Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on the day's biggest business stories

Subscribe to Axios Closer for insights into the day’s business news and trends and why they matter

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Stay on top of the latest market trends

Subscribe to Axios Markets for the latest market trends and economic insights. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sports news worthy of your time

Binge on the stats and stories that drive the sports world with Axios Sports. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tech news worthy of your time

Get our smart take on technology from the Valley and D.C. with Axios Login. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Get the inside stories

Get an insider's guide to the new White House with Axios Sneak Peek. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Denver news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Des Moines news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Twin Cities news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Tampa Bay news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Charlotte news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sign up for Axios NW Arkansas

Stay up-to-date on the most important and interesting stories affecting NW Arkansas, authored by local reporters

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

As President Trump has settled into Year 2 of his presidency, he has become especially enamored with powers he can exercise — just like back at the Trump Organization — without the approval or even consultation of anyone else.

Four sources close to Trump tell Axios that the revocation of former CIA Director John Brennan's clearance belongs in the same category as the president's love of the pardon power and the signing of executive orders.

  • It's a power that is uniquely and solely his, and matches his idea of how the presidency ought to be: pure power and instant gratification.
  • "What he enjoys most about this job is finding things he has absolute power over," said one source who’s worked closely with Trump. "He got a kick out of pardons, that he could pardon anybody he wants and people would come to him to court him and beg him."

Now — after Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) pointed out to Trump that he could revoke security clearances from former senior officials who were attacking him — he is clearly relishing the unilateral power:

  • For the longest time, according to sources with direct knowledge of the president's thinking, Trump did not get involved in clearance issues, whatsoever.
  • He “really wanted to stay out of it, not just for Jared and Ivanka but [for] others,” one source with direct knowledge of the process said.
  • Former White House aide Seb Gorka “appealed to him personally several times [to get his permanent security clearance] and he never acted. And he loved Gorka!”

Another source close to Trump said: “I don’t believe Trump is inclined to do anything that erodes separation of powers — at least, nothing that exceeds the historical rate at which executive power has expanded."

  • "But if there’s a power he’s been given, you can bet every penny you own that he’s going to use it — and perhaps use it in new ways or with greater frequency than ever before."
  • “I’ve never heard him express anger that he was constitutionally constrained from doing something. But he’s definitely biased toward action, so he’s going to try and have to be told otherwise. For example, look no further than telling Native American tribes to 'just do it.'"

Reality check: The White House has provided no evidence that Brennan is a threat to national security.

  • West Wing aides have no evidence he leaked classified information; if they did, they would’ve produced it.
  • This was a purely political decision. And the explanation for the delay in announcing the decision — Trump told the Wall Street Journal he was prepared to yank Brennan’s clearance last week but it was too "hectic" — is odd, given that he was on vacation at his New Jersey golf club.

Be smart: The narrative that Trump is doing this to silence Brennan — as the former CIA director suggested in his N.Y. Times Op-Ed — is absurd.

  • Bloomberg’s Eli Lake nails the reality when he writes that far from wanting to silence Brennan, Trump is clearly trying to elevate him as his foil.
  • Lake notes that Trump "wants to make Brennan the face of the so-called resistance."
  • "This is the Trump playbook," Lake continues. "Why do you think he keeps tweeting about Maxine Waters? He is a man who approaches politics like professional wrestling, happy to play the villain if it energizes his base. And for Trump, Brennan is a perfect adversary."

The takeway: Trump always needs a villain to run against and he and his media allies, like Fox’s Sean Hannity, are trying to brand Brennan as the sinister face of the “Deep State” that they claim is out to get Trump.

Not a valid email format.
Not a valid email format.
Server error. Please try a different email.
Not a valid email format.
Not a valid email format.
Server error. Please try a different email.
Not a valid email format.
Not a valid email format.
Server error. Please try a different email.
Not a valid email format.
Not a valid email format.
Server error. Please try a different email.
Not a valid email format.
Not a valid email format.
Server error. Please try a different email.

Go deeper

House passes government funding, debt ceiling bill

Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

The House passed a bill on Tuesday to fund the government through early December, along with a measure to raise the debt ceiling through December 2022.

Why it matters: The stopgap measure, which needs to be passed to avoid a government shutdown when funding expires on Sept. 30, faces a difficult journey in the Senate where at least ten Republicans would need to vote in favor.

3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

The Democrats' debt dilemma

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Democrats find themselves in a political and potentially catastrophic economic quagmire as Republicans stand firm on denying them any help in raising the federal debt ceiling.

Why it matters: The Democrats are technically right — the debt comes, in part, from past spending by President Trump and his predecessors, not only President Biden's new big-ticket programs. But Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is saddling them with the public relations challenge of making that distinction during next year's crucial midterms.

Pelosi's endgame

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi appears at a news conference on Tuesday. Photo: Sarah Silbiger/Bloomberg via Getty Images

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) began her infrastructure endgame Tuesday, pressuring centrists to ultimately support as much social spending as possible while pleading with progressives to pass the roads-and-bridges package preceding it.

Why it matters: Neither group can achieve what it wants without the other, their ultimatums be damned. The leaders of both acknowledged the speaker's unique gift for pulling off a deal after separate conversations with Democratic leaders.