Apr 24, 2019

Axios AM

🌞 Good Wednesday morning.

⚡Breaking ... Mick Mulvaney, acting White House chief of staff, made it clear in a meeting this year that President Trump equates preparation for Russian interference in the 2020 election with questions about his own legitimacy, per the N.Y. Times.

  • "Mulvaney said it 'wasn’t a great subject and should be kept below his level.'"
  • "The White House did not provide comment."

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1 big thing: Microsoft is winning the techlash

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Microsoft, the original tech giant, has managed to stay mostly above the fray while the rest of the industry endures a backlash over its practices and impact, Axios managing editor Kim Hart writes.

  • Why it matters: Microsoft, which trudged through its own antitrust battle with the Justice Department in the '90s, has sidestepped the mistakes made by its younger, brasher Big Tech brethren.
  • The resource-sucking trial set Microsoft behind competitors like Google on crucial innovations like search. Now, though, the lessons Microsoft learned the hard way are making its life easier.

The Axios-Harris Poll 100 survey found that companies untouched by scandal, including Microsoft, have prospered in the eyes of consumers. Companies most heavily affected by privacy-related scandals faced steep erosions in trust:

Expand chart
Reproduced from The Harris Poll Reputation Quotient, 2019. Chart: Axios Visuals

Microsoft has opted for a steady, methodical approach to thorny issues around consumer data, user-generated content, AI ethics and inequality.

  • CEO Satya Nadella pledged $500 million for affordable housing in Seattle, in an acknowledgement of the role tech companies have played in making their hometowns too expensive for many workers.
  • Microsoft president and chief legal officer Brad Smith told Axios: "Maybe we're able to make some of those decisions around here because we were the first graduate of the school of hard knocks."
2. Trump's "run out the clock" strategy

Photo: Jon Elswick/AP

Facing a multi-front war in the post-Mueller world, President Trump is turning to litigation strategies that he long used in business — resist, delay and sue.

  • "Trump can run out the clock by taking a hardline position," a source familiar with the president's legal strategy told me.
  • "The president thinks it's in his political interest to keep the fight going, and make it harder for the Democrats to have a coherent message."

Trump told the WashPost's Robert Costa yesterday that he is opposed to current and former White House aides providing testimony to congressional panels.

  • "There is no reason to go any further, and especially in Congress where it’s very partisan — obviously very partisan," Trump said.

The day before, the Trump Organization sued House Oversight Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) to block a subpoena that seeks years of the president's financial records.

  • The suit amounts to Trump, the leader of the executive branch, asking the judicial branch to stop the legislative branch from investigating him. (AP)

Bloomberg's Tim O'Brien, who was sued by Trump in 2006, told me:

  • "This completely comports with Trump’s approach to business and life."
  • "Roy Cohn taught him how to weaponize the legal system when he was still in his late 20s — nearly 50 years ago."

"Trumpian extreme" ... Matt Miller, a former Obama Justice Department official, told me Trump's "legal position here is quite weak, and the White House counsel and DOJ must know they will lose."

  • "But he’s trying to drag everything out in hopes the political salience of each scandal dies out by the time the courts enforce subpoenas."
  • "It’s a typical administration strategy, but taken to the Trumpian extreme, where they don’t even turn over the things administrations have always turned over in the past."

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3. Scoop: Kushner's "neutral" immigration plan
Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Jared Kushner is cooking up immigration legislation that would increase the number of high-skilled workers entering the U.S., and decrease the number of migrants coming based on family ties, administration and Hill sources tell Axios' Jonathan Swan, Stef Kight and Alayna Treene.

  • In private briefings, Kushner calls the plan "neutral," meaning it would neither raise nor lower the overall number of legal immigrants.
  • After getting prison reform signed into law in December, Kushner has spent months trying to find an immigration compromise — a goal that has eluded both parties for many years.

Why it matters: This is President Trump casting Jared as peacemaker again, as he did with the Middle East.

  • Jared’s ideology is almost irrelevant — he tries to be the "pragmatic," business-minded problem solver.

Kushner said yesterday in New York, during an onstage interview with TIME's Brian Bennett, that he will present a comprehensive immigration reform plan to Trump by early next week.

  • Kushner faces an uphill battle, even internally. He joked to TIME that if he can get White House hardliner Stephen Miller and Kevin Hassett, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, to agree on a plan, "then Middle East peace will be easy by comparison."

The bottom line: Like with Middle East peace, we're yet to speak to anyone who sees Kushner's plan coming to fruition. There's certainly no optimism on the Hill.

  • Trump wants to build a wall, speed deportations and make it harder for people to seek asylum in the U.S.
  • Democrats want none of those things.

Most Republicans on the Hill have no idea what’s in the plan. Here's the gist:

  • Kushner is describing a broad plan that covers legal and illegal immigration — asylum laws, seasonal guest worker programs for farmers and the hotel industry, interior enforcement and border security.

What's next: Kushner has assembled a team of White House lawyers to transform the proposal into legislation.

  • Kushner has worked with outside groups, including the Koch Network.

P.S. ... Kushner told TIME that the Middle East peace plan will be unveiled sometime after Ramadan ends in early June.

4. Clapback du jour

When President Trump tweeted about "Morning Joe" while the show was on the air yesterday ...


... Joe Scarborough had a little fun. Teasing Trump for watching despite their feud, the host dictated an onscreen headline, and the control room obliged:

Screenshot via MSNBC
5. Wave of abuse cases threatens Boy Scouts

Boy Scouts salute as they recite the Pledge of Allegiance during a national jamboree in Bowling Green, Va., in 2005. Photo: Haraz N. Ghanbari/AP

More than 12,000 Boy Scouts may have been sexually abused by 7,800 leaders and volunteers, an expert working with the Boy Scouts says in court documents, according to ABC News.

  • Boy Scouts of America said in a statement: "We ... sincerely apologize to anyone who was harmed during their time in Scouting."

Lawyers' ads on the internet are aggressively seeking clients to file sexual abuse lawsuits against the Boy Scouts, AP's David Crary reports:

  • States have been moving to adjust their statute-of-limitations laws so that victims of long-ago sexual abuse can sue for damages.
  • Sexual abuse settlements have already strained the Boy Scouts' finances to the point where the organization is exploring Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

"A Boy Scout bankruptcy would be bigger in scale than any other sex abuse bankruptcy," said attorney Mike Pfau, whose firm is representing more than 300 victims in New York state.

6. ISIS claims Christian deaths
A priest conducts a burial in Negombo, Sri Lanka, today. Photo: Gemunu Amarasinghe/AP

The Islamic State said it was responsible for Easter attacks on churches and high-end hotels in Sri Lanka that killed 359 and wounded more than 50o.

  • Police have identified eight out of nine attackers — one of whom was a woman — with no foreigners among them. (BBC)
7. Google wins first FAA approval for regular drone delivery

What's new: Wing Aviation — a unit of Google's parent, Alphabet — received the first U.S. authorization to operate a fleet of drones for consumer-goods deliveries, The Wall Street Journal's Andy Pasztor reports (subscription).

  • The FAA approval covers daylight hours in a rural area around Blacksburg, Va. — home of Virginia Tech, a partner in the project.
  • Wing now will "survey residents and local businesses about the types of food, medicines and other goods that might be carried."

Why it matters: The decision is a "coup for Wing in a budding, fiercely competitive industry. Amazon ... and other companies are vying for similar approvals."

  • "[U]nmanned aircraft will travel over longer distances than are now typically permitted for carrying payloads, and ... fly beyond ... sight of operators — issues at the heart of delivering goods and packages directly to consumers."
8. Colleges are prime turf for measles
Measles outbreak last month in Rockland County, N.Y. Photo: Seth Wenig/AP

What's new: Health officials say that close quarters, and the age group least likely to be vaccinated, leave college campuses vulnerable as breeding grounds for contagion, the L.A. Times' Soumya Karlamangla reports.

  • "People who are now in their early 20s are part of what's known as the 'Wakefield generation.'"
  • They were "infants in 1998 when British scientist Andrew Wakefield published a now discredited paper claiming that vaccines cause autism."

Why it matters: "That has left a large pool of young people especially vulnerable to infections."

9. Leisure read
Bill Weld, photographed by Dolly Faibyshev/Redux at a diner in Nashua, N.H., on April 16. (By kind permission of The New York Times)

In the forthcoming New York Times Magazine, Mark Leibovich rides along with the Republican resistance:

[H]oldouts of the battered G.O.P. establishment had, for now at least, gathered in [former Massachusetts Gov. Bill] Weld’s slim lifeboat. Stuart Stevens, just two presidential election cycles removed from being Mitt Romney’s chief strategist in 2012, is advising Weld and accompanied him in New Hampshire. Jennifer Horn, a two-time congressional candidate and the former New Hampshire Republican chairwoman, is running his communications. Cullen and his wife, Jenny, opened their home to Weld and 80 or so supportive guests, what you might call Whole Foods Republicans.

Keep reading.

10. 1 fun thing

"Get swole, prepare a bug-out bag, grab a go-cup and maybe you’ll have a better chance of surviving the omnicide."

  • "Translation: Hit the gym and bulk up, put a bunch of stuff essential for survival in an easy-to-carry bag, grab a drink for the road, and perhaps you’ll live through a man-made disaster that could wipe out the human race."

Buzzy, swole , bug-out bag, go-cup and omnicide are among 640 new dictionary words Merriam-Webster announced yesterday. (AP)

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