Jun 13, 2018

Axios AM

Good Wednesday morning. Situational awareness: Two immigration bills that would include protections for DACA recipients will get a vote in the House next week, Speaker Ryan's office announced. Go deeper.

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  • And all DCers are invited: Join me tomorrow morning for a timely Axios News Shapers conversation with FCC Chair Ajit Pai and Rep. Adam Schiff, covering everything from net neutrality to the North Korea summit. RSVP here.
1 big thing ... The Trump movie, starring him and Kim
Stills from White House video; GIF by Lazaro Gamio/Axios

You're an older New Yorker trying to bond with a culture-obsessed young gun who's less than half your age. There's a language barrier. You're tall; he's squat. You've had words in the past.

  • Everyone's watching to see how you'll pull this off. This is the first time you've met, and you don't have much time.
  • Everything about this could be awkward.
  • Why not a movie?

President Trump's wooing of Kim Jong-un at the Singapore summit included the iPad showing (in English and Korean) of a "Destiny Pictures" movie trailer, made by the White House's National Security Council, starring themselves saving the world.

  • There are dunked basketballs, exploding bombs, flourishing labs and cities — all designed to show Kim what's possible if he engages with the West, and to warn him darkly of the alternative.
  • From the voiceover: "Only the very few will make decisions or take actions that renew their homeland and change the course of history ... Two men. Two leaders. One destiny. ... A story about a special moment in time when a man is presented with one chance that may never be repeated. What will he choose?"
  • From Trump's presser: "I showed it to him ... toward the end of the meeting. And I think he loved it. ... [W]e had it on a cassette ... an iPad.  ... [A]bout eight of their representatives were watching it, and I thought they were fascinated."

Jonathan Swan's sources help illuminate Trump's thinking:

  • Trump thinks of his presidency in cinematic terms — with himself as star, producer, director, writer and critic. Now, backed by the resources of the United States government, he's a studio, too.
  • The president is very aware of his celebrity and how people view him.
  • Kim is a young tyrant obsessed with pop culture.
  • So by literally casting the two of them in a movie, Trump's was celebritizing the summit, and aiming at Kim's sweet spot.

The White House is very proud of the video: Vice President Pence showed it at yesterday's weekly Senate Republican luncheon.

  • Garrett Marquis, National Security Council spokesman: "The video was created by the NSC to help the President demonstrate the benefits of complete denuclearization, and a vision of a peaceful and prosperous Korean Peninsula."

Be smart ... A well-wired Republican tells me: "This is the return of the 70s/80s 'buddy movie' — but one of the buddies is a murderous dictator. The real question is: Will the audience applaud the 'hero' for trying?"

  • P.S. In the "Trump Cards" chapter of Trump's book, "The Art of the Deal," he lists 11 elements of a successful deal, ending with: "Have fun ... If you ask me exactly what the deals ... all add up to in the end, I'm not sure I have a very good answer. Except that I've had a very good time making them."

See the video.

2. Summit postgame
Evan Vucci/AP

Michael Morell — former CIA acting and deputy director, whose North Korea-watching dates back to the early 1990s (a quarter century) — told me:

  • "The meeting was historic, but the agreement was not."
  • "There's nothing in this agreement that the North Koreans haven't agreed to many times, only to have it fall apart."
  • "It sounded to me like a typical North Korean statement, more than a U.S. statement."
  • "I was hoping to see a statement that included all weapons of mass destruction, including biological and chemical weapons."
  • Referring to Trump's press-conference reference to suspending military exercises on the Korean Peninsula, Morell said: "What else might we have agreed to, or what else might North Korea have agreed to, that we don’t know about?"

The case for Trump ... Victor Cha of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a former National Security Council director for Asia, writes for the N.Y. Times, "Trump and Kim Have Just Walked Us Back From the Brink of War":

  • "Trump’s diplomacy, however unconventional, has pierced the isolation bubble of the North Korean leadership, which no previous president could do."

The case against Trump ... Nick Kristof, who has traveled in North Korea, has a column in today's N.Y. Times with the headline, "Trump Was Outfoxed in Singapore," and twice uses the word "snookered":

  • "Within North Korea, the 'very special bond' that Trump claimed to have formed with Kim will be portrayed this way: Kim forced the American president, through his nuclear and missile tests, to accept North Korea as a nuclear equal, to provide security guarantees to North Korea, and to cancel war games with South Korea that the North has protested for decades."
3. How AT&T's win shapes a wave of new deals
Illustration: Sarah Grillo, Caresse Haaser/Axios

AT&T's victory over the Justice Department in a landmark case over its purchase of Time Warner is expected to usher in a period of industry consolidation — particularly between media, tech and telecom companies, Axios' Sara Fischer and David McCabe write.

Why it matters: Hundreds of billions of dollars of potential deals were at stake with this decision:

  • The first thing to expect is a fight between Comcast and Disney over 21st Century Fox's entertainment assets — like FX, National Geographic and its movie studios.
  • Next, Comcast is expected to submit a counter offer for Fox, which already agreed to a $52.4 billion deal with Disney. Then the battle begins, and sets off an intercontinental chess game.
  • Dive in for more coming deals.
4. Cartoon du jour
Joe Dator/The New Yorker, with kind permission of The New Yorker, via Cartoon Bank
5. About last night: Mark Sanford loses

The president is becoming a one-man litmus test for Republicans all over the country, proving the GOP has little room for an agenda or ideas that don't align with his, Axios' Alexi McCammond writes:

  • The Republican incumbent in South Carolina's first district, former governor Mark Sanford, has criticized President Trump for his tariffs, his behavior, and he's called on him to release his tax returns. His lack of loyalty to the president ended his congressional career.
  • The president tweeted his support for Sanford's challenger, Katie Arrington, just hours before the polls closed. Sanford lost, 51% to 47%.

"Virginia Republicans turned bright red, ... selecting the more-Trump-than-Trump Corey Stewart [a defender of Confederate symbols] as their nominee to challenge Sen. Tim Kaine (D)," the WashPost's Greg Schneider writes:

  • "The matchup ensures Virginia will keep re-litigating the 2016 presidential race in this fall’s election, with Stewart running in outrageous Trump-like fashion against Kaine, who was Hillary Clinton’s running mate."
  • CNN: "Republicans immediately expressed concern about the damage Stewart's candidacy could do to the party and its other candidates."
6. Headline for our times

Owner Dennis Hof sits in front of the Love Ranch brothel in Crystal, Nev. (John Locher/AP)

"Dennis Hof, Nevada's most famous pimp, wins GOP primary," per AP:

  • "Hof, the owner of half a dozen legal brothels in Nevada and star of the HBO adult reality series 'Cathouse,' won a Republican primary for the state Legislature, ... ousting a three-term lawmaker."
  • "Hof defeated hospital executive James Oscarson. He’ll face Democrat Lesia Romanov in November, and will be the favored candidate in the Republican-leaning Assembly district."

7. Quote of the week: The new "leading from behind"
Courtesy N.Y. Post

Jeffrey Goldberg, editor in chief of The Atlantic:

  • "The best distillation of the Trump Doctrine I heard ... came from a senior White House official with direct access to the president and his thinking."
  • "The Trump Doctrine is ‘We’re America, Bitch.’ That’s the Trump Doctrine."
8. Tesla cutting about 9% of global workforce

"Tesla hasn’t yet turned an annual profit in its 15-year history and now faces heightened scrutiny from investors and analysts," per Wall Street Journal (subscription):

  • "The layoffs of about 3,500 employees come as Chief Executive Elon Musk reorganizes Tesla’s management structure to make it flatter, and as the company tries to ramp up production of the all-electric Model 3 compact sedan."
  • "In a memo to employees, Mr. Musk said the job cuts are mostly aimed at salaried staff and won’t affect production workers assembling the company’s vehicles. 'This will not affect our ability to reach Model 3 production targets in the coming months,' he wrote."
  • The backdrop: "Tesla is facing increased competition from traditional auto makers, such as Porsche and Jaguar, which are racing to bring their own all-electric cars to market, and from companies working to develop competing self-driving car technology."
9. 1 Tim thing: "a big difference in someone’s day"
Tim wears a Buffalo Bills jersey in 2002. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Today marks 10 years since the death of "Meet the Press" moderator Tim Russert ("a fixture in American homes on Sunday mornings and election nights") at age 58.

Betsy Fischer Martin, Tim's longtime executive producer, and former "Meet" producer Erin Fogarty Owen have posted, "Tim Russert: Loss and lessons a decade later":

  • "A little note goes a long way: So many Washington scrapbooks must be filled with handwritten notes from Tim. 'Congrats on the new job.' 'Sorry for your loss.' 'Thanks for your time.' Rarely more than two sentences and nothing fancy — no engraved Crane’s stationery for him. Just a small sheet from his NBC notepad that likely made a big difference in someone’s day."
  • "Relentless Preparation There are no shortcuts ... He prepared for each interview like a student prepping for a final exam — reading mountains of research material, writing notes and talking to experts. The end result — a list with three hours worth of questions and follow-ups, all for a one-hour show."
  • "He kept in touch with Capitol police officers, staffers on the Hill, and campaign aides, no matter their title. ... He checked in regularly with folks even when he didn’t need anything specifically. He began each morning with a series of phone calls to staff, sources and friends asking simply, 'What do you know?' And he listened."
  • "[H]is dad, 'Big Russ' ... told him, 'it takes just as long to be mean to somebody as it does to be nice.'"
  • Obviously worthy of your time.
10. 1 Caps thing

With a parade that drew tens of thousands and swamped a dozen blocks of Constitution Avenue, D.C. celebrates its first major sports crown in 26 years.

Scott Taetsch/Getty Images
Scott Taetsch/Getty Images
Scott Taetsch/Getty Images
Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

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