Aug 27, 2018

Axios AM

By Mike Allen
Mike Allen

☕️ Good Monday morning ...

1 big thing: Trump’s gambling losses
Trump salutes supporters in West Virginia last week. (Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)

President Trump’s run of big, unorthodox bets — ranging from negotiating with a nuclear madman in North Korea to depending on friends who turned out to be "flippers" — is looking riskier and less winnable by the day.

Consider his wildest bets, made largely against the advice of advisers and most GOP leaders:

  • He continues to play footsie with Kim Jong-un, insisting he can get the lying, nuclear-armed oppressor to surrender his arms. But Trump — after falsely declaring there was no longer a nuclear threat from North Korea after his Singapore summit — was forced to cancel Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's visit because the North Koreans show few signs of cooperating.
  • He wagered he could bring peace to Middle East because of his unique deal-making skills and his bond with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Now, after moving the embassy to Jerusalem, the Trump team is preparing to release a peace plan after months of no-contact with the other negotiating partner: the Palestinians.
  • He keeps escalating his trade war with China — certain Xi Jinping will buckle, even though nobody on his team has true visibility into Xi's mental state. Trade talks with China are at a standstill. And while Trump's big bet could pay off with a better ultimate deal with Beijing, there's a risk the tit-for-tat tariff war could, in the meantime, hinder economic growth and put thousands of Americans out of work.
  • He rolled big that steel and aluminum tariffs would assert American strength and protect domestic industries. Instead, he managed to alienate allies around the globe and hurt American interests — from automakers to pipeline users to farmers suffering from retaliatory tariffs.
  • He bet on loyalty, believing friends like Michael Cohen, David Pecker and Omarosa would never turn. They all did.

TBD on his public ridicule of Robert Mueller:

  • Trump routinely whacks Mueller and calls his probe a witch hunt. But approval of Mueller's investigation in a Fox News poll last week was 59% (up 11 points from July) — higher than Trump’s, which was 45% in the Fox poll (42% in Gallup).
  • But many Republicans think the investigation is a witch hunt, and Republicans are who he needs to stave off impeachment. It's critical for Trump to make it a red-blue issue, and he's done that.

Be smart … An outside Trump adviser said that when you add it all up, he’s "losing the midterms in spite of a strong economy."

2. 🛴 Uber to push e-bikes, scooters

"Uber is planning a shift in emphasis from cars to electric bicycles and scooters for shorter journeys as part of its long-term strategy," CEO Dara Khosrowshahi told the Financial Times' Shannon Bond in S.F. (subscription):

  • The CEO said: "During rush hour, it is very inefficient for a one-ton hulk of metal to take one person 10 blocks."
  • "He admitted that in the short term, the move would mean a further financial hit for a company that had losses of $4.5bn last year."

"Uber first added e-bikes to its app in February, and acquired the bike-sharing company Jump for about $200m in April."

  • "Jump bikes are available in eight US cities, including New York, Washington and Denver."
3. New streaming risk
The Twitch screen after the shooting began (via The Daily Beast)

Twitch, the Amazon-owned video-streaming service, was caught in the middle of a tragedy when a gunman opened fire at an esports tournament being aired from a bar in Jacksonville, Fla., Axios' Sara Fischer writes:

  • This is one of the worst instances yet of public violence being broadcast
    through live-streaming.
  • Many rounds of shots could be heard on the livestream, although the actual shooting took place off camera.
  • Right before the shooting, a red laser dot, presumably from the gunman's weapon, appeared on the chest of one of the gamers participating in the game.

A 24-year-old Maryland man killed two people and injured 11 before killing himself.

The big picture: Increasingly, people are leveraging the mass reach of live-stream platforms to commit violent acts.

  • The audience yesterday was watching fellow gamers play "Madden NFL 19."
  • Esports has become a massive business, and is expected to nearly double in U.S. revenue by 2021, per PwC.
4. Pic du jour
Jens Schlueter/Getty Images

A dog jumps into a water basin during the dog diving competition at the Dog and Cat (Hund und Katze) pets trade fair in Leipzig, Germany, which includes beauty and skills competitions.

5. Cross-country memorial
Flags fly at half-staff at the U.S. Capitol at daybreak yesterday. (J. David Ake/AP)

Memorial plans call for Sen. John McCain to "lie in state Wednesday in the Arizona State Capitol on what would have been his 82nd birthday," AP reports.

  • "A funeral will be conducted Thursday at North Phoenix Baptist Church with former Vice President Joe Biden speaking."
  • "In Washington, McCain will lie in state Friday in the Capitol Rotunda with a formal ceremony and time for the public to pay respects."
  • "On Saturday, a procession will pass the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and arrive for a funeral at Washington National Cathedral. Former Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama are expected to speak at the service."
  • "A private funeral is planned for Sunday afternoon at the Naval Academy Chapel followed by a private burial at the academy cemetery."

P.S. "President Trump was not expected to attend any of the services," per AP.

  • "Trump nixed issuing a statement that praised the heroism and life of Sen. John McCain," the WashPost's Josh Dawsey reports, "telling senior aides he preferred to issue a tweet before posting one Saturday night that did not include any kind words for the late Arizona Republican."

N.Y. Times Quote of the Day ... Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine): "The lions are gone ... The lions of the Senate are gone. It is very sad."

  • Former SecDef Robert Gates: "No one in modern times had greater physical and political courage defending the United States and its values than John McCain. ... In these difficult times, we will greatly miss his integrity and his courage."
6. Pope won't confirm or deny accusation he knew of abuse for years
Pope Francis, flanked by Vatican spokesperson Greg Burke, listens to a journalist's question during a press conference aboard the flight to Rome yesterday at the end of a two-day visit to Ireland. (Gregorio Borgia/AP)

"ABOARD THE PAPAL PLANE (AP) — Pope Francis declined ... to confirm or deny claims by the Vatican's retired ambassador to the United States that he knew in 2013 about sexual misconduct allegations against the former archbishop of Washington, Theodore McCarrick."

  • "Francis said the 11-page text by Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, which reads in part like a homophobic attack on Francis and his allies, 'speaks for itself.'"
  • "It's an act of trust," he said. "I won't say a word about it."

"Francis was asked by a U.S. reporter ... if Vigano's claims that the two discussed the McCarrick allegations in 2013 were true."

  • "Francis was also asked about Vigano's claims that McCarrick was already under sanction [by Pope Benedict XVI] at the time, but that Francis rehabilitated him."

"The National Catholic Register and another conservative site, LifeSiteNews, published Vigano's text ... as the pope wrapped up a two-day visit to Ireland dominated by the clerical sex abuse scandal."

  • "Vigano, 77, a conservative whose hardline anti-gay views are well known, urged the reformist pope to resign over what he called Francis' own culpability in covering up McCarrick's crimes."
7. Musk buyout unravels

Leaving Tesla's ownership as is puts the scrutiny back on Elon Musk’s "all-consuming work style, the company’s tricky cash position, its ability to meet mass-market production goals, and the independence and oversight of Tesla’s board," Bloomberg reports.

  • "Musk aborted his own mission, when hastily assembled bankers and advisers had barely started work ... Musk was perhaps spooked by blowback from investors he was sure would support him, including key backers from Saudi Arabia."
  • "Musk’s vocal ambitions stirred unease among Saudi officials about the publicity surrounding their potential role."

Other factors:

  • "[O]ne of the investors his bankers had lined up was Volkswagen," The Wall Street Journal reports. Musk "was deeply suspicious of rival car companies, believing they wanted to piggyback on what he called the 'Tesla halo.'"
  • "He also was lamenting a loss of small investors, who had been his most vocal champions."
  • "And the cognitive dissonance of an electric-car company backed by big oil ... was pointed out to Mr. Musk several times," per the N.Y. Times' David Gelles.
8. Seeing Tesla through climate change

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Tesla is pivotally important to electric cars gaining steam in the U.S. and around the world. For Elon Musk and others who own shares in Tesla, it’s probably a good investment.

But when it comes to climate change, the company is a subplot, Axios' Amy Harder writes in her "Harder Line" energy column:

  • Tesla announced last month it had passed the 200,000 mark for total vehicles sold in the U.S.
  • Third Way, a centrist think tank, crunched some numbers for Amy to put that figure into context.

Here's how to think of the carbon dioxide emissions avoided by Teslas vs. clean sources of electricity:

  • A nuclear reactor replacing coal = 541,353 Teslas.
  • A nuclear reactor replacing natural gas = 294,041 Teslas.
  • Natural gas replacing one coal plant = 98,940 Teslas.
  • 100-megawatt wind farm replacing natural gas = 8,267 Teslas.
  • Five-megawatt solar farm replacing natural gas = 320 Teslas.

The point: Electric cars are but one highly dependent piece of the puzzle in addressing climate change.

A Tesla spokesperson said in a statement: “Tesla exists for one reason: to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy." The spokesperson went on to say that Tesla is moving the whole auto industry toward electrification.

9. Remembering Neil Simon, 91
In 1977, Neil Simon (right) poses with Dom DeLuise on the set of "The Cheap Detective." (AP)

"It is probably impossible for those theatergoers who didn’t grow up with Neil Simon’s plays to understand how big a deal he was in his prime, both to the theater and American pop culture," Frank Rich writes for New York Magazine:

  • "That was during the 1960s and 1970s when the phenomenal one-two punch of Barefoot in the Park (1963) and The Odd Couple (1965), which between them piled up about 2,500 performances in their original runs, was followed up by one smash Broadway hit after another."
  • "As the Simon assembly line quickly accelerated, his hit plays begat hit movies, which then begat television sitcoms, which sometimes begat additional television sitcoms."

Why he mattered, per Variety: "His early comedic successes ... were both critically well received and financially successful."

  • "[E]ven some critics who found him glib and formulaic could not deny his craftsmanship and the sheer volume of his output."
Courtesy N.Y. Post
10. 1 fun thing
Sarina Carlo/RR Auctions via AP

"A piece of computer history that helped launch a trillion dollar company is hitting the auction block," AP reports:

  • "A fully functioning Apple-1 being auctioned by Boston-based RR Auction in September is one of only 60 or so remaining of the original 200 that were designed and built by Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak in 1976 and 1977."
  • "The system was operated without fault for approximately eight hours in a test. It even includes the original keyboard from the 1970s."

Why it matters: "It shows the humble beginnings of Cupertino, California-based Apple, which recently became the world's first publicly traded company to be valued at $1 trillion."

  • "The Apple 1 originally sold for about $666. It could get $300,000 or more at auction."
Sarina Carlo/RR Auctions via AP
Mike Allen

Thanks for reading. See you all day on Axios.com.