Axios Sneak Peek

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November 03, 2019

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

  • 📺 Catch a reairing of the latest episode of "Axios on HBO" tonight at 11:05 on HBO.
  • The highlights: Tinder babies ... Reps. Dan Crenshaw and Will Hurd talk Texas and the future of the GOP ... Ina Fried interviews PayPal CEO Dan Schulman ... Mike Allen travels to Canada for the first interview with Josh Harris, a million-selling evangelical author and mega-pastor who suddenly renounced Christianity — via Instagram.
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Tonight's newsletter is 1,354 words, a 5-minute read.

1 big thing: How an impeached Trump wins

Illustration of a gold medal with Trump 2020.
Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

President Trump is showing how he could be impeached, survive and still win re-election, something never done before in American history.

Trump officials think two things must unfold for this to happen: Republicans must stay unified, in votes and voice, and the economy must be strong, in jobs and market returns. The trends are strong on both fronts, Axios CEO Jim VandeHei and I report.

  • Every single House Republican voted against a formal impeachment proceeding, a powerful show of unity. In the Senate, there are very few public signs of the Great Red Wall cracking.
  • Importantly, Senate Republicans are discussing how they will defend Trump even if Democrats prove beyond a shadow of a doubt Trump offered Ukraine a quid pro quo to investigate Joe Biden. 
  • Sources close to Republican leadership told us they expect many GOP senators to ultimately settle on a talking point that Trump's actions were "inappropriate but not impeachable."
  • The economy is humming, too. Markets are rising; growth continues, albeit more slowly; and more jobs are materializing. It's hard to argue that the Trump economy is anything but consistently strong one year out from the presidential election. 

The big picture: "The worst-case scenario" — that the Senate convicts Trump — "only presents itself if there's a material change in fact pattern," said a source close to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. "If we know what we know right now, there is no problem."

Behind the scenes: McConnell has privately told Trump that Senate Republicans aren't as susceptible to his pressure as House Republicans are.

  • The Senate leader encouraged Trump to give all Republican senators some room and not single anyone out that he may see as wobbly, per sources familiar with McConnell's advice to the president. Trump has recently pulled back from attacking Senate Republicans he deems insufficiently loyal.
  • McConnell has advised his colleagues to play offense where they can — for example, his resolution with Lindsey Graham criticizing Democrats' process. And he's advised his more skittish, moderate, colleagues to deflect reporters' questions by saying they'll be "a juror" in Trump's Senate trial and therefore can't comment.

Sources close to GOP Senate leadership said they were encouraged that not a single House Republican broke ranks on the impeachment proceeding vote last week.

  • An important part of the Senate GOP strategy is to present impeachment as an entirely partisan exercise.

Remember this number: Most polls show Trump's favorable rating among Republicans remains between 85% and 90%after all the Ukraine revelations.

  • Ignore the cable and Twitter chatter about elected Republicans turning on Trump until a bunch actually do with their votes and actions. So far, there is scant evidence this is or will happen.

Go deeper: FiveThirtyEight's Perry Bacon Jr. writes that "Republicans are already unified behind Trump — unlike in past impeachment processes."

2. Behind the scenes: Trump gets his NYT and WaPo fix

Animated illustration of New York Times and Washington Post app with delete buttons
Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

If you were skeptical that President Trump would give up his lifelong habit of reading the New York Times, you were right to be. Sources familiar with the president's iPhone told Alexi McCammond and me that the president maintains a digital portal to the two newspapers he recently banished from the West Wing: the Washington Post and the New York Times.

Between the lines: The White House recently announced it was canceling subscriptions to the New York Times and Washington Post after Trump complained about their unfriendly coverage. But sources familiar with the president's cellphone — an iPhone XS Max — said Trump has not deleted the NYT and WaPo apps.

  • Perhaps that's why Trump issued a tweet on Oct. 26 that suggested he wasn't quite abiding by his NYT/WaPo ban: "The Fake Washington Post keeps doing phony stories, with zero sources, that I am concerned with the Impeachment scam."

3. Impeachment preview

Illustration of the Capitol dome and a person swearing in with hand on the Bible.
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The House impeachment investigators will continue their depositions in a secure hearing room inside the Capitol. A person familiar with the proceedings said there is "substantial uncertainty surrounding who would show up this week given these officials are higher ranking officials and there are ongoing concerns about privilege."

  • For example, Robert Blair, a White House national security aide who reportedly listened in on Trump's July 25 call with the Ukrainian president, has already made clear, through his attorney, that he will follow the White House's direction and refuse to testify.
  • Brian McCormack, associate director for natural resources, Office of Management and Budget; Michael Duffey, associate director for national security programs, OMB; and Russell Vought, acting OMB director, will not testify this week, per NPR.

What's next: With the caveat that we don't know who will show up, here's what I learned about this week's depositions schedule, per the same source:

  • Monday: John Eisenberg, deputy counsel to the president for national security affairs; Michael Ellis, deputy legal adviser to the National Security Council; Robert Blair; Brian McCormack.
  • Tuesday: Wells Griffith, senior director for international energy and environment; Michael Duffey.
  • Wednesday: Russell Vought; David Hale, undersecretary of state for political affairs; T. Ulrich Brechbuhl, counsel to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo; Rick Perry, energy secretary.

4. GOP senator: Apple and TikTok relationship is a national security threat

Josh Hawley
Josh Hawley. Photo: "Axios on HBO"

Sen. Josh Hawley says Apple and TikTok may be threatening U.S. national security through their Chinese operations and connections, reports Axios' Kim Hart.

In an exclusive interview with "Axios on HBO," the Missouri Republican called out Apple for choosing Chinese profits over American values. He also called on TikTok, owned by Beijing-based ByteDance, to testify under oath that it does not share American data with China's Communist Party.

Why it matters: On Tuesday, Hawley will chair a hearing highlighting the compromises that, he argues, U.S. tech companies make to do business in China. The hearing comes amid increasing tensions over trade and technology transfers between the U.S. and China.

"[As] these Big Tech companies try to get into the Chinese market, the compromises that they have to make with the Communist Chinese Party — who, let's not forget, partner with or control every industry of any size in China — what does that do to American security?
— Josh Hawley to "Axios on HBO"

Hawley invited Apple and TikTok executives to testify at the hearing. As of Sunday, the companies have declined to appear. The subcommittee will have open chairs for them during the hearing.

Go deeper: Read the full article, with comments from a TikTok spokesperson.

5. Sneak Peek diary

Photo of the U.S. Capitol building
Photo: mbell/Getty Images

The House breaks for recess this week, but committees investigating impeachment will hold closed-door hearings (see item 3).

The Senate expects to confirm the following Trump nominees, per a GOP leadership aide:

  • David Austin Tapp as a judge of the Court of Federal Claims.
  • Danielle Hunsaker as a judge for the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
  • William Joseph Nardini as a judge for the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.
  • Lee Philip Rudofsky as a judge for the Eastern District of Arkansas.
  • Jennifer Philpott Wilson as a judge for the Middle District of Pennsylvania.

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

  • Monday: Trump meets with Secretary of State Pompeo. He will welcome the 2019 World Series Champions: the Washington Nationals. He will also deliver remarks at a rally in Lexington, Kentucky. 
  • Wednesday: Trump delivers remarks on federal judicial confirmation milestones. He will also deliver remarks at a rally in Monroe, Louisiana. 
  • Thursday: Trump presents the Presidential Citizens Medal. He will also deliver remarks at a fundraising committee reception in Washington, D.C.  
  • Friday: Trump participates in a roundtable with supporters in Atlanta, Georgia. He will also deliver remarks at a fundraising committee luncheon in Atlanta.

6. 1 campus thing: Uptick in "anti-Israel" activity

A group of students protest the visit of Danny Danon, Israel's Ambassador to the United Nations who was invited to give a lecture at Columbia University in Manhattan
Students protest the visit of Danny Danon, Israel's ambassador to the United Nations who was invited to give a lecture at Columbia University, New York City, Feb. 13, 2017. Photo: Mohammed Elshamy/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

American students ran at least 28 campaigns during the 2018–19 academic year to protest the Israeli government and encourage boycotts of Israeli companies and institutions, according to a group that has been monitoring such activity on U.S. campuses since 2011.

The big picture: That's an uptick in "anti-Israel" activity on American college campuses from the levels recorded over the past two years. But it's down from a peak of 44 campaigns in the 2014–15 academic year, per the 2019 Campus Trends Report published by the Israel on Campus Coalition, a group that supports Israel.

  • By the numbers: Of the 28 "anti-Israel" campaigns in 2018–19, 20 were "traditional BDS" (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) actions, and eight were non-BDS anti-Israel resolutions," per the report.

Headline findings: "The 2018–19 academic year saw the highest recorded level of anti-Israel disruptions of pro-Israel events."

  • "Disruptions occurred on campuses across the country and targeted events featuring Israeli speakers such as the Consul General of Israel in New York Dani Dayan and LGBTQ activist and former Israel Defense Forces commander Hen Mazzig."
  • "During the 2018–19 academic year, East Coast campuses experienced more anti-Israel events than any other region."

Read the report