Jan 12, 2017

Axios AM

By Mike Allen
Mike Allen

Good morning — eight days to President Trump; six days to Axios launch. Thank you for your encouragement and suggestions during this beta week of Axios AM. Lemme know what's on your mind. And please urge your friends, family and colleagues to join the breakfast conversation by hitting this one-click sign-up.

1. The 1 thing

Pause for a second: The past year has been so absurd, so blow-your-mind unpredictable that we are almost numb to tectonic shifts in our politics and behavior.

Think about the half day of madness that started when BuzzFeed posted, in full, an unsubstantiated, one-source memo, funded by partisans, that claimed acts -- too disgusting to print -- by the man a week from the Oval Office:

  • This sets Twitter afire and prompts an all-caps Trump tweet about FAKE NEWS. Then, in a scene unprecedented in U.S. history, the incoming president starts his first press conference in 24 weeks with his incoming White House press secretary unloading on reporters for trying to delegitimize a president before he even takes office.
  • Then, with stage props and clapping staff, the president charges CNN, which DIDN'T post the memo, with purveying "Fake News," prompting CNN correspondent Jim Acosta to shout question after question (while NPR's Mara Liasson, who had been called on, tried to talk) in a manner never seen under the last two presidents.
  • Reporters arrived as early as 7 a.m. to get seats at the 11 o'clock presser. By 9:30, when Maggie Haberman and I got there, it was standing room only. A Russian reporter taped a standup from the seats down front, and a Russian behind me kept hollering at Trump even after the elevator doors had closed behind him.
  • Trump, rhetorically more measured than during his campaign, went on to explain he was turning his business over to his sons, bucking a decades-old tradition of cutting all biz ties.
  • "I hope at the end of eight years[!]," Trump said as his closing line, "I'll come back and say, 'Oh, you did a good job.' Otherwise, if they do a bad job, I'll say, 'You're fired.'"
  • Be smart: The show overshadowed the substance. Trump admitted Russia hacked Dems, announced his V.A. secretary, endorsed repeal-and-replace, and said Supreme Court nominee "probably within two weeks" of inauguration.
​2. The power of Trump's words

At one point the NINE fastest-falling stocks on the S&P 500 were drug companies after he said he wants to "create new bidding procedures for the drug industry because they're getting away with murder."

  • Trump previously moved markets with attacks on auto and defense companies.
  • After he said the government will "save billions of dollars" by forcing drug companies to bid for government business, he added: " And we're going to do that with a lot of other industries."
  • Jon Steinberg, founder and CEO of Cheddar TV, told me that going into the day, he thought the Dow would hit 20,000: "The pharma comments at the beginning of the presser weighed on the index. It still closed up 98 points. You have to imagine that without the pharma comment we would have gotten the 50 more points to break the 20k level."
3. A story that will never go away

Trump's decision to keep his global empire under the full control of his sons promises to spark controversy throughout his presidency. No doubt, he threw up some walls: There will be no foreign deals by his son, an ethics adviser to monitor any fishy deals, and no formal or informal role for DJT. But he's not doing what those before have by fully divesting or simply tossing his assets into a blind trust.

  • The Wall Street Journal has a smart example of the many possible conflicts this will present: "Trump's financial disclosures said he received $1 million to $5 million from his licensing deal with the Trump International Hotel and Tower in Panama. If the U.S. were to get into a dispute with that country during the Trump administration, a desire to maintain this revenue stream could potentially influence Mr. Trump's decision-making, some experts argue."
​4. Dossier backstory

The former British spy behind the Trump dump, Christopher Steele, was hired by Fusion GPS, a Washington firm headed by former WSJ reporter Glenn Simpson, according to an NYT front-pager:

  • "The story began in September 2015, when [an unknown] wealthy Republican donor who strongly opposed Mr. Trump put up the money to hire … Fusion GPS … to compile a dossier about the real estate magnate's past scandals and weaknesses."
  • "For months, Fusion GPS gathered the documents and put together the files from Mr. Trump's past in business and entertainment … After Mr. Trump emerged as the presumptive nominee in the spring, the Republican interest in financing the effort ended. But Democratic supporters of Hillary Clinton were very interested, and Fusion GPS kept doing the same deep dives, but on behalf of new clients."
  • Sound smart in D.C.: Neil King, one of the top journalists at the WSJ and husband of Shailagh Murray, a senior Obama adviser, just took a job with Fusion GPS.
​5. Russia quest goes to Hill

The administration schedules a classified, bipartisan House briefing tomorrow with intel officials on Russian involvement in the election. Briefers at the 9:15 a.m., members-only meeting will be DNI Director Clapper, CIA Director Brennan, FBI Director Comey and NSA Director Rogers.

  • Sure bet: Comey will be asked why he went public about Clinton's emails but not about the Trump document.
  • Trump at presser: "As far as hacking, I think it was Russia. But I think we also get hacked by other countries and other people. … If Putin likes Donald Trump, guess what, folks? That's called an asset, not a liability."
​6. The 1 article to read in full — twice

Peter Thiel takes a victory lap with Maureen Dowd, on the cover of Thursday Styles as "Trump's Tech Pal Explains Himself." His take on Hillary: "If you're too optimistic, it sounds like you're out of touch … Somehow, what was unusual about Trump is, he was very pessimistic but it still had an energizing aspect to it."

  • Thiel, part of Trump's Transition Team Executive Committee, says he has no plans to buy a place in Washington: "One of the things that's striking about talking to people who are politically working in D.C. is, it's so hard to tell what any of them actually do … It's a sort of place where people measure input, not output. You have a 15-minute monologue describing a 15-page résumé, starting in seventh grade."
  • BEST QUOTE: "One of my friends has a theory that the rest of the country tolerates Silicon Valley because people there just don't have that much sex. They're not having that much fun."
  • Fun sidebar with rapid-round "Confirm or Deny" questions … Dowd: "Zuckerberg did not have a great pitch." Thiel: "Confirm. He was 19 years old. He was totally introverted, didn't say much. You desperately need a good pitch when you have a bad company. When you have a great company, you don't need a great pitch."
  • Dowd: "There's no job you would take in the Trump administration." Thiel: "Confirm. I want to stay involved in Silicon Valley and help Mr. Trump as I can without a full-time position."
  • Dowd: "You think the stock market is a giant bubble right now." Thiel: "Confirm."
​7. Tops in tech
  • Apple AirPods have already cornered over 40% of the wireless headphone market, according to Quartz: "The wireless headphone market is starting to look a lot like the early smartphone market."
  • D.C. and L.A. outperformed Silicon Valley in rise of V.C. funding last year, per FT write-up of a report from PWC and CBInsights: "The DC area posted a 26 per cent increase in fundraising totals year on year, buoyed by a $1.2bn funding round for satellite company One Web, while Snapchat … helped [L.A.'s] 'Silicon Beach' achieve a 13 per cent increase."
  • BUT: "Start-ups based in Silicon Valley still receive more venture capital than any other region, with about a quarter of global funding flowing there, almost double that of the next region, New York, and more than the whole of Europe."
  • Top five U.S. regions for venture capital: 1) Silicon Valley 2) N.Y. 3) D.C. 4) New England 5) L.A./Orange County. Top states for venture: 1) California 2) New York 3) Virginia.
​8. Tops in media trends

"Instagram's shameless Snapchat knockoff is doing marvelously well," according to Quartz: Facebook-owned "Instagram announced that Instagram Stories, a feature it launched in August 2016, … has accumulated 150 million daily active users. That's exactly how many users Snapchat had as of June 2016." The power of the Facebook: Instagram Stories took four months to get the same number users that took Snapchat over four years.

​9. Trending in business

Wall Street firms' Q4 reports are expected to show the best year since '09, according to Bloomberg: "The question analysts have for bank executives is whether the fourth quarter heralds a return for bond trading -- traditionally the biggest driver of Wall Street profits -- or a false dawn created by Donald Trump's surprise victory in the U.S. presidential election

  • "The coming year could be the first since 2012 that both trading and dealmaking revenue increases, Barclays Plc analysts led by Jason Goldberg wrote in a note this month."

While nationalism spreads, China goes global: Xi Jinping will be the first Chinese president in history to attend Davos. He will discuss the Chinese plan for "inclusive globalization," despite his government's long history of protectionist policies that protect its exporting dominance. Axios' Christopher Matthews points out:

  • With nationalism is on the rise in the U.S. and Europe, Xi has emerged as one of the few leaders eager promote further global integration — rhetorically, at least.
  • Be smart: For all the chatter about Russia, Trump insiders see conflict with China over currency and trade as the dominant flash point of next year.
​10. 1 fun thing

Taco Bell will go national Jan. 26 with a taco shell made of fried chicken, the Naked Chicken Chalupa. Tested well in Bakersfield and Kansas City!

WHAT'D I MISS? Click here to shoot me your leaks, thoughts and suggestions.

Mike Allen