May 26, 2019

Axios Sneak Peek

By Jonathan Swan
Jonathan Swan

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1 big thing: Trump's tweets lose potency

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

President Trump's tweets don't pack the same online punch they did in his first year, Axios' Neal Rothschild reports based on exclusive CrowdTangle data.

  • Trump's Twitter interaction rate — a measure of impact, given how much he tweets and how many people follow him — has tumbled precipitously.
  • Trump's interaction rate fell from 0.55% in the month he was elected to 0.32% in June 2017 — then down to 0.16% this month, through Saturday. (The metric measures retweets and likes per tweet, divided by the size of his following.)

Why it matters: It's a sign that some of the novelty may have worn off his constant tweet storms.

  • Advisers maintain it's just a lull before the 2020 storm.

Trump's lines of attack have been repeated so much that they don't shock anymore, says Toronto Star Washington bureau chief Daniel Dale, who has built a database of false claims by Trump.

  • Because norm-breaking tweets have become the new norm, Dale says, he doesn't cover them as often — and therefore, casual readers hear about them less.

Attacking the Mueller investigation went from scandalous to routine for Trump, and accusing government officials of treason went from groundbreaking to commonplace. Since April 1, Trump has tweeted about:

  • "No Collusion" 54 times.
  • "No Obstruction" 30 times.
  • "Witch Hunt" 20 times.
  • "Hoax" 19 times.
  • "Radical" left/Democrats 17 times.
  • "Angry Democrats" 12 times.
  • "Presidential Harassment" 10 times.
  • "Treason" 7 times.

Trump is tweeting more, which could make individual tweets stand out less:

  • The pace of Trump's tweeting has picked up from 157 times per month during his first six months to 284 times per month over the last six months.
  • Not counting posts he retweets, he is at 343 tweets through May 25 — closing in on his one-month record of 348 in August.

By the numbers:

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2. Exclusive emails: Border union chief clashed with Trump nominee

Photo illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

Emails obtained by Axios' Alayna Treene reveal tension between Brandon Judd, the powerful leader of the Border Patrol agents' union, and Mark Morgan, President Trump’s nominee to head ICE.

Why it matters: The emails — along with emails leaked earlier to Axios — show the level of toxicity around Morgan at USBP, Alayna reports.

  • They also underscore the peril of being on the bad side of Judd, who has appeared often on Fox News and is influential with the West Wing.
  • As Axios reported last week, a source familiar said Morgan was fired from the Border Patrol because Judd privately told Trump to get rid of him.

Judd disputed this to Axios and said he "never asked then-President-elect Trump to fire Chief Morgan."

  • Judd added that then-acting commissioner of Customs and Border Protection, Kevin McAleenan, called him prior to firing Morgan and told him "that the decision was his and his alone." You can read Judd's full statement here.

Details: In an email to all Border Patrol staff on Dec. 9, 2016, Morgan elaborated on his testimony before the Senate Homeland Security Committee:

  • "I do not, as some have suggested, support what is often referred to as 'blanket amnesty,'" Morgan wrote. "What I actually support is reform."

An hour later, Judd replied to Morgan in a blistering email from his personal account:

  • "Simply put, you've politicized your position more than any of your predecessors."
  • "Your current actions are going to be seen for what they are — you trying to save your job. If you truly cared about the Border Patrol you would resign immediately."

The White House, Morgan, DHS and ICE declined comment.

Go deeper: Read the full story

🇪🇺 3. European elections set 20-year turnout record

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The results are flowing in from the European Parliament elections, a massive, 4-day democratic exercise spanning 28 countries, 400 million voters and hundreds of parties all vying for a voice in the 751-seat assembly, Axios' Zach Basu writes.

Why it matters: With nationalism resurgent, this election was critical for those who want to preserve and further integrate the 62-year-old EU — as well as those who want it dismantled from within.

5 key takeaways:

  1. Record turnout: Traditionally a low-interest contest akin to the U.S. midterms, preliminary numbers show voter turnout increased from the last cycle for the first time since the first elections were held in 1979.
  2. Europe's political center crumbles: As projected, the center-right conservatives (EPP) and center-left socialists (S&D) lost their combined majority, ending the "grand coalition" that had governed the parliament for the last 40 years.
  3. Green wave: In what some commentators are dubbing the "Greta Thunberg effect," Green parties flooded the ballots in northern and western Europe, outperforming Politico Europe's projections by 10 seats and becoming the 4th largest group in parliament.
  4. Nationalists sputter: The overwhelming narrative heading into the elections was that a new crop of far-right, populist parties — emboldened by continent-wide victories in national and regional elections — would take parliament by storm and become kingmakers. Certain nationalist parties like the Sweden Democrats fared well, but the overall gains were modest.
  5. A mixed bag in France: Marine Le Pen's far-right National Rally eked out a victory (23%-22%) over the ardently pro-Europe Macron, but failed to perform as well as in 2014. That comes as a surprise, given the persistent domestic troubles that have sunk Macron's approval rating at home.
4. Sneak pic

Photo: Evan Vucci/AP

President Trump carries notes that say "they want to impeach me" as he walks from the Oval Office to speak in the Rose Garden on Wednesday.

5. Sneak Peek diary

Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

The House and Senate are in recess until June 4.

President Trump's schedule, per a White House official:

  • Monday: In Japan, the president and first lady will meet with families of people abducted by North Korea. Trump will later hold a joint press conference with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and attend a state banquet.
  • Tuesday: The president returns from Tokyo.
  • Wednesday: Trump will have lunch with Vice President Pence and meet with Secretary of State Pompeo.
  • Thursday: Trump will deliver remarks at Air Force Academy graduation in Colorado Springs.
  • Friday: The president and first lady will host a reception to honor Gold Star families.
6. First look: A behind-the-scenes Obama tale

Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado, who announced in May that he's running for president, will be out June 4 with "The Land of Flickering Lights: Restoring America in an Age of Broken Politics," from Atlantic Monthly Press:

"Just weeks after Obama's election, his transition team invited me to Chicago to interview for the job of education secretary. I knew the job would likely go to Arne Duncan ... but I still went.
On the day Arne's appointment was announced, I ... missed a call from the 312 area code. I listened to the message: "It's Barack, call me." I called him back — voicemail! — and left a message telling him he had made a great choice ... and saying there was no need to return the call.
Fifteen minutes later, he returned the call anyway to explain why he had chosen Arne. ... In a world in which most politicians do almost anything to avoid giving bad news, Obama had called me twice to deliver it himself."

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