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October 21, 2019

🇦🇫 Good Monday morning! Situational awareness ... House Speaker Nancy Pelosi — mourning the loss of her brother, former Baltimore mayor Thomas "Young Tommy" D’Alesandro III, who died yesterday at 90 — led a bipartisan delegation on a visit to Afghanistan that wasn't announced in advance.

  • Pelosi said in a statement last night: "We underscored that the women of Afghanistan must be at the table for reconciliation talks."

🍿 1 big thing: The two senators to watch

I interviewed Sen. Romney at his home outside Salt Lake City. Photo: Axios on HBO

As President Trump's standing with Republican lawmakers grows more precarious, the two senators to watch — for totally different reasons — are Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah and Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.

  • And we talked to both of them last night on "Axios on HBO."

Why they matter: With Trump's impeachment by the House growing ever more likely, he has to keep his red wall of Republican Senate support so that, like President Clinton, he'll be acquitted rather than removed after a Senate trial.

Romney has never liked Trump, and friends who have talked privately with the senator tell me he could be one of the first votes to convict. 

  • The senator offered a broad indictment of the president during our interview at Romney's home outside Salt Lake City.
  • If Romney breaks officially, swing-state Republicans might follow — though that alone would not be enough to sink Trump.

Graham, a former Trump critic who's now one of his most vital allies on Capitol Hill, sounds exasperated by Trump but is sticking by him.

  • Graham called Trump a "handful" and an "equal opportunity abuser."
  • Graham said evidence of a true quid pro quo could change his mind on conviction.
  • If Graham were to defect, you can count on at least 19 other Republican senators — the minimum needed to convict — doing the same.
  • It's hard to see Graham turning on Trump. Then again, it was hard to see Graham sucking up to Trump after calling him a disaster.

🎬 Top bites from the senators' interviews on last night's "Axios on HBO":

Go deeper:

Jonathan Swan interviewed Sen. Graham at his office on Capitol Hill. Photo: Axios on HBO

2. The missing housing boom

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The real estate market should be experiencing a boom, but it has been stagnant for the last three years and is beginning to turn lower, writes Axios Markets editor Dion Rabouin.

  • Why it matters: Anyone who bought residential property in the last 40 years, even at the height of a bubble, has been able to count on rising home values. But those days may be over: Real estate prices have far outpaced incomes and lost their correlation to them.

What's happening: There is a serious lack of qualified and/or interested buyers. And even with ultra-low mortgage rates, prices are not falling enough to bring in new customers.

  • There are also meaningful changes in the makeup of the prime-age potential homebuyers — who now have more debt than ever, are more likely than before to live with their parents, and are reconsidering the attractiveness of a mortgage.

3. Administration moves to mandate more DNA collection from migrants

A man speaks through the border fence in Tijuana, Mexico. Photo: John Moore/Getty Images

The Trump administration is planning to collect DNA samples from asylum-seekers and other migrants detained by immigration officials and will add the information to a massive FBI database used by law enforcement hunting for criminals, a Justice Department official told AP's Colleen Long.

  • The Justice Department will publish an amended regulation today that would mandate DNA collection for almost all migrants who cross between official entry points and are held even temporarily, according to the official.

Why it matters: The policy would allow the government to amass a trove of biometric data on hundreds of thousands of migrants.

  • That raises major privacy concerns and questions about whether such data should be compelled even when a person is not suspected of a crime other than crossing the border illegally.

4. Pic du jour: U.S. troop withdrawal

Photo: Delil Souleiman/AFP via Getty Images

This caravan of U.S. military vehicles was spotted in Tal Tamr, northern Syria, yesterday after pulling out of their base.

  • U.S. forces withdrew from their largest base in northern Syria yesterday, Agence France-Presse reported.
  • An AFP correspondent saw more than 70 U.S. armored vehicles, escorted by helicopters, drive through Tal Tamr, carrying military equipment.

5. Congress ramps up Boeing scrutiny

A Boeing 737 Max takes off on a test flight in Renton, Wash., in May. Photo: Ted S. Warren/AP

House investigators "are ratcheting up scrutiny of Boeing Co. leaders as new details point to management pressure on engineers and pilots in its commercial-aircraft unit," The Wall Street Journal reports (subscription).

  • The House Transportation Committee has "received details of a three-year-old internal Boeing survey showing roughly one in three employees who responded felt 'potential undue pressure' from managers regarding safety-related approvals by federal regulators across an array of commercial planes."

6. What swing voters think of climate change

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Focus groups in Ohio, Minnesota and Wisconsin suggest that some of America’s swing voters have views on climate change that are in between Democratic presidential candidates, who think it’s a crisis, and President Trump, who dismisses it, writes Axios' Amy Harder in her "Harder Line" column.

  • Why it matters: Voters living in these states have a pivotal role in presidential elections, so it’s worth listening to them.

What they're saying: Of the more than two dozen responses, most (14) chose words that somehow described climate change as a problem, with "concern" being the most common word.

  • Just four people chose words that made it clear they roundly dismissed climate change.
  • Nobody described climate change as an emergency.

Worth noting: These focus groups, conducted by the nonpartisan research firms Engagious and Focus Pointe Global, are a small handful of voters and don’t offer a statistically significant sample like a poll.

7. 📊 Poll finds new three-way race in Iowa

Pete Buttigieg fields questions after appearing onstage with David Axelrod at the University of Chicago on Friday. Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

"It's a new three-way race in Iowa," USA Today's Susan Page writes in the paper's lead story.

  • "Pete Buttigieg, ... who was initially seen as a long-shot presidential contender, has surged within striking distance of former vice president Joe Biden and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren in the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses, a Suffolk University/USA TODAY Poll finds."
  • Why it matters: The standings "reflect significant changes since the Suffolk/USA TODAY poll taken in Iowa at the end of June, when Biden led Warren by double digits and Buttigieg trailed at a distant 6%."

Tale of the tape (telephone poll of 500 likely Democratic caucus-goers ... margin of error, 4.4%):

  • Biden: 18%
  • Warren: 17%
  • Buttigieg: 13%
  • Sanders: 9%
  • Steyer: 3%
  • Other candidates: 11%
  • Undecided: 29%

8. Sneak peek: Pelosi's plan for this week

Screenshot via House Democrats' Truth Exposed campaign

In a challenge to Republicans who often have resisted such measures, Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office says the SHIELD Act ("Stop Hacks and Improve Electronic Data Security"), a package to protect elections from foreign interference, is expected to come to the floor for a vote this week.

  • House Democrats today will release a four-pager making the Ukraine case against Trump, "Truth Exposed: The Shakedown ... The Pressure Campaign ... The CoverUp," plus a video, "Do Us a Favor."


9. First look: Second-chance hiring

As part of a trend of increased corporate activism, JPMorgan Chase today will announce a new public policy agenda that includes an expanded effort to help people with criminal backgrounds re-enter the workforce.

  • JPMorgan Chase Chairman and CEO Jamie Dimon said providing second chances helps businesses "reduce recidivism, hire talented workers, and strengthen the economy."
  • Heather Higginbottom, president of the JPMorgan Chase Policy Center, said the effort will include affordable housing and access to capital.

Dimon, who led the Business Roundtable to a new definition of the purpose of a corporation that goes beyond shareholders, told me in an interview that both the bank and the BRT plan to bolster that message.

  • "We have a whole bunch of stuff that will be coming out of the BRT — what we do for consumers, what we do for employees, what we do for communities, what we do in education, what we do in infrastructure."

See the new Policy Center.

10. 1 food thing

Mi Vegana Madre in Glendale, Ariz., offers vegan specialties like these tacos. Photo: Ross D. Franklin/AP

The vegan Mexican food industry is growing in the U.S., as plant-based Mexican cuisine increasingly grows in areas with large Latino communities, AP's Terry Tang reports from Phoenix.

  • Las Vegas and Austin each have at least a few eateries or food trucks that are exclusively vegan Mexican. Across Southern California, there are a slew of options, including a vegan panaderia selling traditional pastries.
  • Mi Vegana Madre expanded into a brick-and-mortar restaurant in the Phoenix suburb of Glendale last year. It offers vegan takes on carne asada, al pastor and nachos with a cashew cream-based cheese sauce.

😎 Thanks for reading ... Have the best week! (And please tell a friend about AM/PM!)