Mar 7, 2021

Axios Sneak Peek

Welcome back to Sneak. It was a short weekend for many on Capitol Hill.

Situational Awareness: The (Albany) Times Union and the New York Senate Democratic leader called on Gov. Andrew Cuomo to resign over allegations of sexual harassment and mistreatment.

📚 Worthy of your time: Our friends at The Hill first shared this fascinating 3D tool showing the evolution of the Oval Office over time, posted by American Home Shield.

Today's newsletter — edited by Glen Johnson — is 556 words, a 2-minute read.

1 big thing: Graham deals with Trump "dark side" to harness "magic"

Photo: "Axios on HBO"

Sen. Lindsey Graham told Jonathan Swan for "Axios on HBO" that Donald Trump has a "dark side" but he tries to "harness the magic" because he succeeded where Republican candidates like John McCain and Mitt Romney failed.

Why it matters: The South Carolina Republican gyrates between support and criticism of the former president, even after Trump harshly criticized McCain — Graham's longtime friend — and helped spark the Capitol insurrection.

  • "What I'm tryin' to do is just harness the magic," Graham said. "To me, Donald Trump is sort of a cross between Jesse Helms, Ronald Reagan and P.T. Barnum."
  • "He could make the Republican Party something that nobody else I know can make it. He can make it bigger. He can make it stronger. He can make it more diverse. And he also could destroy it," Graham said.

Go deeper.

Watch a clip here.

2. Scoop: Japan's prime minister first to visit White House

Prime Minister of Japan Yoshihide Suga. Photo: STR/JIJI Press/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden is planning to host Japan’s prime minister at the White House as soon as this April, the first in-person foreign leader visit of his presidency, people familiar with the matter tell Axios’ Hans Nichols.

Why it matters: An invitation to Yoshihide Suga would telegraph to allies and potential adversaries, including China, that the U.S.-Japan alliance will remain the linchpin of the post-World War II security framework in the Pacific.

  • The invite also would signal a partial return to normalcy as to how the Biden administration conducts foreign policy during the pandemic, with the new president beginning face-to-face meetings with foreign leaders in the Oval Office.
  • The White House declined to confirm the upcoming meeting, which has not been finalized and could slide to later in the spring, with the state of the pandemic a key factor.

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3. Hawley becomes GOP cash cow despite Jan. 6 blowback

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call Inc. via Getty Images

Sen. Josh Hawley's effort to block certification of the 2020 election has been a fundraising boon — not just for him but his party, Axios' Lachlan Markay has learned.

Why it matters: Corporate donors and establishment Republicans recoiled at the Jan. 6 siege on the Capitol that followed efforts by Hawley (R-Mo.) and others to block Biden's Electoral College victory. But fundraising numbers show the GOP grassroots is still firmly in Hawley's camp.

What's new: Digital fundraising appeals sent by the National Republican Senatorial Committee under Hawley's name raised more money in February than those of any other senator except NRSC Chairman Rick Scott.

  • Hawley's personal fundraising also has spiked, according to data provided by a source close to his campaign.
  • From Jan. 1 through March 5, Hawley's campaign brought in more than $1.5 million from nearly 28,000 donors, the vast majority of whom had never given to him before.

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4. Senate plots its own earmark return

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

With the Senate done battling over Biden's coronavirus rescue package, it's preparing to tackle another priority: earmarks, Axios' Alayna Treene writes.

Driving the news: Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), the top members on the Senate Appropriations Committee, are expected to work out a deal restoring the congressional spending tool in the coming weeks, committee aides tell Axios.

  • Earmarks give lawmakers the power to direct spending to pay for special projects in their districts. They've already been reintroduced in the House.
  • Senators are hopeful because Biden was very effective in using earmarks while in the Senate. He has been quiet about the topic, a sign he's giving Congress breathing room to negotiate.

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5. White House using social media influencers to sell plans

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

The White House is partnering with social media influencers and online platforms to sell its message directly to the American people in a fresh facet of its digital strategy, administration officials tell Axios' Sarah Mucha.

Why it matters: The “digital media tour” mimics an approach used last year, when the Biden campaign sought to reach a younger demographic wary of the possibility of an older, out-of-touch president.

In its first deployment of the strategy, the White House offered up two National Economic Council directors for interviews last week with social media influencers like “Budgetnista” and “The Money Coach."

  • The goal was to have them help persuade Americans — and their representatives in Congress — to support Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief plan. It passed Saturday.

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6. Pic du jour

Photo: Samuel Corum/Getty Images

A shimmering flag stand provides an artist's palette as Biden speaks about his $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package Saturday.

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