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White House counsel Don McGahn lobbied Attorney General Jeff Sessions not to recuse himself from the Russia probe at the direction of President Trump, the New York Times' Mike Schmidt reports.

  • McGahn backed off when Sessions told him that DOJ officials already advised him to recuse himself, per the Times. That led to Trump "[erupting] in anger," saying "he needed his attorney general to protect him," per the report.
  • Why it matters: This information has already crossed Robert Mueller's desk.

Other details from the report:

  • Mueller has "substantiated claims that Mr. Comey made in a series of memos describing troubling interactions" with Trump. Remember: Comey said Trump asked him for loyalty, and to back off Michael Flynn.
  • Trump reportedly called the investigation "fabricated and politically motivated" in a letter he meant to send to Comey. He was ultimately stopped from sending it by White House aides.
  • Mueller also has noted from former chief of staff Reince Priebus regarding how Trump talked to him about calling Comey "to urge him to say publicly that he was not under investigation."
  • A White House lawyer misled Trump into believing he lacked the power to fire Comey, because he thought the move would be disastrous.

Worth noting: The NYT reports that experts are "divided" on if Mueller could bring about obstruction charges against Trump, though legal experts told the Times that there is "a larger body of public evidence tying the president to a possible crime of obstruction."

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World coronavirus updates

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Axios Visuals

New Zealand confirmed Thursday there are now 13 local cases linked to the four who tested positive for COVID-19, ending 102 days with no community spread. Auckland locked down Wednesday for 72 hours and the rest of NZ is under lesser restrictions.

By the numbers: Over 749,400 people have died of the novel coronavirus globally and over 20.6 million have tested positive, per Johns Hopkins. More than 12.8 million have recovered from the virus.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 3 a.m. ET: 20,624,316 — Total deaths: 749,421— Total recoveries: 12,831,800Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 3 a.m. ET: 5,197,147 — Total deaths: 166,027 — Total recoveries: 1,714,960 — Total tests: 63,252,257Map.
  3. Politics: Pelosi says Mnuchin told her White House is "not budging" on stimulus position.
  4. Business: U.S. already feeling effects of ending unemployment benefits.
  5. Public health: U.S. records deadliest coronavirus day of the summer — America's two-sided COVID-19 response
  6. Education: New Jersey governor allows schools to reopenGallup: America's confidence in public school system jumps to highest level since 2004.

Bob Woodward's new book details letters between Trump and Kim Jong-un

Bob Woodward during a 2019 event in Los Angele. Photo: Michael Kovac/Getty Images

Journalist Bob Woodward has obtained "25 personal letters exchanged" between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un for his new book, "Rage," publisher Simon & Schuster revealed on Wednesday.

Details: In the letters, "Kim describes the bond between the two leaders as out of a 'fantasy film,' as the two leaders engage in an extraordinary diplomatic minuet," according to a description of the book posted on Amazon.