Feb 4, 2021

Axios PM

Good afternoon: Today's PM — edited by Justin Green — is 427 words, a 2-minute read.

⚡️ President Biden declared that "America is back" with "diplomacy back at the center" of U.S. foreign policy. Go deeper.

  • He also wants to raise the cap on refugees and freeze troop redeployments from Germany.
1 big thing: The $2.7 billion defamation suit

Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Smartmatic's defamation lawsuit is here, targeting Rudy Giuliani, Sidney Powell, Fox News, and hosts Lou Dobbs, Maria Bartiromo and Jeanine Pirro.

The big picture: The $2.7 billion suit is the second big defamation case against Powell and Giuliani, who were sued by Dominion last month, Axios' Sara Fischer and Oriana Gonzalez report.

  • The 285-page lawsuit accuses the defendants of lying about Smartmatic to convince the public that the 2020 presidential election was plagued with fraud.
  • "They needed a villain. … Without any true villain, Defendants invented one."

Fox News statement: "FOX News Media is committed to providing the full context of every story with in-depth reporting and clear opinion. We are proud of our 2020 election coverage and will vigorously defend this meritless lawsuit in court."

Flashback: Earlier this week, NewsMax co-anchor Bob Sellers cut off MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, a Trump ally, when he tried to make such claims.

  • Following threats from Dominion in December, Fox News aired a video interview debunking claims made on the network that Smartmatic software was used to "delete, change or alter anything to related to vote tabulation."
2. Showdown over real estate fees

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

A hallmark of the U.S. housing market is under fire, Axios Cities editor Jennifer A. Kingson reports.

  • The big picture: The challengers want "the uncoupling of [agent] commissions, so that both buyers and sellers negotiate and pay their own broker compensation," per the Consumer Federation of America.

The bottom line: Real estate agent fees are a $100 billion-a-year business.

3. Catch up quick
Company filings. Chart: Axios Visuals
  1. For the first time in Facebook's history, its booming business doesn't seem to be enough to convince Wall Street its future is bright, Axios' Sara Fischer and Ashley Gold report. Go deeper.
  2. Former President Trump’s lawyers dismissed a request from House impeachment managers that he testify during the Senate trial. Go deeper.
  3. Wisconsin’s GOP legislature repealed Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’ statewide face mask mandate. (He immediately issued a new order.) Go deeper.
  4. French President Emmanuel Macron blasted social media networks for their decisions to “suddenly cut the mic” on Trump. Go deeper.
  5. Merck CEO Ken Frazier will retire this summer. He is one of just four Black CEOs in the Fortune 500. Go deeper.
  6. 🎧 Axios Re:Cap featured Walter Isaacson on what's next for Jeff Bezos and for Amazon. Listen here.
4. 1 smile to go: Pillow fight

Photo: Gary Gershoff/Getty Images

March for Our Lives co-founder David Hogg is launching a pillow company to compete against Mike Lindell's MyPillow, reports Axios' Ursula Perano.

  • Hogg tweeted that he and software developer William LeGate hope to "sell $1 million of product within our first year" and to launch in about six months.
  • "Mike isn't going to know what hit him—this pillow fight is just getting started."

Lindell told Axios: "Good for them. .... Nothing wrong with competition that does not infringe on someone's patent."