Jul 31, 2017

Axios AM

By Mike Allen
Mike Allen

Good Monday morning. It's Day 193 for President Trump, and Day 1 for White House Chief of Staff John Kelly. It's the last day of July.

1 big thing: "Leaks beget leaks"

Here's one way to please your boss: Later this week, Attorney General Jeff Sessions plans to release figures showing a jump in the number of leak cases pursued so far this year, compared to all of last year.

The figures will be finalized in the next few days. Administration officials believe the increase is both because there's more leaking going on, and because the Justice Department is being more aggressive.

The event announcing the leak war is expected to include officials from the Justice Department and the intelligence community.

A senior administration official said one purpose of the public announcement of the figures is to try to curtail the "culture of leaks": "Leaks beget more leaks."

Be smart: Trump is going to find that leaks are a symptom, not the disease. You can crack down all you want. But he has so antagonized permanent Washington, and made so many of his aides feel insecure about their own positions, that information and intrigue will find its way out.

Flashback ... N.Y. Times' Glenn Thrush tweeted July 13: "Uneventful flight on AF1. Except for the 70-minute Trump off-the-record with fake news reporters." (Later put on the record.)

2. Tax reform begins today

Never mind President Trump's weekend of after-the-whistle tweeting about health reform. The White House, Senate and House are all united in moving on full steam to tax reform this week — with heightened urgency, since Republican lawmakers are more desperate than ever to pass something substantial ahead of midterms.

  • Republicans' House majority is in more danger than ever after the face-plant on health care. So they'll make noises about a last-ditch push. Forget it: A top congressional aide says it would take "a miracle."

Trump begins his pitch ... Jonathan Swan reported in his Sunday evening Sneak Peek newsletter:

  • At a small business event tomorrow at the White House, the President is expected to demand a historic overhaul, rather than the mediocre tax cuts that most Washington veterans think are far more likely.
  • Watch for Trump to take his tax reform sales pitch on the road in August — with some top aides looking to stage a series of speeches through the Rust Belt.

A K Street official tells us: "The business community is organized and activating their leadership, and associations and think tanks are making a push with their members. ... Passing tax reform will require relentless engagement ... to ensure ... political momentum."

  • "Lessons were learned during the health care process. That's why the business community has committed resources to making the public case for tax reform."

Exhibit A ... The center-right American Action Network promotes tax reform, and highlights failures of the current code, by launching the Middle-Class Growth Initiative.

  • The group will spend $5 million during August recess (TV, digital, radio and mail), beginning with a $1 million radio ad campaign in 34 House districts (listen to ad; list of districts). MCGI will be led by AAN Executive Director Corry Bliss and Kevin Madden, who will serve as an advisor. #GrowthForAll
3. Day 1 for new chief of staff

"Sage Advice From the 'Gold Standard' of White House Chiefs of Staff" ... The N.Y. Times' Peter Baker — who's writing a biography of James Addison Baker III with his wife, Susan Glasser — quotes the former chief of staff for Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush:

  • "You can focus on the 'chief,' or you can focus on the 'of staff.' Those who have focused on the 'of staff' have done pretty well."
  • "Baker's advice is aimed at those who become too full of themselves, acting as a quasi prime minister, as his successor Donald T. Regan did before making the fateful mistake of hanging up the phone on Nancy Reagan."
  • "Reince Priebus ... may have gone too far the other direction."
  • Today, "as John F. Kelly takes over Mr. Baker's old corner office with the fireplace and patio, he assumes probably the hardest job in Washington other than president."
  • "Kelly ... seemed to be the anti-Priebus. ... Kelly, 67, is more a generational peer and may take advantage of the president's reverence for generals to get him to listen as he did not to Mr. Priebus, 45 and neither wealthy nor a military officer."
Bonus: Tweet du jour

In Milwaukee yesterday, a nacho-toting Gov. Chris Christie paused at the game between the Brewers and the Chicago Cubs to get in a fan's face and call him a "big shot," according to WISN Channel 12.

The fan, Brad Joseph, said: "I called him a hypocrite, because I thought it needed to be said. He turned around back towards me and got in my face ... First he told me, 'Why don't you have another beer?' which I thought was a decent comeback ... Then he started calling me a tough guy."

4. Times and Post race "an existential foe"

From Vanity Fair's September issue, by James Warren:

  • At the WashPost, "You hear about new technologies called Arc, Bandito, Paloma, Heliograf, BreakFast, and ModBot. These are, respectively: a state-of-the-art content-management system; a real-time content-testing tool; a newsletter-delivery platform; an artificial-intelligence system that let the paper cover around 500 election races last year and customize results geographically; a way to measure the speed of breaking-news e-mail alerts; and a mechanism to manage one million reader comments a month."
  • "Editorial-department hiring is up by about 140 ... since [executive editor Marty] Baron arrived [in 2013], including all the tech support and a video staff that has mushroomed to 70."
  • "You can argue that Trump has bought both newspapers some time — which makes you wonder if their success will continue once Trump is no longer an irresistible and unsettling object of scrutiny."
  • Why it matters: "[A]n existential threat is already apparent: many Americans won't believe a thing either newspaper says ... The sharp uptick in Times and Post readership may obscure a larger cultural change."
5. Sanders: "the illnesses of despair"

The New Yorker ... "The Dream Deferred: Bernie Sanders's not-quite-finished campaign ... Sanders is not a natural storyteller; his great political gift is his relentlessness," by Benjamin Wallace-Wells: In the convention halls of Middle America, Bernie Sanders is the leader of an improbable progressive movement. ... His speeches, blunt and workmanlike, depend upon dramatizing social statistics. ... Death and despair have been Sanders's themes since he launched his Presidential campaign. From West Virginia, he headed to Covington, Kentucky, in an area where the opioid epidemic has been particularly devastating. What had gone so badly in people's lives that they were turning to heroin and opioids? 'There is something going on in West Virginia and Kentucky which is unbelievable, which is what sociologists call the illnesses of despair," Sanders told me. He had been to parts of West Virginia where there were very few jobs, "fewer that pay a living wage," and there was a steep psychic cost. "There is a lot of pain. And we've got to understand that reality. And then tell these people that their problems are not caused by some Mexican making eight dollars an hour picking strawberries."

6. Spicey's next life

Jon Cohen, chief research officer at Survey Monkey, gives Axios readers a first look at data from an online poll of 3,405 adults, taken Thursday through Sunday:

  • Republicans turn their health-care ire on congressional GOP, not Trump. Among Republicans, 80% approve of the way Trump is handling health-care policy; approval of Congress has cratered to 40%, from 69% before Memorial Day.
  • Anthony Scaramucci: 15% approve, 37% disapprove, 48% no opinion.
  • 55% disapprove of Trump's military transgender troops ban.
  • 32% want Sean Spicer to stay out of the spotlight, 19% percent want a tell-all book, 11% say "get an attorney," 8% want him on "Dancing with the Stars," 6% want him on cable news. Write-ins: "speak with Mueller," "sell shoes." One said: "don't have tv....not sure who he is."
7. An outlier in EPA history

Scott Pruitt is the most aggressive leader in the EPA's almost 50-year history, Axios' Amy Harder writes in her "Harder Line" energy column:

Amy's thought bubble: Pruitt's environmental views are actually in line with most of the Republican Party since Ronald Reagan was elected president in 1980. What's changed is how empowered Pruitt is under President Trump, the emergence of climate change as a top environmental issue, and a prior administration that was aggressive in issuing regulations.

8. Juveniles age in prison, despite ruling

"Locked up for life" ... "Five years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court banned mandatory life without parole for juveniles in murder cases. Last year, the court went further, saying the more than 2,000 already serving such sentences must get a chance" at release.

"But prison gates don't just swing open." AP's Sharon Cohen and Adam Geller take a deep look at the confusion, heartbreak and hope:

  • Why it matters: "Some [states] have resentenced and released dozens of those deemed to have rehabilitated themselves ... Others have delayed review of cases, skirted the ruling on seeming technicalities or fought to keep the vast majority of their affected inmates locked up for life."
9. Data du jour
10. 1 fun thing

"Youth sports travel is scoring big as communities across the United States build multisport complexes ... in hopes of drawing ... parents who spend big on transportation, hotels, food and family entertainment," AP's Terrance Harris reports from Orlando:

  • "All across the country, communities are reinventing themselves as youth sports travel destinations."
  • "That the industry is 'recession-proof' has been a talking point for developers and town councils."
  • "Amateur Athletic Union CEO Roger Goudy sees the potential for oversaturation if building continues at today's rate."

P.S. "The owners of D.C. United, Washington's Major League Soccer team, are quietly weighing a sale ... [T]he team has reached out to ... Daniel Snyder, the owner of the ... Redskins, and Ted Leonsis, owner of the N.B.A.'s ... Wizards and the N.H.L.'s Capitals." (NYT's Michael de la Merced and Andrew Ross Sorkin)

Bonus fun thing
Mike Allen