Aug 25, 2020

Axios PM

By Mike Allen
Mike Allen

Good afternoon: Today's PM — edited by Justin Green — is 621 words, a 2-minute read.

🚨Busy day in Trumpworld:

  • President Trump said he'll nominate Chad Wolf to be DHS secretary.
  • Former DHS chief of staff Miles Taylor claimed Trump offered to "pardon U.S. government officials for breaking the law to implement his immigration policies."
1 big thing: The tug of war over the FDA

President Trump watches FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn address the media, Aug. 23. Photo: Pete Marovich/Getty Images

A big story that slipped under the radar during last night's RNC: The FDA commissioner apologized for overselling the benefits of convalescent plasma for treating the coronavirus.

  • "I have been criticized for remarks I made Sunday night about the benefits of convalescent plasma. The criticism is entirely justified," said FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn.

Why it matters: The FDA is supposed to be a Switzerland of neutrality within government, able to act based on science instead of pressure from politicians and big business.

The big picture: The Trump administration has publicly pressured the FDA on granting an emergency use authorization for plasma.

  • President Trump and trade adviser Peter Navarro have privately and publicly criticized the FDA for holding up authorization, accusing staffers of being part of the "deep state."
  • Trump said plasma "has proven to reduce mortality by 35%" in a Sunday press conference.
  • Hahn echoed Trump's comments, which he apologized for last night, saying what he "should have said better is that the data show a relative risk reduction not an absolute risk reduction."

Between the lines: Public health leaders made a public outcry against quick approval of the treatment.

  • That includes top NIH scientists Francis Collins, Anthony Fauci and H. Clifford Lane.
  • “The three of us are pretty aligned on the importance of robust data through randomized control trials, and that a pandemic does not change that,” Lane told the New York Times.
  • Hahn said yesterday that the final decision "was made by FDA career scientists based on data submitted a few weeks ago."

The bottom line: Hahn's predecessor Scott Gottlieb tweeted: "I am confident in the science part of the evaluation executed by CBER. The way the public part was handled will erode precious public confidence. You earn public confidence in small drops and you loose [sic] it in buckets."

Bonus: RNC preview

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Photo: Kobi Gideo/GPO/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

At tonight's Republican National Convention, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo,  — making the unusual move of speaking from foreign soil in Jerusalem — will argue that "America First" foreign policy has delivered, an official tells me.

  • "I know that they are more safe, and their freedoms more secure, because President Trump has put his America First vision into action," Pompeo says in prepared remarks that touch on China, North Korea and the Middle East.
  • "It may not have made him popular in every foreign capital, but it has worked."

Also worthy of watching:

  • First lady Melania Trump, who runs a tight-lipped office, has kept a close hold on her remarks, but she's expected to use very personal terms to argue that her husband is the leader the country needs.
  • Tiffany Trump, who graduated from Georgetown Law this year, has been relatively private but will talk with specifics about her own beliefs, in the course of promoting her father.
  • Pam Bondi, former Florida attorney general and a member of Trump's impeachment defense team, will make a blistering case against Joe Biden.
  • Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron, who is among the high-profile Black officials speaking on Trump's behalf, will argue that Trump is continuing a legacy of Republicans as defenders of freedom and liberty for oppressed people.
2. Pic du jour

Photo: Steve Rowland via AP

Fossil footprints, estimated at 313 million years old, on the face of a rock that fell near a popular hiking trail at Grand Canyon National Park in northern Arizona.

3. Catch up quick
  1. Jacob Blake is paralyzed from the waist down after being shot eight times by police, though doctors are unsure if the injury is permanent, according to his father. Go deeper.
  2. Russia must conduct an "immediate, comprehensive, and transparent investigation" on the apparent poisoning of opposition leader Alexei Navalny, the U.S. ambassador said today. Go deeper.
  3. American Airlines said it will lay off 19,000 employees in October when the protections on those jobs as a condition for federal aid expire. Go deeper.
  4. A bipartisan pair of congressmen are introducing a bipartisan resolution to condemn the far-right conspiracy theory QAnon. Go deeper.
4. 1 important book

Courtesy of St. Martin’s Press

Michael Eric Dyson, one of the country’s most prominent scholars on race, has a new book out on Dec. 1, AP reports.

  • "Long Time Coming: Reckoning with Race in America," traces the history of racism from slavery to the killing of George Floyd.

Axios executive editor Sara Kehaulani Goo emailed me about his last book, "Tears We Cannot Stop":

  • "It's as if he's bottled up thoughts and discussions among Black Americans for decades and laid them bare on the table for the long overdue conversation with white America has been either too polite to have or more realistically, in denial about."
Mike Allen