Nov 22, 2019

Axios AM

By Mike Allen
Mike Allen

📉 Breaking: Bridgewater, the world’s biggest hedge fund, has bet more than $1 billion that stock markets around the world will fall by March, the Wall Street Journal scoops.

  • "The wager, assembled over a span of months and executed by a handful of Wall Street firms, including Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Morgan Stanley, would pay off ... if either the S&P 500 or the Euro Stoxx 50 ... declines."

Situational awareness: WeWork said it's laying off 2,400 employees globally.

1 big thing: Impeachment's next phase

Fiona Hill arrives to testify. Photo: Matt McClain/The Washington Post via Getty Images

After seven public hearings with 12 witnesses over five days, the impeachment inquiry moves to a new stage: a public report and a handoff to the House Judiciary Committee, Axios' Alayna Treene reports.

What's next: House Intelligence Committee staffers have been drafting a report that they plan to deliver to Judiciary in the next few weeks that lays out their case for impeachment, sources tell Axios.

  • It will also lay out their recommendations for next steps.
  • Republican staffers are working on a report of their own, GOP aides say, and will likely release it once Democrats publish theirs.

What we're hearing: Some Democrats on the Intelligence Committee want to continue investigating the president — on Ukraine and other matters — even after the inquiry is passed over to Judiciary.

  • "There was more on our plate before Ukraine," Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) told Axios. "The foreign influence into our national elections is real and it's compelling and it's frightening."

Timing: Democratic members on the Intelligence Committee say they expect the impeachment inquiry to be handed off to Judiciary soon after Thanksgiving recess, if not immediately upon Congress' return in December.

  • An aide told Axios that Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler will hold at least one hearing addressing what Democrats see as Trump high crimes.

House Democratic leaders still hope to vote on impeachment by the end of 2019.

  • But they're not laying out a timeline in case key witnesses close to Trump — like former national security advisor John Bolton — decide to comply.
  • Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) said: "The utility of [more hearings] has started to diminish — unless they're extraordinary witnesses with extraordinary testimony."

How it's playing:

The Washington Post

Go deeper: Yesterday's highlights.

2. American stories: Witnesses highlight immigrant pasts
Fiona Hill testifies yesterday in the House Ways and Means Committee hearing room. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

One came from northeast England. Another came from the former Soviet Union. A third was born in Canada to parents who'd fled the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany, AP's Jill Colvin and Colleen Long write.

  • Several witnesses who testified in the House impeachment inquiry this week highlighted their immigrant backgrounds, sharing their families' stories in highly personal opening statements.
  • Why it matters: They drew a connection to how those experiences led them to public service and a strong desire to safeguard U.S. national security. Their stories offered a sharp counterpoint to President Trump, who has often derided immigrants as a threat to American national security.

Fiona Hill, a former National Security Council official who testified yesterday, spoke in what she called a "very distinctive working-class" British accent that would have impeded her professional advancement at home:

  • "I can say with confidence that this country has offered for me opportunities I never would have had in England."

Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, an Army officer who works with the NSC, testified Tuesday that his family fled to the U.S. from the Soviet Union when he was 3.

  • "Dad, I am sitting here today in the U.S. Capitol, talking to our elected professionals. Talking to our elected professionals is proof that you made the right decision 40 years ago. ... Do not worry. I will be fine."

Marie Yovanovitch, the former ambassador to Ukraine, immigrated to the U.S. at age 3 from Canada. Her father fled the Soviets, and her mother had grown up in Nazi Germany.

  • "Their personal histories, my personal history gave me both deep gratitude towards the United States and great empathy for others like the Ukrainian people who want to be free," she told lawmakers last week.

Gordon Sondland, the president's ambassador to the European Union, described at one point how his parents had fled Europe during the Holocaust, first moving to Uruguay and then settling in Seattle:

  • "Like so many immigrants, my family was eager for freedom and hungry for opportunity."
3. 2020 Democrats push past Obama

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Democrats are chasing two contradictory impulses in their quest to defeat President Trump: Tap into the party's affection for President Obama, but move past his policies.

  • Why it matters, via Axios' Alexi McCammond: It's hard to watch a Democratic debate without being reminded of Obama's legacy. But 2020 Democrats' evolution on health care — with a public option now viewed as a moderate policy — shows how far the party has moved since the Obama years.

Keep reading to see how the candidates are pushing past Obama on climate, immigration and foreign policy.

4. Bibi denounces charges as "attempted coup"

Photo: Amir Levy/Getty Images

Benjamin Netanyahu, facing indictments for bribery, fraud and breach of trust, is the first Israeli prime minister to face criminal charges, writes Axios contributor Barak Ravid.

  • The biggest allegation claims he gave Israel's leading telecommunications tycoon regulatory benefits worth hundreds of millions of dollars in return for favorable news coverage.

What he's saying: Netanyahu denounced the charges as an "attempted coup" and a witch hunt, planning a public campaign against the attorney general, state prosecutors and the police.

5. Tech's new labor unrest

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The tech industry was born largely union-free, but there are signs its long management-worker harmony may be ending, Axios managing editor Scott Rosenberg writes from S.F.

Companies big and small have been making headlines more commonly associated with old-line manufacturing firms:

  • Google hired an "anti-union consulting firm" as it navigates a rise in employee activism and protest, the N.Y. Times reported this week.
  • A group of Google employees announced a rally today in San Francisco to protest the company's treatment of several activist workers.
  • A union drive among employees at Kickstarter, a crowdsourcing platform, has faced opposition from management.

Several factors are opening big cracks:

  1. Startups find it easier to make the unity case. But mature public companies with tens of thousands of employees and vast profits can't count on stock options to motivate workers.
  2. At the biggest companies, a two-caste system has evolved, with full-time employees enjoying lavish benefits while large armies of contractors get a much less generous deal.
  3. The rise of gig economy platforms like Uber has given armies of workers freedom and flexibility but also stripped them of the rights and benefits employees have long enjoyed.

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6. Big retailers are pushing tariff costs on to smaller merchants

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Big retailers like Bed Bath and Beyond, Target, and TJX Brands are refusing to accept tariff price increases from their brand suppliers, telling the companies they will have to either eat the tariff costs or find another buyer, Axios' Dion Rabouin and Erica Pandey write.

  • Why it matters: This forces the costs of President Trump's trade war with China down to smaller businesses that can hardly afford them, while the big companies keep the impact of tariffs at bay.

The bottom line: The hard line by big players could be enough to shutter smaller retailers. Without tariff relief or the ability to pass on 10-25% price increases, some small businesses say they will likely have to close within a year or so.

7. Big Tech curbs targeted political ads

Facebook "is discussing increasing the minimum number of people who can be targeted in political ads on its platform from 100 to a few thousand," writes the Wall Street Journal (subscription).

  • Why it matters: Big Tech is attempting "to make it less easy for advertisers to microtarget, which has been criticized as enabling political actors to single out groups for misleading or false ads that aren’t seen by the broader public."

The big picture: Google announced this week that it would no longer allow political ad targeting that uses information inferred from users' search histories, while Twitter said last month that it would ban most political ads.

Go deeper: Big Tech rivals distance themselves from Facebook on political ads.

8. 1 truck thing: "Cyberpunk" styling
Photo: Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images

At the L.A. Auto Show, Tesla CEO Elon Musk unveiled the "cybertruck," an electric pickup truck that will cost $39,900+ and will be in production in 2021.

Mike Allen

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