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President Trump in a Cabinet meeting. Photo: Michael Reynolds-Pool / Getty Images

This week, President Trump ripped the steering wheel out of John Kelly’s hands and played chief of staff and communications director, all wrapped into one:

Trump kept his own senior staff on edge, with top officials uncertain from hour to hour what was happening with two globally consequential issues: tariffs and North Korea.

Want to know what it’s like to work for this president? A senior administration official, who likes Trump but can't keep up, tells Jonathan Swan:

  • “No single individual in history has been able to direct an entire news cycle on a whim, and he's using that power at his sole discretion, with the WH policy, press, and comms teams just along for the ride."
  • "SURPRISE, we're taking major trade actions. WAIT, maybe we're not."
  • "ACTUALLY, yes we are, and we're going to do it TODAY. "
  • "SURPRISE, there'll be a big announcement in a few hours. You'll want to watch. *Media gives it hours of breathless attention,* followed by one of the most significant foreign policy announcements in recent memory."
  • "Both at a policy level (e.g. what trade actions to take, whether or not to accept Kim invitation) or a comms level (when/how to announce these decisions), Trump is doing what he wants, when he wants, how he wants."
  • "The WH staff I talk to are constantly having to make the decision whether to push back on him, push forward with him, or head for the exits in exasperation."

Be smart: The restraints on Trump are fully removed. Imagine if Trump did publicly what he said privately during the first year-plus. He didn’t, in part because Reince Priebus, Gary Cohn, General Mattis, Dina Powell, Rob Porter and others conspired to box him in and occasionally talk him off the ledge. No more. 

  • Now, what Trump says will likely just happen.

How it's playing:

  • WashPost A1: "President acts as own diplomat, negotiator"
  • AP: "In the tough times, Trump goes it alone"
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Go deeper

2 hours ago - Health

CDC prepares tougher testing rules for international travelers

Travelers with their luggage arrive at a COVID-19 testing location at the airport in Los Angeles, Calif., on Nov. 23, 2021. Photo: Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday night that it is working to impose stricter testing requirements for international travelers due to the spread of the new Omicron variant.

The big picture: The new rules would require all international travelers, regardless of vaccination status, to show a negative test taken a day before their flight to the U.S. Currently, the CDC says fully vaccinated travelers are allowed to show a test taken no more than three days before their departure, AP reports.

Republicans threaten to shut down government over vaccine mandates

Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) in the Capitol in November 2020. Photo: Joshua Roberts/Getty Images

Conservative Republicans in the House and Senate are planning to force a government shutdown Friday to deny funding needed to enforce the Biden administration's vaccine mandates on the private sector, according to Politico.

Why it matters: Congress has until the end of the week to pass a stopgap measure to extend funding into 2022, though objection from a small group of Republicans could shut down the government.

Electric car prices could go up before they come down

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The secret to affordable electric vehicles is cheaper batteries. But after years of falling prices, battery costs are now headed in the wrong direction.

Why it matters: Costlier batteries could drive up the price of electric vehicles — threatening the auto industry's transition away from fossil fuels, and, in turn, society's fight against climate change.