Feb 1, 2018

Axios AM

Good Thursday morning, and welcome to February! Situational awareness: 45.6 million viewers watched President Trump's State of the Union across broadcast and cable —down from 48 million for President Obama's first, before the streaming age, Axios' Sara Fischer writes. For Trump, the network champ was Fox News, with 11.5 million.

1 big thing: Plot twist in "FBI v. POTUS"
Trump speaks with American workers during a tax reform event in the Oval Office yesterday. (Win McNamee / Getty Images)

There's been a massive plot twist in "FBI v. POTUS," as Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the top Democrat on the House intelligence committee, tweeted at 10 p.m.:

  • "Discovered late tonight that [Intelligence Committee] Chairman [Devin] Nunes [R-Calif.] made material changes to the memo he sent to White House – changes not approved by the Committee. White House therefore reviewing a document the Committee has not approved for release."
  • A Nunes statement says there were only "minor edits to the memo, including grammatical fixes and two edits requested by the FBI and by the Minority themselves."

Axios' Jonathan Swan and I had been told that President Trump was set to release the memo as soon as today:

  • Staff had viewed it as virtually a done deal.
  • An administration source close to the situation: "The president has been really, really adamant about wanting this to come out ... He wants it out. Full stop."
  • But we're hearing rumblings that there could be an 11th-hour extenuating circumstance, perhaps related to Schiff's tweet.

Be smart: The stunning FBI statement that we told you about in Axios PM — expressing "grave concerns" about the memo, after Trump had said "100 percent" he wanted it released — sounds like the result of an internal battle royal.

  • The big picture: You have Republicans using a power never before utilized to release a highly disputed memo that caused the FBI to take the extraordinary step of warning of grave consequence if made public. Another day, another uncharted territory. 

P.S. "Mueller Zeros In on Story Put Together About Trump Tower Meeting" N.Y. Times front-pager:

  • Mark Corallo, a former member of Trump's legal team, "is planning to tell Mr. Mueller about a previously undisclosed conference call with Mr. Trump and Hope Hicks, the White House communications director."
  • "Corallo planned to tell investigators that Ms. Hicks said during the call that emails written by Donald Trump Jr. before the Trump Tower meeting ... 'will never get out.'"
2. Unemployment may fall to 3.5% in a year

The U.S. is headed for a jobless rate of 3.5% this time next year, according to Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Analytics, a level reached only twice since the government began keeping such records in 1948.

Why it matters, from Axios' Steve LeVine in his weekly "Future of Work" newsletter (sign up free here):

  • The job market is becoming so tight that employers are being forced to cough up wage increases, the long lack of which has been a factor in U.S. political disaffection.
  • Go deeper.
3. A powerful, under-policed industry

"Tackling the Internet’s Central Villain: The Advertising Business" — N.Y. Times "State of the Art" column by Farhad Manjoo:

  • "[T]he online ad machine is ... a vast, opaque and dizzyingly complex contraption with underappreciated capacity for misuse — one that collects and constantly profiles data about our behavior, creates incentives to monetize our most private desires and frequently unleashes loopholes that the shadiest of people are only too happy to exploit."
  • "And for all its power, the digital ad business has long been under-regulated and under-policed, both by the companies that run it and by the world’s governments."
  • "In the United States, the industry has been almost untouched by oversight, even though it forms the primary revenue stream of two of the planet’s most valuable companies, Google and Facebook."
  • Why it matters: "Socially, politically and culturally, the online ad business is far more dangerous than I appreciated."

Worthy of your time.

Bonus: Pic du jour
Tomohiro Ohsumi / Getty Images

Visitors flock as giant panda cub Xiang Xiang opens to general public in Tokyo.

  • The seven-month-old panda cub, shown here playing on a tree, went on view for the general public today, a month and half after she debuted to the limited public, with tickets obtained via lottery.
4. Stat du jour

Time spent on Facebook has decreased as a result of changes to its News Feed to promote more meaningful engagement:

  • CEO Mark Zuckerberg told investors that News Feed changes reduced user time spent each day by 50 million hours, or 5%.
  • Facebook’s daily active user count fell in North America for the first time ever from 185 million in Q4 to 184 million in Q1.
  • Go deeper.
5. Lawmakers pull out their M.D.s
Passengers watch emergency workers after the crash, near Charlottesville, between a garbage truck and an Amtrak train carrying dozens of GOP lawmakers to a retreat in West Virginia. (Zack Wajsgrasu / The Daily Progress via AP)

Republican members of Congress with medical experience put their skills to work after a train carrying dozens of them crashed into a garbage truck in rural Virginia, killing a 28-year-old in the truck, AP's Alan Fram and Heidi Brown write:

  • "The congressmen were on their way to a strategy retreat in the countryside when the collision occurred around 11:20 a.m. ... in Crozet, about 125 miles ... southwest of Washington."
  • "Amtrak said two crew members and three passengers were taken to a hospital with minor injuries. ... Speaker Paul Ryan ... was on the train and was unhurt."
  • "The chartered Amtrak train ... set out from the nation's capital with lawmakers, family members and staff for the luxury Greenbrier resort in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia."
  • "Florida Rep. Neal Dunn, a former Army surgeon, said he and other lawmakers who are doctors joined other passengers who are nurses or paramedics and jumped out with the basic medical gear they had. They broke into three teams to help the injured people in the truck."
  • "Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana and his wife, both doctors, were among those who came to the rescue. He said he helped a man from the truck who was badly injured."
  • Cassidy: "My role was quite simple: I picked up his feet so the blood in his feet would go to his heart and his brain."
6. End of Henry Luce's "American Century"
Drew Angerer / Getty Images

Workers prepare to cover up the Time Inc. signage with Meredith Corporation signage at the Time Inc. office building in Lower Manhattan yesterday.

  • "Meredith Corporation [of Des Moines] announced it had closed on its $2.8 billion purchase of publishing powerhouse Time Inc. The acquisition puts Meredith at the front of the nation's publishing pack." (Des Moines Register)
7. The real America

N.Y. Times Quote of the Day ... Delrisa Sewell-Henry, a home health aide, on the long, haphazard commutes she and other home health workers in New York City face on public transportation:

  • "When you make $13 an hour and you have to pay rent and buy groceries, you can’t afford an Uber. I can barely afford a seven-day MetroCard."
8. Winter Olympics open next week
Photo illustration by Idris Khan for The New York Times. Source photographs: Melissa Majchrzak / U.S. Speedskating

Coming Sunday ... The N.Y. Times Magazine Winter Olympics issue (articles live now):

  • Alpine ski: Dina Litovsky photo essay of Alpine skinner Lindsey Vonn’s workout routine.
  • Long track speed skating: Karl Ove Knausgaard writes about the nostalgic appeal of long track speed skating, weaving in his own memories.
  • Freestyle ski: Jaime Lowe interviews freestyle aerial skiers about just how they can prepare and execute those insane-looking jumps.
  • Curling: Kim Tingley writes about curling, drawing on the history of a charming Tampa-anchored curling club, and how the sport draws its charm through its ability to allow anyone to imagine being good.
  • Ski jumping: Jon Mooallem writes about ski jumping and how, thanks to a group of young women athletes, the sport once known for providing comic relief could be taken seriously.
  • Figure skating: Patricia Lockwood writes about figure skater Jason Brown and how his graceful movement transcends expectations of male skating.
  • Biathlon: Brooke Jarvis writes about biathlon and how the seemingly paradoxical combination of cross-country skiing and shooting defies human control — without intensive practice.
  • Bobsled: Jaime Lowe writes about bobsled driver Seun Adigun, who parted with the U.S. to present her home country of Nigeria — the first African nation to ever compete in the event.
  • Cross country: Sam Anderson writes about cross-country skiing, and why despite its mundane nature and more than two-hour length, the sport is beautiful in its own way for depicting the human condition of raw toil. 
  • Short track: Jay Caspian Kang writes about short track speed skating and tackles the awkward question of why Koreans are so good at that sport, and some other random ones, such as B-boying.
9. Super Bowl weekend ahead
AP's Matt Slocum

The two QBs, before battle ... The New England Patriots' Tom Brady shakes hands with Philadelphia Eagles' Nick Foles, the "ultimate underdog," during Super Bowl 52 Opening Night, on Monday at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.

  • Sports Illustrated forecasts a decisive Pats win, 27-16.
  • In ESPN The Magazine, ESPN Insider Mike Clay sees a close finish in Minnesota: Pats 26, Eagles 22. But, of course, another Tom Brady MVP.
10. 1 film thing

Tom Hanks as Ben Bradlee and Meryl Streep as Katharine Graham in "The Post" (Niko Tavernise / 20th Century Fox via AP)

The snub ... "Why Didn’t Steven Spielberg Get an Oscar Nomination for ‘The Post’?" — N.Y. Times "The Carpetbagger" column by Cara Buckley:

  • "Some film experts see in it echoes of the fraught relationship, curdled by jealousy, that first sprang up between the academy and Mr. Spielberg around the time of 'Jaws.'" (43 years ago!)
  • Why it matters: 'While 'The Post' arrived late in the season, it had all of the outward marks of a runaway awards winner. It ... told a larger story — of a paranoid president, Richard M. Nixon, who fought the press and tried to keep state secrets from the public — that had clear resonance today."
  • "In some views, its failure to gain much awards traction is an indicator of a shifting Oscars landscape, where 'Moonlight,' a small independent film with an all-black cast, won best picture over the white-on-white spectacle of 'La La Land.'"
  • "In this awards season distinguished by underdog stories and diversity in 'Lady Bird,' 'Get Out' and other pictures, 'The Post' felt out of place. For all of its important messaging, it remains a very white, very upper-middle-class film."

Thanks for reading. See you all day in the Axios stream ...