Dec 3, 2019

Axios AM

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1 big thing ... Scoop: Inside the GOP impeachment spin machine

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

The Republican base is fired up by impeachment: It’s driving fundraising to pro-Trump groups, which pump that money back into ads to get the base even more fired up.

  • Why it matters: The cycle keeps spinning, generating more and more heat.
  • That’s why they’re locked in, unified, defending Trump.

Trying to take the offensive on what could be a devastating issue, the H0use GOP yesterday issued a 110-page prebuttal (spoiler: Trump did nothing wrong) to the Democrats' impeachment report — which comes out today.

Scoop: How the money feeds the machine ... America First Policies, the non-profit arm of the pro-Trump super PAC America First Action, is dropping $2.26 million on ads beginning today, targeting 27 Democratic House members who the group views as politically vulnerable over impeachment, Alayna Treene reports.

  • Pro-Trump groups are flooding the airwaves ahead of this month's expected House vote on articles of impeachment — spending millions to pressure Democrats in swing districts to vote no.
  • "The goal is to make the impeachment vote as hard as possible for them," America First Policies spokeswoman Kelly Sadler tells Axios.

The ads are timed to pick up after a run of similar anti-impeachment ads from another pro-Trump group, American Action Network.

  • Starting next week, both groups will ramp up at the same time for "a full court press," Sadler said.
  • The RNC and Trump campaign will run their own ads calling Democrats' impeachment effort a "sham."

The 30-second America First spots, which will drop on Facebook, via text, in newspapers and on TV over the next two weeks, are nearly identical to ads the group spent $1 million on in October.

  • Go deeper: See a list of targeted lawmakers. ... Watch one of the ads here.

Editor’s note: This story has been corrected to show that 27 Democratic lawmakers are being targeted, not 28.

2. Some House Dems want to broaden impeachment articles
Screenshot via CNN

"House Democrats are debating whether to expand articles of impeachment to include charges beyond [Ukraine], setting up a potential internal clash as the party races to impeach President Trump by Christmastime," the WashPost's Rachael Bade reports.

  • "Members of the House Judiciary Committee and other more liberal-minded lawmakers and congressional aides have been privately discussing the possibility of drafting articles that include obstruction of justice or other 'high crimes'" drawn from the Mueller report.
  • Another possible addition: "[A]llegations that Trump has used his office to benefit his bottom line."

The intrigue: "The idea ... is running into resistance from some moderate Democrats wary of impeachment blowback in their GOP-leaning districts."

3. 2020 Dems turn focus to black men

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Democratic candidates have spent the last few weeks hosting intimate conversations with black men — mostly in South Carolina — tapping into how these voters think and feel about the 2020 election, Alexi McCammond reports.

  • Why it matters: Black voter turnout declined in 2016 for the first time in 20 years. And exit polls found 13% of black male voters supported Donald Trump — over three times the rate of black women who did the same (4%).

Sen. Cory Booker hosted a "man-to-man conversation focused on issues impacting black men" yesterday in South Carolina with over 25 people.

  • "The feel in the room — and it was stated several times — is that black men feel like they’ve been forgotten about within the party and when it comes to this election," said Hamilton Grant, a Democratic candidate for Richland County Council who introduced Booker at the event.
  • The conversation touched on increasing economic opportunities for black men; criminal justice reform; marijuana legalization and better representation of African-American farmers in the hemp industry; gun violence prevention; free or subsidized child care; and keeping black youth safe.

Joe Biden and Sen. Elizabeth Warren have mostly continued to engage black female and male voters as one bloc.

4. Western tech helps China map faces

"Chinese scientists are trying to find a way to use a DNA sample to create an image of a person’s face," the N.Y. Times reports.

  • The technology is also being developed in the U.S. and elsewhere, allowing China to exploit "the openness of the international scientific community."
  • The current technology "can produce rough pictures good enough only to narrow a manhunt or perhaps eliminate suspects."

Why it matters, from the Times: "[G]iven the crackdown in Xinjiang, experts on ethics in science worry that China is building a tool that could be used to justify and intensify racial profiling and other state discrimination against Uighurs."

  • What's next: "In the long term, experts say, it may even be possible for the Communist government to feed images produced from a DNA sample into the mass surveillance and facial recognition systems that it is building, tightening its grip on society by improving its ability to track dissidents and protesters as well as criminals."
5. 🚀 "Rocket man" is back
President Trump in London today. Photo: Evan Vucci/AP

With North Korea's Kim Jong-un ramping up launches, President Trump — no longer smitten by the "beautiful" letters the dictator sent him — today revived his old nickname during a presser in London, where he's at a NATO summit.

6. New trade wars: France + Brazil + Argentina

President Trump tweeted that he'll raise tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from Brazil and Argentina, "surprising financial markets and opening a new front in the global trade war," the Wall Street Journal writes (subscription).

  • "The Trump administration also proposed tariffs of up to 100% against $2.4 billion of French imports [including Champagne and cheese] to punish France for a new digital-services tax that hits U.S. technology companies."

Why it matters: "The move to revive trade tensions over metals caught many observers off guard, as the U.S. has been making conciliatory moves on other trade fronts."

7. Facebook's plan to keep growing bigger
Expand chart
Data: Visual Capitalist, Digiday, Microsoft's 10-K, Investopedia. Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Facebook is sticking with advertising at scale as its business model for the foreseeable future, Sara Fischer writes:

  • Facebook chief revenue officer David Fischer said in an interview with Axios: "If we can serve more businesses and serve all of them well with free tools, then in time, they can grow, hire and support more communities. Some of them will advertise in time."
  • Why it matters: Content companies are pushing to diversify their businesses with subscriptions and licensing, while other big tech companies draw on income from hardware sales and software sales and subscriptions.

The big picture: Facebook created its massive business by handing out a free social network and monetizing it through ads.

  • As it expands into other businesses like commerce, payments, and hardware, it's mostly sticking with that formula — convinced that "free and ad-supported" remains the best route to achieve massive scale and to deliver on its mission of connecting the world. 

Between the lines: In order for Facebook to maintain its revenue growth rate, especially through a possible recession, it needs to quickly expand its market through free products.

8. Choose your own climate adventure
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

A new simulator out today empowers readers to choose their own adventure when it comes to tackling climate change, Naema Ahmed and Amy Harder write.

  • Why it matters: The tool, created by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and think tank Climate Interactive, underscores the grand challenge of employing technologies and policies to tackle climate change.

Try the simulator: Answer nine questions on everything from carbon dioxide prices to land management.

9. Giving Tuesday poll: The causes we support
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Data: SurveyMonkey online poll with a margin of error of ±2 percentage points. Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Education tops the list of causes Americans have supported, followed by human services and health, according to an Axios-SurveyMonkey poll on philanthropy that breaks down the most popular charitable giving causes, Jessie Li writes.

10. 1 pricey thing: $100+ water bottles

"Once an afterthought, the humble water bottle has emerged as a designer product — the 'it' accessory of the moment," the Boston Globe's Dugan Arnett writes.

  • "The trendiest bottles retail for around the same as a car insurance payment, selling — in some cases — for more than $100."
  • The popular brand BKR is selling its bottles in beauty departments.

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