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Trump meets with state and tribal leaders at the White House. Photo: Evan Vucci / AP

In late June, President Trump hosted a group of Native American tribal leaders at the White House and urged them to "just do it" and extract whatever they want from the land they control.

The exchange turned out to be an unusually vivid window into the almost kingly power that Trump sees himself as holding, and which he has begun describing with increasing bluntness. The scene was recounted by a source in the room and confirmed by another. The White House didn't dispute the story.

The chiefs explained to Trump that there were regulatory barriers preventing them from getting at their energy. Trump replied: "But now it's me. The government's different now. Obama's gone; and we're doing things differently here."

"So what I'm saying is, just do it."

There was a pause in the room and the tribal leaders looked at each other.

"Chief, chief," Trump continued, addressing one of the tribal leaders, "what are they going to do? Once you get it out of the ground are they going to make you put it back in there? I mean, once it's out of the ground it can't go back in there. You've just got to do it. I'm telling you, chief, you've just got to do it."

The tribal leader looked back at one of the White House officials in the room — perhaps somebody from the White House Counsel's office — and he said "can we just do that?" The official equivocated, saying the administration is making progress and has a plan to roll back various regulations.

Trump interjected again: "Guys, I feel like you're not hearing me right now. We've just got to do it. I feel like we've got no choice; other countries are just doing it. China is not asking questions about all of this stuff. They're just doing it. And guys, we've just got to do it."

  • A second source in the room objects vehemently to the suggestion that Trump was asking the chiefs to just start drilling and break federal law. The source said it was unremarkable "Trump speak" and what he meant by "just do it" was he was pushing for removing burdensome regulations from the Obama era.
  • The same source added the context that, at the time, Trump was getting briefed on all manner of regulations impeding his top priorities including energy production and infrastructure development.

This might seem like an extraordinary account for a U.S. president. But it's increasingly the norm: Trump considers himself above the traditions, limits and laws of the presidency — even when he's not, as in this case — and this trend is intensifying the longer he's in office.

  • This past week he claimed sole credit for soaring stock prices.
  • This past week he publicly moaned about limits on his ability to direct the FBI /Justice Department — and then went on to bully the department for not investigating "Crooked Hillary & the Dems."
  • This past week he told Fox's Laura Ingraham "I'm the only one that matters" when it comes to State Department policy and personnel.

Be smart: This impatient and improvisational billionaire — who spent a lifetime cutting deals, grabbing what he wanted, and steamrolling anybody in his path as the boss of his own company — has no interest in adapting to the ways of Washington. It wasn't just campaign rhetoric; Trump still really believes, even after the humiliating failure to repeal Obamacare, that he can bend this city to his will.

  • His clashes with Congress will likely worsen in the months ahead, as some of the most challenging legislative items wend their way through the dysfunctional Capitol.
  • He'll take every opportunity to rail against institutionalists like Mitch McConnell and he'll try to blow up laws, norms, and rules GOP leaders consider sacred — like the legislative filibuster. Expect to see Trump issue more executive orders as his frustrations boil over; and expect more intense shocks to parts of the governmental system you've never had to think about.

Go deeper

34 mins ago - Science

COVID time warp

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The start of the COVID-19 pandemic seems like a lifetime ago to some, and just yesterday to others. Scientists are beginning to unpack the way people processed the passage of time amidst the stress, uncertainty and isolation of the 1 year, 8 months and 21 days since WHO declared a pandemic.

Why it matters: The pandemic's global effects on how people experience time could provide new insights into the brain's ability to perceive and predict time — a fundamental feature of life.

Mitt Romney calls Ray Dalio's China investments a "sad moral lapse"

Sen. Mitt Romney walks to a Senate Republican caucus meeting at the Capitol on Oct. 7. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) on Thursday criticized billionaire Ray Dalio's investments in China, writing in a tweet that "his feigned ignorance of China's horrific abuses and rationalization of complicit investments there is a sad moral lapse."

Driving the news: Romney's comments come after Dalio's firm, Bridgewater Associates, the largest hedge fund in the world, raised $1.3 billion in November for a new private fund in China, Bloomberg reports.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Health: First known U.S. case of Omicron variant identified in California — America probably won't lead the effort to understand Omicron — CDC prepares tougher testing rules for international travelers.
  2. Politics: Omicron travel bans are sign of what's to come — Meta removes accounts linked to COVID disinformation effort by China.
  3. Vaccines: Omicron adds urgency to vaccinating world — Omicron fuels the case for COVID boosters — Moderna loses patent battles tied to COVID vaccine.
  4. World: Germany approves new restrictions for unvaccinated people — Omicron variant detected in more countriesWHO advises people 60 or older to postpone travel due to Omicron
  5. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.

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