Jan 25, 2020

Axios AM

Bulletin: White House counsel Pat Cipollone began the impeachment defense of President Trump today by accusing Democrats of trying to overturn the 2016 election — and circumvent the 2020 election by tearing up "all of the ballots across this country":

  • "For all their talk about election interference, ... they're here to perpetrate the most massive interference in an election in American history."

Follow our live coverage.

1 big thing: Impeachment changed almost nothing in politics

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photos: Spencer Platt/Getty Images and Win McNamee/Getty Images

When you dive into the data, shockingly little has changed in the political landscape four months after Speaker Pelosi launched the inquiry of President Trump, Stef Kight reports.

  • All holding steady: Trump's national approval numbers ... public support for his removal ... Joe Biden's place as the Democratic primary frontrunner.

What hasn't changed: The American public is still split over whether Trump should be removed, just like in September.

  • Support for removing Trump has inched up, but not dramatically, according to CNN-SSRS polling.
  • In September, 47% of Americans wanted Trump to be impeached and removed from office, with 45% opposed.
  • This week, 51% said he should be convicted and removed, with 45% opposed.

Trump approval still hovers around 42%— one of the lowest, but most consistent approval streaks of any recent president, according to FiveThirtyEight data.

  • By contrast, Bill Clinton's approval ratings shot up from the 60% range in early 1998 to 73% during his impeachment in December, 1998, according to Gallup.

Biden remains the 2020 Democrat to beat in national polls, despite early concern that Trump's unsubstantiated allegations involving Biden's son and Ukraine would prove damaging.

  • Beyond one spike in national interest when the House voted to impeach Trump, the general public has had relatively little interest in searching online for updates or news about impeachment, according to Google Trends.

The bottom line: The public — and the parties — are so dug in on Trump that even impeachment hasn't been a tipping point.

2. What impeachment HAS changed
White House counsel Pat Cipollone opens President Trump's defense today. Photo: Senate TV via Getty Images

Most shifts since impeachment began seem to be in Trump's favor, Stef Kight continues.

  • Trump’s net approval numbers improved in 31 states between September and December, according to Morning Consult data.
  • They improved by at least 5 points in Iowa, Utah, Maine, Montana and New Mexico.
  • But his net approval declined in some key states as well, including Michigan and Texas.

The vast majority of Trump TV ads have involved impeachment. Trump's campaign and the RNC raised more than $150 million in just the last three months of 2019.

  • The RNC says it has attracted more than 600,000 new donors since September. It also recruited more than 100,000 new volunteers through its anti-impeachment "Stop the Madness" campaign website.

But some Democrats have seen an impact, too. The Biden campaign says its average digital revenue per day more than doubled during impeachment compared to the weeks before.

  • It also saw a fundraising spike after the transcript of Trump’s phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was released, a campaign official told Axios. “It was a moment where people realized what’s at stake in this election,” the official said.
  • The DNC has already raised as much in January from major donor fundraising as it had by May in 2016 and April in 2008, according to a DNC official.
  • Pete Buttigieg's national press secretary, Chris Meagher, said the campaign "didn't think it was appropriate to fundraise off a national crisis."

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3. 🚨 China uses virus to increase centralization
Excavators rush construction of a 1,000-bed field hospital in Wuhan, China. Photo: Getty Images

Chinese leader Xi Jinping, who has said little publicly about the growing virus crisis, now has ordered mobilization across the country and drastic measures to hold back the contagion, the N.Y. Times reports.

  • Xi said: "Confronted with the grave situation of this accelerating spread of pneumonia from infections with the novel coronavirus, we must step up the centralized and united leadership under the party central” leadership.

The latest: Hong Kong, where five cases of the illness have been confirmed, said it would close schools for two weeks, per AP.

  • Today is Lunar New Year, a traditional time of travel. But China is locking down at least three cities with a combined population of 18 million+.

Wuhan banned private cars downtown.

  • A stat that gives you a sense of the scale of these cities: Wuhan, population: 11 million, will assign 6,000 taxis to specific neighborhoods.
🧠 4. Idea of the day: Long-term cost of political dysfunction

Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

"Americans should understand that there will be a significant, long-term economic cost to our polarized politics and dysfunctional government," WashPost economics columnist Steve Pearlstein writes on the Sunday Business cover:

In the modern era, there are few if any examples of a country with a healthy, thriving economy and a broken political system. What distinguishes a successful economy from a failing one — what distinguishes Denmark from Italy and South Korea from North — is ... the laws, rules, norms and policies that create the framework in which any economy operates. ...
We can see [the] deterioration in our inability to adapt to changing conditions — the rise of China as an economic superpower, the influx of economic and political refugees, and the threat from global warming. ...
[O]ur approach has been to deny the problem, demonize those with whom we disagree and ostracize anyone who dares to compromise.

The bottom line: "'Trump Impeachment Trial Begins. Stocks Hit New High.' If the headline sounds too good to be true, that’s only because it probably is.

⚖️ 5. Dems' show-and-tell

House managers used the final day of their case as a prebuttal to the Trump team's arguments, Alayna Treene reports from the Senate chamber.

  • Democrats tried to undercut the White House's claim that a president has the authority to use executive privilege to obstruct Congress. Details.

Here were some of the Dems' slides on Day 4 of the trial:

Screenshots: CNN
6. 1 Trek thing

Left: Trump Twitter feed. Right: CBS/Viacom

The Trump administration's new Space Force logo (left), unveiled yesterday, looks an awful lot like another space visual: the Star Trek insignia.

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