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Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP

A day after word that White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus asked the FBI to talk to the media to clarify reports about Trump campaign aides' contact with Russians, another doozy — one that's likely to increase congressional interest, and perhaps lead to an independent, 9/11-style commission:

Today's WashPost lead story, "Key officials were asked to rebut Russia report: White House arranged calls to media," by Greg Miller and Adam Entous: "The Trump administration has enlisted senior members of the intelligence community and Congress in efforts to counter news stories about Trump associates' ties to Russia ... Acting at the behest of the White House, the officials made calls to news organizations last week."

  • Presidential historian Michael Beschloss to MSNBC's Rachel Maddow, on parallels from history: "The obvious example — and I hope this does not turn out to be this — but Richard Nixon was driven out of office because he tried to stop the investigation of the Watergate ... What the Post story is suggesting tonight is that there was an effort to enlist big members of Congress and also big members of the intelligence community to call reporters and say, essentially ... 'There's not much to the story.'"
  • More Beschloss: "It's not too bright, because for reporters to get calls from intelligence officials, and high officials in Congress who're supposed to be investigating this, the natural question that they would ask — and they obviously did — was: 'Who got you to do this? Was it the White House?' ... It's like if they did not want a 9/11 commission, they are going to be perhaps compelled to do it by essentially their own actions. ... Amazing to watch — what a story."
  • On the spot, once again ... FBI Director Jim Comey! AP Justice Department reporter Eric Tucker: "Comey is facing new political pressure as White House officials are encouraging him to follow their lead by publicly recounting private FBI conversations ... It's an unusual position for a crime-fighting organization with a vaunted reputation for independence and political neutrality."

Also this morning, another arena of tension between Trump officials and their own bureaucracy:

Wall Street Journal lead story, "Trump Rejects Report on Travel Ban: Tension with career staff rises," by Shane Harris: "An intelligence report by the Department of Homeland Security contradicts the White House's assertion that immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries pose a particular risk of being terrorists."

  • A senior administration official: "The president asked for an intelligence assessment. This is not the intelligence assessment the president asked for."
  • "The official said intelligence is already available on the countries included in Mr. Trump's ban and just needs to be compiled."
  • See the three-page document here, posted by AP. Homeland Security press secretary Gillian Christensen called it "commentary from a single intelligence source."
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Go deeper

Updated 2 hours ago - World

UK government: Kremlin has plan "to install pro-Russian leadership" in Ukraine

British Foreign Secretary Elizabeth Truss. Photo: Gints Ivuskans / AFP via Getty Images

The United Kingdom's Foreign Secretary on Saturday night said the government has "information that indicates the Russian Government is looking to install a pro-Russian leader in Kyiv as it considers whether to invade and occupy Ukraine."

Driving the news: U.S. National Security Council spokeswoman Emily Horne called the intelligence "deeply concerning" in a statement to Axios. The Biden administration has said Russia is actively manufacturing a pretext for invasion and warned that Putin could use joint military exercises in Belarus as cover to invade from the north.

Updated 4 hours ago - Science

This powerful new accelerator looks for keys to the center of atoms

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Nuclear physicists trying to piece together how atoms are built are about to get a powerful new tool.

Why it matters: When the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams begins experiments later this spring, physicists from around the world will use the particle accelerator to better understand the inner workings of atoms that make up all the matter that can be seen in the universe.

Updated 4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Health: FDA OKs antiviral drug remdesivir for non-hospitalized COVID patients — Walensky: CDC language "pivoting" on "fully vaccinated" — Pfizer and Moderna boosters overwhelmingly prevent Omicron hospitalizations, CDC finds.
  2. Vaccines: The case for Operation Warp Speed 2.0 — Teens and adults missed 37 million vaccinations during COVID — Team USA 100% vaccinated against COVID ahead of Beijing Olympics — Kids' COVID vaccination rates are particularly low in rural America — Annual COVID vaccine preferable to boosters, says Pfizer CEO.
  3. Politics: Arizona governor sues Biden administration over COVID funds tied to mandates — Biden concedes U.S. should have done more testing — Arizona says it "will not be intimidated" by Biden on anti-mask school policies.
  4. World: American Airlines flight to London forced to turn around over mask dispute — WHO: COVID health emergency could end this year — Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older — Austria approves COVID vaccine mandate for adults — Beijing officials urge COVID-19 "emergency mode" before Winter Olympics.
  5. Variant tracker