Oct 23, 2019

Axios AM

By Mike Allen
Mike Allen

☕ Happy Wednesday! Today's Smart Brevity™ count: 1,183 words ... 4½ minutes.

1 big thing ... Trump's new reality: the daily dump

Bill Taylor arrives at the Capitol yesterday. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

President Trump is getting hit with a relentless, daily deluge of leaks — and revelations — from former aides, current officials and Democrats.

  • Why it matters: This has thrown Trump into a constant state of defensiveness — and turned a growing number of Republicans into skeptics and unwilling full-throated defenders.
  • Approval of the impeachment inquiry reached a new high, 55%, in a Quinnipiac Poll out this morning, with 48% favoring removal from office.

As Democrats' impeachment inquiry hit the one-month mark yesterday, Bill Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, provided some of the most explosive testimony yet about Trump tying aid to a probe of the Biden family:

  • Taylor, told House investigators that Trump demanded that "everything" Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky wanted hinged on making a public vow to investigate Democrats.
  • Taylor testified that he discovered an "irregular" administration back channel led by Rudy Giuliani, and other "ultimately alarming circumstances," per AP.

Lawmakers who emerged after nearly 10 hours of the private deposition were stunned at Taylor's account, which some Democrats said established a "direct line" to the quid pro quo at the center of the impeachment probe, AP reports.

  • Taylor's account reached to the highest levels of the administration, drawing in Vice President Pence and acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, and sliced at the core of the Republican defense of the administration and the president's insistence of no wrongdoing.
  • Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) told the N.Y. Times: "It’s like if you had a big, 1,000-piece puzzle on a table. This fills in a lot of pieces of the puzzle."
Cover: 12/Grand Central Publishing

Another big dump on Trump will come Nov. 19, with the publication of "A Warning," a book by the anonymous senior Trump administration official who penned a mysterious and damaging N.Y. Times op-ed last year.

  • The author is represented by Keith Urbahn and Matt Latimer of Javelin.
  • Latimer told the WashPost's Phil Rucker that the author didn't take an advance, "and intends to donate some of the royalties to nonprofit organizations that focus on government accountability and supporting truth-tellers, ... including the White House Correspondents’ Association."
  • Preorder here.

Last evening, White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said in a statement: "President Trump has done nothing wrong — this is a coordinated smear campaign from far-left lawmakers and radical unelected bureaucrats."

  • "There was no quid pro quo. Today was just more triple hearsay."

Go deeper: Read Taylor's 16-page opening statement.

2. Cities see signs of recession
Expand chart
Data: National League of Cities City Fiscal Conditions Report; Chart: Axios Visuals

Almost two in three finance officers in large cities are predicting a recession as soon as 2020, according to a new report from the National League of Cities, as weakening major economic indicators and shrinking revenue sources put pressure on municipal budgets, writes Axios' Kim Hart.

  • Why it matters: One of the first signs of changing economic conditions can be seen in city revenue collections. For the first time in seven years, cities expect revenues to decline as they close the books on the 2019 fiscal year.

🏙️ Sign up for Axios Cities, a weekly newsletter about the technological, political and economic forces transforming cities across the world.

3. WeWorked

"SoftBank Group Corp. said it agreed to take a majority stake in WeWork after securing a deal that could hand co-founder Adam Neumann a nearly $1.7 billion windfall and sever most of his ties with the troubled office-space startup," report the Wall Street Journal's Maureen Farrell and Eliot Brown (subscription).

  • "The deal ... values WeWork at about $8 billion, a far cry from what it was aiming for in an initial public offering earlier this year."

Go deeper, via Axios' Dan Primack: How SoftBank plans to save WeWork

4. Pic du jour
Photos: AFP via Getty Images

This combo photo shows placards in Lebanon during the biggest demonstrations in 15 years — a week-long revolt against rampant corruption that has hollowed out the country's infrastructure and basic services.

5. Dems target digital battlegrounds
Expand chart
Bully Pulpit Interactive. Table: Axios Visuals

A major outside Democratic group is outspending President Trump on Facebook ads in the crucial battleground states of Florida, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, Axios' Alexi McCammond reports.

  • Why it matters: 2020 presidential candidates have spent at least $61 million so far this cycle on Facebook and Google ads, with Trump in the lead, according to the Wesleyan Media Project. But that's national spending. The state-by-state spend is important because that's where the 2020 election will be won.

The big picture: Trump is still using online advertising more aggressively than Democrats, outspending all of his 2020 rivals combined.

  • But Priorities USA — a Democratic super PAC — is running a major digital ad campaign highlighting effects of Trump economic policies.
  • The group spent $40 million online in 2016, and said it plans to spend more than that in 2020.
6. Adam Schiff is Democrats' Ken Starr

Photos: David Hume Kennerly/Getty Images; Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff is the closest thing to a Ken Starr that exists for the Trump impeachment inquiry — at least for now — lawmakers and committee staff tell Axios' Alayna Treene.

  • Why it matters: In the absence of an independent or special counsel to manage the Ukraine investigation, Schiff has taken on a dual-hat role, as both a key committee chairman and chief investigator.

Much like Starr, the independent counsel who investigated President Clinton, Schiff is there at the crux of key interviews behind closed doors and efforts to gather evidence that may further the impeachment inquiry.

  • Starr quickly became the face of Republicans' impeachment efforts, and Democrats used him as a messaging foil.

Harvard's Laurence Tribe, a constitutional law professor and vocal Trump critic, told Axios that Bill Barr helped cement Schiff in this role.

  • "If Attorney General Barr had accepted [a CIA lawyer’s attempt to make a] criminal referral and opened a meaningful inquiry, presumably with the appointment of a special counsel, he would’ve been in a position to say that the current congressional inquiry had to be put on hold."

Share this story.

7. A new addiction debate
Courtesy The New York Times

The WHO's decision earlier this year to classify "gaming disorder" as an addictive behavior touched off a wide-ranging debate on how we classify addiction in modern society, writes the New York Times Magazine's Ferris Jabr.

  • Experts now define addiction as "compulsive engagement in a rewarding experience despite serious repercussions. And it results from a confluence of biology, psychology, social environment and culture."

Why it matters: "In the case of video-game addiction, the most vulnerable population seems to be young men."

8. More children uninsured

"An analysis of new census data ... shows the number of children in the United States without any kind of insurance rose by more than 400,000 between 2016 and 2018 after decades of progress," the N.Y. Times reports.

  • What's happening: "[T]here is growing evidence that administrative changes aimed at fighting fraud and waste — and rising fears of deportation in immigrant communities — are pushing large numbers of children out of [federal] programs."
9. Business takes on "economic anxiety"
Photo: U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Suzanne Clark, president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, announced Project GO (Growth, Opportunity & Innovation) in a speech yesterday that continues the trend of business leaders acknowledging shortcomings in capitalism:

  • "The fundamental challenge we face today is to preserve the ability of our nation’s companies, to grow, innovate, and drive prosperity under a system of free and fair capitalism, while also acknowledging and addressing the shortcomings in the system."
  • "There are better answers than sweeping government mandates. ... [N]either business nor government can solve these issues alone."

Clark pointed to "growing diversity on corporate boards —not through quotas or arbitrary mandates — but through disclosure and dialogue."

10. 1 scope thing
A Butterfly iQ handheld ultrasound device is attached to a tablet. Photo: Lindsey Tanner/AP

Two centuries after its invention, the stethoscope — the very symbol of the medical profession — is being threatened by more modern hand-held devices, AP's Lindsey Tanner writes.

  • The new devices are also pressed against the chest, but rely on ultrasound technology, AI and smartphone apps instead of doctors' ears.
  • Some of these instruments yield images of the beating heart, or create electrocardiogram graphs.

Dr. Eric Topol, a world-renowned cardiologist, considers the stethoscope obsolete — nothing more than a pair of "rubber tubes."

Mike Allen

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