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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

Scoop: Gina Haspel threatened to resign over plan to install Kash Patel as CIA deputy

CIA Director Gina Haspel. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

CIA Director Gina Haspel threatened to resign in early December after President Trump cooked up a hasty plan to install loyalist Kash Patel, a former aide to Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), as her deputy, according to three senior administration officials with direct knowledge of the matter.

Why it matters: The revelation stunned national security officials and almost blew up the leadership of the world's most powerful spy agency. Only a series of coincidences — and last minute interventions from Vice President Mike Pence and White House counsel Pat Cipollone — stopped it.

Updated 6 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: Coronavirus deaths reach 4,000 per day as hospitals remain in crisis mode — CDC warns highly transmissible coronavirus variant could become dominant in U.S. in March.
  2. Politics: Biden says, "We will manage the hell out of" vaccine distribution — Biden taps ex-FDA chief to lead Operation Warp Speed amid rollout of COVID plan — Widow of GOP congressman-elect who died of COVID-19 will run to fill his seat.
  3. Vaccine: Battling Black mistrust of the vaccines"Pharmacy deserts" could become vaccine deserts — Instacart to give $25 to shoppers who get vaccine.
  4. Economy: Unemployment filings explode againFed chair: No interest rate hike coming any time soon —  Inflation rose more than expected in December.
  5. World: WHO team arrives in China to investigate pandemic origins.

John Weaver, Lincoln Project co-founder, acknowledges “inappropriate” messages

John Weaver aboard John McCain's campaign plane in February 2000. Photo: Robert Schmidt/AFP via Getty Images)

John Weaver, a veteran Republican operative who co-founded the Lincoln Project, declared in a statement to Axios on Friday that he sent “inappropriate,” sexually charged messages to multiple men.

  • “To the men I made uncomfortable through my messages that I viewed as consensual mutual conversations at the time: I am truly sorry. They were inappropriate and it was because of my failings that this discomfort was brought on you,” Weaver said.
  • “The truth is that I'm gay,” he added. “And that I have a wife and two kids who I love. My inability to reconcile those two truths has led to this agonizing place.”