Jan 14, 2020

Axios AM

Happy Tuesday! People to watch: Matt Mowers, former New Hampshire GOP executive director and Trump administration State Department official, is challenging freshman Rep. Chris Pappas (D-N.H.), John DiStaso reports for WMUR.

1 big thing: Trump's big wall win

Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images

President Trump has successfully built an immigration wall that has proven impenetrable for tens of thousands of migrants — it's just not the physical one he and others obsess about, Axios' Stef Kight reports.

  • The number of attempted border crossings is falling, and denial rates are climbing. The very nations most migrants flee are now the nations where asylum seekers are being sent.
  • What to watch: Federal courts could still send Trump's wall of policies and programs tumbling, which some experts and officials fear could lead to another surge at the border in 2020.

Over the past few months, the Trump administration has begun implementing its asylum agreements with Central American nations, which could help keep asylum seekers out of the U.S.

  • They're sending Hondurans to Guatemala — the origin nation for the highest number of migrants who reached the U.S. border last year.
  • Officials could begin kicking Mexican, Central American and South American asylum seekers to Honduras or El Salvador as well.
  • More than 50,000 Central American asylum seekers have already been forced to wait out their legal cases in Mexico under the Migrant Protection Protocols— "Remain in Mexico." The program is expected to expand.

Between the lines: Even the thousands who wait out their time in Mexico for a chance at asylum face steep odds of gaining legal passage into the U.S.

  • So far, just 117 people covered by MPP since January of last year have been granted asylum by an immigration judge, according to data collected by Syracuse University's Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse.
  • More than 15,000 have been given orders of removal.

The bottom line: The number of people crossing the border fell for the seventh straight month in December.

⚡ What's next: Trump continues his slow campaign for a physical wall.

  • The WashPost reports that he's "preparing to divert an additional $7.2 billion in [2020] Pentagon funding for border wall construction this year, five times what Congress authorized."

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2. 2020 rules of the road for Misinformation Age

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Just three weeks ahead of the Iowa caucuses, social media platforms have finalized their rules governing political speech — and fired a starting pistol for political strategists to find ways to exploit them, Axios' Sara Fischer writes.

  • Facebook announced it won't back down from its controversial policy of not fact-checking politicians' statements. Twitter, YouTube and other platforms have also adjusted their political-speech rules.
  • Why it matters: "One opportunity that has arisen from all these changes is how people are trying to get around them," says Keegan Goudiss, director of digital advertising for Bernie Sanders' 2016 campaign, and now a partner at the progressive digital firm Revolution Messaging.

Axios spoke with a half dozen campaign strategists, both Republicans and Democrats, plus social intelligence experts, about what these rules will mean:

  1. Paid lies will still flourish: Facebook is one of the strongest tools for campaigns to gather data about voters. Because Facebook said definitively last week that it will not fact-check political speech, nor will it limit micro-targeting political ads, campaigns will leverage both freedoms to make sure the most provocative ads reach the right people.
  2. Free lies will still flourish: Twitter has banned political ads, but few political ad dollars were spent on Twitter to begin with. Twitter continues to be a powerful platform for driving political conversation, and the platform has lenient policies about politicians' free speech.
  3. Ads will be gamed: Google policies prohibit campaigns from micro-targeting users using its ad technology. But the platform can't stop ad buyers from micro-targeting Google's inventory through other third-party ad exchanges.

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  • Sign up for Sara Fischer's weekly newsletter, Axios Media Trends, out later today.
3. Pelosi's new card
Protester Laura Albinson of Pasadena, Md., greets House members as they leave the Capitol on Friday. (Think she wanted the Senate side.) Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Speaker Pelosi suddenly has a new lever as she pushes Senate Republicans to include witnesses and documents in President Trump's impeachment trial — a "trove" of text messages turned over by Lev Parnas, the indicted former Rudy Giuliani associate, Axios' Alayna Treene and Margaret Talev report.

  • Why it matters: A public release of some or all of the materials could give Democrats new ammunition to argue that the White House must turn over more information and allow new testimony from witnesses.

Parnas' lawyer, Joseph A. Bondy, said in a series of tweets over the weekend and yesterday that he turned over to the House Intelligence Committee the contents of Parnas' iPhone 11, detailing interactions "with a number of individuals relevant to the impeachment inquiry."

  • Bondy said he has also shared dozens of text messages, photos and materials from a Samsung phone and thousands of documents.
  • He is also expected to provide investigators with materials from two other devices, an iPad and another iPhone, "as soon as possible," per Bondy.

In a phone interview with Axios last night, Bondy said he anticipates that when the articles are turned over to the Senate, "there will be a public record that is transmitted with that, including information from witnesses."

  • "I have reason to believe that at least some of what Mr. Parnas transmitted to [the intelligence committee] will likely make the public record."
  • Asked if ​the contents of the documents Parnas provided to the committee hurt the president, Bondy replied: "They aren't helpful."
  • He added that Parnas is eager to testify before Congress, and hopes the document dump will help in getting his client an audience with lawmakers.

What's next: Pelosi is meeting with her caucus later this morning, and will discuss the next steps on impeachment.

  • Shortly after, likely this afternoon or Wednesday, the House is expected to vote on delivering the articles to the Senate and naming House managers.

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4. Pic du jour
Photo: Randolf Evan Photography via Reuters

Social media loved this photo of a couple continuing their wedding in the Philippines as the Taal volcano sent out a column of ash in the background.

  • The volcano began spewing smoke an hour or two before the wedding, and ash began to fall on the party toward the end of the ceremony, per Reuters.
5. Warren says Sanders dissed women
Screenshot via CNN

Tonight's Iowa debate (9 p.m. ET on CNN) is the last debate before the Feb. 3 caucuses, so it's being called the most important night of the 2020 primary season so far.

What to watch: Elizabeth Warren said yesterday that Bernie Sanders told her during a private meeting in Dec. 2018 that he didn’t think a woman could win.

  • Sanders denies it.
  • But she said in a statement that during a two-hour meeting to discuss 2020, "Among the topics that came up was what would happen if Democrats nominated a female candidate. I thought a woman could win; he disagreed."
6. Apple signals fight over shooter's iPhones
Photo: Apple

In a situation that resembles the aftermath of the 2015 San Bernardino shooting, the Justice Department wants access to encrypted iPhones tied to a shooting at the Pensacola Naval Air Station that's being called terrorism, Axios' Ina Fried writes.

  • Apple is strongly hinting it will challenge Attorney General Bill Barr's request for data from two iPhones that belonged to the gunman, including one that he fired a bullet into after being confronted by law enforcement. (AP)

Why it matters: Whether law enforcement has the right to access encrypted data on smartphones remains unsettled and is one of the most hotly debated issues in tech, with no clear middle ground.

  • Apple said in a statement: "[T]here is no such thing as a backdoor just for the good guys. Backdoors can also be exploited by those who threaten our national security and the data security of our customers. ... We feel strongly encryption is vital to protecting our country and our users' data."
7. Iran announces arrests as anger swells
In Tehran, protesters hold flowers as tear gas fired by police rises at a demonstration on Saturday. Photo: AP

Iran's judiciary said today that an unspecified number of people had been arrested for the shootdown of a Ukrainian passenger plane, AP reports.

  • Why it matters: The announcement came amid an upswell of anger and protests by Iranians over the downing of the jetliner and attempts by senior officials to cover it up.
8. Queen bows to Megxit
Axios Visuals, AP

"The Queen issued an unprecedented personal statement ... giving her reluctant support to the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s decision to step back from royal duties," The Times of London reports.

  • Her statement "used the word 'family' eight times and the Queen appeared to be going out of her way to offer reassurance to the couple."
9. 1 ⚾ thing
Houston Astros owner Jim Crane announcing firings yesterday. Photo: Yi-Chin Lee/Houston Chronicle via AP

"The Red Sox may soon face significant pressure to fire manager Alex Cora after Major League Baseball issued a detailed report ... that named him the ringleader of a cheating scandal," the Boston Globe's Peter Abraham writes.

  • "The Houston Astros fired general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager A.J. Hinch shortly after they were suspended for a year by commissioner Rob Manfred for failing to stop a sign-stealing scheme Cora developed as Houston’s bench coach in 2017."
10. 1 🏈 thing
Photo: David J. Phillip/AP

"Cigar clippings were scattered on the locker-room floor, a haze of smoke flooded the air and LSU quarterback Joe Burrow emerged with a stogie between his fingers and a smirk across his face," The Advocate of New Orleans reports.

  • In case you didn't make it to 12:14 a.m. ET: LSU won its fourth national championship, ending Clemson's 29-game winning streak with a 42-25 victory in the college football championship, at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans.

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