Dec 17, 2019

Axios AM

Good Tuesday morning from Seattle.

  • Today's Smart Brevity™ count: 1,187 words ... 4½ minutes.
1 big thing: GOP monetizes impeachment

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Republicans have embraced impeachment as a boost for fundraising and messaging more easily than Democrats, who are playing up a few impeachment "villains" to swing voters — but are making it clear they’d rather talk about health care, Axios' Alayna Treene and Alexi McCammond report.

  • Why it matters: Republicans and Democrats are already looking beyond an impeachment vote and trial to shape November's elections.

Republicans are more than happy to talk about their impeachment fundraising — a big contrast to Democrats.

  • The RNC has seen over 600,000 new donors since the start of impeachment, deputy chief of staff Mike Reed tells Axios: "Voters are consistently expressing how they want Washington to focus on real issues."
  • The Trump campaign and RNC combined took in more than $10 million in small-dollar donations last week alone, as the House Judiciary Committee adopted two articles of impeachment, according to a campaign official.
  • In the 72 hours that followed Speaker Pelosi’s announcement of the impeachment inquiry in September, Republicans raised $15 million.
  • Since the inquiry began, an official said, a quarter of Trump rally registrants are self-described Democrats or independents, and about the same proportion are low-propensity voters.

By contrast, the House Democrats' campaign committee (DCCC) said it has no impeachment-related donor or dollar figures to share.

  • A DNC official said the national party's impeachment-related ads are 70% more effective than its average ad.
  • And there are signs it has helped some Democrats. Phil Arballo, the Democratic challenger to the House Intelligence panel's ranking Republican, Rep. Devin Nunes of California, has raised more than $500,000 (average contribution: $25) in roughly one month since the public impeachment hearings began Nov. 13.

Three Republican foils beyond Trump have emerged in Democratic messaging: Nunes, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham.

  • The National Democratic Training Committee (NDTC) — a Democratic PAC — has raised $651,802 in the past month, and tells Axios that criticisms of Nunes, McConnell and Graham are "strong performers."

Health care is the preferred focus for Democratic officials because of the margins they see in polling, especially with swing voters.

  • Last week, the DNC conducted a big health care push in battleground states.

🗞️ How it's playing:

  • N.Y. Times lead story: "Key Moderate Democrats Commit to Impeachment — House Members in Right-Leaning Districts Join in Party’s Effort to Oust Trump."
  • WashPost lead story: "Democrats in center fall in line on impeachment."

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2. Astonishing stat: Divided we stand
A Trump decal on a supporter's car outside a town meeting with Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D) yesterday in Rochester, Mich. Photo: Jake May/The Flint Journal via AP

"In the most recent Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll, 91% of self-identified Republicans said they approve of the job President Trump is doing, while just 6% of Democrats said they approve," the Wall Street Journal reports (subscription).

  • "That 85-point gap is 20 points wider than the gap seen at this point in the presidency of Barack Obama."
  • "[T]he same partisan gap at this point in Jimmy Carter’s presidency was a mere 16 percentage points."
3. DNC scrambles to save this week's debate
Screenshot via CNN

DNC chair Tom Perez spent more than 20 hours on the phone this weekend trying to save Thursday's debate in L.A. from crumbling after a labor dispute prompted candidates to threaten a boycott, Axios' Alexi McCammond reports.

  • Why it matters: The DNC already switched the venue once because of another labor dispute, and it would be nearly impossible to find a new location now.

Perez called leaders from UNITE HERE Local 11 — a labor union that represents more than 32,000 hospitality workers in Southern California and Arizona — and Sodexo, the company that employs those workers and handles food service operations for Loyola Marymount University.

  • The union is angry about stalled contract negotiations.

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Editor's note: This item has been corrected to reflect the fact that this week's debate will take place on Thursday (not Wednesday).

4. Pics du jour
Photo: Pat McDonogh/Louisville Courier-Journal via Reuters 

Above: In Bastogne, Belgium, Speaker Pelosi leans in to hear veteran George Merz at a lunch Saturday saluting the 75th anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge.

Below: World War II veteran George Arnstein hears a U.S. Army Band bugler play Taps during a ceremony yesterday at the World War II Memorial, in D.C.

Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images
5. Former FBI, CIA director: "Dire threat to the rule of law"
Judge William Webster, former FBI and CIA director, at Nationals Park in 2018. Photo: Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

William Webster, the only person to serve as director of both the FBI and the CIA, writes in a N.Y. Times op-ed:

I am deeply disturbed by the assertion of President Trump that our "current director" — as he refers to the man he selected for the job of running the F.B.I. — cannot fix what the president calls a broken agency. ...
The president’s thinly veiled suggestion that the director, Christopher Wray, like his banished predecessor, James Comey, could be on the chopping block, disturbs me greatly. The independence of both the F.B.I. and its director is critical and should be fiercely protected by each branch of government.

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6. Buckle up, Boeing

Workers walk to the Boeing 737 factory on Monday. Photo: Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

Boeing's decision to indefinitely halt production of its controversial 737 MAX will test the U.S. economy — as well as tens of thousands of aerospace workers and airlines that are waiting for planes to be delivered, writes Axios' Joann Muller.

  • The bottom line: If the shutdown lasts more than a few months, Boeing's supply chain could get rusty.

Keep reading.

7. Mormon Church said to stockpile $100 billion
Mormon Temple in Salt Lake City. Photo: Michael Smith/Newsmakers via Getty Images

"A former investment manager alleges in a whistleblower complaint to the Internal Revenue Service that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has amassed about $100 billion in accounts intended for charitable purposes," the WashPost reports on A1.

  • Why it matters: "The confidential document ... accuses church leaders of misleading members ... by stockpiling their surplus donations instead of using them for charitable works."

"A spokesman for the church did not respond to detailed questions from The Post about the complaint. 'The Church does not provide information about specific transactions or financial decisions,' spokesman Eric Hawkins said."

8. Sacklers squirreled away billions
Tufts University in Boston is stripping the Sackler name from its campus. Photo: Steven Senne/AP

The Sackler family withdrew more than $10 billion from Purdue Pharma "as scrutiny of [the company's] role in the opioid epidemic intensified during the past dozen years," according to a new audit by the company, report the N.Y. Times' Jan Hoffman and Danny Hakim.

  • Why it matters: The audit leaves investigators attempting to parse Purdue's finances to settle thousands of opioid-related lawsuits around the country with a key question — "how much the Sacklers are actually worth and where their money is located."
9. Heisman speech raises thousands for Ohio food pantry
Photo: Jason Szenes/AP

LSU QB Joe Burrow used his Heisman acceptance speech over the weekend to highlight food insecurity issues for families in his hometown of Athens, Ohio, prompting a massive surge of online support, writes The Columbus Dispatch's Sheridan Hendrix.

  • What he said: "I’m up here for all those kids in Athens and Athens County that go home to not a lot of food on the table, hungry after school. You guys can be up here, too."

"A Facebook fundraiser, started by Athens resident Will Drabold, had raised more than $260,000 as of Monday evening for the Athens County Food Pantry."

  • "More than 5,800 people had donated to the campaign and more than 8,100 had shared it on social media."
10 🎥 1 film thing: "The Rise of Skywalker"
John Boyega in "Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker." Photo: Disney/Lucasfilm Ltd. via AP

Cheers often erupted during last night's Hollywood premiere of "The Rise of Skywalker," the end of the "Star Wars" franchise's third trilogy, AP's Jonathan Landrum Jr. reports.

  • Why it matters: "The Rise of Skywalker" is one of the year's most-anticipated releases. Filmmakers promised a conclusion to the story of the Skywalker clan that includes Luke, Leia and their father Anakin, who became Darth Vader.

The film, which ran for nearly 2½ hours, is the ninth film in the core "Star Wars" story. It arrives in theaters Friday.

Fans turned the premiere into a living tribute to various eras of the space epic franchise, with some dressing up like Mark Hamill's Luke and Carrie Fisher's Princess Leia from the original 1977 film.

Chewbacca arrives. Photo: Charley Gallay/Getty Images

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