Sep 18, 2019

Axios AM

By Mike Allen
Mike Allen

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  • Today's Smart Brevity™ count: 1,498 words ... 6 minutes.

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1 big thing: Trump vs. California

Air Force One taxies at LAX yesterday. Photo: Gina Ferazzi/L.A. Times via AP

President Trump today plans to revoke California’s landmark emissions standards, setting up another sweeping legal fight with the nation’s largest state that may echo beyond his presidency. 

  • Why it matters: Trump is at war with California over the environment, homelessness, tax returns, immigration and virtually every topic he touches. The courts are almost always center stage.
  • Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) — who earlier this year told "Axios on HBO" that Trump is helping turn the GOP into a dying, xenophobic party — accused the president of a "political vendetta" with his latest move. 

This could snuff out any hope automakers had of avoiding a bitter legal fight between the administration and California, Axios' Ben Geman writes.

  • "This will be the biggest fight in environmental law since the Clean Power Plan. Maybe bigger," tweeted Nathan Richardson of the University of South Carolina School of Law.

The backdrop: Trump, who spent the night in L.A., kicked off a Golden State moneymaking swing yesterday with a $3 million Bay Area luncheon, followed by a $5 million Beverly Hills dinner at the home of real estate developer Geoffrey Palmer, per AP.

  • Trump will bring in $7 million today with a breakfast in L.A. and luncheon in San Diego, before he visits the border wall.

The bottom line: The landscape on California issues would shift overnight if a Democrat wins the White House — but Trump rightly sees the state as unwinnable.

2. Bibi fights for survival
Benjamin Netanyahu addressees supporters at party headquarters in Tel Aviv today. Photo: Ariel Schalit/AP

Israel's two main political parties were deadlocked in early results after yesterday's voting and Benjamin Netanyahu — who in July became the country's longest serving prime minister — faces an uphill battle to hold on.

  • Why it matters: Netanyahu failed to get a majority that will allow him to get immunity from his corruption indictments.

Axios contributor Barak Ravid, the senior diplomatic correspondent for Israel's Channel 13 News, sends us this cheat sheet from Tel Aviv:

  1. We need to see today's final results. With more than 85% of the vote counted so far, Benny Gantz's Blue and White party and the Netanyahu-led Likud are tied at 32 seats each. The center-left and right-wing blocs are also close to a tie with 55-56 seats each.
  2. If results stay more or less the same, both parties will try to get a mandate from Israeli President Reuven Rivlin to form a government.
  3. Rivlin will likely try to convince them to form a unity government. But Gantz already committed not to sit in a Netanyahu-led government due to the prime minister's upcoming indictments. 
  4. This is bad news for President Trump. Netanyahu is a close ally and the current political crisis in Israel further complicates his intention to release his long-awaited peace plan.

Go deeper: The latest from Barak on the ongoing deadlock.

3. New data: Biggest line of debates so far
Expand chart
Credit: Data: NewsWhip. Chart: Chris Canipe/Axios

With "Hell yes, we're going to take your AR-15," Beto O'Rourke saw a bigger spike in online attention than any other 2020 Democrat in the first three debates, Neal Rothschild writes from NewsWhip data provided exclusively to Axios.

Why it matters: O'Rourke nailed the perfect issue at the perfect moment.

  • Since the El Paso and Dayton shootings in August, guns have risen to the forefront of the national conversation: For three straight weeks, and for six of the last seven, stories about guns have generated more interactions on social media (comments, likes, shares) than any other issue.

Stories about O'Rourke generated more interactions on social media following last week's debate than for any other candidate in the previous two debates.

  • The 33 biggest articles about O'Rourke last week were all about his position on guns.
  • The slant of those pieces spanned the political spectrum: from straightforward news to cheering from the left to skewering from the right.

The big picture: While online interest in mass shootings typically lasts just three weeks after the event, activism around gun violence has been more sustained than usual since the August massacres.

  • Immigration, which had been the top issue throughout much of 2019, is now in second place behind guns.

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4. Milestone: Abortions in U.S. lowest since '73

The U.S. counted 862,000 abortions in 2017, the lowest level since the procedure became legal nationwide in 1973, reports the AP.

Why it matters: Fewer women are becoming pregnant, according to a report from the Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports abortion rights.

  • A likely factor is increased accessibility of contraception since 2011, as the Affordable Care Act required most private health insurance plans to cover contraceptives without out-of-pocket costs.
5. Dems thwarted at first impeachment hearing
Photo: Jacquelyn Martin/AP

Corey Lewandowski's grudging, impudent testimony before the House Judiciary Committee yesterday may have wound up bolstering Speaker Pelosi's hands-off approach to impeachment, Axios' Alayna Treene reports.

  • Why it matters: Among Democrats we interviewed, there was overwhelming consensus that the chaotic hearing did nothing to galvanize public support for impeaching President Trump.

Instead, Democrats once again showed their frustration at Trump's brazen strategy of simply refusing to cooperate with Democrats' probes.

  • The White House prevented two former Trump aides, Rob Porter and Rick Dearborn, from testifying.
  • Lewandowski, a former Trump campaign manager who's eyeing a Senate race in New Hampshire, was so unforthcoming that at one point, all he freely volunteered was that his favorite NFL team is the Patriots.
  • "I will be as sincere in my answers as this committee is in its questions," Lewandowski said as the hearing began.

In one victory for Democrats, Lewandowski confirmed as "accurate" the Mueller report's account that Trump had asked him to direct then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions to limit Mueller's investigation. Trump said that if Sessions would not meet with Lewandowski, Lewandowski should tell Sessions he was fired.

  • Lewandowski never delivered the message. When Democrats asked if he "chickened out," Lewandowski said he took his kids to the beach instead. (AP)

The big split: A division remains between Democrats who want to move toward impeachment regardless of how it plays politically — and those focused on preserving the House majority, and a broad enough public appeal to win the White House.

Between the lines: Many Democrats still think there's an impeachment case to be made, but that investigations and court rulings need to run their course.

  • "When we compile our record here in the Judiciary Committee, I believe it'll be so compelling that impeachment resolutions will flow naturally," said Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.), a key questioner yesterday.
6. 2020 snapshot
Screenshot via MSNBC
7. Jimmy Carter warns on POTUS age
Joe Biden and Jimmy Carter at the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver. Photo: Jacquelyn Martin/AP

Weeks shy of 95, former President Jimmy Carter said he doesn't believe he could have managed the presidency at 80, AP reports.

  • Carter, who earlier this year became the longest-lived former president in American history, didn't tie his comments directly to Joe Biden, 76, or Bernie Sanders, 78 — each of whom would turn 80 during their terms if elected.

"I hope there's an age limit," Carter said with a laugh as he answered audience questions during his annual report at the Carter Center in Atlanta.

  • "If I were just 80 years old, if I was 15 years younger, I don't believe I could undertake the duties I experienced when I was president."
8. Remembering Cokie Roberts
Cokie Roberts talks, and Sam Donaldson and Peter Jennings listen. Photo: ABC Photo Archives

Cokie Roberts, who inspired generations of women journalists during 40 years at the top of NPR and ABC News, died at 75 yesterday after battling cancer.

  • Roberts started covering Capitol Hill for NPR in 1978, reporting on the Panama Canal Treaty, and spent 30 years at ABC News — including co-anchoring "This Week" with Sam Donaldson, who called her "the Cokester," from 1996 to 2002.
  • At a recent lunch, Cokie told me that when she went to the House Speaker's Lobby, her arm got sore because every member would reach out to greet her.

From a family statement:

Born Mary Martha Corinne Morrison Claiborne Boggs on December 27, 1943, Cokie was — first and foremost — a wife, mother, sister, daughter, aunt, cousin and friend.  ...
She is survived by her husband of 53 years, journalist, author and professor Steven V. Roberts, her children Lee Roberts and Rebecca Roberts, her grandchildren Regan, Hale and Cecilia Roberts and Claiborne, Jack and Roland Hartman, along with numerous nieces, nephews, and cousins. ...
We are hopeful that Cokie now goes to join her parents, former Members of Congress Hale and Lindy Boggs, her siblings Barbara, Tom and William, who predecease her, and her God.

A new generation ... Below, on Aug. 27, Cokie stopped by the ABC bureau in D.C., then had lunch at Bombay Club with Axios White House reporter Alayna Treene (left) and Emily Karl, who graduated from Northwestern in June.

Axios photo

See ABC's tribute video.

9. 📚 First look: Jonathan Karl's White House memoir
Cover: Dutton (Penguin Random House)

On March 31, ABC's Jonathan Karl, a New York Post alumnus who has known and covered President Trump longer than any other White House reporter, will be out with "Front Row at the Trump Show," about their decades of sparring.

10. 1 🏈 thing
Courtesy N.Y. Post

"The Eli Manning era is over. The Giants on Tuesday benched their franchise quarterback and will start rookie Daniel Jones on Sunday in Tampa," writes the N.Y. Post's Paul Schwartz.

  • His reaction? After being informed of the switch, Manning "went back downstairs and began helping [Jones] prepare for his first NFL start."
Mike Allen