Oct 12, 2017

Axios AM

1 big thing: Sandberg speaks

The story of the decade is unfolding like a novel: A U.S. enemy sought to manipulate our new, unregulated social media ecosystem to help disrupt our elections and elect a Twitter-obsessed, former reality TV star president — in one of the great upsets in U.S. history.

  • Robert Mueller, who is helping write this novel as part of his sprawling investigation into Russian interference in the election, is pulling many of the biggest names in modern America into the script: Trump, Putin, Google, Twitter, Facebook.

For the first time, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg will publicly explain her company's role in this saga:

  • Join me live TODAY on Facebook or Axios.com at 9 a.m. ET for my interview with Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg — the first public interview of a senior Facebook executive since revelations about Russian-backed groups buying election ads on the platform
  • "Like" our Facebook page to get the notification.

Sandberg's trip to Capitol Hill yesterday made some news ... Leaders of the House Intelligence Committee told reporters yesterday after a closed-door meeting with Sandberg that they plan to release the 3,000 Russia-backed ads Facebook has turned over — probably after Nov. 1 public testimony by Facebook, Twitter and Google officials.

Axios' David McCabe: "Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said ... Facebook is 'committed to providing' information related to the free content published by the same Russian pages that bought" the ads.

  • Lawmakers said that before the ads are released, they'll be scrubbed of personally identifiable information. The Hill has asked Facebook for help with that.
  • Schiff said Sandberg "indicated the company wants the help of the intelligence community to identify" foreign actors creating fake identities on Facebook. (AP)

Be smart: Although Sandberg's visit to the Hill shows the company is trying to be more open, lawmakers tell me they're far from satisfied — and that there's a ton more for Facebook, Google and Twitter to know and reveal.

Go deeper ... "The questions Congress wants to ask Facebook," by Axios' David McCabe and Sara Fischer: "The pressure is greater than any other moment in the company's recent history."

  • Rep. Adam Schiff: "I think there's a lot of interest in the committee on the progress of Facebook's internal investigation, when they discovered what they discovered, how exhaustive their review has been, what more forensics need to be done."
  • See more questions.
  • N.Y. Times: "We Asked Facebook 12 Questions About the Election, and Got 5 Answers."
2. The Trump Show

"Trump amps up threats on press" — WashPost lead story by David Nakamura: "On Twitter, Trump called the [NBC report about him wanting more nukes] 'pure fiction made up to demean' him and questioned whether networks that report 'Fake News' should be stripped of their broadcasting licenses — although the Federal Communications Commission licenses individual stations and affiliates, not networks."

  • Why it matters: "First Amendment advocates roundly condemned the president over his remarks, calling them an assault on the Constitution."
  • Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) statement last night: "Mr. President: Words spoken by the President of the United States matter. Are you tonight recanting of the oath you took on January 20th to preserve, protect, and defend the First Amendment?"

Shot: Trump last night on Sean Hannity's Fox News show, with a change of tone re China and North Korea: "China's been very helpful, I think. I think. Who knows? They seem to be very helpful. They cut off banking to North Korea, that's something they've never done before. They've cut down, way down, on the fuel and a lot of other things."

  • Chaser, per L.A. Times: "Trump often calls Hannity after the Fox News host's nightly show."

P.S. N.Y. Times lead story, "Trump's Tough Talk on Nafta Suggests Pact's Demise Is Imminent," by Ana Swanson: "The collapse of the 1994 trade deal would reverberate throughout the global economy, ... affecting industries as varied as manufacturing, agriculture and energy. It would also sow at least short-term chaos for businesses like the auto industry."

3. Boy Scouts welcome girls

Boy Scouts of America statement: "[T]he Boy Scouts of America Board of Directors unanimously approved to welcome girls into its iconic Cub Scout program and to deliver a Scouting program for older girls that will enable them to advance and earn the highest rank of Eagle Scout."

  • "The historic decision comes after years of receiving requests from families and girls ... [T]he organization evaluated the results of numerous research efforts, gaining input from current members and leaders, as well as parents and girls who've never been involved in Scouting."
  • Why it matters: 'Families today are busier and more diverse than ever. Most are dual-earners and there are more single-parent households than ever before, making convenient programs that serve the whole family more appealing."
Bonus: Pic du jour

President Trump walks with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau along the Colonnade to the Oval Office yesterday.

4. Whole towns evacuated

"23 dead in Wine Country fires; historic Spanish Mission at risk" — S.F. Chronicle:

  • "Sonoma County sheriff's officials say there are now 285 people still missing."
  • "The ferocious fires in the Wine Country and beyond destroyed new territory on multiple fronts, ... threatening communities untouched by the previous onslaught — including the cities of Sonoma, Napa, Calistoga and Fairfield — and prompting evacuations of thousands more people."
  • "The threat of ruin to Mission San Francisco Solano prompted California officials to begin removing artifacts from the 19th century building. Late Wednesday, workers loaded relics onto huge trucks."

N.Y. Times Quote of the Day ... Capt. Sean Norman, deputy head of operations for the Sonoma Valley wildfires in Northern California, on firefighters: "We've got guys who have been working 80 hours straight. You've got to have a fifth gear. You've got to have the two C's: commitment and caffeine."

5. From West Wing to Homeland Security

President Trump nominated Kirstjen Nielsen — Chief of Staff John Kelly's deputy at the White House and the Department of Homeland Security — to be the next Secretary of Homeland Security, Axios' Jonathan Swan reports:

  • The backdrop: Elaine Duke has been serving as acting secretary since Kelly stepped down to take the White House gig in July. Nielsen, who is a cybersecurity expert, was Kelly's pick to run the department.
  • Why Nielsen? Nobody in the White House is closer to Kelly.
  • Michael Allen, a respected GOP national security figure who worked with Nielsen on the White House Homeland Security Council under George W. Bush, encapsulated the case for Nielsen in an email to Axios: "No learning curve. No one else has same policy expertise in cyber, aviation security, FEMA. She takes it to the hoop. Moved to D.C. from Texas after 9/11 to help stand up TSA. Takes tough jobs, co-authored Katrina Lessons Learned Report which made FEMA better."

West Wing buzz ... With Nielsen gone, there's lots of real estate up for grabs, Swan emails me: "Kelly has lost his top person and enforcer. Lots of people inside the White House are watching what this means for the internal power dynamics, roles and responsibilities."

  • A vast policy portfolio "runs through Nielsen. ... She's the one it goes to for consideration for whether to take it to the president."
6. Poll du jour
7. Valley zeitgeist

"SoftBank was behind four of the five biggest venture capital deals globally in the third quarter of 2017, according to a new report by PwC and CB Insights," per Recode.

  • Why it matters: "The Japanese investment firm has been raising the stakes in Silicon Valley with its enormous infusions of cash."

Quantifying conference-call mentions ... "Amazon has replaced Google as the company others are most worried about: It's the new corporate boogeyman," by Recode's Rani Molla:

  • "Both have long elicited fear, admiration and inspiration as evidenced by the frequency with which both companies are cited on conference calls across industries."
  • "Amazon was mentioned 2,090 times this year on publicly available corporate conference calls ... up 11 percent from last year ... Google (or Alphabet) was mentioned in about 1,500 company conference calls, down 19 percent from 2016."
8. Axios on the road

"Michigan is turning into a self-driving car testing ground," by Axios tech editor Kim Hart in Ann Arbor, Mich.:

  • "Detroit is fighting its way back to build a burgeoning tech scene. Ann Arbor, only 40 minutes away, is ... harnessing the university's high-tech talent factory and the state's auto factory history to be at the forefront of next-generation vehicle development."
  • But amid rebirth, fear ... J.D. Vance — author of Hillbilly Elegy, and venture capitalist with Steve Case's Revolution, which is sponsoring a "Rise of the Rest" tour of comeback cities: "There's this coming wave of innovation … [A] lot of people on the losing end of the change don't see the light at the end of the tunnel."
  • Come along with Kim.
9. No statute of limitations on rape in N.Y.

Harvey Weinstein hires Blair Berk, a criminal defense attorney who has previously represented Mel Gibson and Lindsay Lohan, per Hollywood Reporter: "[T]here's no statute of limitations on rape in New York."

  • Variety: "[T]he Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced a special meeting of the Academy's Board of Governors ... for Sunday ... 'to discuss the allegations against Weinstein and any actions warranted by the Academy.'"
  • Emily Smith of N.Y. Post "Page Six": Weinstein "is believed to have jetted to an Arizona rehab facility [last] night, ... despite reports that he might seek treatment in Europe."​

"Weinstein Company Was Aware of Payoffs in 2015," by N.Y. Times' Megan Twohey, on A1: Despite statements that the company was shocked, "David Boies, a lawyer who represented Mr. Weinstein when his contract was up for renewal in 2015, said in an interview that the board and the company were made aware at the time of three or four confidential settlements with women."

  • "And in the waning hours of last week, as he struggled to retain control of the business, ... Weinstein fired off an email to his brother and other board members asserting that they knew about the payoffs."
  • "The effort to separate him from the company is complicated by the fact that he and his brother own 42 percent of the business, its largest share.​"

The L.A. Times posts a "full list" of the "astounding number" of Weinstein accusers and their allegations: "This story will be updated if and when more step forward."

10. 1 fun thing: Luxe trucks

"US pickup truck buyers demanding more luxury," AP Auto Writer Dee-Ann Durbin in Detroit:

  • "Heated and cooled seats. Backup cameras. Panoramic glass roofs. ... American truck buyers [spend] an average of $46,844 on a pickup, according to Kelley Blue Book. That's more than the starting price of luxury SUVs like the Mercedes GLC or the Lexus RX."
  • "At the State Fair of Texas this month, Ford Motor Co. is displaying its most expensive pickup yet: The F-Series Super Duty Limited, a luxury heavy-duty truck with a starting price of $80,835."
  • "It has custom two-tone leather seats, a heated steering wheel wrapped in hand-stitched leather and high-tech features like a 360-degree camera system that guides drivers when they're hitching up a trailer."
  • "A fully-loaded F-450 — the biggest version of the Super Duty — will top out at $94,455. It's capable of towing an Air Force F-35 fighter plane, but it also has massaging seats."
  • "The average vehicle is selling for $34,671, up 38 percent from 2005. The average price of a full-size truck has jumped 54 percent in that same period, to $46,844."