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Aug 24, 2018

Axios AM

☕️ Happy Friday!

🇦🇺 Breaking ... Australian prime minister ousted in party coup: "Scott Morrison has become Australia's new prime minister after Malcolm Turnbull was forced out by party rivals in a bruising leadership contest." (BBC)

  • "Turnbull is the fourth Australian PM in a decade to be ousted by colleagues."
1 big thing: Trump’s fantasy legal system
Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

When President Trump told "Fox & Friends" that this "whole thing about flipping ... almost ought to be outlawed," he was continuing a long habit of declaring what he thinks laws and the legal system should be, and ignoring what they are.

  • Why it matters: A White House alumnus told us that the comments about “flipping,” and belittling Attorney General Jeff Sessions, reflect Trump's fundamental belief "in an ethic of loyalty rather than a traditional conception of justice or the rule of law."
  • Rudy Giuliani told the WashPost that Trump "recently asked his lawyers for their advice on the possibility of pardoning Paul Manafort and other aides accused of crimes."

In Trump's fantasy legal system:

  • Trump told Native American leaders during a discussion at the White House about how to exploit energy resources on their land: "The government's different now. ... [W]e're doing things differently here. ... [J]ust do it."
  • During Trump's campaign, he called for a "total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States."
  • Trump has privately said he wants the death penalty for drug dealers, and has spoken admiringly of President Rodrigo Duterte's brutal anti-drug campaign in the Philippines.

Trump tweets reflect his parallel legal universe:

  • March 30, 2017: "The failing @nytimes has disgraced the media world. Gotten me wrong for two solid years. Change libel laws?"
  • June 4, 2018: "The appointment of the Special Counsel is totally UNCONSTITUTIONAL!"
  • Same day: "I have the absolute right to PARDON myself."
  • June 24, 2018: "We cannot allow all of these people to invade our Country. When somebody comes in, we must immediately, with no Judges or Court Cases, bring them back from where they came."

Trump wants a top law enforcement  official — his attorney general — to be far more sympathetic to his views on laws and loyalty, a dynamic that also played out again yesterday:

  • Trump, who tweeted earlier this month that Sessions was "scared stiff and Missing in Action," denigrated the job of attorney general — traditionally independent — in yesterday's Fox interview: "You know the only reason I gave him the job? Because I felt loyalty, he was an original supporter."
  • Sessions, after months of cyberbullying by his boss, issued an astonishing brushback: “While I am attorney general, the actions of the Department of Justice will not be improperly influenced by political considerations."

The consequences: An article at the top of today's WashPost front page — headline: "President undermining legal system, critics fear" — captures the risk:

  • Critics said "the president’s actions demonstrate his shifting, inconsistent principles when it comes to law enforcement and suggest a dangerous lack of understanding about the criminal justice system that is likely to have repercussions well beyond the White House."
  • "In recent months, Republicans have increasingly lost confidence in the Justice Department and the FBI."

Be smart ... A source close to Trump said: "The expectation of unwavering loyalty is a core operating principle for Trump."

  • "Specifically with regard to the Justice Department, he believes two things: 1. These people work for me. Why should I not expect personal loyalty from the people who work for me? And 2. This is how the world works, so everyone should quit pretending otherwise."
2. Where Trump can't pardon
"Closing In," by Barry Blitt/The New Yorker

"The Manhattan district attorney’s office is considering pursuing criminal charges against the Trump Organization and two senior company officials in connection with Michael D. Cohen’s hush money payment to an adult film actress," the N.Y. Times' William Rashbaum reports.

  • Why it matters: Trump "has no power to pardon people and corporate entities convicted of state crimes."

P.S. "The National Enquirer kept a safe containing documents on hush-money payments and other damaging stories it killed as part of its cozy relationship with Donald Trump" leading up to the 2016 election, per AP's Jeff Horwitz.

  • Why it matters: "David Pecker, the chief executive of the company that publishes the National Enquirer, was granted immunity by federal prosecutors for providing information about Michael Cohen and President Trump." (Wall Street Journal)
Courtesy N.Y. Post
3. It's not just the U.S.: Anti-immigration backlash grows in Europe
Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

An immigration backlash is putting pressure on governments around the world — not just in the United States, Axios' Zach Basu writes:

  • The political turmoil is spreading, to the point where there's even a far-right, anti-immigrant party on the rise in Sweden, one of the world’s most progressive countries.
  • The forces of anti-immigration politics are upending liberal governments all over Europe — with voters in 21 of 28 EU countries citing immigration as the top issue facing the continent, according to a Eurobarometer survey.

Reality check: In fact, migrant arrivals in Europe have dropped significantly since the peak of the crisis in 2015.

What's next: Sweden's election on Sept. 9 will be the next sign of how far the political turmoil has spread.

4. Pic du jour
Mario Tama/Getty Images

With Hurricane Lane barreling toward world-famous Waikiki Beach, flood waters run downstream in Hilo on Hawaii's mostly rural Big Island.

5. Sea level rise already causing billions in home value to disappear
Expand chart
First Street Foundation; Chart: Chris Canipe/Axios

Sea level rise may seem like a far-off threat, but real estate markets have already started responding to increased flooding risks by reducing prices of vulnerable homes, Axios science editor Andrew Freedman writes.

  • Housing values in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut dropped $6.7 billion from 2005 to 2017 due to flooding related to sea level rise, according to a new report by the nonprofit First Street Foundation.
  • The study includes 20 million properties in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia.
  • The total loss since 2005 in those eight states has been $14.1 billion.

Hotspots for flooding and lost value include neighborhoods in Charleston, S.C., and Norfolk, Va..

6. Data du jour
Bloomberg Opinion; used by permission. "

"In 1980 only one [New York City] borough, Queens, had a life expectancy equal to that of the U.S. as a whole. Now four of the five have longer life expectancies, with the Bronx on track to pass the national average soon," Justin Fox writes for Bloomberg Opinion.

  • NYU sociologist Patrick Sharkey writes that declining crime has constituted a huge quality-of-life improvement, with “the greatest benefits ... experienced by the most disadvantaged segments of the urban population.”
7. Sign of the times
Courtesy The Economist

Cover story of today's USA Today Money section: "Would Trump impeachment crash stocks?"

  • Spoiler: "Wall Street not so sure."

P.S. Michael Cohen sets up a GoFundMe donation page, "the latest sign that Cohen is broke," per AP.

  • Coming attractions: The Senate Judiciary Committee invited Michael Cohen to testify privately. (N.Y. Times)
8. Tech giants target Iran

"America’s biggest tech companies are zeroing in on Iran, scrubbing their online networks of fake accounts, videos and social-media posts by the rising cyber adversary aimed at spreading misinformation," The Wall Street Journal's Dustin Volz and Robert McMillan write (subscription):

  • "Google ... said it had terminated dozens of YouTube channels found to be pushing misinformation on behalf of Iran’s state broadcasting arm."
  • Why it matters: "Until now, Silicon Valley’s efforts have been focused almost exclusively on Russia."

Be smart: "Iran’s tactics [focus] on advancing its foreign policy interests in ways not as extreme as Russia’s efforts to disrupt U.S. elections."

  • What's next: "Tech companies are also under renewed pressure as a number of top executives are slated to testify before Congress in early September."
9. Sending off the Queen
Top row, from left: Yolanda Adams, Fantasia, Faith Hill and Jennifer Holliday. Bottom row: Jennifer Hudson, Ron Isley, Chaka Khan and Stevie Wonder (AP)

Stevie Wonder, Faith Hill, Jennifer Hudson, Fantasia, Shirley Caesar are among the stars who will perform at Aretha Franklin's funeral, which will be held at Greater Grace Temple in Detroit on Aug. 31 (a week from today) per AP:

  • "Also slated to perform are Ron Isley, Chaka Khan, Yolanda Adams, Jennifer Holliday and Franklin's son, Edward Franklin."
  • "The service will reflect Franklin's strong gospel roots. Among the gospel stars performing will be Marvin Sapp, the Clark Sisters and Vanessa Bell Armstrong."

"A public concert at Chene Park amphitheater is scheduled for Thursday. The Four Tops will be among those performing."

10. 1 food thing
The Impossible Burger, made from plant protein (Ryan Soderlin/Omaha World-Herald via AP)

"Plant-based" is replacing "vegan" and "vegetarian" on some foods, as companies fret that the v-words might have unappetizing or polarizing associations, AP Food Industry Writer Candice Choi reports:

  • "Impossible Foods, which makes a meatless patty that's supposed to taste like meat, even warns restaurants not to use those words when describing its burger on menus."
  • "The trendier sounding 'plant-based' ... may also distance products from a perception of vegan and vegetarian food as bland."

Thanks for reading. See you all day on