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: Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

When it comes to President Trump — and his trickle-down moods that drive the West Wing, his party, the nation — February 2018 is no different than February 2017: he’s still stuck on the exact same internal fights about trade, the same complaints about top staff, the same obsessive gripes about media coverage.

The big picture: The episodic drama is almost impossible to cover accurately, because the views reflected in the press often depend partly on which characters in the drama are most aggrieved at the moment, and which faction they belong to. Remember that President Trump thinks of each day as a new episode in a reality show, with him as the star, writer, producer and critic.

Here's a perfect example: West Wing aides privately admit they have no earthly idea what Trump will do about anything — whether it be guns, immigration, their own careers, or the fate of Chief of Staff John Kelly.

  • Some of his staff are convinced the general is on thin ice. A source close to the president told us: “The president is displeased — with a capital D — with how the White House is functioning right now."
  • But here's a scoop: First Lady Melania Trump genuinely supports Kelly and likes him a lot. Thinks he's a pro. And Kelly has been wise to cultivate her and to make sure he includes her, and factors her schedule into events.

So will Kelly go? Sure — sometime. But the apparent imminence of his departure depends completely on which part of the cast you're consulting, and what the president's whim was in his most recent conversations.

  • Is Trump asking people's opinions about Kelly, and about possible successors — exactly the way he did in the weeks before his first chief of staff, Reince Priebus, left the building? He is.
  • Trump is privately asking friends and staff about Kelly: “What’s up with this guy? He can’t get along with anybody?”
  • Trump was walking around Mar-a-Lago last weekend, informally polling people on Kelly. He’d got it in his head that nobody on his staff liked him. But he’s heard some more positive opinions about Kelly in the past few days, including from Melania. 
  • One thing is certain: The mystique that initially surrounded Kelly has worn off.
  • Trump would love nothing more than if prospects for chief like Gary Cohn, Kevin McCarthy and Mick Mulvaney would beg for the job. That would make it easier to transition — he could say “make it happen,” hire them on his terms and outsource the removal of Kelly. But they won’t beg. So it’s a standoff with no obvious end in sight.

What is true is that the West Wing got more chaotic beginning with the botched departure of Staff Secretary Robert Porter two weeks ago:

  • The episode revived West Wing leaking and backbiting that had waned since the Reince/Bannon era. That’s been very dispiriting for those on staff who want to hold things together and accomplish policy goals.
  • They look around in senior staff meetings and know that some of their colleagues are presenting one face to them in the room, and quite another behind their backs. It has devastated morale, which is currently about as low as it could go.

If a few people leave — like economic adviser Gary Cohn or national security adviser H.R. McMaster — many others might follow:

  • We have no idea who’d replace them. And from what we can tell, Kelly hasn’t done a ton of succession planning. 
  • Some aides feel the place is unraveling, that they can't trust their colleagues, that they don't know what's going on, that there's no path upward.
  • But you know what? That sentence was as true in February 2017, in the frenzied weeks after the inauguration, as it is today.
  • In Trumpw0rld, every day is yesterday.
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

Pelosi's back-to-school math problem

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) may need votes from an unlikely source — the Republican Party — if she hopes to pass the bipartisan infrastructure bill by next Monday, as she's promised Democratic centrists.

Why it matters: With at least 20 progressives threatening to vote against the $1.2 trillion bipartisan bill, centrist members are banking on more than 10 Republicans to approve the bill.

By the numbers: Haitian emigration

Expand chart
Data: CBP; Chart: Sara Wise/Axios

The number of Haitians crossing the U.S.-Mexico border had been rising even before their country's president was assassinated in July and the island was struck by an earthquake a month later.

Why it matters: A spike during the past few weeks — leaving thousands waiting in a makeshift camp under a bridge in Del Rio, Texas — has prompted a crackdown and deportations by the Biden administration.

Biden's communication headaches

President Biden stands with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and French President Emmanuel Macron at the G7 summit in June. Photo: Patrick Semansky/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

Boris Johnson told reporters on his way to the U.N. General Assembly on Sunday night he didn't believe it was likely that the U.S. would agree to lift its ban on vaccinated foreign travelers this week. Hours later, the White House did exactly that.

Why it matters: For the second time in less than a week, a major U.S. foreign policy decision by the Biden administration appears to have caught one of its closest allies by surprise. And neither was the first time, either.