Dec 3, 2020

Axios Sneak Peek

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

🗞️ Situational awareness: Deval Patrick, the Justice Department's former civil rights chief and current candidate for attorney general, wrote a letter challenging a Black trooper who alleged he was moved off his gubernatorial protective detail for racial reasons, the Boston Globe reports.

Today's newsletter — edited by Axios contributor Glen Johnson — is 518 words, a 2-minute read.

1 big thing: Inhofe — loudly — sets Trump straight

Sen. Jim Inhofe speaks with reporters in the Capitol last month. Photo: Samuel Corum/Getty Images

Senator Jim Inhofe told President Trump today he'll likely fail to get two big wishes in pending defense spending legislation, bellowing into his cellphone: "This is the only chance to get our bill passed," a source who overheard part of their conversation tells me.

Why it matters: Republicans are ready to test whether Trump's threats of vetoing the bill, which has passed every year for more than half a century, are empty.

The backstory: Inhofe leveled with Trump — over speakerphone while walking through the Senate's Russell Building — that the bill won't meet his demand to repeal liability protections for tech companies, or block efforts to re-title military bases named for Confederate heroes.

What we're hearing: Inhofe, who is leading negotiations on the National Defense Authorization Act as chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, addressed "Mr. President" before making his "only chance" comment during a midday call. The source could not help but overhear the conversation due to the phone's volume.

Read the full story.

2. Conspiracy theories blow back on White House

Sidney Powell. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

President Trump has rarely met a conspiracy theory he doesn't like, but he and other Republicans now worry the wild tales told by lawyers Sidney Powell and Lin Wood may cost them in Georgia's Senate special elections, Axios' Jonathan Swan reports.

Why it matters: The two are telling Georgians not to vote for Republicans David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler because of a bizarre, baseless and potentially self-defeating theory: The Chinese Communist Party has rigged the voting machines.

  • These are not inconsequential comments: The Senate could go into a 50-50 split, with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris breaking tie votes in favor of the Democrats if Republicans lose both races on Jan. 5.

What we're hearing: "There's no more destructive force in American politics — much less in the Republican Party or Trump movement — than Sidney Powell in front of a TV camera," a senior administration official tells Swan.

Read the full story.

3. Bolton lauds Barr for standing up to Trump

John Bolton. Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images

John Bolton tells me Bill Barr did more to undercut President Trump's baseless assertions about Democrats stealing the election than most Senate Republicans by saying he did not see widespread evidence of election fraud.

Why it matters: Trump has been ranting about Barr's AP interview behind the scenes and has privately floated replacing Barr, as we reported last night. But it’s unclear whether he will follow through.

What he's saying: “He stood up and did the right thing," Bolton said of Barr during a phone call today. "He told the truth. ... Why can't we see the evidence? Because they don't have any."

Read the full story.

4. Azar to target China at UN over coronavirus

Alex Azar. Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar is expected to give a speech at a special session of United Nations General Assembly on Thursday that hails U.S. progress on coronavirus vaccines while criticizing — though not directly naming — China, Axios' Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian writes.

Why it matters: U.S. government officials are concerned that China will use the UN special session to spread disinformation about the origins of the virus and China's early missteps in handling the pandemic.

  • "What’s evolving now is an infodemic at China’s behest," said a senior U.S. government official. "The UN is going to be ground zero on Thursday and Friday."

What's happening: The UN General Assembly is convening a special session addressing the coronavirus on Thursday and Friday at the UN headquarters in New York. Representatives from numerous governments, including Azar, will give brief remarks during the sessions.

Go deeper for what Azar will say.

5. Tweet of the day: Major league mayoral debut

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

You know you're a player when you have Spike Lee and Wynton Marsalis help with your campaign launch video.

Listen to the music...

6. Pic du jour

Photo: Graeme Jennings-Pool/Getty Images

Gabby Giffords was back in the Capitol today, this time to hold the Bible when Vice President Mike Pence conducted a ceremonial swearing-in as her husband, former astronaut Mark Kelly, became a U.S. senator.

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