Axios AM

An analog clock with only two symbols instead of twelve: the symbols read 'AM' and 'PM'.

October 09, 2020

Happy Friday! Today's Smart Brevity™ count: 1,306 words ... 5 minutes.

1 big thing: Americans who most need a stimulus

Data: Bureau of Labor Statistics; Chart: Axios Visuals
Data: Bureau of Labor Statistics; Chart: Axios Visuals

One group of Americans needs a fresh stimulus package more than any other: the 2.4 million Americans — and rising — who have been unemployed for more than six months, Axios chief financial correspondent Felix Salmon writes.

  • Why it matters: While the economic recession looks like it ended in April, rising long-term unemployment acts as a drag on the broader economy. Without new stimulus, the number of jobless could end up being almost as bad as the Great Recession.

The backstory: In April, for the first time since 2001, fewer than 1 million people were unemployed for more than six months.

  • That same month, the surge of coronavirus-related layoffs peaked. Today almost 1.5 million of those laid-off workers are still unemployed, and the ranks of the long-term jobless are rising at a rate not seen since the financial crisis.
  • The biggest job losses have been in leisure and hospitality, where the workforce is 3.8 million people smaller than it was in February. The food services industry is down 2.3 million jobs.

Harvard projections show long-term unemployment peaking in early 2021. Depending on the speed of the recovery, it's likely to reach 3.9 million people at best — and 5.1 million in a worst-case scenario.

  • Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s, sees a peak of 5 million long-term unemployed as a baseline scenario, cautioning that with stimulus talks having broken down, the number could be more than double that "if we botch it."

The bottom line: We're only at the end of the beginning of the pandemic.

2. 🔎 Scoop: "Nightmare scenario" for GOP base

Attorney General Bill Barr has begun telling top Republicans that the Justice Department’s sweeping review into the origins of the Russia investigation will not be released before the election, a senior White House official and a congressional aide briefed on the conversations tell Axios' Alayna Treene.

  • Why it matters: Republicans had long hoped the report, led by Connecticut U.S. Attorney John Durham, would be a bombshell containing revelations about the Obama administration and intelligence community, from 2016 probing of connections between the Trump campaign and Russia.
  • "This is the nightmare scenario," a GOP congressional aide told Axios. "Essentially, the year and a half of arguably the number one issue for the Republican base is virtually meaningless if this doesn't happen before the election."

Barr has made clear that Republicans shouldn't expect any further indictments or a comprehensive report before Nov. 3, our sources say.

  • The Justice Department declined to comment. The White House did not respond to a request for comment.

What's happening: Barr is communicating that Durham is taking his investigation extremely seriously and is focused on winning prosecutions.

  • The general sense of the talks, the sources say, is that Durham is not preoccupied with completing his probe by a certain deadline for political purposes.

Behind the scenes: Trump has grown increasingly frustrated with Barr and the Justice Department for not moving more quickly on the investigation.

What's next: Top Republicans are planning to pressure Barr to get ahead of Durham and temper expectations for the timing of the report's release, as well declassify more documents connected to the probe.

3. Tech's new fight: Domestic meddlers adopt foreign techniques

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Social media platforms are scrambling to crack down on domestic actors who have picked up foreign meddling techniques to try to influence the 2020 election, Axios' Sara Fischer and Ashley Gold report.

  • Why it matters: While foreign election interference remains a major concern, domestic actors can be more effective operators.
  • "Domestic actors understand the political actions in their country the best, and have a strong motivation to want to change that discussion," Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook's head of cybersecurity policy, said on a call with reporters yesterday.

What's happening: The crackdown has resulted in a spate of action against U.S.-based conservatives.

  • Facebook said yesterday that it took down a "coordinated inauthentic behavior campaign" run on behalf of pro-Trump student group Turning Point USA and Inclusive Conservation Group, an organization ostensibly focused on trophy hunting in Africa.
  • The operation used fake personas to comment on stories posted by the WashPost, Fox News, MSNBC, CNN, N.Y. Times, etc.

It's the latest example of Facebook punishing a conservative group or individual for spreading misinformation with fake accounts.

  • The company said Wednesday that it's banning from its platforms all accounts, groups and pages related to QAnon, the fringe far-right conspiracy.
  • In June, it removed over 200 accounts linked to white supremacy groups.
  • Facebook this week also restricted the reach of conservative radio host Mark Levin.
  • And, in a reversal of what have become their usual roles, Facebook moved faster than Twitter to quash coronavirus misinformation from President Trump, taking down his post. (Twitter hid it behind a label flagging it as false.)

Share this story.

4. Trump says he's ready for rallies

A Marine opens the West Wing front door yesterday. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

President Trump, who's still contagious, said he's feeling "really good" and might campaign in Florida tomorrow and Pennsylvania on Sunday, per Reuters.

  • "While Trump has released several videos on Twitter, he has not appeared in public since he returned home from the hospital on Monday."

5. "When our leaders speak, their words matter"

Rally at the Michigan Capitol last evening in support of Gov. Whitmer. Photo: Nick King/Lansing State Journal

Hours after police foiled an alleged plot to kidnap her, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer argued in a speech that President Trump's words had been a "rallying cry" for extremists, AP reports from Lansing.

  • "When our leaders speak, their words matter," Whitmer said. "They carry weight. When our leaders meet, encourage or fraternize with domestic terrorists, they legitimize their actions and they are complicit."
  • There's no indication in the criminal complaint that the men arrested were inspired by Trump.

The backdrop: "The Wolverine Watchmen militia group didn't just plot to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, but they were on a mission to attack the state Capitol and target police officers at their homes as part of a broader mission to instigate a civil war," the Detroit Free Press reports.

6. Axios-SurveyMonkey poll: V.P. debate was ... presidential

Graphic: SurveyMonkey

The vice presidential debate got far better reviews in early polling than the first presidential debate, with respondents in an Axios-SurveyMonkey poll calling it "civil," "informative," and even "presidential," Axios' David Nather writes.

  • The dominant reaction to the debate was relief, with 36% of the respondents saying they felt relieved when it was over.

Words the poll's 2,708 respondents used to describe Vice President Pence: "professional," "strong" and "excellent" (from Republicans), "liar," "rude" and "evasive" (from Democrats).

  • Some of the words used to describe Sen. Kamala Harris: "strong," "professional" and "confident" (from Democrats), "liar," "lies" and "untruthful" (from Republicans).
  • Share this story.

P.S. ... Several Michigan swing voters who are sticking with President Trump think that if Joe Biden gets elected, Harris will be running the show — a view reinforced by the debate, Axios' Alexi McCammond reports from a 13-person focus group.

7. Nobel aims to "turn the eyes of the world" to millions who are hungry


The UN's World Food Program, one of the largest humanitarian organizations in the world, was awarded the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize this morning.

  • Last year, it "provided assistance to close to 100 million people in 88 countries" and the committee praised its efforts as "a driving force in efforts to prevent the use of hunger as a weapon of war and conflict."

8. V.P. debate is second most-watched ever

Data: Nielsen. Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios
Data: Nielsen. Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Nearly 58 million people watched Wednesday's debate between Vice President Pence and Sen. Kamala Harris, making it the second most-watched VP debate in TV history, Axios' Sara Fischer writes.

  • The record: Joe Biden vs. Sarah Palin in 2008.

Share this graphic.

9. Former Wilson College is now Princeton's first college named for a Black woman

Photo: Sameer A. Khan/Fotobuddy

Princeton University, which said in June that it was dropping Woodrow Wilson's name on campus because of his racist views, will tear down Wilson College and replace it on the site as Hobson College, named for boardroom powerhouse Mellody Hobson, one of the most senior women in finance.

  • Why it matters: Hobson College will be the first residential college at Princeton named for a Black woman. (Princeton's residential colleges are complexes of dormitories and social space.)

Mellody Hobson and the Hobson/Lucas Family Foundation made the lead gift for the new college. Construction will begin in 2023.

  • "My hope is that my name will remind future generations of students — especially those who are Black and brown and the 'firsts' in their families — that they, too, belong," Hobson said in Princeton's announcement.

The backstory: Hobson's "career as co-CEO of Ariel Investments began with a summer internship in 1989. She also ... serves on the boards of Starbucks and JPMorgan Chase. Previously, she served as a director of Estée Lauder and board chair of DreamWorks Animation SKG," Princeton said.

10. 1 smile to go

Via Biden campaign

After a fly on Vice President Pence's head captivated social media, the Biden campaign sold 35,000 "Truth Over Flies" fly swatters within hours, per Bloomberg.

📱 Thanks for starting your day with us. Invite your friends to sign up for Axios AM/PM.