Get the latest market trends in your inbox

Stay on top of the latest market trends and economic insights with the Axios Markets newsletter. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Denver news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Des Moines news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Minneapolis-St. Paul news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Minneapolis-St. Paul

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tampa-St. Petersburg news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa-St. Petersburg

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Trump on election night. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Top Trump loyalists are trying to cling to power by firing critics, rehiring other loyalists, instructing federal government employees that the election isn't over yet, and threatening appointees that their future work prospects could get crushed if they try to abandon ship now.

Driving the news: In leaked audio of a Monday conference call with USAID staff, obtained by Axios, the agency's top-ranking official John Barsa told staff to "play until the whistle blows" and that "DC, at the end of the day, is a really small town" — which participants read as a threat to anyone who starts job hunting.

The big picture: Monday's leaked call came as Trump and his inner circle continued to publicly deny the reality that rival Joe Biden has won the election.

  • Trump announced on Twitter that he had "terminated" Defense Secretary Mark Esper — "effective immediately."
  • Officials tell Axios they expect CIA Director Gina Haspel and FBI Director Christopher Wray to face the axe next.
  • The U.S. Agency for International Development, which falls under Mike Pompeo's State Department, did not respond to a request for comment.

Details: On the USAID call, Trump loyalist Catharine O'Neill, newly installed as the agency's White House liaison fresh off a stint with the re-election campaign, declared: "The election is still happening. The Electoral College has not voted yet."

  • And Barsa also told staff that "there is no transition in place" until the General Services Administration makes a determination about who won the election, which GSA administrator Emily Murphy, a Trump appointee, has thus far resisted. This portion of comments from the call were first reported by the Washington Free Beacon.
  • Barsa referenced Friday's firing of USAID's second-highest ranking official, Bonnie Glick, saying simply, "Bonnie is no longer with us."

Behind the scenes: Beyond USAID, Trump administration officials are telling agencies' staffs that the usual presidential transition are not to begin because the election isn't over.

  • A source familiar with internal discussions says some agency officials have been told to operate under the assumption Trump is serving a second term.
  • And as CNN's Jake Tapper first reported, and Axios confirmed, White House Presidential Personnel Office director John McEntee "is spreading the word throughout the administration that if he hears of anyone looking for another job they will be fired."

Between the lines: Veterans of past presidential transitions, including former GOP White House officials, are urging the Trump administration to begin the formal transfer of power to President-elect Joe Biden, as Politico first reported.

  • "While there will be legal disputes requiring adjudication, the outcome is sufficiently clear that the transition process must now begin," the nonpartisan Center for Presidential Transition wrote in a letter obtained by Politico.

Go deeper

The walls close in on Trump

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

With Bill Barr's "Et tu, Brute!" interview with AP, President Trump is watching the walls close in on his claims of fraud, hoaxes and conspiracies.

Why it matters: Trump and his legal team continue to claim election fraud. But the Republican governors of Arizona and Georgia have certified their elections, a loyalist like Barr has weighed in, and lower-ranking officials have taken potshots.

Trump's 2024 begins

Trump speaking to reporters in the White House on Thanksgiving. Photo: Erin Schaff - Pool/Getty Images

President Trump is likely to announce he'll run again in 2024, perhaps before this term even ends, sources tell Axios.

Why it matters: Trump has already set in motion two important strategies to stay relevant and freeze out other Republican rivals. 

Government watchdog sues Trump, Kushner and WH to prevent records being destroyed

President Trump. Photo: Erin Schaff/Pool/Getty Images

A government watchdog group filed a lawsuit against President Trump, his son-in-law Jared Kushner and the White House on Tuesday to prevent them from destroying records during his remaining time in office.

Why it matters: The Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) and other groups allege in their suit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, that Trump and his administration are violating the Presidential Records Act by failing to properly preserve records of official government business.