Every morning, Washington wakes up to Axios AM — Mike Allen’s top 10 stories of the day, filled with short bits of breaking news, feuding White House insiders, and, some days, sober, moral pronouncements on how weird the Trump era is. Go deeper: Learn how Axios became a major player in Washington in no time (and jumpstarted a vicious debate about access and “normalization” in Trump’s Washington).
It’s 6:20 a.m. on a frigid Friday morning and Mike Allen is sitting in a TV studio overlooking the Capitol, pinpointing — in the parlance of Axios, the short-form news outlet he cofounded — “Why It Matters.”
“Jonathan Swan has a good take,” Allen says, texting with his news protégé as they wait to appear on separate morning shows. “He just texted me, ‘Guarantee you that the Mike Schmidt story” — a piece in the New York Times about the Russia investigation — “was damage control [from] McGahn or Priebus’s lawyer,’” the White House chief counsel and former chief of staff, respectively. Allen texts back that Swan should say this good take when he appears on Morning Joe, but Swan, a 32-year-old Australian who has quickly become a dominant reporter on the White House beat, responds that he won’t because it’s too speculative. “Rare in TV,” Allen says approvingly.
By the order of Allen’s email newsletter, Axios AM, which he has written seven days a week since the company was founded a year ago, the Mike Schmidt story is the third most important thing that busy professionals need to know about this morning. The first two are 1) What’s true and what’s false in Michael Wolff’s explosive book documenting the roiling chaos of Donald Trump’s White House, and 2) How Trump’s threats of legal action, resisted by aides, likely jacked up book sales.
Despite outright falsehoods and violations of off-the-record understandings, Wolff nails two central ideas about the president, Allen writes: “His spot-on portrait of Trump as an emotionally erratic president, and the low opinion of him among some of those serving him.” Allen, who is recognized in Fire and Fury’s acknowledgments for helping make it a “smarter book,” concludes the item with a signature denouement, in keeping with Axios’s ethos of “smart brevity.”
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