Feb 8, 2019

Axios PM

By Mike Allen
Mike Allen

Situational awareness: Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam is telling his top staff that he won't resign over wearing blackface in the 1980s, the AP reports.

  • Breaking: A second woman has accused Virginia Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax of sexual assault. Details.
1 big thing: Trumpworld's first hostile hearing

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker put on a performance today that's likely to leave plenty of top Trump officials even less excited about the prospect of their day on Capitol Hill.

  • In what the NYT called a "remarkable breach of decorum," Whitaker drew stunned laughs in the room with this response to a question from House Judiciary Chair Jerry Nadler, a Democrat: “Mr. Chairman, I see that your five minutes is up.”
  • Democratic Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee later retorted: “Mr. Attorney General, we are not joking here ... And your humor is not acceptable.”

The big picture: After two years of being left alone by Republicans, Trumpworld is staring down the barrel at two grueling years of no-win situations before House committees.

  • If you play nice, President Trump has shown plenty of willingness to publicly go after his own people.
  • But if you play not-so-nice, as Whitaker did at times today, you can expect even more scrutiny from subpoena-empowered Democrats.

Highlights from Whitaker's hearing, per the NYT:

  • "Whitaker declined to defend the special counsel’s investigation," a break from Jeff Sessions and AG-nominee William Barr.
  • "Whitaker declared that he had 'not interfered in any way' in the special counsel investigation and that he had provided no information about it to President Trump or White House officials."
  • "Whitaker said multiple times that he did not discuss the Mueller investigation with anyone at the White House, even though in July 2017 he interviewed to become a White House lawyer who would manage and respond to that inquiry."

Axios' Scott Rosenberg emails:

  • "What struck me was simply the public display of independent elected officials attempting to hold a Trump administration officer accountable, without being overruled by a GOP committee chairman or having to fight for every question."

The bottom line: Expect more exchanges like this one, flagged by Axios' Alexi McCammond.

  • Democratic Rep. Hakeem Jeffries: "I’m confused, I really am. We’re all trying to figure out, who are you? Where did you come from? And how the heck did you become the head of the Department of Justice? Hopefully you can help me work through this confusion."
  • *Whitaker started responding..* 
  • Jeffries: "Mr. Whitaker, this was a statement, not a question, I am sure you know the difference." And then he later told him: “Keep your hands off the Mueller investigation.”
Bonus: Pic du jour

Photo: AP

Now called the Grand Hyatt New York, the building that helped Donald Trump make a name for himself in his first big deal in Manhattan is being sold to developers who plan to tear it down.

2. What you missed
  1. A growing number of companies are cutting back how much information they give investors right as concerns are growing about an economic slowdown and a potential earnings recession. Go deeper.
  2. Saudi Arabia warned that any attempt to link Jamal Khashoggi's death to Saudi leadership is "a red line." Go deeper.
  3. Short sellers are lining up to bet on Starbucks falling because of an expected presidential run by former chairman Howard Schultz. Go deeper.
  4. Walmart has launched a private-label furniture brand called MoDRN, a direct hit to big furniture retailers like Wayfair and Ikea and a challenge to Amazon.
  5. Five people have told the New York Times that over the last 2 years, Vanessa Tyson has recounted an incident in which she was sexually assaulted at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. Three of those people said Tyson told them her assailant was Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax. Go deeper.
3. John Dingell says goodbye

John Dingell died yesterday, the longest serving member of Congress in history. He was in office from 1955-2015.

Here are excerpts from his final statement to America, published by WashPost:

  • "One of the advantages to knowing that your demise is imminent, and that reports of it will not be greatly exaggerated, is that you have a few moments to compose some parting thoughts."
  • "My personal and political character was formed in a different era that was kinder, if not necessarily gentler. We observed modicums of respect even as we fought, often bitterly and savagely, over issues that were literally life and death to a degree that — fortunately – we see much less of today."
  • "In democratic government, elected officials do not have power. They hold power — in trust for the people who elected them. If they misuse or abuse that public trust, it is quite properly revoked (the quicker the better)."

Go deeper: Worthy of your time.

Mike Allen