Dec 4, 2020

Axios Sneak Peek

Welcome to Sneak Peek, our nightly lookahead from both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, plus our best scoops.

🚨Breaking: Blackstone CEO Stephen Schwarzman has given $15 million to the Senate Leadership Fund, a Mitch McConnell-aligned super PAC, since Election Day, Bloomberg says based on FEC reports due at midnight. The donations are helping Republicans outspend Democrats in the Georgia Senate runoff elections.

🍽️ Situational awareness: It turns out Gov. Gavin Newsom wasn't the only California leader to dine at Napa Valley's posh French Laundry. San Francisco Mayor London Breed apologized today for her own COVID-era visit the following night.

  • White House communications director Alyssa Farah resigned today, a tacit nod to President Trump's election loss, the Washington Post notes. "I’m forever grateful to have had the opportunity to serve my country," she wrote.

Today's newsletter — edited by Axios contributor Glen Johnson — is 560 words, a 2-minute read.

1 big thing: Joe Biden's message control

Illustration: AĂŻda Amer/Axios

President-elect Joe Biden and his team gave a fresh example of their media savvy today, generating a juicy headline during a CNN interview by revealing he had asked NIAID director Anthony Fauci to remain in his job during a phone call just an hour before the taping.

Why it matters: Praising Fauci not only continues the contrast Biden is trying to create with President Trump, who has talked about firing the doctor, but also shows the calibrated media exposure the president-elect and his team are using to control their message and instill public calm.

The sit-down with Jake Tapper was the first joint interview Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris have given since winning the election a month ago today. The duo were prepped for coronavirus questions with newsworthy answers.

  • Not only did the Fauci bite spark media buzz, but so did Biden's statement that he will ask the public to wear masks for the first 100 days of his administration to fight the coronavirus.
  • Biden also revealed "several" Republican senators have privately congratulated him, pledged the Justice department will have full independence, and vowed "my family will not be involved in any business" that appears in conflict with the presidency.

Go deeper: An Axios recap of the full interview

2. Progressives shift focus from people to policy

Biden giving remarks in Wilmington, Del., last month. Photo: Roberto Schmidt/AFP via Getty Images

Some progressives tell Axios' Alexi McCammond they believe the window for influencing Biden’s Cabinet selections has closed, and they’re shifting their focus to policy — hoping to shape Biden's agenda even before he’s sworn in.

Why it matters: The left wing of the party often draws attention for its protests, petitions and tweets, but this deliberate move reflects a determination to move beyond some fights they won't win to engage with Biden strategically, and over the long term.

  • Progressives aren't just pushing Biden on hot-button liberal policies like the Green New Deal or Medicare for All.
  • They’re talking economic policy, reform of the Federal Reserve, foreign policy, defense spending cuts, ending the war in Yemen, and addressing immigration, systemic racism and public education, Alexi reports.

Go deeper: I reported earlier today that some Hispanic lawmakers feel disrespected.

Read the full story.

3. Thursday night frights for Biden White House
Reproduced from Homebase; Chart: Axios Visuals 

Biden is building an economic team to deal with a COVID-induced economic free fall, and a jobs report coming out Friday — expected to show reduced hiring last month — could give a grim preview of coming attractions.

Why it matters: Biden's economic advisers are worried any failure to inject money into the economy now will only multiply their challenges once they take office, but President Trump remains fixated on litigating his election loss.

Between the lines: Data from Homebase, which manages digital timecards for 100,000 small businesses and is monitored by Trump's Council of Economic Advisers, could show hiring down to pre-summer levels.

Read the full story.

4. Top general: U.S. losing time to deter China

Stanley McChrystal. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

A top retired general and Joe Biden adviser tells Axios' Jonathan Swan "China's military capacity has risen much faster than people appreciate," and the U.S. is running out of time to counterbalance it in Asia and prevent a scenario such as it seizing Taiwan.

Why it matters: Stanley McChrystal, the former commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, recently briefed the president-elect as part of his kitchen cabinet of diplomatic and national security advisers. Biden is considering which Trump- or Obama-era approaches to keep or discard, and what new strategies to pursue.

  • In his interview with Swan, McChrystal said a nuclear-armed North Korea is still the most pressing national security threat — just as President Obama warned President-elect Trump in late 2016 — and "there's no negotiating them away" from being a nuclear power despite Trump's flashy efforts.

Asked whether it's too late for the U.S. to marshal Asian allies to deter China, McChrystal said, "I think that, if the ship hasn't sailed, it's certainly got up steam and thinking about sailing.

Read the full story.

5. Tweet of the day: Canada dry
6. Parting Shot: A White House black-and-white

AFP photographer Brendan Smialowski creates a study in contrasts as he captures President Trump in the Oval Office today, during a ceremony to present the Medal of Freedom to former Notre Dame football coach Lou Holtz.

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