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Evan Vucci / AP

After a couple of months of bombast, lawyers and spokespeople for President Trump appear to be trying to lower the temperature on the Russia investigation — talking more respectfully about special counsel Bob Mueller, laying off Attorney General Sessions, and making noises about cooperation.

Be smart: Whatever his lawyers and spokespeople say, what will matter is what Trump says — and he has shown he's willing to change course with any whim or tweet.

  • Lawyers watching the case closely found it a telling change of tone when the new White House special counsel, Ty Cobb, told Politico he has "a very respectful and professional relationship with Bob Mueller. I think very highly of him."
  • On one key Russia-related question, Trump's teams moved from outright denial to the more sustainable position that the president did nothing wrong.
  • Trump's reps went from saying he played no role in preparing Don Jr.'s misleading statement about the purpose of his Trump Tower meeting with a Russian lawyer, to saying that the president helped "as any father would" — but was acting on only "limited information."
  • Trump advisers contend that no one lied, and say their approach has always been to focus on what was "perfectly legal."
  • Jay Sekulow, a member of Trump's legal team, tells Axios: "There's no message change here. It's just as issues develop, we respond to them within the context of what you can discuss and what you can't. As an issue comes up, you examine that in the context of an overall inquiry."

Outside experts say the shift is both revealing and necessary:

  • Robert Bauer — a top Democratic lawyer who has written extensively about Mueller's probe from his perch at NYU Law School, where he now teaches political law and splits time with his D.C. practice — said Trump lawyers are "in somewhat of a retreat following disclosures in the press."
  • Bauer: "First the line was that he knew nothing at all; now it is that he had limited knowledge. The former position did not hold under pressure and the latter only raises the question: 'What did he know and when did he know it?'"
  • Matt Miller, an MSNBC contributor and former Obama Justice Department official: "They have to tell the truth not just because it's the right legal strategy, ... but also because [lying] makes the legal situation worse."
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Go deeper

State Department to set up new cyber bureau to combat hack attacks

Secretary of State Tony Blinken speaks on the challenges during an October conference in Quito, Ecuador. Photo:y Felipe Stanley/Agencia Press South/Getty Images

Secretary of State Tony Blinken announced Monday plans for the State Department to create a new bureau of cyberspace and digital policy.

Why it matters: The establishment of the bureau and plans for a new envoy to oversee critical and emerging technology come after a series significant hack attacks and other online crimes, notably ransomware assaults on U.S. infrastructure.

Biden rejects Trump's latest executive privilege claims

Photo: Jim Watson and Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

The White House on Monday rejected two more of former President Trump's claims of executive privilege over documents that the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol riot requested, CNN first reported.

Why it matters: Trump's legal team is seeking to block some of the panel's requests for records by invoking executive privilege, which can allow presidents and their aides to sidestep congressional scrutiny. The Biden administration has maintained that it will evaluate on a case-by-case basis.

Amazon warehouse workers in New York file petition to hold unionization vote

Amazon workers and their supporters rally outside the National Labor Relations Board's regional office in Brooklyn, New York City, after filing a petition requesting an election to form a union. Photo: Gabby Jones/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Amazon warehouse workers in New York City filed a petition on Monday with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to hold a vote on unionization.

Why it matters: The move comes six months after an organizing effort was defeated at Amazon's distribution center in Alabama.