Nov 3, 2017

Axios AM

By Mike Allen
Mike Allen

Good Friday morning. Situational awareness: "The Justice Department is laying the groundwork for a potential lawsuit challenging AT&T Inc.'s planned acquisition of Time Warner Inc. if the government and companies can't agree on a settlement," The Wall Street Journal scoops.

Court papers show that George Papadopoulos "had frequent discussions with Russians in 2016 and trumpeted his connections in front of" Trump and now-Attorney General Jeff Sessions, per the N.Y. Times, which says "Sessions could be called back to Congress for further questioning."

1 big thing: Haunted by Hillary

While many Democrats wish it weren't so, Hillary Clinton just won't go away. First it was her regret-and-resentment tour. Then the book. And now a rolling wave of 2016 recriminations:

  • Trump tweets every few days about how she's the real Russian scandal.
  • Congressional Republicans and the Wall Street Journal editorial page pile on with calls for investigations.
  • Her campaign and the DNC are busted paying for the salacious and partly discredited Trump dossier.
  • Worst of all, former DNC chair Donna Brazile — in her book out next Tuesday, "Hacks: The Inside Story of the Break-ins and Breakdowns That Put Donald Trump in the White House" — accused Clinton of hijacking the DNC to tilt the nomination her way, prompting Bernie and Warren supporters to declare vindication.

A former campaign official says HRC alumni have a strong sense of camaraderie and call around to coordinate and commiserate with each new wave: "It never ceases to amaze all of us how this campaign that's a year old continues to extend into the future."

Be smart: As Democrats try to figure out 2020, it's bad enough that they keep re-litigating the Clinton-Trump general election. But top Dems think it's horrendous that the party is now re-litigating the Clinton-Sanders primary.

  • Clinton's former high command says none of this breaks through in real America. But party insiders know that if they're going to take back the House, Senate or White House, they need to look forward, not backward.
2. Lawmakers allege harassment

One current and three former female lawmakers say they have been harassed or subjected to hostile sexual comments by fellow members of Congress, AP's Erica Werner and Juliet Linderman write:

  • Why it matters: The accounts, part of a torrent of revelations following the Harvey Weinstein scandal, raise "troubling questions about the boys' club environment in Congress where male lawmakers can feel empowered to target not only staffers but even their own peers."
  • "The incidents ... usually [occurred] when the women were young newcomers to Congress. They range from isolated comments ... to repeated unwanted come-ons, to ... groping on the House floor. ... [T]he revelations underscore that no woman is immune, even at the highest reaches of government."
  • "The lawmakers declined to identify the perpetrators by name, but at least two of the men continue to serve in the House. None of the female lawmakers interviewed reported what happened, and some noted it was not clear where they would lodge such a complaint."

The cases:

  1. Former Rep. Mary Bono (R-Calif.) endured "increasingly suggestive comments from a fellow lawmaker ... But when the congressman approached her on the House floor and told her he'd been thinking about her in the shower, she ... confronted the man, who she said still serves in Congress, telling him his comments were demeaning and wrong. And he backed off."
  2. Former Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), described "an incident at a hearing in the 1980s where a male colleague made a sexually suggestive comment ... that he ... wanted to 'associate with the gentle lady.' Boxer said the comment was met with general laughter ... She said she later asked that it be removed from the record."
  3. Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-Calif.): "When I was a very new member of Congress in my early 30s, there was a [married,] more senior member who outright propositioned me ... She [said] she would warn other new female members about the lawmaker in question ... [H]e remains in Congress."
  4. Sanchez said "that a different male colleague repeatedly ogled her, and at one point touched her inappropriately on the House floor, while trying to make it appear accidental."
  5. Former Rep. Hilda Solis (D-Calif.), now a Los Angeles County supervisor, "recalls repeated unwanted harassing overtures from one lawmaker, though she declined to name him or go into detail."
3. Tech's new D.C. problem: Democrats

Senate Democrats have long been close allies of the tech industry but this week turned into vocal skeptics, Axios tech editor Kim Hart writes:

  • "Democrats are enraged at the way Google, Twitter and Facebook handled the Russian exploitation of their platforms during the election, and their frustration was on full display during nine hours of tense hearings."
  • "In some cases, Republicans — who have never been tech's biggest cheerleaders — actually went easier on the executives."
  • Why it matters: "While there's no real threat of slapping new regulation on tech companies — other than possible political ad disclosure requirements — the fact that Democrats are publicly shaming tech companies signals a shift in how Washington views Silicon Valley."
4. Bill Clinton elected 25 years ago today

Nov. 3, 1992 — 25 years ago today, William Jefferson Clinton of Arkansas was elected president and Albert Arnold Gore Jr. of Tennessee was elected vice president.

Coming attractions:

  • Today through Monday at Georgetown: "[N]early fifty years after his graduation from the University, the Georgetown community will gather for a series of events examining the vision that drove ... President William J. Clinton (SFS '68). ... The symposium will culminate in a keynote address by President Clinton."
  • Wednesday: President Clinton and Conan O'Brien remember the '90s in a special episode of "Conan" on TBS, from the Apollo Theater in Harlem.
  • Nov. 18 in Little Rock: The Clinton School and Clinton Foundation host a special conversation with President Clinton and Hillary Clinton. The event will be moderated by James Carville.

Go deeper ... Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

5. Bite of the day

A top Republican source close to congressional leadership tells Jonathan Swan:

"Today's the best day they're going to have on this bill. Everything ahead is hurdles."

Be smart: The Republican tax plan has angered key lobby groups with all the pots of money being used to pay for tax cuts. Now, Washington starts picking it apart.

  • How it's playing ... N.Y. Times 2-column lead, "TAX PLAN IN HOUSE SEEKS BROAD CUTS, MOST FOR BUSINESS," with twin analysis: "Aid to Middle Class May Be Fleeting."

P.S. In a big shakeup for the White House press corps, Politico scoop machine Josh Dawsey moves to WashPost, per CNN's Dylan Byers.

6. "Mr. Ordinary"

Wall Street Journal front page, "Trump Fed Pick: Pragmatic, Low-Key," by Nick Timiraos and David Harrison:

"[A] Powell Fed might look a lot like it has since Mr. Greenspan retired in 2006. ... His appointment could ... cause friction within the Republican Party, where many rank-and-file members want to see the Fed roll back a decade of central-bank activism sparked by the financial crisis."

7. Trump leaves today for Asia swing

"Renaming Asia: Trump admin opts for 'Indo-Pacific,'" by AP's Matthew Pennington:

  • "For decades, the vast expanse of ocean and continent that spans from Australia to India has been referred to in Washington as the 'Asia-Pacific' — a region where the U.S. views itself as a benign and stabilizing presence. But as Trump prepares for a five-nation Asian tour, White House officials and even the president himself are steering clear of that term and using 'Indo-Pacific' instead.
  • Why it matters: "By using 'Indo-Pacific,' the administration wants to propagate the idea that it's a region that stretches far beyond China's backyard and the tiger economies of East Asia."

Ivanka Trump in Tokyo, at the World Assembly for Women: "All too often, our workplace culture fails to treat women with appropriate respect ... This takes many forms including harassment which can never be tolerated."

8. Scoop: Steve Brill's new start-up

Steve Brill — founder of American Lawyer, Court TV, Brill's Content and the Yale Journalism Initiative — has almost finished raising $6 million to launch News Guard, which will rate news content so search and social-media platforms can help their users know what to trust:

  • Rating will be done by "qualified, accountable human beings," not algorithms.
  • Brill's co-CEO will be Gordon Crovitz, a Wall Street Journal columnist and former publisher of the paper.
  • They'll hire 40-60 journalists, who will be "well-paid."
  • They expect to have a product for U.S. users by mid-2018.
  • The business model: NewsGuard will charge a license fee for platforms and aggregators, who will make it available to users.
  • The company will create brand awareness by giving browser versions free to news literacy groups, school systems, etc.

Why it matters: Brill has a long track record of successful journalistic start-ups. And he's attacking one of the biggest problems in media today: News consumers have trouble distinguishing between credible content and fake news, and the tech platforms have done little to help them.

9. Correction of the week

10. 1 prodigy thing

Young British virtuoso ... 12-year-old Alma Deutscher, a natural composer who plays piano and violin, demonstrates her incredible musicality in a profile by Scott Pelley on "60 Minutes" on Sunday:

  • "Deutscher has been playing piano and violin since the age of 3 and started playing her own melodies at 4. She set herself apart from other prodigies when she composed an opera when she was just 10 — a feat requiring mastery of all the instruments in the orchestra."
  • "When Pelley points out that Mozart also premiered his first opera at the same age, she replies: "I know that they mean it to be very nice to compare me to Mozart ... Of course, I love Mozart and I would have loved him to be my teacher. But I think I would prefer to be the first Alma than to be the second Mozart."
  • "60 Minutes" captured her with the Vienna Chamber Orchestra this past summer, playing the piano and violin solos for her own concertos. She also wrote the scores for the instruments accompanying her."
  • "In December, the San Jose Orchestra will stage 'Cinderella' in Deutscher's American debut, where she'll play the piano, organ and violin."
  • "The melodies have been in her head, she says, ever since her musicality was awakened by listening to a lullaby by Richard Strauss when she was 3."
  • Video preview.
Mike Allen