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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

Updated 12 mins ago - Science

Volcanic eruption in Tonga caused "significant" damage

This satellite image of the eruption on Jan. 15 taken by Himawari-8, a Japanese weather satellite operated by Japan Meteorological Agency and released by National Institute of Information and Communications Technology (NICT). Photo: NICT via AP

Significant damage has been reported in Tonga following an undersea volcanic eruption on Saturday, which covered the Pacific nation in ash and cut off communication lines.

Driving the news: The eruption triggered tsunami warnings across Tonga's islands and in other regions, including the West Coast of the U.S. and New Zealand.

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Trump dogs "dull" DeSantis ahead of potential 2024 matchup

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Donald Trump is trashing Ron DeSantis in private as an ingrate with a "dull personality" and no realistic chance of beating him in a potential 2024 showdown, according to sources who've recently talked to the former president about the Florida governor.

Why it matters: The two are among the most popular Republicans in the country, and as the former president eyes another run in 2024, he's irked by DeSantis' popularity and refusal to rule out running against him.

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

  1. Health: Concerns grow over CDC's isolation guidelines — Experts warn of more COVID-19 variants after Omicron — WHO recommends 2 new treatments — What "mild" really means when it comes to Omicron.
  2. Vaccines: America's vaccination drive runs out of gas— Puerto Rico expands booster shot requirements— Supreme Court blocks Biden's vaccine mandate for large employers.
  3. Politics: Vivek Murthy calls SCOTUS vaccine mandate block "a setback for public health" — Focus group says Biden weak on COVID response, strong on democracy.
  4. Economy: America's labor shortage is bigger than the pandemic— — CDC COVID guidance for cruise ships to be optional starting Saturday — The cost of testing.
  5. States: America struggles to keep schools open — Youngkin ends mandates for masks in schools and COVID vaccinations for state workers.
  6. World: Beijing reports first local Omicron case weeks before Winter Olympics — Teachers in France stage mass walkout over COVID protocols.
  7. Variant tracker