Illustration: Rebecca Zisser / Axios

We're getting a vivid preview of how President Trump and his conservative allies will likely fight Robert Mueller if he accuses POTUS of obstructing justice, by firing James Comey/pressuring the FBI.

The chief attack: Mueller, the roots of his investigation and the FBI aren't on the level — and haven’t been since even before he took office. 

  • A longtime Trump political associate told me: "Using the Clinton-Starr playbook, kill the special investigator and obfuscate the charge. ... This is the Government against the People’s President. It is an easy narrative.”
  • Conservative media is exploding with stories/conspiracies about rampant corruption at the FBI and a “secret society” to undermine Trump and protect Hillary Clinton.
  • Conservative columnist Noah Rothman on Twitter yesterday: “I've done two conservative radio shows today playing a generally adversarial role in defense of the FBI. The grassroots is eating up the notion Trump is a victim of systemic corruption in law enforcement.”

Lots of attention is being paid to Trump's comments yesterday that he's willing to be interviewed under oath, and deservedly so.

  • But Trump's key line from yesterday's impromptu West Wing availability might be this, as the WashPost's Devlin Barrett notes: “Now they're saying, 'Oh well, did he fight back?' ... You fight back, oh, it’s obstruction."
  • Fox's Sean Hannity continued to build a narrative of an anti-Trump strain in the FBI when he reported this "game-changing development" last night: "[T]he Department of Justice has started to recover some of the five months' worth of missing text messages between FBI Agent Peter Strzok and ... Lisa Page."

The "everyone's dirty" scenario is less a coordinated strategy — with careful planning involved — than it is a reflection of Trump's genuine belief that the intelligence community is out to get him, Axios' Jonathan Swan points out:

  • Trump's right-wing base authentically believes the same, and sees the missing FBI text messages as evidence that there’s a Deep State out to get Trump.
  • Behind the scenes, Trump has been obsessing over the texts. He talks to plenty of people in his out-of-office hours, and in the residence, who fuel his sense that the intelligence community is populated by enemies out to get him — who are trying to engineer a coup and nullify his presidency.
  • Donald Jr. tops this list. 
  • Remember, one of the reasons Trump bonded so tight with Michael Flynn was their shared penchant for conspiratorial thinking. Flynn would use his many hours by Trump’s side on the campaign to fill his ears with his bitter analysis of Obama’s intelligence apparatus. 

Be smart: Trump has created “reasonable doubt” about Mueller’s investigation among a significant portion of the GOP base — enough that he may have already won his case with the “jury” that matters most to him and his political future.   

Go deeper

In photos: Virginians line up for hours on first day of early voting

Photo: Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images

In some parts of Virginia, people waited in line up to four hours to cast their ballots on the first day of early voting, according to the Washington Post.

The big picture: The COVID-19 pandemic seems to already have an impact on how people cast their votes this election season. As many as 80 million Americans are expected to vote early, by mail or in person, Tom Bonier, CEO of TargetSmart, a Democratic political data firm, told Axios in August.

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 4:30 p.m. ET: 30,306,469 — Total deaths: 948,147— Total recoveries: 20,626,515Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 4:30 p.m. ET: 6,705,114 — Total deaths: 198,197 — Total recoveries: 2,540,334 — Total tests: 92,163,649Map.
  3. Politics: In reversal, CDC again recommends coronavirus testing for asymptomatic people.
  4. Health: Massive USPS face mask operation called off The risks of moving too fast on a vaccine.
  5. Business: Unemployment drop-off reverses course 1 million mortgage-holders fall through safety netHow the pandemic has deepened Boeing's 737 MAX crunch.
  6. Education: At least 42% of school employees are vulnerable.

Court battles shift mail-in voting deadlines in battleground states

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Michigan joins Pennsylvania in extending mail-in ballot deadlines by several days after the election, due to the coronavirus pandemic and expected delays in U.S. Postal Service.

The latest: Michigan Court of Claims Judge Cynthia Stephens ruled that all ballots postmarked before Nov. 2 must be counted, so long as they arrive in the mail before election results are certified. Michigan will certify its general election results on Nov. 23.