Jul 13, 2018

Axios AM

By Mike Allen
Mike Allen

Happy summer Friday!

1 big thing: The Trump tornado

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

The pound is falling this morning ... After roiling the NATO summit in Brussels, President Trump — always dicey as a guest — crossed the North Sea and is doing the same in England:

  • This could have been an isle of pomp and calm ahead of next week's summit with Vladimir Putin.
  • Instead, it's the Brits' nightmare scenario, Jonathan Swan writes from London.
  • Why it matters: Trump continues to disrupt national politics not just in the U.S. but around the world.

At a time when Prime Minister Theresa May is so weak there's speculation about whether her government will fall over softness on Brexit, Trump knifed her in an interview that the tabloid Sun (Britain's biggest paper) ran under the headline, "I told May how to do Brexit but she wrecked it — the US trade deal is off."

  • In what the Rupert Murdoch paper called "his incendiary verdict on her negotiating strategy," Trump even suggested that her nemesis Boris Johnson, the conservative who resigned from her government this week, would "make a great Prime Minister."
  • The paper said the comments "pour nitroglycerine on the already raging Tory Brexiteer revolt against the PM."
  • The N.Y. Times' online headline: "With May’s Government Teetering, Trump Gives It a Shove."

Why does he Trump do it?

  • This is Trump saying whatever's on his mind and damn the consequences — always playing to his base, and refusing to put himself in another leader's shoes.
  • Trump's doesn't have a great relationship with May, but it's not as bad as his relationship with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Swan notes the irony that the Brits tried to be super-cordial — scheduling Trump outside central London and its massive protests against him, including a "baby Trump" blimp with the president wearing a diaper.

  • There's lots of fanfare and tributes to Trump, a well-rehearsed international blueprint perfected by the Saudis and then the Chinese.
  • The Brits view his visit to Blenheim Palace, Winston Churchill's birthplace, as a unique “first” for Trump, appealing to his self-conception as a latter-day Churchill.
  • Then tea with Queen Elizabeth II at Windsor Castle.

Be smart ... A source close to Trump said: "Part of the Trump playbook is keeping people off balance at all times. This could have been a victory lap. But the chaos isn't the means — it's the end."

P.S. Sarah Sanders issued this clean-up statement after the interview detonated:

  • "The President likes and respects Prime Minister May very much. As he said in his interview with the Sun she 'is a very good person' and he 'never said anything bad about her.' He thought she was great on NATO today and is a really terrific person.  He is thankful for the wonderful welcome from the Prime Minister here in the U.K.”
Courtesy N.Y. Post
2. Fear index rises in GOP over tariffs

Congressional Republicans think President Trump's tariffs are going to hurt the economy, undoing some of their economic wins — but they're not ready to cross the president until their voters feel the pain, Axios' Caitlin Owens writes.

Some members say their constituents, particularly those in agriculture and manufacturing, are already suffering under the tit-for-tat tariff escalation.

  • Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas, who's generally supportive of Trump, said: “It’s like getting a rock in your windshield and then all of a sudden the glass starts to, you’ve got that crack in the windshield. And right now in farm country, we’re about to lose the windshield."

What we're watching: While some members hope that the Senate could eventually pass a bill sponsored by Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker of Tennessee to limit some executive trade authority, aides and lobbyists say voters need to demand action before that has a chance.

3. A summit cooked up in weeks instead of years
First lady Melania Trump, President Trump, British Prime Minister Theresa May and her husband, Philip May, watch arrival ceremony at Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP)

Susan Glasser, former Moscow correspondent, writes in her weekly New Yorker column that "there is no historical precedent for Trump’s meeting with Putin" in Finland on Monday:

  • "Beyond the allure of aggrandizement and the mystery of President Trump’s affinity for the Russian strongman, why the meeting is taking place now remains a mystery."
  • "Is the purpose to discuss arms control? Syria? Ukraine? To rehash the 2016 election? Remarkably, it’s not clear, and that in and of itself marks this as a most unusual summit."

"Putin could not have set up the summit better if he had scripted it himself":

  • "The sum total of the preparation was a single trip by Trump’s national-security adviser, John Bolton, to Moscow. He came out of the trip with none of the 'deliverables' typically determined in advance of such high-level summits. ('The meeting is the deliverable,' the Russians apparently told Bolton.)"
  • "[I]t appears that it will be a four-hour affair (rather than the seven hours requested by the Kremlin), with a lengthy one-on-one between Trump and Putin first, followed by an expanded meeting to include Bolton, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and the U.S. Ambassador to Russia, Jon Huntsman."

Why it matters: "[O]ne preparatory trip, no formal agenda, and no 'deliverables' is not normal for a summit between the heads of the world’s two biggest nuclear-armed nations. Washington usually spends months, or even years, working up to a meeting between the President and the leader of Russia."

  • A former State Department official who spent decades preparing meetings between U.S. and Russian leaders said: "I’m afraid ... our guy here is like an amateur boxer going up against Muhammad Ali.”
Trump blimp hovers next to Winston Churchill statue in Parliament Square, London. (Matt Dunham/AP)
⚽️ Bonus: Pic du jour
AFP/Getty Images

Supporters from France and Croatia cheer on their teams in World Cup games leading up to Sunday's final in Moscow.

4. Dark money funds 40% of midterm ads

"Secret donors financed more than four out of every 10 television ads that outside groups broadcast this year to influence November’s high-stakes congressional elections, according to ... Kantar Media data," USA Today's Fredreka Schouten writes:

  • "Two Koch-affiliated groups account for more than one-quarter of the House and Senate advertising from groups that don’t disclose their donors."
  • "Those Koch advocacy groups, Americans for Prosperity and Concerned Veterans for America, have trained their advertising fire on five Democratic senators up for re-election from red and purple states: Sens. Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Jon Tester of Montana, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin."
  • "386,000 television spots focused on House and Senate races ... aired from Jan. 1 to July 8 ... [surpassing] the 355,464 broadcast TV spots that ran at the same point in the last midterm elections for Congress in 2014."

What's next: "The spending is about to soar even higher as November’s general election draws closer and the ad war intensifies over President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court pick, Brett Kavanaugh."

5. Mini-microphones will soon be everywhere

"Tiny microphones are moving us toward a world where all gadgets can respond to a voice command" — Wall Street Journal "Keywords" columnist Christopher Mims:

  • "Already when you’re sitting in a room with an iPhone, an Apple Watch and a smart assistant like Amazon Echo or Google Home, you’re surrounded by a dozen microphones."
  • "Newer iPhones have four and the Echo has seven, while the smartwatch has just one, for now."
  • "Add in the latest smart wireless headphones — Apple’s expected next-generation AirPods or competing ones from Bose or Shure — along with talking microwave ovens and TVs from Samsung, LG and others, and anyone at home or in an open-plan office could soon be within earshot of hundreds of microphones."

Why it matters: "The roadmaps of tech giants and startups alike show how sound is poised to become the first ubiquitous connection between users and the artificial-intelligence hive mind the internet is becoming."

  • "Driving this change are massive volumes of components, originally designed for smartphones and other mobile devices, that have dropped in price and grown in functionality over the past decade."
  • "Consider the voice-controlled trash can from Simplehuman. Say 'Open can' and it opens — and then closes on its own once the user walks away."
6. 1 tape thing: The last Blockbuster

"Alaska's last two Blockbuster video stores are calling it quits, leaving just one store open in the U.S.," AP's Rachel D'Oro reports from Anchorage:

  • "The closures will leave the Blockbuster in Bend, Oregon, as the sole holdout.
  • "How exciting," said the Bend store's general manager Sandi Harding. "We have no plans on closing anytime soon."
Mike Allen

Thanks for reading. See you all day — and weekend — on Axios.com.