Jan 5, 2019

Axios AM

By Mike Allen
Mike Allen

Good Saturday morning.

  • Sentence du jour: "The president often used profanity during [yesterday's shutdown] meeting, apologizing to Pelosi at one point for cursing so much." (WashPost)
1 big thing: The force that could end the shutdown

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Asked during a Rose Garden news conference yesterday about a safety net for furloughed federal workers, President Trump replied:

  • "[T]he safety net is going to be having a strong border, because we’re going to be safe. ... I really believe that these people — many of the people that we’re talking about, many of the people you’re discussing — I really believe that they agree with what we’re doing."
  • Of course, a strong border doesn't pay the rent.
  • And Trump's assertion, with no evidence, that many of "these people" agree with him is contradicted by his tweet from Dec. 27: "Do the Dems realize that most of the people not getting paid are Democrats?"

Republican sources tell me that although they don't see an imminent solution to the shutdown — Trump said yesterday it could last for months or even years — the White House is likely to cave when 800,000 federal workers stop getting paid and the hardships become a staple of local news coverage across Trump country.

  • More than 80% of federal employees live and work outside the Washington metro area, per Federal News Network.
  • The N.Y. Times, in a new post called "What the Shutdown Would Look Like
    if It Happened in Other Industries," points out that the 800,000 federal employees furloughed or working without pay constitute "more than double the number of people who work for Target" (350,000+ worldwide).

Most federal workers are paid biweekly; agency payroll schedules vary.

  • But crunch time is coming: "No pay may be provided for excepted [essential] work during the December 23-January 5 [today] pay period until the lapse in appropriations has ended," the federal Office of Personnel Management says on its website.

The stories are starting to dribble out, and soon could be a flood:

  • Just before Trump's news conference, CNN — with a "SHUTDOWN DEBACLE" graphic — did a live interview from Hagerstown, Md., with Lila Johnson, a janitor and federal contract employee who worries: "I won't be able to pay my bills."
  • Nora Brooks, a 61-year-old IRS customer service representative in Philadelphia, loves helping taxpayers get their refunds. Now she's furloughed, "worrying about whether she’ll need to seek a second job," AP reports. "The agency requires pre-approval to avoid conflicts of interest, but there’s no one in the office to sign off."
  • "She stayed up until 3 a.m. Wednesday figuring out which bills needed to be paid and which could wait. ... Brooks’ recent purchases sit in bags, receipts on top, in case she needs money for the electric bill. The thermostat is turned down; she dons a hoodie inside."
  • Chris Erickson, a federal contractor and father of three from Salt Lake City, will likely postpone a 14th wedding anniversary trip with his wife to a cabin.

Be smart: For now, the shutdown is abstract for most Americans. When the coverage starts to focus on hardships in Trump country and the military, the uncrackable code may suddenly be solved.

P.S Asked whether he'd urge creditors to go easy on federal employees, Trump replied: "I think they will. ... I've been a landlord for a long time. ... [T]he people are all good for the money — they work with people. ... I would encourage them to be nice and easy."

  • 🔮 Look for: stories about current and former Trump tenants, and interviews with both landlords and tenants about how common the "nice and easy" approach is.
2. U.S. hiring spree
Expand chart
Data: Bureau of Labor Statistics. Chart: Axios Visuals

"U.S. employers hired the most workers in 10 months in December while boosting wages," Reuters' Lucia Mutikani reports.

  • Why it matters: That points to "sustained strength in the economy that could ease fears of a sharp slowdown in growth."
  • "The unemployment rate increased to 3.9 percent from near a 49-year low of 3.7 percent in November as a strong labor market pulled some 419,000 jobless Americans from the sidelines."

Markets loved it: The Dow closed up 747 points, (3%). The S&P 500 was up 3% and Nasdaq gained 4%.

3. Profane video revives Trump impeachment talk
Rep. Rashida Tlaib (Susan Walsh/AP)

"House Democratic leaders spent two years trying to keep talk of impeachment out of the headlines ... All it took was a freshman lawmaker, a viral video and a curse word ... to put it right back," the WashPost's Elise Viebeck and Mike DeBonis report:

  • "Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) ... Thursday night ... told a room of liberal activists that Congress would 'impeach the motherf---er,' a reference to Trump that earned cheers from her audience."
  • Why it matters: "The unexpected attention on impeachment was a vivid and early example of the divide between the no-holds-barred style of some newly elected Democrats and the more restrained sensibility of party leaders."

The remark "drew almost no support, and plenty of pushback, from members of her party," per AP's Laurie Kellman.

  • "That is not the position of the House Democratic Caucus," Speaker Nancy Pelosi told Joy Reid during an MSNBC town hall.
  • "[G]enerationally, that would not be language I would use. ... But nonetheless, I don’t think we should make a big deal of it."
  • "Impeachment is a very divisive approach to take and we shouldn’t take it for anything other than the facts and the law." (Video)

P.S. Save this tape ... President Trump in the Rose Garden yesterday:

  • "Well, you can’t impeach somebody that’s doing a great job. That’s the way I view it. I’ve probably done more in the first two years than any president, any administration, in the history of our country."
Bonus: Cover du jour
Courtesy N.Y. Post

"Mary Boyce, dean of The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science at Columbia University, told The [N.Y.] Post that the team she and the top engineering professor at Cornell led to examine the MTA’s controversial L train shutdown plan had no experience working on a subway system like New York’s."

  • Gov. Andrew Cuomo spokesman Patrick Muncie: "We’re breaking the box by using the expertise of engineers who don’t usually work on subways in order to improve it."
4. Warren tests 2020 themes in Iowa
Sen. Elizabeth Warren speaks yesterday at McCoy's Bar Patio and Grill in Council Bluffs, Iowa. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

"When Elizabeth Warren walked into the event room next to a bowling alley here Friday evening, she effectively kicked off a presidential primary contest that is already making Democrats' heads spin," the Boston Globe's Jess Bidgood reports from Council Bluffs, Iowa.

  • "With her five-city campaign swing on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, as well as the hiring of four staffers who know the state well, the Massachusetts senator appears to be betting she can plant her flag and shape the race before other top candidates are officially in."
  • "Speaking to a crowd of about 500 that spilled into the parking lot outside, Warren mixed the story of her biography with the economic populism she hopes will capture voters far from her base in Massachusetts."
5. Stat du jour
The share of all-white executive teams [in the top 100 U.S. companies by market cap] dropped from 67 percent in 1995 to 33 percent in 2015.
— Susan E. Reed, a freelance journalist who conducted the study, in WashPost Outlook, "Corporate boards are diversifying. The C-suite isn't"
6. 1 fun thing: L.A.'s newest tourist attraction
Sandra Bullock in "Bird Box" (Merrick Morton/Netflix via AP)

"Fans flock to 'Bird Box' house in [L.A. County] to pose in photos as craze over film soars," the L.A. Times' Hannah Fry reports:

  • "Nestled beneath a large evergreen tree, the Craftsman-style home with a distinguished stone staircase [in Monrovia, 24 miles from downtown L.A.] provided a refuge from an evil force in Netflix’s recent hit thriller 'Bird Box.'"
  • "Fans of the movie, in which characters must avoid coming face-to-face with the ominous entity, have flocked to the house to take pictures of themselves covering their eyes or wearing blindfolds on the steps."

P.S. "[N]early one-third of Netflix's 137 million subscribers watched the movie from Dec. 21 through Dec. 27." (AP)

Mike Allen