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Illustration: Rebecca Zisser / Axios

As we head into the fall's legislative fights and the new year, we'll be watching President Trump's deep frustration with the Senate in general and Mitch McConnell in particular. Sources who've spent time with Trump privately say he's at his wits end with both.

  • "Mitch isn't up to it," Trump privately tells associates, arguing that McConnell is a failed leader, past his prime, without the strength or stamina required to ram through his agenda.
  • Trump gets a kick out of his favorite TV host, Lou Dobbs, who constantly trashes GOP congressional leaders. (The president often calls Dobbs to praise him on his shows, revel in his attacks on Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell and to seek his opinions on various issues.)

Trump views the Senate as an extension of McConnell: an archaic, do-nothing institution that relies on old rules simply because they are traditions, and not because they serve any modern day purpose. Trump's constant tweeting about the need to abolish the legislative filibuster — so Republicans can ram through any bill with 50 rather than 60 votes — can also be read as jabs at McConnell, who has bluntly said he won't change this tradition. (Asked about this, a White House official said the president has made his frustrations with the filibuster clear and his comments have been directed at the entire GOP caucus rather than any one individual.)

What's next: It's an open question whether the breakdown of the Trump-McConnell relationship will make this year's goals harder to achieve — Congress must agree to fund the government by the middle of December, Republicans have pledged to pass their tax plan this year, and the deal to suspend the debt ceiling until expires in December and might require action after the New Year. (A White House official said that when it comes to the "biggest agenda item, tax reform, "the president, the majority leader and the rest of the Big Six are working very closely together and are in sync.")

  • Politically, the feud could explode into the 2018 midterm elections. Does Trump continue to support McConnell's hand-picked candidates in Republican primaries — as he did, disastrously, with Luther Strange in Alabama — or does Trump use these races to satisfy his gut instincts and nurse his personal grievances? It'll be Steve Bannon on one of Trump's shoulders and McConnell on the other. (The WH official said decisions on 2018 are months away and rejected the premise that Trump felt the Strange endorsement had been a disaster. "The president's endorsement significantly improved [Strange's] standing in that race.")
  • A WH official said that with respect to the 2018 elections, "the president will support candidates that will support his agenda... We're tracking all these races, but in terms of deciphering broad strategy... you can speculate but from actual boots on ground, from the political and money perspective, lots of those decisions are months away." The official also rejected the premise that Trump felt the Strange endorsement had been a disaster. "The president's endorsement significantly improved [Strange's] standing in that race."

Go deeper

More corporations are requiring workers to get vaccinated

Graphic: Axios Visuals

Life for the unvaccinated could get more difficult as bosses increasingly move to make COVID-19 vaccines mandatory.

The big picture: The federal Government in May said that it is legal for companies to require employees to get vaccinated for coronavirus.

White House: Over 500,000 new shots recorded Friday, highest since July 1

Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

The United States recorded more than half a million new COVID-19 vaccine shots on Friday, the highest number since July 1, White House deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said.

Why it matters: The Delta variant is continuing to spread across the United States and it now comprises over 80% of the coronavirus cases in the country, Jean-Pierre said. A report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noted that "vaccination is the most important strategy to prevent severe illness and death."

Biden to announce sanctions, other efforts to address crisis in Cuba amid protests

Photo: Sarah Silbiger/UPI/Bloomberg via Getty Images

President Biden will announce sanctions against one entity and two Cuban individuals this afternoon and provide details on his administration's efforts to improve internet connectivity in Cuba, a senior administration official said Friday.

Why it matters: After initially hoping to place the issue on the back burner, the White House has recently ramped up its focus on Cuba amid protests on the island and in the United States, congressional backlash and political pressure from the South Florida Cuban community.

  • The president is also expected to make announcements on remittances and plans for U.S. embassy augmentation, the official said.
  • The official noted that the administration is in talks with private sector providers about the possibility of providing wireless LTE communications to the Cuban people.
  • "Given the protest of July 11, it is important for U.S. diplomats to engage directly with the Cuban people and if we can do that in a way that ensures the safety of U.S. personnel, that is something that we will undertake," he said, noting that the president would announce more details later this afternoon.

The details: The president will meet today with Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), a Cuban-American, and House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.), among other political and community leaders and artists.

  • Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), an outspoken voice on Cuban issues, is not expected to attend the meeting.
  • The meeting follows a series of engagements by Cedric Richmond and the Office of Public Engagement with the Cuban-American community, the official said.

What they're saying: "We're gonna do everything we can to keep Cuba on the front burner, so we can keep the conversation on the rights of the Cuban people and their rights to manifest peacefully," the official said on the call with reporters.

Be smart: Cuba is a tricky political issue for Democrats, who are split on the matter. The president was defeated by Donald Trump in South Florida during the 2020 election, and Democrats fear similar results, particularly in the upcoming midterms, if they mishandle the situation.

Go deeper: The newly announced sanctions today will follow already imposed sanctions against Cuban officials and entities allegedly responsible for human rights abuses during the government's crackdown on island-wide protests earlier this month.

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