Dec 13, 2018

Axios AM

☕️ Good Thursday morning. If you're in D.C., have breakfast with us today and hear Axios' Kim Hart lead a lively conversation about how artificial intelligence will change our jobs and lives. 8 a.m. at 1011 4th St. NW (near L St.). Details here; doors open at 7:30.

LONDON (AP) — Iran-linked hackers have tried to break into private emails of nuclear scientists, U.S. sanctions officials.

1 big thing ... Trump’s rude awakening: Governing in tough times

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

It is a fact President Trump had a consequential first two years: a huge tax cut, two Supreme Court justices and lots of regulations eliminated.

  • But it is also a fact, Jim VandeHei writes, that he did this in the kind of political environment all presidents dream of but few ever got: full control of government in peaceful and prosperous times.

His job now is not just harder — it’s exponentially harder:

  • He shifts from a compliant Republican Congress to a stubbornly divided one.
  • Thanks to his tax cuts, deficits are shooting past $1 trillion annually, providing little wiggle room for new spending programs.
  • The era of cheap money is over. He can kvetch about the Fed all he wants — rates are going up.
  • The market went from roaring to rude, and most think a recession is coming our way.
  • The Mueller investigation is a threat and nuisance.
  • Congressional subpoenas and public hearings are hell.

Trump is already seeing the perils of his new reality:

  • He threatened a government shutdown and promised to take full ownership of it.
  • Democrats are planning a flurry of investigations come January.
  • Even routine tasks (for him) like finding a new chief of staff are harder.

Be smart: Trump faces all these headwinds as he ramps up a re-election campaign for a race in which the path to victory and margin for error are as slim and elusive as any in a lifetime.

2. Pelosi wins week
Andrew Harnik/AP

A day after schooling President Trump on-camera and then returning to the Hill to joke about his manhood, Speaker-designate Nancy Pelosi extinguished a months-long revolt among some younger House Dems by agreeing to term limits for top leaders.

  • "Within moments of announcing she would restrict her time in the job [to no more than four additional years], seven of her critics distributed a statement promising to back" her in the final vote for speaker — a clinch, AP's Alan Fram reports.
  • Why it matters: "It moves a 78-year-old white woman to the cusp of steering next year's diverse crop of House Democrats, with its large number of female, minority and younger members."

Be smart: At almost every point during her time in leadership, going back to her 2001 run for Democratic whip, people have underestimated Nancy Pelosi at their own peril.

  • Members of the House, senators, presidents and world leaders have learned that no one has a better handle on their caucus, or is better at figuring out how to get things done.
  • Pelosi can play the inside-the-Capitol game to get votes, while going deep on issues.
  • Robert Mueller aside, she is officially the president's biggest problem for the next two years.
3. We may hear from Cohen again soon
Michael Cohen listens as he is sentenced in federal court in New York yesterday. (Courtroom sketch by Elizabeth Williams via AP)

More information that Michael Cohen gave prosecutors "could very well end up surfacing in the not-too-distant future," following his sentencing yesterday to three years in prison, the N.Y. Times' William Rashbaum and Ben Weiser report:

  • Mueller’s office said in court papers that Cohen "said an unnamed Russian offered him 'government level' synergy between Russia and Mr. Trump’s campaign in November 2015, months earlier than other approaches detailed in indictments secured by prosecutors."
  • Some of those details "could wind up in one of the criminal cases that are anticipated in the coming months, or in a report Mr. Mueller is expected to produce at the conclusion of his inquiry."

"Blind loyalty" ... A tearful Michael Cohen in court: "I have been living in a personal and mental incarceration ever since the fateful day that I accepted the offer to work for a famous real estate mogul whose business acumen I truly admired. In fact, I now know that there is little to be admired."

  • "[T]ime and time again I felt it was my duty to cover up his dirty deeds."
Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images
4. Breaking: Apple plans wave of new sites

Apple plans to build a new $1 billion campus in Austin, Texas, adding thousands of jobs, while also setting up new large offices in Seattle, San Diego and the Los Angeles area, Axios' Ina Fried reports.

  • The tech giant's third Austin campus will initially be able to support 5,000 additional employees, with the ability to grow to 15,000 workers.
  • It's also expanding operations in Pittsburgh, New York, Boston, Portland, Oregon and Boulder, Colo. and leaving open the possibility of finding other places in the U.S. to open significant sites.

The bottom line: Apple is more than fulfilling its pledge to create jobs and expand domestic operations. The company has added 6,000 U.S. jobs this year and is on track to reach the goal it set out in January of adding 20,000 domestic jobs by 2023.

5. Axios interview: Al Gore abroad
Al Gore gives a lecture at Greenpeace "Green Talks" in Poland yesterday. (Beata Zawrzel/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

KATOWICE, Poland — Al Gore sat down with Axios' Amy Harder for an exclusive interview at the annual United Nations climate confab, which this year is being held in this old coal-mining city.

Gore recently endorsed the Green New Deal, a progressive, broad-brush outline of policies aimed at deeply cutting emissions while boosting employment, and a call for 100% renewable electricity.

  • "If done correctly, it’s part of the answer to the growing inequality," Gore said. "The so-called Green New Deal, whatever the details turn out to be, could create millions of jobs spread around every community in the U.S., and more than that around the world."
  • When Amy said there aren’t many details of the policy, Gore responded: "I don’t know what the details are either.” He said he endorsed it because he thinks “the broad outline is pretty clear: create lots of jobs in pursuing this transition to a sustainable economy."

At the climate conference, concern is growing among some nations and activists about to what extent the Trump administration is lowering ambition for the Paris climate agreement.

  • "I think people are acting in [spite] of President Trump," Gore said. "I think that the midterm elections were numerically the biggest repudiation of a sitting president in the history of U.S. midterm elections. I think that Donald J. Trump has become the global face of climate denial."
6. China prepares to increase access for foreign firms

"Chi­na’s top plan­ning agency [is] draft­ing the re­place­ment for Made in China 2025, Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping’s blue­print to make the coun­try a leader in high-tech," The Wall Street Journal's Lingling Wei in Beijing and Bob Davis in Washington report (subscription):

  • "The re­vised plan — Bei­jing’s lat­est ef­fort to re­solve trade ten­sions with the U.S. — would play down Chi­na’s bid to dom­i­nate man­u­factur­ing and be more open to par­tic­i­pa­tion by for­eign com­pa­nies."
  • Why it matters: "If ap­proved by Mr. Xi, the plan could ... win over some foreign busi­nesses and per­suade some in the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion that Beijing is mak­ing mean­ing­ful changes to re­tool the econ­omy to be more market-driven."
  • "Cur­rent plans ... call for rolling out the new pol­icy early next year, when the U.S. and China are ex­pected to be ac­cel­er­at­ing ne­go­ti­a­tions."

U.S. is skeptical: "Odds are long that Bei­jing’s new in­dus­trial pol­icy will go far enough in ad­dress­ing U.S. com­plaints."

7. Bitcoin "not going to zero"
Courtesy Bloomberg Businessweek

Mike Novogratz, former Goldman Sachs partner and hedge fund manager, made and lost a fortune on Bitcoin. He’s undeterred by its drop, he tells Bloomberg Businessweek's Erik Schatzker, even though we're a long way from the sense of inevitability when Bitcoin was on its way toward $20,000:

That was a drug, and I don’t say that lightly. When you’re in the speculative mania, testosterone is boiling over and there’s a lot of greed. The audience is more sober now — the drug is gone. If anything we’re on the other side, at the stage where there’s the pessimism, and the fear, and the “Oh my God, it’s going to zero.” But it’s not going to zero. We’re at the methadone clinic.
8. Boy Scouts bankruptcy?

"The Boy Scouts of America is considering filing for bankruptcy protection as it faces dwindling membership and escalating legal costs related to lawsuits over how it handled allegations of sex abuse," The Wall Street Journal's Katy Stech Ferek reports (subscription):

  • "Leaders of the Boy Scouts ... have hired law firm Sidley Austin LLP for assistance with a possible chapter 11 bankruptcy filing."

"Other or­ga­ni­za­tions fac­ing sim­i­lar le­gal pres­sure have also turned to bankruptcy pro­tec­tion in re­cent years":

  • "More than 20 Catholic dio­ce­ses and re­li­gious or­ders have filed for chap­ter 11 pro­tec­tion to ne­go­ti­ate pay­outs to thou­sands of vic­tims."
  • "And last week USA Gym­nas­tics ... filed for bank­ruptcy as it faces law­suits from decades­-long sex­ual abuse by the na­tional team’s for­mer doc­tor Larry Nas­sar."
9. I'll read every word
Scott Roth/Invision/AP

"Robert Caro's next book isn't his fifth and final volume on Lyndon Johnson or like anything he has done before," AP's Hillel Italie writes:

  • "'Working: Researching, Interviewing, Writing,' to be published by Alfred A. Knopf in April, combines personal reflections and professional guidance as Caro looks back on his singular history as a writer and reporter."
  • "Caro began writing about Johnson in the mid-1970s and over the decades has built a large and obsessive following, somehow keeping readers in suspense as if he were writing installments for a novel."
  • "The book includes previous lectures and interviews, but also new material."

"In the introduction, the 83-year-old Caro writes that the 240-page 'Working' is not a 'full-length memoir,' which he still hopes to write":

"Here we have ... some scattered, almost random glimpses of a few encounters I've had while doing the research on the [Robert] Moses and [Lyndon] Johnson books, encounters both with documents and with witnesses."

"Caro does have disappointing news for those waiting for the next Johnson book":

  • "The author remains 'several years' from completion."
  • 'The fourth Johnson biography, 'The Passage of Power,' came out in 2012, and ended in the initial months of Johnson's presidency, after the assassination of John F. Kennedy."
  • "The fifth book is expected to cover the rest of his time in the White House, which he left in 1969, and continue to his death four years later."
10. 1 🍕 thing

The pizza pies on display at your typical New York shop are larger than the ones that the shops give customers to take home, N.Y Post columnist John Crudele discovered:

  • "Eventually the pizza guy gave me the larger pie and, guess what, it didn’t fit into the standard-size box."
  • It was a "house pie" — typically sold by the slice, not to go.
  • "Those pizzas you take home are 16 inches in diameter. The ones that are sold by the slice are 20 inches."

The math ... "Let’s say a full pizza costs $15, which we think is the typical price these days. And a slice of pizza goes for $2.50, also standard around Manhattan and in the ’burbs."

  • "There are typically eight pieces to a pie. So a pie that is sold by the slice is worth $20."
  • "The 16-inch pie is just under 201 square inches in size. The 20-inch pie is 314 square inches. So one slice of the eight-piece, 16-inch pie is 25.12 square inches. And a piece of the 20-inch pie is 39.25 square inches."
  • "[Y]ou are paying 7 cents per square inch for the smaller pie and only 6 cents per square inch for the larger one."
  • "So ... it’s typically a better bargain to go into the pizzeria and order eight single slices of pizza rather than a full pie. ... [Y]ou’d be getting 56 percent more pizza for only 33 percent more cost."

Personal safety/karma tip: We don't recommend the above move.