Aug 4, 2017

Axios AM

1 big thing: Taming Trump

It's widely believed inside and out of the White House that nothing and nobody can control the impulses and snap instincts of Donald J. Trump. Many have tried; none have succeeded, in business or politics.

The president himself has set up the ultimate test of his controllability: He has put rigid Marine veterans in charge of his legal and governing fights — and set in motion the appointment of a third Marine vet who looms over his life and presidency:

  • The new White House chief of staff, retired Marine Gen. John Kelly, has imposed military discipline "with a suddenness and force that have upended the West Wing," per the N.Y. Times' lead story: "Kelly cuts off rambling advisers midsentence."
  • For his personal legal team, Trump hired John Dowd, a renowned Washington lawyer who was a captain in the U.S. Marine Corps and a member of the Judge Advocate General Corps. Someone who knows Dowd very well said that he "won't take Trump's s--t" — and would have no hesitation about quitting the team if he was dissatisfied.
  • Mueller was a Marine officer in Vietnam, completing the troika of veterans dominating Trump's life.

Be smart: Trump was talked into putting a no-nonsense miltary man in charge of the National Security Council — Gen. H.R. McMaster — and almost immediately bristled and expressed regret. Now there's talk McMaster could be shipped to Afghanistan.

2. Trolling Trump

A barrage of leaks pelted the White House, as President Trump heads tonight to his golf club in Bedminster, N.J., for a 17-day vacation. Most surprising were two transcripts of Trump calls with world leaders — a rare breach, and a sign of real animus toward Trump somewhere in the government:

  1. WashPost front page, "Trump tried to pressure Mexican president on wall," by Greg Miller: "[I]n his first White House call with Mexico's president, Trump described his vow to charge Mexico as a growing political problem, pressuring the Mexican leader to stop saying publicly that his government would never pay. 'You cannot say that to the press,' Trump said repeatedly."
  2. Trump to Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull: "This is a killer ... This is a stupid deal. This deal will make me look terrible. ... I look like a dope."
  3. See both transcripts.
  4. Wall Street Journal lead story: 'Special Counsel Robert Mueller has impaneled a grand jury in Washington to investigate Russia's interference in the 2016 elections ... The grand jury, which began its work in recent weeks, signals that Mr. Mueller's inquiry will likely continue for months."
  5. CNN: "Federal investigators ... have seized on Trump and his associates' financial ties to Russia as one of the most fertile avenues for moving their probe forward ... The web of financial ties could offer a more concrete path toward potential prosecution than the broader and murkier questions of collusion."
  6. CNN: "Mueller has issued grand jury subpoenas related to Donald Trump Jr.'s 2016 meeting with a Russian lawyer at Trump Tower."
3. "What another Korean war might look like"

The Economist cover story, "How to avoid nuclear war with North Korea — There are no good options to curb Kim Jong Un. But blundering into war would be the worst":

If military action is reckless and diplomacy insufficient, the only remaining option is to deter and contain Mr Kim. Mr Trump should make clear — in a scripted speech, not a tweet or via his secretary of state—that America is not about to start a war, nuclear or conventional. However, he should reaffirm that a nuclear attack by North Korea on America or one of its allies will immediately be matched. Mr Kim cares about his own skin. He enjoys the life of a dissolute deity, living in a palace and with the power to kill or bed any of his subjects. If he were to unleash a nuclear weapon, he would lose his luxuries and his life. So would his cronies. That means they can be deterred.

4. If you read only 1 thing

We previewed this in Axios PM, but this memorable article is worth reading in full this weekend ...

"Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation? More comfortable online than out partying, post-Millennials are safer, physically, than adolescents have ever been. But they're on the brink of a mental-health crisis," in The Atlantic, by Jean M. Twenge (Adapted from her book, "iGen," out Aug. 22):

  • "The more time teens spend looking at screens, the more likely they are to report symptoms of depression. Eighth-graders who are heavy users of social media increase their risk of depression by 27 percent, while those who play sports, go to religious services, or even do homework more than the average teen cut their risk significantly."
  • "[T]he allure of independence, so powerful to previous generations, holds less sway over today's teens, who are less likely to leave the house without their parents. The shift is stunning: 12th-graders in 2015 were going out less often than eighth-graders did as recently as 2009."
  • "Today's teens are also less likely to date. The initial stage of courtship, which Gen Xers called 'liking' (as in 'Ooh, he likes you!'), kids now call 'talking'— an ironic choice for a generation that prefers texting to actual conversation. After two teens have 'talked' for a while, they might start dating. But only about 56 percent of high-school seniors in 2015 went out on dates; for Boomers and Gen Xers, the number was about 85 percent."
  • "The decline in dating tracks with a decline in sexual activity."
  • Dive in.
5. Worth the click

Axios Sourced, our take-you-there video series, follows Amy Harder for: "What's happening to environmental rules while you're talking about Mooch."

See it here.

6. A coming fight

McCain wants to revive immigration reform when he returns to Washington this fall ... Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz) says in an interview with The Arizona Republic, featured on the front page of USA Today, that he's feeling well in his first week of radiation treatment for an aggressive form of brain cancer: McCain: "Immigration reform is one of the issues I'd like to see resolved ... I've got to talk to [Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer] about when would be the best time. I think there are all kinds of deals to be made out there. I really do."Why it matters: "[T]he six-term McCain, who turns 81 on Aug. 29, ... is in a more reflective place in his long Senate career as he faces a serious health challenge and undergoes chemotherapy for brain cancer."The bottom line: "His goal remains a long shot in the Trump era."

7. Pic du jour

Axios' Molly Mitchell made this amazing shot from the Newseum, where Bloomberg last night held a book party for Josh Green and "Devil's Bargain: Steve Bannon, Donald Trump, and the Storming of the Presidency." Molly's pool report:

  • The balcony of the Newseum washed in red candlelight.
  • Josh said: "When Bannon was spinning his plots and intrigue, the best time to get him on the phone was after midnight. Bannon was the only non-emergency contact calling me after midnight. My wife got used to it."
  • There was lightning and thunder during remarks. Immediately after they ended, this rainbow was over the Capitol.
8. Data du jour
9. We've all been there

LaGuardia Airport in New York was so bad for Larry Kudlow this week that he missed his own book party, hosted in D.C. by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and his wife, Hilary Geary.

  • The party was celebrating "JFK and the Reagan Revolution: A Secret History of American Prosperity," which he wrote with Brian Domitrovic.
  • Larry tells us: "Missing Hilary & Wilbur's book party for me was one of the most frustrating & distressing things that I can remember. Saintly wife (Judy) and I ready for 2pm departure. Waited 4 hours before they finally closed LGA down. I was in constant touch w/ Hilary. But we were powerless.They are good friends. I'm still distressed."
  • Larry's smart brevity on the book: "JFK actually first tax-cutting supply-sider. Reagan duplicated it & always gave JFK credit. Both led to prosperity."
10. 1 movie thing

"Gore wants 'Inconvenient Sequel' ideas to follow people home," by AP's Marcela Isaza in Beverly Hills:

  • "The former vice president stars in 'An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power' [out today], ... a follow-up to the 2006 Oscar-winning documentary about his efforts to combat climate change. ... The sequel arrives in a new world of smart homes, mass-produced electric vehicles and Donald Trump in the White House."
  • "Gore, 69, has championed environmental causes for more than 40 years ...
  • Gore: "Anybody who works on the climate crisis is tempted in some dark moments to despair but it doesn't last long for me. Despair is just another form of denial ... The solutions are here. Electricity from solar and wind is now getting cheaper than electricity from fossil fuels and we are seeing a huge switch in that direction."
  • Go deeper: "What You Can Do," on the film's Tumblr ... Indivisible, the film's organizing website.