Sep 16, 2017

Axios AM

By Mike Allen
Mike Allen
1 big thing: The Trump-Clinton merger

For two people who (now) loathe each other, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have a lot more in common these days than either would care to admit:

  • Both like bashing Bernie.
  • Both are beloved by a slice of their party, but increasingly grating to the rest.
  • Both are convinced the media is out to get them and to blame for many of their problems.
  • Both seem bitter about the election result and fixated on Hillary's popular-vote win.
  • Both blame former FBI Director James Comey for their troubles.
  • Both are consumed with allegations that Russia tipped the election.
  • Both like Chuck Schumer more than Mitch McConnell.
  • Both support the Democratic immigration plan for "Dreamers."
  • Both are lapping up a slice of media acclaim amid widespread friendly fire: Trump, for his second "Chuck and Nancy" deal, and Hillary Clinton for a book that has many of her former supporters wishing she'd

Trump and Clinton were friendly, if not friends, from New York: Trump donated to her campaigns and the Clinton Foundation (and in 2012 famously called her "a terrific woman ... I like her"). Hillary and Bill Clinton attended his third wedding, to Melania, in Palm Beach in 2005.

All that vanished, of course, in an election where "Lock her up!" was a standard chant at Trump rallies. And Hillary Clinton, promoting "What Happened," told Judy Woodruff on "PBS NewsHour" yesterday: "[T]he Trump presidency poses a clear and present danger to our country and to the world."

Be mischievous: A Washington poohbah who knows both of them texted me: "Both are plutocrats masquerading as populists."

Be smart ... The Trump-Clinton axis reflects two reasons the 2016 election won't go away:

  1. The specifics of the Russian interference are still murky, but evidence of its consequence keeps mounting.
  2. There are basically four parties: Hillary Dems and Bernie Dems, and Trump Rs and establishment Rs. There's no way each sides' wings can permanently coexist, especially on economic issues.

So there are plenty of times when you see Donald Trump, but hear Hillary Clinton.

2. The Mueller Report foretold

The last two grafs of a Wall Street Journal story on page A4, "Facebook Gave Special Counsel Robert Mueller More Details on Russian Ad Buys Than Congress," could turn out to be the lead of the Mueller Report, and his indictment of the modern info consumption machine:

  • "According to a January report from the U.S. intelligence community, the highest levels of the Russian government were involved in directing the electoral interference to boost Mr. Trump at the expense of his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton."
  • "Russia's tactics included efforts to hack state election systems; infiltrating and leaking information from party committees and political strategists; and disseminating through social media and other outlets negative stories about Mrs. Clinton and positive ones about Mr. Trump, the report said."

P.S. Wall Street Journal front-pager, "Tech Firms Face Political Pressures": "The industry's standing suffered again in the past week when lawmakers laid plans for public hearings to examine whether Facebook and other social-media platforms were used by foreign governments during the 2016 campaign."

  • "Lawmakers also signaled they are considering new legislation to address online spending by foreign adversaries—a potential blow to the firms' cherished freedom from close government oversight."
  • Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), about the possible need for more controls on internet companies: "This is a Wild, Wild West."
3. The only story that matters

Bite of the day ... Speaking about North Korea during a preview of Trump's appearance at the United Nations next week, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster — accompanied by U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley — told reporters at the top of the White House briefing:

  • "I think we ought to make clear what's different about this approach is, is that we're out of time, right? As Ambassador Haley said before, we've been kicking the can down the road, and we're out of road."

Breaking ... Defiant Kim Jong-un says North Korea is nearing its goal of "equilibrium" in military force with the United States, according to the North's official Korean Central News Agency:

  • "While the English version of the report was less straightforward, the Korean version quoted Kim as declaring the missile as operationally ready. He vowed to complete his nuclear weapons program in the face of strengthening international sanctions."

Stepping back ... In the five weeks since Trump threatened Pyongyang with "fire and fury," North Korea has launched three missiles and tested a hydrogen bomb, AP's Deb Riechmann notes:

  • "And what have the U.S. and its allies achieved? A new set of U.N. sanctions that even Trump declared a 'small step,' extensive talks and a rhetorical two-step that leaves them where they have been for years."
Bonus: Pic du jour

Frank Giaccio, 11, of Falls Church, Va., gets a hand while he mows the lawn in the Rose Garden.

Frank, who wrote President Trump a letter offering to mow his lawn, was so focused on the job that he didn't notice the president until he was right next to him.

4. The media war for your attention

With media broken, there's a rush to understand the consequences, and explore the innovation and experimentation that technology makes possible:

  • "CNN is set to launch a new technology-focused vertical about the changing media landscape on the West Coast," per Business Insider's Maxwell Tani. "Titled 'Pacific,' the new franchise will be led by Senior Media Reporter Dylan Byers, and will focus on the powerful West Coast-based companies that have changed media, technology, and politics."
  • I have been helping organize events for more than a decade, and have never seen anything like this: When we announced an Axios "Future of Media" event for next Tuesday evening, we got more than 200 responses in an hour, and have more than 610 so far. The event, which includes Snapchat's Peter Hamby and Axios CEO Jim VandeHei, has been moved to a much larger venue. RSVP here to be added to the waitlist.
  • NBC News is adding a team of top-level media reporters to its full-time and contributor rosters. The network's first media unit will be led by newly-hired senior media editor Claire Atkinson, formerly of the N.Y. Post, who will lead a team of internal and external contributors.

Why it matters, from Axios media trends reporter Sara Fischer: Between fake news, Trump, and rising pushback against Silicon Valley, some of the year's biggest stories revolve around ways that media trends shaping our daily lives.

5. A new way the system is rigged

"Increasingly, odds are stacked against individual investors, as private-equity outfits get a bigger share of a younger company's growth," Barron's reports (subscription):

  • What's new: "[A] growing pile of private capital is available to young companies, forestalling their need to sell shares to the public."
  • "Growth stocks still exist, but the average publicly traded company is older, larger and slower growing compared with 30 years ago — and particularly with those available now to private-capital investors, whether venture capital or buyout funds."
  • Why it matters: "[P]ublic investors can't tap the full breadth of opportunities historically available. ... [T]he ground floor is closing to the public. ... 'In this smaller universe of options, investors are missing out on companies earlier in their life cycle.'"
6. Bitcoin plunges

The value of Bitcoin plummeted this week, driven largely by Chinese regulatory action that now includes a pending ban on cryptocurrency exchanges, Axios' Dan Primack writes:

  • Then there also were comments from J.P. Morgan boss Jamie Dimon, who called it a "fraud" and said he'd fire any bank employee "stupid" enough to trade bitcoin.
  • And it probably doesn't help that movie theaters are now showing a film about the tulip-bulb bubble.
  • The latest, via AP: "The digital, or cryptocurrency, ... has shed about a third of its value since Sept. 1. But it's still up about $600 compared with last year at this time."
  • Why it matters: "Plummeting prices have again raised questions about the wisdom of owning it, if not its legitimacy."
  • What's bitcoin? "A digital currency created and exchanged without the involvement of banks or governments. ... The digital coins are created by so-called 'miners,' who operate computer farms that verify other users' transactions by solving complex mathematical puzzles."
7. Tube bombing arrest

"An 18-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of a terror offence in connection with Friday's attack on a London Tube train," BBC reports:

  • "Thirty people were injured after the explosion on a train at Parsons Green."
  • "On Friday evening the UK terror threat was raised to critical — the highest level —meaning an attack may be imminent."
  • ISIS claims the bombing.
  • "It is understood the device had a timer ... Had it worked as intended, it would have killed everyone around it and maimed everyone in the train carriage for life."
8. Prime Minister Boris?

"British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has fueled speculation that he hopes to eventually succeed Prime Minister Theresa May, spelling out his Brexit goals days before her major policy speech on the subject," per AP.

  • Johnson's 4,000-word platform gets the banner of the paper he once wrote for, The Daily Telegraph, pushing the bombing story way below the fold.
  • Key quote: "To every question, to every crisis — whether it is the euro or immigration — the answer is always the same: more Europe!"
  • Why it matters: Financiers closely watch the U.K.'s colorful political machinations as "the capital of the world" tries to find its place outside the European Union.
9. Protests return to Missouri

"About 1,000 protesters surrounded the home of St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson in the Central West End late Friday, breaking at least two windows and throwing red paint at the brick house before some 200 police in riot gear moved in to break it up," the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.

  • "A peaceful march in the wake of the not-guilty verdict in the murder trial of former police Officer Jason Stockley turned into unrest after dark."
10. 1 apocalyptic thing

Fox News Science drops some solid science: "Christian numerologists claim that the world will end on Sept. 23, 2017 as they believe a planet will collide with Earth."

If you had one full week left, what would you do with it? Not a bad topic for reflection.

Mike Allen