Apr 20, 2019

Axios AM

By Mike Allen
Mike Allen

🌍 Happy Saturday! Tomorrow is Easter. Monday is Earth Day.

📺 After 40 years, C-SPAN founder Brian Lamb, the man who put Congress on live television, signs off, per The Wall Street Journal's Kyle Peterson (subscription).

1 big thing: Trump's biggest power play
Photojournalists capture four pages of the Mueller report on the witness table in the House Intelligence Committee hearing room on Thursday. (Cliff Owen/AP)

Imagine Sen. Mitt Romney, instead of Bill Barr, was attorney general.

This is what Romney's summary of the Mueller report might have said, based on his statement yesterday:

I am sickened at the extent and pervasiveness of dishonesty and misdirection by individuals in the highest office of the land, including the President. 
I am also appalled that, among other things, fellow citizens working in a campaign for president welcomed help from Russia — including information that had been illegally obtained; that none of them acted to inform American law enforcement; and that the campaign chairman was actively promoting Russian interests in Ukraine.
Reading the report is a sobering revelation of how far we have strayed from the aspirations and principles of the founders.

Romney isn't A.G.

Barr is — and his selection, performance and public spin have turned out to be of inestimable value to the president in weathering Mueller's findings.

  • What's new: Barr’s spinmeistery press conference broke with DoJ practice by coming before any of the reporters there had seen the report, and seemed only to function as an effort to sell the report as good news for the president. 
  • Why it matters: Whether out of his own instincts or devotion to his audience of one, Barr dampened response to the Mueller report by preemptively describing it in terms that invited Trump to claim "Total EXONERATION."

Even Barr's summary letter made it clear that the report was mixed, at best.

  • But Trump and supporters filled the 25-day vacuum from letter to report with jubilant claims of vindication.

Be smart: It's working. Most Democrats, including Speaker Pelosi, are opposed to impeachment hearings. 

2. Behind the scenes
Eva Hambach/AFP/Getty Images

Trump lawyers Jay Sekulow and Rudy Giuliani tell Reuters' Karen Freifeld that they — along with fellow Trump lawyers Jane and Marty Raskin — spent at least 10 hours with the Mueller report at the Justice Department before it was public:

  • "The lawyers said they gave up their cellphones and other electronic devices before being led into a Justice Department conference room in a restricted area known as a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility (SCIF)."
  • They were there Tuesday from about 4 p.m. until at least 9 p.m., and Wednesday from 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., ahead of Thursday's release.

Meanwhile, Trump's euphoria is giving way to anger and recrimination, Bloomberg's Shannon Pettypiece and Jennifer Jacobs report:

  • "People close to him are worried Trump has begun to stew over news coverage of the report, which has focused on Mueller’s documentation of the president's efforts to interfere in the investigation and deceive the public."

Breaking ... Former White House counsel Don McGahn, a star witness in the report, in a statement from his lawyer, William Burck:

  • "It's a mystery why Rudy Giuliani feels the need to re-litigate incidents the Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General have concluded were not obstruction. But they are accurately described in the report."
  • "Don, nonetheless, appreciates that the President gave him the opportunity to serve as White House Counsel and assist him with his signature accomplishments."
3. A book critic's view
Jon Elswick/AP

"Runaway best teller" ... WashPost book critic Carlos Lozada, who this week won the Pulitzer Prize for criticism, writes on the cover of tomorrow's Outlook section that Mueller's report is "the greatest nonfiction book about Trump":

The Mueller report is that rare Washington tell-all that surpasses its pre-publication hype.
Sure, it is a little longer than necessary. Too many footnotes and distracting redactions. The writing is often flat, and the first half of the book drags ...
The story shifts abruptly between riveting insider tales and dense legalisms. Its protagonist doesn’t really come alive until halfway through, once Volume I (on Russian interference) gives way to Volume II (on obstruction of justice). ...
The book reveals the president in all his impulsiveness, insecurity and growing disregard for rules and norms; White House aides alternating between deference to the man and defiance of his "crazy s---" requests; and a campaign team too inept to realize, or too reckless to care, when they might have been bending the law. ...
No need for a "Note on Use of Anonymous Sources" disclaimer. Mueller doesn’t just have receipts — he seems to know what almost everyone wanted to buy.

P.S. Reality check ... "Trump and his team love to deride unfavorable stories as 'fake news,' but it's clear from Robert Mueller's report that the special counsel isn't buying it," per AP Media Writer David Bauder:

  • With a few exceptions, "Mueller's investigation repeatedly supports news reporting that was done on the Russia probe over the last two years."
Bonus: Mueller handy-dandy
Expand chart
Axios Visuals

This interactive graphic from Axios Visuals shows a categorized view of the Mueller report: Each passage is tagged, so you can find and count each reference to people, places and things.

  • Laz Gamio, Axios deputy managing editor for visuals: "@AxiosVisuals stayed up all night tagged EVERY SINGLE paragraph in the Mueller report to create this searchable experience."
  • Harry Stevens: "It took several of us more than 24 hours, but @AxiosVisuals indexed the entire #MuellerReport and put together what I hope will be a good and useful interactive for researchers, journalists, and the truly curious."
  • Chris Canipe: "I tagged pages 341 to 396 ... Future screenplay writers could frame a pretty good movie around Don McGahn."

Explore, share the tool.

4. Three decades of school shootings
Kailey Slusher casts a shadow yesterday on the Columbine Memorial in Littleton, Colo. (Joe Mahoney/Getty Images)

Today marks the 20th anniversary of the attack on Columbine High School: On April 20, 1999, two teenage boys dressed in black trench coats killed 12 classmates and a teacher, and wounded two dozen others before taking their own lives.

Now, the survivors are raising kids in a world shaped by the attack:

  • "Drills teaching students to 'lock down' inside classrooms became routine. Schools formed teams to assess threats, particularly from students. And security firms forged a multibillion-dollar industry, introducing surveillance video, panic buttons and upgraded doors and locks." (AP)
  • And, sadly, mass shootings have become part of growing up in America.

Since Columbine, fears of school violence have grown, while research shows that schools are safer, the N.Y. Times' Dana Goldstein reports:

  • "[T]he panic and dark legacy of Columbine brought to suburban and rural schools some of the fears and pressure that urban students of color had already been living under."

"In the 1990s, the crime rate at schools and in larger society was already beginning a historic decline."

  • "But the myth of the 'superpredator' — a generation of youth who were said to be inherently violent — led to more police officers and metal detectors in urban schools."
5. Tech's quiet bonanza

Consumer-focused businesses (Pinterest) have more cachet, but tech startups (Zoom) that cater to companies are the hotter stock offerings, The Wall Street Journal's Rolfe Winkler writes (subscription):

  • What's new: "50 U.S. business-software companies have gone public since 2016, including Twilio Inc., MongoDB Inc. and Zscaler Inc. That compares with 13 consumer-technology companies, such as Dropbox Inc. and Snap."
  • Why it matters: "The business-software companies have performed much better, their shares rising a median 126% from their debuts ... That compares with a median 15% increase for the consumer-tech companies."
6. 1 food fad
Bebeto Matthews/AP

The signature dish of the first Godiva café in America (at Lex and 50th in Manhattan) is the croiffle, a fun hybrid of a buttery croissant that's crisped to order in a waffle press, Bloomberg reports:

  • "The savory ones are the best, especially the three-cheese mix of havarti, Swiss, and Gruyere that melts out."
  • "But there's also ham and cheese, sausage, and, of course, dark or milk chocolate Croiffles."

Be smart: "Croiffle" sure doesn't roll of the tongue like "cronut"!

Mike Allen