Dec 13, 2017

Axios AM

By Mike Allen
Mike Allen

Good Wednesday morning. Situational awareness: A White House official, confirming a WashPost report, tells me the top tax rate in the GOP package will be cut from 39.6% to 37%. "We never intended to raise people's taxes," the official told me. The rate cut is designed to compensate for lost deductibility of state and local taxes, and should make up the difference in most places besides California and New York, the official said.

Axios is at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor today for the Midwest launch of our Smarter Faster Revolution, aimed at college students. My guests include TaskRabbit CEO Stacy Brown-Philpot, raised in a single-parent household in Detroit, and JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, who will announce that Detroit's Entrepreneurs of Color Fund is tripling in size. RSVP here.

1 big thing: The Trump political slump

President Trump is in a political slump after last night's shock victory by Democrat Doug Jones over Republican Roy Moore in the special U.S. Senate race in Alabama, a state Trump won by 28 points.

  • Bucking his party's own Senate leadership, Trump went all-in with Moore, despite a string of revelations that put Republicans in the position of backing an accused pedophile.
  • Last night's Dixie embarrassment follows landslide GOP losses last month in governor's races in Virginia and New Jersey.
  • The GOP got crushed by women in these elections, and a record number of women are considering runs in 2018.

Trump: "I was right!" ... The president tweets at 6:20 a.m.: "The reason I originally endorsed Luther Strange (and his numbers went up mightily), is that I said Roy Moore will not be able to win the General Election. I was right! Roy worked hard but the deck was stacked against him!"

Be smart: The Trump Republican Party, which includes virtually all elected GOP officials and all party leaders, is stuck in an old, white, Christian, male box.

  • If that box can't hold Alabama, it can't be expected to hold anything.

The establishment now has even more reason to resist Steve Bannon's effort to intervene in primaries nationwide. Tensions within the party are guaranteed to rise.

Josh Holmes, former chief of staff to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, texts me the leadership/establishment read on the GOP loss:

  • "It is a short-term pain to save the future of the party."
  • "A complete break from Bannonism in GOP primaries can reunite the party behind the Trump agenda and salvage the midterms."

The result gives Dems adrenalin heading into the midterms. The N.Y. Times' Jonathan Martin and Alex Burns, pointing to suburbanites and African Americans driving Moore's victory, write in their "Takeaways":

  • "[I]f Republicans continue to nominate candidates who are too controversial to win general elections, the party's internal divisions may cost them control of Congress."

Go deeper: Moore refuses to concede ... Stef Kight's Winners/Losers ... See the tweets: Trump, Biden, Clinton react ... Graphic: How Alabama elected Jones.

2. Alabama postgame

One of my savvy Axios colleagues didn't believe the polls out of Alabama. (Final Real Clear Politics average: Moore +2.2.)

  • She told me Monday: "Women don't want their husbands to know that they're voting for Jones."
  • She was right. Final tally: Doug Jones (D) 49.9% ... Roy Moore (R) 48.4% ... Write-ins: 1.7%.

The pithiest tweets:

  • Meghan McCain: "Suck it, Bannon."
  • Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.): "Decency wins."

Best cable exchange, post-midnight on CNN:

  • Symone Sanders, former Bernie Sanders campaign press secretary: "This is a good day to be a black woman in America. And I'll be gloating for the next 24 hours."
  • Ana Navarro, Republican commentator: "Honey, it's a good day to be a woman in America — any color."

Key exit poll results, via WashPost:

  • Jones won women by 16 points.
  • Jones won African Americans by 92 points.
  • Jones won independents or "something else" by 8 points.
  • Moore won white women by 29 points.
  • Moore won whites with no college degree by 55 points.
  • Moore won voters who approve of Trump by 80 points.

Go deeper: Moore refuses to concede ... Stef Kight's Winners/Losers ... See the tweets: Trump, Biden, Clinton react ... Graphic: How Alabama elected Jones.

3. Scoop: Schumer calls cops on forgery

In case you missed our alert last night during the Alabama slam ... Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said he was the victim of a fake news hit yesterday, and has turned over to Capitol Police a document that purports to detail lurid sexual harassment accusations by a former staffer.

  • The former staffer told me in a phone interview that she did not author the document, that none of the charges ring true, and that her signature was forgery.
  • Matt House, Schumer's communications director, told me: "The document is a forged document and every allegation is false. We have turned it over to the Capitol Police and asked them to investigate and pursue criminal charges because it is clear the law has been broken."
  • Why it matters: This was an apparent effort to dupe reporters and smear a senator.
  • How the doc was shopped.
Bonus: Pic du jour

In Santa Barbara County, fire burns canyons and ridges above Bella Vista Drive near Romero Canyon, as the fight to contain a wildfire continues in Montecito, Calif.

  • The fifth-largest wildfire in California history expanded yesterday, ripping through dry brush atop a coastal ridge while crews struggled to keep flames from roaring down into neighborhoods amid fears of renewed winds.

L.A. Times A1, "Skirball fire traced to encampment: Blaze was accidentally ignited at a homeless camp near L.A.'s most affluent homes. There are no suspects."

4. The talk of tech

Some of Facebook's early champions are now its sharpest critics, says AP Tech Writer Barbara Ortutay:

  • Chamath Palihapitiya, a former Facebook vice president who joined the company in 2007, said at a Stanford Graduate School of Business talk last month that the company is "ripping apart the social fabric of how society works."
  • Sean Parker, the company's first president, told me at an Axios event in Philly last month that Facebook exploits a "vulnerability in human psychology" to addict users.
  • Roger McNamee, an early investor in Facebook and Google, wrote in The Guardian that the platforms use "persuasive techniques developed by propagandists and the gambling industry."

Why it matters: This rough year for the tech industry opened with concerns about fake news and "filter bubbles," segued into pressure on Facebook and Twitter to clamp down on trolling and online harassment, and ended with congressional hearings into Russian use of the platforms to meddle in the election.

Facebook said in a statement: "We've done a lot of work and research with outside experts and academics to understand the effects of our service on well-being, and we're using it to inform our product development. ... We are willing to reduce our profitability to make sure the right investments are made."

  • Not all early investors are critical. LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman acknowledged in an interview concerns around how social media systems are causing what he called "lightly addictive behavior." But, he added, "that's also been true of television, that's also been true of sugar."
5. Top 2017 Google searches

Top searches in D.C.:

  • Hurricane Irma
  • Tom Petty
  • Aaron Hernandez
  • iPhone 8
  • Game of Thrones
  • iPhone X
  • Washington Wizards
  • Solar eclipse
  • Charlie Murphy ("Chappelle's Show" star and Eddie's brother dies in April at 57)
  • Mayweather vs McGregor fight

Top U.S. searches:

  • Hurricane Irma
  • Matt Lauer
  • Tom Petty
  • Super Bowl
  • Las Vegas Shooting
  • Mayweather vs McGregor Fight
  • Solar Eclipse
  • Hurricane Harvey
  • Aaron Hernandez
  • Fidget Spinner

Top 10 "how to" searches:

How to make slimeHow to make solar eclipse glassesHow to watch the solar eclipseHow to watch Mayweather vs McGregorHow to buy BitcoinHow to freeze your creditHow to solve a Rubik's CubeHow to make a fidget spinnerHow to cook a turkey in the ovenHow to screen record

6. Never mind

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, in a speech and Q&A with State Department employees, says a U.S. embassy in Jerusalem is at least three years away — unlikely before 2020, "and that's pretty ambitious," per N.Y. Times.

  • N.Y. Times Quote of the Day ... Tillerson, speaking to State Department employees: "I didn't know anything about your culture, didn't know what motivates you, didn't know anything about your work, didn't know anything about how you get your work done."
7. "Some of us are feeling radicalized"

Sunday's N.Y. Times Magazine is a special issue dedicated to the reckoning on our culture of sexual harassment, including:

  • The Conversation ... Seven Women Discuss Work, Fairness, Sex and Ambition: Emily Bazelon moderates a round table with Anita Hill, Laura Kipnis, Lynn Povich, Soledad O'Brien, Amanda Hess and Danyel Smith to talk about how — or if — real change is possible.
8. "Want proof that journalism matters?"

Variety cover story ... "How New York Times Reporters Broke Hollywood's Biggest Sexual Harassment Story," by senior film and media writer Brent Lang:

  • "New York Times investigative reporters Megan Twohey and Jodi Kantor deserve a lot of credit for helping to spark this industry-wide reckoning. Their tenacity helped them break the initial Weinstein story and, along with The New Yorker's Ronan Farrow, they've painted a portrait of a serial predator who was able to use his power to prey on female employees and actresses in a methodical fashion."
  • "By meticulously chronicling Weinstein's abuses, these reporters have inspired other people to speak out and go public about the cultures of harassment in the workplace."
  • Q&A with the reporters.
9. An epic year: 11 of 30

Reliving 2017 in 30 images ... Astronomy seemed to meet the nation's politics with the total solar eclipse on Aug. 21.

  • This photo combo shows the path of the sun during "totality" near Redmond, Ore.
10. 1 jedi thing

First reviews of "Star Wars: The Last Jedi," in theaters Friday, came off embargo yesterday ... Bottom line from Hollywood Reporter film critic Todd McCarthy: "Far from the last or the least."

Spoiler below!

  • "There are generational differences of opinion on the dark side ... When Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), the turncoat son of Leia and the late Han Solo, shows up in a Darth Vader outfit, Supreme Leader Snoke (a deliciously heinous Andy Serkis) barks, 'Take that ridiculous thing off!'"
  • "This is the sort of mild all-in-the-family irreverence that the fan culture eats up."
  • Writer-director Rian Johnson — "who here becomes the first person to single-handedly write and direct a Star Wars feature since George Lucas did the honors on the original and two of the 'prequels' — injects a good deal of this sort of elbow-jabbing humor."
  • Why it matters: "Disney is counting on another haul soaring past a billion dollars in worldwide theatrical box office alone."
  • Running time: 162 minutes.
  • "Darkness rises ... and light to meet it."
Mike Allen