Feb 14, 2020

Axios AM

❤️ Happy Friday, and happy Valentine's Day!

  • What to tell your mom or dad today: Thanks for being my first Valentine!

📦 Situational awareness: A federal judge granted Amazon's request to temporarily halt the Pentagon and Microsoft from moving forward on an up-to-$10-billion cloud computing deal that Amazon says reflected undue influence by President Trump. (Reuters)

1 big thing: Bernie's pipe dreams

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Staff

Even with the expanding power of the presidency, Bernie Sanders would need Congress to approve the most ambitious ideas he’s known for. And that’s unlikely to happen even under the best-case scenarios for House and Senate Democrats in November, Axios' David Nather and Alayna Treene report:

  • Medicare for All, the Green New Deal, free college and other Sanders proposals that excite the Democratic base would likely hit a logjam in the Senate — even with his plans to make expansive use of the power of budget rules.
  • Internal Democratic divisions would threaten his ability to get even a bare Senate majority for them, let alone ram them through the expected wall of Republican opposition, according to moderate Democratic senators, Democratic aides and Axios experts.
  • And that assumes he could get them through the House without major substantive changes — which is no sure thing either.

But Sanders could make some major changes in direction on his own:

  • He could likely reverse course on many of President Trump’s immigration policies through his executive authority, by stopping the construction of the border wall and not prosecuting border crossings.
  • And Sanders advisers say he could make major changes on drug prices and climate policies through regulations and executive orders — like declaring a climate emergency, which could give him far more authority to spend on climate measures without congressional approval.
  • He may also use executive orders to advance priorities like the $15 minimum wage, by applying it to government contractors.

Share this story.

  • Go deeper: Reality check on Bernie's 10 biggest ideas.
2. Barr: Trump tweets make job "impossible"

Screenshot via ABC News

Attorney General Bill Barr told ABC News that President Trump's "constant background commentary" about the Justice Department makes "it impossible for me to do my job": "I think it’s time to stop the tweeting about Department of Justice criminal cases."

Asked if he was prepared to take the blowback for criticizing the president, Barr responded: "Of course."

  • "I will make ... decisions based on what I think is the right thing to do, and I'm not going to be bullied or influenced by anybody, whether it's Congress, newspaper editorial boards or the president."

Barr said that on the Stone decision, Trump's late-night tweet put him in an especially difficult position:

  • "Do you go forward with what you think is the right decision, or do you pull back because of the tweet? And that just sort of illustrates how disruptive these tweets can be."

White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham responded:

The President wasn't bothered by the comments at all and he has the right, just like any American citizen to publicly offer his opinions. ...
The President has full faith and confidence in Attorney General Barr to do his job and uphold the law.

Share this story.

3. #MeToo hits banking industry

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The #MeToo movement was originally largely focused on the media and entertainment worlds, before migrating to technology companies. Now it looks like commercial banks are in the crosshairs, too, writes Axios' Jennifer Kingson.

What's happening ... Two major headlines rocked the sector this week:

  • Wells Fargo is dropping its mandatory arbitration clause for employee sexual harassment complaints.
  • A former employee of PNC won a $2.4 million jury award in her harassment case against the bank.

The bottom line: Commercial banks may have avoided the #MeToo limelight so far in part because they are so highly regulated, and thus have more aggressive zero-tolerance policies.

  • "It's not enlightenment, it's compliance," Charles Wendel of Financial Institutions Consulting, which serves the banking industry, tells Axios. "They don't want to be in trouble with the regulators."

Share this story.

Bonus: Pic du jour
Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Sen. Elizabeth Warren campaigns yesterday before a crowd of more than 4,000 people in the gym at Wakefield High School in Arlington, Va., a key Super Tuesday state. (WUSA)

4. Mike Bloomberg hacks our attention
Not The Onion: Both real tweets.

N.Y. Times Opinion writer Charlie Warzel explains that Mike Bloomberg's campaign understands a fundamental intent equation: Attention equals power.

  • Why it matters: "Attention is like television airtime in a battleground state: There’s a finite amount of it."

"Bloomberg is unapologetic about — and unafraid to hide — the money he’s spending," Warzel continues. "That transactional approach is an excellent match for online influencer culture."

  • Bloomberg's thinking: "At least he’s in the conversation. More than that, the conversation is now centered around the idea that he could very well win."

Keep reading (subscription).

5. 🐍 Trump furious about "snakes," brings back loyalists

Photos: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images; J. Scott Applewhite/AP

President Trump has become increasingly furious about what he sees as a government full of "never-Trumpers," Axios' Jonathan Swan reports.

  • Administration officials tell Axios Trump feels he’s surrounded by snakes and wants to clear out all the disloyal people.

John McEntee, Trump’s former body man who was fired by former chief of staff John Kelly over security clearance issues and recently returned to the West Wing, is expected to lead the Presidential Personnel Office.

  • Why it matters: Trump sees McEntee as the ultimate loyalist, and he has assigned him the powerful role of picking personnel across the federal government.

Hope Hicks, former White House communications director and a close Trump aide, will also return to the White House.

  • Hicks' title will be counselor to the president, and she'll work closely with Jared Kushner.

What's next: Trump has been asking for names of people he should fire.

📺 Other news about Trump originals: We hear Dave Bossie's Fox News contract hasn't been renewed. Bossie didn't reply to queries about his next move.

6. 1 ❤️ thing: Polarized dating

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Romance seekers in the Trump era see a heightened value in knowing their potential suitors' political affiliations, Axios' Ursula Perano reports.

  • Major dating platforms, including OkCupid, Hinge and Bumble, have introduced filters to sift out matches with "incompatible" politics.
  • "It's so great that we have gone from messaging based on a photo to, 'Wow, you're into Warren, I'm into Bernie — let's debate that over a margarita,'" OkCupid Chief Marketing Officer Melissa Hobley said.

OkCupid saw a 187% increase in political mentions on profiles between 2017 and 2018. The company says the trend continued in 2019.

  • An OkCupid survey found that 72% of female respondents in the U.S. said they could not date someone who had strong political opinions that were "the exact opposite" of their own.
  • "Voting is the new six pack," Hobley said. "It is way less about what you look like, and much more what you believe in and what you care about."

Between the lines: Some conservatives say dating has proved challenging in the age of Trump.

  • Mentions of "conservative terms" on OkCupid profiles fell by 78% in 2019.
  • Specialized dating apps for Republicans such as "Righter" and "Patrio," have blossomed since President Trump's election.

Share this story.

📬 Thanks for a great week. Please tell a friend about AM/PM.