Jul 13, 2021

Axios AM

Happy Tuesday! Smart Brevity™ count: 1,496 words ... 5½ minutes. Edited by Zachary Basu.

1 big thing: Trump unloads on Kavanaugh

Cover: Henry Holt

Former President Donald Trump, in a book out today by Michael Wolff, says he is "very disappointed" in votes by Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, his own hard-won nominee, and that he "hasn’t had the courage you need to be a great justice."

  • "There were so many others I could have appointed, and everyone wanted me to," Trump told Wolff in an interview for the cheekily titled "Landslide."
  • "Where would he be without me? I saved his life. He wouldn't even be in a law firm. Who would have had him? Nobody. Totally disgraced. Only I saved him."

Between the lines: After the election, as Axios' Jonathan Swan reported in his "Off the rails" series, Trump saved his worst venom for people who he believed owed him because he got them their jobs.

  • He would rant endlessly about the treachery of Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, reminding people of how he shot up in the primary polls after Trump endorsed him.
  • Over lunches in the private dining room adjoining the Oval Office, Trump used to reminisce about how he saved Kavanaugh by sticking by him.
  • For Kavanaugh to not do Trump’s bidding on the matter of ultimate importance — overturning the election — was, in Trump's mind, a betrayal of the highest order.

Wolff writes that Trump feels betrayed by all three justices he put on the court, including Neil Gorsuch and Amy Coney Barrett, but "reserved particular bile for Kavanaugh."

  • Recalling the brutal confirmation fight, Trump said: "Practically every senator called me ... and said, 'Cut him loose, sir, cut him loose. He’s killing us, Kavanaugh.' ... I said, 'I can’t do that.'"
  • "I had plenty of time to pick somebody else," Trump continued. "I went through that thing and fought like hell for Kavanaugh — and I saved his life, and I saved his career. At great expense to myself ... okay? I fought for that guy and kept him."

"I don’t want anything ... but I am very disappointed in him, in his rulings," Trump said.

  • "I can’t even believe what's happening. I'm very disappointed in Kavanaugh. I just told you something I haven’t told a lot of people. In retrospect, he just hasn't had the courage you need to be a great justice. I’m basing this on more than just the election."

Wolff gives an entertaining account of what it was like for the book authors who were given Trump interviews at Mar-a-Lago:

It's called the Living Room, but it's in fact the Mar-a-Lago lobby, a vaulted-ceiling rococo grand entrance, part hunting lodge, part Renaissance palazzo. But it is really the throne room. ... He sits, in regulation dark suit and shiny baby-blue or fire-red tie, on a low chair in the center of the room, his legs almost daintily curled to the side, seeing a lineup of supplicants or chatting on the phone, all public conversations.

And why would Trump talk to Wolff, who wrote two earlier bestsellers with devastating accounts of Trump dysfunction?

  • "The fact that he was talking to me might only reasonably be explained by his absolute belief that his voice alone has reality-altering powers," Wolff writes.
  • Trump told Wolff: "I don’t blame you. I blame my people."

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2. Rising tech hubs: Where the talent pool is growing

Emerging hubs all over the U.S. and Canada are pulling tech talent away from the superstar cities, Erica Pandey writes in our new Axios What's Next newsletter, from an analysis by commercial real estate firm CBRE.

  • The pandemic pushed millions of people out of cities, but the Bay Area and New York remain top spots to start tech companies:
Expand chart
Data: CBRE. Chart: Will Chase/Axios

🇨🇦 Note the brain drain from the U.S. to Canada, as Axios has reported, as Canada took advantage of America's hardline immigration policies in the Trump years to pull away talent.

3. Space goes mass market

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos are thrusting space into a new era of marketing for mass appeal, Axios Space author Miriam Kramer writes.

  • "[T]he public face of the space industry is no longer NASA," Secure World Foundation's Brian Weeden said, warning that criticism of billionaires could bleed into American support for space exploration.
  • NASA is also supporting the efforts of private companies, looking to become more of a buyer of services in orbit, while using its resources to push deeper into space with missions to the Moon and Mars.

Virgin Galactic's webcast Sunday of Richard Branson's flight to the edge of space — instead of highlighting technical details, like NASA launches from Cape Canaveral — was a form of entertainment and advertising.

  • The company tried to draw in potential customers with guest stars, including Stephen Colbert and Khalid.

What to watch: Officials in other nations are taking note of the influence billionaires have on U.S. efforts in space.

  • "I hope that someday our billionaire oligarchs will begin to spend their money not on the next yachts and vanity fairs, but on the development of space technologies and knowledge about space," Dmitry Rogozin, the head of Russia's space agency, said on Twitter.

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4. New payments to families begin this week

La Jornada food pantry in Flushing, Queens. Photo: Shannon Stapleton/Reuters

On Thursday, the Treasury Department begins monthly payments to families with children, a program created by the COVID stimulus in March, the N.Y. Times' Jason DeParle reports (subscription).

  • Why it matters: "With all but the most affluent families eligible to receive up to $300 a month per child, the United States will join many other rich countries that provide a guaranteed income for children ... Experts estimate the payments will cut child poverty by nearly half, an achievement with no precedent."

The Treasury Department said 39 million households — covering 88% of U.S. children — will automatically begin receiving monthly payments through the expanded Child Tax Credit. The program is scheduled to expire in a year.

Between the lines: "The unconditional payments ... break with a quarter century of policy. Since President Bill Clinton signed a 1996 bill to 'end welfare,' aid has gone almost entirely to parents who work," The Times reports.

  • Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) calls it "the most transformative policy coming out of Washington since the days of F.D.R."
5. Internet charges get new scrutiny

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

With medical bills increasingly under the microscope, Consumer Reports today will begin collecting price data from tens of thousands of customers who share monthly bills for home internet.

  • The goal of the project, Broadband Together, is to capture the price and speed of internet service in U.S. communities, and to analyze the factors that affect prices, Axios' Margaret Harding McGill writes.

"We know anecdotally that where there's competition, in general prices are lower," Jonathan Schwantes, senior policy counsel for Consumer Reports, told Axios.

  • If the bills show consumers with only one provider pay higher prices, he added, "then we can make the case for government intervention.

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6. America's parting words in Afghanistan

An Afghan army soldier walks past Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles (MRAPs) left after the American military's July 2 departure from Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan. Photo: Rahmat Gul/AP

"Our job is now just not to forget."
— Gen. Scott. Miller, America’s top commander in Afghanistan since 2018, relinquishing his post in Kabul as the war nears its end (via N.Y. Times)
7. 👢 Texas Dems fly to Swamp to run out clock

Rep. Chris Turner and other Texas House Dems at Dulles last night. Photo: Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters

At least 51 Democrats in the Texas House fled Austin yesterday to try to block Republicans from passing a restrictive new voting law — and set up camp in D.C. until the 30-day special legislative session ends on Aug. 6.

  • Why it matters: The remarkable move was cheered on by national Democrats, including Vice President Harris, "and thrusts the minority party back into the national spotlight as partisan battles over voting rights rage across the nation," The Dallas Morning News reports.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) told KVUE, Austin: "As soon as they come back in the state of Texas, they will be arrested. They will be cabined inside the Texas Capitol until they get their job done."

8. 🗳️ 2024 watch: Early GOP field

Here's how the next presidential field looked in a straw poll at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Dallas, where Donald Trump spoke Sunday:

Graphic: MSNBC's "Way Too Early"
Graphic: MSNBC's "Way Too Early"
9. 🕶️ Larry Elder joins California race

Larry Elder hosts his show in Burbank yesterday. Photo: Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP

Conservative radio talk show host Larry Elder entered California's Sept. 14 recall election, bringing a well-known voice on the political right to a muddled Republican field trying to oust first-term Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom, AP's Mike Blood writes.

  • Elder, 69, whose show is nationally syndicated, is a regular on Fox News. He's a Black man in a national GOP dominated by white leaders.

Elder said he decided to enter his first campaign after witnessing California's out-of-control homeless crisis, spiking crime rates, looming water and power shortages, and whipsaw coronavirus lockdowns.

  • "I know it's a long shot," he added, referring to Newsom's ability to raise unlimited funds.

Elder brings celebrity to a large GOP field that has no front-runner — former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer; businessman John Cox, who was defeated by Newsom in 2018; state Assemblyman Kevin Kiley; former Olympian Caitlyn Jenner; and former U.S. Rep. Doug Ose.

10. 1 summer thing
Photo: Claus Bjørn Larsen/Ritzau Scanpix via Getty Images

This sand sculpture under construction in the small seaside town of Blokhus, Denmark, weighs nearly 5,000 tons and towers 66 feet high.

Photo: Claus Bjørn Larsen/Ritzau Scanpix via Getty Images

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