Axios AM

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April 08, 2017

1 big thing: How Bannon lost his mojo

Steve Bannon, the engine and soul of President Trump's hard-edged approach to his first months in office, is increasingly isolated and will be forced out unless he can adopt a more cooperative approach, a top source told me.

On both style and substance, Bannon got crosswise with Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, who are pushing for a more competence- and results-driven focus for the West Wing.

In their view, Bannon is too inclined to want to burn things down and blow things up. They want a more open process driven by the interests of the president, not ideology.

A senior official said Chief of Staff Reince Priebus is "with the program" of a more inclusive style, and will stay. Insiders have been feverishly discussing possible replacements and Trump considered a change, but the official said: "Reince is staying."

The latest from the "Game of Thrones," on location in Mar-a-Lago this weekend:

  • The changing culture: Here are the two crucial words to understand the outgoing style and incoming style: We're told that rather than "nationalist" vs. "globalist," think of "combat" vs. "collaboration."
  • How the Bannon bubble burst: The last straw for his internal critics: news stories portraying Bannon as the keeper of the Trump flame, in opposition to Jared, Ivanka and economic adviser Gary Cohn — all New Yorkers.
  • Playing defense: Bannon's allies both inside and outside the White House are scrambling to try to save his job, Axios' Jonathan Swan reports. They argue that getting rid of Bannon will cost Trump among his "America First" constituency, and that Trump's key to victory is to keep his base motivated.
  • What's next: This weekend, Bannon, Kushner and Priebus are having discussions about whether the marriage can be saved: "Either Steve becomes a team player and gets along with people, or he'll be gone."

2. What POTUS is seeing this morning

(Yes, Palm Beach gets a Florida printing of the N.Y. Post.)

"Is Syria strike the beginning of a 'Trump doctrine'?" — Peter Apps, Reuters global affairs columnist: "In taking such aggressive action so quickly, however, Trump has sent what he sees as a strong, robust message of U.S. resolve – not just to Damascus but also other potential U.S. opponents including Russia, China and most particularly North Korea."

"Trump sees pushback from far-right supporters over U.S. airstrike in Syria," by L.A. Times' Kurtis Lee: "[S]ome of Trump's most ardent supporters — right wing media and pundits, to name a few — are split over his decision to attack the country where a civil war had raged since 2011."

"Mike Cernovich, the far-right blogger [who started #SusanRice trending], ... urged his Twitter followers to begin the hashtag #SyriaHoax. (Some of Cernovich's work has, at times, been touted by Donald Trump Jr., the president's oldest son."

3. Mar-a-Lago Kremlinology

From Sean Spicer's Twitter feed, @PressSec: "WH photo (ed for security): @potus receives briefing on #syria military strike fr Nat Security team, inc @vp , SECDEF, CJCS via secure VTC" (video teleconference).

"Who the president keeps at his side during major events," by Axios' Stef Kight ... A key to the makeshift Mar-a-Lago Sit Room:

  1. Joe Hagin - Deputy Chief of Staff
  2. Jared Kushner - Senior Advisor
  3. Steven Mnuchin - Treasury Secretary
  4. Wilbur Ross - Commerce Secretary
  5. Sean Spicer - White House Press Secretary
  6. President Trump
  7. Rex Tillerson - Secretary of State
  8. Steve Bannon - Chief Strategist
  9. Stephen Miller - Senior Advisor to the President for Policy
  10. Michael Anton - Deputy Assistant to the President
  11. Dina Powell - Deputy National Security Advisor
  12. Gary Cohn - National Economic Council Director
  13. H. R. McMaster - National Security Advisor
  14. Reince Priebus - White House Chief of Staff

4. The Citrus Summit

"Trump drops China bashing during warm Xi summit," by AFP's Andrew Beatty in Palm Beach: "The friendly tone was a far cry from Trump's acerbic campaign denouncements ... Xi reciprocated Trump's warm words, saying the summit had 'uniquely important significance.'"

  • "Beijing's most powerful leader in decades also invited the neophyte US president on a coveted state visit to China later in the year. Trump accepted, with a date yet to be determined."
  • "The bonhomie extended behind closed doors, where the US president's grandson and granddaughter sang a traditional Chinese ballad — 'Jasmine Flower' — and recited poetry for their honored guests, earning praise from their 'very proud' mother Ivanka in a tweet."
  • "There appeared to be little in the way of concrete achievements during 24 hours in the sun, but officials said that a rapport had been built that will carry on the next four years. The US leader appeared confident.

From the White House readout: "President Trump noted the importance of adhering to international rules and norms in the East and South China Seas and to previous statements on non-militarization. He also noted the importance of protecting human rights and other values deeply held by Americans."

5. Justice Gorsuch

The nation's 113th Justice ... WashPost top of col. 1, "Gorsuch effect to be felt early on," by Bob Barnes and Ed O'Keefe: "Newly confirmed Neil M. Gorsuch is likely to have an immediate impact at the Supreme Court, weighing in as early as next week on whether to consider expanding the breadth of the Second Amendment. He could play a decisive role this spring in determining how voting rights should be protected and in a major case on the separation of church and state."

  • What's next: "Gorsuch will be sworn in Monday, allowing him to join the court for the final months of its term, which ends in June."
  • "A private ceremony at the court, overseen by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., will be followed by an event at the White House. ... Gorsuch's former boss, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, will preside, marking the first time in the court's history that a justice will serve alongside one of his former clerks."
  • The bottom line: "Gorsuch ... will restore a conservative-leaning, Republican-nominated majority to a court that has either deadlocked or drifted to the left since the death of Justice Antonin Scalia in February 2016."

6. Maggie's moment

"Maggie Haberman: The New York Times reporter Trump can't quit," by CNN's Dylan Byers:

There may be no reporter Trump respects, and fears, more than Haberman. He may bash and beat up on the Times, and her, but he inevitably returns to her to share his thinking and participate in interviews. He does so because, in addition to having known her for so long, he knows that she matters, that she will not treat him with kid gloves but not be unfair either ...

As one of the best-sourced journalists in the game today, Haberman — who is a CNN political analyst in addition to her day job at the Times — gets to pick her scoops. Many journalists have marveled at the way she includes several new revelations in one story that other reporters would have spread out over many articles. It's because she has so much information.

"There isn't a reporter in the game better at working sources, breaking news and calling BS on both parties, all day, every day for what seems like forever," said Jim Vandehei, the CEO of Axios and, formerly, Politico, where Haberman worked before joining the Times. "If you could clone her you could build a journalistic empire around Maggies."

7. To tell your kids

WashPost Magazine cover story, "Colleges turn 'fake news' epidemic into a teachable moment: Professors focus on news literacy for a generation raised on social media," by Kitson Jazynka: "Professors interviewed for this story are teaching students not just to identify 'fake news' (a label previously reserved for hoaxes), but to detect bias, missing points of view, misleading slants and economic influences."

In his classroom at UCLA this spring, [former photojournalist] Jeff Share teaches his students ... to apply the concept of triangulation to the news by searching out multiple sources and points of view to arrive as close as possible to the truth. ...

Share's students experiment in the classroom with photography, shooting pictures from different positions to observe how shifting angles — or changes in lighting, composition and other photography techniques — can alter an image. As students start to recognize the potential for bias in photographs, they learn to read images more critically.

8. "Public Policy, Inc."

WashPost Outlook cover, "Investment banks and management consultants are edging out traditional think tanks," by Daniel W. Drezner, professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts:

Whether based in investment banks like Goldman Sachs, management consultancies like McKinsey or political risk firms like the Eurasia Group, private-sector institutions have started to act like policy knowledge brokers. Consultants have been key advisers to the government for decades, but recent trends have caused their star to rise at the same time that traditional think tanks face new challenges.

9. What Steve Schwarzman is reading

Barron's "Up & Down Wall Street" column, by Randall Forsyth ... "Trump's Grand Opportunity ... Do Airstrikes Signal New Priorities for Trump? Airstrikes produce some bipartisan support for the president. Will he use it to further a domestic or geopolitical agenda?"

The strikes garnered overwhelming bipartisan support, with objections coming from isolationists on the right. And it sent a message to the rest of the world, especially North Korea, marking a reversal of "eight years of relative passivity" on the part of the U.S.,

[I]f geopolitics continue to command more of the administration's attention, the already formidable task to craft and pass tax reform and infrastructure investment—on which much of the stock market's post election gains were built—could be pushed further out.

10. 1 fun thing

"A square meal: how restaurants are courting the Instagram crowd — With some 208m posts hashtagged 'food' since 2010, there's a premium on pretty — and pink," from the Financial Times' "Spring food special," by Natalie Whittle:

So-called "millennial pink" is the colour of the moment. Sketch in London is another predominantly pink restaurant that pops up a lot on Instagram, Busacca says, but she also notes that there is a move away from the obvious and contrived on Instagram, and the app's users are starting to change the way in which they photograph food and social food occasions. "We've seen a shift from ordered tables and menus to an over-the-top and chaotic style, with an explosion of colour, and tables filled with plates. It's more family style and congenial, flatware is mismatched." ...

What Instagram has done is create a marketplace for everyday visual ideas, but it's underwritten by the complexity of social impulses.