Jul 27, 2017

Axios AM

Good Thursday morning. It's Day 189. Situational awareness: "Police in New York state may soon have ... a textalyzer that allows an officer to quickly check if a cellphone has been in use before a crash" ... New lobbying force, per L.A. Times: "California will soon have open sales of recreational marijuana ... [C]annabis industry is seeking access to the state's political leaders."

1 big thing: Transgender troop chaos

White House and Pentagon officials are providing virtually no details about President Trump's decision to ban transgender troops from the military for a simple enough reason: There aren't any.

In the history of presidential decisions, this may have one of the biggest gaps ever between the amount of consequence, symbolism and resonance, and the quantity of internal deliberation or consideration:

  • Trump jumped the gun with his tweets yesterday morning, surprising the Pentagon and leaving thousands of troops in limbo because there has been no guidance on whether the decision is retroactive.
  • The tweets: "After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow ... .Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military. Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming ... victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail. Thank you."
  • That was it: No press release, no white paper, no FAQ. The rule-making and guidance process is just beginning.
  • And this is a policy that administration officials feel is virtually certain to be challenged in court on constitutional grounds.

Something this big just isn't done this way. It's a victory for Chief Strategist Steve Bannon, no doubt. But there wasn't a huge fight, or clear factions like on the Paris climate decision. Vice President Pence had little to no involvement. It wasn't on the radar of most of the West Wing's New York crowd.

  • Administration officials are like: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. They're not mad. They're not defensive. They're just going: Yup.
  • Conservative leaders, including Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, had been talking to the White House about the issue. But as described by administration officials, the decision occurred almost by spontaneous combustion after Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, demanded it as part of an appropriations deal.
  • The White House appreciated his help on health care, and will need what the president calls "the Freedom people" again.
  • So it's part of the current West Wing instinct to go with the base. But Trump apparently gave no great thought that this was his first real foray into the culture wars.
  • Defense Secretary James Mattis wanted to be deliberative for internal reasons, but his process was short-circuited by the tweets.

Stand by for answers to such questions as whether the military will continue to cover counseling and drugs, but not hormonal treatment or surgery. There's a widespread assumption that the announcement will be moderated so that current troops are grandfathered in. But who knows?

All TBD!

2. Paul Ryan: "The topper of all toppers"

A Trump win in Paul Ryan's district ... Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Major Apple supplier "Foxconn Technology Group ... pledged to invest $10 billion to build a display panel plant in [southeastern] Wisconsin that could employ up to 13,000 workers and draw up to $3 billion in subsidies from state taxpayers — a deal that could ripple through the economy and 2018 elections."

  • Wall Street Journal front page: "The plan, announced ... at a White House ceremony, marks the first major U.S. investment for Foxconn, the world's largest contract manufacturer of electronics and the maker of iPhones and other gadgets for Apple."
  • "Jared Kushner ... led discussions with Foxconn in recent months, along with Reed Cordish, assistant to the president for intragovernmental and technology initiatives."
  • "The facility will be located in House Speaker Paul Ryan's district, which stretches from just south of Milwaukee to the Illinois border ... The exact location is still being determined."
  • Why it matters Trump at White House: "When this investment is complete, Foxconn has the potential to create more manufacturing jobs than we've seen in many, many decades."
3. "A diagram charting leaks"

Politico gets hold of Mooch's financial-disclosure form: "Scaramucci still stands to profit from SkyBridge from the White House" — Lorraine Woellert writes:

  • "The incoming White House communications director earned $4.9 million from his ownership stake in [his] SkyBridge [investment firm] in addition to more than $5 million in salary between Jan. 1, 2016, and the end of June, when he joined the Export-Import Bank."
  • "Scaramucci listed assets worth as much as $85 million. ... A minority stake in the New York Mets is worth as much as $5 million."
  • "As a contributor to Fox News, Scaramucci earned about $88,000."

A furious Mooch quickly tweeted, then deleted: "In light of the leak of my financial disclosure info which is a felony. I will be contacting @FBI and the @TheJusticeDept #swamp @Reince45."

Scaramucci denied he was suggesting the FBI investigate chief of staff Reince Priebus: "Wrong! Tweet was public notice to leakers that all Sr Adm officials are helping to end illegal leaks. @Reince45."

P.S. WashPost's Phil Rucker: "Some in White House are trying to build a case that Priebus is a leaker — 'a diagram' charting leaks, per senior official — to show Trump."

4. About last night: "Trump & Friends"

The New Yorker's Ryan Lizza tweets that the President and the First Lady had dinner last night with Sean Hannnity; Bill Shine, a former Fox News executive who ran prime time; and Anthony Scaramucci.

New York mag's Olivia Nuzzi adds that Kimberly Guilfoyle, a co-host of Fox's "The Five" who said in May that she was being considered to replace Sean Spicer, was also there.

Bonus: Bite du jour

N.Y. Times Quote of the Day ... Maurice Matheson, 24, a subway "Showtime" dancer, on how his troupe will adjust to the new seat-free subway cars being tried as a way to accommodate more passengers:

"There is more space, and we are going to enjoy it more. Once we learn to adapt to dancing in that kind of area — ooh, it's going to be lit."

Underground acrobats ... See a 360° video of subway dancers.

5. "America's looming constitutional crisis​"

Sessions reprieve? WashPost: "Trump has discussed with confidants and advisers ... the possibility of installing a new attorney general through a recess appointment if Jeff Sessions leaves the job, but he has been warned not to move to push him out because of the political and legal ramifications."

  • Post quotes "one outside counselor to the White House": "My understanding is the Sessions thing ends with Sessions leaving the attorney general job to go spend more time with his family."
  • Ed Luce column in Financial Times, "America's looming constitutional crisis," reflects what we hear a lot: "The guns of August are cocked and ready. ... [The departures of Sessions and Mueller are both] a question of timing." (Subscription)

USA Today front page, "Tillerson copes with his boss's tendency to undercut," by Oren Dorell: The SecState was back at work yesterday after taking several days off, and said: "I'm not going anywhere."

6. It's time to vote, and the bill isn't done

"It's going great" ... Axios' Sam Baker: "We're hours away from a series of votes that will culminate, we think, with a brand-new bill to repeal part of the Affordable Care Act. Of course, no one's seen it. Senate Republicans don't know where they're headed, but they're putting the pedal to the metal to get there."

  • Why it matters: "The Senate's health-care process (such as it is) is somehow both a flat circle in which everything we have done, we will do over and over and over again forever; and a rushing river that's never the same from one second to the next, in which it's barely possible to keep your head above water."

Get the skinny on skinny repeal.

P.S. Threat! The Alaska Purchase ... Alaska Dispatch News: "rump isn't going to just let Sen. Lisa Murkowski's no vote on Tuesday's health care motion go. ... Trump administration signals that Murkowski's health care vote could have energy repercussions for Alaska."

7. Conservatives eye city halls

"US conservatism expands to final frontier: City Hall," by AP's Nicholas Riccardi in Denver:

  • "For decades, a well-funded conservative group [American Legislative Exchange Council] has helped state lawmakers across the U.S. write legislation to rein in unions, expand charter schools and lower taxes."
  • Now, with the American City County Exchange, "it's expanding to the final frontier: normally nonpartisan city halls and county governments, which have become a bastion of liberal resistance to ... Trump."
  • Why it matters: "[I]t's notched some significant accomplishments — most prominently helping distribute model legislation to end the automatic deduction of union dues from paychecks that 12 Kentucky counties implemented."
  • The new group "distributes model legislation on everything from a taxpayer bill of rights that would require a supermajority to raise property taxes to measures requiring that cities explore all available materials to build sewer pipelines. An official at the city council project, Bruce Hollands, is head of the PVC pipe association."
8. "He still can act like a brat"

Rolling Stone cover story by Stephen Rodrick asks if Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, 45, is "the free world's best hope":

Trudeau reminds me of, well, Obama ... He is always pushing his product: a kind but muscular Canada. ... Trudeau is the son of Pierre Trudeau, a 15-year prime minister and Canada's iconic 20th Century Man. ... His land races toward inclusion, while our nation builds walls and lusts for an era of vanilla homogeneity that ain't coming back.

9. The collision of tech and business

"Summer of Samsung" ... Bloomberg Businessweek's Brad Stone, Sam Kim and Ian King go inside Samsung to examine how South Korea's most important company — and the family behind it — is succeeding amid all the turmoil:

The company remains confident of its engineering prowess, but it has been working to transform a hierarchical culture that has long prized loyalty, tireless work, and deference. Although this culture has been well-suited to a hardware company, executives know it will have to change if Samsung Electronics is to compete with Silicon Valley in technologies such as cloud services and artificial intelligence.

Bonus: First look

Economist Editor Zanny Minton Beddoes will be on "Morning Joe" from 30 Rock at 8:50 a.m.

10. 1 oops thing

"An NFL star's diamond earring valued at more than $100,000 is now presumed lost on the murky bottom of a Georgia lake," AP reports. "Atlanta Falcons star wide receiver Julio Jones lost it when he hit a boat wake and took a spill while jet skiing in Lake Lanier, about 50 miles outside Atlanta. ... SCUBA divers have been searching the lake bottom, hoping to capture a flashlight's reflection off the jewelry amid old trees that have been submerged since the man-made lake's creation in the 1950s. So far, no luck."