Dec 19, 2018

Axios PM

Good afternoon. If you missed today's Axios Markets beta send, you can read it here. And sign up!

1 big thing: Trump calls it quits on Syria

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

President Trump has declared his own "Mission Accomplished," with the U.S. set to withdraw from Syria despite concerns from the national security community and many Republicans.

  • Trump tweeted this morning: "We have defeated ISIS in Syria, my only reason for being there during the Trump Presidency."

Why it matters: "Trump appears to be discarding his entire Syria and Iran strategy at a single stroke, giving up any and all U.S. influence in the region — and disregarding the advice of his top national security officials," WashPost columnist Josh Rogin writes.

Details: There aren't a lot, at least not yet.

  • The White House declined to elaborate on how many troops are in Syria, how many are coming home, or when.
  • "The issue here is that the president has made a decision and so previous statements ... he gets to do that. That's his prerogative," a senior administration official told reporters.
  • The Pentagon is similarly short on details.
  • There are estimated to be around 2,000 U.S. personnel in Syria, and there are plenty of ongoing strikes against ISIS, which Trump claimed is defeated.

What they're saying:

  • Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) to Trump's tweet: "This is simply not true."
  • Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.): "Withdrawal of this small American force in Syria would be a huge Obama-like mistake."

The other side:

  • Democratic Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) tweeted: "Both the Trump and Obama Administrations in Syria went far beyond the congressionally authorized use of force to go after terrorists. ... I am pleased [Trump] is bringing our troops home."
  • Obama's first Syria ambassador, Robert Ford, to Axios' Haley Britzky: "I'm not a big supporter of Donald Trump, but in this case he's making the right call. ... The U.S. has no huge national security interests in northeastern Syria."

Between the lines: "Trump is now contradicting what all of his other top national security officials have been telling the world for months," per Rogin.

  • Just Monday, Trump's special representative for Syria engagement said Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad won't be able to wait out a U.S. exit.
  • “I think if that’s [Assad's] strategy, he’s going to have to wait a very long time."
Bonus: Pic du jour
Photo: Grant Halverson/Getty Images

Duke Blue Devils fans taunt Jose Morales, #2 of the Princeton Tigers, during the second half of their game at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Duke won 101-50.

2. What you missed
  1. The Fed raised rates by .25% today and signaled two more hikes next year (down from three). How the Fed is walking Trump's tightrope.
  2. D.C.'s attorney general is suing Facebook for allegedly letting outside companies improperly access user data and for failing to properly disclose that fact. Go deeper.
  3. FedEx CEO Fred Smith signaled darker times ahead, citing negative economic impact stemming from President Trump's trade war, Brexit and other global issues caused by "bad political choices." Go deeper.
  4. At least 19 advertisers have dropped Fox News' Tucker Carlson after he said mass immigration makes the U.S. "poorer and dirtier." Go deeper.
  5. The Affordable Care Act's open enrollment period for 2019 is down about 4% from last year. Go deeper.
  6. Bonus: Three female Republican lawmakers in Kansas have announced this month that they're flipping to the Democratic Party. Go deeper.
3. 1 traveling thing

Airlines are noticing basic economy is becoming the new normal, and frequent travelers fear the trend could cause rewards and upgrades to cost more points, the Wall Street Journal reports.

  • "To many travelers, the Delta test of basic-economy awards is part of a pattern—reducing what’s included with the lowest price and forcing people to pay more to get what used to come standard."
  • Why it matters: Using rewards programs to land business-class upgrades is becoming an increasingly difficult feat, a turnoff for frequent flyers.
  • The other side: "The rollout of basic-economy awards is not designed to impact main-cabin pricing but instead to offer more reward options," Delta spokesperson Kate Modolo told the WSJ.