Nov 19, 2019

Axios AM

By Mike Allen
Mike Allen

🍖 Texas readers: You're invited! I hope you'll join me tomorrow (Wednesday) at 8 a.m. in downtown Dallas for conversations about "The state of the American city," with a focus on veterans in the workforce.

Maybe I'll see you tonight for BBQ at Mariano's Hacienda, home of "The World’s First Frozen Margarita Machine."

1 big thing: Trump Inc. leaks on itself

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

As televised impeachment hearings roll into Week 2, one surprise has been how many of the Trump team's wounds have been self-inflicted, because of his allies' curious habit of leaking on themselves.

  • Why it matters: The leaks and revelations have thrown President Trump into a constant state of defensiveness, and turned a growing number of Republicans into frustrated, sometimes bewildered, defenders.

A key part of this week's drama is likely to center on an overheard phone call from Trump to European Union Ambassador Gordon Sondland, who's scheduled to testify on Wednesday morning.

  • David Holmes, political counsel at the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine, told Congress: "While Ambassador Sondland’s phone was not on speakerphone, I could hear the president’s voice through the earpiece of the phone. The president’s voice was very loud and recognizable, and Ambassador Sondland held the phone away from his ear for a period of time, presumably because of the loud volume."

But there have been weeks of this:

  • Rudy Giuliani, at the center of the Ukraine interference, butt-dialed an NBC reporter, and was "heard discussing need for cash and trashing Bidens." Reporters took to Twitter and recounted their own Rudy butt-dials.
  • Giuliani associate Lev Parnas' reported blabbing about his encounters with Trump may help Democrats build their case: Accounts by the WashPost and CNN have Parnas telling others he was on a "secret mission" for Trump.

And, of course, the backdrop:

  • The most damaging document so far was the "do us a favor" transcript of the Trump-Ukraine call that was released by the White House.
  • Trump stood on the White House lawn and said: "China should start an investigation into the Bidens."
  • And acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney told reporters last month, about conditioning funding for Ukraine on an investigation: "Get over it. There’s going to be political influence in foreign policy."

The bottom line, from Axios' Margaret Talev: From revelations about secret servers to off-the-books diplomacy said to resemble "drug deals," many of the juiciest details about the impeachment case came not from Democrats but from Team Trump.

2. Trump group: Swing voters unconvinced on impeachment
Trump rally in Bossier City, La., on Thursday. Photo: Gerald Herbert/AP

The pro-Trump group America First says focus groups show that suburban swing voters — even some who strongly dislike President Trump — remain skeptical about impeachment, Axios White House editor Margaret Talev writes.

  • Why it matters: These early findings will help shape Republican messaging about impeachment and Trump's top Democratic rivals.

The big takeaway from impeachment so far is that swing voters think Trump did things they don't like — but nothing impeachable, said Wes Anderson, co-founder of OnMessage Inc. and one of the pollsters who conducted the focus groups.

  • Anderson said these voters "don’t have any shortage of criticisms of the president, [on] personality and stylistically. But they’re pretty happy with two or three or four specific things he's done," such as the border or China trade.

Organizers held two focus groups each in these metro areas: Des Moines, Orlando, Charlotte, Phoenix, Miami, Atlanta, Columbus, Detroit and Pittsburgh.

  • The bottom line: The findings bolster Republicans' strategy of asking voters to assess Trump on the effectiveness of his policies, not on his governing style.

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3. ⚖️ Impeachment: What matters today
Screenshot via MSNBC

Nine witnesses. Five hearings. Three days.

  • Impeachment is charging into a crucial week as Americans hear from some of the most important witnesses closest to the White House, AP reports.
  • In addition to those on the graphic above, a ninth witness, David Holmes, a State Department official who overheard President Trump talking about the investigations on a phone call, was a late addition for Thursday.

Today's testimony (Day 3 of televised hearings) starts with Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, an Army officer on the National Security Council, and Jennifer Williams, his counterpart in Vice President Pence’s office.

  • Both are foreign policy experts who listened in with concern as Trump spoke on July 25 with Ukraine's newly elected president.

🥊 Milestone: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, during an appearance yesterday in Louisville, said he "can’t imagine" a scenario where there is enough support in the Senate — 67 votes — to remove Trump.

4. Pic du jour
Photo: Laurel Chor/Getty Images

Anti-government protesters walk past a fire during clashes with police at Hong Kong Polytechnic University.

  • Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam called for a peaceful resolution to the university siege, which "has transfixed the city." (Bloomberg)
Graphic: AP
5. How the world flattened
Sources: FCC (calls); "Our World in Data" (internet). Graphic: Mehlman Castagnetti Rosen & Thomas

"Two decades of hyper-globalization ended as citizens around the world woke up to a new world that they fear is screwing them," Bruce Mehlman of Mehlman Castagnetti Rosen & Thomas tells me, introducing his new deck, "De-global."

6. Democratic rising stars
Courtesy The New York Times Magazine

Reps. Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Abigail Spanberger of Virginia "were part of a wave of Democrats who took office this year full of hope. Maintaining it has not been easy," Susan Dominus writes in the N.Y. Times Magazine.

7. Trump hospital visit draws skepticism

The memo above was emailed to reporters by the White House Press Office at 9:50 on Monday night after President Trump made an unscheduled visit to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on Saturday.

  • White House officials said he was getting a head start on his annual physical.

Joe Lockhart, White House press secretary under President Clinton, tweeted: "[T]here is a protocol for the president's physical that doesn't include rushing up to Walter Reed without any notice to the press."

8. 🐮 Yogurt sales sour as breakfast culture changes
Photo: Gerald Herbert/AP

Growing sales of protein bars have helped put U.S. yogurt sales in a multiyear slump despite shelves full of new varieties, AP's Dee-Ann Durbin reports.

  • Trying to innovate its way out, Chobani — the second-biggest yogurt maker by U.S. market share — yesterday introduced oat-based yogurts, capitalizing on booming sales of oat milk and consumer interest in plant-based eating.

The move follows market leader Danone’s introduction last July of oat-based yogurts under its So Delicious brand.

  • Chobani is also moving into non-yogurt products: In January, it’s launching four flavors of oat drinks as well as dairy-based coffee creamers.

The big picture: Health and animal welfare concerns are driving some Americans away from dairy.

9. N.Y. probes WeWork
Adam Neumann. Photo: Mark Lennihan/AP

The New York State attorney general is investigating WeWork, "adding to a mounting series of problems that have turned the workspace provider from a Wall Street darling to a pariah in a matter of weeks," per Reuters.

  • "Among the issues the NYAG is examining is whether WeWork’s founder and former chief executive, Adam Neumann, indulged in self-dealing."

"WeWork is preparing to cut at least 4,000 people," or about one-third of its workforce, as early as this week, the N.Y. Times reports.

10. 1 🎵 thing
Photo: Al Wagner/Invision/AP

Rock & Roll Hall of Fame nominees The Doobie Brothers are reuniting with singer and songwriter Michael McDonald for a 50th anniversary tour next year, AP reports from Nashville.

  • In the photo above, The Doobie Brothers (plus Michael McDonald, in glasses) take the stage last night at Ryman Auditorium in Nashville.
  • McDonald, who sang with the band starting in 1975 before beginning his own solo career, surprised fans with "Takin’ it to the Streets."

The tour begins June 9 in West Palm Beach.

Mike Allen

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