Aug 6, 2017

Axios AM

By Mike Allen
Mike Allen
1 big thing: Taming Trump II

New White House Chief of Staff John Kelly "is testing his authority to tame Trump's sometimes reckless tweeting habits," according to a startling tidbit from Bloomberg's Jennifer Jacobs and Margaret Talev:

  • "While Kelly isn't vetting every presidential tweet, Trump has shown a willingness to consult with his chief of staff before hitting 'send' on certain missives that might cause an international uproar or lead to unwelcome distractions."
  • "Kelly has been 'offering a different way to say the same thing.'"

Why it matters: Trump has proven impervious to previous chances for a reset: when he became the nominee, when he won the election, when he was inaugurated. If the retired Marine four-star general is curbing him after a week on the job, that's a big achievement.

But, but, but ... Two problems with this:

  1. We've written before about how advisers talk openly about Trump as if he were a naughty child. They have tried giving Trump "better choices" for tweeting by trying to distract him with something more substantive, but those efforts never took during the campaign or during the first 200 days (tomorrow!) of the administration.
  2. The more stories about how Kelly is reining in Trump, restraining Trump, controlling Trump, ... the more likely Trump is to rebel against his minder, regardless of the initial deference he has shown. Trump loves his generals, but guarantee you he still sees himself as the boss.

Funny quote, from a friend: "This'll only be operative till Trump watches 'Morning Joe' and gets pissed off."

2. China joins U.S. for new squeeze on North Korea

"After a month of deliberations and negotiations, the [U.N.] Security Council on Saturday unanimously passed a resolution that would slash about $1 billion off North Korea's annual foreign revenue," the Wall Street Journal's Farnaz Fassihi reports:

  • "China and Russia ... ultimately endorsed the resolution, saying the rogue nation's recent provocations were unacceptable."
  • "U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley ... personally thanked China for helping move the resolution."
  • "The U.S., which had drafted and put forward the resolution, negotiated for more than a month with China."
  • "[R]esolution steps up trade restrictions with Pyongyang by aiming to cut off a third of its $3 billion annual export revenue ... bans countries from ... new joint ventures with Pyongyang."

Be smart: This looks like a big, unforeseen win for Trump. Stanford's Michael McFaul‏ — U.S. ambassador to Russia under Obama, and a persistent and influential Trump critic — tweeted: "This vote is a genuine foreign policy achievement. ... Well done Ambassador @nikkihaley."

3. GOP 2020

The N.Y. Times' Jonathan Martin and Alex Burns see a GOP "shadow campaign for 2020 — as if the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue weren't involved":

  • The players: Senators Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Ben Sasse of Nebraska, Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Vice President Mike Pence.
  • Plus: "Nikki Haley, the ambassador to the United Nations and a former governor of South Carolina, put her longtime pollster on the payroll, has gotten better acquainted with some of New York's financiers and carved out a far more muscular foreign policy niche than Mr. Trump."
  • "The would-be candidates are cultivating some of the party's most prominent donors, courting conservative interest groups and carefully enhancing their profiles."
  • "Trump has given no indication that he will decline to seek a second term. But the sheer disarray surrounding this presidency ... prompted Republican officeholders to take political steps unheard-of so soon into a new administration."

The pushback: Pence press secretary Marc Lotter tweets from his official account: "Claims @VP preparing for 2020 run are ridiculous #FakeNews and nothing more than wishful thinking by New York Times." Then he added a Pinocchio emoji.

Be smart: Cotton is 40 and Sasse is 45. If Trump is that weak, or out of the picture, by 2020, the GOP brand is likely to be in the toilet and it's hard to imagine that's when they make their moves. Their play, like that of Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas (age 46), is in 2024 and beyond.

Bonus: Hot shot

A competitor dives yesterday during the 4th international waterfall jumping competition in the old town of Jajce, Bosnia. 23 competitors took part in the jump from 69 feet.

4. Startling stat

"TV's Sports Problem: Amazon, Facebook, and Google could soon challenge the networks for big-time sports. And they've got deep, deep pockets" — Barron's cover story by Jack Hough:

  • Amazon "agreed to pay the National Football League $50 million for streaming rights to 10 Thursday Night Football games starting on Sep. 28. That's five times what Twitter paid for a similar deal last season."
  • "For now, streaming is a mere sideshow to television in sports. The Thursday games will air simultaneously on the NFL Network, and on either CBS or NBC, which each pays $225 million a year for five of them."
  • "But Amazon's encroachment should give media investors pause. Viewership trends in television are weak, and they're worse without sports. Whereas TV networks own many of their scripted hits, they rent sports."
  • Why it matters: "As those rights come due, the networks could enter an unwinnable bidding war with Amazon, Facebook and Alphabet (GOOGL)."
  • 1 stat says it all: By 2020, "Wall Street predicts, the big four TV networks and their parent companies — with their theme parks, movies, and other ventures — will generate a combined $30 billion in free cash flow. Alphabet, Facebook, and Amazon are seen combining for more than $100 billion."

Free link for Axios readers.

5. Photo finish for USA

"Bronze and gone: In a shocker, Bolt takes third at worlds," by AP's Eddie Pells in London:

One final time, Usain Bolt peered down the last 50 meters of his lane and saw sprinter upon sprinter running footsteps ahead of him. One final time, the World's Fastest Man furiously pumped the arms and legs on his gangly 6-foot-5 frame, desperately trying to reel in all those would-be winners as the finish line fast approached. This time, the afterburners kicked in but not hard enough.

Not one, but two overlooked and underappreciated Americans — Justin Gatlin and Christian Coleman — withstood what was once Bolt's undeniable late charge. This time, Bolt finished third in the 100-meter dash at world championships. That's right: A bronze-medal finish Saturday night in the going-away party for one of the planet's most entertaining icons and track and field's lone shining star.

"No regrets," Bolt insisted, long after a result that stunned a pumped-up crowd into near silence. "It was always going to end, no matter what happened ... It doesn't change anything in my career."

6. 🎶 1 lit jam

This weekend's summer tune comes from Axios social media manager Neal Rothschild ... "Hard Feelings," by Lorde.

Neal writes: "'Hard Feelings' is a song for a summer run at that hour right before it's dark out — when you would go inside because the wiffle balls started to get lost in the bushes. It's enough of a banger to do some head nodding, but also has enough anguish that you do a little heart tap in between strides and thank the good Lorde for this lit jam."

Spotify ... YouTube

Mike Allen