Jan 23, 2019

Axios PM

Situational awareness: Speaker Nancy Pelosi is denying President Trump a State of the Union from the House floor until the government reopens. Read the letter.

P.S.: Michael Cohen wants to postpone his scheduled Feb. 7 testimony before the House Oversight Committee, citing "threats against his family from President Trump and Mr. Giuliani."

1 big thing: Trump backs regime change in Venezuela

Venezuela's National Assembly leader Juan Guaidó and President Trump. Photos: Federico Parra, Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

Venezuela has entered an uncertain new phase, with President Trump and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau joining 7 South American countries in endorsing regime change vs. Nicolás Maduro.

  • Trump at 1:05 pm today: "Today, I am officially recognizing the President of the Venezuelan National Assembly, Juan Guaidó, as the Interim President of Venezuela."
  • Maduro responded by cutting off relations with the U.S. and ordering American diplomats to leave the country.

Flashback: "The regional Organization of American States ... said [earlier this month that] its member nations voted 19-6, with eight abstentions, to not recognize the legitimacy of Maduro's government," per CNN.

Maduro's response: “I am the only president of Venezuela. ... We do not want to return to the twentieth century of gringo interventions and coups d’etats." (NYT, citing Venezuelan news outlet Diario La Verdad)

More from the White House:

  • A senior administration official told reporters: “If Maduro and his cronies choose to respond with violence ... all options are on the table for the U.S. in regard to actions that can be taken, both diplomatic and economic.”

The big picture: Latin America is shifting to the right, as Axios' Dave Lawler and Jonathan Swan noted earlier today.

  • Brazil, Paraguay, Colombia, Argentina, Peru, Ecuador and Chile have all recognized Guaidó as Venezuela's new president.
  • Right-wing Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro said yesterday at the World Economic Forum in Davos that his election and those of like-minded leaders were a sign that “left-wing ideology will not prevail in the region.”
  • Paraguayan President Mario Abdo Benítez was more direct, saying: “Anything that will help liberate Venezuela has our support,” including recognizing Guaidó as president.

Between the lines: Markets are loving the news, Axios' Dion Rabouin reports.

  • "The country’s sovereign bond maturing in 2027 rallied to its highest level since June. That’s notable considering that the 2027 bond, and all but one of Venezuela’s other bonds, have been in default since November 2017. U.S. economic sanctions make it impermissible for the country to pay or for investors to collect.
  • “There’s a tremendous rally happening with expectation that regime change leads to eventual restructuring of these bonds,” said a fund manager from a major firm who asked not to be identified because he’s not permitted to discuss Venezuela’s debt.
  • “The market is pricing in Maduro’s exit as closer than we previously thought.”

Go deeper: Photos from the scene in Venezuela

Bonus: Pics du jour
Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Above: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi checks her watch while leaving a meeting of the Democratic caucus at the Capitol.

Below: Sarah Sanders warms her hands by a space heater before a television interview with Fox News outside the White House.

Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
2. What you missed
  1. The House Oversight Committee plans to begin "an in-depth investigation" of the White House and Trump transition team's procedures for granting security clearances. Go deeper.
  2. There could be "zero" growth in the U.S. economy if the shutdown lasts through the end of the first quarter, the White House’s top economist, Kevin Hassett, told CNN's Poppy Harlow today.
  3. Jeff Bezos' space company Blue Origin conducted a successful launch and landing of its New Shepard rocket and crew capsule today. Go deeper.
  4. David Einhorn's Greenlight Capital had another trying quarter in a year where "nothing went right" — bringing the fund's 2018 losses to 34.2%. Go deeper.
  5. Bill Clinton is writing a book about his life after serving as president, which will be his 5th since leaving the White House, the New York Times reports.
3. 1 🍬 thing

Valentine's Day is just a few weeks away, and if you're looking for Sweethearts candy, good luck, USA Today reports.

  • "Sweethearts will be missing from the shelves this year, as the company that makes the candy, the New England Confectionary Co., went out of business."
  • The CEO of the firm that bought NECCO: "We are looking forward to announcing the relaunch of Sweethearts for the 2020 Valentine's Day season." 
  • "Amazon is selling boxes starting at $9, and on eBay, an 8-pack box of candies is going for $12."