Saturday's top stories

Oct 17, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Senate to vote on GOP stimulus measures next week

Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The Senate will hold two votes next week on a Payroll Protection Program bill and $500 billion coronavirus relief package, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on Saturday.

Why it matters: Hopes for a broader stimulus deal before November's election are fading as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary remain deadlocked in negotiations on a potential package that McConnell has said his caucus has no appetite for.

Listen to “Axios Re:Cap”
We dig into China's economic recovery with CNBC's Eunice Yoon.
Oct 17, 2020 - Politics & Policy

GOP Sen. Sasse "not going to waste a single minute" on Trump's tweets

Ben Sasse speaks during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing. Photo: Kevin Dietsch/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

A spokesperson for Ben Sasse, the Republican senator who this week unloaded on President Trump, said Saturday that the Nebraska politician was "not going to waste a single minute" on the president's most recent Twitter attack.

Driving the news: Trump, in a series of tweets Saturday morning, called Sasse a "liability" to the GOP and an "embarrassment to the Great State of Nebraska."

Oct 17, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Race and voting in America

Photo Illustration: Sarah Grillo. Logo: Miranda Leung/Axios. Photos: Bettmann, Stephen F. Somerstein/Getty Images

Americans believe that all citizens have equal access to our fundamental democratic right: voting. But the fact is racial politics still suppress votes.

Biden changes channel on "Trump Show"

Joe Biden checks out a classic car at the end of a voter mobilization event at the Michigan State Fairgrounds in Novi, Mich., yesterday. Photo: Tom Brenner/Reuters

Joe Biden not only crushed President Trump in ratings for their head-to-head town halls, Biden was a bigger draw for an earlier pairing of network town halls.

By the numbers: Biden had a bigger combined audience for town halls on ABC + NBC than Trump did for his ABC and NBC town halls. Biden drew 20.8 million for the two town halls combined, while Trump had 17.3 million.

The industries that won’t recover without a vaccine

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Industries that were once expected to recover after the initial coronavirus lockdowns lifted are now unlikely to bounce back until a vaccine arrives.

Why it matters: In the absence of a widely-adopted vaccine, businesses in the entertainment, travel, restaurant and other industries are struggling to overcome consumer skepticism around indoor activities — even with new safety protocols in place.

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
Oct 17, 2020 - Health

Targeted lockdowns are the new way to control the coronavirus

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

As a new wave of coronavirus cases hits the U.S. and Europe, governments are shifting away from total shutdowns toward more geographically targeted lockdowns to stifle the virus' spread.

Why it matters: Precision shutdowns can slow emerging outbreaks while lessening the overall economic impact of the response. But they risk a backlash from those who are targeted, and may not be strong enough to keep a highly contagious virus under control.

Kushner and McDaniel bring back Katie Walsh Shields to offer strategic advice

Jared Kushner. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

In recent days, Jared Kushner has brought back 2016 Republican National Committee chief of staff Katie Walsh Shields to offer strategic advice in the RNC's collaboration with the Trump campaign, according to two senior administration officials and a senior campaign official briefed on the move.

  • A senior administration official said Kushner made the decision in conjunction with RNC chair Ronna Romney McDaniel.
Oct 16, 2020 - Politics & Policy

ABC's Biden town hall draws more viewers than NBC's Trump event

Getty Images

ABC's live town hall event with Joe Biden Thursday night drew 14.1 million viewers, surpassing the final Nielsen ratings for NBC's town hall with President Trump, which was aired across NBC, MSNBC and CNBC and drew 13.5 million viewers in the same hour.

Why it matters: The president's lively hour-long town hall, moderated by Savannah Guthrie, was expected to trounce Biden's more calm, policy-focused hour and a half town hall event moderated by ABC's George Stephanopoulos.

Oct 16, 2020 - Health

Vaccine timeline "to ensure public trust"

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Pfizer says people might start getting COVID-19 vaccines before the end of the year, according to a timeline it laid out Friday.

The state of play: By the end of October, the company said it hopes to know whether the vaccine is effective, the Wall Street Journal reports.

U.S. federal deficit soars to record $3.1 trillion in 2020

Trump and Mnuchin participate in a briefing at the White House. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The U.S. budget deficit hit a record $3.1 trillion in the 2020 fiscal year, according to data released Friday by the Treasury Department.

Why it matters: The deficit — which measures the gap between what the government spends and what it brings in through taxes and other revenue streams — illustrates the massive impact the coronavirus pandemic has had on the economy.

Dave Lawler, author of World
Oct 16, 2020 - World

Trump's hopes of pre-election nuclear deal with Russia fade

No handshake this time around. Photo: Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien said in a statement on Friday that Vladimir Putin's position for the extension the New START treaty was a "non-starter" — effectively confirming that hopes of a pre-election nuclear deal had been dashed.

Between the lines: Just a few days ago, senior administration officials were expressing confidence that a deal was close, or even agreed in principle. But senior Russian officials, including Putin, have since indicated that they see little chance of a complex deal on such an expedited timetable.

Oct 16, 2020 - Podcasts

Operation Warp Speed's Moncef Slaoui on the new vaccine timeline

Pfizer today said it won't apply for an emergency use authorization for its COVID-19 vaccine until late November, all but guaranteeing that the FDA won't be asked to consider approval until after the election.

Axios Re:Cap goes deeper with Moncef Slaoui, the White House's top scientific advisor to Operation Warp Speed, the public-private partnership created to get a coronavirus vaccine deployed and developed.

Scoop: Trump's advisers brace for loss, point fingers

Stepien stands behind Trump on Air Force One Aug. 28. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

Three senior Trump advisers who recently talked to campaign manager Bill Stepien walked away believing he thinks they will lose.

The big picture: The Trump campaign is filled with internal blaming and pre-spinning of a potential loss, accelerating a dire mood that's driven by a daily barrage of bleak headlines, campaign and White House officials tell me.

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
Oct 16, 2020 - Economy & Business

Billionaire philanthropist Robert Smith's tax fraud roils Vista Equity

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Robert Smith's admission to tax fraud has done more than just cost him a whopping $140 million. It's also roiled Vista Equity Partners, the private equity firm he founded and leads, with some insiders and limited partners feeling they were misled (or left in the dark) about the extent of Smith's legal troubles.

Behind the scenes: Smith called a virtual meeting of Vista's managing directors and other top staffers on Wednesday, to discuss details of his settlement. A source says he called the overall experience "humbling" and that he regretted the "undue burden" that his actions had put on others, including some Vista colleagues.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Oct 16, 2020 - Energy & Environment

What investors think about the future of fossil fuels

Data: BCG Center for Energy Impact; Chart: Axios Visuals

Investors in the oil-and-gas industry want companies to get greener, and they're losing faith that the sector, which is underperforming broader market indices, is a good long-term bet, per a new Boston Consulting Group survey of investors.

Why it matters: The investor views come as the industry is facing its highest levels of uncertainty and environmental pressure in a long time, if ever.

Dion Rabouin, author of Markets
Oct 16, 2020 - Economy & Business

Employment gains are reversing course

Data: U.S. Department of Labor; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Nearly 900,000 Americans applied for first-time unemployment benefits last week, the Labor Department announced, the highest number since mid-August and the second weekly increase in a row.

What's happening: "It appears there was a widespread reversal of the downtrend in claims that has been in place for several weeks," Jefferies' money market economist Thomas Simons and chief economist Aneta Markowska wrote in a note to clients.

Oct 16, 2020 - World

Boris Johnson says U.K. must prepare for no-deal Brexit

Photo: David Cliff/NurPhoto via Getty Images

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Friday that the U.K. must prepare for a no-deal split from the European Union, unless the bloc offers a "fundamental" change in its negotiations, AP reports.

What he's saying: "As far as I can see they have abandoned the idea of a free trade deal. ... Unless there is a fundamental change of approach we are going to go for the Australia solution," Johnson said, referencing Australia's lack of a substantive trade deal with the EU.

Facebook and Twitter, the reluctant gatekeepers

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Deciding who gets to say what online is a complex business in the best of times, and the 2020 election is showing social media platforms just how messy it can get.

The big picture: Balancing concerns over misinformation, hacking and foreign meddling against free-speech principles is already hard enough. Tackling it in real time in the middle of a political knife fight is almost certainly going to go awry.

Caitlin Owens, author of Vitals
Oct 16, 2020 - Health

How colleges have learned to combat the coronavirus

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Some colleges are creating a blueprint for how to safely remain open during the coronavirus pandemic, relying heavily on regular testing and doing what they can to curb parties and other large gatherings.

Why it matters: College reopenings were tied to several big outbreaks, and young adults will likely be among the last to receive a coronavirus vaccine. So colleges and students need figure out how to live amid the virus.

Oct 16, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Media becomes the story ahead of Election Day

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

With just weeks to go until Nov. 3, controversies surrounding the media seem to be gobbling up most of country's attention.

Why it matters: In a healthy democracy, the media shouldn't be the story.

College Reaction poll: More college students would protest Trump win

Data: College Reaction/Axios Poll; Note: 3.3% margin of error; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Six in 10 college students say they'll shame friends who can vote but don't — and four in 10 plan to engage in protests if President Trump wins reelection, a new College Reaction survey for Axios finds.

Why it matters: These measures of intensity bolster findings from several recent surveys that suggest the election may draw higher than normal turnout from young voters, boosting Joe Biden's prospects — and fueling mass demonstrations if Trump prevails.

America's split screen

Photo: Evan Vucci/AP

Tonight's dueling town halls were like a choose-your-own-ending book, letting us peer into the future and see what the two election outcomes would be like.

The big picture: The contrast reflects one of the big questions about Trump that's before Americans as they vote — Are you captivated, or are you exhausted?

Oct 16, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Twitter changes hacked materials rules after banning N.Y. Post story

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Twitter will be changing its hacked materials policy in response to the feedback it received for limiting the circulation of a New York Post story about Hunter Biden.

Why it matters: The tech giant faced swift backlash from conservatives that its actions were biased and that its enforcement of its hacked materials policy was not consistent.

Biden campaign out-raised Trump by over $135 million in September

Photo: Jim Watson/Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

President Trump's reelection campaign and its joint fundraising committees raised $247.8 million in September, communications director Tim Murtaugh tweeted Thursday.

Why it matters: Joe Biden's fundraising efforts brought in $383 million for the same period — a figure believed to be a record for any presidential candidate — dwarfing Trump's figures by more than $135 million. The Trump campaign said it has $251.4 million in cash-on-hand, compared with Biden's $432 million.

Biden on court packing: It "depends" how the Barrett confirmation is "handled"

Joe Biden said at an ABC town hall on Thursday night that he will come out with a clear position on court packing by Election Day, but that his answer on the issue will depend on how the confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court is "handled."

The state of play: Biden said he has "not been a fan" of expanding the court because it would change the court's makeup depending on who the president is. But he signaled he would be "open to considering what happens" if Republicans push through Barrett's confirmation before the election without proper debate in the Senate.

Trump again refuses to condemn QAnon

A person wearing a QAnon sweatshirt at a Trump rally in New York City on Oct. 3. Photo: Stephanie Keith/Getty Images

President Trump said during NBC's town hall event on Thursday that he does not know much about QAnon, the sprawling, far-right conspiracy theory, and refused to condemn the baseless theory.

Why it matters: The FBI identified fringe online conspiracy theories, like QAnon, as domestic terrorist threats in 2019. The group falsely alleges a secret cabal of sex traffickers and pedophiles is waging a war against Trump from inside the government.

Trump says he doesn't remember being tested for COVID-19 before first debate

President Trump and Joe Biden at the first presidential debate on Sept. 29.

President Trump said during a town hall event aired on NBC News Thursday that he does not recall being tested for the coronavirus before the first presidential debate on Sept. 29.

Why it matters: The president tested positive for the virus on Oct. 2, just three days after standing onstage with former Vice President Joe Biden. The Commission on Presidential Debates requires that candidates test before the event.