Sep 23, 2020

Axios AM

Mike Allen

🌞 Good Wednesday morning. Today's Smart Brevity™ count: 1,170 words ... 4½ minutes.

💣 "Editorials published by several Chinese state media groups signaled Beijing may not sign off on a deal that could put control of [TikTok] in the hands of Americans," the Financial Times reports (subscription).

  • State media denounced ByteDance's deal with Oracle and Walmart as "dirty and unfair," saying Beijing had "no reason" to approve the agreement backed by President Trump.
1 big thing: Wall Street fears election meltdown

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's death, and the fight over her replacement, are amplifying Wall Street worries about major volatility and market losses ahead of — or even after — the election, Axios Markets editor Dion Rabouin writes.

  • The 2020 election is the most expensive event risk on record, per Bloomberg — with insurance bets on implied volatility six times their normal level, according to JPMorgan analysts.
  • "Not getting the election results in a timely manner will be destabilizing," Lou Brien, rates strategist at DRW Trading, tells Axios.

The Supreme Court fight will compound partisanship and division in the event of a contested election, analysts at TD Securities say in a note to clients.

  • "[W]e should be putting in a greater probability of a blue wave," which would leave Democrats with control of the presidency and both chambers of Congress, Priya Misra, TD's head of global rates strategy, tells Axios.

Wall Street is also closely watching the Senate.

  • "[T]he tilt of the Senate, especially if [Joe] Biden wins, will allow him to make much bigger changes in policy than we’ve seen in the past," says Stephen Dover, head of equities for Franklin Templeton.

A repeal of President Trump's tax cut could have immediate stock market implications.

  • With a Democratic Congress, Biden would be expected to increase spending on health care, new jobs programs and renewable energy.

Share this story.

  • 💰 Sign up for Dion Rabouin's weekday newsletter, Axios Markets.
2. America marks 200,000 lost
Photo: Chen Mengtong via Getty Images

Flags near the Washington Monument memorialize the 200,000+ Americans who have lost their lives to COVID-19.

  • That's equivalent to a 9/11 attack every day for 67 days. It is roughly equal to the population of Salt Lake City or Huntsville, Ala.

U.S. deaths are averaging 770 a day, AP reports.

3. 🗳️ FBI warns about delayed election results
Via Twitter

The FBI warned that "[f]oreign actors and cybercriminals" could try to take advantage of a delay in election results, and urged Americans to depend on authorities for results, and to verify social-media posts before sharing them.

  • Why it matters: As President Trump calls for a quick result and says the election is "rigged," his own experts are saying we may need patience.

"State and local officials typically require several days to weeks to certify elections’ final results in order to ensure every legally cast vote is accurately counted," the bulletin says.

  • "The increased use of mail-in ballots due to COVID-19 protocols could leave officials with incomplete results on election night."
  • "Foreign actors and cybercriminals could exploit the time required to certify and announce elections’ results by disseminating disinformation that includes reports of voter suppression, cyberattacks targeting election infrastructure, voter or ballot fraud, and other problems intended to convince the public of the elections’ illegitimacy."
  • Read the bulletin.

🇷🇺 A top-secret CIA assessment dated Aug. 31 concludes that Vladimir Putin is "probably directing" a Russian foreign influence operation to hurt Joe Biden, WashPost columnist Josh Rogin scoops.

  • The document's hard-hitting lead: "We assess that President Vladimir Putin and the senior most Russian officials are aware of and probably directing Russia’s influence operations aimed at denigrating the former U.S. Vice President, supporting the U.S. president and fueling public discord ahead of the U.S. election in November."
4. Musk's big battery bet

Elon Musk takes a piece of paper from a Tesla fan in Berlin on Sept. 2. Photo: Fabian Sommer/picture alliance via Getty Images

"Elon Musk laid out a plan for Tesla Inc. to build a cheap electric car using drastically lower-cost batteries to make a $25,000 vehicle and potentially turn the company into the world’s largest auto maker," The Wall Street Journal reports (subscription).

  • Musk said he's "targeting eventual annual production of 20 million vehicles, or almost twice as many as Volkswagen sold last year as the world’s bestselling individual auto company."

Why it matters: "Battery technology is the secret sauce behind today’s electric vehicle revolution," The Journal reports in a separate story.

  • "As more car makers compete in the market and try to persuade customers to abandon their gas guzzlers, companies are pushing to overcome two hurdles to the mass appeal of electric vehicles — price and performance."
5. GOP appears to have votes for court
Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) speak yesterday. Photo: J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham "is looking at scheduling a confirmation hearing for the week of Oct. 12 and a committee vote near the end of the following week, with a vote on the floor before Halloween," the WashPost reports.

"Icons," by Bob Staake for The New Yorker
6. Tweet du jour
Via Twitter
7. Election clues, county by county

Ipsos and U.Va.'s Center for Politics are out with an interactive U.S. map that goes down to the county level to track changes in public sentiment that could decide the presidential election, Axios' Hans Nichols reports.

How it works: The 2020 Political Atlas tracks President Trump's approval ratings, interest around the coronavirus, what's dominating social media and other measures, with polling updated daily — enhancing UVA's "Crystal Ball."

  • Larry Sabato, director of U.Va.'s Center for Politics, says understanding swing states means knowing "what's being discussed in their local papers and nightly news, and how much the candidates are spending there."

Explore the atlas.

8. World's most influential
Courtesy TIME

The TIME 100, the magazine's annual list of the 100 most influential people, is unveiled with eight worldwide covers:

  • Top row from left: Dr. Anthony Fauci ... Black Lives Matter founders Alicia Garza, Opal Tometi and Patrisse Cullors ... COVID frontline nurse Amy O'Sullivan ... Megan Thee Stallion.
  • Bottom row from left: Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai ... The Weeknd ... Dwyane Wade and Gabrielle Union ... Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen.

See the full list.

9. Time capsule: How Hillary prepped for debates
Courtesy Philippe Reines

This exclusive photo shows Philippe Reines playing Donald Trump during Hillary Clinton's debate prep.

  • Senior-will-style, Reines has bequeathed the costume to Ron Klain, Joe Biden’s debate prep guru.
  • The package included a blue suit, red tie, dress shoes with 3.25-inch lifts, Trump-branded watch and cuff links sourced from eBay, and flag lapel pin.

Philippe tells Axios' Alexi McCammond he won't be wearing the suit again:

  • "[T]he 42 pounds I’ve lost in 2020 took it from an authentically tailored, too-baggy Trump fit to what would be wearing a Trump tent big enough for two."
10. Hollywood starts shooting again
Illustration by Mattias Adolfsson for The Hollywood Reporter. Used by permission

As film and TV production resumes in earnest after the coronavirus lockdown, "uncertainty about industrywide safety protocols has led to chaos," The Hollywood Reporter's Bryn Elise Sandberg writes.

  • "There's the film that told its cast and crew they couldn't leave the Motel 6 where they were staying, only to realize there that there was no restaurant on the property — a logistical 'nightmare,' according to one source."

The state of play ... "All the major studios are said to have projects in various stages of production, and it's beginning to add up: Los Angeles has seen a 40 percent increase in film permit requests from July to August":

To protect against an outbreak, sets are now often divided into specific 'zones' that correspond to the level of protection they require, depending on their proximity to the mask-less actors. Many refer to them as the A, B and C zones, though Netflix calls them the red, yellow and green zones. ...
The A/red zone is the strictest area on set because it's wherever the mask-less actors are, so the greatest amount of personal protective equipment is required.

Keep reading.

Mike Allen

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