Photo: Win McNamee / Getty Images

President Trump today will unveil a $1.5 trillion infrastructure plan that his own aides don't think will pass, and a $4 trillion budget that reads like "science fiction."

It's the strangest of year-ahead plans for a party that controls the White House and both chambers of Congress: Top Republicans see Job 1 for this year as promoting the tax cut they passed last year.

The state of play: With the House in danger in November's midterms, a Republican close to the White House tells me this is a year for pumping Trump's base on taxes, economic growth and the wall (or the fight for the wall), "while the Dems help with focus on immigrants. For Rs, this is a year to avoid losing."

So ignore the documents and blather today. Here's Trump's real plan for '18:

  • A source close to the White House tells me that with an eye to getting Republicans excited about voting for Republicans in midterms, the president this year will be looking for "unexpected cultural flashpoints" — like the NFL and kneeling — that he can latch onto in person and on Twitter.
  • The source said Trump "is going to be looking for opportunities to stir up the base, more than focusing on any particular legislation or issue."
  • One of D.C.'s savviest Democrats had come to the same conclusion, without my even mentioning it.
  • Matt Bennett, c0-founder of the centrist Democratic group Third Way, said: "His administration is cranking away on these Potemkin legislative efforts."
  • "But what he's really interested in is storylines revolving around him — driving the conversation with whatever crosses his mind at that moment, and then comes out of his mouth or his fingers."

Be smart ... All that is more evidence for our continuing reminder to you that Trump will be more Trump this year:

  • With the departure of centrist aides and the gravitational pull of midterms in November and his reelection race in 2020, Trump's nationalist campaign instincts are likely to get even more sway than they did last year.

P.S. The White House begins this week with unfinished business — continuing fallout from the messy resignation of Staff Secretary Rob Porter:

  • N.Y. Times: "Even when reporters called the White House press office roughly three weeks ago asking about Mr. Porter’s divorces and whether they had affected his security clearance, that did not stir concern."
  • NYT: Without longtime deputy Kirstjen Nielsen, now Secretary of Homeland Security, Chief of Staff John Kelly "sometimes does not remember what he has said to different people, two officials said."
  • L.A. Times: "Over and over again the past few days, various White House aides have buttonholed reporters to tell them ... that they think Kelly either lied to them or tried to get them to lie about what he knew when."

Go deeper

Pelosi, Schumer demand postmaster general reverse USPS cuts ahead of election

Schumer and Pelosi. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer sent a letter to Postmaster General Louis DeJoy on Thursday calling for the recent Trump appointee to reverse operational changes to the U.S. Postal Service that "threaten the timely delivery of mail" ahead of the 2020 election.

Why it matters: U.S. mail and election infrastructure are facing a test like no other this November, with a record-breaking number of mail-in ballots expected as Americans attempt to vote in the midst of a pandemic.

CRISPR co-discoverer on the gene editor's pandemic push

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photos: Brian Ach/Getty Images for Wired and BSIP/UIG via Getty Images

The coronavirus pandemic is accelerating the development of CRISPR-based tests for detecting disease — and highlighting how gene-editing tools might one day fight pandemics, one of its discoverers, Jennifer Doudna, tells Axios.

Why it matters: Testing shortages and backlogs underscore a need for improved mass testing for COVID-19. Diagnostic tests based on CRISPR — which Doudna and colleagues identified in 2012, ushering in the "CRISPR revolution" in genome editing — are being developed for dengue, Zika and other diseases, but a global pandemic is a proving ground for these tools that hold promise for speed and lower costs.

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 5 p.m. ET: 18,912,947 — Total deaths: 710,318— Total recoveries — 11,403,473Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 5 p.m. ET: 4,867,916 — Total deaths: 159,841 — Total recoveries: 1,577,851 — Total tests: 58,920,975Map.
  3. Politics: Pelosi rips GOP over stimulus negotiations: "Perhaps you mistook them for somebody who gives a damn" — Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine tests positive.
  4. Public health: Majority of Americans say states reopened too quicklyFauci says task force will examine aerosolized spread.
  5. Business: The health care sector imploded in Q2More farmers are declaring bankruptcyJuly's jobs report could be an inflection point for the recovery.
  6. Sports: Where college football's biggest conferences stand on playing.