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At a press conference Tuesday, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany repeatedly defended President Trump tweeting baseless conspiracy theories about the 2001 death of congressional aide Lori Klausutis, 28, who worked for then-Congressman Joe Scarborough.

Why it matters: Klausutis' widower has written to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey pleading with him to delete the president's tweets, stating that his "wife deserves better." But McEnany suggested at the press conference that Scarborough, now an MSNBC host, should be held accountable for answers on Klausutis' passing — despite there being no evidence to support Trump's allegations.

  • Authorities at the time determined that Klausutis passed after losing consciousness from an abnormal heart rhythm, causing her to collapse and strike her head. No foul play was suspected.

What she's saying: McEnany repeatedly declined to deem Trump accountable for giving the unfounded theories a platform, stating: "The president said this morning that this is not an original Trump thought, and it is not."

  • She also referred to a 2003 clip of Scarborough on radio personality Don Imus' show, in which Scarborough appears to laugh at a distasteful joke Imus makes about the congressman killing a former intern.
  • "That was, I'm sure, pretty hurtful to Lori's family, and Joe Scarborough himself brought this up with Don Imus and Joe Scarborough himself can answer it," McEnany said.

Scarborough's wife and co-host Mika Brzezinski tweeted following the press conference that "the press secretary is lying."

  • "IMUS made the callous joke in 2003 during a break and then repeated it on air. Joe was embarrassed and said, “What are you going to do?” trying to move on to talk about the show. No lies can cover up the hatefulness of Donald Trump," Brzezinski wrote.

Between the lines: Trump has a longstanding feud with Scarborough and Brzezinski, who are frequently critical of the president and his administration on their morning show.

  • "Joe Scarborough — if we want to start talking about false accusations — we have quite a few we can go through ... This morning or yesterday Mika accused the president of being responsible for 100,000 deaths in this country. That's incredibly irresponsible," McEnany said.
  • "They should be held to account for their falsehoods ... It's Joe Scarborough that has to answer these questions," she added.

Go deeper

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

U.S. sounds alarm on Ukraine

Conscripts line up at a Russian railway station yesterday before departing for Army service. Photo: Sergei Malgavko/TASS via Getty Images

The Biden administration is "deeply concerned" by new intelligence — detailed for Axios and other outlets — showing Russia stepping up preparations to invade Ukraine as soon as early 2022.

Why it matters: Most of this was known from public sources and satellite imagery, but the administration is sending a stronger signal by releasing specific details from the intelligence community.

CNN fires Chris Cuomo

Photo: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for CNN

CNN said Saturday evening it has fired one of its star anchors, Chris Cuomo, following new revelations from a legal review made by the company into Cuomo's involvement in the management of his brother's sexual harassment scandal.

Why it matters: Saturday's firing speaks to how much pressure CNN was under by employees and critics to address Cuomo's behavior.

Updated 6 hours ago - Energy & Environment

Electric car prices could go up before they come down

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The secret to affordable electric vehicles is cheaper batteries. But after years of falling prices, battery costs are now headed in the wrong direction.

Why it matters: Costlier batteries could drive up the price of electric vehicles — threatening the auto industry's transition away from fossil fuels, and, in turn, society's fight against climate change.