Jan 12, 2021

Axios AM

🧤 Hello Tuesday. Today's Smart Brevity™ count: 1,135 words ... minutes.

🚨 America, today: Feds warn of new attack on Capitol ... Facebook cautions employees not to wear company shirts ... Extremists circulate addresses of tech companies ... Dem lawmakers sound alarm insurrection might be inside job ... Feds hunt down 150 suspects ... Gun sales soar ... Swan scoop: Trump falsely blames "Antifa people" for Capitol riot.

1 big thing: How CEOs became 4th branch of government

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

America needs law and order — but not the kind President Trump has in mind. That's the message being sent by a broad coalition of CEOs who are silencing Trump and punishing his acolytes in Congress, Axios' Felix Salmon writes.

  • Why it matters: CEOs managed to act as a faster and more effective check on the power of the president than Congress could. They have money, they have power, and they have more of the public's trust than politicians do. And they're using all of it to try to preserve America's system of governance.

A new political force is emerging — one based on centrist principles of predictability, stability, small-c conservatism and, yes, the rule of law.

  • "You cannot call for violence," Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg said yesterday in an interview with Reuters Next, explaining why she de-platformed Trump. "[T]he risk to our democracy was too big. We felt that we had to take the unprecedented step of an indefinite ban, and I’m glad that we did."

Between the lines: American capitalism is based on a foundation of legal contracts, all of which ultimately rely on the strength and stability of the government.

  • When a sitting president threatens that stability by inciting an insurrectionist mob that storms the legislature, corporate America will do everything in its power to restrain him.

Driving the news: Tech giants including Facebook, Google, Amazon and Twitter have worked in concert to quiet Trump and the far right. Other corporations are pulling political funding from all legislators who supported overturning the result of November's free and fair election.

  • All of this has happened before the House can even schedule an impeachment vote.

The backstory: Axios first told you about CEOs as America's new politicians in 2019, when they increasingly were responding to pressure.

  • Then corporate leaders mobilized last spring on coronavirus response, last summer over racial justice, and now they are joining ranks on climate change.

What's next: After dipping toes in for the past year and a half, CEOs are now all-in.

  • They're in a whole new league of activism — with no going back.

Share this story.

2. Scoop: New U.S. plan to speed vaccine

President-elect Biden gets his second dose of COVID vaccine yesterday in Newark, Del. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

HHS today will recommend opening up the vaccine process to everyone older than 65 — and will also aim to move doses out the door rather than holding back second doses, Axios health care editor Sam Baker writes.

  • President-elect Biden plans that same approach.

Why it matters: The early phases of the vaccination effort were designed to put the highest-risk people at the front of the line, but the pace of inoculations has frustrated experts and everyday Americans.

The Trump administration is making three big changes:

  • Recommending that states open the vaccination process to everyone older than 65 and to adults of all ages who have a pre-existing condition that puts them at greater risk for serious infection.
  • Expanding the venues where people can get vaccinated to include community health centers and more pharmacies.
  • Getting all available doses out the door now. Both of the authorized vaccines require two shots; the government will no longer hold back doses for the second shot, but will instead try to get today’s doses into people’s arms now, trusting that supplies will increase rapidly enough to provide second shots.

The bottom line: These changes reflect a changing consensus about how best to distribute the vaccines — from a strict risk-based prioritization system, to getting as many shots into as many arms as possible, as quickly as possible.

3. House Dems briefed on new plots
National Guard members walk among the Doric columns of the Crypt under the center of the Capitol. Photo: Joshua Roberts/Reuters

On a private call with House Democrats last night, Capitol Police described three terrifying plots that could pose serious threats to lawmakers ahead of next week's inauguration, HuffPost's Matt Fuller reports and Axios has confirmed.

  • The most concerning "would involve insurrectionists forming a perimeter around the Capitol, the White House and the Supreme Court, and then blocking Democrats from entering the Capitol."

⚡ Situational awareness: Two Democratic congresswomen tested positive for COVID.

  • Both — Rep. Pramila Jayapal (Wash.) and Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (N.J.) — think they got the virus while locked down during the siege with maskless Republicans.
  • Jayapal: "[S]everal Republicans not only cruelly refused to wear a mask but mocked colleagues and staff who offered them one."
4. Next big NASA rocket

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

It’s a make-or-break moment for NASA’s next mega-rocket: the Space Launch System, Axios Space author Miriam Kramer writes.

  • Why it matters: The rocket — about 10 years in development and billions of dollars over budget — is expected to launch for the first time this year. Its success is key for NASA’s plans to bring people and payloads to deep space destinations like the Moon.

Keep reading.

5. Right-wing media decoupling

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The right-wing media landscape is beginning to split between entities that want to double down on pro-Trump rhetoric and those that want to stick with the establishment, Axios Media Trends author Sara Fischer writes.

  • Why it matters: The future of the Republican Party, in part, hangs on whether fringe conservative media or traditional conservative commentary will dominate with audiences.

Cumulus Media, home to many right-wing radio personalities, has told hosts to stop suggesting the election was stolen, the WashPost reports.

6. Online far right moves underground
Data: Apptopia. Chart: Axios Visuals

Downloads have surged for messaging apps that are securely encrypted or designed to cater specifically to the ultra-conservative user, Kyle Daly and Sara Fischer write.

  • Why it matters: The online purge of far-right figures and platforms that followed last week's Capitol insurrection looks to be driving radicalized users into darker corners of the internet, which are even harder to monitor.

Keep reading.

7. The science of mob thinking

Illustration: Brendan Lynch (Welcome to Axios!)

The way people determine what's true and what's false, especially online, relies heavily on trusting sources of information over substance, Sara Fischer and Alison Snyder write.

  • Rather than trying to fact-check everything, experts say, people use heuristics — a kind of mental shortcut for fact-checking that can rely on cues like whether the information is coming from people they think they can trust
  • "We think that we are rational creatures who analyze everything in front of us," said Gaurav Suri, an experimental psychologist and computational neuroscientist at San Francisco State University. "The truth is, we hardly do that ever."

Keep reading.

8. 🗞️ Time capsule
Via The Washington Post
Via The New York Times
9. TikTok draws young day traders

Photo: Omar Marques/SOPA Images/Sipa USA via Reuters

During the pandemic, TikTok has become one of the platforms where a new army of social media-enabled day traders gathers to talk about hot stocks, boast of gains and commiserate about losses, The Wall Street Journal reports (subscription).

  • Chinese electric-vehicle maker NIO got the TikTok bump: #nio videos "have accumulated more than 35 million views ... with many young investors encouraging others to buy shares ... or questioning if it is the next Tesla."
10. 🏈 1 smile to go: Unstoppable Tide
Alabama coach Nick Saban is soaked with a Gatorade tide. Photo: Wilfredo Lee/AP

The final game of a college football season in a pandemic — a season that was uncertain to be played in the summer, then filled with disruptions — ended in the most predictable fashion: Alabama (13-0), under coach Nick Saban, is national champion for the sixth time in the past 12 years, AP's Ralph Russo writes.

  • The Crimson Tide routed No. 3 The Ohio State University 52-24, before a pandemic-thin crowd at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens.
  • The band playing Alabama's fight song was a piped-in recording.

🥊 Patriots coach Bill Belichick declined the Medal of Freedom from President Trump, saying he had to be "true to the people, team and country I love." Read his statement.

📬 Thanks for starting your day with us. Please invite your friends to sign up for Axios AM/PM.