Jan 28, 2017

Axios AM

By Mike Allen
Mike Allen

Good Saturday morning, and happy Lunar New Year. It's the Year of the Rooster.

1 big thing: Trump snubs Alfalfa

The annual black-tie dinner of the Alfalfa Club is the board meeting of America's establishment: The 750 guests tonight include Warren Buffett, Tim Cook, Jamie Dimon, Bill Gates, Bob Gates, Vernon Jordan, Charlie Rose, Jeb Bush, James Baker and plenty more moguls and grandees. The head table, stretching across a giant ballroom, includes the Cabinet, the congressional leadership and the cream of the diplomatic corps.

President Trump's name is in the program, seated between Michael Bloomberg and Chief Justice Roberts.

But in a shot at the swamp, Trump isn't coming. The White House says he'll be working, and never committed to going. Vice President Pence is still expected and some West Wing officials, including Kellyanne Conway, plan to attend. Chief strategist Steve Bannon was going, but now will be with the president in some briefings.

Others from the Trump inner circle who are expected: Jared Kushner, Reince Priebus, Gary Cohn, Hope Hicks, deputy chief of staff Katie Walsh, CIA Director Mike Pompeo, incoming SecState Rex Tillerson, incoming SecDef James Mattis and incoming Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross. Dina Powell, Trump's senior counselor for economic initiatives, is a "sprout" – an inductee to Alfalfa.

The evening includes funny speeches, with plenty of barbs aimed at the president. During the debate over whether Trump should go, some aides worried that a zinger might rankle the boss. Now they won't have to fret about the piercing comedy stylings of Mayor Bloomberg and Erskine Bowles.

​2. Extreme vetting brings …

… extreme chaos. Last night's executive order suspending refugee entry took immediate effect, with some losing admissibility in middair. Migrants are being detained at U.S. airports and blocked from boarding planes.

Legal challenges are being filed to Trump's order this morning by lawyers at ports of entry, seeking to have clients released. The N.Y. Times says the order "created a legal limbo for individuals on the way to the United States and panic for families who were awaiting their arrival."

  • What the order does, per AFP: "Trump's order suspends entry of all refugees to the United States for 120 days and indefinitely halts the admission of refugees from Syria. It also bans entry into the United States from travelers from seven predominantly Muslim countries -- Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen -- for 90 days.
  • What it means, via The Guardian: "It will amount to a de facto ban on Muslims traveling to the US from parts of the Middle East and north Africa by prioritising refugee claims 'on the basis of religious-based persecution.'"
  • Religious test: Trump told the Christian Broadcasting Network's David Brody that persecuted Christians will be given priority: "If you were a Muslim you could come in, but if you were a Christian, it was almost impossible … I thought it was very, very unfair. So we are going to help them."
  • The reaction of Sen. Chuck Schumer: "Tears are running down the cheeks of the Statue of Liberty tonight."
​3. Truth on tape

At the GOP congressional retreat in Philadelphia, the WashPost was leaked (from an anonymous e-dress) a remarkable recording of a session in which House members and senators express profound doubts about how to get rid of Obamacare, partly because of lack of guidance from Trump: "The thorny issues with which lawmakers grapple on the tape — including who may end up either losing coverage or paying more under a revamped system — highlight the financial and political challenges that flow from upending the current law."

  • Our take: This is not a new story, on the substance, to anyone who talks to Republican off the record. This anguish has been a hallmark of their tortured views for years: While they loathe Obamacare, they fear taking — or to be portrayed as taking — insurance away from the poor or sick. Plus, a replacement is something that sounds awesome in theory but is bedeviling in practice. But the leak tape is juicy.
​4. The Trump Show

A day after Steve Bannon called the press "the opposition party," Trump repeated the phrase in an interview with CBN's David Brody: "I'm not talking about everybody, but a big portion of the media — the dishonesty, total deceit and deception. It makes them certainly partially the opposition party, absolutely. I think they're much more capable than the opposition party. The opposition party is losing badly. Now the media is on the opposition party's side."

Week 1 -- What got done: Axios' Stef Kight has a dizzying list of everything Trump did.

"Washington … is flummoxed" – The Wall Street Journal headlines its front-pager "TRUMP'S WEEK ONE: OFF SCRIPT": "Trump's first week as president suggests he is planning to run his administration much like he ran his company and his election campaign: eager to weigh in on every issue—both matters of state and matters of perceived slight—and willing to make impulsive calls in a way that is at odds with a city that usually tries to run on a script. During one meeting with the congressional leadership, he mused about getting rid of the Electoral College."

​5. Wall could help Trump rally

A business-front-piece in tomorrow's N.Y. Times says companies are salivating about Trump's wall plans: "Among the possible winners are construction firms, high-tech surveillance companies and cement manufacturers including, in what would be an ironic turn, one of Mexico's largest materials companies."

  • The betting: "The stocks of several construction companies and cement and concrete manufacturers jumped after the latest talk from Mr. Trump, as investors bet … also [on a payday] from proposals floated for about $1 trillion in infrastructure projects.
6. Tracking power

Chris Lehane -- veteran of the Clinton White House and Gore campaign, now head of policy for Airbnb -- gets a front-page profile from WashPost's Elizabeth Dwoskin in San Francisco: "As the $30 billion company prepares to go public, Lehane, 49, is the architect of the effort to turn the Airbnb brand — 'vacation rentals for hip millennials' — into a popular movement."

  • The style: "Lehane rarely wears the tailored Italian suits that he was known for during his days as a Washington operative. Now he favors the Silicon Valley uniform of jeans and Patagonia vests. He no longer plants political attacks in the news media … Instead, he opts for TV spots that feature happy middle-class families promoting Airbnb."
  • The strategy: "In New York, he is funding a super PAC to support pro-Airbnb candidates. During his first few weeks on the job, in August 2015, he even reached out to former Army generals to ask for advice on how to wage war on a new scale."Chris Lehane – veteran of the Clinton White House and Gore campaign, and now head of policy for Airbnb – gets a front-page profile from WashPost's Elizabeth Dwoskin in San Francisco: "As the $30 billion company prepares to go public, Lehane, 49, is the architect of the effort to turn the Airbnb brand — 'vacation rentals for hip millennials' — into a popular movement."
​7. Trending in business

The cover of Barron's is "Next Stop: Dow 30,000," per Gene Epstein and Jack Hough: "History suggests that this aging bull market can live on. … In fact, if … Trump can avoid stumbling into a trade war—or a real war—there's no reason the Dow Jones Industrial Average can't exceed 30,000 by the year 2025."

  • The bullish case: "If Trump can succeed in reducing regulation and lowering corporate taxes, stocks should surge further this year. An additional 5% or even 10% gain in 2017 wouldn't be surprising."
  • The bearish case: "Border-adjusted taxes that reward exporters and pinch importers could backfire, as well, raising prices and damping growth. And a rising dollar could cut into U.S. earnings growth."

At the Big 3 automakers' meeting with Trump on Tuesday, Ford CEO Mark Fields told the president that 1 million U.S. jobs are at risk if fuel-economy rules aren't more flexible. (Bloomberg's Jamie Butters)

​8. Tops in tech

Recode's Kara Swisher scoops: "Snap plans to publicly file for its much-anticipated IPO late next week."

Google's Sundar Pichai (in an email to employees) and Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg (guess where) spoke out against Trump's executive order banning people from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the U.S.

  • Why Silicon Valley cares, per Axios' Kim Hart: "Silicon Valley companies rely on temporary visas for high-skilled foreign workers to fill thousands of engineering and technical jobs say they can't fill with domestic talent."

TechCrunch broke the news that Recode senior editor Ina Fried is joining Axios as chief tech correspondent, based in San Francisco. Ina said: "If someone's done a great job explaining something, one of the things that Axios does is highlight that and distill it … I'm a scoop reporter, I want to break stories for sure, and I also want to point people to the best things I'm seeing and reading and add a counterpoint occasionally."

​9. Paths to greatness

We're fascinated by all the little quirks and rituals that have helped make Tom Brady the favored Super Bowl quarterback, six months before he turns 40. Here's a new one: "Last February, Brady had a digital clock installed in his workout room at home that ticks down the days, hours, minutes and seconds to the 2017 Super Bowl, so that he would know 'that he had exactly 11,325 minutes and 14 seconds to go, Brady's father Tom Sr. said."

​10. 1 fun thing

The price of tickets for Super Bowl 51 (in Houston a week from tomorrow) are down 9% from last year, per Stubhub, partly because of a selloff after the Dallas Cowboys were eliminated: "The average price for a ticket at StubHub on Friday was $4,945 with the cheapest ticket going for $2,499 and the most expensive one sold to date going for a whopping $15,432. … Fans in Texas have bought 38 percent of the tickets … []Fans from Georgia (14 percent) and Massachusetts (13 percent) are second and third."

HAPPY WEEKEND, and thank you for reading. Just reply to this email to send me your thoughts and suggestions, links from your favorite reading and listening, and your news tips.

Mike Allen