Axios AM

An analog clock with only two symbols instead of twelve: the symbols read 'AM' and 'PM'.

February 01, 2017

1 big thing: For a moment, a nod to normalcy

After 10 days of turmoil, the Trump White House yesterday looked and sounded shockingly normal. We hear President Trump was frustrated with the rollout of the executive order on migrant travel, and White House chief of staff Reince Priebus used it to push for a return to some kind of normal. You saw this, at least for a day, from afternoon to sundown.

The president appeared in the East Room and actually read his speech nominating U.S. District Judge Neil M. Gorsuch of Denver to the Supreme Court: "I only hope that both Democrats and Republicans can come together for once for the good of the country."

Gorsuch, 49, a measured conservative who is a favorite of the Republican establishment, then stepped to the microphone and gave a humble speech: "[W]hen we judges don our robes, it doesn't make us any smarter, but it does serve as a reminder of what's expected of us: Impartiality and independence, collegiality and courage."

CNN's Dana Bash had earlier posted a story saying Trump was unhappy with the backlash over the executie order "caused by poor communication to key agencies and members of Congress: "Priebus will now take more control of the systems dealing with basic functions, like executive orders.

  • "The way one source described it: Priebus already technically had the authority, but clearly the staff needed a reminder 'not to color outside their lines.' The same source said the executive order ... was moved too quickly without 'reading in' people who could have helped execute it more cleanly."

In the morning, the White House drew praise on Twitter from establishment Republicans for the announcement that Trump would continue to enforce an Obama executive order protecting employees from anti-LGBTQ workplace discrimination while working for federal contractors.

Ken Mehlman thanking a Republican president for "sound policy" and "smart politics." It was all so ... normal.

2. What happens now

Chuck Todd said on NBC's live coverage of Trump's announcement that Gorsuch is so impressive that his confirmation "should be a layup -- he meets all of the criteria ... made an incredible first impression." Chuck said that in this environment, confirmation will still be "noisy" because of the pressure on Dems from their base. Nevertheless, "I think it's going to be much harder for them to unify and be against and force a filibuster after he spends one-on-one time with them."

Payback politics: VandeHei explains why Democrats are likely to do unto Republicans as they did unto them, and push this to the brink of a nuclear option standoff.

  • It's on: Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) announced his opposition within seconds of the pick. Other Democrats quickly followed suit.
  • On the NYT mobile site this morning, four opinion pieces were featured, three hostile to the pick.

3. Cloak-and-dagger justice

A White House source takes Axios AM readers inside Judge Gorsuch's stealth trip to D.C., after Trump called him Monday to tell him he was the pick: "Two members of the White House Counsel's office had already flown to Denver ... and drove to Boulder, Colorado, to prepare the nominee and to escort him to Washington. The press started camping outside the homes of the rumored short list, making it harder to get him out of his home undetected."

Gorsuch then walked to a neighbor's house: "The neighbor drove him out of his neighborhood in an SUV via farm roads to avoid the press. He then met with the members of the White House counsel's office at a Starbucks in a Safeway parking lot off Highway 287 in Boulder. [The counsel's office] briefed the nominee on the next steps, then flew with the nominee and his wife [Louise] back to D.C.

The Gorsuches "spent the night in a private home in the suburbs to avoid recognition. He then spent the day getting briefings on the logistics of the nominations process, meeting the President and Vice President, and finalizing paperwork for the nomination process."

4. Pic of the day

Gorsuch (right) with the late Justice Antonin Scalia, whose seat he has been nominated to fill, posted on Sean Hannity's Twitter feed.

  • "Meet Neil Gorsuch," from Axios' Shannon Vavra: "George W. Bush appointed Gorsuch to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit in May of 2006. Like ... Scalia, Gorsuch is a known originalist and proponent of textualism."

5. Ban may grow

"Trump administration signals that some bans on U.S. entry could be extended indefinitely," per L.A. Times' Brian Bennett: "The list of banned countries may expand; Trump's order directed [Homeland Security Secretary John] Kelly to submit within 60 days a list of additional nations whose citizens should be prohibited from traveling to the U.S. as well."

  • The takeaway: "The moves signaled that the White House remained committed to remaking border law enforcement while trying to combat the widespread condemnation brought on by Trump's orders."
  • Worth the click ... "Border fences and refugee bans: Hungary did it — fast," by Axios' Shane Savitsky: "Fidesz, the ruling party since 2010, and its leader, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, have used the migrant crisis in Europe to stoke fears about refugees fleeing the Middle East and cut the country off from both its neighbors and international institutions."

6. More CEO resistance

"Apple Considers Legal Options Against Trump's Immigration Order," per WSJ's Tripp Mickle: CEO Tim Cook said in an interview that "hundreds of Apple employees have been affected by the order ... He added that he continues to contact 'very, very senior people in the White House' and impress on them why repealing the executive order is important not only for Apple but for the country."

7. Bureaucracy bites back

"Resistance from within" ... State, Justice, Defense, HHS, EPA, CDC and National Park Service are seeing Trumpsistance, according to this WashPost front-pager: "[F]ederal workers are in regular consultation with recently departed Obama-era political appointees about what they can do to push back ... Some federal employees have set up social media accounts to anonymously leak word of changes that Trump appointees are trying to make."

  • Embassies, too ... "State Dept. Dissent Cable on Trump's Ban Draws 1,000 Signatures," on N.Y. Times p. A1, by Jeffrey Gettleman in Nairobi, Kenya: "Within hours, a State Department dissent cable, asserting that President Trump's executive order to temporarily bar citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries would not make the nation safer, traveled like a chain letter — or a viral video."

8. Bannon v. Kushner

David Ignatius' WashPost column offers what he calls "a more measured account" of Bannon's worldview than critics typically give: "As with many revolutionaries, Bannon's story is that of a wealthy man who came to see himself as a vanguard for the masses. ... By 2014, Bannon saw himself leading what he called a 'global tea party movement' against a financial elite that he described as 'the party of Davos.'"

  • Keeper quote: "[O]n the day Britain voted to leave the European Union, Breitbart thundered: 'There's panic in the skyscrapers. A popular revolution against globalism is underway.' Bannon pressed that theme after Trump's victory, telling Breitbart's radio show on Dec. 30 it was only the 'top of the first inning.'"

Frank Bruni column in N.Y. Times, "Where's Jared Kushner?": "Remember the good old days — by which I mean just a few weeks ago — when there was hope and talk that Donald Trump's 36-year-old son-in-law would play the angel to Steve Bannon's devil ... ?"

  • The buzz: "Some observers point to the Sabbath as proof that Kushner does indeed exert a taming force in Trump World. They say that the president is most reckless during these periods, because Ivanka and her husband aren't around to babysit. ... Sometimes I study him and see someone drained of color, even thinner than before, haunted."

9. Tops in tech

The Axios trifecta of Kim Hart, Lazaro Gamio and Kia Kokalitcheva dive into "The ripple effects of Trump's H-1B visa reform": "Tech industry insiders expect Trump will direct DHS, which runs the H-1B visa lottery system, to start a rule-making to re-prioritize the visa allocation to give preference to higher-paying firms. This pits tech firms against the Indian IT-staffing firms."

  • The catch: "Wage-based hiring means companies may miss out on mid-level workers they still have trouble filling with qualified Americans. ... [S]oftware engineering jobs will be filled quickly, but jobs for network engineers or tech support that tend to skew lower on the pay scale could be tough to fill without H-1B visas."

Peter Thiel, future Trump adviser, declared in a 2011 application for citizenship: "I am happy to say categorically that I have found no other country that aligns more with my view of the future than New Zealand." The N.Y. Times posts the 15-page document.

10. 2 fun things

Jimmy Fallon's Oval Office address, via YouTube: "And now, a special message from ME. ... Thank you for tuning in to the brand-new, 24-hour YouTube livestream from the Oval Office. I'll be livestreaming EVERYTHING for the next four years. ... Now before I begin, I just want to address the complaints that two or three dozen people had over the weekend."

  • "But it's just not the immigration ban that five or six people are upset about. ... Fake news! ... This is my Golden Nomination Cage, and I spin it exactly three times. ... My hands are so large, they don't even make gloves in my size."
  • "Nextly, two or three people have been criticizing my executive orders. ... Whenever I need to make an executive decision, I simply give my Huge Wheel of Decisions a big spin -- a REALLY big spin. ... In conclusionally, I say proudly that literally NO ONE was upset this week."

"The Man Cave Has a New Neighbor—the She Shed" -- Wall Street Journal A-hed: "Tiny houses with mood lighting, flower boxes, bistro tables, throw pillows and pink furniture pop up in backyards as overbooked women steal a page from the guy playbook; 'it's just me, all me.'"