Jul 20, 2017

Why Trump knifed Sessions

Evan Vucci / AP

For weeks, President Trump has been privately expressing frustration with Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and has even told aides he regretted appointing him:

  • Trump views Sessions' decision to recuse himself from the Russia investigation as an act of weakness that made the situation exponentially worse for the White House.
  • POTUS has even mused that he could have named Sessions — a crucial early backer of his campaign — to be Secretary of Homeland Security instead.
  • Yesterday, Trump went public with his beef, telling the N.Y. Times: "Sessions should have never recused himself, and if he was going to recuse himself he should have told me before he took the job and I would have picked somebody else."

The declaration of no-confidence led to instant speculation in Republican circles that Sessions would resign: How can he go to work this morning?

  • Swan hears that Sessions may well stay: Top Republicans are giving us both "stay" and "go" predictions. Trump once publicly scolded Steve Bannon, who's back in good stead with the boss.
  • Sessions has told friends how much he loves the job, and how much fun he's having — locking up bad guys, supporting law enforcement, cracking down on sanctuary cities, etc.
  • DJT loves all that stuff, too. So on policy, they couldn't be more in lockstep. If it wasn't for Russia, they'd be as close as ever.
  • Sources also point out that if Sessions resigned, the acting head of the Justice Department would be Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, with whom Trump has no vibe. (In the interview, Trump said of Rosenstein: "Who is he? ... He's from Baltimore ... There are very few Republicans in Baltimore, if any.")
  • This rift sure sounds permanent, though. And remember that Sessions offered to resign before, saying that he serves at the pleasure of the President and was willing to step aside if POTUS would feel better served. Trump declined.

What Trump is thinking: It's the president's view that Sessions' decision to recuse himself from the Russia investigation — which may have been unavoidable, given the pressures at the time — empowered Democratic critics.

Inexcusable, POTUS thinks. Trump would have felt safer with his man Sessions in charge, but now must endure the wholly unpredictable and uncontrollable probe by special counsel Bob Mueller.

Be smart: Trump's blast shows that no lawyer or aide has convinced him to rein in his remarks in Russia, and makes a public spectacle of the kind of internal West Wing war that in most administrations might be concealed or gossiped about, but never proven in real time.

Go deeper

World coronavirus updates: Cases surge past 720,000

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens and confirmed plus presumptive cases from the CDC

There are now more than 720,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus around the world, according to data from Johns Hopkins. The virus has now killed more than 33,000 people — with Italy alone reporting over 10,000 deaths.

The big picture: Governments around the world have stepped up public health and economic measures to stop the spread of the virus and soften the financial impact. In the U.S., now the site of the largest outbreak in the world, President Trump said Sunday that his administration will extend its "15 Days to Slow the Spread" guidelines until April 30.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 31 mins ago - Health

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 7 p.m. ET: 718,685 — Total deaths: 33,881 — Total recoveries: 149,076.
  2. U.S.: Leads the world in cases. Total confirmed cases as of 7 p.m. ET: 139,675 — Total deaths: 2,436 — Total recoveries: 2,661.
  3. Federal government latest: President Trump says his administration will extend its "15 Days to Slow the Spread" guidelines until April 30.
  4. Public health updates: Fauci says 100,000 to 200,000 Americans could die from virus.
  5. State updates: Louisiana governor says state is on track to exceed ventilator capacity by end of this week — Cuomo says Trump's mandatory quarantine comments "panicked" some people into fleeing New York
  6. World updates: Italy on Sunday reports 756 new deaths, bringing its total 10,779. Spain reports almost 840 dead, another new daily record that bring its total to over 6,500.
  7. What should I do? Answers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingQ&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

Subscribe to Mike Allen's Axios AM to follow our coronavirus coverage each morning from your inbox.

Trump says peak coronavirus deaths in 2 weeks, extends shutdown

Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

President Trump is extending his administration's "15 days to slow the spread" shutdown guidelines for an additional month in the face of mounting coronavirus infections and deaths and pressure from public health officials and governors.

Driving the news: With the original 15-day period that was announced March 16 about to end, officials around the country had been bracing for a premature call to return to normalcy from a president who's been venting lately that the prescription for containing the virus could be worse than the impacts of the virus itself.

Go deeperArrow2 hours ago - Health