Aug 24, 2018

Trump's hell week: fear and fury

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The immunity deal for the Trump organization's chief financial officer leaves no doubt: This has been, unequivocally, the worst week of Donald Trump's presidency.

Why it matters: For the first time, I’m hearing real fear and concern in the voices of Trump allies. 

The big picture: The warning lights of growing legal jeopardy are flashing red. His former lawyer and campaign manager are going to jail, the lawyer has implicated him in a federal crime, and now his CFO and the head of the National Enquirer have been given immunity to share what they know.

The latest:

  • Trump organization CFO Allen Weisselberg has been granted immunity to talk to federal prosecutors about the payments former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen made during the 2016 campaign to two women who had affairs with Trump, per the Wall Street Journal.
  • That follows the news of another immunity deal with David Pecker, CEO of American Media, Inc., which publishes The National Enquirer, over the same issue. Pecker was friendly with Trump, and the Associated Press reports that the National Enquirer had a safe with records of damaging stories about Trump that were bought and buried — a practice called "catch and kill."
  • And Cohen's guilty plea set the stage by accusing "Individual-1" — guess who — of ordering him to pay the hush money to keep the women from talking about the affairs. That would be a violation of campaign finance law.

All of this goes way beyond the Robert Mueller investigation. This is now in the hands of federal prosecutors, and they can keep going regardless of what happens with the Russia probe — including, possibly, digging into Trump's business affairs.

  • Unlike Cohen, who was involved in quixotic projects and sleazy side deals to hush up women, Weisselberg has true and deep visibility into the Trump Organization.

What we don't know: The Weisselberg immunity deal might not mean he's ready to spill a lot of secrets. Any good white collar lawyer would request immunity for their client. We don't even know for sure that federal prosecutors are looking for anything in the Trump organization, other than evidence of campaign violations.

  • A top Washington white collar attorney tells me: “Could be really big deal but unclear if it’s limited to past Cohen stuff which culminated in his plea or if it’s ongoing. But clearly prosecutors thought he had something of value in return for giving immunity. There had to be some 'showing' by his counsel to get the immunity.”

The bottom line: Trump's legal peril is getting worse, not better.

Go deeper:

Trump organization CFO Allen Weisselberg gets immunity

David Pecker granted immunity in Cohen investigation

GOP fears Cohen set road to impeachment

Go deeper

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 9 p.m. ET: 1,014,673 — Total deaths: 52,973 — Total recoveries: 210,335Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 9 p.m. ET: 244,678 — Total deaths: 5,911 — Total recoveries: 9,058Map.
  3. 2020 updates: The Democratic National Committee said its July convention will be postponed until August because of the coronavirus. A federal judge declined to delay Wisconsin's April 7 primary election.
  4. Jobs latest: Coronavirus unemployment numbers are like a natural disaster hitting every state.
  5. Public health latest: Anthony Fauci called for a nationwide stay-at-home order. FDA allows blood donations from gay men after 3-month waiting period, citing "urgent need."
  6. Business latest: Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said oil companies are eligible for aid from new lending programs the Federal Reserve is setting up, but not direct loans from his department.
  7. U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt: Navy removes captain of aircraft carrier who sounded alarm about coronavirus.
  8. 1 future thing: In developing countries, consequences of COVID-19 could be deeper and far more difficult to recover from.
  9. What should I do? Answers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingQ&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk.
  10. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

Subscribe to Mike Allen's Axios AM to follow our coronavirus coverage each morning from your inbox.

CNN: Fauci says U.S. should issue nationwide stay-at-home order

Dr. Anthony Fauci listens to President Trump speak during a briefing on April 1. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

The Trump administration should implement a stay-at-home order for the country, Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said at a CNN town hall on Thursday.

Why it matters: The recommendation stands in contrast to President Trump's calls for "flexibility." Nearly 4o states have issued stay-at-home orders to promote social distancing as a way to combat the novel coronavirus — but the orders vary in strictness and duration.

Go deeperArrow14 mins ago - Health

World coronavirus updates: Confirmed cases top 1 million

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens and confirmed plus presumptive cases from the CDC

Novel coronavirus infections have surpassed the 1 million mark after "near exponential growth" that's reached "almost every country," World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Thursday.

The big picture: Policy responses to the global coronavirus crisis have been every-country-for-itself and — in the case of the U.S. and China — tinged with geopolitics. But, the scientific work underway to understand the virus and develop a vaccine has been globalized on an unprecedented scale.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 41 mins ago - Health