Sep 3, 2019

Axios AM

By Mike Allen
Mike Allen

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  • Today's Smart Brevity count: 1,110 words ... 4 minutes.
1 big thing ... Scoop: Trump allies raise money to target reporters
Photo: Tom Brenner/Getty Images

President Trump's political allies are trying to raise at least $2 million to investigate reporters and editors of The New York Times, The Washington Post and other outlets, according to a three-page fundraising pitch reviewed by Axios. 

  • Why it matters: Trump’s war on the media is expanding. This group will target reporters and editors, while other GOP 2020 entities go after the social media platforms, alleging bias, officials tell us.
  • The group claims it will slip damaging information about reporters and editors to "friendly media outlets," such as Breitbart, and traditional media, if possible.
  • People involved in raising the funds include GOP consultant Arthur Schwartz and the "loose network" that the N.Y. Times reported last week is targeting journalists. The operations are to be run by undisclosed others.
  • The prospectus for the new project says it's "targeting the people producing the news."

The irony: The New York Times exposed an extremely improvisational effort that had outed a Times editor for past anti-Semitic tweets. This new group is now using the exposure to try to formalize and fund the operation.

  • Organizers joke that their slogan should be: "Brought to you by The New York Times."

Under "Primary Targets," the pitch lists:

  • "CNN, MSNBC, all broadcast networks, NY Times, Washington Post, BuzzFeed, Huffington Post, and all others that routinely incorporate bias and misinformation in to their coverage. We will also track the reporters and editors of these organizations."

This isn't an entirely new concept. The liberal group Media Matters monitors journalists and publications, and goes public with complaints of bias. But being this blatant and specific about trying to discredit individual reporters is new. 

2. Catastrophe in Bahamas: Up 13,000 houses hit
Graphic via @NOAASatellites

Hurricane Dorian is stationary — just sitting over the Bahamas, prolonging the damage and terror. "You could out-walk it," CNN pointed out.

  • As many as 13,000 houses are damaged or destroyed, the Red Cross tweeted.
  • Eyewitness video showed panicked families fleeing to their roofs, with a hospital in Freeport underwater. (BBC)
  • At least five people have died; some are unaccounted for.

⚠️ Along the East Coast ... More than 1 million people in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina were ordered to evacuate before Dorian rolls up the seaboard.

  • Virginia declared a state of emergency. (Reuters)
  • Life-threatening storm-surge flooding is possible even if the storm's heart stays offshore, as forecast. (AP)
Freeport, Grand Bahama. Photo: Ramon Espinosa/AP
3. Dozens feared dead in California boat fire
A memorial for victims of the Conception boat fire. One young couple added a dive flag. Photo: Stefanie Dazio/AP

Many aboard the Conception — a 75-foot commercial diving boat that was out to sea off Southern California on a recreational scuba-diving trip — were apparently sleeping below deck when a fire broke out just after 3 a.m.

  • The crew had celebrated three passengers' birthdays hours earlier, including one of a 17-year-old girl on the diving trip with her parents. (L.A. Times)

At least 25 people died, and the search continued through the night for nine others still missing.

  • Five crew members sleeping on the top deck jumped off and took a dinghy to safety. Two had minor injuries.
  • The boat, which had departed Santa Barbara's Channel Islands Harbor on Saturday for the Labor Day weekend trip, sank in 60 feet of water. (AP)
Photo: Ventura County Fire Department via L.A. Times
4. Trump's trade deficits are only growing
Expand chart
Data: U.S. Dept. of Commerce; Chart: Chris Canipe/Axios

Among the U.S.'s 15 biggest trading partners, the trade balance has moved in the wrong direction for President Trump in 10 of those countries between 2016 and 2018, while the aggregate trade deficit has jumped from $503 billion to $628 billion.

  • Why it matters, via Axios' Neal Rothschild: While economists agree that trade deficits aren't a good way to measure a trade relationship, they are the metric Trump fixates on, made campaign promises about and uses to evaluate relationships with other countries.
5. North Korea gains ground against U.S. defenses in region
This Aug. 24 photo, provided by the North Korean government, is said to show the test firing of an unspecified missile. Photo: Korean Central News Agency via AP

What's new: U.S. intelligence officials and outside experts have concluded that North Korea used recent launches "to test missiles with greater range and maneuverability that could overwhelm American defenses in the region," the N.Y. Times' David E. Sanger and Bill Broad report.

  • Why it matters: Some outside experts say Kim Jong-un's flattery of President Trump "with beguiling letters and episodic meetings ... are part of what they call the North Korean leader’s strategy of buying time to improve his arsenal."
6. Data du jour: Tariffs begin to dent confidence
Expand chart
Data: University of Michigan Surveys of Consumers. Chart: Axios Visuals

Consumer sentiment fell to its lowest level since October 2016 and dropped by the most since December 2012, according to a survey by the University of Michigan, Axios Markets editor Dion Rabouin writes.

  • Why it matters: The decline in sentiment was attributed largely to negative references to tariffs and the U.S.-China trade war, said Richard Curtin, the survey’s chief economist. Tariffs were mentioned "spontaneously" as a negative force by one in three respondents.

💰 Sign up for our weekday briefing, Axios Markets.

7. Sign of our times: Fear as new reality

N.Y. Times Quote of the Day ... Paul Fessock, whose band's performance was canceled after explosive devices were discovered at a home near the route for the Labor Day parade in South Plainfield, N.J.:

  • "I can’t say that they overreacted because there is so much going on in the country right now, you can’t overreact, you just can't."
8. 🗞️ Rough headline of the day
Joe Biden attends the Hawkeye Area Labor Council picnic in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, yesterday. Photo: Alex Wroblewski/Getty Images

N.Y. Times front page: "So Why's Biden Want This Job? Um, Tough One," by Mark Leibovich.

  • Online: "Does Joe Biden Want to Be Doing This? On certain days, Biden 2020 can feel more like a dutiful slog than the last march of a happy warrior."

🎙️ Biden to NPR Politics Podcast: "The next president is going to have to be able to pull the world back together. Not a joke. Literally, not figuratively, pull the world back together, reunite our allies."

  • "Four more years of this president, there will be no NATO."
9. Mayor Pete to open 20 Iowa offices in 20 days
Mayor Pete attends the Hawkeye Area Labor Council picnic in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, yesterday. Photo: Alex Wroblewski/Getty Images

What's new: Pete Buttigieg is flexing his campaign muscle in Iowa, with plans to open 20 offices in 20 days and have 98 paid staffers on the ground by the end of this week, The Des Moines Register's Barbara Rodriguez reports.

  • Why it matters: "The moves represent a major ramp up ... for the ... mayor, who previously had one office in Des Moines. He had 62 staffers in Iowa as of mid-August."

Over the past two months, Buttigieg has averaged one Iowa trip per week. (AP)

10. 1 crazy stat

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio logged seven hours at City Hall during the month he launched his presidential campaign, per the N.Y. Post:

  • "Hizzoner showed up at his office on just six occasions in May, taking part in two meetings, four events and five phone calls, one of which was his weekly appearance on WNYC radio, according to entries on his official calendar."
  • In May 2018, he had 50 meetings, calls and other events at City Hall.

De Blasio spokeswoman Freddi Goldstein said: "Whether at City Hall, Gracie Mansion or on the road, the mayor consistently delivers for 8.6 million New Yorkers."

Mike Allen

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