September 13, 2023
🐪 Hello, Wednesday! Smart Brevity™ count: 1,398 words ... 5 mins. Edited by Emma Loop.
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1 big thing: Biden's words fuel impeachment push
Just before the 2020 election, Joe Biden and his campaign said his son Hunter hadn't made money from China — and that Biden hadn't met one of Hunter's Ukrainian business associates while he was vice president, except for maybe a brief hello.
- Both of those claims were false, according to recent sworn testimony by Hunter Biden and his business partner, Devon Archer.
Why it matters: House Republican leaders now have zeroed in on those two denials by Joe Biden in 2020 to help justify their impeachment inquiry, Axios' Alex Thompson writes.
- "Through our investigations, we have found that President Biden did lie to the American people about his own knowledge of his family's foreign business dealings," Speaker McCarthy said as he announced the inquiry.
- McCarthy cited contradictions between Joe Biden's denials and the sworn testimony Hunter Biden gave in court in July, and what Archer said in testimony to Congress in August.
🔎 Between the lines: Republicans risk a political backlash if the inquiry doesn't produce anything new.
- McCarthy is under pressure from right-wing members, including some who are threatening to replace the speaker.
Democrats argued there's no proof Biden did anything wrong, and that the president shouldn't be impeached for his son's actions.
- White House spokesman Ian Sams said: "House Republicans have been investigating the president for nine months, and they've turned up no evidence of wrongdoing."
- Asked about the conflicting accounts of Biden's comments in 2020, an aide said: "As the president said at the time when he was defending himself against Donald Trump's torrent of lies — and as he's said since — he didn't discuss Hunter's business dealings with him and wasn't in business with his son."
How we got here: During the second presidential debate in 2020, Biden was asked whether his son had made money from abroad, including China. "My son has not made money in terms of this thing about, what are you talking about, China," Biden said.
- But in federal court this July, Hunter Biden acknowledged that he was paid several hundreds of thousands of dollars through partnerships and business deals with Chinese firms in 2017 and 2018.
- That led the Washington Post's Fact Checker to recently give Joe Biden's original claim "Four Pinocchios."
🥊 Reality check: House Republicans don't currently have the votes to impeach Biden.
2. 🗞️ This one'll hurt
President Biden, befitting his generation, loves newspapers and the classic columnists. David Ignatius, Tom Friedman and David Brooks top his list.
- Ignatius, 73, a well-wired Washington Post foreign-affairs columnist who writes spy novels on the side, is out with a column (page A23 today) with the blunt headline: "President Biden should not run again in 2024."
Why it matters: Biden, 80, still sees himself as a young go-getter. Here's a respected voice he has known for 40+ years telling him that by plunging ahead, he "risks undoing his greatest achievement — which was stopping Trump."
"Biden has never been good at saying no," Ignatius writes, adding that the president has a "chance to say no — to himself, this time — by withdrawing from the 2024 race. It might not be in character for Biden, but it would be a wise choice for the country."
- "Time is running out," the columnist adds. "In a month or so, this decision will be cast in stone. It will be too late for other Democrats, including [Vice President] Harris, to test themselves in primaries and see whether they have the stuff of presidential leadership."
Ignatius praises Biden for passing "some of the most important domestic legislation in recent decades":
- "Biden has in many ways remade himself as president. He is no longer the garrulous glad-hander I met when I first covered Congress more than four decades ago."
But Biden, the columnist adds, "would be 82 when he began a second term."
- "Biden's age isn't just a Fox News trope; it's been the subject of dinner-table conversations across America this summer."
The bottom line: Biden confidants tell me that's not a conversation in his head, or in his White House. Democrats haven't coalesced around anyone else. But Ignatius has said out loud what few people will tell the president.
3. 📊 First look: More CEOs expect to cut jobs
Few of America's top corporate leaders expect to add jobs in the coming months, and many expect to cut positions:
- In a new survey from Business Roundtable, made up of CEOs from top U.S. companies, only 27% expected to increase their U.S. workforces in the next six months — down from 33% in June, and 47% a year ago, Axios chief economic correspondent Neil Irwin reports exclusively.
Why it matters: That presages a slowdown in what has been a blistering-hot labor market.
🔎 Between the lines: The executives' forecasts for sales and capital spending were flat. That suggests business conditions are holding up, even as executives reevaluate what were once more ambitious hiring and staffing plans.
4. 🇰🇵 🇷🇺 Rare summit of isolated leaders
Vladimir Putin said Russia will help North Korea launch satellites — and Kim Jong-un said Moscow had his full backing in its "sacred fight" with the West — as the leaders met today at a Russian spaceport, Reuters reports.
- Why it matters: U.S. and South Korean officials fear Kim will provide more weapons and ammunition to Russia for the war in Ukraine.
Putin and Kim dined on duck and fig salad, crab dumplings, sturgeon and beef with a choice of Russian wines, Kremlin reporters said.
5. 🇱🇾 Satellites show scale of Libya floods
6. 🌀 Behind those hurricane forecasts
During the past few decades, storm track forecasts have become far more accurate, with some gains made in intensity forecasting as well, Axios extreme-weather expert Andrew Freedman writes.
- By sampling the atmosphere in and around the storm (sometimes flying 1,000 or more miles away from the hurricane itself), NOAA's Gulfstream IV (G-IV SP) can provide forecasters vital clues about the storm's path and coming changes in intensity.
7. 🐘 Scoop: Ramaswamy wants to cut 1M feds
Republican Vivek Ramaswamy says he wants to cut a million civilian employees from the federal government — more than a third of the non-military federal workforce — if he's elected president in 2024, Axios' Sophia Cai reports.
- Why it matters: The political novice is tacking far to the right of every other Republican in the presidential race.
Ramaswamy tells Axios in a phone interview that his targets would be the Education Department, the FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the IRS and the Commerce Department.
- Ramaswamy says his eventual goal would be to cut the federal civil workforce of 2.2 million people by 75% after four years.
🥊 Reality check: Experts say Ramaswamy's plan is a long shot that would create chaos in government services and parts of the economy that depend on such agencies.
- Massive government reorganizations usually require congressional approval: There are laws that authorize agencies to exist and conduct certain activities — and a president can't singlehandedly change them.
The bottom line: Previous presidents have tried to eliminate entire departments with little success. Ronald Reagan promised to eliminate the departments of Education and Energy.
- Spoiler: Both still exist.
8. 🎸 1 fun thing: Hot journalism job
USA Today and the (Nashville) Tennessean, both part of Gannett, jointly posted an opening for a "Taylor Swift Reporter":
"... an experienced, video-forward journalist to capture the music and cultural impact of Taylor Swift. ... The successful candidate is a driven, creative and energetic journalist able to capture the excitement around Swift's ongoing tour and upcoming album release, while also providing thoughtful analysis of her music and career."
Axios deputy managing editor Shane Savitsky tells me via Slack: "literally like 12 people here have sent it to me, all with variations of like 'don't leave us,' so it's good to know i have a personal brand."
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