Reality bites: Trump's wake-up call - Axios
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Reality bites: Trump's wake-up call

Robin Groulx / Axios

NEW YORK — On Twitter and in public, Donald Trump remains an uncompromising mix of bluster and bombast. Behind the scenes, he's confronting, and in some cases succumbing (slightly) to, the hard truths of governing and leading a world that hangs on his every word.

When we went to interview him in his office in Trump Tower on Tuesday, 72 hours before he takes office, we expected the emphatic showman who was on display through the campaign, and as recently as last week's press conference.

Instead we found the incoming president unusually subdued: lowering expectations, acknowledging some of the messy realities of governing, and walking back some of the more provocative statements he had made only days before. A top adviser told us the sober tone reflects a bumpy few days inside Trump Tower — and the realization that he's days away from truly running the nation.

Consider:

  • Trump said health care is his most urgent domestic topic, telling us he spoke with President Obama again on Monday about the topic. He back-tracked a bit from his promise of insurance for everybody, saying he wanted to find a mechanism — Medicaid block grants, perhaps — to help the poorest get insurance. "You know there are many people talking about many forms of health care where people with no money aren't covered. We can't have that," he said.
  • On Friday, he told The Wall Street Journal that border-adjustment, a vital part of the House Republicans' corporate tax-reform plan, was "too complicated." Now, it's suddenly back on the table. "It's certainly something that's going to be discussed," he said. "I would say, over the next month-and-a-half, two months, we'll be having more concrete discussions. Right now, we're really focused on health care more than anything else."
  • Trump earlier this week unsettled allies overseas by calling NATO obsolete and seeming to put Germany's Angela Merkel and Russia's Vladimir Putin on par as possible US allies. Trump told us ALL WORLD LEADERS are on par, with a fresh chance to prove themselves. "So, I give everybody an even start; that right now, as far as I'm concerned, everybody's got an even start," he said.
  • Trump's advisers tell us privately that many parts of the operation remain messy — in large part, they say, because New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie left them with virtually no preparation for a transition. Advisers told us horror stories of struggles to fill key roles — including getting handed files of candidates, most of whom were Democrats. This is only adding to the confusion and slowed policy-making discussions.

Trump seemed, dare we say, humbled by recent intelligence briefings on global threats. Dick Cheney's friends used to tell us he was a decidedly darker, changed man once he started reading the daily intel reports after 9/11. Trump seemed moved by what he's now seeing.

"I've had a lot of briefings that are very … I don't want to say 'scary,' because I'll solve the problems," he said. "But … we have some big enemies out there in this country and we have some very big enemies — very big and, in some cases, strong enemies."

He offered a reminder many critics hope he never forgets: "You also realize that you've got to get it right because a mistake would be very, very costly in so many different ways."

Robin Groulx / Axios

Worth noting: Trump said he likes his briefings short, ideally one-page if it's in writing. "I like bullets or I like as little as possible. I don't need, you know, 200-page reports on something that can be handled on a page. That I can tell you."

All this said, Trump was very much the Trump you know when it came to critics, the media, and self-reflection:

  • In the opening moment, asked why he hasn't been able to deliver on his promise to heal divisions in the U.S., Trump reiterated his promise "to be a president for all Americans," only to launch, unprovoked, into his fourth-consecutive day of attacks on Rep. John Lewis, the civil-rights icon. Think about that for a minute: He's less than 72 hours from taking office and he was still stewing about a member of the Democratic minority in the House.
  • Trump told us his confrontational style is misunderstood. "You know, I'm not really a divisive figure," he said, before pinning the blame for bad press and bad blood almost entirely on the media: "In the history of politics, there's nobody that has been treated worse by the press than I have."
  • Asked to name a decision he got wrong or a regret from the campaign, he didn't.
Funny moment: When asked about books on his desk, he showed us "Adams v Jefferson" by John Ferling. We asked if we should read it. "I wouldn't," he said.
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World Bank president comments on Ivanka Trump's investment fund

Michael Sohn/ AP via pool

World Bank Group president Jim Yong Kim has released a statement about Ivanka Trump's involvement in a fund for women entrepreneurs to be administered by the World Bank (which Trump told our own Mike Allen about on Tuesday):

"The World Bank Group is working with partners on the details around creating a facility for women's economic empowerment, specifically through providing access to finance, markets, and networks. Typically, the governance of facilities we manage is decided among donors, and the secretariat sits within and is administered by the World Bank Group. We are very grateful for the leadership Ms. Trump and Chancellor Merkel have demonstrated on this important issue."

Axios' Dan Primack still has some questions about the fund, including whether Trump or adviser Dina Powell will be actively soliciting contributions while working in the White House.

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Juno, the 'anti-Uber' startup, sells to Gett for $200 million

Courtesy of Gett

Before Juno even made it beyond New York City, the ride-hailing company has already sold to Gett, a competitor headquartered in Israel and with operations in Europe. The two will team up to tackle NYC, and eventually expand to more U.S. cities.

One notable piece of the $200 million acquisition is that Juno is rescinding the restricted stock unit program for drivers it rolled out last summer, and will send a one-time payment to participating drivers. The RSU program was the differentiator that immediately attracted the most attention when Juno first opened up shop last year, advertising itself as the "anti-Uber."

Broken promise? The combined company won't roll out any equity program to drivers in the future, instead focusing on rewarding loyal drivers in other ways, such as cash bonuses, a Juno spokesperson confirmed to Axios via email. The company added that it realized even before the sale that implementing the program turned out to be more difficult than anticipated.

Opposing views: Shortly after the deal was announced, the Independent Drivers Guild in NYC expressed disappointment in the company's move, calling it a "bait-and-switch." Juno, on the other hand, maintains that while the equity compensation was important, it wasn't its only differentiator. "Juno is about the unique culture we created, about the way we treat drivers and riders, about our 24/7 live support, about a fair lower commission," the spokesperson said via email, adding that these aspects will "only get better."

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Just 36% say they'd vote to re-elect Trump

Evan Vucci / AP

Only 36% of people say they would vote to re-elect President Trump if the 2020 election were today, per a Fox news poll, compared to 55% who would vote for someone else.

Most have already made up their minds: 21% say they would definitely vote for Trump and 47% would definitely vote for someone else.

At this point in his first term, 52% said they'd vote to re-elect Barack Obama, and 31% said they'd vote for someone else.

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Trump says he's considering breaking up the 9th Circuit

Carolyn Kaster / AP

President Trump has told the Washington Examiner he is "absolutely" considering breaking up the 9th Circuit, where judges have struck down both his travel ban and sanctuary cities order.

"There are many people that want to break up the 9th Circuit. It's outrageous.... Everybody immediately runs to the 9th Circuit. And we have a big country. We have lots of other locations. But they immediately run to the 9th Circuit. Because they know that's like, semi-automatic."

The circuit includes... Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon and Washington and is by far the largest of the 13 appellate circuits.

Deep breath: It's not clear that splitting the court in two would be particularly helpful to Trump, or that this is something he's actually inclined to move ahead with.

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Instagram growth explodes

Instagram announced Wednesday that it has amassed 700 million monthly active users (MAU) since launching in 2010, a more than 16% increase in just four months, and a 40% increase in one year.

Data: Instagram; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon / Axios

Why it matters: Instagram announced the growth achievement the same day Twitter reported its Q1 earnings, where it touted a 2.8% quarterly increase in monthly active users to to 328 million — still less than half of the user base of Instagram, which is four years younger. Instagram rival Snapchat will also be taking note of these numbers, as its audience has dwindled since Instagram launched a copycat stories feature in August. Instagram's stories audience has increased so quickly that it surpassed Snapchat's total audience by nearly 40 million MAU a few weeks ago.

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White House, Dems reach truce on insurer payments

Carolyn Kaster / AP

There's been a lot of buzz this afternoon about the White House supposedly promising to continue the Affordable Care Act's insurer payments. The reality is that it's only going to continue the payments "for now," per a White House official.
But that was enough to convince House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who had clashed with Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney over the issue, to dial down the threats of a government shutdown.
From the White House: "While we agreed to go ahead and make the CSR payments for now, we haven't made a final decision about future commitments."
From Pelosi: "Our major concerns in these negotiations have been about funding for the wall and uncertainty about the CSR payments crucial to the stability of the marketplaces under the Affordable Care Act. We've now made progress on both of these fronts ... Our appropriators are working in good faith toward a bipartisan proposal to keep government open."
Behind the scenes: Pelosi talked to White House chief of staff Reince Priebus this afternoon, who has been more conciliatory on the spending bill negotiations than Mulvaney.
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WH considers labeling North Korea a state sponsor of terrorism

Wong Maye-E / AP

A senior White House official said the U.S. is considering adding North Korea to the list of state sponsors of terrorism, per Reuters.

The club: North Korea would be joining Iran, Sudan, and Syria. It was de-listed as a state sponsor in 2008 after agreeing to scale back its nuclear program.

Context: Defense Secretary Mattis, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, DNI Dan Coats, and Joint Chiefs Chairman Joesph Dunford are briefing Senators in at the White House today on North Korea.

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Al Gore says better than 50-50 chance Trump decides to stay in Paris climate accord

Emily Pidgeon/TED

Odds are that the U.S. will remain a party to the Paris climate accord former Vice President Al Gore said Wednesday In a brief appearance at the TED conference in Vancouver.

"I think there is a better than 50-50 chance the Trump administration will decide to stay in the Paris agreement," Gore said. "I don't know that for sure."

Gore said there is a debate taking place tomorrow inside the White House with a decision set to be announced the third week in May before a G-20 summit. "I think the odds are they will decide to stay in Paris agreement. I certainly hope so."

The backdrop: Gore's comments came during an entire session devoted to the impact on climate change. Discussions ranged from more accurate pictures of the crisis to weighing radical solutions, including shooting chalk into the atmosphere in order to reduce the amount of sunlight heating the earth. That idea drew criticism from Gore and others.

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Trump has filled 5% of his senior administration jobs

Carolyn Kaster/AP

Of the 556 seats that have to be nominated by President Trump and confirmed by the Senate:

  1. 530 seats are empty
  2. 20 Cabinet-level seats filled, 2 await confirmation, 1 failed
  3. 37 nominees awaiting confirmation
  4. 468 seats have no nominations

The precedent: at the 100-day mark, Obama had 487 empty, George W. Bush 521, and Clinton 507

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99% of women founders don't use VC funding

Marius Boatca via Flickr CC

Only 1% of female founders use venture capital funding to back their businesses, according to an Ernst & Young (EY) and Women's Presidents' Organization (WPO) report, obtained by Fortune. The study looked at 430 women-owned businesses over their lifetime, including old and new companies, and found that:

  • 8% of the women are using personal savings instead of VC funding
  • 22% incurred personal debt
  • 18% received a loan from friends or family

Why not: Co-founder of EY's Entrepreneurial Women program said some women don't seek out venture capital funding in the first place and see it as a point of pride and a source of control — 100% ownership of the business.

Where it stands: 2.19% of all venture capital funding went to women last year, which is a smaller percentage than almost every year in the last decade.