Stories

Trump's three wars — at home

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

The Trump White House and the Trump campaign are preparing for the inevitable — Democratic gains in November, the start of the 2020 re-election campaign, and Robert Mueller’s verdict — by shifting into full war footing.

  • "Trump is gearing up for a bloody war," said a Trump confidant.
  • Why it matters: While hard to imagine, watch for President Trump specifically — and politics generally — to take on an even harsher, intransigent tone, with implicit and explicit us-vs-them undertones of race, gender and what it means to be American. 

Here is the fall, foretold:

  • Watch for Chief of Staff John Kelly to go, and possible other major changes in the West Wing. With Kelly's departure, look for another run of "Jared and Ivanka on the rise" coverage.
  • The arrival of former Fox News co-president Bill Shine as deputy chief of staff for communications reflects the network's psychic hold on the West Wing: Sean Hannity is a frequent POTUS phone pal, Fox personalities get the bulk of Trump's interviews, and the network gets the greatest share of his media diet.
  • Trump's rallies taking on the tone and decibel level of his Twitter feed. He's going to be hitting the trail even more after Labor Day: Watch for his remarks to get even harsher.
  • Immigration will remain as the go-to policy issue for a president who has infused and stoked nationalist instincts in the GOP. "Build that wall!" is back as a rally staple.
  • Trump's Supreme Court pick gives him a renewal on the long leash he has with his base.

Trump's midterm strategy is informed by what aides tell us was one of their biggest lessons from 2016 campaign: Intensity of support is often more important than breadth of support.

  • "Trump believes a Democratic takeover of the House could hold catastrophic consequences for his presidency," a source close to the White House said. "He's gotten a taste of how all-consuming a legal fight can be for the presidency."
  • "He knows that a Democratic House takeover would subject the entire executive branch to what a small handful of his aides have had to endure to this point."
  • "For a president biased toward action, the prospect of his government being ground to a halt is an existential crisis. Impeachment is a secondary concern. He might actually enjoy that. He believes it'd help him in 2020."

Be smart ... They're three wars but one strategy: base, base, base and fight like hell.

  • This will happen while Democrats are doing the same — throwing the country into greater friction and uncertainty.