Axios AM

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January 27, 2017

​1 big thing: The Bannon coup

White House and Hill GOP leaders are astonished by the unambiguous, far-reaching power of Steve Bannon and policy guru Stephen Miller over, well, just about everything:

  • They wrote the Inaugural speech and set in fast motion a series of moves to cement Trump as an America-first Nationalist.
  • They maneuvered to get more key allies inside the White House and positioned for top agency jobs.
  • They wrote many of the executive orders, sometimes with little input from others helping with the transition.
  • They egged on Trump to take a combative approach with the media, China, Mexico and critics.
  • And Bannon punctuated the week with a full-throated, Trump-pleasing bashing of the media ...

Another satisfied customer ... Bannon, in a phone interview with NYT's Mike Grynbaum, who covers media, TV, and politics (story is on A1): "The media should be embarrassed and humiliated and keep its mouth shut and just listen for a while … I want you to quote this … The media here is the opposition party. They don't understand this country. They still do not understand why Donald Trump is the president of the United States."

  • More Bannon: "The elite media got it dead wrong, 100 percent dead wrong … The mainstream media has not fired or terminated anyone associated with following our campaign … Look at the Twitter feeds of those people: They were outright activists of the Clinton campaign … That's why you have no power … You were humiliated."

Pre-conventional wisdom: A conservative leader told Axios' Jonathan Swan that Reince Priebus' people were feeling like they "won November and December," having filled the White House with so many loyalists. The spin was that Reince was outmaneuvering Bannon and would be the real power source. But now it's dawning on them, as Trump makes his early moves, that maybe they spoke too soon.

2. Next week: Supreme chaos

Democrats will almost certainly block Trump's Supreme Court nominee — regardless of who it is, as payback for Republicans tanking Obama's pick, Merrick Garland — and Republicans will almost certainly push the nuclear-option button. This will set a new precedent of 50 votes for Supreme Court confirmation, just like Republicans set the precedent that you now can refuse to fill a slot in a presidential election year.

  • Why this matters: Just when you thought it couldn't get more divisive, Supreme Court fights are going to likely get nastier and more partisan.

​3. Unpacking a global trend

Axios' Shane Savitsky posts a clever guide to launching a populist revolution, derived from the global data in Edelman's 2017 Trust Barometer, "Trust in Crisis":

  • The ingredients: "An unequal economy … A disgruntled working class: No populism without the people. … An 'other': Be creative! Something to get the people going."
  • The echo chamber: "Twitter: Your unfiltered thoughts, e.g. @realDonaldTrump. … The blogosphere and social media: Find your Breitbart. Italy's Five Star Movement did. … State-controlled media: If you have power, use it to your advantage like Poland's Law and Justice Party."
  • How to moderate your message after you're branded as controversial: "[H]one in on what people love more than anything: money."

​4. Good gets: reporting tidbits

"Additional pending [executive] orders … call for a review of cyber capabilities and vulnerabilities, in advance of what is expected to be greater use of offensive powers," per WashPost's Karen DeYoung and Phil Rucker.

Kim Strassel's "Potomac Watch" column in the Wall Street Journal, picks up on conservative chatter about "A GOP Regulatory Game Changer: Legal experts say that Congress can [use the Congressional Review Act to] overrule Obama regulations going back to 2009."

  • The fallout: A Republican source tells us that conservative staff and think tanks are starting to look into the legality: "[I]t's a novel idea, but would be a game changer if true. I think the procedural hurdles in the Senate might be messier than this piece states, but opens up all kinds of doors if it works."

​5. Trump v. Globalism, Act 3

The White House didn't exactly seem broken-hearted when Mexican President Enrique Peno Nieto yesterday announced that because of the border-wall provocation, he was canceling next week's trip to Washington. Trump had tweeted shortly before the announcement: "If Mexico is unwilling to pay for the badly needed wall, then it would be better to cancel the upcoming meeting."

The White House then floated a new payment mechanism as part of what AP branded Trump's "Chaotic Day." Axios' Stef Kight narrates: "After mentioning a 20% border tax for Mexico and then claiming it wasn't an actual policy proposal, WH press secretary Sean Spicer told reporters the plans to pay for the wall are still in the works. BUT an import tax was the best plan. He added that any country the U.S. has a deficit with would be taxed, and claimed a 20% tax would bring in $10 billion, which would 'easily pay for the wall.'"

  • The consequences: Conservatives now fear an unneeded trade war. In a WSJ editorial titled, "Trump's Little Mexican War: The President is treating our neighbor like Obama treated Israel," the conservative editorial page says: "Trump fancies himself a negotiating wizard, but in this case he is out-negotiating himself."

Trump v. Globalism, Act 4 … "German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang spoke out in favor of closer trade ties, signaling a global alliance opposed to the protectionist agenda of … Trump." (Bloomberg)

  • Why this matters: "The call between the leaders of the world's No. 1 and No. 3 exporters suggests global battle lines are being drawn over free trade just as Trump scraps a long-negotiated trade pact with Pacific nations and escalates protectionist rhetorics."

6. Trumpisms ...

… from last night's interview with Fox's Sean Hannity:

  • On "Saturday Night Live": "It's a failing show; it's not funny. Alec Baldwin's a disaster. He's terrible on the show. And by the way: I don't mind some humor. But it's terrible."
  • Giving a tour of the Oval: "And look at my desk: Papers! You don't see presidents with papers on that desk"
  • On using Reagan's desk: "[Y]ou can pick. They have like seven desks."
  • On the White House phones: "I have great phones, I have phones -- let me tell you. The technology that we have in this country is incredible. Unfortunately perhaps we don't use it.
  • On the president in his lifetime he admires most: "Well, I like Reagan. I didn't like him on trade. But other than trade, I liked him very much and he was OK on trade. But not great."
  • On the letter Obama left him: "What amazed me is that I was vicious to him in statements, he was vicious to me in statements, and here we are getting along, we're riding up Pennsylvania Avenue talk -- we don't even mention it. I guess that's the world of politics.
  • On how this whole experience has changed him: "I don't think I've had the time to be changed because I'm cutting the prices of airplanes, I'm cutting the prices of army tanks."
  • Trump's last words in the interview: "The ratings tonight are going to be through the roof."

7. Tracking power

  • Jason Miller, senior communications adviser of the Trump campaign and communications director for the transition, will join Teneo Strategy next week, advising Fortune 500 CEOs on crisis communications, corporate communications and media relations. Miller, who has sold his interest in Jamestown Associates, will be based in D.C. He was supposed to be Trump's White House communications director, but quit abruptly before Christmas. Teneo, which made its name thanks to its close relationship to Bill Clinton, is clearly adapting for a Trump-run world.
  • The next #NeverTrump battle? Key players oppose border adjustment tax: A transition source following the border-adjustment fight notes that opponents of the House Republican plan have aligned with key figures from the Never Trump movement. Katie Packer, a top Romney official who was a key voice of #NeverTrump, tweeted this week: "This tax will hurt families trying to make ends meet. @GroverNorquist should not ignore that." The border-adjustment fight pits major American manufacturers, championed by Trump during the campaign, against major retailers. Manufacturers are seeking reform they believe will help them grow again; retailers would face price hikes on foreign imports.
  • Al Gore saves the CDC's canceled climate change conference in Atlanta next month: WashPost's Brady Dennis quotes Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association: "He called me and we talked about it and we said, 'There's still a void and still a need.' We said, 'Let's make this thing happen'" — without federal backing.

8. Facebook pushes longer videos

Recode's Peter Kafka reports that Facebook "is going to start rewarding video makers who create longer clips. ... [I]t is tweaking its News Feed algorithm to emphasize longer videos that are able to retain their audience; the longer they hold them, the more likely Facebook is to promote them."

  • The trend: "This is part of a broader move Facebook has been making to emphasize 'watch time' — a metric that its rivals at YouTube have long championed."
  • The big goal: [T]he obvious goal here is to take attention, and ultimately ad dollars, from television."
  • The grand plan ... Axios' Sara Fischer points out that Facebook has been methodical in this evolution, incentivizing Facebook Live partners to make live videos longer by algorithmically favoring videos at least 10 minutes long.

9. More robots for Amazon

Amazon has been granted a patent for a robot to pack shipping boxes that are now filled by humans, per Axios' David McCabe.

  • Why this matters: Policymakers are trying to understand the impact that increased automation will have on jobs. Researchers associated with McKinsey found recently that' "scenarios suggest that half of today's work activities could be automated by 2055" but that only a small percentage of jobs could be fully automated.
  • Check out ... this Amazon graphic.

10. 2 fun things

  • Vanity Fair's "Wonder Women" cover shoot: "The 11 actresses who posed for Annie Leibovitz for 2017's Hollywood Portfolio have riveted moviegoers this year, in a stunning range of cinematic styles."
  • WSJ A-Hed, "Alexa, Stop Making Life Miserable for Anyone With a Similar Name!": "Apple Inc. picked 'Siri' [as the name for its artificial-intelligence personal assistant] … Inc.'s choice … was the 39th most popular girl's name in the U.S. in 2006. That means in some homes the plan has backfired."

HAPPY FRIDAY, and have a great weekend. THANK YOU for your rants, tips, links and leaks: Just reply to this email. This is my real/only e-dress, and no one else sees it.