Sep 4, 2018

Trump sets up rule-of-law crisis

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

With a tweet complaining that indictments of two congressmen "by the Jeff Sessions Justice Department" put GOP seats at risk, President Trump guaranteed a confirmation minefield for any future attorney general.

Driving the news: Trump tweeted, referring to indictments of Rep. Chris Collins (N.Y.) for insider trading and Rep. Duncan Hunter (Calif.) for misusing campaign funds: "Two easy wins now in doubt because there is not enough time. Good job Jeff."

The tweet rattled even key Republicans:

  • A senior Justice Department official said: "It was a very concerning tweet. It shows how POTUS thinks DOJ should be used: As a weapon against enemies and a tool to win elections."
  • Referring to the two congressional indictments, the official said: “Both cases are not even close, the facts are very bad.”
  • One of Washington’s most respected Republican lawyers said: "Like everything else, he shoots first and then asks questions later. So in his ... mind he thinks he can find someone to take the job who will be confirmable and rein in Mueller. So he’ll force out Sessions and then find there’s no one who will take the job who the Senate Republicans can support."

Why it matters: These Trump tweets will become litmus tests in the confirmation hearing of any future Trump attorney general.

  • The nominee will be asked whether they agree with tweets like this, and whether they agree with the president’s conception of the A.G. role — that it’s his personal lawyer, who ought to be indicting political enemies and protecting friends.
  • Nobody who answers those questions in a manner satisfactory to the Senate will satisfy Trump’s desire to replace Sessions with a toady A.G.
  • A top Republican knowledgeable about succession issues told Axios that the tweet "will almost guarantee as a condition of confirmation that the [A.G.] nominee pledge that he or she won’t interfere [with] Mueller."

Be smart: This tweet tested the faith of some of Trump's usually reflexively defensive supporters. Of course, the biggest diehards will stick by him. But he lost some who had already begun to lose patience.

  • P.S. Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.): "The United States is not some banana republic."

Go deeper

U.S. coronavirus updates: Infections number tops 140,000

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

The novel coronavirus has now infected over 142,000 people in the U.S. — more than any other country in the world, per Johns Hopkins data.

The big picture: COVID-19 had killed over 2,400 people in the U.S. by Sunday night. That's far fewer than in Italy, where over 10,000 people have died — accounting for a third of the global death toll. The number of people who've recovered from the virus in the U.S. exceeded 2,600 Sunday evening.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 1 min ago - Health

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 9 p.m. ET: 721,584 — Total deaths: 33,958 — Total recoveries: 149,122.
  2. U.S.: Leads the world in cases. Total confirmed cases as of 9 p.m. ET: 142,106 — Total deaths: 2,479 — Total recoveries: 2,686.
  3. Federal government latest: President Trump says his administration will extend its "15 Days to Slow the Spread" guidelines until April 30.
  4. Public health updates: Fauci says 100,000 to 200,000 Americans could die from virus.
  5. State updates: Louisiana governor says state is on track to exceed ventilator capacity by end of this week — Cuomo says Trump's mandatory quarantine comments "panicked" some people into fleeing New York
  6. World updates: Italy on Sunday reports 756 new deaths, bringing its total 10,779. Spain reports almost 840 dead, another new daily record that bring its total to over 6,500.
  7. What should I do? Answers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingQ&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

Subscribe to Mike Allen's Axios AM to follow our coronavirus coverage each morning from your inbox.

World coronavirus updates: Cases surge past 720,000

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens and confirmed plus presumptive cases from the CDC

There are now more than 720,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus around the world, according to data from Johns Hopkins. The virus has now killed more than 33,000 people — with Italy alone reporting over 10,000 deaths.

The big picture: Governments around the world have stepped up public health and economic measures to stop the spread of the virus and soften the financial impact. In the U.S., now the site of the largest outbreak in the world, President Trump said Sunday that his administration will extend its "15 Days to Slow the Spread" guidelines until April 30.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 1 hour ago - Health