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Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

Not since the Bill Clinton sex scandals of the 1990s has the national conversation focused on a president's personal life on so many fronts so often.

And not since the 1990s has sex been part of a federal investigation stirring calls for impeachment: Kristin Davis, known as the "Manhattan Madam" for the high-end prostitution ring she ran in the 2000s, says Robert Mueller's prosecutors have notified her that he wants to interview her — probably about her close friend, Roger Stone, she tells the WashPost.

Karen McDougal, the former Playmate who claims she had an affair with Trump, will stay in the news now that the FBI has a recording Michael Cohen secretly made of Trump, then his client, discussing payments to her.

  • Trump tweeted yesterday that the tape is "perhaps illegal" — which, as the N.Y. Times put it, "signaled open warfare on Mr. Cohen."

And there may be a lot more revelations: Jonathan Swan, reporting yesterday that Michael Cohen has begun privately questioning Trump's fitness to be president, points out: "The question of what Cohen knows about Trump is now a far more compelling question than it was in the days when Cohen would tell anybody who'd listen that he'd take a bullet ... for his boss."

  • The porn star Stormy Daniels, in a blitz orchestrated by lawyer Michael Avenatti, has filed suits accusing Trump of defamation and Cohen of collusion after the lawyer paid her $130,000 just before the election in order to keep her quiet about an alleged affair with Trump.
  • A BBC documentary airing in the U.S. this weekend — called "Trump: Is the President a Sex Pest?," a British terms for a harasser — reports a claim that Trump once told a 17-year-old model when he was pursuing her: “Oh, great. So you’re not too old and not too young. That’s just great.”

Be smart: Beyond the morality tale, do any of these sexual transgressions hurt Trump, politically? No evidence they have so far. Truth is, they will only hurt if they lead to legal and impeachment action against Trump. 

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Go deeper

10 hours ago - World

Maximum pressure campaign escalates with Fakhrizadeh killing

Photo: Fars News Agency via AP

The assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, the architect of Iran’s military nuclear program, is a new height in the maximum pressure campaign led by the Trump administration and the Netanyahu government against Iran.

Why it matters: It exceeds the capture of the Iranian nuclear archives by the Mossad, and the sabotage in the advanced centrifuge facility in Natanz.

Scoop: Biden weighs retired General Lloyd Austin for Pentagon chief

Lloyd Austin testifying before Congress in 2015. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Joe Biden is considering retired four-star General Lloyd Austin as his nominee for defense secretary, adding him to a shortlist that includes Jeh Johnson, Tammy Duckworth and Michele Flournoy, two sources with direct knowledge of the decision-making tell Axios.

Why it matters: A nominee for Pentagon chief was noticeably absent when the president-elect rolled out his national security team Tuesday. Flournoy had been widely seen as the likely pick, but Axios is told other factors — race, experience, Biden's comfort level — have come into play.

Updated 12 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: WHO: AstraZeneca vaccine must be evaluated on "more than a press release."
  2. Politics: Supreme Court backs religious groups on New York COVID restrictions.
  3. World: Thailand, Philippines sign deal with AstraZeneca for vaccine.
  4. Economy: Safety nets to disappear in December Black Friday shopping across the U.S., in photosAmazon hires 1,400 workers a day throughout pandemic.
  5. Education: National standardized tests delayed until 2022.