16 hours ago

Axios Sneak Peek

Welcome to Sneak Peek, anchored by Alayna Treene, Hans Nichols and Kadia Goba.

Situational Awareness: President Biden revealed former President Trump had left behind "a very generous" letter that he'll keep private for now.

  • Most Americans give Biden high marks for his inaugural address — including 72% of Republicans who called it "good" or "somewhat good" — in an online Ipsos snap poll of 498 adults conducted just after he spoke.

Today's newsletter — edited by Glen Johnson — is 1,021 words, a 4-minute read.

1 big thing: GOP research firm aims to hobble Biden nominees

Alejandro Mayorkas. Photo: Joshua Roberts/AFP via Getty Images

The Republican-aligned opposition research group America Rising is doing all it can to prevent President Biden from seating his top Cabinet picks, Axios' Lachlan Markay reports.

Why it matters: After former President Trump inhibited the transition, Biden is hoping the Republican minority in Congress will cooperate with getting his team in place. He hadn't even been sworn in when America Rising began blasting out opposition research to reporters targeting Janet Yellen and Alejandro Mayorkas.

Biden’s reliance on officials who have previously served in government, many in the Obama administration, has provided a wealth of research material, according to America Rising's leaders.

  • The group currently has 15 researchers, trackers and comms operatives digging into the people who would serve in Biden's administration, with plans to expand in the near future.
  • It's already filed more than 300 FOIA requests for Obama-era records involving holdovers expected to serve in Biden’s government.

The bottom line: Whether the group can succeed in blocking — or even holding up — many of Biden's picks is a separate question. The president's first Cabinet nominee, Avril Haines as director of national intelligence, was confirmed hours after Biden was sworn in. And Yellen's hearing Tuesday was largely uneventful.

Go deeper.

2. The Biden protection plan

Joe Biden announces his first run for the presidency in June 1987. Photo: Howard L. Sachs/CNP/Getty Images

The Joe Biden who became the 46th president Wednesday isn't the same blabbermouth who failed in 1988 and 2008, Axios' Glen Johnson writes.

Why it matters: Biden now heeds guidance about staying on task with speeches and no longer worries a gaffe or two will cost him an election. His staff also limits the places where he speaks freely and off the cuff. This Biden protective bubble will only tighten in the months ahead, aides tell us.

One prominent Democrat says the lingering question is can a nearly 80-year-old person "process" multiple major issues like the pandemic, a sagging economy and an ascendant China and pesky Russia? The acid test, this Democrat said on the condition of anonymity, was whether Biden could ace a Rose Garden news conference.

  • His Dec. 22 news conference in Wilmington, Delaware, suggested he could pull it off, if prepped and rested.
  • Biden opened up with about 14 minutes of remarks read from a massive teleprompter. But then he closed his book and faced nearly 20 questions, gaffe-free and with several clever turns of phrase.

What to watch: The Biden White House will use the cover of coronavirus precautions to greatly curtail his freelance moments and access to him. Truth is, he’s a 78-year-old high-risk American, so it isn't just good politics but good policy.

3. Bush labels Clyburn Democrats' "savior"

House Majority Whip James Clyburn takes a selfie Wednesday with former President George W. Bush. Photo: Patrick Semansky-Pool/Getty Images

George W. Bush credited Rep. James Clyburn with being the "savior" of the Democratic Party, telling the South Carolinian at Wednesday's inauguration his endorsement allowed Biden to win the party's presidential nomination, Axios' Kadia Goba writes.

Why it matters: The nation's last two-term Republican president also said Clyburn's nod allowed Wednesday's transfer of power, because he felt only Biden had the ability to unseat Trump.

What they're saying: “When Bill [Clinton] walked up, George [W. Bush] looked at Bill and said, ‘This guy’s y’all savior,’” Clyburn told Axios, referring to himself.

  • Clyburn's endorsement allowed Biden to win last year's pivotal South Carolina primary, convincing the rest of the Democratic field to fall behind his candidacy.
  • During a call with local reporters, the powerful House majority whip revealed Bush made the additional comment about it resulting in the transfer of power.
4. Wordiest inaugural address since Reagan
Data: Statista, Axios Research; Chart: Axios Visuals

Biden's inaugural address was the longest speech by word count since Ronald Reagan's 1985 address, according to Axios analysis of Biden's speech performed by Stef Kight and historical data from Statista.

By the numbers: William Henry Harrison gave the longest inauguration speech in 1841, at 8,445 words, according to the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies.

  • George Washington’s second Inaugural address was the shortest, running just 135 words, followed by Franklin D. Roosevelt’s fourth and final one in 1945, at 559 words.
5. Fortnite developer brings on its first lobbyists

An 11-year-old gamer plays Fortnite in South Pasadena, California, last April. Photo: Neilson Barnard/Getty Images

The company behind the wildly popular video game franchise Fortnite, which is suing Apple over alleged anti-competitive practices, hired its first lobbyists this month to “monitor” antitrust issues in Washington, Lachlan also reports.

Why it matters: Epic Games’ case against Apple has potentially huge legal and financial stakes. The company’s decision to enlist K Street veterans with connections on both sides of the aisle indicates it is tuning into D.C., where both parties have railed against anti-competitive practices in the tech industry.

What’s new: Epic retained Subject Matter and three of its lobbyists, including co-founder Steve Elmendorf, a high-dollar Democratic fundraiser.

  • Also working with Epic is the Gibson Group and its eponymous principal, Joseph Gibson.
  • Both firms said in registration filings they would “monitor antitrust issues in the technology industry” on Epic’s behalf.

Go deeper.

6. The power tips of two former White House chiefs

President Obama speaks as Jack Lew replaces Bill Daley as White House chief of staff on January 2012. Photo: Jewel Samad/AFP via Getty Images

It would take a lot to teach Biden and Ron Klain something new about how to wield political power, but two former White House chiefs of staff offered tips to Axios' Hans Nichols that can apply to both the new administration and new Congress.

Why it matters: If there's a currency in This Town, it's power, so we've asked several former Washington power brokers to share their best advice.

What they are saying: Jack Lew and Bill Daley, the former of whom replaced the latter, offer this advice.

Lew said, "A process must allow everyone to speak their minds, but once it runs its course, there can be no alternate paths to the president."

  • "It is not enough to admire a problem; you need to frame a solution."
  • "Always keep part of the team focused on long-term objectives, or the short term will capture everyone's energy."

Daley echoed Aaron Burr in "Hamilton," saying, "Speak less. Listen more. And talk last.”

  • “You’ve got to know your own personal limits and the limitations of your power.”
  • “Understand what you’re trying to accomplish and then you have to game plan, and then try to figure out what are the levers of power, and, honestly, if you have control of them and how to use them.”
7. 📷 Pics du jour

Joe Biden is sworn in as the 46th president of the United States. Photo: Andrew Harnik/Pool/Getty Images

Kamala Harris is sworn in by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images
Kamala Harris and Doug Emhoff are announced onto the inaugural platform. Photo: Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images
Joe and Jill Biden step onto the inaugural platform. Photo: Win McNamee/Pool/AFP via Getty Images
Lady Gaga sings the National Anthem. Photo: Patrick Semansky/Pool/AFP via Getty Images
Youth poet laureate Amanda Gorman recites a poem. She said in an interview that she hoped to be back in 2037 — taking the oath as president herself. Photo: Rob Carr/Getty Images
Joe Biden sits behind the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office for the first time as president before signing a series of executive orders. Photo: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images
Vice President Kamala Harris, standing in front of the seat occupied by the Capitol insurrectionists Jan. 6, swears in Raphael Warnock, Alex Padilla and Jon Ossoff (l. to r.) to the U.S. Senate. Photo: Via Senate TV

Two weeks to the day after one of the most tumultuous in our nation's history.

Thanks for turning to Sneak at the end of a memorable day. We'll be back Thursday night.