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Former Apollo 17 astronaut Jack Schmitt hands a figurine to President Trump after he signed a policy directive to send American astronauts back to the moon. Photo: Evan Vucci / AP

President Trump's legal team believes Attorney General Jeff Session's Justice Department and the FBI — more than special counsel Robert Mueller himself — are to blame for what they see as a witch hunt.

The result: They want an additional special counsel named to investigate the investigators.

Trump officials outlined their new line of thinking to me last night.

  • The new demand was prompted by a Fox News article last evening by James Rosen and Jake Gibson: "A senior Justice Department official [Bruce Ohr] demoted last week for concealing his meetings with the men behind the anti-Trump 'dossier' had even closer ties to Fusion GPS, the firm responsible for the incendiary document, than have been disclosed: ... The official's wife [Nellie Ohr] worked for Fusion GPS during the 2016 election."
  • Jay Sekulow, a member of the President's legal team, tells me: "The Department of Justice and FBI cannot ignore the multiple problems that have been created by these obvious conflicts of interests. These new revelations require the appointment of a Special Counsel to investigate."
  • Unlike some other vocal Republicans, Trump's lawyers say they respect Mueller and trust him, and want to get to the finish line with him.
  • In November, the WashPost reported: "Attorney General Jeff Sessions is entertaining the idea of appointing a second special counsel to investigate a host of Republican concerns — including alleged wrongdoing by the Clinton Foundation and the controversial sale of a uranium company to Russia."

Trump lawyers' strategy: Cooperate with Mueller, and insist publicly they have nothing to hide, and expect the president to be fully cleared early in the new year.

  • Behind the curtain: Trump's non-legal aides seem way more nervous, and some tell me that they assume the end will be neither near nor pleasant.

Be smart: Among Republicans, the argument that the investigation is tainted is picking up steam, including comments by Sen. Lindsey Graham (S.C.) on Friday: "I will be challenging Rs and Ds on Senate Judiciary Committee to support a Special Counsel to investigate ALL THINGS 2016 — not just Trump and Russia."

MSNBC's Rachel Maddow last night cites a "fire-Mueller freakout on the right": "Everyone's throwing red flags on the possibility of firing Robert Mueller, on both sides of the aisle."

Editor's Note: Get more stories like this by signing up for my daily morning newsletter, Axios AM.

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Go deeper

Democrats fail to change Senate rules to pass voting rights bill

Senate Majority Leader during a news conference in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Democrats failed Wednesday night to change Senate filibuster rules to pass the voting rights bill, with Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) voting with Republicans.

The big picture: The failed effort came after Senate Republicans blocked the voting rights measure from coming to a final vote earlier Wednesday.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Supreme Court rejects Trump's attempt to shield documents from Jan. 6 committee

Photo: Melissa Sue Gerrits/Getty Images

The Supreme Court rejected on Wednesday night a bid by former President Trump to block the release of documents and records from his administration to the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol.

Why it matters: Trump asked the Supreme Court to step in and block the release of the documents last month after a panel on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit unanimously denied his attempt to prevent the committee from obtaining the materials.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Biden says Russia likely to invade Ukraine

President Biden addressed the brewing conflict between Russia and Ukraine during a press briefing Wednesday, saying of Russian President Vladimir Putin, "my guess is he will move in."

Why it matters: U.S. officials have issued a series of warnings about Russia's threatening military buildup on the border with Ukraine, with Secretary of State Antony Blinken saying in Kyiv earlier Wednesday that Russia could invade "on very short notice."