has now killed more than 2,200 people and infected over 76,000 others, mostly in mainland China, where the National Health Commission announced 118 new deaths since Thursday.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 58 mins ago - Health