Oct 5, 2019

Axios AM

🏈 Happy Saturday! Today's Smart Brevity count: 996 words ... < 4 minutes.

1 big thing: Trump's economic shield against impeachment

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

President Trump always counted on the economy to carry him to re-election, but now he's testing it as a central argument against impeachment, Axios White House editor Margaret Talev writes.

  • Why it matters: If Americans see their economic fortunes tied to whether Trump is impeached, it could make Democrats' next moves on impeachment that much harder.

His argument:

  1. Americans would be crazy to eject someone from office who is presiding over historically low unemployment and high stock gains.
  2. If the economy tanks before November 2020, don't blame Trump — blame Democrats for fomenting uncertainty and gridlock via impeachment.

Trump goaded Democrats on Twitter yesterday when jobs numbers showed the U.S. unemployment rate has fallen to a 50-year low: "Wow, America, lets [sic] impeach your President (even though he did nothing wrong!)."

  • About the same time, the Trump campaign's communications director, Tim Murtaugh, pushed a parallel message: "They are willing to plunge the whole country and people’s lives into turmoil through impeachment talk, all because of their hatred of @realDonaldTrump."

The big picture: If the election were today, Trump could run on some very strong economic measures, including positive signs for Latinos and African Americans.

  • But there are signs the economy is buckling under Trump's trade war.
  • As Axios' Dion Rabouin notes: The U.S. manufacturing sector has been in recession all year, and the latest reading showed the industry falling into an outright contraction and at its weakest point since the financial crisis.

The bottom line: Trump already plans to blame Democrats and impeachment if legislation on trade, prescription drug prices, gun safety and infrastructure stalls this fall.

  • But the economy could be an especially potent issue in swing states.

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2. Channeling Republicans on impeachment
President Trump arrives at Andrews Air Force Base on Thursday after speaking at a Medicare event in Florida. Photo: Evan Vucci/AP

Two New York Times opinion pieces get inside the minds of Republicans to help illuminate why voters and leaders so steadfastly defend President Trump:

1) David Brooks channels a Trump voter ("Flyover Man") talking to "Urban Guy":

  • "I only see Democrats who’d make everything worse: Open the border! Socialism! More power to Washington! You could have paid attention to the forces driving Trumpism, but you ignored us."
  • "Here’s a confession. I used to think Trump was a jerk. Now, after three years of battle, I see him as my captain. He deserves my loyalty, thick and thin. See ya' in hell, brother."
  • Keep reading.

2) Peter Wehner, who worked for the three previous Republican presidents, on why Republicans are "yet again circling the Trump wagon":

  • "For many Republican members of Congress, the president is more popular among Republican voters in their districts and states than they are. "
  • A former member of Congress said Trump has “conditioned people in the base so much so that it’s just 'us versus them' and that if you give an inch on him, you’re just giving the other side what they want."
  • Keep reading.
3. Channeling Democrats on impeachment
Illustration: AP

The top of tomorrow's Washington Post Outlook section has two sharp, interesting articles that help explain why Dems think they have a strong hand:

1) "Secondhand information often has severe legal consequences," writes former public defender Sarah Lustbader:

  • "Law enforcement is expected to use hearsay to lead to more direct sources of information. ... That’s pretty much what happened with the whistleblower complaint: It prompted officials to seek the rough transcript ... And ... the House deposed the former special U.S. envoy to Ukraine, Kurt Volker, who provided incriminating text messages..."
  • Keep reading.

2) "I classified presidential calls. The White House is abusing the system," writes former National Security Council staffer Kelly Magsamen, who served under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama:

  • "I have ... spent hundreds, if not thousands, of hours in the White House Situation Room. It is difficult to overstate just how abnormal and suspicious" the handling of the Ukraine call appears.
  • "The apparent abuse of the classification system offers reason enough for congressional review."
  • "What national security reason was offered for moving the record ... to the code word system? Which NSC lawyers made that decision? Was the national security adviser involved?"
  • Keep reading.
4. Learning from history: Nixon's GOP was different
Photo: AP

On Aug. 7, 1974, three top Republican leaders in Congress — Sen. Barry Goldwater (R-Ariz.), flanked in this photo by Senate Minority Leader Hugh Scott of Pennsylvania (left) and House Minority Leader John Rhodes of Arizona — paid a solemn visit to President Richard Nixon.

  • Their message: He faced near-certain impeachment because of eroding Capitol Hill support in his own party.

A similar drama is doubtful today because in Nixon's time, there were conservative Democrats and moderate Republicans, and compromise wasn't treated with scorn, AP's David Crary writes.

  • Why it matters: Trump has taken over the Republican Party, accruing personal rather than party loyalty and sidelining the GOP establishment.
  • "In the past in the U.S., party members would dissociate themselves from disgraced leaders in order to preserve the party and their own reputations," said University of New Hampshire philosophy chair Nick Smith.

Go deeper: See our super-graphic, "Trump's red Senate wall."

5. U.S. household size rises for first time in more than a century
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The average U.S. household size has steadily declined since the 1850s, but new census data show the number of people residing in households has grown 6% since 2010, Rashaan Ayesh writes from a Pew Research Center analysis.

  • Why it matters: The upcoming decade is likely be the first to break a 160-year trend of smaller average U.S. households.
  • "Rising household size reduces the demand for housing, resulting in less residential construction and less demand for home appliances and furniture," writes Pew's Richard Fry.

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6. 📚 1 book thing

"Libraries battling to retain borrowers in the digital age are ending late fees, a change intended to ease the shame and dread of returning overdue books," The Wall Street Journal's Erin Ailworth and Ben Kesling write (subscription):

This week, Chicago became the largest American metropolis to end charges for overdue books, joining at least 150 library systems in the U.S. and Canada that have ended late-shaming fines ... So far this year, libraries in St. Paul, Minn., Dallas and Oakland, Calif., are among those that have joined the late-fee amnesty movement.

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