Jan 24, 2017

The Trump show: a new drama

Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP

This West Wing is a tough neighborhood. Even after Sean Spicer's successful get-back-on-the-horse presser yesterday, we were told that a top White House official was discussing his possible replacement. On Day 4! With 1,457 to go in this term.

A senior aide texted at bedtime: "Back on track. Upper hand. Offense and action." The team was feeling better after the reboot briefing by Spicer, plus a better-focused performance by POTUS. And the staff saw it as a home run when AFL-CIO boss Richard Trumka praised Trump's move to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, with a statement headlined: "TPP Withdrawal Good First Step Toward Building Trade Policies that Benefit Working People."

But inside, the finger-pointing and blame-casting continued. Unfortunately for Spicer, Trump is obsessed with his press secretary's performance art. We hear that Trump hasn't been impressed with how Spicer dresses, once asking an aide:

Doesn't the guy own a dark suit?

Spicer looked a lot sharper yesterday than he did on Saturday — in a dark, bankerly suit.

NYT reporter Maggie Haberman tweeted that at Spicer's Saturday presser, Trump "wanted him to be in command/project strength. He did neither. … [H]e wanted Spicer to be a derivative of himself — Trump almost always takes q's & slices it with humor."

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Scoop: Census Bureau is paying Chinese state media to reach Americans

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The 2020 Census Paid Media Campaign, which sends U.S. taxpayer dollars to community media outlets to run ads about the upcoming census, is including a Chinese state-run broadcaster as one of its media vendors.

Why it matters: After China's yearslong campaign to co-opt independent Chinese-language media in the U.S., Washington is now paying Beijing-linked media outlets in order to reach Chinese Americans.

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Live updates: Coronavirus spreads to Latin America

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens.

Brazil confirmed the first novel coronavirus case in Latin America Wednesday — a 61-year-old that tested positive after returning from a visit to northern Italy, the epicenter of Europe's outbreak.

The big picture: COVID-19 has killed more than 2,700 people and infected over 81,000 others. By Wednesday morning, South Korea had the most cases outside China, with 1,261 infections. Europe's biggest outbreak is in Italy, where 374 cases have been confirmed.

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GOP congressman accuses California pension official of working for China

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

The latest season of Red Scare has come to Sacramento.

Driving the news: Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.) has repeatedly accused Ben Meng, chief investment officer of the California Public Employees' Retirement System (CalPERS), of tacitly working on behalf of the Chinese government. Banks also says that, were it up to him, Meng would be fired — and has questioned the patriotism of California Gov. Gavin Newsom for not at least investigating Meng.

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