Oct 14, 2017

Axios AM

Happy Saturday. Get up — it's Game Day! Situational awareness: Bob Mueller moves ever closer to the Oval. A team of his investigators yesterday interviewed former Chief of Staff Reince Priebus for the full day.

Jaw-dropper from NBC News, on Paul Manafort's "$60 million relationship with a Russian oligarch": "Manafort's spokesman, Jason Maloni, ... released a statement ... saying, in part, 'Mr. Manafort is not indebted to former clients today, nor was he at the time he began working for the Trump campaign.' He later revised the statement, removing that sentence entirely."

1 big thing: Twitter's turn in the barrel

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey overnight promised "a more aggressive stance" to deter harassment and protect speech, in an effort to defuse #WomenBoycottTwitter:

  • The backdrop: Actress Rose McGowan said Twitter had temporarily locked her account after posts about Harvey Weinstein's misconduct.
  • That sparked a protest yesterday by "[a]ctivists, celebrities and journalists."
  • Dorsey tweeted at 10:35 p.m. ET: "We see voices being silenced on Twitter every day. We've been working to counteract this for the past 2 years. ... We prioritized this in 2016. We updated our policies and increased the size of our teams. It wasn't enough."
  • "We decided [Friday] to take a more aggressive stance ... New rules around: unwanted sexual advances, non-consensual nudity, hate symbols, violent groups, and tweets that glorifies violence."
  • "These changes will start rolling out in the next few weeks. More to share next week."

And Twitter finally coughs up more for Hill ... "Twitter [this week] handed over to Senate investigators the profile names, or 'handles,' of 201 accounts linked to Russian attempts at influencing the ... election," AP's Ryan Nakashima reports:

  • "The company has stepped up its efforts to cooperate with investigators after it was criticized for not taking congressional probes seriously enough."
  • "The account handles previously hadn't been submitted in part due to legal privacy issues ... Twitter is set to appear Nov. 1 before the Senate intelligence committee at a public hearing [with] Facebook and Google.
  • "Twitter ... suspended 22 accounts that pushed divisive social or political issues during the ... campaign. It found another 179 related or linked accounts and took action against those that violated its spam rules."

Be smart: Twitter is following the pattern Facebook did: grudgingly turning over data, only after lawmakers express impatience. The reticence has raised suspicions in Congress about what else the tech companies know, and increased the appetite for further regulation.

2. Trump plunges into (undoing) policy

Two ways of thinking about this week's big Trump policy moves:

1. Trump going it alone ... Reuters' James Oliphant: "After weeks of seeing his agenda imperiled by Republican divisions and infighting among his aides, Trump has been ... reasserting his campaign priorities and trying to deliver wins for his fervent but frustrated base of supporters."

  • "Trump took steps to dramatically undercut the Obamacare health system, sent notice he was willing to scuttle the nuclear deal with Iran, moved to roll back coal-plant limits, and again demanded a wall."

2. Undoing Obama ... CNN: "The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. The Paris climate accords. The Iran nuclear deal. Transgender people serving in the military. And, now, that most personal of policies for the former president: The Affordable Care Act."

  • N.Y. Times' Peter Baker, in front-page "White House Memo" noting that Obama took the same route when stymied by Congress: "Trump ... is turning to executive power to accomplish what lawmakers will not, in this case erasing the legacy of the Obama years."

Quote of the Week: Life of Ryan ... Speaker Paul Ryan to MSNBC's Kasie Hunt, about Trump attacks on GOP lawmakers: "It's what he does. We've kind of learned to live with it."

P.S. "Global fund championed by Ivanka Trump to help women entrepreneurs begins operations." (ABC)

3. Health move hits Trump country

"President Trump lit a fuse this week that will blow a hole in the Affordable Care Act, but the collateral damage could very well include fellow Republicans," the Boston's Globe's Victoria McGrane writes on p. 1:

  • What happened: "Trump moved Thursday night to eliminate payments to insurance companies that subsidized out-of-pocket medical costs for lower-income people."
  • Why it matters: "Health care specialists predict this $7 billion cut will trigger a destabilizing cascade that will jeopardize health care access for millions of Americans, as insurance companies jack up premiums or pull out of the federal exchanges altogether."
  • "The step also heightens the risk that Republicans will be blamed for higher costs and other market disruptions stemming from Trump's administrative assaults on the health care law."
  • What's next: "Polling indicates that Americans, including many Republicans, will indeed point the finger at the GOP. Sixty percent of Americans say they view Republicans as 'responsible for problems' in the health law moving forward, according to an August survey by the nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation."

How it's playing ... L.A. Times lead story, "Trump move threatens to deliver chaos to health care: Insurance markets are expected to raise premiums sharply after key cost-sharing subsidies are blocked."

Bonus: Who Trump attacks most on Twitter

Methodology: Axios' Stef Kight looked through every Trump tweet since the inauguration, and noted each time he used Twitter exclusively to name-call, shame, insult or mock a specific person, company or industry, as well as each entity being attacked. (Not every negative comment qualified as an "attack.")

4. 90,000 displaced in Wine Country inferno

"Signs of progress cheered battle-weary firefighters Friday after their multi-pronged attack using helicopters, air tankers and hand crews significantly corralled the deadly fires spreading across Northern California," the S.F. Chronicle reported early this morning, ET:

  • "There are now 17 fires burning statewide, including 15 in Northern California, which have blackened 222,000 acres, or about 330 square miles."
  • 5,700 structures (homes and businesses) destroyed.
  • 35 killed.
  • 90,000 people displaced.
5. Afghanistan hostage couple returns

"Former hostage Joshua Boyle says the Haqqani network in Afghanistan killed his infant daughter and raped his American wife during the five years they were held in captivity," AP reports from Toronto:

  • "Boyle gave the statement shortly after landing in Canada late Friday with his wife, Caitlan Coleman [from Stewartstown, Pa.], and three young children."
  • "The couple was rescued [in Pakistan] Wednesday, five years after they had been abducted by the Taliban-linked extremist network while in Afghanistan as part of a backpacking trip."
  • "Coleman was pregnant at the time and had four children in captivity. The birth of the fourth child had not been publicly known before Boyle appeared before journalists at the Toronto airport."
  • "A U.S. national security official ... said the U.S. obtained actionable information, passed it to Pakistani government officials, asked them to interdict and recover the hostages — and they did."
  • Trump tweeted yesterday: "Starting to develop a much better relationship with Pakistan and its leaders. I want to thank them for their cooperation on many fronts."
6. When machines run the markets

"Black Monday 2: The Next Machine-Driven Meltdown ... In the rise of computer-driven trading, some hear echoes of the stock market's 1987 crash," per the Barron's cover story, by Ben Levisohn:

  • The problem: "[M]arket participants have come to rely increasingly on computers to run quantitative, rules-based systems known as algorithms to pick stocks, mitigate risk, place trades, bet on volatility, and much more — and they bear a resemblance to those blamed for Black Monday ... Oct. 19, 1987 — when the Dow Jones Industrial Average shed nearly a quarter of its value in wave after wave of selling."
  • Why it matters: "The proliferation of computer-driven investing has created an illusion that risk can be measured and managed."
  • "But several anomalous episodes in recent years involving sudden, severe, and seemingly inexplicable price swings suggest that the next market selloff could be exacerbated by the fact that machines are at the controls."
7. Nine days that shook Hollywood

"Weinstein Co. is exploring a sale or shutdown and is unlikely to continue as an independent entity, a person close to the company said," per a Wall Street Journal front-pager:

  • "The film and television studio's board of directors and other people close to the company have been approached by possible buyers."
  • "If Weinstein Co. were bought whole and continued to operate, suitors might include hedge funds looking to have a U.S. entertainment asset."
  • "Another possibility is that Weinstein Co. would be shut down and its library of movies and TV shows and other assets sold in pieces."
  • Why it matters: "A sale or shutdown would mark an ignominious end for Weinstein Co. and a shake-up of the independent film scene, where the studio has long been a powerhouse."
8. Sound familiar?

Nationalist wave rolls on ... In election tomorrow, "Austrian voters concerned about immigration, Islam," by AP's George Jahn in Vienna:

  • Why it matters: Tomorrow's election "could turn the country rightward after decades of centrist governance amid voter concerns over immigration and Islam."
  • "The People's Party, which has shifted from centrist to right-wing positions, is leading in the pre-vote polls. Austria's traditionally right-wing, anti-migrant Freedom Party is expected to come in second and the center-left Social Democrats [first or second in elections since World War II] are thought to be trailing in third place."
  • "Favoring the People's and Freedom parties is distrust of migrants and Muslims among many Austrian voters."
  • The backdrop: "The 2015 influx of hundreds of thousands of people fleeing the war in Syria and poverty elsewhere into the EU's prosperous heartland left Austria with nearly 100,000 new and mostly Muslim migrants."
  • "That has fueled fears Austria's traditional Western and Christian culture is in danger. As a result, voters are receptive to the anti-migrant platforms of both the People's Party and the Freedom Party."
  • Go deeper: Q&A on Austria's rightward drift.
9. D.C. lore: "A Sketchy Story"

Here's how the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History describes the napkin above:

In 1974 economist Art Laffer sketched a new direction for the Republican Party on this napkin. Displeased with President Gerald Ford's decision to raise taxes to control inflation, four men got together at a Washington, DC restaurant to think about alternatives.

Laffer was joined by journalist Jude Wanniski and politicians Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld. Laffer argued that lowering taxes would increase economic activity. Wanniski popularized the theory, and politicians Don Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney carried it out. The cloth napkin was taken as a souvenir by Jude Wanniski.

But the N.Y. Times' Binyamin Appelbaum today discloses the disruptive backstory:

[Th]e napkin now celebrated for starting a tax revolt is not, in fact, the original napkin, according to the people who were at the fabled meeting at what was then the Two Continents restaurant in Washington. In an interview last week, Mr. Laffer, 77, said it was most likely a keepsake created a few years later.

Among the clues: It is cloth, while the original napkin was paper. It is dated 9/13/74, while the original meeting took place after the November 1974 midterm elections. And it is inscribed to Donald H. Rumsfeld, then Ford's chief of staff. Mr. Laffer met with Dick Cheney, Mr. Rumsfeld's deputy.

Mr. Laffer said that he had drawn on the Smithsonian's napkin, but that he had most likely done so several years later, at the request of the journalist Jude Wanniski, who wanted a keepsake of the famous moment.

10. 1 teen thing

The cover story of tomorrow's N.Y. Times Magazine, "More American Teenagers Than Ever [Are] Suffering From Severe Anxiety," is this week's most-read story on NYTimes.com, and worthy of your weekend time:

  • What's new: "Over the last decade, anxiety has overtaken depression as the most common reason college students seek counseling services."
  • Key stat: "In 1985, the Higher Education Research Institute at U.C.L.A. began asking incoming college freshmen if they 'felt overwhelmed by all I had to do' during the previous year. In 1985, 18 percent said they did. By 2010, that number had increased to 29 percent. Last year, it surged to 41 percent."
  • Why it matters: "[H]ospital admissions for suicidal teenagers [doubled] over the last 10 years, with the highest rates occurring soon after they return to school each fall ... [H]igh school administrators across the country ... report a glut of anxious, overwhelmed students."
  • Keep reading.

P.S. I like to leave you on an uplifting note, so I also recommend the cover story of the WashPost Magazine, food critic Tom Sietsema's Top 10 D.C. restaurants.

  • Spoiler: The Inn at Little Washington is #1.