Jun 16, 2020

Axios AM

🎧 The Axios Pro Rata podcast is now Axios Re:Cap — a 10-minute pod, hosted by Dan Primack, that unpacks the day’s biggest stories with a business lens.

  • In the first episode, Jalen Rose, ESPN commentator and former NBA player, digs into his efforts to increase African American voter turnout. Hear it here.
1 big thing: Landmark civil rights ruling may sideline Trump health care rules

 Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The Supreme Court’s historic ruling on LGBTQ nondiscrimination could sideline the Trump administration's new policies on health care and adoption, Axios' Sam Baker and Alayna Treene write.

  • Why it matters: The ruling's ripple effects will be felt immediately, and could ultimately derail regulations the administration had finalized just days ago.

The big picture: Federal civil rights law prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, and the Supreme Court ruled that "sex" includes sexual orientation and gender identity.

  • Monday’s case was specifically about employment, but the same legal interpretation will likely carry over to other areas, most notably health care — and that could cause problems for some of the Trump administration's policies.

What’s next: The court’s ruling doesn't automatically invalidate the health care rules, but would make them much harder to defend in court. And if the administration doesn’t withdraw the rules, those lawsuits are coming.

Federal adoption guidelines could also be affected by the court’s decision.

  • The Trump administration has been working on rules that would make it easier for adoption and foster agencies to refuse to work with same-sex couples. Those rules would also face lawsuits if and when they're finalized.

The bottom line: It may take a while for some of these issues to work their way through the courts. But the Supreme Court's ruling will make many forms of LGBTQ discrimination harder to defend.

For history ...

1 smart thought to share ... An advocate on the front lines of the policy wars texted me:

  • "For so many years, we waited for politicians to have the courage. And once again, the courts have led the way in making the promise of the Constitution a reality."
2. Axios-Ipsos poll: Americans fear a second wave
Data: Ipsos/Axios survey (±3.3% margin of error). Chart: Naema Ahmed/Axios

Eight in 10 Americans worry about a second virus wave, the Axios-Ipsos Coronavirus Index finds, with large majorities saying they'd resume social distancing, dial back shopping and keep kids out of school, Axios White House editor Margaret Talev writes.

  • But getting Americans to swallow a second round of 14-day self-quarantining could be tougher, with one in three of our 1,022 respondents saying they likely won't do it.
  • The biggest factor is partisan identification: 81% of Democrats, but only 49% of Republicans, say they'd self-quarantine if a second wave hits.

Week 13 of our national weekly survey shows a renewed sense of risk following reports of new hospitalizations since states began lifting stay-at-home orders. But quarantine fatigue is still driving people to take their chances.

3. North Korea blows up border office

Smoke rises today in the North Korean border town of Kaesong, seen from Paju, South Korea. Photo: Yonhap via AP

North Korea blew up an inter-Korean liaison office building just north of the heavily armed border with South Korea today, AP reports from Seoul.

  • Why it matters: The dramatic display of anger sharply raises tensions on the Korean Peninsula.

What to watch: Some outside analysts believe the North, after failing to get what it wants in nuclear talks, will turn to provocation to win outside concessions because its economy has likely worsened due to persistent U.S.-led sanctions and the coronavirus pandemic.

4. Cover du jour: "The Power of Black Lives Matter"
Cover: Kadir Nelson for Rolling Stone

Senior writer Jamil Smith writes as part of an "American Uprising" package in the forthcoming issue of Rolling Stone:

  • "The words 'black lives matter,' so courageously put forward by ... activists and carried forward now by legions, must be sustained by the actions and policies of those in powerful positions if they choose to utter them. That goes for NFL commissioners, studio executives, and politicians."

Keep reading.

Photo: Anthony Geathers for Rolling Stone. Used by permission.

Above: Terrence Floyd, brother of George Floyd.

5. Surprise movement on police reform

Protesters, marching from Lafayette Park, block Interstate 395 in Washington yesterday. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Showing how far, how fast the public has moved, President Trump plans to sign a modest executive order on police reform. Senate Republicans tomorrow will unveil a bill limiting the use of chokeholds and funding de-escalation training.

  • Why it matters: Trump's team knows he can't ignore the issue. So he's sending a message that he's willing to work on it and listen to ideas. Senate Rs will take the party's lead, and the legislation will drive GOP efforts.

Republicans are under increasing pressure to deliver tangible change, Axios' Alayna Treene writes.

  • Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), who has taken the lead on drafting the bill, and other members of the Senate GOP task force see the bill as a starting point for negotiations with House Democrats.

The Senate Republican bill would limit the use of chokeholds by restricting access to federal grants and create a national database of officers who use excessive force.

📺 New ... In his first late-night appearance, Scott joins Trevor Noah tonight for a virtual conversation airing in a 45-minute episode of "The Daily Show." (11 p.m. ET/PT on Comedy Central)

6. Zoom walks U.S.-China tightrope

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Zoom sought last week to reassure global users that it would no longer shutter accounts outside of mainland China at Beijing's behest, but its struggle to please two governments with radically different ideologies is only just beginning, writes Axios' Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian, who first broke this story.

Why it matters: U.S. tech companies with a significant presence in China face penalties or even expulsion from the country if they don't abide by Chinese government requests, and severe censure from U.S. civil society and government officials if they do.

  • These opposing pressures are forcing U.S. companies to create two sets of values within the same company to be able to operate in both markets — a phenomenon that may not be sustainable long term.

The question is "how to be be a company that has company values, and then trying to build products that are value agnostic," said Jacob Helberg, a senior advisor at the Stanford University Cyber Policy Center.

7. Obama's warning shot for Trump campaign
Via Twitter

President Obama is making his fundraising debut for his former vice president with an online event June 23, targeting tens of thousands of small-dollar donors, Axios' Hans Nichols reports.

  • Why it matters: The fundraiser is a warning shot for the Trump campaign, and a preview of the one-two punch that Team Biden hopes to deliver leading up to the conventions and beyond.

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8. Jon Meacham's next biography: John Robert Lewis
Cover: Random House

First look ... Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer Jon Meacham’s next book will be "His Truth Is Marching On: John Lewis and the Power of Hope" (out this fall), a portrait of the civil rights hero and longtime congressman.

  • Lewis, 80, serving his 17th term in the House, will write an afterword.

Meacham first met Lewis in 1992, when Meacham was a young reporter for his hometown paper, The Chattanooga Times, Random House says in a forthcoming announcement.

  • "As important to the story of our nation as any of our Founding Fathers," Meacham writes, "Lewis' story is a testament to the unambiguous belief that justice can be served in a fallen world."

From the book's "Author's Note," about a special-election night in 1992, in an Atlanta hotel:

The politically astute maintain their mystique by remaining out of sight ... while the common folk stand outside, waiting.
John Lewis, however, stood among the people. ... He didn’t need to be seen as powerful; his status was secure, his standing unassailable. ... I asked Lewis ... what it was like to have traveled as far as he had — from being beaten for asking for the right to vote to being hailed as a hero of human rights.
"We have come so far," he answered in his deep, slow, preacherly voice. "All of us, all of us in the South, in America. So far. And we have so far to go."

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Editor's note: This item has been updated with the correct title of the book.

9. Sneak peek: Bob Gates book out today

Dateline: Mount Vernon, Wash. Screenshot from NBC's "Meet the Press"

Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates — who played the unusual role of bridging the Bush and Obama administrations, and served eight presidents of both parties — is out today with "Exercise of Power: American Failures, Successes, and a New Path Forward in the Post-Cold War World" (Knopf).

  • Gates argues that the U.S. should have withdrawn from Afghanistan in 2002 ... Cyber has become the most powerful weapon in a nation's arsenal ... and North Korea has no intention of ever giving up its nuclear weapons.

Why "Exercise of Power" matters, from Gates' prologue:

There are many studies and books on how the United States has applied its power since 1993 and should apply it in the future. Few of those authors, however, have actually had power and exercised it; only a handful have been firsthand witnesses to history making, and then nearly always under just one or two presidents.
I witnessed and participated in decision making under more presidents of both parties than any other contemporary senior official.

Read a review.

10. 🎥 What's next for movie theaters

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

The delayed releases of high-profile films that were supposed to kickstart movie theaters' reopening have dealt a new blow to an industry already staring down a paradigm shift in studios' release strategies, writes Axios' Sara Fischer.

  • Christopher Nolan's "Tenet" was moved to July 31, while "Wonder Woman 1984" has been pushed from its original June release date all the way to October.

The big picture: Theaters face an existential threat from on-demand services, as "Trolls World Tour," which hit streaming services in April, netted $100 million in three weeks from North American on-demand sales.

  • Chains remain adamant that releasing Hollywood hits on-demand at the same time that they debut in theaters cannot become the new normal after the pandemic.
  • But their years-long resistance to the idea is facing pressure as movie studios begin to weigh the benefits of showing movies in theaters that can't seat at full capacity due to social-distancing guidelines.

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