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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

Updated 8 mins ago - World

Czech Republic expels 18 Russian diplomats over 2014 depot explosion

Combined images released by British police in 2018 of Alexander Petrov (L) and Ruslan Boshirov, who are suspected of carrying out an attack in the in the southern English city of Salisbury using Novichok, a military-grade nerve agent, and also the2014 Czech depot explosion. Photo: Metropolitan Police via Getty Images

Czech police on Saturday connected two Russian men suspected of carrying out a poisoning attack in Salisbury, England, with a deadly ammunition depot explosion southeast of the capital, Prague, per Reuters.

Driving the news: Czech officials announced Saturday they're expelling 18 Russian diplomats they accuse of being involved in the blast in Vrbětice, AP notes. Czech police said later they're searching for two men carrying several passports — including two named Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov.

Indianapolis mass shooting suspect legally bought 2 guns, police say

Marion County Forensic Services vehicles are parked at the site of a mass shooting at a FedEx facility in Indianapolis, Indiana, on Friday. Photo: Jeff Dean/AFP via Getty Images

The suspected gunman in this week's mass shooting at a FedEx facility in Indianapolis legally purchased two assault rifles believed to have been used in the attack, police said late Saturday.

Of note: The Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department's statement that Brandon Scott Hole, 19, bought the rifles last July and September comes a day after the FBI said in a statement to news outlets that a "shotgun was seized" from the suspect in March 2020 after his mother raised concerns about his mental health.

U.S. and China agree to take joint climate action

US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry waves as he arrives at the Elysee Presidential Palace on March 10, 2021 in Paris. Photo: Chesnot/Getty Images

Despite an increasingly tense relationship, the U.S. and China agreed Saturday to work together to tackle global climate change, including by "raising ambition" for emissions cuts during the 2020s — a key goal of the Biden administration.

Why it matters: The joint communique released Saturday evening commits the world's two largest emitters of greenhouse gases to work together to keep the most ambitious temperature target contained in the Paris Climate Agreement viable by potentially taking additional emissions cuts prior to 2030.