Sep 15, 2019

Axios Sneak Peek

By Jonathan Swan
Jonathan Swan

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

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  • I'm Margaret Talev, Axios' politics and White House editor, guest hosting for newlywed Jonathan Swan. We welcome your feedback: margaret@axios.com.

Smart Brevity count: 1,470 words (5.5 minutes).

Situational awareness:

  • President Trump tweeted that he has authorized release of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve "if needed" following the attack on major oil processing and production sites in Saudi Arabia.
  • On Sept. 22, Trump will travel to Houston to participate in an event with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. At the event, "Howdy, Modi! Shared Dreams, Bright Futures,” Modi will address the Indian-American community and reaffirm the strategic partnership between the two countries.
1 big thing: Why Trump is rallying in New Mexico tomorrow

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

At a Trump rally back in February in El Paso, Texas, the campaign saw an unexpected pattern in the attendee data — a large crowd of New Mexicans crossed the state line to be there.

  • "That was our first glimpse into the idea that there might be something happening," the Trump campaign's Tim Murtaugh told Axios' Stef Kight.

Why it matters: Since then, New Mexico has become an unlikely target for the 2020 Trump campaign. It's the state with the highest percentage of Hispanics and Latinos (about 1 in 2 residents), and it's gone with Democrats in 6 of the last 7 general elections.

Reality check: Demographers and pollsters tell Axios it's highly unlikely Trump can win New Mexico's 5 electoral votes.

  • The state Latino population is overwhelmingly Democratic.
  • Major New Mexico cities are booming and moving left politically, while Republican strongholds are losing their share of the population.
  • Trump lost New Mexico in 2016, and his net approval rating has plummeted from +17 when he first took office to -13 as of July. The blue wave hit New Mexico hard in 2018.
  • America First — a prominent pro-Trump group — told Axios it doesn't have plans at this point to poll in New Mexico.

But it's an inexpensive bet to take for the RNC, given its relatively small population and centralized media, said Brian Sanderoff, president of Research & Polling Inc.

  • The state economy was one of the last to recover from the recession, but has been doing well for the past year and a half, Sanderoff said.
  • The state was untapped in 2016, RNC spokesperson Rick Gorka told Axios.
  • New Mexico Democrats tend to have more conservative views than other Democrats on religious freedom, LGBTQ+ rights and abortion, and there are signs of rising Latino support for Trump, Gorka and Murtaugh said. The Democrat-led state Senate voted to keep a law that criminalizes abortion.
  • The percentage of immigrants is lower than other border states such as California, Texas and Arizona, according to Census data.
  • Trump's immigration policy and rhetoric may resonate in eastern New Mexico, aka "Little Texas," said Gabriel Sanchez of the University of New Mexico.
2. Corey Lewandowski's Senate tryout

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Watch for Trump's former campaign manager at the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday — and not just because of the prospect of a fiery exchange with Chairman Jerry Nadler, writes Axios' Alayna Treene.

Why it matters: If Corey Lewandowski goes forward with a run for the Senate in his home state of New Hampshire — which he's seriously considering, a spokesperson says — he'd be the first in Trump's inner circle to test those coattails.

What we're hearing: “Corey will use [the hearing] as part of the campaign. He will be confrontational to the Democrats. He will be totally loyal to Trump. And he will be playing to the right wing of the party who need to unite behind him in a primary," Thomas Rath, former attorney general of New Hampshire and adviser to several GOP presidential candidates, tells Axios.

Yes, but: A former Trump administration official tells Axios that "the ultimate risk with Corey running is that the negative coverage he receives in New Hampshire could drag Trump down."

  • Lewandowski currently leads the hypothetical GOP Senate primary field, according to a recent Emerson poll. The same poll shows that he trails Democratic incumbent Sen. Jeanne Shaheen by 10 percentage points.

Sources involved in members' preparations expect the hearing to be full of theatrics.

  • The Judiciary Committee plans to press for more information about possible obstruction of justice by Trump outlined in Robert Mueller’s report, including his asking Lewandowski to press then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions to end the Russia investigation. 
  • "Corey says he is willing to talk about the campaign and the Mueller stuff, but his conversations with POTUS are off-limits," a GOP committee aide said. "He’s obviously not going to pull a Michael Cohen and try to hurt the administration. I think he thinks he can fight back against Nadler."
  • "We don’t buy into the bullsh*t privileges that he's asserting. If you didn’t work for the president, you don’t have that privilege," Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), a member of the Judiciary Committee, tells Axios.
3. Israel's elections: Netanyahu closing in on victory

Netanyahu announces Sept. 10 that he'll annex the Jordan Valley in the West Bank if he's re-elected. Photo: Amir Levy/Getty Images (edited) 

Israel holds elections Tuesday for the second time in less than 6 months, and the latest election polls showed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party getting close to the magic number of 61 members in the Knesset for a right-wing bloc, reports Axios contributor Barak Ravid.

Why it matters: Netanyahu needs a 61-member right-wing coalition to win immunity if the attorney general decides to indict him for 3 cases of
corruption after his upcoming hearing on Oct. 3.

  • He'd also need 61 to pass a law allowing the Knesset to overrule the supreme court if it were to conclude Netanyahu’s immunity status were illegal.

Driving the news: The last polls, published Friday, showed Likud tied with Benny Gantz's Blue and White party, with 32 seats each.

  • In the previous elections, they were tied at 35 seats.
  • But the latest polls also showed the right-wing bloc is at 58 or 59 seats. That's the highest since the beginning of the campaign.

The big question: What happens if neither Netanyahu nor Gantz can form a coalition, a scenario that could drag Israel into the most protracted political crisis of its history.

  • Prospects for a unity government look dim given the political stakes on both sides. Gantz has already committed not to sit in a coalition headed by Netanyahu with indictments pending.

Such an extraordinary situation would set up 2 key players:

  • Israel's President Reuven Rivlin, who has the authority to decide who gets the mandate to form the government and who could try to find a compromise that will solve the political crisis.
  • Trump, who supports Netanyahu and already has sought to shore up his political fortunes.
4. Beijing is the new Davos?

Amid Trump's trade war with China, billionaire and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is putting on a major global economic event this November — in Beijing.

The big picture: Bloomberg's New Economy Forum, Nov. 20–22, in partnership with the China Center for International Economic Exchanges, will draw about 500 business and technology leaders, academics and government officials from dozens of countries.

  • A preview of some of the big names involved: Bill Gates, Henry Kissinger, Hank Paulson, Zeng Peiyan, Sultan Al Jaber, Ajay Banga, Gary Cohn, Chang Zhenming, Li Xiaopeng and Xie Zhenhua.
  • Expect some top Trump administration and Chinese government officials to attend.

Justin B. Smith, CEO of Bloomberg Media, said China has welcomed the project "despite the geopolitical challenges" and that "one of the most important things we can do is plant a flag in the future."

  • While Davos with its Western focus is becoming a "legacy gathering," he said the gathering in Beijing can become the most influential convening of business and government leaders focusing on ascending economies and the changing nature of the global economy.
5. Democratic presidential rivals go after NRA in gun video

"The NRA has held our Congress hostage," Elizabeth Warren says at the start of the second video to be released this month in a collection of gun control advocacy messages from former Rep. Gabby Giffords' group.

  • The video, previewed here, also features hopefuls Cory Booker, Bernie Sanders, Amy Klobuchar, Kamala Harris, Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg and Beto O'Rourke.
  • It comes at the start of a week in which Trump is set to announce what sort of gun-related legislation he'll back. Champions of background checks, which the NRA opposes, are increasingly pessimistic Trump will be with them.
6. Sneak Peek diary

Photo: uschools/Getty Images

The House will swear in 2 Republican congressmen from North Carolina, Dan Bishop and Greg Murphy, Alayna writes.

  • On Tuesday, the House Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing about possible obstruction of justice by the president.
  • On Wednesday, the House Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on oversight of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act

The Senate is expected to vote on the following nominees this week, per a Republican leadership aide:

  • John Rakolta, Jr. as U.S. Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates.
  • Kenneth Howery as Ambassador to Sweden.
  • Robert Destro as Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights.
  • Brent McIntosh as Undersecretary of the Treasury.
  • Brian Callanan as General Counsel for the Treasury.

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

  • Monday: Trump will participate in a ceremony for new ambassadors. He will also award the Presidential Medal of Freedom to former baseball star Mariano Rivera. Later he will meet with the crown prince of Bahrain, then travel to Albuquerque for a rally.
  • Tuesday: Trump will deliver remarks at fundraisers in Palo Alto and Beverly Hills. 
  • Wednesday: Trump will deliver remarks at fundraisers in Los Angeles and San Diego, then travel back to Washington. 
  • Friday: Trump will host Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his wife Jenny for a state visit.
Jonathan Swan