Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

The fourth senior official to handle the Russia portfolio at the White House in three years is leaving his position, creating the potential for more uncertainty months before the U.S. election.

Driving the news: Tom Williams, who had been serving as the acting senior director for European and Russian Affairs at the National Security Council, will be returning to the Pentagon, according to national security adviser Robert O'Brien.

  • "After two years of service detailed to the NSC, Tom Williams is returning to the Pentagon when his detail ends, as is customary," O'Brien said in a statement.

The big picture: Williams is the latest departure in an NSC that has seen unprecedented turmoil and staff turnover.

  • Two of Williams' predecessors handling the Russia brief, Fiona Hill and Tim Morrison, testified in the House impeachment inquiry about President Trump's withholding of aid to Ukraine — as did Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, another official in the Russia directorate.
  • His third predecessor, Andrew Peek, was placed on administrative leave pending a security review, Axios reported in January.
  • Trump is also on his fourth national security adviser, with his first, Michael Flynn, still facing criminal prosecution, and his last, John Bolton, flaming the president in a tell-all that is roiling Washington.

Between the lines: There was internal debate — and concern at the NSC — over Trump's decision to issue a joint declaration with Russian President Vladimir Putin to mark the 75th Anniversary of U.S. and Russian troops meeting in Germany on their way to defeat the Nazis.

  • "The 'Spirit of the Elbe' is an example of how our countries can put aside differences, build trust, and cooperate in pursuit of a greater cause," the statement said.

The bottom line: Fiona Hill recently told the Financial Times of her experience at the National Security Council: “I knew more about what was going on in the Kremlin than what was going on in the White House.”

Go deeper

Updated 12 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 7 a.m. ET: 11,288,094 — Total deaths: 531,244 — Total recoveries — 6,075,489Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 7 a.m. ET: 2,839,917 — Total deaths: 129,676 — Total recoveries: 894,325 — Total tested: 34,858,427Map.
  3. States: Photos of America's pandemic July 4 ICU beds in Arizona hot spot near capacity.
  4. Public health: U.S. coronavirus infections hit record highs for 3 straight days.
  5. Politics: Trump extends PPP application deadlineKimberly Guilfoyle tests positive.
  6. World: Mexican leaders call for tighter border control as infections rise in U.S.
  7. Sports: 31 MLB players test positive as workouts resume.
  8. 1 📽 thing: Drive-in movie theaters are making a comeback.

Trump's failing culture wars

Data: Google; Chart: Naema Ahmed/Axios

President Trump built his political brand by stoking the nation's culture wars, but search data is showing us how much harder it's been for him to replicate that success while running against another white man in his 70s — and while there's a coronavirus pandemic.

The big picture: Google Trends data shows Trump's "Sleepy Joe" name-calling isn't generating nearly the buzz "Crooked Hillary" (or "Little Marco") did in 2016. Base voters who relished doubting President Obama's birth certificate aren't questioning Biden's.

16 hours ago - Health

15 states broke single-day coronavirus records this week

Data: Compiled from state health departments by Axios; Map: Danielle Alberti/Axios

At least 15 states broke their single-day novel coronavirus infection records this week, according to state health department data reviewed by Axios.

The big picture: The number of coronavirus cases increased in the vast majority of states over the last week, and decreased in only two states plus the District of Columbia, Axios' Andrew Withershoop and Caitlin Owens report.