Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

At 1:37 p.m. today, the President issued a consequential and ominous tweet: "I hereby demand, and will do so officially tomorrow, that the Department of Justice look into whether or not the FBI/DOJ infiltrated or surveilled the Trump Campaign for Political Purposes - and if any such demands or requests were made by people within the Obama Administration!"

Why this matters: Trump was effectively rolling a grenade into the Department of Justice — ordering the agency to conduct a politically-motivated investigation of itself.

The twist: Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appears to be trying to pre-empt Trump's official request by saying he's happy to allow an independent investigation. (The thing DoJ officials are most concerned about is the exposure of confidential sources and documents, which Trump still hasn't formally ordered Rosenstein to do.)

  • Four hours after Trump's tweet, Justice Department spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores emailed: "The Department has asked the Inspector General to expand the ongoing review of the FISA application process to include determining whether there was any impropriety or political motivation in how the FBI conducted its counterintelligence investigation of persons suspected of involvement with the Russian agents who interfered in the 2016 presidential election.
  • "As always, the Inspector General will consult with the appropriate U.S. Attorney if there is any evidence of potential criminal conduct."

Rosenstein also issued the following statement: “If anyone did infiltrate or surveil participants in a presidential campaign for inappropriate purposes, we need to know about it and take appropriate action.”

Between the lines: Trump would be happy if Jeff Sessions or his deputy Rosenstein resigned, according to multiple sources who've discussed both men with the President. But Trump's lawyers have been urging him not to meddle in the Justice Department and to avoid any actions that look like he's interfering with Robert Mueller's investigation.

  • Some Trump allies thought his tweet would put the DoJ leadership in a bind: accept the President's order (one many will hate), or resign.
  • A former administration official, who stays in touch with a number of people involved in these discussions, told me on Saturday that exactly this would happen. The source presented it as a perfect way to "set the predicate" for getting rid of Rosenstein.
  • A current senior administration official then told me they'd heard this idea was being kicked around, but didn't think Trump would ultimately follow through with it.

The bottom line: As I publish this newsletter I don't know whether Trump will feel mollified by Rosenstein's statement and his decision to kick the expanded investigation over to the Inspector General. If he backs off, and doesn't order Rosenstein to go even further and release documents and reveal sources, then it might be crisis averted. For today at least.

Go deeper

Updated 9 mins ago - World

Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai arrested under national security law

Media tycoon Jimmy Lai at the Next Digital offices in Hong Kong in June. Photo: Anthony Wallace/AFP via Getty Images

Hong Kong pro-democracy activist Jimmy Lai has been arrested for "collusion with foreign powers," said Mark Simon, an executive at the tycoon's media firm Next Digital Monday morning local time.

Why it matters: He was arrested under the new national security law that gives Beijing more powers over the former British colony. Lai is the most prominent person arrested under the law, which prompted the U.S. to sanction Chinese officials, including Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam, over Beijing's efforts to strip the territory of its autonomy.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 8:30 p.m. ET: 19,769,560— Total deaths: 729,351 — Total recoveries — 12,030,061Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 8:30 p.m. ET: 5,041,573 — Total deaths: 162,913 — Total recoveries: 1,656,864 — Total tests: 61,792,571Map.
  3. Politics: Pelosi says states don't have the funds to comply with Trump's executive order on unemployment — Mnuchin says Trump executive orders were cleared by Justice Department.
  4. States: New York reports lowest rate of positive coronavirus test results since pandemic began
  5. Public health: Ex-FDA head: U.S. will "definitely" see 200,000 to 300,000 virus deaths by end of 2020. 
  6. Schools: Nine test positive at Georgia school where photo showing packed hallway went viral — How back-to-school is playing out in the South as coronavirus rages on.

New York reports new low positive coronavirus test rate

People physically distancing at tables in New York City's Times Square in June. Photo: Johannes Eisele/AFP via Getty Images

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announced Sunday 515 people, or 0.78% of those tested, returned a positive reading for COVID-19 the previous day.

Why it matters: It's the lowest single-day positive rate since the start of the pandemic. It's another sign that the state that was once a global coronavirus epicenter is curbing the spread of the virus. "Our daily numbers remain low and steady, despite increasing infection rates across the country, and even in our region," Cuomo said in a statement. "But we must not become complacent: Everyone should continue to wear their masks and socially distance."

Go deeper: Cuomo says all New York schools can reopen for in-person learning