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Axios Sneak Peek

Happy Father's Day, and welcome to Sneak Peek, our weekly lookahead for both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue. I'd love your tips and feedback: jonathan@axios.com. And please urge your friends and colleagues to join the conversation by signing up for Sneak Peek. See you all week in the Axios STREAM.

1 big thing: debt ceiling, behind the scenes

President Trump is likely to play a much smaller role than previous presidents in the coming debt-ceiling fight.

Marc Short, director of the White House's Office of Legislative Affairs, has told associates his recommendation is that the House and Senate initiate the debt-limit negotiations within their own conferences rather than leaning on Trump to do the heavy lifting. (During the previous debt ceiling crises, Obama aggressively lobbyied Congress both publicly and privately.)

  • The White House theory: Congressional spending habits got America into this mess and the President has enough on his plate and would gain nothing from spending his political capital on this fight.
  • The upshot: Trump will ultimately have to play some role in the debt ceiling debate, but the White House won't have him out there providing cover for congressional leadership to negotiate an unpopular bill.
  • Current status: Nobody agrees on anything. Budget Director Mick Mulvaney wants to use the debt limit bill to cut spending. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin just wants the debt ceiling raised without fuss — to avoid a last-minute standoff in September that could crash markets.

Why this matters: Presidents have traditionally used the weight of the presidency to push Congress to raise the ceiling. Some in Republican leadership circles are frustrated that the White House appears willing to make GOP leadership do the thankless work.

  • Between the lines: Some in the White House believe Republican leadership has already given up on the Freedom Caucus / Mulvaney approach, and concluded the only workable path is to collaborate with Democrats and moderate Republicans. Leadership says it's not close to making such decisions.
  • Click here for three options being kicked around.

2. "Tapes"?

We told you in last Sunday's Sneak Peek you should expect to see a lot more of Jay Sekulow — the man Trump has chosen as his TV lawyer for the Russia probe. Today Sekulow repped POTUS on nearly every Sunday show — Fox, NBC, CBS and CNN.

  • Tantalizing: Sekulow told John Dickerson of CBS's "Face the Nation" he expected Trump to address "in the week ahead" whether he secretly taped his private conversations with former FBI director James Comey.

Several of Sekulow's interviews got testy, especially his exchange with "Fox News Sunday" host Chris Wallace. The two talked over each other, with Sekulow accusing the host of manipulating his words.

Wallace's response:

"Don't tell me what I'm trying to do because you don't know what I'm trying to do. Actually, what I'm trying to get is a straight answer out of you."

The bone of contention: Whether Special Counsel Bob Mueller is investigating Trump. Trump seemed to confirm the investigation when he tweeted: "I am being investigated for firing the FBI Director." But Sekulow said nobody had told Trump he was under investigation, and the President was only responding to the Washington Post story.

Money quote: "The President is not under investigation by the Special counsel," Sekulow told NBC's "Meet the Press" moderator Chuck Todd. "He's not afraid of the investigation. There is no investigation."

3. Huge week for healthcare

Sources close to Mitch McConnell tell me the Majority Leader is dead serious about forcing a Senate vote on the Obamacare repeal-and-replace bill before the July 4 holiday.

Some senators want to delay the vote but McConnell views that as delaying the inevitable. There are no mysteries about what the toughest disagreements are over — Medicaid funding and insurance market regulations.

  • This week is crucial: the Senate won't vote without a CBO score, which means they need to finalize negotiations this week.
  • Behind-the-scenes: McConnell and Senate leaders have been at this for all of May and now first couple weeks of June, turning their weekly lunches into working sessions on various aspects of the healthcare legislation. They've whittled down the stack of items that people don't agree on. I've spoken to a number of people who know McConnell well who speculate that he'll force a vote regardless of whether he knows he has 50 votes. They say he's desperate to move on to tax reform and can't have healthcare hanging around like a bad smell through the summer.

On the House side:

  • Following the White House's "Workforce Development Week," House GOP leadership will vote on two workforce bills. The big one: a bipartisan bill to reauthorize the "Perkins Act" for six years — providing more than $1 billion per year in federal support for career and technical education programs.
  • Wednesday's conference meeting is expected to be more policy-focused than usual. (They had to cancel Friday's meeting due to the fallout from last week's shooting.) A senior House aide tells me the Wednesday conference will focus on the budget caps and appropriations.
  • Paul Ryan and Kevin McCarthy will both address the National Association of Manufacturers. Ryan pushing tax reform and McCarthy on reg reform and workforce development.

4. What Tim Cook will tell Trump

Apple CEO Tim Cook will be at the White House tomorrow for tech meetings organized by Jared Kushner's Office of American Innovation. It's the first of two heavy-hitter meetings in what the White House is calling "Technology Week."

A source tells me Cook, who doesn't belong to any of the President's councils, plans to proactively raise four issues:

  1. Immigration: Cook will participate in the session titled "H-1B/immigration." He's got a long history of arguing for the importance of immigration to the American economy and doesn't agree with the Trump-Bannon-Sessions view that unchecked immigration has been driving down wages and stealing jobs from Americans.
  2. Encryption: Cook will "fly the flag" for strong encryption. This has been a controversial issue within the administration and it remains unsettled. Shortly after the San Bernardino shootings, Trump called for a boycott of Apple products because Cook refused to cooperate with the FBI after it requested that Apple create a special version of its operating software that would have given the government a backdoor into the iPhone used by the terrorists. Cook took a lot of incoming after saying it'd compromise customers' privacy and security. Some argue Cook has been vindicated given subsequent leaks from federal agencies.
  3. Veterans' affairs: How to better serve vets both in the provision of medical care and in hiring policies.
  4. How the administration talks about human rights: Ensuring it remains a priority for the U.S., both domestically and internationally.

Other points on Tech Week:

  • I'm told the White House won't be rolling out any new policies or signing any executive orders related to technology.
  • Tomorrow: Attendees are expected to include Alphabet Chairman Eric Schmidt, Amazon's Jeff Bezos, Microsoft's Satya Nadella, IBM's Ginni Rometty, Oracle's Safra Catz, and venture capitalist John Doerr, among others. Cabinet secretaries will attend and the President will drop by, too.
  • Wednesday: Per a White House official: "We're taking the tech conversation to rural America ... [W]e'll be in Iowa talking about agriculture and technology and showcasing the latest technology that is changing the way farmers produce, harvest, and market food." The event will double as a send-off for Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, who's heading to China to be the U.S. ambassador.
  • Thursday: Breakout sessions focusing on 5G and the Internet of Things, the commercial use of drones, and what the administration can do to spur innovation. The attendees are expected to come together after their more specialized sessions for a meeting with Trump. C-suite level executives and general partners from venture capital firms have been invited. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross will play a key role.

What's next: "Energy Week." (These branded weeks are part of the White House's framing of June as "Jobs Month" — focused on public-private partnerships.)

5. 1 $$ thing: Kellyanne's cost

A source from a Fortune 100 company tells me his business was ready to pay an eye-popping price to have Kellyanne Conway speak to them shortly after the election. Her going rate in December: $75,000 for a "local" speech and $100,000 for outside the New York area. That's not far from Clinton money.

The conversation got me wondering exactly how much cash would've been available to a top official from a winning presidential campaign. (Kellyanne and the others who joined the White House gave up that immediate earning capacity.)

A well-known book agent tells me Kellyanne and other top officials could expect "high seven figures" if they publish the first "insider" book on life inside the Trump campaign or White House. The agent told me he's heard from a number of officials currently inside the White House who want to know how much money they could expect to make from writing books when they leave.

(N.B.: Corey Lewandowski is reportedly one step ahead of them. CNN's Oliver Darcy reports that the sacked campaign manager is shopping a book through his agent. I'm told he can expect more than $1 million if he goes through with it.)

Final thought: what POTUS could be talking about

The father of Otto Warmbier — the American college student just freed from prison in North Korea — held a deeply moving press conference on Thursday. Wearing the blazer his son wore during the show trial where North Koreans sentenced him to 15 years of hard labor, Fred Warmbier ripped into the Obama administration and praised Trump.

  • His son was arrested during Obama's presidency, and the Obama administration told the family to stay quiet about his imprisonment in hopes of negotiating a deal to free him. It didn't work. Then Trump's State Department got Otto free.

Our thought bubble: It isn't the first time diplomatic efforts under Trump have succeeded where Obama's fell short. In April, Trump's team convinced the Egyptians to free an American aid worker. But instead of sharing this deeply moving moment and praising his Secretary of State's leadership, the President tweeted about Bob Mueller's "WITCH HUNT."

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Nikki Haley's "personal conversation" with Trump

President Donald Trump and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley at Trump's National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP)

U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley told CNN today that she had a "personal conversation" with President Trump about how he handled the fallout from Charlottesville, per Politico.

"Well, I had a personal conversation with the president about Charlottesville, and I will leave it at that," Haley said on CNN. "But I will tell you that there is no hate in this country. I know the pain that hate can cause, and we need to isolate haters, and we need to make sure that they know there is no place for them."

On "Good Morning America," Haley brought up her conversation with Trump again, adding that her message was "taken very well." As for whether Trump believes he was in the wrong with his response? "The president clarified so that no one can question that he's opposed to bigotry and hate in this country," said Haley.

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Chelsea Clinton wants Barron Trump to have a "private" life

AP

Chelsea Clinton defended fellow first child, Barron Trump, on Twitter Monday after a Daily Caller reporter criticized the 11-year-old for his fashion choices.

The critique: "The youngest Trump doesn't have any responsibilities as the president's son, but the least he could do is dress the part when he steps out in public," entertainment reporter Ford Springer wrote in the Daily Caller.

Clinton's kickback: "It's high time the media & everyone leave Barron Trump alone & let him have the private childhood he deserves" she tweeted, linking to the story.

Why it matters: Clinton, who has otherwise been known to rail against Trump and his administration on social media, has come to Barron's defense on several occasions. Twice she's tweeted that Barron deserves the right and the privacy to be a kid.

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Former Uber exec will be H&R Block's next CEO

Photo courtesy of H&R

Jeff Jones, the former Target CMO who spent just six months at Uber as its president of ride-sharing, will be H&R Block's next CEO, starting in October, the company said today.

  • Despite the enthusiasm around Jones' hiring last year, his departure was less positive. He left amid a flurry of controversies bubbling at Uber, including allegations of sexual harassment and discrimination within the company, and shortly after it announced plans to hire a COO.
  • Jones on his departure: "It is now clear, however, that the beliefs and approach to leadership that have guided my career are inconsistent with what I saw and experienced at Uber, and I can no longer continue as president of the ride sharing business."

Jones is not the only Uber executive to leave the company in the last six months. Others include its head of finance, head of its AI labs, its head of product and growth, its PR chief, and several employees from its self-driving car teams — including Marakby's boss, former head of Google Maps Brian McClendon.

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Blue Apron faces shareholder lawsuits

Bree Fowler / AP

Blue Apron, the meal kits company that went public in June, has been hit with multiple shareholder lawsuits. They allege that the company misled investors about its business prior to going public, although only two suits have been formally filed, Axios is told. Now, these investors are angry and want their money back.

Tough crowd: Despite being a media darling while a private company, Blue Apron has had a tough time on the markets since going public — its stock price is now nearly half of what it was at the IPO. The company is also facing competition from Amazon, which recently debuted its own meal kits business, which investors claim Blue Apron knew and hid.

Amazon declined to comment on the lawsuits.

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Uber adds new options for driver flexibility

Eric Risberg / AP

Over the last few months, Uber has been on a campaign to repair its relationship with drivers via changes to its policies and service. This time, it's trying to make their driving more flexible thanks to new options in their mobile app, such as setting a trip arrival time if they need to be done by a certain time to pick up their kids from school, and notifications before long trips, for example.

  • In the last six months, it's become clear to the company that it needs to take a friendlier approach in many aspects of its business, including its relationship with drivers.
  • Driver turnover is a big problem for ride-hailing companies, and Uber has to compete for them with rival Lyft, which has cultivated a driver-friendly image.
  • Uber published a paper on time and income flexibility for drivers to support its new policies.
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Combating America's food waste problem

Food waste takes up 21% of America's landfill volume. The founders of Misfit Juicery say that ugly fruits and veggies may be the solution.

WATCH: More from Smarter Faster


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Study: knowing more doesn't change disbeliefs about science

Associated Press

If someone is already pre-disposed to disbelieve scientific conclusions around issues like human evolution, climate change, stem cell research or the Big Bang theory because of their religious or political views, learning more about the subject actually increases their disbelief, a new study finds.

Why it matters: The research flies in the face of commonly held views that more science literacy and greater education around controversial scientific issues will diffuse polarization but supports a growing body of evidence about how our identity forms our views.

  • For stem cell research, the Big Bang theory and evolution, religious identity overrode science literacy.
  • Political beliefs surrounding climate change led to polarization.
  • They found little evidence (yet) of political or religious polarization for nanotechnology and genetically modified food.

What they found: Carnegie Mellon social scientists looked at Americans' beliefs around six potentially controversial issues: stem cell research, the Big Bang theory, nanotechnology, GMOs, climate change and evolution. The found people's beliefs about topics associated with their religious and political views become increasingly polarized with more education (measured by markers like the number of years in school, highest degrees earned, aptitude on general science facts or the number of science classes taken). Baruch Fischhoff from CMU said:

"These are troubling correlations. We can only speculate about the underlying causes. One possibility is that people with more education are more likely to know what they are supposed to say, on these polarized issues, in order to express their identity. Another possibility is that they have more confidence in their ability to argue their case."

One bright spot for science literacy advocates: If someone is already pre-disposed to trust the peer-reviewed science process and scientists, they're likely to believe what they say and find in all of these areas.

Go deeper: Arizona State University's Daniel Sarewitz got to the heart of it in the Guardian yesterday.

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U.S. sanctions Chinese, Russian entities that help North Korea

Susan Walsh / AP

The U.S. Treasury has unveiled sanctions targeting Chinese and Russian entities doing business with North Korea, which is intended to add pressure to the North to soften its nuclear program. North Korea's number one trading partner is China, and most of the sanctions target Chinese companies, per The Washington Post.

Why it matters: This comes the same week as the U.S. and South Korea are conducting military exercises that China, Russia, and North Korea have all been opposed to, given that it looks like the U.S. is escalating its threat to the North — making an already tense week that much more precarious.

The sanctions target 10 entities and 6 individuals that help those who are already sanctioned who support North Korea's missile program or assist the country with its energy needs. It also targets people who help North Korea's export of workers, per CNBC.

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Takeaways from former nat sec officials on Afghanistan

Carolyn Kaster / AP

The Cipher Brief got reactions to President Trump's speech on Afghanistan from top former national security officials — including former acting CIA director John McLaughlin, former Army vice chief of staff Gen. Jack Keane, former CIA and NSA director Michael Hayden, and former acting CIA director Michael J. Morrell.

All are worth reading in full for their diversity of opinions, but here are three major takeaways across the interviews:

  • Trump sounded and acted presidential, which all four officials agreed was vital to delivering this speech effectively.
  • There was no outlined timetable for withdrawal — a departure from Obama-era policies that was seen as a positive and necessary step.
  • Trump's call to have India more involved in Afghanistan was the biggest news, but it could have a potentially destabilizing effect with the United States' relationship with Pakistan.
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Pence explains why Trump didn't announce troop numbers

AP

Vice President Mike Pence defended President Trump's speech on Afghanistan in a USA Today op-ed.

His overarching message: "Trump has determined that conditions — not arbitrary timetables — will guide our strategy. The previous administration alerted our enemies ahead of time by announcing troop numbers and timelines, something President Trump has wisely refused to do."

  • Trump's plan vs. Obama's: "We need only look at Iraq, and the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria following the last administration's withdrawal of U.S. forces, to see where this path leads."
  • Focus on Pakistan: "America will not write a blank check for countries that fail to root out the same forces who try every day to kill our people. Pakistan has much to gain from partnering with our effort in Afghanistan. It has much more to lose by supporting terrorists. The president has put them on notice."