Illustration: Alex Wong/Getty Images; Aïda Amer/Axios

The Trump administration is testing a novel strategy for dealing with controversy and possible illegalities: Pretend you have nothing to hide by blurting it out loud. 

Why it matters: President Trump and his aides and allies seem to think that by being unapologetic and admitting things that would have touched off blazing scandals just a few years ago, they can move the goalposts of what's acceptable to Republicans and the public.

We had two doozies yesterday:

1) Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney just said it out loud at a White House briefing, connecting Trump's release of Ukraine aid with an investigation of corruption that included U.S. Democrats.

  • ABC's Jonathan Karl pressed: "[T]o be clear, what you just described is a quid pro quo. It is: Funding will not flow unless the investigation into the Democratic server happens as well."
  • Mulvaney replied: "We do that all the time with foreign policy."
  • This, of course, pulverized Trump's "no quid pro quo" mantra.
  • The subtext of the pivot was: Own it. So what? He's allowed. He's the president. There's no coverup. 
  • Republicans on the Hill couldn't believe it. A House GOP committee source to Axios' Alayna Treene: Mulvaney's "diatribe has blown up the [Gordon] Sondland interview — Democrats are referring to the transcript mid-interview. WTF."
  • After headlines like "White House admits quid pro quo over Ukraine aid," Mulvaney tried to walk back the admission with a statement blaming the press: "Once again, the media has decided to misconstrue my comments to advance a biased and political witch hunt against President Trump. Let me be clear, there was absolutely no quid pro quo between Ukrainian military aid and any investigation into the 2016 election."

2) Amid rising charges of cronyism, Trump awarded one of his own resorts, Trump National Doral near Miami, the lucrative contract for next June's G7 summit.

  • The Miami Herald calls it "a surge of off-season business for the lagging property."
  • Republicans would have howled "self-dealing" if a Democrat did anything like that.

We've seen the shout-it-out-loud strategy before:

  • Trump released the rough transcript of the Ukraine call, the very event that touched off the formal impeachment investigation, and called it "perfect."
  • Trump, accused of asking Ukraine to investigate the Bidens, went on camera and asked Ukraine and China to investigate the Bidens.
  • Trump says he doesn’t care if Russia and Syrian President Bashar Assad move in and take America’s place in northern Syria.

Between the lines ... Last week's gambit was: "There is no whistleblower. There is no impeachment." From nothing to everything. Welcome to "The Trump Show."

Go deeper: Trump’s playbook for planting suspicion

Go deeper

The Trump identity and fashion statement

Spotted at President Trump campaign event in Winston-Salem, N.C., last week. Photo: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

If President Trump defies today's swing-state polls and pulls off another upset, what will we have missed that could have been a clue?

Here's a big one: Trump flotillas ... Trump flags bigger than American flags ... Trump truck rallies ... Trump shirts ... Trump underwear ... lawns that don't have a Trump-Pence sign or two but 50 or even 100 — a forest.

Updated Sep 14, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Alexander Vindman calls Trump a "useful idiot" for Putin

Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman. Photo: Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, who served as a key witness in President Trump's impeachment inquiry, told The Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg that he believes Trump is a "useful idiot" and "unwitting agent" of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Of note: He doubled down on his comments in an interview with NBC News airing Monday evening, saying Trump's "infatuated" with Putin and that some had described their relationship as "a kind of a love affair."

Trump says he wanted to assassinate Bashar al-Assad but Mattis was opposed to it

President Trump on Tuesday confirmed that he wanted to order an assassination against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, but former Secretary of Defense James Mattis "was against it."

What he's saying: "I would have rather taken him out. I had him all set. Mattis didn't want to do it," Trump said on "Fox & Friends." His comments confirm a detail reported in journalist Bob Woodward's 2018 book "Fear."