Axios Sneak Peek

The back of a propped up cardboard cut-out of the U.S. Capitol.

January 22, 2021

Welcome to Sneak Peek, anchored by Alayna Treene, Hans Nichols and Kadia Goba.

🚨 Breaking: Joe Biden's inauguration TV ratings topped Donald Trump's, writes Axios Media Trends author Sara Fischer.

Situational Awareness: Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has proposed the Senate delay former President Trump’s impeachment trial until February. His pretrial timeline.

  • McConnell and Majority Leader Chuck Schumer are still in a stalemate over how to handle the 50-50 Senate split. Read more.
  • The House and Senate approved a waiver clearing the way for retired Gen. Lloyd Austin to be the next secretary of defense.

Today's newsletter — edited by Glen Johnson — is 799 words, a 3-minute read.

1 big thing: GOP holdouts press on with plans to crush Cheney

A graphic.

Screenshot of emails to a member of Congress from individuals who signed an Americans for Limited Government petition against Rep. Liz Cheney. Photo obtained by Axios

Pro-Trump holdouts in the House are forging ahead with an uphill campaign to oust Liz Cheney as head of the chamber's Republican caucus even though Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy told them to back down, they tell Axios' Alayna Treene.

Why it matters: What happens next will be a test of McCarthy's party control and the sincerity of his opposition to the movement. Cheney (R-Wyo.) is seen as a potential leadership rival to the California Republican.

What they're saying: "My position hasn't changed. It's the same thing I said two weeks ago," Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) told Axios. "There needs to be a new vote."

  • Rep. Jeff Van Drew, the fashionably loud Democrat-turned-Republican from New Jersey, said, "You want to know that people who are in a position of leadership are going to take care of you and not throw you under the bus."

Go deeper.

2. Democrats aim to punish House GOP for Capitol riot

Speaker Nancy Pelosi is seen walking through a newly installed metal detector before entering the House floor.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi passes through a newly installed metal detector at the House floor entrance Thursday. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

House Democrats plan to take advantage of corporate efforts to eliminate funding for Republicans who opposed certifying the 2020 election results, with their own plan to target vulnerable members in the pivotal 2022 midterms for their role in the Jan. 6 violence, Axios' Lachlan Markay writes.

Why it matters: It's not clear whether the Democrats' strategy will manifest itself in ads or earned media in the targeted races or just be a stunt to raise money for themselves. But the Capitol violence will be central to the party's messaging as it seeks to maintain its narrow majorities in Congress.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is targeting three Republicans in particular: Reps. Andy Biggs and Paul Gosar of Arizona, and Rep. Mo Brooks of Alabama. An organizer of the “Stop the Steal” rally preceding the attack has said all three helped organize the gathering.

  • While all three hold what are considered safe seats, the DCCC plans to call out other Republicans to whom Biggs, Gosar and Brooks steered campaign contributions.
  • “Every penny of that should be sent back, if they are serious that the insurrection was unacceptable," Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, who chairs the DCCC, told Axios.
  • They “were lighting the fuse that exploded on Jan. 6,” Maloney (D-N.Y.) added.
  • The National Republican Congressional Committee declined to comment.

Go deeper.

3. "I thought that I would die that day"

Rep. Annie Kuster is seen with other members of Congress fleeing the Capitol seige on Jan. 6.

Rep. Ann McLane Kuster, in blue, takes cover as rioters attempt to break in to the House Chamber on Jan. 6. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call via Getty Images

The fashion police were out in force on Inauguration Day, highlighting the purple hues worn by the former first ladies and the birdcage ring adorning one of Amanda Gorman's delicate fingers. Rep. Ann McLane Kuster dressed in body armor, Axios' Glen Johnson writes.

What they're saying: Speaking with reporters Thursday, the New Hampshire Democrat said she wore the extra layer "to be safe" after fearing she would be killed during the Capitol siege.

  • Kuster told Hill reporters she wasn't alone.
  • "There were many members that were wearing it," she said.

Flashback: Rep. Peter Meijer of Michigan, one of the 10 Republicans to vote to impeach President Trump, also planned to wear body armor, Punchbowl News reported last week.

4. What has changed, and what hasn't

Joe Biden is seen against a backdrop of International flags.

Photo Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

President Biden swiftly recommitted the U.S. to the Paris climate accord and the World Health Organization, but America's broader foreign policy is in a state of flux between the Trump and Biden eras, Dave Lawler writes in Axios World.

Driving the news: One of the most striking moves from the Biden administration thus far was a show of continuity — concurring with the Trump administration's last-minute determination that China had committed "genocide" against Uyghur Muslims.

  • Secretary of State-designate Tony Blinken also said the U.S. would continue to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, consider Juan Guaidó the legitimate interim president of Venezuela, provide lethal defensive weaponry to Ukraine, and oppose the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline between Russia and Germany.
  • President Trump's trade war tariffs will remain in place for now, pending a review, as will his plan to extricate the U.S. from Afghanistan.

Still, Biden has made some immediate changes on substance, in addition to style.

What they're saying: Blinken said unequivocally that the U.S. would end its support for the Saudi-led bombing campaign in Yemen.

Read the full newsletter.

5. Kellyanne's parting power pointers

Kellyanne Conway is seen speaking at the 2020 Republican National Convention.

Kellyanne Conway addresses the 2020 Republican National Convention. Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images

Kellyanne Conway has seen power exercised as a pollster, campaign manager and senior counselor to President Trump. Now that his term in office has concluded, she shared her thoughts with Alayna.

Why it matters: If there's a currency in This Town, it's power, so we've asked several former Washington power brokers to share their best advice as a new administration and new Congress settle into their jobs.

  • "Power should be used sparingly yet strategically," Conway said. "A reluctance to exert power is also a necessary requisite for possessing it. Our Constitution reserves many powers to the individual and to the states. Washington often forgets that. Leaders are wise to respect, not rob, people of their power."
  • "In the '80s, Washington was known for the 'power lunch' and the 'power suit.' Cute. Increasingly, women in Washington have real power. Sometimes, the expectations for powerful women are different, but so, too, are the motivators and outcomes."
  • "The late British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher offered words to live by: 'Being powerful is like being a lady. If you have to tell people you are, you aren't.' This is true. Show it; don’t say it. Use it wisely; don’t underline it obnoxiously."
  • "If you have a choice between power and influence, go for influence. Power is conferred by one's birth, position, promotion or election. Influence is how things get things done, preferring negotiation, persuasion and elevating cooperation and collaboration."

5. Pic du jour

Dr. Anthony Fauci is seen at the White House podium after being welcomed back by new Press Secretary Jen Psaki.

Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

New press secretary Jen Psaki welcomes Dr. Anthony Fauci back to the White House podium to talk about the Biden administration's COVID-19 relief efforts.

🇺🇸🇺🇸 Thanks for trusting Sneak to keep you updated during this important week! We'll be back Sunday evening. You can sign up for email delivery of all Axios newsletters here.

Editor's note: This story has been corrected to note that the Stop the Steal organizer claimed Biggs, Gosar, and Brooks helped organize the rally, not that they helped finance it.