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President Trump at the White House. Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images

It’s as if the post-election presidential transition to power never ended for Donald Trump. Or never began. Everything in this White House is in flux — and in play.

Why it matters: Some officials tell us it’s like Jan. 20, 2017, every day — with different characters and different plots, but the same maddening improviser, with the same maddening tricks:

  • No one knows — or even bothers claiming to know — what Trump will do next.
  • Few feel secure in their role or power.
  • Important jobs remain open; important confirmations pending.
  • The process has broken down, and White House chief of staff John Kelly has lost the steering wheel at critical moments.
  • Many days, it’s governing by winging it. 

Here's what's happening inside:

  • Trump's own psyche in flux: Sources close to the president genuinely fear special counsel Robert Mueller has passed a "breaking point" for Trump. More than one person has used that phrase to us. They worry the president will fire Mueller. A former senior White House official said to me: "I just hope [inside lawyer] Ty [Cobb] and [White House counsel] Don [McGahn] can talk him down."
    • But in the next sentence, this former official sighed and acknowledged how much Trump finds McGahn irritating and has turned against him.
  • Personnel in flux: A number of senior staff are leaving or planning to leave.
    • Larry Kudlow will likely lose a good deal of talent he wants to keep at the National Economic Council — with Shahira Knight, the tax expert who was the star of Gary Cohn's staff, at the top of the list.
    • John Bolton has taken charge of the National Security Council, and will be installing his own people.
    • Yesterday, homeland security adviser Tom Bossert resigned (though the White House has not pushed back on the suggestion he was pushed out.)
    • On Sunday, it was NSC spokesman (and early Trump supporter) Michael Anton. Lists of additional "targets" are circulating among Bolton's allies.
  • Policy uncertainty: Nobody in the White House or on Capitol Hill claims to know what's going to happen on trade. The business community and the markets are stressed about the threat of a global trade war, or a more intense one with China. Wall Street and K Street are rooting for Trump and Xi to find an exit ramp that allows both men to save face and claim victories, with minimal disruptions to the markets. 
  • Decision-making has been haphazard and processes have broken down. Exhibit A: Our inside account of the $100 billion tariffs threat last week. Even John Kelly was taken by surprise at the speed of the announcement.

Be smart: The result of all of this is a White House that often feels like madness, even to those present for opening night, and still in the cast today. 

Get more stories like this by signing up for our weekly political lookahead newsletter, Axios Sneak Peek. 

Go deeper

Scoop: Gina Haspel almost resigned over plan to install Kash Patel as CIA deputy

Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

CIA Director Gina Haspel almost resigned in early December after President Trump cooked up a hasty plan to install loyalist Kash Patel, a former aide to Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), as her deputy, according to three senior administration officials with direct knowledge of the matter.

Why it matters: The revelations stunned national security officials and almost blew up the leadership of the world's most powerful spy agency.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: Coronavirus deaths reach 4,000 per day as hospitals remain in crisis mode — CDC warns highly transmissible coronavirus variant could become dominant in U.S. in March.
  2. Politics: Biden says, "We will manage the hell out of" vaccine distribution — Biden taps ex-FDA chief to lead Operation Warp Speed amid rollout of COVID plan — Widow of GOP congressman-elect who died of COVID-19 will run to fill his seat.
  3. Vaccine: Battling Black mistrust of the vaccines"Pharmacy deserts" could become vaccine deserts — Instacart to give $25 to shoppers who get vaccine.
  4. Economy: Unemployment filings explode againFed chair: No interest rate hike coming any time soon —  Inflation rose more than expected in December.
  5. World: WHO team arrives in China to investigate pandemic origins.

NRA declares bankruptcy, says it will reincorporate in Texas

Wayne LaPierre of the National Rifle Association (NRA) speaks during CPAC in 2016. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

The National Rifle Association said Friday it has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and will seek to reincorporate in Texas, calling New York, where it is currently registered, a "toxic political environment."

The big picture: The move comes just months after New York Attorney General Letitia James filed a lawsuit to dissolve the NRA, alleging the group committed fraud by diverting roughly $64 million in charitable donations over three years to support reckless spending by its executives.