Jan 21, 2020

Axios AM

🗳️ Good Tuesday morning, and welcome back. Iowa caucuses are 13 days away.

Breaking: "With millions of Asians traveling for the Lunar New Year [Saturday], authorities in China confirmed that a new virus could be spread through human contact, reporting 15 medical staff had been infected," Reuters reports:

  • "The chilling update on the coronavirus outbreak ... sent shivers through financial markets."
1 big thing: Fast-tracking impeachment
McConnell's ground rules. Photo: Jon Elswick/AP

As the Senate impeachment trial of President Trump begins in earnest at 1 p.m., Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is trying to make it as speedy as possible — with days that could run 12 hours or more.

  • Look for very cranky senators. Under the four-page ground rules McConnell's office released at 5:47 p.m. yesterday, senators face marathon sessions during a bitterly fought constitutional process with political risk for all.
  • Senators didn't make dinner plans this week, and expect to be in the chamber until the early morning hours on several days, Axios' Alayna Treene reports.

With Chief Justice John Roberts presiding, the cellphone ban on the Senate floor, increasingly overlooked in recent years, is expected to be enforced.

  • Each day will begin with the archaic proclamation: "All persons are commanded to keep silence, on pain of imprisonment."

Today is all about procedural fights: Democrats will try to force the Senate to allow new witnesses and documents.

  • Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer called McConnell's roadmap "deeply unfair": "Any senator that votes for the McConnell resolution will be voting to hide information and evidence from the American people."

Here's McConnell's plan:

  • The Senate will vote today on rules for the trial.
  • Opening arguments start tomorrow. House Democratic managers and Trump's defense team will each be given up to 24 hours over two days.
  • Senators will then have 16 hours to submit their questions to Roberts.
  • After the Q&A period, the Senate will vote on whether to consider and debate witness subpoenas.
  • If the Senate votes yes, each side can move to subpoena witnesses.
  • Ultimately, the Senate will vote on whether to convict the president and remove him from office.

What we learned in the halls: Last week's Government Accountability Office report accusing Trump of violating the law by holding up funds to Ukraine is "a big part" of Democrats' case, a leadership aide told Treene and Axios' Jonathan Swan.

  • The key argument Trump's legal team plans to make is that the articles of impeachment are deficient on their face because they don’t allege that Trump broke the law.
  • But Democrats plan to highlight the report from the nonpartisan congressional watchdog, which said the administration violated federal law.

📱Catch up quick: All day, Axios.com will be topped by a constantly updated "smart screen" narrating what's happening and why, and capturing the most insightful reaction.

  • Go deeper: Read McConnell's 4-page organizing resolution.
2. Digital-media breakthrough: Profit

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Digital publishing is doing something it hasn't done en masse since the dawn of the internet: Make money.

  • Why it matters: Business Insider, Vox Media, The Information, Axios and Politico all turned profits in 2019 — in several cases, for the first time ever, sources tell Axios media-trends expert Sara Fischer.
  • Others — The Athletic, BuzzFeed and Vice — say they expect to this year.

Among the trends working in digital media’s favor: 

  1. A global wave of new copyright laws means that platforms are likely to have to start paying publishers for the right to carry their content, even if it's just a linked headline or bit of text.
  2. Some tech companies are getting ahead of it. Facebook is paying select publishers millions of dollars annually to distribute their content. Key platforms — Apple, Twitter and Snapchat — are giving publishers a cut of the ad revenue they make or sell off their content.
  3. Increased demand for creators and creativity to produce podcasts and TV shows for the new streaming platforms. 

🔗 Sign up for Sara Fischer's weekly newsletter, Axios Media Trends, out later today.

3. Scoop: GOP's new climate-change push

Trees, plastics and favorable tax policy are part of a new House Republican push on climate change — an effort to tell voters they care about the problem after a decade of dismissing it, Axios' Amy Harder scoops in her "Harder Line" column.

  • Why it matters: The policies reveal how Republicans hope to counter Democrats’ Green New Deal and show the political saliency of this topic that in the past has been on the electoral back burner.
  • This sea change in prioritization is partly cosmetic: Republicans are doubling down on a small-government agenda, and eschewing carbon pricing.

The plan, coordinated by House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy, will likely include three specific targets:

  1. Capturing carbon dioxide emissions, with a focus on trees.
  2. Clean-energy innovation and funding.
  3. Conservation, focusing on plastic.

Go deeper.

4. Pic du jour
Photo: Yuri Gripas/Reuters

President Trump and Vice President Pence visit the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial on the holiday in observance of his 91st birthday.

5. 22,000 rally in Richmond; one arrest
Clockwise from upper left: Stephanie Keith/Reuters, Julio Cortez/AP, Zach Gibson/Getty Images (2)

"A much-anticipated gun-rights rally ... attracted an estimated 22,000 people to the heart of Virginia’s capital for a passionate yet nonviolent protest of gun control legislation," the Richmond Times-Dispatch reports.

  • "Only one person was arrested, a 21-year-old from Richmond who was charged with wearing a mask in public."
6. Rudy ditches Parnas: "He lied multiple times"
Illustration: Andy Friedman for The New York Times

Rudy Giuliani went on Laura Ingraham's prime-time Fox News show last night and tried to distance himself from close associate Lev Parnas, who has gone on camera to say President Trump authorized shenanigans in Ukraine:

  • "Lev is someone I'm — I was close to. Obviously, I was misled by him. I feel very bad. I was godfather to his child and spent a lot of time ... I still feel sorry for him."
  • "I'm not going to respond to him for each and every one of the misrepresentations he's made, because there are so many. If I’m called as a witness, I’m prepared to do it."
  • "I will not be sucked into a point-by-point response — which I am ready to give in great detail in front of Congress or a court, in which it will turn out that he lied multiple times."
7. Dramatis personae
Screenshot via CNN
8. Davos dispatch: Huawei defiant on U.S. "attacks"
Huawei CEO Ren Zhengfei. Screenshot: Axios

Huawei chief Ren Zhengfei said in Davos, Switzerland, that his company is prepared for any further U.S. "attacks," but he believes the world can avoid splitting into two separate technology systems, Axios' Ina Fried reports from the World Economic Forum.

  • Why it matters: The U.S. and China are locked in a fierce battle, with trade restrictions limiting Huawei's ability to sell phones around the world.

Israeli philosopher Yuval Noah Harari, who joined the Huawei chief on stage, talked about the existential threat posed when any tech company, be it Huawei or Facebook, can know human desires better than people themselves.

  • Zhengfei replied: "We are not sure if that can become reality. We do not rule out this possibility."

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9. Plutocrats warm to Trump
Marine One lands in Davos. Photo: Evan Vucci/AP

With President Trump in Davos today as his impeachment trail convenes, the N.Y. Times' Andrew Ross Sorkin writes (subscription):

With the stock market at record highs, two trade deals announced and the possibility that Mr. Trump may be in office for another four years, there is an increasing sense that he will be accepted ...
As anathema as it may be to some participants, Mr. Trump may be the new Davos Man.
10. 1 phone thing

After restricting phone use, schools are coping with with acute "device separation anxiety," the Wall Street Journal's Sarah Krouse writes in an A-hed (subscription).

  • Some solutions include "lockable pouches that let students hold their phones," classroom charging stations that keep phones in view — and good, old-fashioned promises of extra credit.

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