Sep 6, 2018

Axios AM

🏈 Good Thursday morning. The NFL season kicks off at 8:20 p.m. ET: Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles vs. Atlanta Falcons (NBC).

Situational awareness ... "Contagion" risk in emerging markets, per Bloomberg: "A herd mentality has taken over, meaning no matter what the relative risks and potential returns are in individual countries, investors ... run the risk of being trampled."

1 big thing ... Exclusive: "Snakes are everywhere"

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

President Trump is not just seething about Bob Woodward.

He’s deeply suspicious of much of the government he oversees — from the hordes of folks inside agencies, right up to some of the senior-most political appointees and even some handpicked aides inside his own White House, officials tell Jonathan Swan and me.

  • He should be paranoid. In the hours after the New York Times published the anonymous Op-Ed from "a senior official in the Trump administration" trashing the president ("I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration"), two senior administration officials reached out to Axios to say the author stole the words right out of their mouths.
  • "I find the reaction to the NYT op-ed fascinating — that people seem so shocked that there is a resistance from the inside," one senior official said. "A lot of us [were] wishing we’d been the writer, I suspect ... I hope he [Trump] knows — maybe he does? — that there are dozens and dozens of us."

Why it matters: Several senior White House officials have described their roles to us as saving America and the world from this president.

  • A good number of current White House officials have privately admitted to us they consider Trump unstable, and at times dangerously slow.
  • But the really deep concern and contempt, from our experience, has been at the agencies — and particularly in the foreign policy arena.

For some time last year, Trump even carried with him a handwritten list of people suspected to be leakers undermining his agenda.

  • "He would basically be like, 'We’ve gotta get rid of them. The snakes are everywhere but we’re getting rid of them,'" said a source close to Trump.
  • Trump would often ask staff whom they thought could be trusted. He often
    asks the people who work for him what they think about their colleagues, which can be not only be uncomfortable but confusing to Trump: Rival staffers shoot at each other and Trump is left not knowing who to believe.

Officials describe an increasingly conspiracy-minded president:

  • "When he was super frustrated about the leaks, he would rail about the
    'snakes' in the White House," said a source who has discussed administration leakers with the president.
  • "Especially early on, when we would be in Roosevelt Room meetings, he would sit down at the table, and get to talking, then turn around to see who was sitting along the walls behind him."
  • "One day, after one of those meetings, he said, 'Everything that just happened is going to leak. I don’t know any of those people in the room.' ... He was very paranoid about this."

The Times Op-Ed reinforces everything Trump instinctively believes:

  • That a "Deep State" exists. It's trying to undermine him and — in the case of Jeff Sessions’ Justice Department, in Trump’s mind — is trying to overthrow his presidency.
  • The Bob Woodward book, Trump believes, exposes that leakers are everywhere — and gunning for him. 

Be smart: "People talk about the loyalists leaving," the source close to Trump tells us. "What it really means is [that there'll be] fewer and fewer people who Trump knows who they really are. So imagine how paranoid you must be if that is your view of the world."

2. Wild guessing game

President Trump reacted to the N.Y. Times Op-Ed "with 'volcanic' anger ... and told confidants he suspects the official works on national security issues or in the Justice Department," the WashPost reports:

  • "The column ... launched a frantic guessing game. ... Aides were analyzing language patterns to try to discern the author’s identity or at a minimum the part of the administration where the author works."
  • "The phrase 'The sleeper cells have awoken' circulated on text messages among aides and outside allies."
  • "'It’s like the horror movies when everyone realizes the call is coming from inside the house,' said one former White House official."

How it's playing ... N.Y. Times 1 column lead: "TRUMP SEETHES AS A ‘RESISTANCE’ SPILLS INTO VIEW ... TIMES OP-ED FEEDS FURY."

N.Y. Post
3. Sessions threatens tech action

Attorney General Jeff Sessions will meet with state attorneys general this month "to discuss a growing concern that these companies may be hurting competition and intentionally stifling the free exchange of ideas on their platforms," Axios' David McCabe reports.

  • Why it matters: The unexpected Justice Department statement raises the prospect of antitrust action against the companies.

The alarm about competition follows rising Republican allegations of online censorship, which President Trump has started hammering.

  • "This is an enormous assertion of investigatory powers, in a highly charged political environment," said Public Knowledge’s Gene Kimmelman, who served in the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division under Obama.

A new Axios/SurveyMonkey poll finds significant public distrust of search engines, with two-thirds of Republicans believing results skew left:

Expand chart
Data: SurveyMonkey online poll, Aug. 30 to Sept. 3, of 2,698 U.S. adults. Margin of error: ±2.5 percentage points. Poll methodology. Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

P.S. Wall Street Journal p. 1: "Antitrust enforcers are preparing to give the green light to two major deals in the health-care industry, CVS Health’s planned acquisition of health insurer Aetna and Cigna’s planned purchase of Express Scripts."

4. Tweet du jour

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey:

5. A softer approach to school safety

"Stroll the Halls, Say Hello" ... Mayor Bill de Blasio said New York City will "begin a pilot program at a group of Bronx schools to turn school safety agents into the equivalent of beat cops," the N.Y. Times' Eliza Shapiro writes:

  • "The city was asking 63 of the agents who work in 30 high schools to walk the hallways in search of wandering students, meet with principals to discuss brewing conflicts between children, and wish every child a good morning before first period."

Rachel Harris, a school safety agent at I.S. 219 in the Bronx who is part of a pilot program that asks the agents to walk the hallways, defuse conflicts and wish students good morning before first period:

  • "I always tell the kids I love them even if they’re miserable and cursing me out."

Reality interlude: "School districts across the country have added new layers of security to their buildings, and the federal government has signaled a willingness to arm teachers in the wake of the Parkland, Fla., massacre."

6. Obamas hit the road
Michelle Obama and President Obama at their portrait unveiling in February (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

"Advisers cast a speech Barack Obama will give [tomorrow in Illinois], when he accepts an ethics in government award, as the moment he will re-engage in politics after spending most of his post-presidency on the partisan sidelines," AP's Darlene Superville and Julie Pace write:

  • "He'll enter the fray in a more traditional campaign sense Saturday when he stumps for several House Democratic candidates from California at an event in Orange County."
  • "The campaign activity with continue through October and include fundraising appearances. While Obama will be visible throughout the general election phase, he will not be a daily presence on the campaign trail."

"Michelle Obama will headline voter registration rallies in Las Vegas and Miami later this month during a week of action by a new, nonpartisan organization, When We All Vote, which she co-chairs. It encourages voting in November and future elections."

  • "She has long been one of the most popular draws among Democrats, but it remains an open question whether she will campaign for any Democratic candidates."
7. Landmark in India
In Mumbai today, an activist wears a badge protesting against Section 377 of the India Penal Code, which criminalized homosexuality. (Rafiq Maqbool/AP)

"In a historic verdict, India's Supreme Court ruled that gay sex is no longer a criminal offence in the country," BBC reports:

  • "The ruling overturns a 2013 judgement that upheld a colonial-era law ... under which gay sex is categorized as an 'unnatural offense.'"
  • Why it matters: "It is one of the world's oldest laws criminalizing gay sex, and India had been reluctant to overturn it."
8. YouTube of the day

Nike releases the full, two-minute version of the Colin Kaepernick ad, "Dream crazy."

  • "It's only crazy until you do it."

Will air during NFL season opener tonight, plus U.S. Open tennis tournament and other major sporting events, per AP.

9. 🏀 1 charitable thing

Guest column by Axios' Danielle Decker Jones in The (Norfolk) Virginian-Pilot, "A campaign to beat cancer":

  • "My husband, Jeff Jones — the men’s basketball coach at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, and the point guard who played with Ralph Sampson at the University of Virginia — is undergoing treatment for a recurrence of prostate cancer."
  • "The American Cancer Society’s Hope Lodge Network provides free, comfortable accommodations for the many cancer patients who need to travel for treatment. Not having to worry about that one thing — where to stay, or how to pay for it — allows patients to focus on the important things — like surviving. ... I have started a fundraising page to benefit Hope Lodges."

You can help here.

10. 1 food thing

NFL stadiums are adding pimento cheese melts and fried ravioli to their concessions this season, AP's Teresa Walker writes:

  • "For dessert, try a battered and fried peanut butter and jelly sandwich dusted in powdered sugar. On a stick."
  • "Inspiration for that fried PB&J sandwich served at New Era Field, home of the Buffalo Bills, came from the annual Erie County Fair."

At Lambeau Field, home of the Green Bay Packers, "fans can buy Brat in a Blanket: a brat wrapped in melted cheese curds inside a pretzel bun."

  • "Or they can grab a ham and bacon sandwich with sautéed onions and a beer mustard cheese sauce on a pretzel bun."
  • "Executive chef Heath Barbato calls it perfect glove or mitten food."

Why it matters: "Chefs spend ... months each offseason scheming up tasty new dishes to help lure people away from their couches and big-screen televisions into NFL stadiums and up to concession stands."

  • 🍻 P.S. FedEx Field’s craft beer offerings will be expanded again this season, per the WashPost: After introducing craft beer on every level of the stadium for the first time last year, the Redskins hired a craft beer consultant.

☕️ Thanks for reading. See you all day on