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Illustration: Lazaro Gamio / Axios

Over the past week or so, we've heard all kinds of theories from administration officials and President Trump's friends on the outside about why he's cutting deals with "Chuck and Nancy" and softening on his core issue of immigration.

The points we keep hearing:

  • Trump is loyal to nobody but himself, and certainly no political party given how frequently he changes party affiliation.
  • He wants deals at any cost and, unburdened by ideological beliefs, he'll switch sides overnight.
  • He's so frustrated by Republican leadership that he's been driven into the enemy's arms.
  • And lastly, for the first time in his presidency, he's enjoying positive media coverage and coherent reinforcement from his top aides.

Our thought bubble: The dramatically different information Trump receives daily under the leadership of Chief of Staff John Kelly is an under-looked factor in Trump's decision to double down on his partnership with the Democratic leaders.

Trump's top advisers — Jared and Ivanka, General Kelly, and Gary Cohn among them — are mostly sympathetic to "Dreamers." There's no more Steve Bannon. And Stephen Miller's nationalistic voice is a lonely one inside the White House these days. So consider how different life is these days for aides bent out of shape by Trump's public pivot to Marco Rubio-style arguments regarding a path to citizenship for young immigrants brought here illegally as children.

  • Remember, to the ears of immigration hardliners, Trump's tweets Thursday would have sounded like something Marco Rubio might have said during the Gang of Eight fight.
  • Instead of being able to march into the Oval Office and hand Trump the latest Breitbart headline or printouts of tweets showing how badly his amnesty drive is playing with his fiercest nationalist supporters, aides opposing the decision would now have to go through the Kelly process, which would involve submitting an official, documented, request to meet with the president.

The result: Trump gets mostly positive feedback for his turn towards bipartisanship. He watches cable news in the morning, and even "Fox and Friends" finds a way to praise his deal with the Democrats. He reads his morning news clips and briefing materials, which are managed by Staff Secretary Rob Porter, under the guidance of Kelly. And during the day it's not possible for a staff member to sneak a story onto Trump's desk that might rile him up and turn him in a wildly different direction in an instant.

Bottom line: Staff who oppose the moderate immigration turn no longer have unfettered access to Trump, and nor do allies on the outside who, in the first six months of the administration, used to send text messages to Trump's bodyguard Keith Schiller, and often receive a snappy callback from the president. Kelly now has real control over the most important input: the flow of human and paper advice into the Oval Office. For a man as obsessed about his self image as Trump, a new flow of inputs can make the world of difference.

Go deeper

4 hours ago - Health

Fauci: Omicron variant will "inevitably" be found in U.S.

Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, cautioned on Sunday that the COVID-19 Omicron variant will "inevitably" be found in the United States.

Driving the news: Fauci, Biden's chief medical adviser, told ABC's George Stephanopoulos on "This Week" that U.S. officials will meet with colleagues from South Africa later on Sunday to try to determine the severity of the cases, as countries scramble to learn more about the variant.

Updated 6 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Dems fear supply-chain blame

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

As supply-chain kinks drive up prices and disrupt holiday shopping, Democrats are scrambling to show action and deflect blame.

Why it matters: With their party controlling both the White House and Capitol, vulnerable Democrats worry supply-chain snafus will hurt them in next year's midterms.

6 hours ago - World

Scoop: Germany urges Congress not to sanction Putin’s pipeline

Photo: Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

The German government has urged members of Congress not to sanction the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, arguing that doing so will "weaken" U.S. credibility and "ultimately damage transatlantic unity," according to documents obtained by Axios.

Why it matters: At a time when roughly 100,000 Russian troops are massing at its border, Ukraine views Nord Stream 2 as an existential threat to its security. The pipeline would circumvent Ukrainian transit infrastructure and deliver Russian gas directly to Germany, eliminating one of the last deterrents Ukraine has against an invasion.