Jun 13, 2019

Axios AM

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1 big thing: Trump’s threat rollercoaster

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

He's bluffing — 'til he's not, Axios World editor Dave Lawler writes:

  • When President Trump backed off his threats to hit Mexico with crippling tariffs earlier this week, a chorus of commentary said it was all so predictable — but his track record on such threats is anything but.

Between the lines: Trump does frequently back down from threats. But in other cases, he defies expectations by doubling down. Even threats that seem to expire — a national emergency on the border, blanket tariffs on China — can rear their heads once again.

On immigration:

  • Trump did move to end protections for Dreamers, although a court order has kept them in effect.
  • He said he'd declare a national emergency for wall funding — and did.
  • But he hasn’t closed the border, ended birthright citizenship or moved illegal immigrants to sanctuary cities.

On trade:

  • Trump did withdraw from the TPP. Despite threats, he hasn’t pulled out of NAFTA, the KORUS trade deal with South Korea or the World Trade Organization.
  • He slapped steel and aluminum tariffs on close allies, but hasn’t followed through on auto tariff threats.
  • But he's pushed the trade war with China much farther than expected.

Military intervention:

  • U.S. troops are still in both Afghanistan and Syria.
  • After threatening to "totally destroy" North Korea and Kim Jong-un, he "fell in love."

International accords:

  • It looked like Trump had reconsidered walking away from the Iran nuclear deal. Then he did it. He also started the process to leave the Paris climate accord, as promised.
  • NATO is still standing, and Trump hasn’t pulled troops out of South Korea.
  • But Trump did move the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

The bottom line: Trump often vows to do things no other president would consider. But he's followed through on enough of them that ... you never know.

2. The great collision of 2019

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

U.S. politics have teed up twin reckonings — one a sudden threat against the gargantuan power accumulated by Big Tech, and the second a challenge to the decades-long rise of China, Axios Future editor Steve LeVine writes.

  • Why it matters: The two, launched one after the other, are on a collision course, potentially jeopardizing one or both of the risky U.S. attempts to police the market at home while maintaining geopolitical primacy abroad.
  • The catch: If the U.S. is to capture the commanding heights of future, frontier technologies like AI and quantum computing (also the aim of China), then Google, Facebook and rest of the Big Tech companies need to help pave the way.

The bottom line: Allies and companies are having to make a difficult choice between the U.S. and China.

  • And unlike the last Cold War, the answer isn't clear-cut and immediate.
  • So far, Japan and Australia are the only big U.S. allies to agree to ban Huawei.
3. A warning: "New world disorder"

François Delattre, France’s ambassador to the UN, leaves this parting thought in a New York Times op-ed before returning to Paris after almost 20 years as a diplomat in North America:

[T]he world is growing more dangerous and less predictable by the day. ... [T]he tectonic plates of power are shifting under our feet, driven ... by the combined effects of a technology revolution and the rise of China ...
The situation today is objectively dangerous. Each serious international crisis has the potential to spin out of control. That is what we saw happen in Syria and what we need to prevent with Iran and North Korea, and in the South China Sea.
4. Pic du jour
Photo: Brett Coomer/Houston Chronicle via AP

Pierce Bush, grandson of President George H.W. Bush, unveils a stamp issued in his honor in College Station, Texas, on what would have been his 95th birthday.

  • Friends and family recalled the 41st president's prolific letter writing, per AP.

Chase Untermeyer, a longtime friend who was director of presidential personnel in the Bush administration, said:

  • "He never let even a day pass before he took out a card or a piece of stationery and penned his thanks, greetings, regrets, observations, congratulations, consolations, condolences, encouragements, jokes, gentle gibes and much else to whomever he had just seen or just thought about."

Life lesson: Not a bad example to follow.

5. "I think I'd take it"
George Stephanopoulos questions President Trump. Screenshot via ABC News

President Trump told ABC's George Stephanopoulos, during two days of interviews that will air as a prime-time special, that he might not alert the FBI if a foreign government offered damaging info on 2020 rivals.

  • Asked by Stephanopoulos in the Oval Office whether he'd accept such information from China, Russia or other foreigners — or hand it over the FBI — Trump said, "I think maybe you do both."
  • "I think you might want to listen — there's nothing wrong with listening," Trump continued. "If somebody called from a country — Norway: 'We have information on your opponent.' Oh, I think I'd want to hear it. ... I think I'd take it. ... It's called opposition research."

How it's playing ... Lead of CNN.com: "Trump throws open 2020 election to foreign spies."

6. Trump's big Facebook lead worries Dems

L.A. Times front page today: "Trump campaign crushing it on web." Noah Bierman and Evan Halper report:

  • "His campaign is testing everything," said Shomik Dutta, a veteran of Barack Obama’s two campaigns and partner at Higher Ground Labs, an incubator for progressive political tech. "No one on the Democratic side is even coming close yet. It should be gravely concerning."

Flashback ... Axios' Sara Fischer on March 19: Another Trump Facebook election

7. 2020 Dems falling behind with black voters
Expand chart
Data: Hart Research, Brossard Research. ("Not sure" responses not shown.) Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

A new poll of 1,003 black Americans, from the Black Economic Alliance, found that one-quarter to one-third of those surveyed "have reservations" about or are "very uncomfortable" with Cory Booker, Elizabeth Warren, Beto O'Rourke, and Pete Buttigieg as presidential candidates, Axios' Alexi McCammond writes.

  • Between the lines: Things are even more bleak when you look at the percentage of people who don't know who these same candidates are. Nearly half of black Americans surveyed don't know Mayor Pete, and 37% said they don't know Beto.
8. 📚 Data du jour

Michael Wolff's "Siege" sold just 17,756 copies in its first week, according to NPD BookScan figures reported by AP.

  • Wolff's "Fire and Fury" sold more than 25,000 copies its first week, despite a shortage, and nearly 200,000 copies the following week, according to BookScan, which tracks around 85% of physical book sales.

In September, Bob Woodward's "Fear" sold 1.1 million copies in its first week in all formats (hardback, digital and audio).

9. CEOs dig in for long trade war

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

At a Business Roundtable event yesterday, executives of major companies said that the trade conflict with China is already prompting decisions with long-term consequences — like how to shift supply chains, Axios' Courtenay Brown reports.

  • Why it matters: The effects may show up in the economy, as companies rein in plans for spending and hiring.

The backdrop: The trade war is ramping up just as the jolt from tax cuts is fading, and the economic cycle may be nearing an end.

10. 1 🏒 thing
Photo: Michael Dwyer/AP

"The wait is over, the curse lifted. After more than a half-century of futility, the [St. Louis] Blues are Stanley Cup champions by virtue of their 4-1 victory over the Boston Bruins in Game 7." (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

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