Jul 15, 2018

Axios AM

Good Sunday morning.

Breaking ... Prime Minister Theresa May to BBC's Andrew Marr, on Trump's Brexit advice: "He told me I should sue the EU — not go into negotiations."

Situational awareness: Eyeing 2020, Joe Biden, 75, will campaign up to four days a week for midterm candidates after Labor Day, per N.Y. Times' Alex Burns and Jonathan Martin.

"California Democratic Party leaders took a step to the left [last] night, endorsing liberal state lawmaker Kevin de León for Senate in a stinging rebuke of Democratic icon Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the L.A. Times' Phil Willon writes:

  • De León got 65% of the vote of about 330 members of the state party’s executive board. ... Feinstein: 7% ... 28% voted for “no endorsement,” which had been her plea.
  • N.Y. Times' Adam Nagourney says de León remains a long shot in November.
1 big thing ... No evidence will change Trump's mind on meddling

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

President Trump no longer doubts the basic intelligence assessment that Russia interfered in the 2016 election — he just seems incapable of taking it seriously, and tells staff that is simply what nations do, several sources close to Trump tell Jonathan Swan, who's filing from Helsinki.

  • There is no evidence that could ever change Trump’s mind, the sources said. 

Why it matters: 

  • To the extent that Trump does confront Putin over meddling at tomorrow's summit in Finland with Vladimir Putin — and the president has publicly promised to — it's not with any genuine seriousness or enthusiasm, the sources say.
  • It'll be purely for domestic/media consumption. Trump has signaled as much in the sarcastic way he's talked about this with the press.

In excerpts just posted, Trump told "CBS Evening News" anchor Jeff Glor in an interview in Scotland yesterday that he "hadn't thought of" asking Putin to extradite Russians indicted by Mueller.

  • "Well, I might," Trump said. "I hadn't thought of that. But I certainly, I'll be asking about it. But again, this was during the Obama administration. They were doing whatever it was during the Obama administration."
  • Trump said he has "low expectations" for the summit.
  • Trump told Glor it's too early to say whether he will meet one-on-one with Putin, without translators or aides.

A source who's discussed the matter with Trump tells Swan:

  • "On election meddling, a big part of it is a refusal to give in to anything that could give the impression that the election outcome resulted from anything besides his skill and success as a candidate."
  • "It's not about Russia. It could be evidence of Chinese or Canadian interference, and it wouldn't make any difference."
  • In Trump's mind, "he won the election based on political superiority, and no one is going to suggest otherwise."

More than a half a dozen sources who’ve discussed election meddling with Trump say that the president sees the Mueller investigation purely through the “witch hunt” lens:

  • It's not that Trump doesn't believe the Russians didn't meddle. But he doesn't take it anywhere near as seriously as some senior national security officials would like him to.

When we talk to Trump administration officials about Russian election meddling and the intelligence community's assessment that it's a major threat to America, they tell us there's nothing they could say that could authentically persuade Trump to take a serious interest.

  • "He just can't get past ... ," a senior administration official told us, his voice trailing off, "that it's about his election."

Trump's attitude toward the whole issue is summed up by his reply to reporters at his NATO presser, in a voice drenched in sarcasm: "We will, of course, ask your favorite question about meddling. I will be asking that question again."

  • That's a signal to Putin that it's not with any enthusiasm or genuineness that Trump will be raising the issue when they meet — just ticking a box for domestic political consumption. Then they can get down to business.

A Swan scene from the West Wing also captures the president's view:

  • Last year in the dining room adjoining the Oval Office, Trump was watching a CNN (!) segment on Russia and, in a visitor's recollection, turned to his guest and said: "Putin, Putin, Putin. That’s all CNN wants to talk about —Putin and Russia. It’s a complete joke. They’re not living in the real world. Because let’s be honestsome of our friends are some real beauties, too."
Jeff Glor interviews Trump. (Photo: CBS News)
2. What a long, strange Trump trip it’s been

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

Even in this era of parallel universes, where facts are no longer facts, history is no longer history, allies are no longer allies, and foreign thugs are no longer foreign thugs, President Trump’s worldwide tantrum-and-torpedo tour has been truly bizarre, Axios CEO Jim VandeHei writes:

  • You can fairly argue Germany should pony up more for NATO defense or trim a few tariffs on U.S. goods. But it’s harder to argue Germany has been anything other than a trustworthy and resolute ally. (Trump is correct that Germany's leadership has allowed its military to become badly depleted. And the reality is that it can't provide much meaningful assistance to the U.S. And, yes, the Russian gas pipeline is a problem.) But Trump turned Angela Merkel, the staunchest of U.S. partners, into a confused, aggrieved skeptic playing footsie with China on trade. 
  • You can fairly argue Britain has its internal issues and its people have been unusually hostile to the Trump presidency. But it’s hard to argue Britain has been anything other than America’s strongest ally, even when it hurts or is unpopular. Then Trump kneecapped Theresa May on her own soil. Trump's trip did horrors for the British public's view of him. But May knows she needs the U.S., so she stiff-upper-lipped it.
  • You can fairly argue that engaging Russia is better than escalation. But it’s hard to argue that Mueller's methodical investigation is a witch hunt.

Be smart: Trump legitimizes patently illegitimate behavior by publicly coddling Putin.

The irony is that if Trump just kept his mouth shut, his actions would put him in a much better spot with America's allies:

  • He's definitely harmed European relationships through his steel and aluminum tariffs, withdrawal from Paris, and withdrawal from the Iran deal.
  • But he's also done stuff the Continent likes — including substantially increasing American military investment in Europe from the Obama years.
  • Oh, and on this trip he signed the NATO joint statement reaffirming all of the allies' commitments.
Anti-Trump protesters jam Trafalgar Square in London on Friday. (Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images)
3. Trump on running in 2020: "It seems like everybody wants me to"

President Trump gave an on-camera interview to Piers Morgan, now of Britain's ITV and Daily Mail, aboard Air Force One in London, before taking off for Scotland. ITV airs the interview tomorrow, but the Mail has excerpts ...

  • Trump, on Piers Morgan: "My Piers ... How are you man? My champion."
  • "The Queen is FANTASTIC! She’s a fantastic woman; so much energy and smart and sharp. She was AMAZING! Such a wonderful lady and so beautiful! It was such an honor to finally meet her. To have a Queen like that is great."
  • On running again in 2020: "‘Well you never know what happens with health and other things ... I feel good. ... I fully intend to. It seems like everybody wants me to."

Morgan writes: "As we spoke, over 100,000 anti-Trump protestors were marching through the streets of London. 'Some of them are protesting in my favor, you know that?' [Trump] insisted. 'There are many, many protests in my favor.' Hmmm. I must have missed those."

Bonus: Pics du jour
Photos by Peter Morrison/AP

President Trump golfs yesterday at his club in Turnberry, Scotland.

4. Article of the day: When you can't give your little brother a hug

A facility in Brownsville, Texas, where children who have been separated from their families are detained (Miguel Roberts/The Brownsville Herald via AP)

"Cleaning Toilets, Following Rules: A Migrant Child’s Days in Detention ... A portrait of life in the shelters for the children detained after crossing the U.S.-Mexico border," by the N.Y. Times' Dan Barry, Miriam Jordan, Annie Correal and Manny Fernandez:

  • "Do not misbehave. Do not sit on the floor. Do not share your food. Do not use nicknames. Also, it is best not to cry. Doing so might hurt your case."
  • "Lights out by 9 p.m. and lights on at dawn, after which make your bed according to the step-by-step instructions posted on the wall. Wash and mop the bathroom, scrubbing the sinks and toilets. Then it is time to form a line for the walk to breakfast."
  • Leticia, 12, a girl from Guatemala who was sent to a government-contracted shelter in South Texas: “You had to get in line for everything."
  • "The facility’s list of no-no’s also included this: Do not touch another child, even if that child is your hermanito or hermanita — your little brother or sister."
  • "Leticia had hoped to give her little brother a reassuring hug. But 'they told me I couldn’t touch him.'"

Why it matters: "[M]ore than 2,800 children — some of them separated from their parents, some of them classified at the border as 'unaccompanied minors' — remain in these facilities."

  • "[T]]he environments range from impersonally austere to nearly bucolic, save for the fact that the children are formidably discouraged from leaving and their parents or guardians are nowhere in sight."
  • "Depending on several variables, including happenstance, a child might be sent to a 33-acre youth shelter in Yonkers that features picnic tables, sports fields and even an outdoor pool. ... Or that child could wind up at a converted motel along a tired Tucson strip."

"[S]ome elements of these detention centers seem universally shared, whether they are in northern Illinois or South Texas: "

  • "The multiple rules. The wake-up calls and the lights-out calls. The several hours of schooling every day, which might include a civics class in American history and laws, though not necessarily the ones that led to their incarceration.
  • "Most of all, these facilities are united by a collective sense of aching uncertainty — scores of children gathered under a roof who have no idea when they will see their parents again."
  • Obviously worthy of your time.

P.S. Now a billion-dollar industry: "Detaining immigrant children has morphed into a surging industry in the U.S. that now reaps $1 billion annually — a tenfold increase over the past decade, an Associated Press analysis finds."

5. ⚽️ 1 kick thing
Sponsors' booths surround Lenin statue at Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow as fans arrive for semifinal World Cup match between Croatia and England. (Rebecca Blackwell/AP)

"When Lenin had a thirst for revolution, this is not what he had in mind," AP's Ronald Blum writes from Moscow:

  • "Fans attending [today's] World Cup final between France and Croatia will pass a huge statue of the Bolshevik Revolution's leader as they enter the Luzhniki Stadium. Abutting the rear of the monument is a Budweiser concession stand with a sign proclaiming: 'Drink smart today — celebrate tomorrow.'"
  • "On the front side of the sculpture sits another stand topped by a Visa advertisement, filled with World Cup licensed merchandise that include hoodies for 6,000 rubles ($96)."
  • Built in 1955-56, the venue originally was called Central Lenin Stadium. It was renamed Luzhniki Stadium in 1992, a year after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. The new name is the Russian word for "meadows."

"In Red Square, about 5 miles ... from the stadium and a short distance from Lenin's tomb, FIFA and local organizers opened a temporary Football Park with games and amusement rides — and abundant corporate signage."

  • "It is near a string of boutiques for the haute bourgeoisie that include Cartier, Hermes, Tiffany and Versace."
6. 🏖 1 beach thing

Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo (ray-MAHN'-doh), a Democrat seeking reelection, is holding summer office hours at the beach, AP reports:

  • The first trip will be tomorrow at Scarborough State Beach in Narragansett.
  • "She'll be joined by members of her Office of Constituent Services to help connect residents with various services."
  • "While there, she plans to sign an executive order to reduce reliance on single-use plastics that can end up in the state's waters."
  • "She plans to go to East Matunuck State Beach on July 23 and Lincoln Woods State Park on Aug. 3."

Thanks for reading. Axios.com will have updates all day from Helsinki and beyond.