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Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Some advisers to President Trump see two big, long-term problems with the release of the Ukraine call notes: It makes him seem guilty, and sets a bad precedent for protecting private chats with world leaders.

The state of play: One longtime adviser said this looks worse than anything he's seen to date — and it’s documented. 

The decision to release the memo has produced internal tension in the White House, with some officials privately saying it was a mistake.

  • Some aides, convinced the call summary was exculpatory, hoped the records would force news organizations to walk back some of their reporting. Instead, the reporting has just intensified.
  • Others argued that releasing details of the call between two heads of state set a bad precedent.
  • "It puts the whole quid pro quo to bed, but trades it for several other issues," one administration official said.
  • In fact, Democrats said Trump saying "I would like you to do us a favor though" was evidence of favor-trading.

White House counsel Pat Cipollone invited several of Trump’s fiercest Republican defenders to the White House yesterday morning to review the notes from the call before they were released to the public. This allowed them to coordinate talking points before the document was blasted out.

  • "The sense was that the transcript didn’t come close to living up to the hype Democrats had set up, and didn’t remotely approach impeachable," a source familiar with the White House meeting told Axios.
  • Attendees included Sens. David Perdue, Ron Johnson, and Shelly Moore Capito, as well as Reps. Jim Jordan, Devin Nunes, John Ratcliffe, Matt Gaetz and Mark Meadows, according to Johnson.

But on the Democratic side, House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff said the material reflects "a classic Mafia-like shakedown."

The bottom line: Like during the Mueller investigation, expect Republicans to continue to try to discredit the whistleblower's complaint, the media's account of the memo, and the process by which it's all coming to light. 

Go deeper: Trump's plan to make Biden into Clinton

Go deeper

1 hour ago - World

U.S. and NATO answer Putin in writing while bracing for Ukraine invasion

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg. Photo: Dursun Aydemir/Anadolu Agency via Getty

The U.S. and NATO provided Russia with written proposals on Wednesday to advance a "diplomatic path forward," even as they warned that Russia could invade Ukraine within days.

Why it matters: This is a delicate diplomatic balancing act. The U.S. and NATO want to show they're serious about diplomacy but unwilling to compromise on "core principles" — all without providing Vladimir Putin with an additional pretext for escalation.

The political leanings of the Supreme Court justices

Data: Martin-Quinn scores; Chart: Axios Visuals

The Supreme Court will continue to have a solid conservative majority even with Justice Stephen Breyer's retirement.

How to read the chart: An analysis by political scientists Andrew Martin and Kevin Quinn, known as the Martin-Quinn Score, places judges on an ideological spectrum. A lower score indicates a more liberal justice, whereas a higher score indicates a more conservative justice.

The front-runners for Biden's Supreme Court pick

Judge Kentaji Brown Jackson (left) and Justice Leondra Kruger (right) Tom Williams-Pool/Getty Images and Lonnie Tague, US Department of Justice

Two highly accomplished Black female judges — Ketanji Brown Jackson, a judge on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals; and Leondra Kruger, a justice on the California Supreme Court — are seen as the early front-runners to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer.

The big picture: Jackson is a powerful federal judge with a record that progressives feel they can trust. Kruger was a highly regarded litigator and has carved out a reputation for working well with conservative judges.