Jared Kushner, John Kelly, and Rob Porter in the Oval Office in September. Photo: Nicholas Kamm / AFP / Getty Images

In less than a week, months of progress in bringing order to President Trump's West Wing have been reversed.

The resignation of Staff Secretary Rob Porter has brought back many of the chaotic characteristics of the early months, according to conversations we have been having.

  • Leaking in real time.
  • Internal finger-pointing, with factions turning on each other.
  • Frenzied internal speculation.
  • Staff members admitting they lack faith in the chief of staff's judgment.
  • More fires than aides can put out.
  • President Trump venting internally and externally, and calling old friends to air grievances about his team.
  • Why it matters: This time, all that is sprinkled with anger and panic. People around the president are unsure exactly what happened, and baffled about how to regain their footing.

The big picture: The White House has still not explained who knew what, and when.

The latest:

  • WashPost lead story, "Kelly’s job may be in peril amid furor from Porter’s exit": "[T]he man whose mission had been to enforce order in the West Wing, Chief of Staff John F. Kelly, was focused instead on [saving] his job."
  • "Kelly spent much of [yesterday] scrambling to preserve his credibility inside the White House. In a morning staff meeting, he told senior aides to tell lower-level staffers ... that he had taken action within 40 minutes of learning that abuse allegations from both of Porter’s ex-wives were credible."
  • "[S]ome staffers left the meeting believing Kelly had asked them to lie."
  • The three potential Kelly replacements Trump has discussed — House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, OMB chief and acting CFPB head Mick Mulvaney and businessman Tom Barrack — are names that have circulated before, reflecting the White House's limited options.

Broke last night ... "Another Trump staffer quits after assault claims," per WashPost:

  • David Sorensen, a speechwriter at the White House's Council on Environmental Quality, resigned "after his former wife claimed that he was violent and emotionally abusive during their turbulent 2½ -year marriage."
  • Sorensen sent Axios a 12-page statement, including photos and screenshots, denying the allegations and contending he was the victim of abuse from her.

Be smart, from the N.Y. Times: Trump's "glowing praise of a staff member accused of serial violence against women was in line with the president’s own denials of sexual impropriety ... and his habit of accepting claims of innocence from men [Roy Moore] facing similar allegations."

Go deeper

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Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Stephen Hahn promised that "science will guide our decision" for a coronavirus vaccine at a Senate hearing on Wednesday.

Why it matters: More Americans are expressing doubt about a first-generation vaccine, despite President Trump's efforts to push an unrealistic timeline that conflicts with medical experts in his administration.

CEO confidence rises for the first time in over 2 years

Data: Business Roundtable; Chart: Naema Ahmed/Axios

A closely-watched CEO economic confidence index rose for the first time after declining for nine straight quarters, according to a survey of 150 chief executives of the biggest U.S. companies by trade group Business Roundtable.

Why it matters: The index, which still remains at a decade low, reflects corporate America's expectations for sales, hiring and spending — which plummeted amid uncertainty when the pandemic hit.

Official says White House political appointees "commandeered" Bolton book review

John Bolton's book "The Room Where it Happened." Photo: Chris Delmas/AFP via Getty Images

A former career official at the National Security Council claims her pre-publication review of former national security adviser John Bolton's explosive book on President Trump was "commandeered by political appointees for a seemingly political purpose," according to a letter from her lawyers filed in court on Tuesday.

Why it matters: The White House fought against the publication of Bolton's book for most of the year on the grounds that it contained harmful and "significant amounts of classified information."

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