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Trump in the White House Rose Garden yesterday. Photo: Evan Vucci / AP

I wrote yesterday about President Trump's war with the truth, after a stunning string of false statements during double-header press avails. But his war with his own Cabinet, over his own ideas, is equally stunning.

It's a feature, not a bug, of this White House for Trump to say one thing about policy, and for his Cabinet or hand-picked officials to say or do the exact opposite:

  • Yesterday, FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai subtly shot down Trump's threat to revoke NBC broadcast licenses: "I believe in the First Amendment."
  • SecState Rex Tillerson says North Korean diplomacy "will continue until the first bomb drops"; Trump tweets that he's "wasting his time."
  • SecDef Jim Mattis tells Congress that holding onto the Iran nuclear pact is in the interest of the national security of the United States; 10 days later, Trump threatens cancellation.
  • Trump blames "both sides" for racial violence in Charlottesville; Tillerson says the president "speaks for himself," and economic adviser Gary Cohn says the administration "must do better."
  • Trump threatens extreme action on immigrants, Muslims, "Dreamers," trade, NATO and more, but aides and advisers wind up softening or delaying most — with the notable exception of the Paris climate deal.

Why this matters: This dynamic — like the spreading of fake news or false statements — makes it hard for the media, Republicans and his Cabinet to determine when to take the leader of the free world seriously.

Sound smart: This is not a plot of evil genius to keep friends and foes guessing. It's the inevitable output of an improvisational president who often says whatever pops into his head.

Subscribe to Axios AM/PM for a daily rundown of what's new and why it matters, directly from Mike Allen.
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Go deeper

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
52 mins ago - Economy & Business

Trump blocks banks from limiting loans to gun and oil companies

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Big banks are no longer allowed to reject business loan applicants because of the industry in which they operate, according to a new rule finalized on Thursday by the Trump administration.

Why it matters: Wall Street has curtailed its exposure to industries like guns, oil and private prisons, driven by both public and shareholder pressures. This new rule could reverse that trend.

Former FDA commissioner: "Reliable drug supply is absolutely critical"

Axios' Caitlin Owens and former FDA commissioner Mark McClellan. Photo courtesy of Axios Events

Having a reliable supply of pharmaceutical drugs throughout America will be "absolutely critical" to boosting affordability in health care during the Biden administration, former Food and Drug Administration (FDA) commissioner Mark McClellan said at a virtual Axios Event on Friday.

The big picture: McClellan, who served under President George W. Bush, says drugs having limited supply and limited competition leads to elevated pricing. He considers drug supply to be a national security and public health issue.

Felix Salmon, author of Capital
4 hours ago - Economy & Business

Americans are still spending money

Source: Census Bureau; Chart: Axios Visuals

Americans spent more money at stores and restaurants in 2020 than they did in 2019 — even in the face of a devastating global pandemic that shut down broad sectors of the economy.

Why it matters: The monthly retail sales report this morning came in well below expectations, and showed consumer spending falling on a seasonally-adjusted basis. Total expenditures were still higher in December 2020 than they were a year previously, however.

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