Mar 30, 2017

Axios AM

By Mike Allen
Mike Allen
1 big thing: Disrupting his advisers

Friends who talk frequently to Trump tell us the President will make one big change in response to the health-care fiasco: In the constant check-in phone calls for which he's famous, he's going to talk with a wider array of people -- and include more Democrats.

Participants say "The Closer" has been having a flurry of "What happened?" conversations which make it clear that he realized far too late how much trouble the bill was in.

  • Why it matters: Between phone calls from his old New York crowd in the residence at night, to the tweets he sends with no vetting or editing, Trump rebels against the filter bubble that surrounds a President. He relishes reaching around the press, and now he's also going to be more intentional about reaching past formal advisers.
2. Summit of the year

The White House announcement this morning about the meeting of the world's two most powerful men, which Axios AM readers learned two weeks ago:

"President Donald J. Trump will host President Xi Jinping of China at Mar-a-Lago April 6–7, 2017. This will be the first meeting between President Trump and President Xi. ... The President and the First Lady will also host President Xi and Madame Peng Liyuan at a dinner on the evening of April 6."

Axios' Jonathan Swan talked to Richard McGregor — the Financial Times alumnus who wrote "The Party," a seminal book on China's Communist Party — about what China wants. The takeaway: China does not want (for the moment) to upend the status quo.

  • Look for: Trump to be firm about America first without lecturing, and the Chinese to play the long game.

Chaser ... N.Y. Times front page, "As Trump Backtracks, China Seizes Chance to Lead on Climate," by Edward Wong: "[T]he Obama administration prodded, cajoled and beseeched China ... Now, it is far likelier that the world will see China pushing the United States to meet its commitments and try to live up to the letter and spirit of the 2015 Paris Agreement, even if Mr. Trump has signaled he has no intention of doing so."

3. Early report cards

Worth the click ... An exclusive clip for Axios AM readers from next Sunday's edition of Showtime's "The Circus," a road trip to five states in five days — including an informal focus group about Trump, conducted by Mark Halperin at Saint Anselm College in New Hampshire:

Insights from participants: "I think he's getting a heck of an education" ... "It's supposed to feel uncomfortable, and it does feel uncomfortable. And that's good. That's change."

Advice: "Slow down."

One word to describe Trump: "impulsive ... arrogant ... huge ... winner ... bombastic ... rash ... rambunctious ... change ... rushed ... unsettling .. circus."

4. West Wing powers

One of Trump's more intriguing appointments was Omarosa Manigault, who became a celebrity as "alpha-female villain" in the first season of Trump's "The Apprentice," and was the campaign's director of African-American outreach. Now, she's Assistant to the President and Director of Communications for the Office of Public Liaison. Her role is explored critically in a WashPost front-pager, "In Trump's view, Omarosa more than apprentice," by Vanessa Williams:

  • "Some African American political insiders already have concluded that she is ineffective, and she is routinely derided on social media as simply providing cover for a president deeply unpopular with African Americans."
  • "The White House ... did not respond to questions about Manigault's official responsibilities, which so far have publicly been centered on issues relating to black America. None of those events has gone especially well."
5. Stat du jour

Jeff Bezos Is now the world's second richest person," after Bill Gates, per Bloomberg's Robert Lafranco:

"Bezos has leapt past Amancio Ortega and Warren Buffett to become the world's second-richest person. ... Bezos has a net worth of $75.6 billion on the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, $700 million more than Berkshire Hathaway Inc.'s Buffett and $1.3 billion above Ortega, the founder of Inditex S.A. and Europe's richest person."

6. Get smart fast

Even though he doesn't talk much about it, and coverage is spotty, Trump is a War President. The two column lead of today's N.Y. Times is an eye-opening step-back, "U.S. War Footprint Grows, With No Endgame in Sight: Concerns That No One Is Planning for Peace as Americans Expand Mideast Role," by Ben Hubbard in Beirut and Michael Gordon in D.C.: "

  • "Two months after the inauguration of President Trump, indications are mounting that the United States military is deepening its involvement in a string of complex wars in the Middle East that lack clear endgames."
  • "Rather than representing any formal new Trump doctrine on military action, ... American officials say that what is happening is a shift in military decision-making that began under ... Obama."
  • "Concerns about the recent accusations of civilian casualties are bringing some of these details to light. But some of the shifts have also involved small increases in the deployment and use of American forces or, in Yemen, resuming aid to allies that had previously been suspended."
  • Why it matters: Trump's "budgetary and rhetorical priorities have indicated a military-first approach even as he has proposed cuts in diplomatic spending.To some critics, that suggests that much more change is to come, in difficult situations in a roiled Middle East that have never had clear solutions."
7. Rapid rapprochement fades

Part of the price of the Russia brouhaha is woven into a Wall Street Journal front-pager, "Trump's Hope for Russia Reset Fades," by Carol Lee and Paul Sonne in Washington, and Thomas Grove in Moscow:

  • "While still focusing on specific areas of possible cooperation, top administration officials now see major impediments to a broad deal on an array of policies, given Russia's continued provocations in terms of weapons deployments, overtures to Iran, cyberintrusions and intervention in Ukraine."
  • "The burgeoning U.S. investigations into Russia's alleged interference in last year's U.S. presidential election ... have further constrained prospects because relations with Russia are under intense scrutiny."
  • A senior administration official: "We don't want to be in a position where we do a lot of giving and don't get a lot in return."
8. "No turning back"

The U.K. filed its Brexit divorce papers with the European Union yesterday. NPR London correspondent Frank Langfitt captures the ambivalence that remains after the 52-48 vote last June:

  • "The left-leaning Guardian ran a map of Western Europe as a jigsaw puzzle with the pieces of the U.K. taken out. ... 'Freedom!' crowed the Daily Mail, the conservative tabloid."
  • "The British are known for understatement, but political observers here speak of Brexit in superlatives."
  • "After Brexit, Britain will have to define itself independently and outside of the European Union, where it has enjoyed far more economic bargaining power as part of the world's largest collective market. ... Britain may choose to see itself through the lens of its national mythology — as a plucky island nation off the coast of Europe with global ambitions, punching above its weight."
  • On Britain trying to "have its cake and eat it" by pushing for a Eurozone free-trade deal in exchange for continued security cooperation, which the EU has condemned as blackmail: "[T]he last thing the EU needs are populists looking at a future U.K.-EU trade deal and saying, 'Look, it's not so bad.'"
9. Sanity break: Advice from Arianna

In our latest "Smarter, Faster" video, Arianna Huffington says: "We all have a lot of wisdom, a lot of creativity, in us." But much of it is lost because we're buried in our screens. There's a reason, she says, that a lot of our best ideas come in the shower.

10. 1 fun thing

The Uber Lost and Found Index, released yesterday, features the 50 most unique items that have been left behind, including:

Nordic walking poles ... a lobster ... sweet potato care package ... paycheck ... Hot Cheetos ... bulletproof vest ... lottery ticket ... Elf cut-out ... wooden hat ... Harry Potter glasses ... arm sling ... taser.

Mike Allen