Nov 1, 2017

Axios AM

Mike Allen

Good Wednesday morning, and welcome to November! You're invited to a joint event from Axios and NBC News: Join "Meet the Press" moderator Chuck Todd and Axios CEO and founder Jim VandeHei in D.C. tomorrow for a conversation with Energy Secretary Rick Perry and Sen. Maria Cantwell, the top Democrat on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee. RSVP here.

1 big thing: Trump vows even-more-extreme vetting

At 9:26 p.m. — just over six hours after the rented truck attack near the World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan — President Trump tweeted: "I have just ordered Homeland Security to step up our already Extreme Vetting Program. Being politically correct is fine, but not for this!"

  • The previous 36 hours had rocked Trump's world: the indictment of his former campaign manager, followed by the bike-path Halloween attack that killed eight, which "officials are calling the deadliest terrorist attack on New York City since Sept. 11, 2001."
  • The grim facts, from the N.Y. Times. "The rampage ended when the motorist — whom the police identified as Sayfullo Saipov, 29 — smashed into a school bus, jumped out of his truck and ran up and down the highway waving a pellet gun and paintball gun and shouting 'Allahu akbar,' Arabic for 'God is great,' before he was shot in the abdomen by the officer. He remained in critical condition."
  • "Investigators discovered handwritten notes in Arabic near the truck that indicated allegiance to the Islamic State ... But investigators had not uncovered evidence of any direct or enabling ties between Mr. Saipov and ISIS and were treating the episode as a case of an 'inspired' attacker."
  • Uber confirmed that the suspect was one of its drivers.

Why it matters: Will President Trump stoke fears, or unite Americans with resolve against an insidious enemy?

  • Jonathan Swan emails: "We've known this moment — a radical Islamic terror attack on U.S. soil — would happen while Trump was president, and now it's here."
  • "Does President Trump handle this like George W. Bush [after 9/11], or like campaign trail Trump?"
  • "Never been more important that Trump's aides do their jobs competently. Any time an attack like this happens, hate crimes against Muslims go up."

Key context ... Haroon Ullah — a terrorism expert whose "Digital World War: Islamists, Extremists, and the Fight for Cyber Supremacy" was just published by Yale University Press — tells me the "end of ISIS" was exaggerated after Raqqa was overrun:

  • "ISIS has made unexpected gains — especially on the battlefield that matters most to them, the information battlefield, which is an arena fought through social media and dark web. The activity of fanboys after this gruesome NY terrorist attack in multiple languages demonstrates their influence."

What's next: The New York City Marathon, with 51,394 finishers in 2016, will be run Sunday.

Be smart: A former law-enforcement official who fought terrorism in Manhattan tells me that there's no way to stop these attacks: Police have thousands of leads, and surveilling a single person can take at least 16 agents (four per shift, three shifts per day, with days off). So this threat, which poses such a dark risk to freedoms we expect and deserve, is permanent.

2. The "low-level" cooperating witness

"Trump ... belittled ... George Papadopoulos, who pleaded guilty ... to lying to federal agents investigating Russia's interference in the 2016 election, tweeting that 'few people knew the young, low level volunteer named George, who has already proven to be a liar,'" the WashPost reports on A1.

  • Why he matters: "[I]nterviews and documents show that Papadopoulos was in regular contact with the Trump campaign's most senior officials and held himself out as a Trump surrogate as he traveled the world to meet with foreign officials and reporters."
  • "Emails included in court documents ... show that Papadopoulos repeatedly told Trump campaign officials about his contacts with people he believed were representing the Russian government."
  • "Papadopoulos sat at the elbow of one of Trump's top campaign advisers, then-Sen. Jeff Sessions, during a dinner for campaign advisers weeks before the Republican National Convention."
Bonus: Costume interlude

Out in Oregon, nephew Biz, a multi-sport athlete, visits his cousins' house as the Football Shark.

3. Big Tech's unanswered questions

After two hours of questioning by a Senate Judiciary subcommittee, tech execs have two more hearings today, with the House and Senate Intelligence Committees.

Here's what Axios' David McCabe will be listening for:

  • What was the overall influence of this Russian campaign?
  • Will the companies support the Honest Ads Act, introduced by Democratic senators Mark Warner and Amy Klobuchar?
  • What about the role the companies play in shaping ad campaigns?
  • Will their resources be sufficient to fight the problem?
  • How much do lawmakers really understand about online metrics?
  • Go deeper.
4. Americans worried technology will kill jobs

Go deeper, share the graphic.

5. Amazon's new target

Amazon's revenue formula is fundamentally changing: The e-retailer appears likely to power future growth with fulfillment and shipping services to third-party sellers, Axios' Chris Matthews writes:

  • The bottom line: The key to understanding Amazon is its monomaniacal focus on giving customers what they want. Amazon is not going to wait around for FedEx and UPS to experiment with changes that could improve the customer experience, whether that's new products for home entry, or faster delivery options.
6. First look: Massive ad plan for tax cuts

One of the biggest pro-Trump outside groups of 2016, backed by the Adelson and Ricketts families, plans to spend "eight figures" — at least $10 million — backing tax reform.

  • The 45Committee is launching "The Middle Class Project," a 501(c)(4) with an opening TV spot, "What's In It For You," that will debut nationally with tomorrow's bill introduction. See it here.
  • Why it matters: The size of the spend — from some of the most important donors in the party — is correlated to the stakes: Republicans know this is existential for them. If they fail to pass tax reform on the heels of failing to repeal Obamacare, the GOP could might as well be renamed R.I.P.
  • The project will be run by Brian Baker, longtime Ricketts family political adviser, who also directed the 2016 campaign of the 45Committee and its affiliated super PAC, Future45.
  • The spending will be aimed at "Republicans and Democrats, including national and targeted advertising in key states and districts, grassroots efforts ... and a heavy investment in data and digital operations."

Coming attractions ... With the release of the House Republican tax bill delayed until tomorrow, a source close to House GOP leadership gives Jonathan Swan this preview:

  • "I think people are going to be underwhelmed by this because of all the offsets. ... [M]embers will be seeing this for the first time and reacting badly to all the difficult decisions they had to make to pay for the corporate tax cut."
  • "The Ways and Means Committee has the benefit of thinking about this for 10 months. For the rest of the conference, ... [members'] reaction will be: 'Wait a minute. To get to a corporate rate of 20[%,] we've got to do all this other [stuff ]? I don't like that other [stuff]."
  • Bottom line: "I think momentum is going to stall. But I think they'll be able to put it back together because they have to."
7. Trump's first ACA enrollment starts today

This will likely be the worst Affordable Care Act sign-up window yet, in terms of total enrollment, per Axios' Sam Baker, author of our daily Vitals newsletter on health policy (sign up free here):

It's been weird to see a federal department constantly attacking a program it oversees; it'll be weird to watch it oversee that program anyway. The politics of health care have also been totally unsettled all year long, and that has produced a surprising set of twists and turns on the ground.

8. The Fox effect

ShotCNN's Oliver Darcy: "Some employees at Fox News were left embarrassed and humiliated by their network's coverage of the latest revelations in special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation ... 'I'm watching now and screaming,' one Fox News personality said in a text message ... 'I want to quit.'"

ChaserAP: "After the summer of Rachel Maddow, Fox News Channel's Sean Hannity ascended to the top of the cable news mountain. Hannity's move to the 9 p.m. timeslot paid immediate dividends for the network. President Donald Trump's biggest cable news backer averaged 3.2 million viewers in October, topping Maddow's 2.5 million ... Fox's Tucker Carlson, in an earlier time slot, had 2.8 million viewers."

9. The future is now

How computers can crack Captcha, which the Internet uses to be sure you're not a robot. YouTube here, from the Axios video sprinters.

  • Go deeper, with Axios science editor Alison Snyder: "Computers are learning to recognize letters like we do."
10. 1 seven thing

Epic World Series gets the Game 7 it deserves — USA Today columnist Bob Nightengale: The L.A. Dodgers forced a World Series Game 7 against the Houston Astros tonight, "the first ever played in the 55-year history of Dodger Stadium, giving it the Hollywood ending this breathtaking World Series deserves."

  • "It'll be the first time since 1931 that two 100-game winners in the regular season will play the final game of the World Series."
  • "It's a shame it has to end Wednesday night, or perhaps even Thursday morning, with this wondrous 10-day adventure providing ... thrills, turns and queasy stomachs."

P.S. "The first 2017 College Football Playoff rankings are out. If the season ended today, the playoff field would consist of 1) Georgia, 2) Alabama, 3) Notre Dame and 4) Clemson. Then, 5) Oklahoma, 6) Ohio State and 7) Penn State make up the first set of teams on the outside looking in." (Sports Illustrated)

Mike Allen