Jan 16, 2019

Axios AM

By Mike Allen
Mike Allen

Good Wednesday morning.

1 big thing ... Trump's strategic planning inspiration: Mike Tyson

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

When a frustrated adviser once tried to convince President Trump to consider a strategic plan, the president launched into a story about his friend Mike Tyson, the former world heavyweight boxing champion.

  • "Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth," Trump said, echoing a famous Tyson quote.

Jonathan Swan had asked the adviser whether Trump ever expressed frustration that his West Wing lacked enough of a plan for the crises ahead.

  • "He gets frustrated when there is a plan," the adviser said. "He’s not a guy who likes a plan. ... There’s an animosity towards planning, and there’s a desire to pick fights that have nothing to do with us."

Trump used the Tyson quote as evidence that detailed strategic plans are pointless and said, in the adviser’s recollection, "We’ve just gotta fight every day and that’s how we win."

  • "We can plan all this stuff out but it’ll change," the president continued. "So let’s just not go through the effort."
  • The adviser said that Trump's "main view was that all this stuff wasn’t predictable, ... which is unfortunately not accurate. ... It absolutely is predictable."
  • A second source, a senior administration official, confirmed Trump has used that Tyson quote to make his point about the pointlessness of planning.

A third senior official insisted that the Tyson example is not entirely representative, and said that while Trump doesn’t personally like discussing plans he likes to know there is a plan.

  • Other officials insist he prefers to wing it, keeping loose and flexible and avoiding locking himself into even the vaguest plans.

For Trump’s part, he often claims there is a plan, he just won’t reveal it.

  • During the campaign, he said he had a secret plan to defeat ISIS.
  • Trump tweeted Saturday: "I just watched a Fake reporter from the Amazon Washington Post say the White House is 'chaotic, there does not seem to be a strategy for this Shutdown. There is no plan.' ... I do have a plan on the Shutdown."

Why it matters: Trump's aversion to planning has been evident throughout his administration.

  • You see it now with his handling of the shutdown, which he entered without a clear conception of an exit ramp, according to aides.
2. How the White House is prepping for Dem onslaught

Despite President Trump's lack of personal interest in the planning, the White House Counsel’s Office is now moving fast to prepare for the twin threats of Robert Mueller and the new Democratic House majority, Jonathan Swan reports.

  • These threats dwarf anything that any president has faced since Bill Clinton.
  • There's a surge of internal action after a slow start: Planning for Democratic oversight only began in earnest at the senior level in November.

Much of the mid-level White House staff remains oblivious to what’s going on behind the scenes. But the new White House Counsel, Pat Cipollone, has impressed the officials he's dealt with and Republican legal eminences Swan has spoken to.

  • A senior White House official said Cipollone has added 17 attorneys since coming on board after the midterms.
  • That includes notable talent and experience — especially his deputies: Patrick Philbin, a former Comey staffer, and George W. Bush alumnus Mike Purpura.
  • Cipollone has already met with new House Oversight Chairman Elijah Cummings, Axios has learned. "It was brief; we’re going to meet again this week, or maybe some time next week," Cummings told Axios’ Alayna Treene.
  • A senior White House official confirmed the WashPost report of Cipollone's plan to assert the president’s executive privilege to "prevent President Trump’s confidential discussions with top advisers from being disclosed to House Democratic investigators and revealed in the special counsel’s ... report."

White House lawyer Emmet Flood — who helped Clinton through impeachment proceedings, and faced Democratic investigators when he worked for George W. Bush — has been coaching some White House staff on what to expect and how to prepare, according to sources with direct knowledge.

  • Flood, who has told colleagues he plans to leave the White House when the Mueller probe ends, has briefed staff from legislative affairs, communications, the staff secretary’s office and other parts of the building, on what to expect from, and how to handle, congressional investigators.

While the new counsel has hired experienced lawyers from the George W. Bush era, Flood is the only lawyer on staff who — from his time with Bill Clinton — fully appreciates the scale and intensity of what's about to hit them.

  • The official told Swan there's "aggressive lobbying" to convince Flood to stay on beyond Mueller.
3. Exclusive excerpt: Christie unplugged

Former New Jersey governor Chris Christie settles scores in "Let Me Finish," a memoir out Jan. 29 from Hachette Books, writing that President Trump "trusts people he shouldn’t, including some of the people who are closest to him."

  • Christie asserts that Trump has a "revolving door of deeply flawed individuals — amateurs, grifters, weaklings, convicted and unconvicted felons — who were hustled into jobs they were never suited for, sometimes seemingly without so much as a background check via Google or Wikipedia."

Christie writes:

I did everything I could to make sure my friend Donald reached the White House fully prepared to serve. But a handful of selfish individuals sidetracked our very best efforts. They set loose toxic forces that have made Trump’s presidency far less effective than it would otherwise have been. If this tragedy is ever going to be reversed, it is vital that everyone know exactly how it occurred.
Once Steve Bannon started unburdening himself ... in his Trump Tower office, he couldn’t seem to stop. “The kid’s been taking an ax to your head with the boss ever since I got here,” he blurted out. “It’s been constant. He never stops. Ancient bitterness, I guess.”
In Bannon-speak, the KID is only one person. Not Donald Jr. Not younger son Eric. Not Ivanka or Tiffany. The kid is Jared Kushner, the husband of Ivanka Trump and the son of the real estate developer Charles Kushner, a man I once sent to prison.

Be smart: This would certainly be awkward if Christie were Trump's White House chief of staff — a position he discussed with Trump at the White House just a month ago.

Bonus: Pic du jour
Alex Wong/Getty Images

"Attorney general nominee William P. Barr suggested ... that any report written by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III might not be made public," per the WashPost.

  • "Barr said Trump asked him about Mueller’s integrity. 'I said Bob was a straight shooter and should be dealt with as such.'"
4. Shutdown, Day 26
Jeff Martin/AP

"A day after travelers waited nearly 90 minutes in snail-speed security lines at the world's busiest airport, Atlanta's mayor is concerned about the waits that could result when the city hosts the 2019 Super Bowl," AP's Jeff Martin reports.

  • "The ongoing partial government shutdown is 'uncharted territory' amid planning for one of the world's biggest sporting events, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said."
  • "The expected crush of travelers is significantly more than normal. On a typical day, 60,000 to 80,000 passengers are screened at Atlanta's airport. ... On Feb. 4, the day Bottoms calls 'Mass Exodus Monday,' about 110,000 passengers are expected to be departing ... one day after the Super Bowl."

The state of play: The Washington Post headlines, "The shutdown threatens the promise of government jobs — and a way of life"

P.S. ... "The partial government shutdown is inflicting far greater damage on the United States economy than previously estimated, the White House acknowledged on Tuesday," reports the New York Times.

  • "President Trump’s economists doubled projections of how much economic growth is being lost each week the standoff with Democrats continues."
  • "The analysis, and other projections from outside the White House, suggests that the shutdown has already weighed significantly on growth and could ultimately push the United States economy into a contraction."
5. A turnaround in the migrant child crisis
Expand chart
Data: AP; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

After reaching a record-breaking number of 14,542 migrant children in its custody last month, the Department of Health and Human Services has managed to release more than 3,500 children, according to data collected by the Associated Press from individual HHS migrant child shelters, writes Axios' Stef Kight.

Why it matters: While President Trump keeps the government shut down over his demands for a border wall, one aspect of the humanitarian crisis seems to be coming back under control.

6. Second Brexit referendum looks more likely than ever
The Daily Telegraph
The Guardian
The Times of London

Prime Minister Theresa May’s historic defeat in the House of Commons yesterday has emboldened those in Westminster and around the country who argue a second referendum is needed to decide whether the U.K. goes ahead with Brexit or reverses course, Axios World editor David Lawler writes.

  • A second referendum now looks at least as likely as the other scenarios: a tweaked version of May’s deal, a softer Brexit, a “no deal” exit or a general election.

May argues that reversing course now would betray the will of the people and erode trust in politics for a generation. But some, including European Council President Donald Tusk, argue a second referendum is the only remaining course of action that makes any sense.

  • The catch: Just about every aspect of Brexit is far more complicated than it seems, and that’s also true of a second referendum.
  • The timing: Brexit Day, March 29, is fast approaching. “A fair estimate is that the whole process would take a minimum of 21 weeks, but this would be much shorter than other recent referendums,” the Institute for Government notes.

The bottom line: There have only been three nationwide referendums in U.K. political history. Another referendum on Brexit has never been the likeliest course. But it has also never looked as likely as it does now.

7. 2020 vision

Screenshot: CBS

"Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand entered the growing field of 2020 Democratic presidential contenders, ... telling ... Stephen Colbert that she's launching an exploratory committee," AP's Juana Summers writes:

  • "It's an important first step, and it's one I am taking because I am going to run," the New York senator said on "The Late Show."
  • "She listed a series of issues she'd tackle as president, including better health care for families, stronger public schools and more accessible job training."

"Colbert presented Gillibrand with a basket of campaign gifts, including an ear of yellow corn to wave in Iowa, a piece of granite for New Hampshire and a one-of-a-kind button that reads 'I announced on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert.'"

  • "Gillibrand, 52, ... plans to campaign in Iowa over the weekend."
8. What happens when you cross Pelosi

"Speaker Nancy Pelosi exacted revenge against one of her most outspoken detractors Tuesday night, blocking Rep. Kathleen Rice from landing a seat on the high-profile House Judiciary Committee," Politico's Heather Caygle, Rachael Bade and John Bresnahan report:

  • "Pelosi lobbied for other members to join the panel over Rice, leaving the third-term New York Democrat off a list of her preferred members for the committee during a tense closed-door meeting Tuesday night."
  • "The push by Pelosi was seen as payback by many in the room after Rice was one of the main megaphones behind a campaign to block [her] from becoming speaker again."

"New York members ... were still upset that another member of their delegation, freshman Rep. Anthony Brindisi, was blocked from getting on the Armed Services Committee on Monday night."

  • "Brindisi, one of nearly two dozen freshmen Democrats in districts won by President Donald Trump, was also a Pelosi critic on the campaign trail."
  • He voted for Joe Biden for speaker.
9. The long-term unemployed get relief

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

U.S. companies — desperate for workers despite the threat of recession — are lowering the qualifications they've previously demanded of new employees, writes Axios future editor Steve LeVine.

  • But they are finding that many long-term jobless Americans first require training and help in the very basics — getting to work, doing so on time, and paying for any required uniforms.

What's happening: Cities across the U.S. are stepping in with "life and employment skills" classes and assistance for Americans who have been left out of the economy — former convicts, ex-drug addicts, and others at the fringes.

10. 1 bot thing
William Rucker and his grandson Justice, 4, say hello to a robot named Marty as it cleans the floors at a Giant grocery store in Harrisburg, Pa. (Matt Rourke/AP)

"A wheeled robot named Marty is rolling into nearly 500 grocery stores to alert employees if it encounters spilled granola, squashed tomatoes or a broken jar of mayonnaise," AP's Matt O'Brien reports:

  • "But there could be a human watching from behind its cartoonish googly eyes."
  • "Badger Technologies CEO Tim Rowland says its camera-equipped robots stop after detecting a potential spill. But to make sure, humans working in a control center in the Philippines review the imagery before triggering a cleanup message over the loudspeaker."
  • "25 of the robots are now operating at certain Giant, Martin's and Stop & Shop stores, with 30 more arriving each week."

"The robots move around using laser-based 'lidar' sensors and pause when shoppers and their carts veer into their path."

  • "The googly eyes are fake, but each robot has eight cameras — some directed down at the floor and others that can see shelves. ... [T]he robots can eventually be repurposed to help monitor a store's inventory."
Mike Allen