Sep 29, 2018

Axios AM

By Mike Allen
Mike Allen

☕️ Good Saturday morning.

Situational awareness: "At least 384 people were killed, many swept away [from a beach festival] as giant waves crashed onto beaches, when a major earthquake and tsunami hit the Indonesian island of Sulawesi." (Reuters)

1 big thing: The great Republican miscalculation

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Imagine if Brett Kavanaugh had offered his emotional, tearful, you-ruined-my-life opening speech to the Judiciary Committee — and then called for a quick FBI probe to clear his name and perhaps find the true assailant. 

  • Imagine if it were he who volunteered to endure another week of scrutiny and attacks for the good of the court, the country, Dr. Ford.
  • He would have looked confident, humble, even a tad heroic, given the president who nominated him opposed the FBI probe. 

Well, he and Republicans had an epic failure of imagination, Axios CEO Jim VandeHei writes:

  • Instead, they were forced reluctantly and publicly into what should have been a fairly easy-to-anticipate moderate compromise: agree to a vote after a quick FBI probe.
  • Why it matters: Instead of looking hungry for truth, Kavanaugh heads into the week looking fearful of findings. 

There's a reason for this miscalculation:

  • Republicans, from the earliest days of the allegations, were overly confident they could just jam this through, several people involved the process tell us. 
  • They thought he would be better defending himself — and that Dr. Ford would seem less credible. 
  • Republicans treated this like a bare-knuckles political fight. They calculated a Fox News appearance, a Trump endorsement, a headstrong Mitch McConnell, a fired-up base, a fast vote would hold the party together.
  • In the GOP’s defense, the strategy might have worked had Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) not changed his mind at the very last minute. 

In an interview posted this morning, Flake tells The Atlantic's McKay Coppins that his dramatic call for further FBI review came because he felt the Senate was "coming apart at the seams":

  • "I’m a conservative. He’s a conservative. I plan to support him unless they turn up something — and they might."
2. Two photos: Flake's agony
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Above, Senator Flake listens to fellow Judiciary Committee members debate the Kavanaugh confirmation.

Below, Republican members of the committee surround Flake as he huddles with Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.

Win McNamee/Getty Images

N.Y. Times Quote of the Day ... Senator Flake, telling his Judiciary Committee colleagues that he had extracted a promise from Republican leaders to delay the final vote on Kavanaugh until after a short FBI investigation:

  • "We ought to do what we can to make sure we do all due diligence with a nomination this important. This country is being ripped apart here."
3. Inside the elevator
Courtesy N.Y. Post

The New York Times prepared a fascinating transcript of the emotional elevator encounter that may have changed history. Here are some excerpts:

Ana Maria Archila, 39, a national committee member of the Working Families Party, and an executive director of the Center for Popular Democracy, a New York-based liberal organizing group:

"On Monday, I stood in front of your office ... I told the story of my sexual assault. I told it because I recognized in Dr. Ford’s story that she is telling the truth. What you are doing is allowing someone who actually violated a woman to sit on the Supreme Court. This is not tolerable."
"You have children in your family. Think about them. I have two children. I cannot imagine that for the next 50 years they will have to have someone in the Supreme Court who has been accused of violating a young girl. What are you doing, sir?"

Maria Gallagher, 23:

"I was sexually assaulted and nobody believed me. I didn’t tell anyone, and you’re telling all women that they don’t matter, that they should just stay quiet because if they tell you what happened to them you are going to ignore them. That’s what happened to me, and that’s what you are telling all women in America, that they don’t matter. They should just keep it to themselves because if they have told the truth, you’re just going to help that man to power anyway." ...
"Look at me when I’m talking to you. You are telling me that my assault doesn’t matter, that what happened to me doesn’t, and that you’re going to let people who do these things into power. That’s what you’re telling me when you vote for him. Don’t look away from me. Look at me and tell me that it doesn’t matter what happened to me, that you will let people like that go into the highest court of the land and tell everyone what they can do to their bodies."

The protesters persisted:

  • Reporter: "Do you want to respond, Senator Flake?"
  • Aide: "Thank you." ...
  • Flake to protester: "Thank you."
  • Protester: "No, no thank you. What do you think?"
  • Reporter: "Senator, do you care to respond?"
  • Aide: "Ma’am, do you want to talk to this staffer out here?" ...
  • Flake: "I need to go to the hearing."
  • Protester: "I understand, but tell me. I’m standing right here in front of you. ... [D]o you think he’s telling the truth?"
  • Flake: "Thank you. I’m going to go to — " ...
  • Aide: "We have our press available to talk to you. ... You can either come in or out. Thank you. ... We’ve gotta go. We’re calling security." ...
  • Flake: "I need to go to the hearing. I just issued a statement. I’ll be saying more as well." ...
  • Protester: "Do what is right." ...
  • Flake: "Thank you."
🗞 Bonus: For history
N.Y. Times
Washington Post
L.A. Times
4. Security breach is new ground for Facebook

Facebook crossed into new territory yesterday as it publicly disclosed a massive security breach that gave away the keys to as many as 50 million Facebook user accounts, Axios' David McCabe writes.

  • The disclosure came just months after CEO Mark Zuckerberg said he didn't think such an event had ever occurred on its platform.
  • Why it matters: The Cambridge Analytica scandal was about gaming Facebook’s systems to scrape user data. This is something different: what looks like the biggest intrusion in Facebook history, taking advantage of flaws in its own code.

Facebook says it doesn't know yet whether or how the access tokens were used, but if they were used, they provided full access to the account and its data.

  • The breach will have an impact beyond Facebook. The company revealed that if a user's account was compromised, the same access would be available to any other services a user accessed by logging in with Facebook.
  • A wide variety of popular apps — including Tinder and Spotify — allow users to log in with a Facebook account.

Policymakers called for investigations.

5. Amid tech woes, a hot market

Slack — the popular workplace instant-messenger, with more than 8 million daily active users (including all of us @Axios) — is preparing to go public next year at a valuation well in excess of $7 billion, per The Wall Street Journal.

  • Why it matters: After years of staying private, tech companies "are now increasingly being drawn toward the IPO market, ... one of the best in years."
6. 1 📺 thing: "The Simpsons" @ 30
Fox via AP

"[A]s the fall season begins this month, 13 shows are entering at least their 10th season, believed to be a modern-day record," Steven Zeitchik writes in the WashPost:

  • "That includes such programs as 'Grey’s Anatomy,' entering Season 15, and 'The Simpsons,' entering Season 30. Viewership for each of these shows is down more than 70 percent from their all-time highs."

Why it matters: "The traditional criterion for the renewal of a series has been supplemented by other factors, including networks’ ability to sell the shows to overseas and streaming platforms.'

  • "A dying TV show in 2018 doesn’t keel over as much as wander through an endless night."

Go down the rabbit hole: The N.Y. Times divides the first 29 "Simpsons" seasons into five eras ("The Prime" is seasons 3-8), with an iconic episode for each.

Mike Allen