☕ Good Thursday morning.
Situational awareness: Michigan State interim president John Engler, the former governor, resigned in an 11-page letter amid a backlash over his comments about sexual assault victims of the ex-sports doctor Larry Nassar. (Detroit Free Press)
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios
One of the hardest things about reporting on President Trump is his tendency to propose wild ideas out loud and then repeat them before coming to his senses or getting talked off the ledge, Axios' Jonathan Swan and Jim VandeHei point out.
An off-the-top-of-our head list:
In some cases, Trump follows through, or at least comes very close:
Remember: Trump has already withdrawn the U.S. from the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Paris climate agreement, and done what no president dared: move the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.
Be smart: Trump blurts out most ideas that roll through his mind. The most frustrating part for top officials is they must quickly move the machinery of government to conform to — or more often to terminate — the suggestions.
Rudy Giuliani, the president's personal lawyer, wants you to know: "I never said there was no collusion between the campaign, or between people in the campaign. I have no idea if — "
Brian Williams said on his MSNBC show, "The 11th Hour": "That was the sound of goal posts being moved."
Flashback ... Giuliani to Swan in November: "I don't think they have any evidence of collusion of any kind."
Driving the conversation ... Garrett M. Graff in WIRED: "Either the president is compromised by the Russian government ... or Trump will go down in history as the world’s most famous 'useful idiot,' as communists used to call those who could be co-opted to the cause without realizing it."
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said after leaving a White House meeting yesterday that not only is President Trump "following through with his Syria policy, I really think there will be changes in Afghanistan, as well," Axios' Jonathan Swan reports.
Between the lines: Trump at times has vented frustration and regret that he allowed his national security team to talk him into a plan — which ran against his own instincts — to keep, and even boost, American forces in Afghanistan.
What's next? Paul said he didn't want to talk about timelines for withdrawal from Syria and Afghanistan — he would leave that to the president.
According to a source familiar with the meeting, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) argued against Paul’s position and told Trump that "the U.S. made big progress, but pulling out too soon" from Syria "will undermine that progress."
Apple CEO Tim Cook writes for TIME: "In 2019, it’s time to stand up for the right to privacy—yours, mine, all of ours."
"[W]e believe the Federal Trade Commission should establish a data-broker clearinghouse, requiring all data brokers to register, enabling consumers to track the transactions that have bundled and sold their data from place to place, and giving users the power to delete their data on demand, freely, easily and online, once and for all."
Why it matters, from NBC's Dylan Byers: "This is Cook's most aggressive call for federal action on data privacy to date. It is also another shot at rivals like Facebook and Google that have left user data vulnerable to third parties."
There are lots of natural barriers — deserts, mountains, rivers.
But filling in the rest will be even harder than getting money to fund a "wall":
The bottom line: Securing the rest of the border would be a huge challenge under the best political conditions. After the longest government shutdown in history, it's going to be even tougher.
"Starting the process will rein in a president who is undermining American ideals — and bring the debate about his fitness for office into Congress, where it belongs," senior editor Yoni Appelbaum writes in the March cover story of The Atlantic:
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios
Axios future editor Steve LeVine is out with the seventh year of his geopolitical forecasts, which he bases on 15 common-sense rules that reflect how people have tended to behave over time. (Here are the first 14, and the 15th.)
Steve foresees in 2019:
A child born today is half as likely to die before age 5 than if she was born in 2000.
Bill and Melinda Gates told reporters yesterday that deaths of the world's children under 5 have dropped more than half over the past couple decades, per Axios' Eileen O'Reilly.
The two said conquering polio has been a much more drawn-out and expensive battle than they originally anticipated.
Bill Gates said: "[T]he level of distraction by domestic issues — or issues that are confined to the rich world — do make us somewhat concerned that the great success story here and the need to renew these resources may not get the attention it deserves."
Bruce Mehlman of Mehlman Castagnetti Rosen & Thomas, in one of his hotly awaited decks, says we're moving toward a "Permissionless Planet," spurring "mounting calls for new guardrails, gatekeepers or even systemic reform."
Courtesy The New York Times
In today's paper, The Times publishes a 16-page special section with 27 different cover photos, each featuring a representative or senator from that region of the U.S. — in effect, geo-targeting. (At my door in Arlington, Va., I got Speaker Pelosi!)