Jan 27, 2020

Axios AM

1 big thing: Republicans fear "floodgates" if Bolton testifies
Cover: Simon & Schuster

There may be enough new pressure on Senate Republicans to allow witnesses at President Trump's impeachment trial, after the leak from a forthcoming book by former national security adviser John Bolton that contradicts what the White House has been telling the country.

  • Bolton alleges in his book — "The Room Where It Happened," out March 17 — that Trump explicitly told him "he wanted to continue freezing $391 million in security assistance to Ukraine until officials there helped with investigations into Democrats including the Bidens," the N.Y. Times reported.
  • Trump strongly denied Bolton's claims on Twitter early today: "I NEVER told John Bolton that the aid to Ukraine was tied to investigations into Democrats, including the Bidens. ... If John Bolton said this, it was only to sell a book."

Why it matters, from Axios' Jonathan Swan: This is a dramatic, 11th-hour inflection point for the trial, with an eyewitness rebuttal to Trump's claim that he never tied the hold-up of Ukrainian aid to investigations into Joe Biden.

  • GOP sources say the revelation could be enough to sway the four Republican senators needed for witnesses — especially since Sens. Mitt Romney of Utah and Susan Collins of Maine have already strongly signaled they’d vote for witnesses.

Republican sources tell me that party leaders and the White House will still try to resist witnesses because, as one top aide put it, "there is a sense in the Senate that if one witness is allowed, the floodgates are open."

  • "If [Bolton] says stuff that implicates, say Mick [Mulvaney] or [Mike] Pompeo, then calls for them will intensify," the aide said.

What we can expect Trump's defense lawyers to say as they make their case at the trial, beginning at 1 p.m. today and continuing tomorrow, per Axios' Alayna Treene:

  • They'll say Bolton's account doesn’t change any key facts, and reiterate that the aid, which was only briefly paused, was released without the announcement of any investigations.
  • They'll emphasize that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said there was no pressure, the call record shows no linkage between the two, and Zelensky got his meeting with Trump at the UN.
  • They'll also argue that Trump’s concerns about corruption in Ukraine were well-known: He questioned giving aid to the country for a number of reasons, just as he has done with other countries.

The intrigue: Bolton submitted the book to the White House on Dec. 30 for a standard prepublication security review for classified information.

  • The Times notes: "The submission ... may have given Mr. Trump’s aides and lawyers direct insight into what Mr. Bolton would say if he were called."
  • 🚨 "It also intensified concerns among some of his advisers that they needed to block Mr. Bolton from testifying."

Between the lines: Trump's defense team has the advantage of being able to do triage at the trial for the next two days, while the House managers listen silently.

  • So Dems are making a public case, with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer tweeting: "John Bolton has the evidence."

Read the letter from Bolton's lawyer to the White House.

2. Remembering Kobe Bryant — a transcendent, transformational star
Photo: Lenny Ignelzi/AP

Above, Gianna Bryant sat on the shoulders of her father, Kobe, at a women's soccer match in San Diego in 2014.

  • Kobe Bryant, 41 — an NBA legend who played all 20 of his pro seasons with the L.A. Lakers — and Gianna, 13, were among nine who died in a helicopter crash in dense morning fog, on a steep hillside in Southern California.
  • "Bryant was scheduled to coach ... in a game at his Mamba Sports Academy in Thousand Oaks and was en route there when the helicopter crashed," the L.A. Times reports. "The tournament, called the Mamba Cup, featured boys' and girls' travel teams from fourth through eighth grade."

"This is like our Princess Diana or our JFK," Andre Iguodala of the Memphis Grizzlies, who was close to Kobe, told CNN. "One of those moments where for the rest of your life, you'll know exactly what you were doing or where you were."

Photos: Getty Images, AP

Why Kobe mattered:

  • The NBA "is filled with players who grew up watching Bryant as he won five championships with the Lakers and scored 81 points in a single game. Fueled by a seemingly endless reservoir of self-confidence, Bryant was a mammoth figure almost from the moment he arrived, at age 17." N.Y. Times' Marc Stein
  • "Kobe Bryant was L.A. — our dreams, our sweat and the drive that unites a far-flung city ... A guy who made us believe that with enough work and desire, winning is more than a distant dream." L.A. Times' Steve Lopez
  • "Bryant, who had four daughters with his wife, Vanessa, dedicated himself to boosting women’s sports in recent years, coaching and mentoring basketball players. Gianna, better known as Gigi, was a talented ... player." Philly Inquirer
Kobe Bryant dunks in 2011. Photo: Harry How/Getty Images

The latest: The helicopter carrying Kobe and eight others, which crashed into a rugged hillside outside L.A., was flying in foggy conditions considered dangerous enough that local police agencies grounded their choppers (AP)

A man pays respects at a mural of Kobe Bryant in an alley in downtown L.A. Photo: Matt Hartman/AP
3. Big thaw on climate denial

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The economics, politics and science of climate change are converging and catapulting this problem from a joke among critics to a prominent concern, Axios' Amy Harder writes in her "Harder Line" column.

  • Why it matters: If the world’s political and business leaders are going to seriously move to cut heat-trapping emissions, they first need to pay attention to it.
  • They're starting to, fueled by unrest from the world’s youth, cheaper renewable energy, more bouts of extreme weather and other evidence of global warming itself.

In Washington, congressional Republicans and even President Trump are scrambling to acknowledge the problem after years of denying it — and, in some cases, mocking it outright.

  • In Davos last week, Trump announced the U.S. would support an initiative to plant trees — natural ways to capture carbon dioxide emissions — even as he slammed climate activists as "prophets of doom."
  • For the first time ever, the House GOP leadership is pushing policies to address the problem.
  • Flat-out denialism of humans' role in warming the planet has all but disappeared.

Among corporate executives and financial leaders, climate change is quickly becoming a concrete worry.

  • In addition to climate being the sole official topic in Davos for the first time, pronouncements on the matter have come in the last several weeks from the IMF and most of the world’s central banks, including the Fed.
  • And new goal and commitments keep rolling in from corporate America.

Keep reading.

4. Survivors return to Auschwitz 75 years after liberation

Photo: Czarek Sokolowski/AP

Above, survivors carry a wreath today at the Auschwitz-Birkenau Nazi death camp in Oswiecim, Poland.

  • More than 200 survivors are expected to mark the 75th anniversary of the Soviet army's liberation of the camp, many of them elderly Jews who have traveled far from homes in Israel, the U.S., Australia, Peru, Russia, Slovenia and elsewhere, AP reports.

Many lost parents and grandparents in Auschwitz or other Nazi death camps, but today were being joined in their journey back by children, grandchildren and even great-grandchildren.

5. Xi admits "grave situation"
Expand chart
Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins and CDC. Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

The spread of a deadly new virus is accelerating, Chinese President Xi Jinping warned, telling senior officials that China faces a "grave situation," per the BBC.

  • The death toll rose to 81, with 2,744 cases reported.
  • "[T]he government extended the Lunar New Year holiday and more big businesses shut down or told staff to work from home." (Reuters)

The U.S. has confirmed cases in Washington state, Chicago, Southern California and Arizona, per AP:

  • China’s worst health crisis in years has sparked fear and uncertainty for businesses from North America to Asia that depend on trade in the region.
6. 🇨🇳 Business doesn't see China boom

63% of business economists in a survey out today expect the U.S.-China trade deal will have little to no impact on sales this year, even though President Trump championed it as a "sea change in international trade," Axios' Dion Rabouin reports.

  • Last week, a Reuters poll of 100 economists found "a significant pickup in the U.S. economy was not on the cards" as a result of the "Phase 1" deal.

The National Association for Business Economics survey found economists more bullish about growth over the coming 12 months than they were in October.

7. 🥗 Stat du jour

"Nearly one in four Americans (23%) report eating less meat in the past year than they have previously, with the highest rates of reported meat consumption reduction among women, nonwhites and Democrats." (Gallup)

8. Hillary headlines "Hillary" premiere
Hillary attends the "Hillary" reception at Sundance. Photo: Suzi Pratt/Getty Images

The four-part docuseries "Hillary" (Hulu beginning March 6, from Propagate and director Nanette Burstein) premiered at the Sundance Film Festival to a sold-out screening of 530, including Gloria Steinem and Martha Stewart, an attendee tells us.

  • Spotted on the red carpet with Hillary Clinton were some of her closest aides, including Cheryl Mills, Huma Abedin, Philippe Reines and Nick Merrill — all featured prominently in the documentary.

Not present but appearing throughout the series were President Obama, Paul Begala, Capricia Marshall, Minyon Moore, Lisa Caputo, Mandy Grunwald, Jen Palmieri, Jake Sullivan and Robby Mook.

  • Plus Bill Clinton, who talks about Monica Lewinsky in a deeply personal way never seen before.

See a trailer.

9. 18-year-old wins top Grammys
Billie Eilish accepts the award for record of the year. Photo: Matt Sayles/Invision/AP

18-year-old Billie Eilish "became just the second artist in Grammy history — and the first woman — to take home the Big Four awards: album, record and song of the year plus best new artist" last night, per Billboard.

  • "The first artist to do this was Christopher Cross, 39 years ago."
10. 1 last pic
Photo: Susan Sterner/AP

In 1996, Kobe Bryant, 17, jokes with the media as he holds a Lakers jersey at the Great Western Forum in Inglewood, Calif.

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