Jul 22, 2020

Axios AM

By Mike Allen
Mike Allen

Happy Wednesday!

🇨🇳 Breaking: The Trump administration told China to close its diplomatic consulate in Houston "to protect American intellectual property and American’s private information," State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus told Axios this morning.

  • A police official told Axios' Rebecca Falconer that Chinese consulate officials at the building were believed to be "burning their own paperwork." Details.

💻 Take a virtual trip to Colorado with Axios' Sara Fischer tomorrow at 12:30 p.m. ET. She'll interview Gov. Jared Polis and Coffee at The Point owner Ryan Cobbins. Register here.

1 big thing: November could bring Bush v. Gore II

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, North Carolina and Georgia are the battlefronts for voting rights advocates and election lawyers in a year one national expert says could make Bush v. Gore look like "a walk in the park," Axios' Stef Kight writes.

  • "I think there's going to be litigation everywhere," MIT political scientist Charles Stewart III tells Axios.
  • Why it matters: If elections are close in these states, it could set off waves of protests and lawsuits over turnout, ballot access and alleged fraud — undercutting the perceived legitimacy of the results.

These states share three overlapping factors that could create a perfect storm for legal challenges: competitive elections, surging coronavirus numbers, and little experience historically with voting by mail.

  • U.S. Election Assistance Commissioner Donald Palmer tells Axios he believes that some states that have traditionally experienced 5%-10% levels of absentee voting could see it swell to 60%-70% because of the pandemic.
  • Palmer also is watching swing states Michigan and Virginia, which along with Pennsylvania recently moved to no-excuse absentee voting and now will have to make that transition with surging interest in vote-by-mail options.

Between the lines: Texas is another state to watch. It's long been at the center of voting rights battles, and polls show a tight presidential race.

2. "Parent pods" trend

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Neighbors are banding together to hire private instructors as a way to secure child care and make up for some of the gaps online-only classes will leave in their kids' educations, Axios' Caitlin Owens and Sara Kehaulani Goo report.

  • Why it matters: Parents want to be sure their children don't fall too far behind, but this trend could deepen the educational divide along racial and class lines.

Driving the news: Pandemic "pods" — a group of families agreeing to limit their interactions outside that circle — have thrived as a safe way to help kids interact with their friends and give parents some time to work.

  • Now, enterprising parents are offering teachers who don't want to return to the classroom a competitive salary to instead teach a handful of students in a home environment.

How it works: One way is for several families with kids in the same grade agree to form a "pod" and hire a tutor or teacher at home during the workweek. Costs vary, but can top $1,000 per month, according to the Washington Post.

  • For families with preschoolers, often it’s a babysitter — like a nanny share, but with several families pooled together.

This is primarily an option for wealthier, mostly white families, and some school districts already saw many Black children struggle to show up to online learning during the spring.

  • Some parents will invite lower-income families to join their pod, and could even subsidize their share of the cost, but heavily segregated school districts mean that can only go so far.
  • Some families are explicitly saying that they don’t want children of essential workers in their pods, as they can’t fully socially distance.

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3. Bottom line for each tech CEO

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Axios' Kyle Daly narrates the key point that each of the big four tech CEOs will make during their joint, virtual testimony Monday at an antitrust hearing of the House Judiciary Committee.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg: Congress should pass better laws. Let's work together and do that!

  • Zuckerberg will likely argue that Congress needs to write laws to bolster election security and establish consistent online privacy standards.
  • Facebook's goal is to see such laws written carefully and applied consistently.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai: We won search by doing it well — why punish us for that?

  • Google doesn't dispute its clear dominance in search, nor of certain corners of the online advertising market.
  • But it contends that digital advertising is in fact wildly competitive.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos: We're big because we've always given users what they want — fast delivery, wide selection and good prices.

  • Bezos is likely to point to Amazon's ability to get goods to Americans' homes during the pandemic as a public service.

Apple CEO Tim Cook: Our App Store creates opportunity for countless developers — and Google's Android controls more of the smartphone market, anyway.

  • Apple has faced criticism for the way it develops and features its own apps that compete with third-party programs, as well as for the commissions it takes from app makers.
  • Expect Cook to cite the size and vitality of the app market and the continued enthusiasm of Apple's customers.

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4. 14 shot in Chicago as Portland flares

Chicago police talk to reporters at the scene. Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

In Chicago, at least 14 people were shot last evening in the Gresham neighborhood on the city's South Side, the Chicago Tribune reports.

  • The shots were fired at funeral attendees from a speeding vehicle.

The context: President Trump plans to send about 150 Homeland Security agents to Chicago to deal with a crime spike, AP reports.

Tear gas and crowd munitions were deployed by federal police during protests in Portland on Tuesday. Photo: Beth Nakamura/The Oregonian via AP

The Trump administration is facing growing pushback — in the courts and on the streets — over sending federal agents to Portland, Oregon, where protests have spiraled into violence, AP's Gillian Flaccus writes.

  • Why it matters: The presence of federal agents in progressive Portland has energized two months of nightly protests that had begun to shrink.
5. Scoop: New Comey book coming in January
Cover: Flatiron

In a new book 10 days before the inauguration, former FBI Director James Comey will take aim at politicization of the Justice Department under President Trump, who fired him.

  • "Saving Justice: Truth, Transparency, and Trust," out Jan. 12, is a follow-up to Comey's No. 1 New York Times bestseller, "A Higher Loyalty."
  • A press release from Comey’s publisher, Flatiron, says he'll also discuss his career prosecuting mobsters in New York. Comey famously compared Trump to a mob boss in his last book.

The state of play: Comey has kept a relatively low profile since his last book.

  • He has written occasional op-eds and hot tweets, but resisted numerous invitations to appear on TV.
  • Comey envisions the new book as an effort to remind Americans about the core principles of the justice system and how to rebuild them under what he hopes will be a new administration.
  • The publisher calls it "a clarion call for a return to non-partisan law enforcement centered on American values."

Behind the scenes: Matt Latimer and Keith Urbahn of Javelin represented Comey.

6. Pic du jour
Photo: Leah Millis/Reuters

President Trump resumed coronavirus briefings with a solo outing:

  • "It will probably, unfortunately, get worse before it gets better — something I don’t like saying about things, but that’s the way it is. It’s the way — it’s what we have. If you look over the world, it’s all over the world, and it tends to do that."
7. Data du jour: Presidents and the market
Note: Chart shows total return of the Russell 3000 index with Jan. 1, 1979 = 100. Growth rate is calculated as the compound annual growth rate over the 4 or 8 years from inauguration. Data: Factset; Chart: Danielle Alberti/Axios

President Trump has been good for the stock market — but not as good as most of his predecessors, chief financial correspondent Felix Salmon writes.

  • Why it matters: Presidents don't have a huge effect on the stock market, but overall, Democrats have outperformed Republicans in recent history.

By the numbers: Stocks have risen by an annualized 13.7% over the course of the Trump administration, if you look at total return with dividends reinvested.

  • That's a very healthy performance, but lags Reagan (14.1%), George H.W. Bush (15.1%), Obama (16.5%), and Clinton (16.7%).
  • Only George W. Bush oversaw a worse performance for the stock market than Trump in modern times. Bush was in office during the global financial crisis.

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8. Opinion sections become battlegrounds

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Journalists at The Wall Street Journal and the New York Times are urging their bosses to re-evaluate how their opinion sections operate after a slew of controversies in recent months, Axios' Sara Fischer writes.

  • Why it matters: In print, opinion pieces were physically segregated from the rest of the paper in a way that they aren't online, making it harder for readers to differentiate.

A group of 280 journalists at The Journal and Dow Jones sent a letter to the paper's publisher yesterday asking for clearer differentiation between news and opinion content online, The Journal reports.

Opinion-page controversies have also flared at the Times, and, to an extent, The Washington Post:

  • The Times faced an employee upheaval after its opinion section published a controversial piece in June by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.).
  • The Post was slammed by media critics last summer for publishing an opinion piece by Charlie Kirk, a conservative activist and Trump supporter.

Our thought bubble: These tensions have existed for years, but they have become amplified by an increasingly hyper-partisan news cycle driven by social media.

  • Traditional newsrooms tried to draw clear boundaries between news and opinion with separate management structure and offices. News organizations that emerged during the digital era rarely publish editorials and more freely mix news and opinion.

The bottom line: Subscribers today want to support news organizations that reinforce their world views — and are quick to cancel their subscriptions when they're unhappy.

9. How Kevin McCarthy will campaign in a pandemic

Photo: Caleb "Birthday Today" Smith

To get back on the campaign trail this summer and fall, House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy has procured dozens of WHOOP fitness trackers — which monitor respiratory rate as a clue to COVID — for his political and fundraising staff in D.C. and across the country.

  • Why it matters: McCarthy, who represents Bakersfield and works closely with California's tech community, will wear a WHOOP sensor and band himself, harnessing wearables to help keep aides and supporters safe. 

Go deeper: GQ on NBA and PGA use of fitness trackers to detect COVID.

10. 🏀 Sneak peek: NBA's new sidelines
Photo: Tim Reynolds/AP

At the NBA's first scrimmage today, there'll be no bench. Courtside broadcasters won't be courtside. The stat crew will work in an oversized hockey penalty box, AP's Tim Reynolds writes from Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

  • Seating in the bench areas will be assigned, with folding chairs spaced out several feet.

"Black Lives Matter" stretches on either side of the center stripe.

Mike Allen

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