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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

President Trump increasingly demands, solicits and gets the loyalty of Republicans, big and small. 

The big picture: You saw this in the midterms, when he hand-picked the governors-elect of Florida and Georgia because they expressed their loyalty to him. And when he grew his Senate majority by helping candidates who were loyal to him and to his Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh.

  • You saw this in yesterday's press conference when he publicly shamed — by name — disloyal House Republicans who lost re-election races. 
  • You saw this an hour after the press conference when he forced Attorney General Jeff Sessions to quit. Sessions' offense was that he wasn’t sufficiently loyal. And Sessions' acting replacement was his own chief of staff, Matt Whitaker, a Trump loyalist. 
  • You saw this two years ago, one year ago and still today in the vast majority of Republican voters having his back through good times and bad. 

Why it matters: Soon this could matter in consequential — and constitutional — ways.

  • With Democrats taking the House, Trump can anticipate impeachment proceedings — and knows that all it takes to save him is the loyalty of Senate Republicans, regardless of the evidence. 
  • The chance of Trump needing the Senate — and perhaps the Supreme Court — to side with him on big legal matters flowing from various investigations is high. It certainly won’t hurt that he put two justices on the court, and a lot of men in the Senate. 

What we're watching ... Axios' Jonathan Swan points out the potentially colossal implications of Trump getting rid of Sessions, and replacing him with a loyalist and Mueller critic.

  • Democrats want Matt Whitaker, the acting attorney general, to recuse himself from overseeing the Mueller probe.
  • But if he stays in charge and does anything to challenge or curtail Mueller, we’ll be in a high stakes political and legal battle just days after an election.

Be smart, from Cliff Sims, Trump's former White House director of message strategy:

  • "Trump instinctively understands ... the power of 'self-preservation' and 'fight or flight' as a political weapon. He wields it constantly. Most people back down. He makes an example of those who don’t. Everyone else tries to stay out of the line of fire. Fear breeds loyalty, at least until it’s gone."

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Updated 3 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Harris breaks tie as Senate proceeds with lengthy debate on COVID relief bill

Photo: Caroline Brehman/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

The Senate on Thursday voted 51-50 — with Vice President Kamala Harris breaking the tie — to proceed to debate on President Biden's $1.9 trillion coronavirus rescue package, likely setting up a final vote this weekend.

The state of play: Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) forced Senate clerks to read the entire 628-page bill on the floor, which took nearly 11 hours and lasted until 2:05 a.m. Friday. The Senate then adjourned and is expected to reconvene at 9 a.m. to debate the bill before considering amendments.

1 hour ago - Health

Cuomo advisers reportedly altered July COVID-19 nursing homes report

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Photo: Seth Wenig/AFP via Getty Images

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's advisers successfully pushed state health officials to exclude certain data on the number of COVID-19 nursing home deaths from a July report, the Wall Street Journal reported late Thursday.

Why it matters: The changes resulted in a "significant undercount of the death toll attributed to the state’s most vulnerable population," the WSJ wrote.

Ro Khanna wary of Biden approach on Middle East

Rep. Ro Khanna. Photo: Cody Glenn/Sportsfile for Web Summit via Getty Images

An outspoken progressive Democrat is wary of President Biden’s approach to the Middle East, arguing it’s like “conceding defeat of the aspiration” to win a Nobel Peace Prize.

Why it matters: A number of members of Biden’s own party dislike his Middle East strategy, as his administration signals the region is no longer the priority it was for President Obama and his predecessors.