Jan 30, 2019

Axios AM

By Mike Allen
Mike Allen

❄️ Good Wednesday morning. Thank you for reading Axios — the first two words of our manifesto are: "Audience first." Vanity Fair's Joe Pompeo scoops with data on the business and journalistic success of Axios, "the fast-twitch media darling," at our second anniversary: We came within $56,000 of profit last year — rare for a media startup.

  • Axios President Roy Schwartz told Pompeo: "[I]f they have the right mentality and the right management, media companies can be very good businesses."
  • CEO Jim VandeHei said: "We’re trying to grab people by the collar every day and saying, this is what’s happening with A.I., global warming, China, science."
  • Worthy of your time.
1 big thing: Livid liberals try to bully Schultz out

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Furious Democrats hope to pound Starbucks chairman emeritus Howard Schultz into early departure from his exploration of an independent 2020 bid.

  • These Democrats want to prevent the coffee king from siphoning anti-Trump votes, and perhaps unintentionally helping re-elect President Trump.
  • Alexi McCammond and I are hearing threats of boycotts and social isolation, attacks on Starbucks, and emotional, insistent lobbying of his advisers.

One of Washington's best-wired party operatives told me: "I've talked to six dozen Democrats, and the overwhelming sentiment is that he will be pushed out by this incredible wave of disgust and disdain rolling his way."

  • "The flaw in Schultz's logic is that we're living in this massively abnormal moment," the operative continued. "When you're on the head of a pin, even 500 votes in the wrong place can be existential."
  • "The bottom line is: Nobody thinks this is sustainable."

Bill Burton, a former campaign and White House aide to President Barack Obama, is enduring the skepticism of friends to serve as a message and communications adviser to Schultz.

  • "The good news is that presidential elections are not decided on Twitter," Burton said.
  • "His decision on whether or not to run won't be decided there, either."
  • "The level of certainty by the pundits about how this'll play out reminds me of the certainty that President Obama couldn't win or President Trump couldn't win."

But for many powerful Dems, this is personal. They view Schultz's dabbling as a dangerous gamble, indulgence and diversion. They told Alexi:

  • Jim Messina, Obama's 2012 campaign manager: "He can't win, and he could seriously damage our ability to beat Donald Trump. He should either run as a Democrat, or spend his time and money doing something that won't ruin the world."
  • Philippe Reines, confidant of Hillary Clinton: "Howard Schultz is a jackass. ... He's arrogant and wealthy — and those people tend to not see the world as it is."

What's next: Schultz appears in Phoenix today on the tour for his new book, "From the Ground Up," then continues on to Seattle and other major cities.

2. What the Russians know

"Donald Trump sat down with Vladimir Putin for several minutes of conversation at the end of an evening event at the G20 summit in Buenos Aires in November, with no translator or note-taker from the US side to record the dialogue between the leaders," the Financial Times' James Politi, Demetri Sevastopulo and Henry Foy report (subscription):

  • "Trump was accompanied by Melania Trump, his wife, but no staff, while Mr Putin was flanked by his translator."
  • Trump’s aides characterized "the Putin encounter as one of several 'informal' conversations that Mr Trump had with his counterparts."
  • Why it matters: "The accounts of people familiar with the conversation said it appeared longer and more substantive."

"According to a Russian government official’s account, the two leaders spoke for about 15 minutes about a number of foreign policy issues, including the Azov Sea incident, and the conflict in Syria."

  • "They also discussed when they could have a formal meeting."
  • "Trump explained that a full meeting with Mr Putin was impossible at the time, and the Russian leader responded by saying he 'was not in a hurry.'"

The context: "The Washington Post reported that Mr Trump had sought to hide details of previous conversations with Mr Putin, including at the G20 summit in Hamburg in 2017, frustrating some top officials."

3. Rising threat: Russia, China align

FBI Director Chris Wray, CIA Director Gina Haspel and Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats testify yesterday. Photo: Salwan Georges/The Washington Post via Getty Images

"U.S. intelligence officials warned [on the Hill yesterday] of increased threats to national security from tighter cooperation between China and Russia," the Wall Street Journal's Dustin Volz and Warren Strobel report (subscription):

  • "The annual threat assessment ... cautioned that Beijing and Moscow are pouring resources into a 'race for technological and military superiority' that will define the 21st century."
  • "It said the two countries are more aligned than at any point since the mid-1950s."
  • "Some lawmakers on the Senate Intelligence Committee appeared taken aback by the assessment that China and Russia are growing closer, likely to the detriment of the U.S."

How it played ... ABC: "Top U.S. intel chiefs challenge Trump's security claims" ... CBS: "Intel chiefs contradict Pres. Trump on North Korea, ISIS" ... MSNBC: "Intel leaders contradict Trump on North Korea, ISIS, Iran, Russian influence" ... CNN: "U.S. intel chiefs contradict Trump on ISIS, Russia, Iran."

4. Deep freeze stops mail, pizza
An elementary school in Moorhead, Minn., yesterday. Photo: Bruce Crummy/AP

"A deadly arctic deep freeze enveloped the Midwest, ... prompting the U.S. Postal Service to take the rare step of suspending mail delivery to a wide swath of the region," per AP:

  • "Some buses were turned into mobile warming shelters to encourage the homeless to come off the streets in Chicago, where the forecast for Wednesday night called for temperatures as low as minus 21 degrees, ... with wind chills to minus 40."
  • "A wind chill of minus 25 ... can freeze skin within 15 minutes."
  • "The U.S. Postal Service said it would suspend mail delivery [today] in parts or all of ... North and South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa and Illinois."

🍕 In Chicago, some restaurants and pizza-delivery chains closed out of concern for employee safety. (Bloomberg)

Chicago Tribune
5. Political stars no longer need to hold office

For plugged-in Democrats, "Stacey" and "Beto" are nearly as familiar as "AOC."

  • Stacey Abrams doesn't have a title before her name — a list of midterm results could call her "loser."
  • But Democrats cheered yesterday when the barely defeated candidate for Georgia governor was named to deliver the Democratic response to President Trump's State of the Union address.
  • Abrams, an entrepreneur and former Democratic leader in the Georgia House, was the first black woman to be the gubernatorial nominee of a major party, and won more votes than any other Democrat in Georgia history.
  • Speaker Pelosi said in the announcement: "Her electrifying message of courage, perseverance and hope reinvigorated our nation and our politics, and continues to inspire millions of Americans in every part of the country."

Vox.com founder Ezra Klein pointed out the midterm phenomenon:

  • "The biggest Dem superstars to emerge either lost to Republicans (Abrams, [Florida gubernatorial candidate Andrew] Gillum, Beto) or beat Democrats (AOC, [Massachusetts Rep. Ayanna] Pressley)."
  • Be smart: This reflects an online age where a personal brand can be as powerful as establishment trappings — or even public office.
6. Dems may ban House members from sleeping in offices

"[M]embers of Congress sleeping in their offices may soon come to an end," BuzzFeed News' Paul McLeod reports:

  • "The Committee on House Administration will publicly study the issue, said chair Zoe Lofgren. It’s not the committee’s first priority, but 'there’ll be a public process,' Lofgren said."
  • "The leaders of the Congressional Progressive Caucus called [yesterday] for the practice to come to a swift end. They join the Congressional Black Caucus, which collectively called for it to be banned last year."

"Progressive Caucus cochair Mark Pocan said he heard as many as 80 members did so in the previous Congress that ended in January. Others told BuzzFeed News the number might have been over 100."

  • "The so-called in-office caucus has included high-profile members, like former speaker Paul Ryan and current House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy."
  • "Members typically sleep on a cot, sofa, or air mattress and shower in the House gym."
  • "Quite often, these members boast about the practice to voters as a sign of their frugality."
7. Ruh-roh! TEXAS in play?

"Top Republicans in Texas are sounding the alarm about 2020, warning President Trump could lose the usually reliably red state unless he devotes resources and attention ... typically reserved for electoral battlegrounds," the Washington Examiner's David Drucker reports.

  • "Texas GOP Chairman James Dickey has delivered this message to the Trump campaign, the Republican National Committee, GOP donors, and activists in the state."
  • "Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, up for re-election next year, has spoken with new RNC co-chairman Tommy Hicks, a Lone Star State native, about concerns that Trump could lose the state."

"Chris Homan, a veteran GOP operative in Texas who worked several 2018 contests, said Republicans suffered because Democrats were more energized, more organized, and better funded."

  • "Homan worries Republicans could be overwhelmed again in 2020, costing Trump the state and, possibly as a result, the White House."
8. California's most frequent flier

"Tesla chief Elon Musk's corporate jet flew more than 150,000 miles last year, or more than six times around the Earth, as he raced between the outposts of his futuristic empire," the WashPost's Drew Harwell reports:

  • "Musk’s jet logged more than 250 flights for his work, pet projects and vacations across Asia, Europe, Latin America and the Middle East."
  • "Some of the flights were recreational getaways for Musk or his family, while others involved moving the plane from one side of Los Angeles to the other to help Musk shorten his commutes."
  • Why it matters: "The frenzy of air travel was a key part of Musk’s journey to becoming a global celebrity, showing how suddenly his attention could switch between his ambitious ventures on cars in California, batteries in Nevada, tunnels in Chicago and rockets in Florida."

"A Tesla spokesman said his heavy air travel was an indispensable part of doing business. 'Until we can teleport, there’s unfortunately no alternative that would allow him to do his job as effectively,' spokesman Dave Arnold said."

9. Pic du jour
Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Roger Stone arrives yesterday at the federal courthouse in D.C. to plead not guilty to felony charges in the Mueller probe.

10. 1 dedicated worker
Photo: Joshua Clark/The (Appleton, Wis.) Post-Crescent via AP

An employee of Pozorski Hauling & Recycling collects trash during the snowstorm in Manitowoc, Wis.

Mike Allen