Mar 23, 2019

Axios AM

🏀 Good Saturday morning.

1 big thing: The politics of "collusion delusion"

Attorney General Bill Barr leaves his house in McLean yesterday; Robert Mueller drives himself to work on Thursday. (Getty Images)

With Robert Mueller's delivery of his report, and word from the Justice Department that he would have no more indictments, President Trump's legal team believes the immediate threat to the presidency has passed.

  • "Sounds like it's over for us but of course it’s not over until it’s over," Rudy Giuliani, one of Trump's lawyers, texted me. "Cautious optimism. Still watchful waiting."

No one named "Trump" will be indicted by the special counsel.

  • But remember that, as Axios has outlined, what Mueller revealed in the course of his investigation was "highly damning and highly detailed."
  • And remember that Trump's campaign chairman is behind bars, perhaps for life, and his longtime political fixer is going to prison.
  • And numerous other federal state investigations are picking up steam.

The split-screen America ahead:

  • Fox News' Sean Hannity last night sported a "COLLUSION DELUSION" graphic.
  • Over on MSNBC, Neal K. Katyal, acting solicitor general under President Obama, told Brian Williams: "Today what happened was the end of the beginning."

The bottom line ... There are two forms of "collusion delusion":

  1. The Trump/Fox victory dance because no one new was indicted for collusion or corruption involving Russia — and therefore claims of "witch hunts" and innocence were vindicated. 
  2. The bitter reality that this probe has spawned many others stretching far beyond Russia — so it's delusional to think it simply ends with no collusion. 

Be smart: The new defining question for American politics is: Will Democrats demand the nation stick to historical norms of proper presidential behavior, or will Mueller's revelations be the new standard?

2. The post-Mueller rush to nail Trump
Courtesy NBC News

President Trump's legal and political pursuers will hardly back off based on the Mueller report. Consider what else is ramping up:

  • House Democrats, despite their leaders' quest to slow things down, remain thirsty to begin impeachment proceedings. The House investigations are designed to make a maximum public splash and make the maximum amount of information public.
  • The House Judiciary Committee is prepared to issue subpoenas to enforce its document demands sent to 81 people, agencies and entities tied to the president, including relatives, aides, friends and business partners.
  • Of the 17 Trump and Russia investigations that Garrett M. Graff outlined in WIRED in December, only seven were by Mueller. The rest were by other state and federal entities that continue their work. And that was before Democrats took over the House and got subpoena power.
  • Outside pressure will rise from Tom Steyer and other Democrats with big bank accounts and big platforms.

Be smart: Pelosi's opposition to impeachment + Trump's shield of no collusion indictments = The high likelihood his fate will be settled on Election Day. 

3. For history
Released by Justice Department
Bonus: How it's playing
N.Y. Times
Washington Post
Drudge Report
4. Tweet, quote du jour
"It's so much, it's so gradual, it's so complicated, people don't have a chance to sort of pause, catch their breath and ... survey the whole story that [Mueller has] found ... I think if you took it all in in one day, it would kill you."
— David Kris, former Justice Department national security division chief, to The Washington Post
5. China's beachhead in Europe

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

China is about to land a commercial beachhead in the heart of Europe, when Chinese President Xi Jinping and Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte sign a Belt and Road accord in Rome, Axios Future Editor Steve LeVine writes.

  • Why it matters: For six years, the U.S. and Europe have been fixated on Russia as their gravest geopolitical threat — all while China has been building up its massive global infrastructure project known as One Belt, One Road. Now, Beijing and its commercial aims seem much more of a menace.

The agreement will make Italy the first G7 country to join Belt and Road, a network of highways, ports, railroads and energy pipelines that are quickly setting commercial terms around the world.

  • With the accord, Beijing obtains access to the ports of Trieste and Genoa, which will be the staging point for Chinese products to go by railroad and truck across the continent.
  • The U.S. has responded furiously in recent days, suggesting that Italy is a traitor to the West. Europe's largest countries, too, have expressed alarm.
6. ❄️ 1 fun thing ... Lingo: "snowplow parents"

"Helicopter parenting, the practice of hovering anxiously near one’s children, monitoring their every activity, is so 20th century.

"Some affluent mothers and fathers now are more like snowplows: machines chugging ahead, clearing any obstacles in their child’s path to success," the N.Y. Times' Claire Cain Miller and Jonah Engel Bromwich write.

  • Why it matters: "Taken to its criminal extreme, that means bribing SAT proctors and paying off college coaches to get children in to elite colleges — and then going to great lengths to make sure they never face the humiliation of knowing how they got there."

"How Not to Be a Snowplow Parent," by Rachel Simmons, co-founder of Girls Leadership, for The Times:

  • "[A]sk your child, 'What do you want to do about this?' It’s not unusual for a child to answer, 'I don’t know!' Don’t give up."
  • "Once your child lands on at least one idea — 'I could tell a teacher?' — work on imagining what might happen after that."
  • You "encourage him or her to brainstorm ... A jolt of confidence kicks in."