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Axios Sneak Peek

Welcome to Sneak Peek, our weekly lookahead for both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, plus the cream of the Sunday shows. I'd love your tips and feedback: jonathan@axios.com.

Please urge your friends and colleagues to join the conversation by signing up for Sneak Peek and the other Axios newsletters. See you all week in the Axios STREAM, and next Sunday evening in Sneak Peek.

1 big thing: Trump's "ultimate deal"

Every American president fantasizes about being the Middle East peacemaker. It's the great unattainable — a sure-fire Nobel Peace Prize, and your own page in the history books.

Influential figures in the conservative pro-Israel community have concluded that President Trump and his son-in-law Jared Kushner have convinced themselves that their dealmaking talents can clinch this "ultimate deal" between Israel and the Palestinians.

Trump the dealmaker has begun inching to the left on Israel:

  • The Trump administration alienated some allies in conservative pro-Israel circles by allowing the State Department to hire Michael Ratney, who was a senior U.S. diplomat in Jerusalem under John Kerry. In recent days, a number of influential conservatives have reached out to White House officials, urging them to fire Ratney.
  • On the campaign trail, Trump promised to "move the American embassy to the eternal capital of the Jewish people, Jerusalem." As president, Trump is keeping the embassy in Tel Aviv as a bargaining chip to extract future concessions from Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu.
  • Trump infuriated Palestinians by breaking with U.S. policy and saying he could potentially support a one-state solution. But during the same recent visit with Netanyahu, Trump threw a bone to the left by gently chiding the Israelis on settlement building.
  • On Friday, Trump spoke by phone to President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority. According to the White House, they "discussed a comprehensive agreement that would end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict." Trump invited Abbas to visit the White House in the near future.
So what comes next?
The hardbitten view: A conservative pro-Israel leader tells me Trump's aspirations "will run up against the reality of dealing with the Palestinians."
The most hopeful words: In a recent interview on David Axelrod's podcast, The Atlantic's editor Jeffrey Goldberg repeated a joke that Jared Kushner's principal qualification to be Trump's Middle East peacemaker was that he'd been to Jewish summer camp. But Goldberg wisely noted that the "great geniuses of American diplomacy" have all failed to achieve a deal:
"There's almost like a Jewish comic novel in this ... And then a boy named Jared Kushner emerged from Trump Tower and brought peace to the tribes of Abraham. I mean ... who knows?"

2. The highest bar

The White House and Republican Hill leaders are setting a dauntingly high bar for their plan to replace Obamacare:

  • Trump's top economic adviser, Gary Cohn, told Chris Wallace on "Fox News Sunday" that the administration will do "whatever it takes" to get the bill passed.
  • When NBC's Chuck Todd asked on "Meet the Press" what success would look like, HHS Secretary Tom Price said it means "more people covered than are covered right now, and at an average cost that is less" (which contradicts the administration's line that coverage is the wrong focus).
  • Price also told Chuck that "nobody will be worse off financially."
  • Speaker Ryan told John Dickerson on CBS's "Face the Nation" that he agrees with President Trump that the 2018 elections would be a "bloodbath" for Republicans if they fail to pass his Obamacare replacement.

Echoing into the week ... On ABC's "This Week," Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton had this warning for Republican House members: "Do not walk the plank and vote for a bill that cannot pass the Senate and then have to face the consequences of that vote."

3. Undercutting Speaker Ryan

Inside the Oval Office last week, there was a telling exchange between conservative activist Jenny Beth Martin and the president.

During Trump's Wednesday meeting with conservative leaders over the healthcare plan, Tea Party Patriots leader Martin subtly reminded Trump that her super-PAC stood by him "through thick and thin" during the campaign, unlike a certain politician from Wisconsin.

According to two sources in the room, Martin didn't mention Paul Ryan's name. But everyone knew who she was talking about. She reminded Trump that in October — when the crude "Access Hollywood" tape leaked and Ryan disinvited Trump from a Wisconsin event — Tea Party Patriots Citizens Fund volunteers were working the phones on Trump's behalf.

Trump smiled and glanced over at his chief of staff Reince Priebus. Trump said that, yes, he had been disinvited. And he thanked Martin for standing by him. (Of course, Martin wasn't always a Trump loyalist. She gave a blisteringly anti-Trump speech at CPAC in 2016, but has since changed her tune.)

  • Why this matters: Some conservatives who oppose the House GOP Obamacare replacement plan believe it's strategically smart to divide the president from the speaker. They think the president is more open than Ryan to negotiating, and they believe that branding the bill as "Paul Ryan's plan" and emphasizing Ryan's disloyalty during the campaign could make Trump less attached to the specifics of the current bill.
  • However: So far, the White House and Ryan are publicly sticking close together even on the controversial stuff. The controversial Medicaid timeline that's in the bill "is what the president supports," White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Friday, adding: "it's not a question of negotiation."

4. Lowering sights on tax

It didn't get much media attention, but Trump's chief economic adviser Gary Cohn said something very important in a Friday interview with CNBC:

"We're going to have to be deficit neutral over a 10-year period."

Why this matters: Sources familiar with the administration's tax planning say there's nothing close to agreement on how — or if — the administration will "pay for" the cuts it has planned to corporate and individual rates. Given Trump's oft-professed love for debt, many sources had been assuming the administration would give up on revenue neutrality, instead suffering short-term deficit hikes in hopes of long-term growth.

Cohn's comments change that calculus, since they sure look like an official White House endorsement of the House's commitment to revenue neutrality.

I checked in with Stephen Moore, one of Trump's top economic advisors during the campaign. He worries that Cohn & Co. are preparing for a less ambitious rate cut.

  • Here's the rub: If the administration doesn't get behind new taxes to pay for the cuts — like the House Republicans' trillion-dollar border adjustment tax — then taxes won't be cut as much as Trump originally promised.

1 fun thing: celebrities struggling with Trump

The celebrity community is still having trouble adjusting to Trump's America, as was on display this week in two big ways:

  • First, Madonna — never one to err on the side of understatement — released a short video announcing that we have entered a "New Age of Tyranny."
  • Even more dramatic, if that's possible, was the escalating feud between Shia LaBeouf and members of the troll-infested Internet message board 4chan. According to Page Six, LaBeouf livestreamed a flag that read "He Will Not Divide Us," billowing in the wind over an undisclosed location. 4chan members reportedly found the flag, pulled it down, and replaced it with a "Make America Great Again" hat.

Not your daddy's culture war, but here we are.

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Trump's backup plan for a health care failure

What will President Trump do if the Senate can't pass the health care bill? It's pretty obvious from this morning's tweet: Blame Democrats for whatever happens next.

Between the lines: Remember that Trump threatened the same thing after House Republicans pulled their bill from the floor — before they revived and passed it. But it's also a reminder that the Affordable Care Act does need support from the administration in power, including funding and encouragement for insurers to stay in the markets. The Trump administration has been trash-talking the ACA for so long that they'll have no interest in doing that if repeal fails.

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Trump’s new Obama accusation: “he colluded or obstructed”

Evan Vucci / AP

President Trump blasted Barack Obama on Twitter Monday morning for having "colluded or obstructed" justice, following a Washington Post timeline Friday on the Obama administration's handling of Russian interference in the November presidential election:

"The reason that President Obama did NOTHING about Russia after being notified by the CIA of meddling is that he expected Clinton would win... and did not want to "rock the boat." He didn't "choke," he colluded or obstructed, and it did the Dems and Crooked Hillary no good. The real story is that President Obama did NOTHING after being informed in August about Russian meddling. With 4 months looking at Russia... under a magnifying glass, they have zero "tapes" of T people colluding. There is no collusion & no obstruction. I should be given apology!"
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New test can diagnose mysterious infections

Keith Srakocic / AP

Researchers have created a brain test that can discover the source "of virtually any neurological infection," according to Scientific American.

For example, the test helped doctors to diagnose a brain tapeworm in a man from Nicaragua by identifying its DNA. The patient didn't have symptoms of the infection typically picked up by MRI scans.

How it works: Rather than look for a particular infection with a specific test, all of the DNA and RNA in a sample of cerebrospinal fluid is analyzed in order to identify foreign genetic material from viruses, bacteria, parasites or fungi. The challenge, researchers say, is "making sense of the output," but they've developed procedures for doctors to determine the most-likely cause of infection from the genomic data.

Coming soon: The researchers who developed the test at U.C. San Francisco will begin offering the test "as a custom-ordered service" to hospitals and labs across the U.S. on July 1.

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Takata files for bankruptcy, selling assets to Michigan company

Shizuo Kambayashi / AP

Takata, the Japanese auto parts manufacturer whose defective airbags have led to at least 14 deaths and 70 million recalls in the United States alone, announced the sale of its factories and operations to a Chinese-American rival, Key Safety Systems, and filed for bankruptcy in both the U.S. and Japan, per the NYT.

Think back: After denying that its airbags were faulty and fabricating test results to hide the issue, Takata agreed to pay fines and compensation totaling more than $1 billion earlier this year following a Department of Justice investigation.

The ramifications: Pending regulatory approval, the bankruptcy deal might short Takata's creditors — including some of the world's largest automakers, like Honda — out of millions of dollars.

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Ivanka Trump: "I try to stay out of politics"

Susan Walsh / AP

Ivanka Trump — President Trump's daughter and a White House senior advisor — told Fox News this morning that she tries to "stay out of politics" and that it's normal for she and her father to "not have 100% aligned viewpoints on every issue."

Top quote: "I feel blessed just being part of the ride from day one and before. But he did something pretty remarkable. But I don't profess to be a political savant."

Why it matters: Ivanka has an office in the West Wing. She was influential in President Trump's decision to bomb Syria, worked with her husband Jared Kushner on LGBT rights, and many climate activists saw her as a hope for fighting climate change and staying in the Paris Agreement (although her dad left anyway). This all doesn't seem to back up her claim of staying out of politics.

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NYMag cover brings back Watergate

"Just wait: Watergate didn't become Watergate overnight, either" — New York mag cover story, by Frank Rich:

"For all the months of sensational revelations and criminal indictments... a Harris poll found that only 22 percent thought Nixon should leave office. Gallup put the president's approval rating in the upper 30s, roughly where our current president stands now — lousy, but not apocalyptic. There had yet to be an impeachment resolution filed in Congress by even Nixon's most partisan adversaries. ... [A]fter Nixon hit a new low of a 27 percent approval rating in November 1973, he spiked to 37 in a Harris poll a month later. ... Looking back on it all, Elizabeth Drew would write, 'In retrospect, the denouement appeared inevitable — but it certainly didn't feel like that at the time.'"

Go deeper: The timelines of Watergate vs the Russia probe, side by side.

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D.C. on edge: rumors of new Supreme Court vacancy swirl

Fred Schilling / AP

White House sources think Justice Anthony Kennedy, the Supreme Court's ideological fulcrum, may announce his retirement today, as the justices gather on the bench for the last time this term.

If that happens, Day 158 instantly becomes President Trump's biggest moment.

  • Trump's first Court appointment, of Justice Neil Gorsuch, was a one-for-one ideological swap for the late Justice Antonin Scalia.
  • Replacing Kennedy would be even more historic and consequential: a momentous chance to edge the Court right, since Kennedy is the center of the Court — the one most willing to listen to both sides. On a controversial case, both sides pitch to him. It's been called "Kennedy's Court."
  • No one's predicting: Court watchers say no one knows, and Kennedy has said nothing publicly. He could well wait one more year: The Court buzz is that it'll be this year or next.
  • Lyle Denniston, who has covered the Supreme Court for 58 years, headlines a post on his website, "High drama: Supreme Court term is ending": "[R]umors have continued to make the rounds that ... Kennedy, who will be 81 in July, could reveal plans [today] to end his career. ... The longest serving of the Justices, Kennedy joined the court more than 29 years ago."

Be smart: Few domestic developments could more instantly and decisively change the national conversation — blotting out almost everything else, and vastly reducing the sting for conservatives is healthcare tanks.

A Washington wise man emails: "With two court appointments and maybe one more, Trump's presidency will be consequential even if he has few legislative achievements. This week may well demonstrate both."

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Scoop: Trump group gives Heller a 2nd chance on health bill

Scott Sonner / AP

Many Republicans wondered this weekend if it made sense for America First Policies, the outside group backing President Trump, to run attack ads against Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) for wavering on healthcare, when his vote is desperately needed.
"Does Trump team think it's smart to attack the most endangered GOP senator, from a state Trump lost?" asked a longtime lion of the GOP. "This is the second dumbest thing Trump has done since firing Comey."
Well, Axios has learned that the group is giving Heller a chance to modify his blast at the bill, before unleashing an advertising attack in his home state.
  • The backstory: After Heller announced his surprise opposition to the Senate bill on Friday, the group said it planned a seven-figure buy in Nevada.
  • The drama: The attacks have not begun — and won't, if Heller retreats. The group could follow what it did with some wavering House members, and run ads of encouragement rather than opposition.
  • A Republican operative: "The content of the ad is really up to Senator Heller ... If [moderate] Congressman [Tom] MacArthur and [conservative] Congressman [Mark] Meadows can work together in the House to get to yes, I'd like to think Senator Heller could work with Leader McConnell to get to yes."
  • The arsenal: Phone banks that connect constituents with senators' offices are being run by America First Policies in the states of eight wavering senators: Ohio, Kentucky, Utah, Texas, Maine, Wisconsin, Louisiana and Alaska.
  • The longer game: Looking ahead to 2018, the group is running cable ads against Democrats in these eight states, starting this week: Michigan, Ohio, Montana, North Dakota, Virginia, Missouri, Indiana and West Virginia.
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Theresa May completes her deal to keep power

Virginia Mayo / AP

Prime Minister Theresa May's Conservative Party have signed a deal with North Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party, which will strengthen support of May's government as the UK continues to navigate Brexit talks, per AP.

Why it matters: The results of the UK's June general election shocked many, as May came up short of the strong majority needed to rally support for the Tories as they move into Brexit negotiations with the European Union. But with the DUP's backing, May will have the necessary backing on key votes, such as on the Queen's Speech and Budgets, which without would threaten the government's survival.

The caveats: The agreement only guarantees DUP support on votes needed to prevent the government from falling; there is no guarantee they will back other legislation proposed in parliament. Meanwhile, other UK devolved nations will be indignant about the large sums of money promised to Northern Ireland up front in order to secure the deal.

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John Deere quietly opens tech office in San Francisco

Photos: John Deere, Ina Fried/Axios; Illustration: Rebecca Zisser

John Deere has quietly opened an office in San Francisco as the agriculture machinery giant looks to expand its efforts in computer vision and machine learning. Leading up John Deere Labs, as the office is known, is Alex Purdy, a former Boston Consulting Group principal who joined Deere about a year ago.

Purdy aims to hire 8-12 people, though he recognizes the company may need to be flexible given the fierce competition in the areas in which Deere is hiring.

"We're going to be a little bit opportunistic," Purdy said.

So why is Deere doing this? Though not well-known in the tech industry, Deere has been a pioneer in autonomous technology, having had tractors capable of moving themselves for years. Self-driving tractors free the farmer sitting on the rig to focus on more pressing tasks, such as monitoring where seeds and chemicals are getting placed, among other things.

Food needs are expected in the coming decade even as the amount of land devoted to farmland remains relatively stagnant. That means getting more productivity out of the same fields.

Why SF? Deere was already spending a lot of time in the Bay Area meeting with various partners. "We found ourselves renting hotel rooms quite a bit," said Purdy.

Ina Fried / Axios

By opening an office here, the company hopes to bring a little bit of the heartland to San Francisco, with plans to put a harvest simulator in the lobby.

"We've actually had three or four people knock on the glass," Purdy said, all asking "are you selling tractors here?"