Jan 28, 2020

Axios AM

By Mike Allen
Mike Allen

Virginia became the critical 38th state (three-quarters of the states) to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, clearing the way for court fights on adding it to the Constitution because of an expired deadline for ratification, AP reports from Richmond.

  • Both chambers of the state legislature advanced the resolutions on bipartisan votes overseen by women, Senate President Pro Tem Louise Lucas and House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn — the first women to hold those titles.

Today's Smart Brevity™ count: 1,196 words ... 4½ minutes.

1 big thing: Echo chambers get worse

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

New data paints a stark picture of how polarized our media diets have become, based on political affiliation, Axios' Sara Fischer reports.

  • Why it matters: It's not just news — it's culture, too. The trend extends beyond news and information to entertainment and leisure.

A Pew Research Center report finds that when it comes to news, Republicans tend to trust Fox News more than any other source, while Democrats tend to trust a variety of news sources about equally.

  • Dems' top choice is CNN, closely followed by NBC News, ABC News, CBS News and PBS.
  • When compared to a similar poll taken in 2014, the results suggest that "Republicans have grown increasingly alienated from most of the more established sources, while Democrats’ confidence in them remains stable, and in some cases, has strengthened," Pew concluded.

Entertainment has its own echo chambers:

  • A 2019 media study from the Norman Lear Center at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism found Democrats tend to favor cartoon comedy, like "The Simpsons" and "Family Guy."
  • Republicans tend to like shows that put them in a good mood and that have characters they could identify with — "America's Funniest Home Videos" and "Deadliest Catch."

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2. Republicans brace for domino effect
During the trial, senators stash their phones in this cabinet outside an entrance to the Senate floor. Photo: Alayna Treene/Axios

If at least four Senate Republicans vote with Democrats this week to subpoena witnesses in President Trump's impeachment trial, the party fears a potential domino effect, with additional GOP senators — especially those up for re-election in November — falling, Axios' Alayna Treene reports from the Capitol.

  • "You don’t want to be one of the first four. But no one gives a f--- about the fifth vote," a GOP Senate aide told Axios. "Especially for all of the 2020-ers. If it turns into a free vote, why wouldn’t you vote for witnesses?"

What we're hearing: Sources close to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell tell Axios that, if it appears that at least 51 senators will vote for witnesses, McConnell and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer will likely try to hash out an agreement rather than going straight to a vote.

  • If the Senate goes that route, Republicans are likely to demand their own list of witnesses — with Hunter Biden at the top.

This has created a dilemma for some Democrats: They're eager for more information, but recognize that a vote for witnesses could open the door for Republicans to use the impeachment stage to try to kneecap Joe Biden.

  • "They want us to become complicit" in destroying the Bidens, Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) told reporters. "I would strongly argue against becoming co-conspirators."

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3. Trump team shifts from complacency to urgency
Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) answers questions from reporters, including Axios' Alayna Treene (front and center). Photo: Samuel Corum/Getty Images

Just days ago, Republicans were optimistic President Trump’s defense team could cruise to an acquittal by the end of this week. But many believe his lawyers now face a steep climb to stop new witnesses, which would extend the trial, Axios' Alayna Treene reports from the Capitol.

  • The bottom line: Allegations in excerpts of former national security adviser John Bolton's forthcoming book, leaked to the N.Y. Times, have shifted the dynamic of the impeachment trial and threaten to upend Republicans' plans.

What we're hearing: Republican senators and their aides are frustrated about the way the Bolton manuscript leaked.

  • Some privately vented suspicions that White House counsel Pat Cipollone knew its contours before a Saturday assertion by Trump's defense team that "no evidence anywhere" linked Ukraine aid to investigations.
  • A GOP aide told Axios: "My boss was pissed to read about it in the Times."
  • The White House National Security Council said in a statement that Bolton's manuscript had been submitted for pre-publication review but that "no White House personnel outside the NSC have reviewed the manuscript."

The president's defense team hardly acknowledged the Bolton leak yesterday during arguments on the Senate floor.

  • The first mention of Bolton came around 8:30 p.m., when Alan Dershowitz asserted that even if Trump did what Bolton claims, it "would not constitute an impeachable offense."
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🥊 A new independent expenditure group, Fix Our Senate, will launch today to go after Mitch McConnell, Alayna scoops.

4. Auschwitz survivors warn of rising anti-Semitism
Photo: Czarek Sokolowski/AP

Above, dignitaries place candles at a memorial site at the Auschwitz Nazi death camp in Oswiecim, Poland, yesterday on the 75th anniversary of the Soviet army's liberation of the camp. (G0 deeper.)

N.Y. Times Quote of the Day ... Marian Turski, 93, historian and survivor of Auschwitz:

Don’t be indifferent. That’s what I want to say today to my daughter, my grandchildren and their peers, wherever they are. Don’t be indifferent when you witness historical lies.
5. 🕊️ Trump to unveil Mideast peace plan today
In March, President Trump welcomed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the White House. Photo: Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP

Between the lines, from Jonathan Swan: President Trump has spent three years accruing political capital with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

  • Today, with the release of the administration's Middle East peace plan, we will learn how much of it Trump is willing to spend.
  • If he offers the Palestinians their own state, that move alone would meet opposition in conservative Israeli circles.
  • But Trump has done so much for Netanyahu that it’s hard to imagine Netanyahu defying him even if he faces internal pressure.

The Trump administration team, led by Jared Kushner, is releasing this plan after having only very limited contact with the Palestinians.

  • The Trump team is hoping that supportive statements from Arab neighbors, and some European countries typically supportive of the Palestinians, will encourage the Palestinian people to pressure their leaders to go back to the negotiating table.

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6. "The Good-Enough Candidacy"
Photo illustration by Delcan and Co. for The New York Times

Mark Leibovich, writing in the N.Y. Times Magazine about a Suburban ride through Iowa with Joe Biden, says the campaign is all about survival ("He doesn’t want a revolution. He doesn’t have a movement. He could still win this thing"):

  • "I'm still here," Biden said. "And I’m still winning."

Leibo notes: "An aura of fatalism runs through the Biden enterprise."

🌈 Scoop: Mike Bloomberg releases his LGBTQ equality plan today, aligning with other Dems' calls to return to Obama-era protections, Axios' Orion Rummler reports.

7. I kept reading and writing about Wuhan, ...

... epicenter of the coronavirus, but I had no sense of the scale of the city of 11 million (more than New York City, which is 8.5 million for the five boroughs) until I ran across this aerial view:

Photo: Hector Retamal/AFP via Getty Images

😷 Talker: Asian demand for face masks soars on virus fears.

8. "The universe just puts things in your life"
A Manhattan subway sign has been fixed. Photo: Carlo Allegri/Reuters

🗞️ A worthy read ... "The Bridge Between Michael Jordan and LeBron James: Kobe Bryant ... Bryant became the new giant after Jordan and then passed the torch to James, who developed a special bond with the retired Lakers star," by the N.Y. Times' Scott Cacciola (subscription):

At 41, Bryant was just six years older than James — but Bryant came from a different generation, from an era that overlapped with the late stages of Jordan’s career ...
As opponents, Bryant and James were hypercompetitive. But as Bryant neared retirement, their relationship seemed to become more close-knit. Both men had won championships. Both had built legacies that were secure.
Both, like Jordan before them, had signature-sneaker deals with Nike. Both were businessmen with growing off-court ambitions, and both were raising young daughters.
Mike Allen

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