Dec 9, 2018

Axios AM

🌞 I am off to the beach for a few days. Jim VandeHei, our CEO, and Justin Green, of PM fame, have the keys. Send gripes & groans to jim@axios. 

1 big thing: What we now know about Trump-Russia

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

Even before Robert Mueller reports his findings in the Russia probe, what we already now know is highly damning and highly detailed. 

  • We now know several Russian officials reached out to a half dozen Republicans very close to Trump and his campaign, including his eldest son, his closest adviser, his lawyer, and his campaign manager. We now know they took the meetings, often enthusiastically, during and after the campaign. 
  • We now know Russia offered in those chats campaign assistance — “synergy,” they called it. We know now of no one around Trump who alerted the FBI of this effort to subvert our elections. 
  • We now know that 12 Russian intelligence officers were indicted for hacking the DNC and systematically releasing material for the purpose of hurting the Clinton campaign via WikiLeaks.
  • We know that Trump associates Roger Stone and Jerome Corsi attempted — successfully, in some instances — to get in touch with WikiLeaks and that they are under investigation for whether they had advance knowledge about the email dumps.
  • We now know Donald Trump, Jr and others took a meeting with Russians promising dirt on Hillary Clinton. We now know Don, Jr., when approached with the promise of dirt, wrote: “If it’s what you say I love it especially later in the summer.”
  • We now know Trump was negotiating a Trump property in Moscow during the presidential campaign — and hid this from the public and lied about it. We now know Mueller believes, based on his court filing, the “Moscow Project was a lucrative business opportunity that sought, and likely required, the assistance of the Russian government.”
  • We now know every arm of the US intelligence community concluded Russia sought to systematically influence the election outcome. We now know this was an unanimous conclusion, save one dissent: Trump. 
  • We now know Trump officials continued talking with the Russians during the post-election transition. We now know Jared Kushner and Jeff Sessions failed to initially disclose any contacts with Russians on their government forms. 
  • We now know Jared Kushner suggestedsecret backchannel with the Russians, which had it happened, would have been free of US eavesdropping.
  • We now know Trump soured on FBI director James Comey, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and White House counsel Don McGahn in part over their handling of the probe. 
  • We now know Paul Manafort, who ran the Trump campaign in the summer of 2016, lied about his Russia contacts, was indicted, and is going to jail.
  • We now know Flynn lied about his Russian contacts, was fired and pleaded guilty, after agreeing to become a key witness in the investigation.
  • We now know Cohen lied about his Russian contacts, was indicted, and then flipped to become a key witness against Trump. 

Be smart: The scary thing for Trump — Mueller knows a helluva lot more than we now know.

Go deeper: Every big move in the Mueller investigation

2. Half Trump

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

Nick Ayers, who wasn’t born when Trump turned his age of 36, will come to the chief of staff job (if he gets it) with some Trumpian qualities. 

  • Trump announced yesterday that current Chief of Staff John Kelly will be leaving before year’s end.
  • White House officials told us on Saturday that Ayers, currently chief of staff to Vice President Pence, and Trump are still negotiating the job, including whether they can agree on two-year commitment or a short-term, caretaker gig.

The big picture: Ayers is loyal to the family, especially Jared and Ivanka, and they are loyal to him. (White House officials who oppose Ayers are already saying privately that the kids deserve the blame if Ayers flops.)

  • He’s a political junkie, doesn’t have a background in policy.
  • He’s controversial: Some of his colleagues attack him as inexperienced, arrogant, too slick and ambitious. Others find him smart, politically shrewd.
  • He’s rich, but has drawn controversy and scrutiny along the way.

The intrigue, part 1: Among the many takeaways from Kelly not lasting to the 2020 timeline his allies leaked out: Trump's family is going to outlast everyone else who comes through there” — New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman, on Twitter.

The intrigue, part 2: "If Ayers gets the chief job, it’d underscore a new dynamic in this WH. It used to be Bannonites vs. Kushner and allies. Now it’s the family and PenceWorld as a coalition..." — Washington Post reporter Bob Costa, on Twitter.

Be smart: The first two chiefs (Reince Priebus and Kelly) were the victims of leaks, internal ridicule and routine undercutting. Hard to see Ayers or anyone breaking the pattern. 

3. France is burning
Photo: Alain Pitton/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The French "yellow jackets" were at it again Saturday, but with less steam after president Emmanuel Macron suspended a tax on fuel.

By the numbers, per the BBC:

  • "An estimated 125,000 people took part in marches across the country on Saturday, the interior ministry said... More than 1,700 people were arrested..."
  • "Nearly 90,000 officers had been deployed, including 8,000 in Paris where 12 armoured vehicles were also used.
  • "Around 10,000 people demonstrated in the capital, where the scenes were the most destructive. Windows were smashed, cars were burned and shops were looted."

Go deeper: The fallout from France's fuel tax cave

Photo: HUBY / Barcroft Media via Getty Images
Bonus stat: Slackers sometimes prosper
  • "Steve Jobs finished high school with a 2.65 G.P.A."
  • "J.K. Rowling graduated from the University of Exeter with roughly a C average."
  • "Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. got only one A in his four years at Morehouse."

— Adam Grant, NYT

4. The next great tech disruptions

Get ready for selling tiny token shares in your house and for Apple to buy Netflix. Those are two of the predictions by Jessica Lessin and the tech writers at The Information.

  1. “Over the next five years, the massive spending by Netflix, Hulu, Amazon and big entertainment companies will prove unsustainable. Netflix, already borrowing more than $1 billion a year, will get swallowed up, most likely by Apple. Amazon emerges as a streaming version of a cable operator.”
  2. “Crypto will expand beyond currency to other asset classes such as stocks and real estate, pointing to a future in which ownership of everything is recorded on the blockchain.”

Go deeper: See all of their predictions here (paywalled). Subscribe here.

5. The end of Moore's law

Silicon Valley was born in name and need from the most important chemical ingredient (silicon) in the microchip. And no law has ruled the valley more profoundly than Moore’s Law, which holds that you can double the power of microchips — and therefore the processing power of computers — every two years. 

The big picture: The Economist warns the law is dying. 

  • The reason: Chips are so small and so efficient that it costs insane amounts of money to keep the doubling going. 
  • “Chipmakers jokingly refer to Moore’s second law, which says the cost of a chip factory doubles every four years.” 

Go deeper: Read the full piece (subscription required) for how a new chip war has erupted between America and China.

Double bonus: Sunday reading

“We have the cult of Trump on the right, a demigod who, among his worshippers, can do no wrong. And we have the cult of social justice on the left, a religion whose followers show the same zeal as any born-again Evangelical. They are filling the void that Christianity once owned, without any of the wisdom and culture and restraint that Christianity once provided.” 

 Andrew Sullivan

6. 1 dumb thing

President Trump is quite a fan of calling people "dumb as a rock," having used the insult against nearly a dozen people on Twitter over the past few years.

The full list of Trump's targets:

  • Rex Tillerson
  • Mika Brzezinski
  • Don Lemon
  • Glenn Beck
  • Rick Wilson
  • Chris Matthews
  • Bill Maher
  • Jonah Goldberg
  • Bryant Gumbel
  • Jay Leno
  • Toure
  • "Another Bush"

Go deeper: Read the tweets for yourself.