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Photo: Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Images

President’s Trump’s M.O. is to project confidence in every setting: Even in small groups, he's loath to reveal even a tincture of self doubt. On North Korea, though, there have been private moments when his breezy talking of "winning" has evaporated and confidants found him almost awestruck by the enormity of what he’s confronting.

Why it matters: This isn’t just a big real estate deal or even a blustery trade standoff. The stakes are infinitely beyond anything he’s dealt with, and Trump knows it. The closest the president has come to being privately rattled has been when the rhetoric with North Korea got hot last year, and the world braced for the worst.

A lot of the other potential crises Trump faces — turmoil in the Middle East and a trade war with China — seem abstract and distant to him, sources close to tell Jonathan Swan and me.

  • But the way he's discussed North Korea and the threat of nuclear war suggests to sources who've discussed the subject with him that this threat is more vivid and real to him.
  • Nobody has given us a convincing theory why — perhaps it's him growing up as a child of the 1950s. But he registers the North Korean threat viscerally in a way he doesn't seem to register any other threat. 

Why it matters: Now, Trump is trying to defuse one of the world’s greatest risks, with a partner — “Little Rocket Man” — who looked ready to deal, but now suddenly sounds like he's returning to brinksmanship.

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Go deeper

Updated 9 hours ago - Politics & Policy

U.S. sounds alarm on Ukraine

Conscripts line up at a Russian railway station yesterday before departing for Army service. Photo: Sergei Malgavko/TASS via Getty Images

The Biden administration is "deeply concerned" by new intelligence — detailed for Axios and other outlets — showing Russia stepping up preparations to invade Ukraine as soon as early 2022.

Why it matters: Most of this was known from public sources and satellite imagery, but the administration is sending a stronger signal by releasing specific details from the intelligence community.

11 hours ago - Economy & Business

CNN fires Chris Cuomo

Photo: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for CNN

CNN said Saturday evening it has fired one of its star anchors, Chris Cuomo, following new revelations from a legal review made by the company into Cuomo's involvement in the management of his brother's sexual harassment scandal.

Why it matters: Saturday's firing speaks to how much pressure CNN was under by employees and critics to address Cuomo's behavior.

Updated 12 hours ago - Energy & Environment

Electric car prices could go up before they come down

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The secret to affordable electric vehicles is cheaper batteries. But after years of falling prices, battery costs are now headed in the wrong direction.

Why it matters: Costlier batteries could drive up the price of electric vehicles — threatening the auto industry's transition away from fossil fuels, and, in turn, society's fight against climate change.