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Jul 8, 2019

Axios AM

⚡ Situational awareness: A federal grand jury in New York is investigating top GOP fundraiser Elliott Broidy, examining whether he used his position as vice chair of Trump’s inaugural committee to drum up business deals with foreign leaders. (AP)

🇺🇸 Good Monday morning, and welcome back!

  • Today's Smart Brevity count: 1,412 words ... ~ 5 minutes.
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1 big thing: Why the migrant crisis is happening now

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The border crisis that's shocking so many Americans is being driven by factors that include Central American droughts, the booming U.S. economy, and new technology that help migrants organize, Axios' Stef Kight writes.

  • The Trump administration has tried to use to use overcrowded conditions to scare off migrants, Gil Kerlikowske, who was commissioner of Customs and Border Protection under President Obama, told Axios.
  • "But when you sit down and talk to a lot of these folks," he said, "being detained in the border patrol facility, it’s not exactly a deterrence compared to what they’ve faced."

Here's a breakdown of "push" and "pull" factors — what drives migrants from their home countries, and attracts them to the U.S.:

The pushes:

  • Violence: Homicide rates have fallen slightly in recent years for Guatemala and Honduras, but El Salvador and Honduras maintained the two highest homicide rates in the world in 2016, according to UN data.
  • Poverty: The population in Guatemala and Honduras has boomed, says Randy Capps, director of research at the Migration Policy Institute, but jobs are scarce. More than half of Guatemala lives below the poverty line, according to a CIA report.
  • Drought and starvation: Severe drought devastated crops in Central America last year. Guatemala has one of the highest malnutrition rates in the world.
  • Coffee: A coffee fungus hit Central America hard, particularly Guatemala, taking away jobs.

The pulls:

  • Economy: The U.S. economy is booming and has been for the last couple of years, which is always a draw for immigrants and asylum seekers.
  • Safer, faster journey: The caravans of Central Americans, which drew global attention late last year, fundamentally changed the way migrants travel.
  • Communication technology has made it easier for migrants to organize and warn each other of dangers.
  • Smuggler networks now have competition, and have found safer, faster ways to move people across Mexico by using express bus routes.
  • The asylum system: Court decisions prevent migrant families and kids from being held in federal detention for longer than 20 days, which has led to many families quickly being released into the U.S., DHS officials have told reporters. Knowing it's likely they will be released can convince families to migrate now.
  • Trump threats: "When you say things like, 'We’re going to build a wall,' ... that’s just a starting gun,” said Ben Johnson, executive director of the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

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2. FBI, ICE tap into driver pics

FBI and immigration agents "have turned state driver's license databases into a facial-recognition gold mine, scanning through millions of Americans’ photos without their knowledge or consent," the WashPost's Drew Harwell reports.

  • Why it matters: "Thousands of facial-recognition requests ... and emails, ... obtained through public-records requests by Georgetown Law researchers, ... reveal that federal investigators have turned state departments of motor vehicles databases into ... an unprecedented surveillance infrastructure."
3. Trump turns on Twitter

President Trump, once a big backer of social media companies, has become increasingly critical as 2020 approaches, Axios' Sara Fischer writes.

  • What's new: After fueling allegations that Twitter and other social platforms censor conservatives, Trump is now calling on Congress to pass legislation that would target some of the world's largest social media companies, and has suggested that those companies be sued for illegal activity.
  • Why it matters: This is a departure from Trump's attitude after he was elected. Trump told Axios he would be reluctant to regulate social platforms, because they made it easier for him to reach Americans in an unfiltered way.

Trump told Fox Business' Maria Bartiromo that "you may need legislation in order to create competition" for Twitter.

  • He repeated that in an interview with Fox News' Tucker Carlson, and said Twitter has engaged in "possible illegal" activity.
  • Trump also told Bartiromo that Twitter "should be sued because what's happening with the bias."
  • He also suggested that U.S. regulators should be the ones to sue Google and Facebook, not European regulators.

Between the lines: Despite increasing his Twitter follower count by nearly 50% since he was elected, Trump now says that he sees Twitter as a threat to his ability to communicate.

  • "You know, I have millions and millions of followers but I will tell you, they make it very hard for people to join me in Twitter, and they make it very much harder for me to get out the message," he told Bartiromo.
  • Trump's personal Twitter handle, @realDonaldTrump, now has over 60 million followers.

The big picture: The president has gone from bullying the press to targeting a variety of information gatekeepers, including big tech.

  • The White House will host a Presidential Social Media Summit with "digital leaders" on Thursday. It has quietly invited tech’s top conservative critics in politics and media to attend, according to the WashPost.
  • Last month, the White House launched a tool last month allowing any U.S. citizen to complain of being censored by a social-media platform.
4. Pic du jour
Megan Rapinoe. Photo Francisco Seco/AP

The Fox postgame put it perfectly: strong women who chased their dreams without apology — a collision of sports, politics, fashion, culture.

Megan Rapinoe, the U.S. women's soccer captain renowned for individuality and activism, increased her platform for both after the Americans won the World Cup for the second straight time — beating the Netherlands 2-0 in Lyon, France.

  • AP Global Soccer Writer Rob Harris continues: "The on-field trophy presentation was followed by boos and chants of 'equal pay' — thousands taking up Rapinoe’s campaign for more equitable prize money from the World Cup organizers and compensation from the U.S. federation."
  • "A little public shame never hurt anyone," Rapinoe said with a winners' medal around her neck. "So I am down with it."
Courtesy N.Y. Post
5. Iowa, Nevada to launch caucus voting by phone

Democrats in Iowa and Nevada will be able to vote over the phone instead of showing up at traditional caucus meetings next February, according to state-party plans reported by AP's Michelle Price and Tom Beaumont.

  • The tele-caucus systems, the result of a DNC mandate, are aimed at opening the local-level political gatherings to more people, especially evening shift-workers and people with disabilities.

Why it matters: The changes are expected to boost voter participation, presenting a new opportunity for 2020 candidates.

  • In Iowa, polls show as many as 20% of Democrats will participate virtually.
6. Harris, Castro ride the wave
Photos: Cliff Hawkins/Getty Images; Win McNamee/Getty Images

Lots of Democrats decided to "swipe right" on Kamala Harris and Julián Castro after the debates — signaling in polling and donations that they're interested to learn more about these candidates, Alexi McCammond writes.

  • Why it matters: Now the pressure is on for the two to make a lasting impression, and keep up the momentum until the next debates, on July 30-31.
  • That's especially true for Harris, who has been eating away at Joe Biden's support. Castro was unknown to the masses before the debate.

Harris' strategy, per her campaign, is to keep her in front of new voters and spend money. “We are foot on the gas,” national press secretary Ian Sams texted.

  • Her campaign is investing heavily in Iowa, with 65 staffers on the ground.

Castro plans to unveil at least two new policy proposals before the end of the month, including on climate change and gun violence prevention.

  • Now Castro has media embeds traveling everywhere he goes. Just a few weeks ago, the campaign had to beg for attention.
  • Castro's campaign recently announced "an intimate meet-and-greet" for 100 people at a Texas mall. 350 people showed up.
7. Amy Harder fact-checks herself
Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

In January, Amy Harder laid out nine energy and climate issues to watch.

  • Here’s her rejiggered crystal ball — and her own fact check for how her predictions are playing out at 2019's halfway mark.
8. 🎂 Wall Street Journal celebrates 130
By permission of The Wall Street Journal

The Wall Street Journal celebrates its 130th anniversary today with a 14-page commemorative print section, "A History of the World, As Seen Through the Eyes of The Wall Street Journal," with this intro by Editor in Chief Matt Murray:

The section is ... a prime example of why journalism matters, and also how much fun it can be. Worth noting, too, is how many of the topics that are the subject of lively discussions in our newsroom every day — how to connect with readers, how to make money and finance understandable and relevant, how to tackle complex social issues, how to write with color and liveliness — are not new ...

Here's a taste of the section's flashbacks:

By permission of The Wall Street Journal
9. 🎧 First look

Yahoo News tomorrow launches a podcast by Michael Isikoff, "Conspiracyland" — about Seth Rich, tied to the third anniversary of the DNC staffer’s death.

10. 1 wondrous thing
Stevie Wonder performs in L.A. in November. Photo: Willy Sanjuan/Invision/AP

"Stevie Wonder told thousands of fans watching him perform in London on Saturday night he is due to have a kidney transplant in September," per Reuters.

  • He told the Hyde Park crowd "that he had a donor lined up, and was making the announcement to avoid rumors spreading about his health."

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