Aug 15, 2017

Axios AM

By Mike Allen
Mike Allen

Good Tuesday morning. It's Day 208; President Trump is 14% through this term.

Situational awareness: The story POTUS will be most interested in ... As teased by Drudge and confirmed by CNN's Brian Stelter, Laura Ingraham — Trump's first choice for White Housepress secretary, back during the transition — is in talks for a Fox News prime time show, perhaps vs. Rachel Maddow.

1 big thing: "They have been condemned"

A Republican close to the West Wing summed up President Trump's do-over Charlottesville remarks yesterday: "Wound cauterized. Healing begins. Scars remain."

What he finally said, on Day 3: "Racism is evil. And those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans."

The backstory, from AP's Jonathan Lemire:

  • "Loath to appear to be admitting a mistake, Trump was reluctant to adjust his remarks. ... He ... expressed anger to those close to him about what he perceived as the media's unfair assessment of his remarks, believing he had effectively denounced all forms of bigotry."
  • "Several of Trump's senior advisers, including new chief of staff John Kelly, ... urged him to make a more specific condemnation, warning that the negative story would not go away and that the rising tide of criticism from fellow Republicans on Capitol Hill could endanger his legislative agenda."
  • "Reading from a teleprompter, he made a point of beginning with an unrelated plug for the strength of the economy under his leadership. Then, taking pains to insist 'as I said on Saturday,' Trump denounced the hate groups."
  • "At [a China] trade event later in the day, he was asked why it took two days for him to offer an explicit denunciation of the hate groups. 'They have been condemned,' Trump responded before offering a fresh criticism of some media as 'fake news.'"
  • "He followed with a tweet declaring 'the #fakenews will never be satisfied.'"

The reaction:

  • N.Y. Times columnist Frank Bruni, "Trump Cannot Redeem Himself": "[T]he length of his delay upped the ante on his delivery, which was passionless."
  • Jesse Watters on Fox News' "The Five": "These same people who were mad at President Trump for saying 'radical Islam,' now all of a sudden want him to say 'white supremacy'?"
  • Cover tease on Trump-friendly N.Y. Post: "Trump: OK, yes, racists are bad."

Be smart: Conservative radio and MSNBC weekend host Hugh Hewitt, who has generally given Trump the benefit of the doubt, said the president's reaction to Charlottesville was basically the opposite of President Reagan's unifying eloquence after the space shuttle Challenger exploded in 1986. Trump will have other moments to try to transcend the national din. There's no getting this one back.

2. A soldier's last somersault

Protesters topple statue of Confederate soldier in Durham, N.C. — The Herald-Sun's Virginia Bridges:

  • "A protest in downtown Durham [last evening] left a statue of a Confederate soldier erected nearly a century ago crumpled on the ground. Sheriff's deputies recorded the event but did not intervene as a protester climbed a ladder and slipped a yellow, bungie-like cord around the soldier's head and arm and a group pulled the cord."
  • "The statue did a somersault, collapsing against the stone pedestal in front of the old county courthouse on East Main Street. Protesters cheered and started to kick the crumpled mass."
  • "Gov. Roy Cooper [D] criticized the action, tweeting that 'the racism and deadly violence in Charlottesville is unacceptable but there is a better way to remove these monuments."
  • "The granite base on the Main Street soldier, which was dedicated in 1924, says, 'In memory of "the boys who wore the gray."'"
  • Why it matters: "There are about 120 Civil War memorials across the state ... About 100 are clearly monuments related to the Confederacy."
  • See the video, which looks remarkably like Saddam coming down.

Other Charlottesville fallout:

  • "An opportune time" ... N.Y. Times front page, just above fold, "Far Right Plans Its Next Moves With New Vigor," by Alan Feuer: "The white supremacists and right-wing extremists who came together over the weekend in Charlottesville, Va., are now headed home, many of them ready and energized, they said, to set their sights on bigger prizes."
  • "Some were making arrangements to appear at future marches. Some were planning to run for public office. Others, taking a cue from the Charlottesville event — a protest, nominally, of the removal of a Confederate-era statue — were organizing efforts to preserve white heritage symbols in their home regions."
  • L.A. Times front page: "Cities, white supremacists gear up to fight: Supporters of Civil War statues promise protests and lawsuits to stop their removals."
  • Boston Globe front page, "Rally by far right appears in doubt": "Three speakers backed out of a far-right rally planned for this weekend on Boston Common, casting doubt on the event amid strong opposition from city and state officials fearful about a repeat of the bloodshed in Charlottesville."
3. More CEOs may ditch Trump

"Merck & Co.'s Kenneth Frazier, then Under Armour Inc.'s Kevin Plank and Intel Corp.'s Brian Krzanich stepped down from a White House business group" (Manufacturing Jobs Initiative), per Bloomberg's Jeff Green:

  • "While none mentioned the president, Frazier, one of the country's most-prominent black chief executive officers, ... said he was acting on a 'matter of personal conscience.'"
  • Trump quickly tweeted: "Now that Ken Frazier of Merck Pharma has resigned from President's Manufacturing Council,he will have more time to LOWER RIPOFF DRUG PRICES!"
  • "As for Intel's Krzanich, his Twitter account was peppered [yesterday] by pleas for him to quit the White House group."
  • Who's next? Davia Temin, head of the New York-based crisis-management firm Temin & Co: "This conversation is viral in boardrooms right now."

Be smart: We know another prominent CEO who's agonizing over whether to quit a White House group; others are discussing it internally. And Axios business editor Dan Primack pointed out after Trump's tweet: "This sort of thing will only discourage other CEOs from formally engaging with the White House."

  • Go deeper ... "The CEOs who have left Trump's special councils."
Bonus: Graphic du jour

Most U.S. robots are in Michigan and Ohio, the base of the U.S. auto industry, and the home of one of every five robots in the nation, Axios Future Editor Steve LeVine writes. Go deeper.

4. New pressure on Valley

"Tech companies in the crosshairs on white supremacy and free speech," by Reuters' Jim Finkle and Salvador Rodriguez:

  • "Twitter, Facebook, Google's YouTube and other platforms have ramped up efforts to combat the social media efforts of Islamic militant groups, largely in response to pressure from European governments. Now they are facing similar pressures in the United States over white supremacist and neo-Nazi content."
  • "Facebook confirmed ... it took down the event page that was used to promote and organize the 'Unite the Right' rally in Charlottesville. Facebook allows people to organize peaceful protests or rallies, but the social network said it would remove such pages when a threat of real-world harm and affiliation with hate organizations becomes clear."
  • Why it matters: "Internet companies, which enjoy broad protections under U.S. law for the activities of people using their services, have mostly tried to avoid being arbiters of what is acceptable speech. But the ground is now shifting, said one executive at a major Silicon Valley firm."

Go deeper ... USA Today, "White supremacist rally could be tipping point for tech's tolerance for hate speech."

5. "Showman of the Year"

Netflix Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos on cover of Variety — interview by N.Y. bureau chief Ramin Setoodeh:

  • Sarandos on Disney starting its own streams: "I would say that the relationship between studios and networks has always been that of a frenemy ... We started making original content five years ago, betting this would happen."
  • Sarandos "revealed that he anticipates spending a whopping $7 billion on original content next year — up from more than $6 billion over the past year and $5 billion in 2016."
  • Sarandos' darkest fear: "The more successful we get, the more anxious I get about the willingness of the networks to license their stuff to us ... That's why original content is critical, so subscribers feel like they can't live without Netflix."
  • "I don't think we compete with Amazon in the movie space at all," he says, pointing to how Amazon releases all of its movies in theaters first. "I frankly don't understand their strategy. I don't understand why perpetuating a model that feels more and more disconnected with the population is good." Netflix debuts its movies on its streaming service, with some titles released on a few theater screens the same day."
  • Read the rest.
6. "Repeated efforts to set up Russia meetings"

"Three days after Donald Trump named his campaign foreign policy team in March 2016, the youngest of the new advisers sent an email to seven campaign officials with the subject line: 'Meeting with Russian Leadership - Including Putin,'" the WashPost's Tom Hamburger, Carol Leonnig and Roz Helderman report in a front-pager.

  • "The exchanges are among more than 20,000 pages of documents the Trump campaign turned over to congressional committees this month after review by White House and defense lawyers."
  • Why it matters: "To experts in Russian intelligence gathering, the [George] Papadopoulos chain offers further evidence that Russians were looking for entry points and playing upon connections with lower-level aides to penetrate the 2016 campaign."
7. "A major liability"

"Bannon in Limbo as President Is Urged to Oust Lightning Rod," the N.Y. Times' Maggie Haberman and Glenn Thrush write on the front page:

  • "Rupert Murdoch has repeatedly urged President Trump to fire him."
  • "Bannon, 63, has told people in his orbit that he never expected to last in his current position longer than eight months to a year."
  • "At a recent dinner at the White House with [Jared] Kushner and [chief of staff John] Kelly, ... the president listened while ... Murdoch ... said Mr. Bannon had to go."
  • "Trump offered little pushback ... and vented his frustrations about Mr. Bannon."

Sound smart: Trump is rightly worried Bannon would instantly start the kind of alt-right media machine the president himself dreamed of building if he had lost. Bannon sees himself as the de facto leader of America First, something he believes in far more powerfully than Trump does. Bannon + media empire could = trouble for Trump White House, GOP.

Flashback ... Axios' Jonathan Swan, on Saturday: "Trump has told close associates that he believes Steve Bannon is behind damaging leaks about White House colleagues, putting the chief strategist's job in fresh jeopardy."

8. "There's trouble in Trumpland"

USA Today banner, "Trump supporters growing restless," by Susan Page and Josh Hefner:

"The voters who backed Donald Trump like the disruption but are looking for more function, ... members of the USA TODAY Network Trump Voter Panel say. ... 'All the bickering, fighting and firings take time away from solving all of our problems.'"

Go deeper ... WashPost, "Resistance efforts are taking root in pro-Trump country — and women are leading the charge."

9. Allies "hope the fever passes"

Gideon Rose, editor of Foreign Affairs, introduces a cover package, "Trump and the Allies":

  • "The United States has dominated the world for generations now. Like a Carnegie or a Rockefeller or a Gates, it has legitimized its extraordinary position by making clear to all that it sees life as a positive-sum game — one in which American power is used to benefit not just Americans but also all those around the world willing to play by the rules, living and trading peacefully with one another."
  • "U.S. allies know that better than anybody, which is why they signed on to the order in the first place. Unfortunately, Washington itself seems to have forgotten."
  • See reports from leading experts on France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Japan, Australia, Canada and Mexico.
10. 1 Fearless thing

"A federal jury [in Denver] found that a former radio show host groped singer Taylor Swift before a 2013 concert in Denver, and it awarded her a symbolic $1 in damages," per Denver Post's Kirk Mitchell:

  • "Swift issued a statement thanking her attorneys and the judge 'for fighting for me and anyone who feels silenced by a sexual assault.'"
  • Country deejay David Mueller sued Swift, her mother and her radio promotions manager, Frank Bell, seeking up to $3 million and claiming he was fired after Bell told the station the host had groped her.
  • Key evidence, per the N.Y. Times: a photo from a 2013 backstage meet-and-greet "that showed Mr. Mueller's hand behind Ms. Swift and near her rear." He was 51; she was 23.
  • Denver Post: "Swift countersued and sought the $1 in damages. She said she wants to serve as an example to other women who have been sexually assaulted."
  • Swift's attorney Douglas Baldridge said after the verdicts were read" "That dollar is of immeasurable value."
Mike Allen