Aug 11, 2019

Behind the scenes of Trump's Epstein-Clinton conspiracy tweet

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

On Saturday, the president of the United States retweeted a conspiracy theory video claiming Bill and Hillary Clinton had a hand in the death of pedophile Jeffrey Epstein.

The big picture: The news media did not treat this as a major story; the Sunday New York Times editors found a few inches for it on page 21. Times' columnist Ross Douthat captured the collective shrug in his tweet: "Dear God, next thing you know the president will accuse a political rival's family of being implicated in the JFK assassination!" (A reference to Trump's 2016 smear of Ted Cruz's father.)

Behind the scenes: I asked a senior White House official whether anybody internally did anything about the Clinton tweet. "I think we're beyond the point of trying to control these things," the official said.

  • White House officials, including press staff, say they rarely receive any forewarning before the president tweets something incendiary.
  • On the occasions they do get a heads-up, it's from Dan Scavino, the White House social media director who manages Trump's Twitter account.
  • Two sources familiar told me that on at least a few occasions, Scavino has taken dictation on an incendiary tweet from Trump, saved the tweet to drafts and given a small number of his colleagues advanced warning that this particular tweet might be coming.
  • But it's just a heads-up. Two and a half years into his presidency, Trump has kept his @realDonaldTrump Twitter account entirely his own.

Go deeper

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 5:30 p.m. ET: 5,375,648 — Total deaths: 343,721 — Total recoveries — 2,149,412Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 5:30 p.m. ET: 1,639,872 — Total deaths: 97,599 — Total recoveries: 361,239 — Total tested: 13,784,786Map.
  3. World: White House announces travel restrictions on Brazil, coronavirus hotspot in Southern Hemisphere Over 100 coronavirus cases in Germany tied to single day of church services — Boris Johnson backs top aide amid reports that he broke U.K. lockdown while exhibiting symptoms.
  4. Public health: Officials are urging Americans to wear masks headed into Memorial Day weekend Report finds "little evidence" coronavirus under control in most statesHurricanes, wildfires, the flu could strain COVID-19 response
  5. Economy: White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett says it's possible the unemployment rate could still be in double digits by November's election — Public employees brace for layoffs.
  6. Federal government: Trump attacks a Columbia University study that suggests earlier lockdown could have saved 36,000 American lives.
  7. What should I do? Hydroxychloroquine questions answeredTraveling, asthma, dishes, disinfectants and being contagiousMasks, lending books and self-isolatingExercise, laundry, what counts as soap — Pets, moving and personal healthAnswers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingHow to minimize your risk.
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it, the right mask to wear.

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Updated 17 mins ago - Politics & Policy

White House announces new coronavirus travel restrictions on Brazil

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro with Trump, March 19, 2019. Photo: Jim Lo Scalzo-Pool via Getty Images

The White House announced Sunday that President Trump would suspend entry of non-U.S. citizens who have been in Brazil in the past 14 days in an effort to stop the imported spread of the coronavirus.

Why it matters: Brazil has reported nearly 350,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus — the second-most in the world behind the U.S. — and has emerged as a Southern Hemisphere hotspot as other heavily affected countries in Asia and Europe have managed to get their outbreaks under control.

Trumpworld's plan to brand Biden

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photos: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images, Mandel Ngan/AFP

Trump's advisers relish the contrast between his public appearances and Joe Biden's lack thereof. The former vice president, following the guidance of public experts, has eschewed public events and stayed home for months now. Trump, meanwhile, is out and about — masks be damned.

What we're hearing: Watch for plenty more mask-free outings from Trump, hyping the reopening of the economy and avoiding discussions of social distancing and death counts.