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Photo: Getty Images

Was Trump trolling when he offered on Saturday to personally whip votes to help Nancy Pelosi become speaker of the House?

Between the lines: I asked that question to about a dozen current and former White House officials and sources close to the president. None of them knew, including a source who spoke to the president on Saturday.

Most guessed it was partly trolling, but also partly serious (although disingenuous) given he wants to sow chaos in the Democratic Party:

  • One former senior White House official texted: "Trolling. Highlighting Dem dissension. Distracting from other news. Confusing typical partisan patterns. Feeding the narrative that he wants to work with Pelosi so that she looks worse when things turn nasty. All of the above."
  • Another former White House official, who has not discussed this latest tweet with the president, added: "He knows that chaos is good...If she becomes Speaker there will be lingering resentment and criticism of the establishment."
  • Two Republican members of Congress, both of whom are close to Trump, didn't put any stock in his comments. "There is no chance Pelosi would receive Republican votes because her Republican supporters got beat in the midterms," one said.

The bottom line: Even Hill Democrats who oppose Pelosi have privately conceded to me that she looks like a lock for the speakership. She'll clear the caucus vote on Nov. 28. Then anti-Pelosi rebels will be able to say they kept their promise to oppose her in the conference, and backed her on the floor to keep Kevin McCarthy from becoming speaker. In other words: Trump is a sideshow; she won't need him.

Go deeper

Off the Rails

Episode 7: Trump turns on Pence

Photo illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios. Photos: Elijah Nouvelage, Alex Wong/Getty Images

Beginning on election night 2020 and continuing through his final days in office, Donald Trump unraveled and dragged America with him, to the point that his followers sacked the U.S. Capitol with two weeks left in his term. Axios takes you inside the collapse of a president with a special series.

Episode 7: Trump turns on Pence. Trump believes the vice president can solve all his problems by simply refusing to certify the Electoral College results. It's a simple test of loyalty: Trump or the U.S. Constitution.

"The end is coming, Donald."

The male voice in the TV ad boomed through the White House residence during "Fox & Friends" commercial breaks. Over and over and over. "The end is coming, Donald. ... On Jan. 6, Mike Pence will put the nail in your political coffin."

Big Tech's post-riot reckoning

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

The Capitol insurrection means the anti-tech talk in Washington is more likely to lead to action, since it's ever clearer that the attack was planned, at least in part, on social media.

Why it matters: The big platforms may have hoped they'd move to D.C.'s back burner, with the Hill focused on the Biden agenda and the pandemic out of control. But now, there'll be no escaping harsh scrutiny.

32 mins ago - Technology

Why domestic terrorists are so hard to police online

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Domestic terrorism has proven to be more difficult for Big Tech companies to police online than foreign terrorism.

The big picture: That's largely because the politics are harder. There's more unity around the need to go after foreign extremists than domestic ones — and less danger of overreaching and provoking a backlash.