Sarah Sanders replaces Sean Spicer as press secretary - Axios
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Sarah Sanders replaces Sean Spicer as press secretary

Lazaro Gamio / Axios

Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Sanders briefed reporters on-camera (for the first time in 22 days) following Sean Spicer's resignation from the White House. Sanders then brought Anthony Scaramucci, the newly appointed WH Communications Director, up to the podium, where he announced that Sanders will replace Spicer moving forward. "The president loves Sarah. He think she's doing a phenomenal job," said Scaramucci.

Highlights from Friday's on-camera briefing:

Anthony Scaramucci

  • Spicer's resignation: "Sean is a true American Patriot...I love the guy, and I wish him well. I hope he goes on to make a tremendous amount of money."
  • On rumored tension with Reince Priebus: "I don't have any friction with Reince... we are a little bit like brothers... we rough each other up once in a while... I have no problem reporting to him."
  • On friction with Bannon: "I have a huge enormous amount of respect for him... He's got a strong personality. I have a strong personality...I want to keep my ego low and work with Steve Bannon as much as I can."
  • WH infighting: "If we have a little bit of friction inside the WH... it's OK, we can deal with that, I'm a business person, I'm used to that."
  • Trump's performance as POTUS: "I think he's got some of the best political insights in the world, probably in history." He later added, "He's a winner. We're going to do a lot of winning."
  • On Trump's claim of 2-3 million fraudulent votes: "If the president said it, there's probably some level of truth to it."
  • Most repeated line: "I love the president."
Sarah Sanders
  • How is Spicer feeling? "He understood that the president wanted to bring in new people... and he thought it would be best for the team to start with a totally clean slate... he's served the president loyally and admirably."
  • Trump pardons: "The president retains pardon authority as any other president would, but has no plans."
  • Does Trump have confidence in Mueller? "I don't have any reason to see otherwise."
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Mnuchin: Players have First Amendment rights "off the field"

"The NFL has all different types of rules ... it's not about free speech. They can do free speech on their own time," Treasury Secretary Mnuchin said Sunday on ABC's "This Week."

Highlights from the interview:
  • On whether Trump's fight with NFL players is about the 1st amendment "No ... they have the right to have their 1st amendment off the field. This is a job."
  • On Trump calling NFL players 'SOBs": "I think the president can use whatever language he wants to use."
  • On Mnuchin's use of an expensive government jet: "The inspector-General is reviewing my travel ... There are times when I need secure communications to be in touch with the president and the National Security Council."
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Uber to yield in London

Uber in Camden Town, London. Photo: AP

"Peace may be breaking out in the battle between Uber and London, as the ride-sharing giant signalled last night that it was prepared to make concessions on passenger safety and benefits for its drivers," per a Sunday Times of London front-pager (subscription).

"More than 600,000 people have signed an online petition opposing the decision to drive Uber out of London."

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Trump's Saturday night threat to destroy North Korea

North Koreans hold a mass rally against America in Pyongyang's Kim Il Sung Square yesterday. Photo: Jon Chol Jin / AP

Trump warns in a Saturday-night tweet: "Just heard Foreign Minister of North Korea speak at U.N. If he echoes thoughts of Little Rocket Man, they won't be around much longer!"

  • "North Korea's foreign minister told world leaders Saturday that ... Trump's insult calling leader Kim Jong Un 'rocket man' makes 'our rocket's visit to the entire U.S. mainland inevitable all the more.'" (AP)
  • "U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer bombers escorted by fighters flew in international airspace over waters east of North Korea on Saturday in a show of force the Pentagon said indicated the range of military options available to Trump." (Reuters)

Go deeper: "What North Korea wants from the U.S.," by Axios' Shannon Vavra.

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What Trump, the NFL are thinking

Saturday tweets from the president

White House director of social media Dan Scavino last evening cc'd Brian McCarthy, the NFL's vice president of communications (@NFLprguy), on a Trump tweet criticizing Commissioner Roger Goodell.

The taunt reflects the fact that far from being sheepish about the president's sudden war with athletes, the Trump team is reveling in it.

With predictions of "potential mass protest Sunday along NFL sidelines," here's what the two sides are thinking, based on my high-level conversations, texts and emails.

Trump's Sunday morning tweets

  • "If NFL fans refuse to go to games until players stop disrespecting our Flag & Country, you will see change take place fast. Fire or suspend!"
  • "NFL attendance and ratings are WAY DOWN. Boring games yes, but many stay away because they love our country. League should back U.S."

What Trump is thinking

  • Most of America is with me.
  • This will fire up my base, and disaffected NFL fans in Middle America.
  • Fans who turn on a game or show up at a stadium don't want to hear First Amendment talk.
  • Any NFL declines will now be sped up.

What the NFL is thinking

  • Commissioner Roger Goodell rarely weighs in on politics, but saw this as an attack on the game.
  • The NFL front office and players' union are often at odds, but Trump brought them together.
  • This is a nuanced issue, and Trump is a bull in a china shop.
  • Players, owners are angry. But we can't fall in to the politics of dividing people.
Patriots owner Robert Kraft, who donated $1 million to Trump's presidential campaign, had a Sunday morning statement of his own, saying he was "deeply disappointed by the tone" of Trump's comments at Friday's rally (when he said of protesting players, "get that son of a bitch off the field right now") and that he supports the players' right to protest.

Doug Sosnik — longtime NBA adviser, and former Clinton White House senior adviser and political director — emails me this theory: "One of Trump's typical moves is to toss a bomb out of nowhere to deflect what is really bothering him, in the hopes that the press will be distracted."

  • This week, "there is a good chance that the candidate he endorsed and campaigned for will lose in the Alabama Senate primary. On top of that, it looks like ... another failed Republican attempt to repeal Obamacare."
  • "So he figures that the shows on Sunday focusing on his fights with professional athletes is more appealing than a discussion about how he is becoming a loser."

P.S. WashPost's Sally Jenkins column at top of Sports front: "NFL shows restraint ... Goodell and others in the league are getting it right by responding to the president's baiting comments with civility."

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My 6 big things: Megyn Kelly's life hacks

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Buzzfeed, Twitter take on traditional TV with new video tech

Audiences will be able to watch whiile they’re scrolling their feeds. Photo: Buzzfeed

In a new made-for-Twitter morning show starting Monday, Buzzfeed hosts Saeed Jones and Isaac Fitzgerald will leverage the power of Twitter's new video technology to engage audiences in real time, while they are scrolling their feeds. They're hoping that a new video-docking feature, which lets users watch the show and scroll Twitter simultaneously on mobile, will make it easier for audiences to communicate with the hosts.

Why it matters: Nearly a quarter of TV-viewing audiences use Twitter while watching traditional TV, according to Nielsen's latest Social Media report. This way, they won't have to look at two screens at once.

The details: The Twitter morning show will be called #AM2DM, and it will debut on Monday at 10 a.m. Eastern.

What's different: Until now, viewers who use Twitter while watching TV had to look at two screens simultaneously to watch and engage with their favorite shows. Twitter is hoping to capture more of a users' attention on just one screen and to react to their comments in real-time — an experience they hope will be more reactive and personal than traditional TV news. Per comScore, 90% of news shows are still watched live.

  • The new tech: Twitter has built an in-stream video player that can be docked to the top of a users' Twitter feed on mobile so users can watch video while simultaneously scrolling through their feeds and writing tweets in real time. Buzzfeed created a video demo that they will share with users about how to best leverage the technology to participate in the show. Axios readers can preview the video here.
  • #AM2DM: The Buzzfeed show is designed to be responsive to breaking news. The hosts, who refer to themselves as Twitter "power users," will be viewing Twitter throughout the one-hour daily segment and will respond and react to breaking news and user comments from Twitter as the show progresses.

"There really has to be a synergy between their timeline and the show," says Saeed Jones, co-host of #AM2DM. "We have to think about the people on the other side of the screen. It would be a failure if we weren't reacting to the breaking news they were reading in real time."

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The trouble with Russia's banks

Putin and his Chief of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces watch a military exercise near St. Petersburg. Photo: Mikhail Klimentyev, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP

The Central Bank of Russia agreed to bail out B&N Bank, one of the top five lenders in Russia, according to Bloomberg. This follows the nation's biggest ever banking collapse in the country — the central bank recently took over Russia's largest private lender, Otkritie, after it became clear Otkritie was manipulating the market price of its bonds and falsifying its financials, per FT. Since then, Russian state-run corporations have been withdrawing billions from Russia's private lenders.

It's not an isolated incident: Since 2013, Russia's central bank has shut down more than 300 insolvent lenders. That's more than a third of Russian banks, per Bloomberg.

Why it matters: The private banking sector is experiencing a "crisis," according to Russia's financial ombudsmen, Pavel Medvedev, but it's not a wider problem. (Although there's fears it could be.) Ever since 2014 when oil prices collapsed and a recession was set off, which was worsened by western sanctions, Russia's been falling a little behind.

This major banking collapse "tells us how bad the situation has been. This is about losses already occurred, more than expectations of future losses," Barry Ickes, who used to serve on the board of directors of the National Council for Eurasian and East European Research, told Axios.

  • Why it's happening: B&N was one of several lenders that helped rescue banks that were going under after 2014, but it turns out some of the banks were even worse off than was known. S&P Global Ratings estimate troubled assets in the banking sector are about more than 20% of total loans and the S&P just ranked Russia with the not so stellar credit rating of BB+/BBB- Margins are tightening for banks since Russia's central bank lowered interest rates to 8.5% from 9% to bolster the economy days ago. But generally, Russia's state finances are in relatively good shape, CNN reports.

It's also not the only trouble Russia's got going on. For example, 22 million live below the poverty line, up from 16 million before the crisis, per CNN. It ranks 41st for quality of life and 80th for "open for business" in the world, per U.S. News & World Report. Militarily, Russia is falling behind, as well. Its planes keep falling out of the air, its only aircraft carrier needs a tug boat in case it breaks down, and its technology harkens back to the Soviet era, per The Telegraph. Don't forget, Russia has a large nuclear arsenal and capable submarines — but as The National Interest's Roger McDermott put it, the "representation of Russia's Army as...all-powerful...is hyperbole."

Go deeper: The NYT's Ellen Barry profiles "The Russia Left Behind"

Bottom line: While much of the Western world focuses on how Russia may be manipulating politics in other countries — as part of a theory that Russia is trying to boost its position on the international stage — it's important to acknowledge that Russia might not always be doing as hot back home as its menacing cyber capabilities suggest.
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Exclusive: Trump, GOP to cut top rate to 35 percent

President Trump and Republican leaders plan to cut the top tax rate for the wealthiest Americans to 35 percent and dramatically reduce taxes on big and small businesses, according to details leaked to Axios.

Why it matters: It's the first glimpse of the tax reform plan agreed upon in secret between the "Big Six" congressional leaders and administration officials. It forms the starting point of the tax reform process, which will play out over the coming months.

The big change: The GOP leaders and the White House plan to cut the top tax rate for “pass through" businesses from 39.6 percent to 25 percent. (Most businesses in America do not pay the corporate tax. Sole proprietors and other mostly smaller businesses see their profits “passed through” to their owners and taxed at the individual income rate.)

The so-called "Big Six" tax framework — named because it's been hashed out behind closed doors between six top Republicans and administration officials — will set up a clash with Democrats over the tax breaks that apply to large corporations and upper income Americans.

  • Most Democrats have already drawn a red line on tax reform: 45 out of 48 Democratic senators signed a letter saying they wouldn't support any tax bill that adds to the deficit or offers new tax breaks to the wealthiest Americans.
  • But Republicans are desperate for a win and appear on course to fund tax cuts with a blend of deficit spending and the closing of loopholes. They will dare Democrats, especially the 10 senators up for re-election in states Trump won, to vote against tax breaks for their constituents.

What's next: President Trump is planning to give a speech unveiling the Big Six framework in Indiana on Wednesday, three sources said. The framework is the starting point for the tax reform process. It reflects the shared view of the Big Six, but it will inevitably change substantially as it goes through the normal legislative processes in the House and Senate.

(The "Big Six" are House Speaker Paul Ryan, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin, White House economic adviser Gary Cohn, and the chairmen of the two tax-writing committees — Senate Finance Committee chairman Orrin Hatch and House Ways and Means chairman Kevin Brady.)

The details, per three sources with knowledge of the plan:

  • Top individual tax rate cut from 39.6 to 35. The current seven income tax brackets collapsed to three, as part of simplification. (Axios hasn't obtained the other two rates.)
  • Axios can confirm that the Big Six agreed to cut the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 20 percent. That key detail leaked last night to the Washington Post. (Trump has said he wants the corporate rate to be 15 percent.)
  • The Big Six framework is also expected to include guardrails to prevent wealthy people from artificially lowering their income taxes by rearranging their affairs to get taxed at the small business rate.
  • We can confirm, too, WashPo's reporting that Republicans plan to double the standard deduction — a boost for the middle class and a key component of simplification.

These Big Six decisions have been held incredibly tightly, but details began leaking out around Capitol Hill on Friday night and the corporate rate was first published by the Washington Post's Hill team. By Saturday, influential figures on K Street were beginning to learn more details.

Some problems the Big Six could run into:

  • The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB,) the leading small business association, wants to equalize the small business rate and the corporate rate. Under the current plan, that's not happening. The corporate rate will be 20 percent and the small business rate 25 percent. "That's going to be controversial, but it's not a deal-breaker I don't think," said a source close to the process.
  • House conservatives — especially the Freedom Caucus — haven't been involved in the Big Six discussions and they want the corporate rate to be much lower, at 16 percent. Republican leaders say there's no way that's going to happen, and Treasury Secretary Mnuchin agrees.
  • The Trump tax plan will likely add to deficits, at least in the short term, which will bother some deficit hawks. But tax reform advocates were heartened when, just this week, Senate Republicans on the Budget Committee cut a deal that would reduce government revenue by as much as $1.5 trillion over 10 years. Republicans argue that, with economic growth spurred by the tax reform, there'll be substantially less lost revenue than $1.5 trillion.
  • Realtors and home builders won't be happy with the doubling of the standard deduction. That's because lots more people will take the standard deduction and many fewer will itemize their tax returns. A prevailing belief in the real estate world is that under those conditions, fewer people will take the mortgage interest deduction, which could mean fewer homes being purchased.
  • Whichever groups are hit up for the "pay-fors" — the loopholes being closed — will inevitably form lobby groups and oppose those elements of the plan.

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Uber gets competitive in the food-delivery service

McDonald's ordered through the Postmates service. Photo: Chandice Choi/AP

Along with the development of ride-sharing services came food-delivery services: ordering food through an app and having it delivered to your door. The New York Times cited a study by McKinsey that found food delivery "is a $100 billion-plus market, or about 1 percent of the total food market." And Uber wants a piece of that market.

Key numbers: UberEats is available in more than 120 markets around the world. The number of trips for UberEats drivers grew more than 24 times in one year, and by last July it was "profitable in 27 of the 108 cities where it operated," per NYT.

UberEats "sometimes eclipses Uber's main ride-hailing business in markets like Tokyo; Taipei, Taiwan; and Seoul, South Korea," the company told NYT.

But as UberEats continues to thrive, competition looms large:

  • Postmates has raised over $250 million since it started and the company makes 2.5 million deliveries each month. Like UberEats, Postmates is a full delivery service system.
  • Grubhub has "an active base of 8.17 million customers," and Matt Maloney, the company's founder, told the Times their sole focus on take-out ordering sets them apart.
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Price will stop using taxpayer-funded private jets

Trump and HHS Secretary Tom Price arrive on Capitol Hill to rally support on health-care reform. Photo: J. Scott Applewhite / AP

Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price has racked up more than $400,000 after using a private jet to embark on his taxpayer-funded travels, Politico found. Now, Politico reports that Price will stop using a private jet for these travels because "We've heard the concerns. We take that very seriously and have taken it to heart," Price told Fox & Friends earlier today.

What's next: His department's inspector general will review his travel and the associated costs, and a decision will be made after that review is complete. A federal contract noted that Price cost taxpayers at least $65,000 in the last week alone, Politico notes.