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Dec 18, 2019

Axios AM

⚖️ Today is a day we'll always remember — one that will be studied as long as people study politics.

1 big thing: "The cake is baked"
Last night at the Capitol. Photo: Samuel Corum/Getty Images

Ahead of today's historic House vote to impeach Donald John Trump, he dispatched a seething six-page letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi contending that a Democratic "partisan attempted coup" had treated him worse than "those accused in the Salem Witch Trials."

  • Pelosi told reporters at the Capitol that the letter was "really sick."

Why it matters: The bitter exchange is a fitting denouement for the 86-day impeachment inquiry, which changed few minds in the country — and none at the Capitol.

  • The process, which is supposed to be the Constitution's death penalty, deepened a divide that has red and blue America speaking what sound to each other like foreign political languages.

House Democratic leaders told caucus members not to cheer or applaud when today's impeachment vote totals are announced, and Democratic members described the day as sad and solemn, Axios' Alayna Treene reports.

  • One Democratic member from a Trump-won district said the instruction is: "Don’t cheer, keep it solemn."

Centrist Dems dodged reporters in the Capitol halls. But House Democratic leaders told Axios they feel confident and don't expect many defectors.

  • "The sense is that the cake is baked," a source close to President Trump's legal team told Axios' Jonathan Swan. "The only question is if it's one or two Democrats or slightly more who vote against."
  • All but five of the 30 remaining Democrats in Trump-won districts (Rep. Jeff Van Drew of New Jersey is switching to the GOP) said they'll vote in favor of both articles of impeachment.
During a hearing yesterday, House Rules Chairman Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) held up a list of people and organizations who have not complied with the impeachment investigation. Photo: Andrew Harnik/AP

The mood on the Hill shifted this week as the vote neared.

  • Rather than being combative with reporters and each other, members on both sides of the aisle appeared resigned to the fact that the vote's outcome was predetermined, and were going through the motions to make it official.

Impeachment fatigue has been growing, with an incredible change in the audience from the first public hearing to the last.

  • On Day 1, the line of eager people waiting for a chance to sit in on the impeachment proceedings snaked around Longworth House Office Building, and there was an energetic buzz in the air.  
  • But the audience for the last hearing was skimpy, with several open chairs and a sleepy audience.

Read Trump's letter.

2. Counterprogramming impeachment
Photo: Jon Elswick/AP

To counterprogram impeachment coverage in prime time, President Trump and Vice President Pence will appear together this evening at a "Merry Christmas Rally" thrown by Trump's re-election campaign in Battle Creek, Mich.

  • Why it matters, from Axios' Jonathan Swan: Trump's re-election campaign and the RNC have been working together for months to strike back against impeachment and use it to augment fundraising.

The campaign will also run heavy online fundraising based on impeachment — a tactic that has already yielded millions of dollars — and will bolster it with online videos, a senior campaign official told Swan.

  • In a joint effort with the RNC, Trump campaign spokespeople and surrogates "will be fanning out on cable TV, radio and local TV," the official added.

The Trump campaign will push two themes in online videos to counter impeachment, the official said:

  1. That House Democrats have been talking about impeaching Trump since the earliest days of his presidency.
  2. Clips of the same House Democrats talking about the impeachment of Bill Clinton in 1998. The purpose is to brand the Democrats as hypocrites.
3. For history

Photo: Andrew Harnik/AP

The House convenes at 9 a.m. ET, and a final vote on impeachment is expected between 6:30 and 7:30 p.m.

The drama won't be in the outcome. This NewsAlert broke on the AP wire at 5:11 p.m. yesterday:

  • WASHINGTON (AP) - AP count: House has the votes to impeach President Donald Trump, with majority now in favor; vote expected Wednesday.
4. Where America stands
Screenshot via CNN
Screenshot via CNN
5. Two worlds: Impeachment edition

Here's what America was watching last night at 7:08 p.m. ET, on Fox News (left) and MSNBC:

Graphic: Axios Visuals
6. CEOs leaving at record pace
Expand chart
Data: Challenger, Gray & Christmas; Note: Data shows announcements of departures among public and private companies with 10 or more employees that have been in business for at least two years; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Companies saw the highest rate of CEO turnover annually through November since staffing firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas began tracking the data in 2002, reports Axios' Courtenay Brown.

Why it matters: It's a record pace of change for corporate America, with high-profile CEOs exiting because of sagging sales (Under Armour’s Kevin Plank) or scrutiny over executive behavior (WeWork's Adam Neumann).

7. Facebook's bridge to Trump

Thiel attends a meeting at Trump Tower in December 2016. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Facebook's anything-goes political ad policy had a key internal promoter: Peter Thiel, a board member and one of Silicon Valley's most prominent supporters of President Trump, writes Axios' Scott Rosenberg.

  • Facebook critics have argued that the policy, which exempts candidates' ads and speeches from the site's fact-checking policies, skews pro-Trump.

Why it matters: The link, first reported by the Wall Street Journal (subscription), highlights Thiel's role as the key intermediary between Facebook HQ and the White House.

8. 50+ women voting on close-to-home concerns
Expand chart
Data: AARP/Harris Poll. Chart: Axios Visuals

A new AARP survey by the Harris Poll found health care is the top issue driving women 50 and older ahead of next year's elections, Axios' Margaret Talev reports.

  • Why it matters: With Washington focused on impeachment, this group of high-propensity voters have closer-to-home concerns.

Health care was followed by immigration, terrorism/national security, guns and climate change.

  • Retirement, college affordability, the economy, distrust in national leadership and worries about America's standing in the world also drove their concerns.
  • For the age 50+ men surveyed, immigration was a greater concern than health care.

Health care was an even-more pronounced top concern for rural and small-town women.

  • 4 in 10 women said they can't afford to pay for their health care, resulting in consequences such as skipping or rationing treatments and going into debt.
  • 4 in 10 women overall — and about half of black and Hispanic women — said they would switch employers for policies more sympathetic to family caregivers.

Methodology: The Harris Poll survey, conducted online for AARP, covered 1,924 women and 1,227 men ages 50 or older, and wasn't a probability-based sample.

9. Bite of the day
Rick Gates leaves federal court in D.C. yesterday. Photo: Jose Luis Magana/AP

U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson, sentencing former Trump campaign aide Rick Gates, a Mueller cooperating witness, to 45 days in jail — to be served on weekends — for years of financial crimes and deception (via N.Y. Times):

  • "Politics doesn't corrupt people. People corrupt politics."

Why it matters, from AP: Gates is now the fourth Trump associate to receive at least some time behind bars because of the Mueller probe.

10. 1 fun thing: Boras' billions
Scott Boras wears a jacket with his personal logo at the Major League Baseball winter meetings in San Diego last week. Photo: Gregory Bull/AP

Agent Scott Boras expects to top $1.2 billion in contracts this baseball offseason following his nine-figure deals for Stephen Strasburg, Gerrit Cole and Anthony Rendon, AP's Ronald Blum writes.

  • That will lift the career total for baseball's most notorious agent above $9 billion.
  • In an industry where agent commissions typically are 3 to 5%, that adds up.

Scott Boras Corp.'s overhead includes 137 full-time employees, training centers in Florida and California, and staff in Canada, the Dominican Republic, Japan, Mexico, Puerto Rico, South Korea, Taiwan and Venezuela.

  • Among the departments are 35 researchers, 12 people in marketing, four other lawyers and two psychologists.
  • Boras says his development and scouting division has 40 people across amateur leagues, the minors and majors.

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