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President Trump got prank called. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

The host of "The Stuttering John" podcast, John Melendez, got President Trump on the phone yesterday by pretending he was New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez. "This is how easy it is to infiltrate the administration," Melendez said in the episode.

Why it matters: This calls into question White House security. White House staff members are freaking out today trying to figure out how the podcast host was so easily transferred from the White House switchboard to Air Force One, per a source familiar with the call.

The whole thing is ridiculous. Melendez, the host, had three different interactions with two White House operators and got through two call screens before Jared Kushner called him from Air Force One. According to Melendez, Kushner asked if he wanted to talk to the president then or have them call him back later, which is what he did.

The details: When the White House operator calls back, he says: "Hello is this Sen. Menendez?" and then "Hello is this Air Force One?"

  • President Trump picked up the phone congratulating who he thought was Sen. Menendez and telling him he "went through a very tough situation."
  • He also talked about immigration. "Bob, let me just tell you I want to be able to take care of the situation every bit as much as anybody else at the top level. I'd rather do the larger solution rather than the smaller solution."
  • He said the North Dakota Senate race is "a tough race."
  • Regarding his SCOTUS nominee, he said they'll be done making a decision in 12 to 14 days.

The White House didn't respond to requests for comment. In a statement to Axios, Sen. Bob Menendez said he welcomes “any opportunity to have a real conversation with the president" about this immigration reform.

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Go deeper

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
22 mins ago - Economy & Business

Trump blocks banks from limiting loans to gun and oil companies

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Big banks are no longer allowed to reject business loan applicants because of the industry in which they operate, according to a new rule finalized on Thursday by the Trump administration.

Why it matters: Wall Street has curtailed its exposure to industries like guns, oil and private prisons, driven by both public and shareholder pressures. This new rule could reverse that trend.

Former FDA commissioner: "Reliable drug supply is absolutely critical"

Axios' Caitlin Owens and former FDA commissioner Mark McClellan. Photo courtesy of Axios Events

Having a reliable supply of pharmaceutical drugs throughout America will be "absolutely critical" to boosting affordability in health care during the Biden administration, former Food and Drug Administration (FDA) commissioner Mark McClellan said at a virtual Axios Event on Friday.

The big picture: McClellan, who served under President George W. Bush, says drugs having limited supply and limited competition leads to elevated pricing. He considers drug supply to be a national security and public health issue.

Felix Salmon, author of Capital
3 hours ago - Economy & Business

Americans are still spending money

Source: Census Bureau; Chart: Axios Visuals

Americans spent more money at stores and restaurants in 2020 than they did in 2019 — even in the face of a devastating global pandemic that shut down broad sectors of the economy.

Why it matters: The monthly retail sales report this morning came in well below expectations, and showed consumer spending falling on a seasonally-adjusted basis. Total expenditures were still higher in December 2020 than they were a year previously, however.