Aug 23, 2018

Axios AM

☕️ Good Thursday morning...

Situational awareness: NewsGuard Technologies, a new service that uses trained journalists to rate thousands of news and information sites, is launching its first product today with help from Microsoft: web extensions that let users view vetted, non-partisan trust ratings for news and information websites, Sara Fischer reports.

  • Why it matters: It's the first look at the services to be offered by NewsGuard, co-founded by journalist Steven Brill and former Wall Street Journal publisher Gordon Crovitz. The labels, which have been researched and assigned by journalists, are being placed on the most trafficked news and information websites in the U.S.
1 big thing ... Scoop: What Cohen told Congress about Russia meeting
Courtesy TIME

Michael Cohen told lawmakers last year, in sworn testimony, that he didn't know whether then-candidate Donald Trump had foreknowledge of the 2016 Trump Tower meeting with Russians, three sources with knowledge of Cohen's testimony tell Jonathan Swan.

  • And Cohen still doesn't know whether Trump knew about the infamous meeting, according to Cohen's lawyer, Lanny Davis. "Nothing has changed," he told Axios.
  • News reports last month said Cohen was willing to assert to special counsel Robert Mueller that Trump did know about the meeting in advance.
  • Why it matters: Questions about Cohen's testimony about the meeting may earn him a return trip to Capitol Hill.

What's new: This information about what Cohen told Congress about Trump — reported here for the first time — colors in the gaps of a joint statement Tuesday by Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr and Vice Chair Sen. Mark Warner that got buried under the Cohen-Manafort news avalanche.

  • "[W]e recently re-engaged with Mr. Cohen and his team following press reports that suggested he had advance knowledge of the June 2016 meeting between campaign officials and Russian lawyers at Trump Tower," the statement says.
  • "Mr. Cohen had testified before the Committee that he was not aware of the meeting prior to its disclosure in the press last summer."
  • "[T]he Committee inquired of Mr. Cohen's legal team as to whether Mr. Cohen stood by his testimony. They responded that he did stand by his testimony."
  • "We hope ... Mr. Cohen’s plea agreement will not preclude his appearance before our Committee as needed for our ongoing investigation.”

The backstory: Last year, when questioned under oath by lawmakers on the House Intelligence Committee, Cohen not only said that he himself had no foreknowledge of the meeting but that he had no idea whether Trump did either, according to three sources with knowledge of his testimony.

  • A source briefed on Cohen's testimony said he repeated that testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Swan asked Davis why he didn't shoot down last month's stories.

  • Davis, after a long day of TV hits defending Cohen, said: "It was painful. We were not the source, we could not confirm, and we could not correct. We had to be silent because of the sensitivity needed in the middle of a criminal investigation."
2. Manafort juror: Lone holdout prevented Mueller sweep
Fox News

"Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team was one holdout juror away from winning a conviction against Paul Manafort on all 18 counts of bank and tax fraud, juror Paula Duncan told Fox News":

  • “It was one person who kept the verdict from being guilty on all 18 counts,” said Duncan, 52, a Northern Virginia resident.
  • "Duncan described herself as an avid supporter of President Trump, but said she was moved by four full boxes of exhibits provided by Mueller’s team."

P.S. President Trump on his former close aide Michael Cohen, in a "Fox & Friends" interview with Ainsley Earhardt, airing today:

  • “[T]hey always say the lawyer and then they like to add the fixer. Well I don’t know if he was a fixer. I don’t know where that term came from."
  • "Didn’t do big deals; did small deals. Not somebody that was with me that much."
  • "[W]ell, it turned out he wasn’t a very good lawyer, frankly. But he was somebody that was probably with me for about 10 years and I would see him sometimes." (Video)
N.Y. Post
3. Pelosi: GOP "now wallowing in the swamp"

"Choose Your News," Thursday New York Times Edition:

  • Jonathan Martin and Nicholas Fandos, front page: "Senior Republican Party leaders began urging their most imperiled incumbents ... to speak out about the wrongdoing surrounding President Trump, with Representative Tom Cole, a former House Republican campaign chairman, warning, 'Where there’s smoke, and there’s a lot of smoke, there may well be fire.'"
  • Carl Hulse, p. A13: "For those wondering if the latest disclosures from the Trump legal file are finally weighty enough to cause top congressional Republicans to break from the president, the answer is no."

P.S. House Leader Nancy Pelosi sent a letter to her caucus yesterday saying that a key part of Democrats' fall agenda will be "[c]leaning up corruption to make Washington work for you."

  • "House Republicans are now wallowing in the swamp [!] that they have enabled and deepened at the expense of working families everywhere."
  • "As November rapidly approaches, we must also stay focused on delivering our strong economic message to hard-working families across America."

Pelosi's tweets have started including #CultureOfCorruption.

4. Tweet du jour
5. For many young investors, stock market has only gone up

"The U.S. stock market has been on the upswing for nine and a half years, during which a cohort of younger investors has never dealt with a 20 percent drop in the S&P 500 — the classic definition of a bear market," AP's Stan Choe writes:

  • "Such a decline has historically happened on average every four or five years."
  • "That’s nice for these 20- and 30-somethings, and their retirement accounts, but it raises the question: What will they do when the next downturn inevitably arrives?"
  • Why it matters: "How they respond will be crucial because this generation bears a heavier responsibility for paying for their own retirement, as pensions go extinct and Social Security’s finances weaken."

Milestone: "[T]he S&P extended its bull run from March 9, 2009, to 3,453 days to become the longest rally in U.S. history, surpassing the previous record set between 1990 and 2000," per The Wall Street Journal.

6. When the Supreme Court lurches right
Courtesy The New York Times Magazine

"What happens when the Supreme Court becomes significantly more conservative than the public?" asks Emily Bazelon for The New York Times Magazine.

  • "Assuming [Brett] Kavanaugh votes as his record suggests, the court will move to the right on several important fronts, even as the country’s demographics predict a shift of the electorate to the left, with more young voters and voters of color."
  • "Because of lifetime appointments, it’s possible for such disconnects between the electorate and the Supreme Court to last for years or even decades."
  • "In one sense, this is a feature, not a bug, of American democracy."
7. 📞 Joe Biden calling

Former Vice President Joe Biden on Sunday reached out to William McRaven — former commander of the U.S. Joint Special Operations Command, who oversaw the SEAL raid that killed Osama bin Laden — after McRaven dared President Trump to revoke his clearance, too.

  • Since leaving office, the former vice president has maintained quiet contact with a range of former people he served with who have been dismayed by what they are seeing out there, according to someone close to Biden.
  • Biden's rough message to McRaven: "It is presumptuous of me to say, but I’m so incredibly proud of you. I saw up close your physical courage, including your incredible calm during planning for the Bin Laden raid. As RFK said: 'Moral courage is the rarer commodity than bravery in battle.'"
  • "I have never met anybody whose moral courage equaled their physical courage in your category. I’m proud to know you and be associated with you."

P.S. ... Bill Maher's guests on "Real Time" on HBO tomorrow: John Brennan and Kara Swisher.

8. Trump holds key on prison reform

President Trump plans to meet with Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Jared Kushner and policy aide Brooke Rollins today to discuss a prison and sentencing reform package being negotiated between the White House and members from both parties, Axios' Stef Kight and Jonathan Swan report.

  • The big picture: Trump privately told senators and aides he liked the sound of a compromise that would add sentencing reforms pushed by Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley to a prison reform bill the House passed this year.
  • Law-and-order hardliner Sen. Tom Cotton has lambasted the Grassley plan as a "jailbreak."
  • Sessions has consistently opposed sentencing reform efforts, and is quietly working against it.
  • Sen. John Cornyn, a member of Republican leadership, told reporters yesterday that there wouldn't be a vote before midterms.

What to watch: Whether Trump publicly endorses the compromise package once it's finalized.

  • A Trump endorsement is powerful and could be enough to win over uncertain Republicans and unite the party around the bill.

P.S. Inmates in 17 states strike against "slavery," Axios' Michael Sykes reports:

  • For the second day, inmates in 17 states were on strike for higher wages at commercial jobs that often pay them less than $1 an hour.
  • Jailhouse Lawyers Speak says the inmates have planned work stoppages, sit-ins, and hunger strikes.
9. The hog of tomorrow
Courtesy Bloomberg Businessweek

"Harley-Davidson's future looks nothing like its past," Claire Suddath writes in Bloomberg Businessweek's cover story:

  • "In the next few years, Harley will release more than a dozen motorcycles, many of them small, lightweight, even electric."
  • "The new Harleys are intended to reverse years of declining sales and appeal to a new rider: young, urban, and not necessarily American."
  • "Harley wants international riders to be half its business in the next 10 years."
10. 1 fun thing
Your invisibility shield (Stephen Lam/Getty Images)

"Sorry, Pal, I Don’t Want to Talk: The Other Reason People Wear AirPods ... Apple’s white wireless earphones transmit music and conversations, but some users wear them all day as a shield, a secretary and a hiding place" — Wall Street Journal A-hed by Rebecca Dolan (subscription):

  • "AirPods have taken over many ears once occupied by Bluetooth headphones, partly because they seem to disappear."
  • "Even when muted, or off, they declare: Stay away."
  • Jasiel Martin-Odoom of Brooklyn: “If something interesting is happening on the train, and you want to be able to listen to it while not seeming to listen to it, you can still hear what is happening around if you have them in while they’re not playing."

"At ... $159, AirPods aren’t cheap ... Yet their popularity contributed to 60% year-over-year growth in Apple Inc.’s wearables category in its most-recent quarter."

Thanks for reading. See you all day on