May 4, 2019 - Politics

Trump's post-Mueller phase

Trump talks to reporters about yesterday's call with Putin. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

President Trump is trying to move into a new, post-Mueller phase in his relationship with Vladimir Putin.

The state of play: Trump apparently feels liberated, after the conclusion of the Mueller report, to return to his default of trying to do business with the Russian president.

The tell: Trump said yesterday that he discussed trying to do trade deals, during a call with Putin that lasted more than an hour.

Why it matters: At Trump's core — and no matter the spin from the White House — he is transactional and has never absorbed or accepted the intelligence community’s findings about Russia’s attack on America’s election system. 

The context: The president seemed to return to Helsinki-era Trump while discussing the call:

  • Trump undercut his own intelligence community and national security team by suggesting the Russian president had benign intentions in Venezuela, and tweeting that he and Putin talked about the "Russian Hoax."
  • Trump admitted he didn't confront Putin about the widespread Russian effort to interfere in the 2016 presidential election, detailed by Mueller.

How it's playing: "HEAR NO EVIL. AGAIN," said the CNN headline.

What's next

Honoring Kobe Bryant: Sports stars, politicians and celebrities mourn NBA great

Kobe Bryant on court for the Los Angeles Lakers during the Sprite Slam Dunk Contest on All-Star Saturday Night, part of 2010 NBA All-Star Weekend at American Airlines Center in Dallas in February 2010. Photo: Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

Sports stars, politicians and celebrities paid tribute to NBA legend Kobe Bryant, who was killed in a California helicopter crash alongside his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, and seven others on Saturday. He was 41.

What they're saying: Lakers great Shaquille O'Neal said in an Instagram post of his former teammate, "There's no words to express the pain I'm going through now with this tragic and sad moment of losing my friend, my brother, my partner in winning championships, my dude and my homie. I love you brother and you will be missed."

Bolton alleges in book that Trump tied Ukraine aid to investigations

Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

President Trump's former national security adviser John Bolton alleges in his forthcoming book that the president explicitly told him "he wanted to continue freezing $391 million in security assistance to Ukraine until officials there helped with investigations into Democrats including the Bidens," the New York Times first reported.

Why this matters: The revelations present a dramatic 11th hour turn in Trump's Senate impeachment trial. They directly contradict Trump's claim that he never tied the hold-up of Ukrainian aid to his demands for investigations into his political opponent Joe Biden.

Impeachment: Then & now

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

We are living in a measurably different political and media landscape than when the Senate acquitted President Bill Clinton of impeachment charges in 1999.

The big picture: These dynamics are setting the pace as President Trump’s legal team speeds through arguments to seek a fast acquittal.