Axios AM

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April 26, 2017

1 big thing: Trump's blast at the Hill

The tax plan that President Trump will release today isn't super-specific or super-achievable. But it's a loud White House message to the Hill that the administration — after learning lessons on health reform — will now be less of a bystander.

A West Wing confidant said: "The White House is saying to Congress: You can expect us to do this on other major policy initiatives — health care; immigration; infrastructure; and the budget, particularly defense spending. We let you drive policy on health care, and you drove off a cliff."

  • The principles, based largely on campaign promises, take a Reaganite approach, with breaks for businesses big and small (The N.Y. Times lead story is "White House's Tax Plan Puts Business at the Fore"), plus a politically driven focus on individual side of the code.
  • One Republican lobbyist called it "neither comprehensive nor a plan," but more "a series of negotiating points" designed to jump-start Hill action.
  • Winners: moderate-income families (higher standard deduction, lower rates, a wider band on who gets the lower rates) ... corporations (though the proposed 15% rate isn't achievable — no way to make the math work) ... Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, left to create common ground on what one lobbyist called "achievable change."
  • Losers: The deficit ... nationalist approach (no border-adjustment tax).
  • The deets ... Wall Street Journal's Michael Bender and Richard Rubin say the plan would "cut corporate taxes on U.S. companies' foreign profits and ... slash the top tax rate on so-called pass-through businesses, including many owner-operated companies, to 15% from 39.6%."
  • "White House officials also have agreed to propose a territorial tax system, ... favored by large multinational firms ... U.S. corporations would pay little or no tax on future foreign earnings."

Frame game ... Although Trump hasn't won passage of any of his signature legislation, the White House yesterday posted a tally arguing he "has worked with Congress to enact 28 laws during the first 100 days of his Administration ... more legislation ... than any President since Truman."

2. Deconstructing Trump-speak

"Trump's trademark talk is full of rambling, aside-filled bursts of simple but definitive words, laden with self-congratulatory bravado and claims that have fact-checkers working overtime," AP's Matt Sedensky writes after asking linguists about Trump's rhetorical signatures:

  • Kathleen Hall Jamieson: "The public speech of the president in the past has been crafted speech, it has been considered speech. Presidents prepared before speeches, presidents prepared before press conferences, presidents had stock answers ready to give."
  • "Word choice is typically simple — to Trump, things are terrible or incredible, best or worst. Asides are frequent. And repetition is rampant: When Trump wants to get a point across, he makes it again and again."
  • "Trump has suggested there's method to his word choice ... that the simple terms he often opts for can be more effective than the flowery eloquence listeners may be used to from presidents. 'I went to an Ivy League school. I'm very highly educated. I know words; I have the best words,' he said during the campaign."
  • Historian Kristen Kobes Du Mez of Calvin College: "I don't know that any president has ever used 'super-duper' in his rhetoric before."

3. The Trump Doctrine

Yahoo's Olivier Knox, surveying a wide range of diplomats in Washington, finds that Trump's "unpredictable approach to world affairs [has] unsettled rivals, but also sometimes unnerves even close allies who wonder if anyone can speak with authority for the Twitter-reliant commander in chief."

"They also noted that a large number of pivotal positions at the Pentagon and State Department remain vacant, hindering the regular policymaking process."

4. Another federal judge blocks Trump

Shot ... "U.S. judge blocks Trump order threatening funds for 'sanctuary' cities," by L.A. Times' Maura Dolan and Joel Rubin: "U.S. District Judge William H. Orrick III, a President Obama appointee based in San Francisco, said Trump's Jan. 25 order, directed at so-called sanctuary cities and counties [to strip funds from municipal governments that refuse to cooperate fully with immigration agents], was unconstitutional."

Chaser ... The first sentence of a White House statement reacting to the ruling: "Today, the rule of law suffered another blow, as an unelected judge unilaterally rewrote immigration policy for our Nation."

Trump tweets this morning: "See you in the Supreme Court!"

5. Ivanka's new fund

Ivanka Trump told me yesterday from Berlin that she has begun building a massive fund that will benefit female entrepreneurs around the globe. Both countries and companies will contribute to create a pool of capital to economically empower women.

"The statistics and results prove that when you invest in women and girls, it benefits both developed and developing economies," she said. "Women are an enormous untapped resource, critical to the growth of all countries."

  • Under the radar: Canadians, Germans and a few Middle Eastern countries have already made quiet commitments, as have several corporations, a source said.
  • How it'll work: The fund will provide working and growth capital to small- and medium-sized enterprises.
  • Who's involved: President Trump is a huge supporter of his daughter's idea, and she has consulted with World Bank Group Jim Yong Kim about how to pull it off in a huge way.

6. Freeze frame

The WashPost front page ("Trump makes an unambiguous vow," by Phil Rucker and David Nakamura) isolates this quote by Trump, speaking yesterday at the Capitol, at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum's National Days of Remembrance ceremony:

This is my pledge to you: We will confront anti-Semitism (Applause.) We will stamp out prejudice. We will condemn hatred. We will bear witness. And we will act.

7. Tracking power

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, on the cover of Businessweek as "The Anti-Trump," talks with Bloomberg Editor-in-Chief John Micklethwait:

  • On Trump: "I've learned that he listens… As politicians, we're very, very much trained to say something and stick with it. Whereas he has shown that if he says one thing and then actually hears good counterarguments or good reasons why he should shift his position, he will take a ­different position, if it's a better one, if the arguments win him over."
  • On being the anti-Trump: "If you're seeing a rise of populism and nationalism, it is in response to the kinds of fears that people are feeling. So my economic approach is very much to allay those fears. How are we going to help the little guy? How are we going to help people who feel left out of success?"

8. Tops in media trends: Snapchat originals

Social platforms are becoming new homes for original content in shorter, digital-first formats, Axios' Sara Fischer writes.

Snapchat has launched over a dozen exclusive mobile partnerships this year, many of which are with TV networks, hoping to reach millennials who are cutting the cord.

By comparison, Facebook and Twitter have been slow to win over publishers for exclusive video deals, focusing instead on pursuing live-streaming contracts, particularly in sports, and entertainment.

  • Why it matters: Snapchat can't stop Facebook from copying its features and eating its "Stories" audience, so the self-proclaimed "camera company" is setting itself up to beat Facebook in the content game.
  • Snap is hoping to capture a piece of the roughly $70 billion U.S. TV ad market.
  • Why publishers like Snap: New Nielsen data commissioned by Snapchat and provided exclusively to Axios shows that Snapchat provided a 16% increase in average monthly reach in Discover partners' TV audience, compared to a 5% decrease for the six months prior to the partnership.
  • Mashable CEO Pete Cashmere: "Snapchat is our biggest revenue source on distributed platforms ... It's very profitable for us because it's a huge audience and it's an audience that we can't reach elsewhere."

9. 1 eye-opening thing

Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) spoke last night at an Axios event, the D.C. premiere of an HBO documentary directed by Perri Peltz, "Warning: This Drug May Kill You." The film, told from the perspectives of four families devastated by opioid addiction, debuts Monday on HBO at 10 p.m.

  • In her writeup of a panel accompanying the film, Axios' Shannon Vavra quoted Dr. Andrew Kolodny of Brandeis University as saying of the opioid crisis: "It truly is the worst epidemic in United States history."
  • Why it matters: Shannon wrote in March that the U.S. fatality rate for drug overdoses was higher than for suicides, cars accidents or firearms.
  • Watch the trailer here. ... @ThisDrugMayKill ... #ThisDrugMayKillYou

10. 1 surprising thing

A surprisingly fascinating documentary, "Obit," which today begins a two-week run in New York, calls artful death notices "a once-only chance to make the dead live again."

  • A review in today's N.Y. Times, "Commemorating the Dead With Humanity and Delicacy": "We keep nervous, vigilant watch over our mortality and an expedient means for us to mark time is to keep up on who among the prominent, or even casually known, has checked out for good."
  • "'Obit' shapes the tension and tedium of the writing process itself into engaging narrative drama as it lets us watch the veteran writer Bruce Weber assemble a 2014 obituary of William P. Wilson, a media consultant who provided vital cosmetic and staging tips to the 1960 Democratic presidential candidate John F. Kennedy before his first televised debate with Richard M. Nixon."
  • See the trailer. ... @OBITthefilm ... Where to see it.