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Axios Sneak Peek

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.

1 big thing: Immigration stare-down

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser / Axios

Behind closed doors, and very quietly, lawmakers from both wings of both parties are scrambling to save DACA — a program that has protected from deportation nearly 800,000 young illegal immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children.

As improbable as it sounds, it currently appears that the Bernie Sanders wing of the Democratic Party has more leverage than the Stephen Miller wing of the Republican Party when it comes to DACA.

Obviously this could change. Nothing is solidified. But based on conversations with White House sources, top Hill aides from both parties, and immigration-restrictionist power-brokers, we have concluded that, at the moment, progressive Democrats hold a superior negotiating position to immigration hardliner Republicans.

This is because, on the DACA issue, President Trump has already blinked. Both publicly — in a Sep. 5 tweet, when he hinted he may reinstate DACA unilaterally if Congress can't save it — and privately, the president has indicated he doesn't have the stomach to let DACA die.

  • One conservative member of Congress, who has discussed DACA with the president, told me Trump made very clear to him he was prepared to keep the protections in place beyond March — when the program is currently set to expire — if Congress does nothing.
  • Roy Beck, an influential immigration hawk who runs NumbersUSA, said Trump's nominee for DHS Secretary, Kirstjen Nielsen, further reduced the administration's leverage last week when she assured in her confirmation hearing she would protect DACA recipients. "This doesn't strike me as being from the art of negotiations book, does it?" Beck told me.

Stephen Miller, one of the White House's only immigration hardliners, is telling conservative activists that Trump will back legislation giving current DACA recipients legal status — aka amnesty — in exchange for legislation ending chain, or family, migration. And Miller doesn't want the must-pass December spending bill to include a DACA fix.

That appears to be a non-starter. Top Democratic Senate aides have told me they think it's hilarious that Miller thinks he can get this deal, and that chain migration isn't going anywhere.

Where that leaves us:

  • Congress must pass a spending bill by December 8. Bernie Sanders and other Democrats expected to run for president in 2020, including Kamala Harris, are effectively threatening to shut down the government over the issue — saying they won't vote for any spending bill unless it protects DACA recipients.
  • Democrats are confident Trump won't have the stomach to let DACA expire.
  • Democrats in leadership think this means that, despite Miller's opposition, they will be able to include a pathway to citizenship for DACA recipients in that must-pass spending bill.
  • In exchange, they say they may allow modest increases in border security measures. But nothing that could reasonably be described as a "big beautiful wall" along the southern border.

Just to reiterate: Everything is up in the air. But the above scenario seems the most likely outcome, since it would placate both progressives and moderate Republicans.

Bottom line: Despite the fact that Donald Trump became president running on a historically anti-immigration platform — promising to end DACA on Day One, build a wall, and slash legal immigration — it currently looks like Capitol Hill and the White House may find a solution that would make Jeb Bush proud.

2. Breitbart aims to discredit Moore's accusers

Steve Bannon has sent two of Breitbart News' top reporters, Matt Boyle and Aaron Klein, to Alabama. Their mission: to discredit the Washington Post's reporting on Roy Moore's alleged sexual misconduct with teenagers.

A story that popped today — splashed over the Breitbart homepage — contains what the website claims is a major hole in the account of Leigh Corfman, who says Alabama Senate candidate, Moore, made sexual advances on her when she was 14 years old.

Klein reports from Birmingham, Alabama: "Speaking by phone to Breitbart News on Saturday, Corfman's mother, Nancy Wells, 71, says that her daughter did not have a phone in her bedroom during the period that Moore is reported to have allegedly called Corfman – purportedly on Corfman's bedroom phone – to arrange at least one encounter."

Why this matters: It's quite a head-scratcher as to why Breitbart thinks this bedroom phone detail matters. As Corfman's mother told Breitbart "the phone in the house could get through to her easily." Wells stands by her daughter's allegations. But the fact Breitbart is running stories like this shows the extremes to which it may go to discredit Moore's accusers.

Bottom line: This story is about to get even uglier, if that's imaginable. I expect more counter-attacks will play out in Breitbart News and other outlets over the coming days.

Another hard truth: Many Alabama voters hold the mainstream media in such low regard that they've dismissed the Washington Post's reporting entirely.

  • For a dose of this reality, check out this man-on-the-street segment from an ABC Alabama affiliate. Political reporter Lauren Walsh said: "Out of all the voters we spoke with Friday in Columbiana, we didn't find one voter who believed the Washington Post report about Moore."
  • And, for more on this theme, read the quotes in this NBC News report from Prattville, Alabama. The most shocking quote: "Inside the store, a man who declined to give his name said, 'This is Republican town, man. (Moore) could have killed Obama, and we wouldn't care.'"

3. What's next for climate policy

Axios' Ben Geman reports that the White House team at the United Nations climate conference in Bonn, Germany, does not plan to discuss conditions under which the U.S. might remain in the Paris climate deal.
  • A White House official told reporters on a conference call: "We are not going to address that issue ... We don't plan to talk about what those options could be ... I don't anticipate having delegations approach us and really try to get into that kind of discussion."
Why it matters: The world has little idea what President Trump means when he says he might be willing to keep the U.S. in the 2015 agreement if he can negotiate a better deal. As we reported here, the administration has yet to put meat on the bones of the idea.
  • The official described it as a head-of-state level issue that's beyond what the U.S. plans to tackle at this session of the annual U.N talks.
What's next: The White House is hosting a meeting at the conference tomorrow to promote more efficient global use of fossil fuels, as well as nuclear power. The goal is a "pragmatic" discussion of how to address global warming while boosting energy security, economic growth and access to affordable power, a White House official said.
  • Yes, but: The White House faces strong criticism for the refusal of Trump and some other top administration officials to acknowledge the scientific consensus on human-induced global warming, and for abandoning Obama-era climate policies and rules.
Big picture: Asked whether reducing global greenhouse gas emissions is a priority for the Trump administration, the official said it's a "lesser priority" than energy security and economic development, but added that it's "still a priority."
  • Note: Axios reporter Amy Harder is in Bonn reporting from the U.N. climate conference. She'll have more on the talks and the U.S. posture in her Harder Line column tomorrow morning. Get it directly in your inbox by signing up here for Generate, our daily newsletter on energy.

4. Sneak Peek diary

  • POTUS: The president is still on his historically long Asia trip. He'll be in the Philippines Monday and Tuesday for bilateral meetings with President Duterte and to attend the ASEAN Summit in Manila. Trump is scheduled to arrive back at the White House Wednesday evening.
  • In the House: GOP House leaders have told members they'll start the whip check on the tax reform bill on Monday night during votes.
    • There's momentum behind this bill, but a lot of members in high-taxed blue states remain nervous about the crackdown on the state and local deductions. (The most worrisome members come from New York, New Jersey and California.)
  • In the Senate: The Senate Finance Committee will begin marking up the Senate tax bill on Monday and the committee is expected to approve the bill this week on exclusively Republican votes.
On the horizon: Trump is expected to pardon the White House turkey on Nov. 21, and he's then expected to spend Thanksgiving at Mar-a-Lago, according to a source familiar with his schedule.

5. 1 fun thing: Carlos and the Mystery of the Giant Scroll

The White House has gotten much less leaky since Gen. Kelly took over. But behind the scenes, lots of wacky stuff still happens.

A few weeks ago, more than a dozen senior officials gathered for a meeting in the White House's windowless Roosevelt Room. Kirstjen Nielsen, then Kelly's top deputy and now the pick to head DHS, was presiding, under the watchful eyes of the historic Teddy Roosevelt portrait.

Then in trundled Director of Policy and Interagency Coordination Carlos Diaz-Rosillo. He made a dramatic entrance, lugging what a source described as a "4 foot by 30 foot scroll."

The scroll was so hefty that Diaz-Rosillo had to recruit Peter Navarro, Trump's white-haired and wiry trade adviser, to help him haul it in.

Diaz-Rosillo and Navarro clumsily unfurled the giant scroll, as more than a dozen officials stared on non-plussed. Our sources say it was hard to discern the markings on the scroll; it appeared to be a byzantine array of lines, words, and empty boxes.

Diaz-Rosillo had an explanation, though, according to one source:

"This is to help with strategic communications," he announced.

The room fell silent.

After a few moments, Nielsen asked Diaz-Rosillo to explain the scroll to the group in an email.

Our sources have yet to see that email, or to solve the mystery of the giant scroll. We will update you if they do.

Featured

ICE is seeking a program to monitor the social media of visa-holders

ICE agents at a home in Atlanta, during a targeted enforcement operation. Photo: ICE via AP

Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials said at a tech industry conference last week they are seeking algorithms that can "conduct ongoing social media surveillance" of visa holders that are considered high risk, according to ProPublica.

Why it matters: The announcement of the program, later named "Visa Lifecycle Vetting," spurred backlash from civil liberty groups and immigrants, saying it would be discrimination against Muslim visa holders. Acting deputy association director for information management at ICE Homeland Security Investigations, Alysa Erichs, said the goal is to have "automated notifications about any visa holders' social media activity that could 'ping us as a potential alert.'"

  • But, but, but: According to Alvaro Bedoya, the executive director of Georgetown Law's Center on Privacy and Technology, ICE is "building a dangerously broad tool that could be used to justify excluding, or deporting, almost anyone."
  • A group of engineers, computer scientists, and other academics wrote to acting DHS Secretary Elaine Duke of their "grave concerns" about the program, saying it would likely be "inaccurate and biased."
  • Carissa Cutrell, an ICE spokeswoman, told ProPublica the "request for information...was simply that - an opportunity to gather information...to determine the best way forward."
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Peter Thiel might try to buy Gawker.com

Kevin Moloney / Fortune Brainstorm Tech

Peter Thiel, the Silicon Valley billionaire investor who funded ex-wrestler Hulk Hogan's lawsuit against Gawker, is seeking to pause the sales process of the now-defunct website, arguing that he was unfairly excluded from making a bid, according to a bankruptcy court filing obtained by BuzzFeed.

Why it matters: The buyer of Gawker.com (the rest of Gawker Media's properties were acquired by Univision last year) will be able to do with its contents as they please, including deleting specific articles. There are still ongoing legal actions over a few articles in the archive. Though Thiel never admitted as much, it was long rumored that his decision to help Hogan was fueled by unflattering coverage of him and his business activities over the years, including a 2007 story about the fact that he is gay.

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The blowback from Uber's data breach

A man exits the Uber offices in Austin, Texas. Photo: Eric Gay / AP

Illinois, Massachusetts, New York, and Connecticut are planning investigations into Uber's recently announced 2016 breach that left 57 million customers' and drivers' data vulnerable to criminals, and the FTC might launch a probe as well, according to Recode.

Why it matters: Most states (48) have some form of a law requiring companies to reveal data breaches to consumers, but Uber did not immediately disclose the details to consumers and reportedly tried to cover up the hack.

The FTC may also launch a probe into Uber, Recode reports, citing two sources who say Uber has already briefed the agency. The FTC said it was looking into the matter.

  • The FTC just penalized Uber in August for other privacy and security practices and had asked Uber to maintain all records related to privacy and security for investigators. This apparent cover-up could throw a wrench in those conclusions issued in August.
  • Sen. Richard Blumenthal urged the FTC to take "swift enforcement action and impose significant penalties" on Uber, and Rep. Frank Pallone is calling for a Congressional hearing on the matter.

Global blowback: Authorities in Australia and the Philippines said they would also be investigating, and the UK's data protection regulator brought up potential penalties for Uber, per Reuters.

Bottom line: The news is not good for Uber on a global scale. It could face penalties and fines in addition to paying the steep legal price associated with suits after a year filled with other headaches related to security, privacy, and its culture.

Featured

Men behaving badly

The bombshell report from The New York Times last month on decades of sexual harassment and assault by producer Harvey Weinstein started a domino effect as other women spoke out about mistreatment by men in positions of power.

Featured

Trump Org. walking away from SoHo hotel

The Trump Soho hotel. Photo: Seth Wenig / AP

The Trump Organization has made a deal allowing it to walk away from the Trump SoHo hotel by the end of the month, according to the New York Times.

Why it matters: Per the Times, the hotel has "struggled to attract guests" and had to close its main restaurant in April due to what the restaurant's lawyer called a "decline in business since the election." The Trump Org. faced several lawsuits over building the hotel, per the Times, one of which alleged it "was backed by felons and financing from Russia." Russian-born businessman Felix Sater, who has been in the news following the election for having pushed for a Trump Tower in Moscow, was involved in the deal.

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Video released of North Korean defector crossing DMZ

Photo: United Nations Command via AP.

A video just released by the United Nations shows the North Korean soldier who defected to the South on November 13th making his getaway in a green jeep, running towards the border separating Panmunjom, North Korea from the South, and then collapsing on the South Korean side.

Why it matters: The event amounts to a violation of the armistice, since he was shot five times in his successful effort to defect from the North Korean regime, South Korea says. He was ultimately rescued by South Korean soldiers. Pyongyang has yet to say anything about the defection but the UN Command says it has requested a meeting to discuss the apparent armistice violations.

The scene, per the AP's Foster Klug: "It's 3:11 p.m. on a cold, gray day on the North Korean side of the most heavily armed border in the world, and a lone soldier is racing toward freedom."

  • "His dark olive-green jeep speeds down a straight, tree-lined road, past drab, barren fields and, headlights shining, across the replacement for the Bridge of No Return..."
  • "The shock of soldiers watching the jeep rush by is palpable from the video released Wednesday and no wonder: They're beginning to realize that one of their comrades is defecting to the South."
  • The defector crashes his jeep into a ditch.
  • The South says North Koreans fired about 40 rounds from AK-47s and rifles at the defector. No fire was exchanged between North and South Koreans.
  • The defector makes it over the border, and then turns around and runs back towards the North before collapsing by the wall. South Koreans crawl to pull him to safety.
  • "The entire sequence, from the first appearance of the jeep to the soldier's frenzied crossing, lasts four minutes."

A clue to life in North Korea: The defector had two surgeries to repair internal organ damage and is conscious. Surgeons "removed dozens of parasites from the soldier's ruptured small intestine, including presumed roundworms that were as long as 27 centimeters (10.6 inches), which may reflect poor nutrition and health in North Korea's military."

Watch:

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Vaccine researcher dodged medical regulations, conducted trials in hotels

Photo: AlexKich / iStock

Unlicensed and unregulated experimental vaccines were administered to at least eight herpes patients in the United States, in direct violation of US law, according to an investigation by Marisa Taylor at Kaiser Health News. The experiments were conducted secretly for several years in a Holiday Inn Express and Crown Plaza Hotel near Carbondale, Illinois.

What we already knew: William Halford, the associate professor at Southern Illinois University who conducted the experiments, died of cancer this summer. Halford had previously been accused of dodging US oversight laws by running trials out of a house on the island of St. Kitts in 2016. The St. Kitts and Nevis government says they were not notified of the research.

Why it matters: "We're not allowed to do this in guinea pigs in this country let alone human subjects," herpes expert Anne Wald told Kaiser Health News.

Money: Despite the controversy, a number of investors, including Peter Thiel, have invested several million dollars in Rational Vaccines, the company founded by Halford and Hollywood filmmaker Agustín Fernández III.

Deception: Halford, who was not a physician, took clear steps to cover his tracks, telling participants to keep the experiment a secret and "writing that it would be 'suicide' if he became to public about how he was conducting his research," writes Taylor.

Complications: Patients have reported side effects from the vaccine. Kaiser Health News reports that one participants fear that the vaccine gave him a new, different type of herpes is "possible."

Contamination: Not only were the trials conducted in violation of US law, they were conducted using live viruses. Live virus vaccines are traditionally handled in extremely sterile areas - which Holiday Inns are not - to prevent contamination.

Manipulation: Halford used patient's desire for a cure to manipulate them into joining the unauthorized trial: "People underestimate how desperate people with genital HSV are," Wald told Kaiser Health News.

Denial: Southern Illinois University, which previously denied it had any knowledge of Halford's action, refused to comment to Taylor.

Read the full Kaiser Health News report here.


Featured

Exxon joins 7 major oil companies to reduce pollution

J. Scott Applewhite / AP

Exxon, Shell, BP and five other big oil and natural gas companies have announced that they are joining forces to work on ways to cut emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, from natural gas production, according to Wall Street Journal.

Why it matters: There has been growing pressure from government and consumers on the energy industry to find more environmentally-friendly energy sources and production methods, and Exxon's participation leaves Chevron as the only major U.S. oil company not part of the group. These companies have already made significant investments in fossil fuels, which they believe will be an important source of energy stability even as renewables gain popularity, and natural gas is the cleanest compared to oil and coal.

The companies' joint statement: "The commitment was made as part of wider efforts by the global energy industry to ensure that natural gas continues to play a critical role in helping meet future energy. Its role in the transition to a low-carbon future will be influenced by the extent to which methane emissions are reduced."

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Anita Hill: Biden did "opposite" of what women needed in 1991

Anita Hill in 1991 and Joe Biden in 2017. Photos: John Duricka and Patrick Semansky / AP

A new look at Anita Hill's 1991 testimony against now-Supreme Court justice Clarence Thomas puts a harsh spotlight on Joe Biden's handling of her allegations of sexual harassment. Biden was the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee at the time, and the Washington Post magazine reports that Hill believes Biden hasn't taken responsibility for how unfairly she was treated.

Why it matters: Here's what Hill told the Post: “[W]omen were looking to the Senate Judiciary Committee and his leadership to really open the way to have these kinds of hearings. They should have been using best practices to show leadership on this issue on behalf of women's equality. And they did just the opposite."

The bottom line: Biden apologized to Hill at a Glamour magazine event earlier this month, saying he was "so sorry" for what Hill went through. Hill said she still doesn't think his comment "takes ownership of his role in what happened," and said it was a qualified apology: "That's sort of an 'I'm sorry if you were offended.'“

Biden declined to be interviewed by The Washington Post and declined to comment on Hill's response.

On Biden's speedy process:

  • Then-Rep. Pat Schroeder indicated she wanted to slow down Thomas' confirmation process in light of the allegations. But Schroeder said Biden emphasized he wanted a fast process for the hearing.
  • When the lawmakers spoke with Biden about their concerns, Schroeder claims Biden said "that he had given his word" to Sen. Joe Danforth, Thomas' chief sponsor, "in the men's gym that this would be a very quick hearing," and "kind of pointed his finger and said, 'you don't understand how important one's word [is] in the Senate.'" Schroeder added "It was really, really ugly."

On Biden's lack of control:

  • Hill said Biden didn't control the hearing so that she could speak before Thomas did, as Biden had said would happen.
  • Instead, Hill was left with what non-voting Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton called a "rebuttal before you hear the accusation," when Thomas went first. Hill called it a "preemptive strike."

On how the media covers sexual misconduct allegations:

  • Hill said the media "had a political angle" in 1991. "They were asking questions like, 'Who supported her? Who's behind her? What group is she associated with?' That was the way that they were telling the story." She cited the Republican senators and the White House "feeding" stories to the press.
  • "But then afterwards the media shifted to talking about sexual harassment in the workplace. And I think that was a segue into the year of the woman, because then that story started to be about women's experiences and how they were not being represented in Washington, D.C."
The aftermath, per WashPost: "In 1992, 24 women were elected as new members to the House and four to the Senate, more than in any previous decade. Many cited anger over Hill's treatment during the Thomas hearings as a reason for running."
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Dept. of Education changing guidelines on systemic discrimination

U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. Photo: Ted S. Warren / AP

The Education Department will no longer look for systematic discrimination in schools following individual complaints, according to the Associated Press.

Why it matters: This is a change from the Obama administration, which required the department to investigate whether an incident of discrimination was a part of a broader problem in a school or class. Proposed revisions from the department that were released last week omitted the word "systemic" from its guidelines, per the AP. In addition to that change, the department is moving to eliminate an appeals process, and give schools "a greater say in how a case is handled."