Sep 26, 2019

Axios PM

By Mike Allen
Mike Allen

Good afternoon: Today's PM — edited by Justin Green — is 497 words, a 2 minute read.

1 big thing: "Not the first time"

Document scan provided by U.S. House of Representatives Intelligence Committee. Photo Illustration: Axios Visuals

The central allegation in the whistleblower report: President Trump used his office to push Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden and his White House covered up the paper trail.

The big picture: The report chronicles events around the July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to allege a pattern of Trump administration misbehavior, as Axios' Zachary Basu notes.

  1. Before the call: Multiple U.S. officials told the whistleblower that they were "deeply concerned by what they viewed as Mr. Giuliani's circumvention of national security decisionmaking processes."
  2. The White House response to the call: White House officials allegedly "intervened to 'lock down' all records of the call" and place the transcript in a classified system, even though it didn't contain sensitive national security information.
  3. A day after the call: The whistleblower said that the U.S. envoy to Ukraine and the U.S. ambassador to the EU met with Ukrainian officials and provided them with advice on how to "navigate" Trump's demand.
  4. And on Ukraine's end: Multiple U.S. officials told the whistleblower that Ukrainian leadership was "led to believe" that a phone call or meeting between Trump and Zelensky would depend on whether Zelensky showed a willingness to "play ball" on the issues aired by Ukraine's Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko and Rudy Giuliani — i.e. investigating Joe Biden.

Between the lines: Expect a bunch of attention — and even some hearings — on the allegation found in the report's appendix.

  • "According to White House officials I spoke with, this was 'not the first time' under this Administration that a Presidential transcript was placed into this codeword-level system solely for the purpose of protecting politically sensitive — rather than national security sensitive — information."

What's next: Don't be surprised to see efforts to unmask the whistleblower, even after they followed the proper legal channels.

  • Trump today called for treating the whistleblower and the people who aided them as treasonous spies.
  • "We used to handle it a little differently than we do now," he said. (Audio).

Go deeper:

Bonus: Pic du jour

Photo: Chris McGrath/Getty Images

A student walks over posters of pro-China lawmaker Junius Ho during a protest forming a human chain outside the Queen Elizabeth Stadium in Hong Kong.

2. What you missed
  1. Greece's 3rd-largest island is overflowing with refugees as "rates of arrivals hit the highest level since a European Union crackdown on migration three years ago." Go deeper.
  2. 12 people have died from lung illnesses associated with vaping. Go deeper.
  3. Peloton CEO John Foley told Axios he isn't too concerned about how the connected fitness company's share price has fallen sharply in its first day of post-IPO trading. Go deeper.
  4. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell backs a $250 million election security fund. By experts' estimates, that's only around 10% of what states will need between now and 2024 in order to protect elections from security threats. Go deeper.
3. 1 fun thing

Marvel Studios chief Kevin Feige is teaming up with Lucasfilm to develop a new “Star Wars” film, the AP reports.

  • As the president of Marvel Studios, which Disney acquired in 2009, Feige turned the Marvel Cinematic Universe into the most successful franchise in movie history.

The big picture: The Skywalker saga comes to a close this December with Episode IX: "The Rise of Skywalker."

  • Also developing new Star Wars films: “Game of Thrones” showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, and “The Last Jedi” director Rian Johnson.
Mike Allen