Jan 24, 2020

Axios AM

By Mike Allen
Mike Allen

Breaking: China is restricting travel for 40 million people in 10 cities on the eve of Lunar New Year, and is struggling to contain rising public anger over its response to the coronavirus crisis. The death toll rose to 25. (Bloomberg)

1 big thing: Green swan
Expand chart
Reproduced from High Lantern Group. Chart: Axios Visuals

Climate change has, quite suddenly, become a lightning rod for business and finance leaders around the world, Axios' Dion Rabouin and Amy Harder report.

  • Climate generated the highest degree of public pressure on corporations by activists, policymakers and journalists last year, according to an analysis of 6 million tweets by High Lantern Group, provided exclusively to Axios.
  • Climate mentions rose 77% over 2018.

The big picture: The world's foremost economic institutions have begun advocating for policies cutting greenhouse gas emissions. This trend is driven by factors that include more extreme weather and greater public pressure.

  • These institutions include the IMF, Bank for International Settlements, Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development and major central banks.
  • And the official agenda at Davos this week is dedicated entirely to climate change.

What they're saying: The Bank for International Settlements — the central bank for central banks — warned in a research paper Monday that climate change could cause "potentially extremely financially disruptive events that could be behind the next systemic financial crisis."

2. Witness math: Dems struggle for 4

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) leaves the chamber. Photo: Erin Scott/Reuters

Democrats may fall short of the four Republican senators' votes needed to bring new witnesses into President Trump's impeachment trial, 10 senior staffers to key Senate Republicans tell Axios' Alayna Treene and Jonathan Swan.

  • The prevailing view among the aides last night was that Democrats — who would need to win over four Rs and not lose any Ds — will struggle to get more than three.

Why it matters: Calling additional witnesses — in particular Trump's former national security adviser John Bolton — appears to be the Democrats' last hope of inserting even a slight detour into what currently seems like a straight road to Trump's acquittal.

  • Without extra witnesses, Trump's impeachment could be over by the end of next week.

Dems' initial targets include Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Mitt Romney of Utah, Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Cory Gardner of Colorado, Thom Tillis of North Carolina and Joni Ernst of Iowa.

  • These are senators who, for different reasons, had been seen as potentially open to hearing more evidence beyond what House Democrats gathered in their impeachment proceedings.
  • But Tillis is now a no, and colleagues and aides also believe Ernst and Gardner will be.

Behind the scenes: At a private lunch yesterday, chiefs of staff to Republican senators agreed that one moment backfired on Democrats: when House Judiciary chair Jerry Nadler declared on the Senate floor that any senator who refused to vote for more witnesses would "be complicit in the president's cover up."

  • Collins told reporters she was "stunned" by Nadler's rhetoric, prompting her to send a note to Chief Justice John Roberts, who later admonished both sides.

Another moment that whipped up outrage in the Republican conference was Schiff's suggestion that the 2020 election result can't be trusted.

3. Trump team looks at short case
Jay Sekulow, President Trump's personal attorney, during last night's dinner recess, near the Senate subway in the Capitol. Photo: Sarah Silbiger/Reuters

President Trump's defense team is considering using just a portion of the 24 hours they're allowed to put on his defense, Axios' Alayna Treene and Stef Kight report.

  • Why it matters: A truncated defense would reflect a decision not to contest facts or defend Trump point by point, but rather to try to diminish the legitimacy of Democrats' overall case and end the trial as quickly as possible.
  • But if the White House moves too abruptly, it risks angering vulnerable Republican senators.

What we're hearing: Just because Trump's team can use up to three days to present their case doesn’t mean they will.

  • Two sources familiar with the Trump team's plans told Axios they don't anticipate using all 24 hours.
  • Instead, the team plans to adjust their arguments to what some of the more vulnerable Senate Republicans need to get them over the acquittal line.
  • One aide said Trump's lawyers are likely split their case over at least two days — partly because of TV ratings: "No one wants to watch this on their Saturday."

One thing they all agree on is they don't need to fill the hours just for the sake of it: House prosecutors and former President Bill Clinton's defense team each used fewer than 12 hours during his 1999 trial.

  • The bottom line: When your strategy is "concede nothing, admit nothing, apologize for nothing," it doesn't have to take very long.
4. Pic du jour
Photo: Chinatopix via AP

A militia member uses a thermometer gun to take a driver's temperature at a checkpoint at a highway tollgate in Wuhan, China — a city of more than 11 million that's closed off in an unprecedented effort to contain a deadly virus.

5. Dems' multimedia case

Rep. Adam Schiff, the lead House impeachment manager, used archival photos yesterday to illustrate what he called more "normal" foreign-leader calls by U.S. presidents, and flashed numerous other graphics as part of his case:

Screenshot via CNN
Screenshot via MSNBC
Screenshot via MSNBC
6. Bezos hack's shockwaves
Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

If Jeff Bezos' phone can be hacked, anyone's can, Axios' Scott Rosenberg writes.

The losers, following reports that the Amazon CEO's phone was compromised in 2018 by a video file in a WhatsApp message from the Saudi crown prince:

  • WhatsApp, the service owned by Facebook. WhatsApp originated as a privacy-oriented, fully encrypted messaging channel, and was initially embraced by activists and dissidents.
  • NSO Group, the Israel-based security firm whose Pegasus tool is cited by a forensic report as the most likely culprit in the Bezos hacking. Saudi Arabia is believed to have used NSO software to spy on the WashPost's Jamal Khashoggi and other critics. Facebook has sued the company for its role in hacking hundreds of people's phones through WhatsApp.
  • The Saudis, who may find a lot of their messages sitting unread in recipients' inboxes.

Go deeper: Dan Primack's Pro Rata Podcast, "The hack heard round the world"

7. Milestone: Tesla = most valuable U.S. automaker
Tesla (and SpaceX) CEO Elon Musk at Kennedy Space Center on Sunday. Photo: John Raoux/AP

Tesla overtook Germany's VW as the world’s second most valuable carmaker behind Japan’s Toyota, Reuters reports.

  • "Tesla’s stock has more than doubled in value in the last three months, with its market capitalization piercing $100 billion."
  • "The recent gains have been fueled by a surprise third-quarter profit, progress at a new factory in China and better-than-expected car deliveries."
8. 🗳️ 2020 voting has begun

Sen. Bernie Sanders during a break in the impeachment trial. Photo: J. Scott Applewhite/AP

The Iowa caucuses are 10 days away, but early voting in the Democratic race is already open to millions of Americans, AP reports:

  • In Minnesota, in-person early voting began Jan. 17. Vermont's deadline to mail out its absentee ballots was the same day.
  • Many of the 14 Super Tuesday states (March 3) will offer some form of early voting between now and mid-February.

Why it matters: Early voting amounts to a parallel campaign.

  • Candidates have to balance Super Tuesday organizing with the demands of the first states.
9. Doomsday Clock closer to midnight
Photo: Eva Hambach/AFP via Getty Images

The keepers of the Doomsday Clock moved the symbolic countdown to global disaster to the closest point to midnight in its 73-year history, citing "existential danger" from nuclear war and climate change. (AP)

10. 🍽 1 food thing: Critic lauds dining din

N.Y. Times restaurant critic Pete Wells writes that when replying to frequent reader complaints about the decibel level when eating out, he finally "had to admit that I don’t really believe loud restaurants are a problem":

Restaurants are loud because we’re loud. With a few exceptions, when we complain about the noise, we’re complaining about ourselves.
If you believe a restaurant’s primary function is to serve food, then it doesn’t make sense for us to respond by raising our voices. But we go out for other reasons. We go to look around, maybe to be noticed, usually to talk to the people we came with. Some of us want a drink or two ... [A]nd when it all works, we respond by raising our voices.
Mike Allen

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