Aug 29, 2018

Axios AM

☕️ Good Wednesday morning.

Situational awareness: "An apparent Iranian influence operation targeting internet users worldwide is significantly bigger than previously identified, Reuters has found, encompassing a sprawling network of anonymous websites and social media accounts in 11 different languages."

1 big thing ... Scoop: Coming exit for White House lawyer

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Top White House officials and sources close to White House counsel Don McGahn tell Jonathan Swan and me that McGahn will step down this fall — after Brett Kavanaugh is confirmed to the Supreme Court, or after the midterms.

  • That potentially puts a successor in charge of fielding a blizzard of requests or subpoenas for documents and testimony if Democrats win control of the House in the midterms.
  • And if the White House winds up fighting special counsel Robert Mueller, an epic constitutional fight could lie ahead.
  • We're told that Trump has not settled on a successor.
  • But McGahn has told a confidant he would like his successor to be Emmet Flood, a Clinton administration alumnus who joined the White House in May to deal with the Russia probe.
  • Flood also served for two years during George W. Bush’s second term as his top lawyer handling congressional investigators. 

A source familiar with Flood's thinking said: "The reason he can represent both Bill Clinton and Donald Trump is because he thinks these investigators come and basically put a target on their backs, trying to overturn every aspect of their lives searching for a crime."

  • McGahn, whom some Trump allies fear coughed up too much information during his extensive cooperation with Mueller’s team, would leave on a high note, presumably after twin wins on Supreme Court nominees.

Be smart: McGahn has had, at times, a strained relationship with the president.

  • A defender of McGahn's, who has been an uncomfortable bystander while the president has torn shreds off of McGahn, told Axios that McGahn did the best he could under very trying circumstances, and often had to bat back unreasonable and legally problematic requests.

Go deeper.

🍊 2. Orange crush: Establishment fails, diversity grows

Democrat Andrew Gillum (left) and Republican Ron DeSantis. (Sean Zanni/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images and Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)

Last night's primaries set up a Florida governor's race that's "a microcosm of 2018," Axios' Alexi McCammond writes — the far right meets the far left, as the Tampa Bay Times put it.

  • The establishment in both parties had a bad night. (AP)
  • An upset win by a Democrat endorsed by Bernie Sanders, and a decisive win by a Republican who was backed by President Trump over the establishment candidate, sets up one of the fall's top races.
  • The race to replace Republican Rick Scott as governor will be "a clash of ideologies in the nation’s largest swing state," as the Miami Herald says.

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum would be the state's first African-American governor and is the first African-American major-party nominee for the office.

  • Gillum rode "a surge of liberal support from young people and African-Americans" to a three-point victory (34% to 31%). (Tampa Bay Times)
  • The favorite in all the polls was Rep. Gwen Graham, daughter of former Florida governor and senator Bob Graham.

20-point win for Trump: On the R side, Ron DeSantis crushed state Agriculture Commissioner (and former congressman) Adam Putnam, 57% to 37%.

  • "Trump and national politics dominated the first of only two debates between the two." (Orlando Sentinel)

Be smart: The contest is between a candidate endorsed by a socialist and another who has fawned so heavily over Trump that he aired a campaign ad featuring himself reading “The Art of the Deal” as a bedtime story to his baby.

3. Groundhog Day

WashPost lead story: "Trump itching to sack Sessions."

That has been true for at least 15 months, but The Post reports a new wrinkle:

  • "[T]here is growing evidence that Senate Republicans, who have long cautioned Trump against firing Sessions, are now resigned to the prospect that he may do so after the November midterm elections — a sign that one of the last remaining walls of opposition to such a move is crumbling."
Bonus: Cover du jour
Courtesy N.Y. Post

N.Y. Times Quote of the Day ... Rhonda Jefferson, who said Aretha Franklin’s music inspired her to leave an abusive relationship:

  • "I never got to meet her, I never got to tell her that I love her. But I’ll be damned if I ain’t gonna say goodbye to her. She saved my life.”
4. Amazon's aggressive push into entertainment

Rebecca Zisser / Axios

Three reports out yesterday suggest that Amazon is pushing harder to corner the entertainment sector, Axios' Sara Fischer writes:

  1. Amazon is planning an ad-supported Fire TV streaming app, nicknamed "Free Dive," to take on Roku, The Information reports.
  2. It's also talking to Sony and Paramount for streaming rights to add more programing to its Amazon Prime video service, which is different from "Free Dive," Bloomberg reports.
  3. Amazon is also planning its own DVR service to rival TiVo, Bloomberg reports.
5. Pic du jour
Ronaldo Schemdit/AFP/Getty Images

Paper currency with basically zero value: These are the shelves of a supermarket in Caracas, the capital of Venezuela, where scarcity is increasing as the government intervenes in a failed attempt to curb hyperinflation.

6. Stunning stat

251,000 people died from firearm-related injuries worldwide in 2016, with half of those deaths occurring in only six countries — all in the Americas: Brazil, the U.S., Mexico, Colombia, Venezuela, and Guatemala.

  • The study is by Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, an independent global health research organization at the University of Washington.

Brazil was #1 and the U.S. was #2:

  • "In 2016, 64% of global firearm-related deaths were homicides; 27% were suicides, and 9% were accidental injuries."
  • In 2016, "El Salvador saw the highest cumulative firearm-related death rate globally; Singapore ... had the lowest."
7. More than Katrina

Puerto Rico's government raised its official Hurricane Maria death toll to 2,975 — more than Hurricane Katina on the Gulf Coast in 2005, which the N.Y. Times says is thought to have killed from 1,000 to more than 1,800 people.

  • CNN: "The new figure is 46 times larger than the previous toll the Puerto Rican government released in December 2017, when officials said 64 people had died as a result of the storm."
  • Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello said the new death toll is only an approximation, not a concrete list of names.
8. Republicans resist plan to rename Senate building
Senator McCain in Sedona, Ariz., in March of 2000. (David Hume Kennerly/Getty Images)

"A proposal to rename the Senate’s oldest office building [Russell] for John McCain ran into resistance ... from Republican senators reluctant to take away an honor [from] an earlier Senate titan" who was also a segregationist, AP's Matthew Daly reports.

  • "Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, looking to defuse a budding controversy, said he will form a bipartisan panel to solicit ideas on the best way to honor the late Arizona senator."
9. You should be aware

"U.N. human rights experts said ... the governments of Yemen, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia may have been responsible for war crimes since Yemen’s conflict intensified 3½ years ago, including rape, torture, arbitrary detention and use of child soldiers," AP reports from Geneva.

10. 1 📺 thing

"A bad week for Trump means a good week for Rachel Maddow," AP's David Bauder writes:

  • Surfing Cohen-Manafort day, MSNBC's prime-time champ had the top-rated show on cable television last Tuesday, with 3.89 million viewers.
  • "Maddow beat the usual cable ratings leader, Fox News Channel’s Sean Hannity, for the week."
  • Hannity, her 9 p.m. rival, won August overall.

Thanks for reading. Dip into the stream for "The cannibal of Sears" ...