Wednesday's top stories

Updated Aug 5, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Trump campaign outraises Biden by $25 million in July

Combination images of President Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images/Mark Makela/Getty Images

President Trump's re-election campaign and the Republican National Committee announced on Wednesday they collectively raised $165 million in July.

Why it matters: With 90 days until the election, Trump and the RNC outpaced the Biden campaign, the Democratic National Committee and their joint fundraising committees, who announced earlier Wednesday that they raised $140 million last month.

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How Ruth Bader Ginsburg's death could upend America's health care system.
Bryan Walsh, author of Future
Aug 5, 2020 - World

How new tech raises the risk of nuclear war

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

75 years after Hiroshima and Nagasaki, some experts believe the risk of the use of a nuclear weapon is as high now as it has been since the Cuban missile crisis.

The big picture: Nuclear war remains the single greatest present threat to humanity — and one that is poised to grow as emerging technologies, like much faster missiles, cyber warfare and artificial intelligence, upset an already precarious nuclear balance.

White House, Democrats remain "trillions of dollars apart" on stimulus talks

Meadows and Mnuchin. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

The Trump administration and Democrats have not agreed to any "top-line numbers" and remain "trillions of dollars apart" on coronavirus stimulus negotiations, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows said Wednesday.

The state of play: Meadows told reporters, "At this point we’re either going to get serious about negotiating and get an agreement in principle or — I’ve become extremely doubtful that we’ll be able to make a deal if it goes well beyond Friday.”

23 million Americans face eviction

Natasha Blunt of New Orleans, who is at risk of eviction. Photo: Dorthy Ray/AP

The coronavirus pandemic threatens America with a new wave of homelessness due to a cratering economy, expiring unemployment stimulus payments and vanishing renter protections.

What they're saying: "I've never seen this many people poised to lose their housing in such a short period of time," said Bill Faith of the Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio to AP.

Dave Lawler, author of World
Updated Aug 5, 2020 - World

Beirut explosion: Death toll rises to 135, officials under house arrest

Photo: Anwar Amro/AFP via Getty Images

The death toll from Tuesday's explosion in Beirut, Lebanon has now surpassed 130, including at least one U.S. citizen, amid a search for answers as to why a huge store of ammonium nitrate was left unsecured near the city's port for nearly seven years.

What we know: The government says around 5,000 people are injured. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said current indications are that the massive explosion was accidental, despite President Trump's puzzling claim on Tuesday evening that it appeared to be a bomb attack.

Exclusive: Trump campaign seeks early September presidential debate

Photo: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Image

The Trump campaign is asking the Commission on Presidential Debates to move up the last presidential debate to the first week in September to get ahead of an expected surge in early voting.

Driving the news: President Trump's personal attorney, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, made the request in a letter dated Wednesday and obtained by Axios.

When U.S. politicians exploit foreign disinformation

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

U.S. political actors will keep weaponizing the impact of widespread foreign disinformation campaigns on American elections, making these operations that much more effective and attractive to Russia, China, Iran or other countries backing them.

Why it matters: Hostile powers’ disinformation campaigns aim to destabilize the U.S., and each time a domestic politician embraces them, it demonstrates that they work.

Ina Fried, author of Login
Aug 5, 2020 - Technology

Samsung debuts Note 20, new foldable smartphone

The Galaxy Note 20 Ultra. Photo: Samsung

Samsung unveiled its crop of new mobile devices Wednesday, including two versions of the Note 20 smartphone, an updated foldable device, two tablets and a watch.

Why it matters: The new devices aim to give Samsung an early start in the second half of the year, with products aimed at parents buying fresh gear for the back-to-(home)school season.

Joe Biden will no longer travel to Milwaukee for Democratic convention

Photo: Mark Makela/Getty Images

Joe Biden will no longer be traveling to Milwaukee the week of Aug. 17 to accept his nomination in person at the Democratic National Convention due to COVID-19 concerns, the DNC announced Wednesday.

Why it matters: No planned speakers will travel to Milwaukee, meaning that the convention will be entirely virtual — unlike the hybrid event that the party had previously been planning. Biden will accept the nomination from his home state of Delaware.

Acting State Department inspector general resigns after fewer than 3 months

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at a hearing on July 30. Photo: Greg Nash/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

Acting State Department inspector general Stephen Akard announced his retirement on Wednesday, fewer than three months after being tapped to take over for his ousted predecessor Steve Linick, the Washington Post first reported and Axios has confirmed.

Why it matters: Akard was appointed after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo asked Trump to fire Linick, who has since testified that he was conducting five investigations into Pompeo and the State Department.

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
Aug 5, 2020 - Economy & Business

Why the employee retention credit is an overlooked stimulus issue

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

D.C. remains deadlocked on the next stimulus package, days after extended unemployment benefits ended and days before PPP is set to expire.

Where it stands: One unresolved issue that hasn't gotten enough attention is a proposed expansion of the employee retention credit, which could have a significant impact for companies that have experienced severe revenue declines.

New York Times digital revenue surpasses print revenue for first time

Data: NYT earnings reports; Chart: Axios Visuals

For the first time in its nearly 170-year history, the New York Times made more money from digital products than it did from its print newspaper during a three-month quarterly earnings period, the Times announced Wednesday.

Why it matters: It's a huge milestone for The Gray Lady, which six years ago published a digital "Innovation Report" that detailed the paper's shortcomings in adjusting its business to embrace the digital world.

Rep. Rashida Tlaib fends off Democratic primary challenge in Michigan

Rep. Rashida Tlaib. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Michigan Rep. Rashida Tlaib won her Democratic primary against challenger Detroit City Council President Brenda Jones, according to AP.

Why it matters: Tlaib, a democratic socialist and member of "The Squad," found herself in a vulnerable position, facing off against Jones after narrowly beating her two years ago.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Aug 5, 2020 - Energy & Environment

Shale's struggles will persist despite a rise in oil prices

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

WTI, the benchmark U.S. oil future, traded Wednesday morning at its highest since early March — highlighting how the worst of shale's crisis is seemingly over, though more bankruptcies likely lie ahead.

Why it matters: Its price at the time — $43 — is still too low for many producers to do well, though it varies from company to company.

Aug 5, 2020 - Technology

Facebook launches its TikTok rival, Instagram Reels

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Facebook-owned Instagram on Wednesday launched its answer to the popular karaoke app TikTok, whose future remains in limbo.

The big picture: Facebook has a long record — sometimes successful, sometimes not — of adopting features that have proven popular on rival platforms and rolling them out to its billions of users worldwide in an effort to avoid being eclipsed by younger upstarts.

Aug 5, 2020 - Health

UConn becomes first FBS team to cancel its football season

The University of Connecticut announced Wednesday that it is cancelling its football program for the upcoming school year, citing concerns about the coronavirus pandemic.

Why it matters: It's the first FBS program to back out of this year's season — and it could be just the first domino to fall among other major programs.

Dion Rabouin, author of Markets
Aug 5, 2020 - Economy & Business

Auto sales may have turned a corner

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

U.S. auto sales have bounced back in recent months despite the coronavirus pandemic, with some brands even seeing their sales increase over 2019's numbers at this point in the year.

Why it matters: Cars and trucks were seen as one of the sectors that would be hardest hit as Americans were called to stay home from work and entertainment destinations were shuttered.

Kendall Baker, author of Sports
Aug 5, 2020 - Sports

The return of high school sports hangs in the balance

Data: MaxPreps, Axios research; Cartogram: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

As local governments go to war over whether high schools can open, the fate of the fall sports season hangs in the balance.

The state of play: The National Federation of State High School Associations has offered a 16-page guide to help states resume athletics, but with so many organizations and school districts involved, there has been little uniformity.

Biden confidants see VP choices narrowing to Harris and Rice

Photos: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images; Win McNamee/Getty Images

Confidants of Joe Biden believe his choices for vice president have narrowed to Sen. Kamala Harris and Susan Rice — and would be surprised if he picks anyone else.

The state of play: This is a snapshot of the nearly unanimous read that we get from more than a dozen people close to him.

An election like no other

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The coronavirus will make the 2020 presidential election different from any in modern history: Voting that begins earlier, results that take longer, mail carriers as virtual poll workers and October Surprises that pop in September.

The big picture: Perhaps 80 million Americans will vote early, by mail or in person, Tom Bonier, CEO of TargetSmart, a Democratic political data firm, tells Axios. That's going to set up more of an Election Season than an Election Day — and increase the odds of national turmoil over the vote count.

Exclusive: Inside McCarthy's new GOP messaging platform

House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.). Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) has given his GOP colleagues new marching orders for stump speeches between now and November, as incumbents worry about how President Trump's own challenges may strain their re-election bids.

Driving the news: McCarthy delivered a PowerPoint presentation to the GOP conference in person last Thursday at the Capitol Visitor Center, with several members joining via Zoom, lawmakers and aides familiar with the gathering tell Axios.

Biden launches $280 million ad push

Photo: Mark Makela/Getty Images

Joe Biden's campaign is launching a $280 million TV and digital ad campaign heading into the fall, targeting 15 states with a message — delivered directly from Biden — about the coronavirus pandemic and the economy.

Why it matters: The size of the buy, which advisers described on a call with reporters Tuesday night, signals a campaign that isn't worried about burning through cash — and it may force the Trump campaign, or associated super PACs, to increase their spending in response.

Caitlin Owens, author of Vitals
Aug 5, 2020 - Health

There’s not much good news about kids and coronavirus

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

The more we learn about kids and the coronavirus, the riskier reopening schools for in-person learning appears to be, at least in areas with high caseloads.

Why it matters: There have already been many reports about the virus spreading through schools and summer camps, and evidence has begun to support the notion that children can play a key role in community transmission.

Updated Aug 5, 2020 - World

China says U.S. is "endangering peace" with high-level visit to Taiwan

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar during a June briefing in Washington, D.C. Photo: Joshua Roberts/Getty Images

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar announced Tuesday night he will lead a delegation to Taiwan "in the coming days."

Why it matters: It's the highest-level visit by a U.S. cabinet official to Taiwan since 1979. Azar is also the first U.S. Cabinet member to visit the island state in six years. The visit has angered China, which views Taiwan as part of its territory. Chinese officials accused the U.S. Wednesday of "endangering peace" with the visit, AFP reports.

Progressive activist Cori Bush beats incumbent Rep. William Lacy Clay

Cori Bush, who features in "Knock Down the House," about progressives who ran for Congress in 2018, canvasses in St Louis, Missouri, Monday. Photo: Michael B. Thomas/Getty Images

Progressive challenger Cori Bush, who featured in the Netflix documentary "Knock Down the House," defeated Rep. William Lacy Clay (D-Mo.) in the Democratic primary late Tuesday, AP reports.

Why it matters: She'd be the first Black Congress member to represent Missouri if she were elected to the House in November, per the New York Times. Clay, who's been in office for nearly 20 years, beat Bush in 2018. The former homeless woman, now a nurse and ordained pastor, led protests in Ferguson, Missouri, over the 2014 fatal police shooting of Black teen Michael Brown. Bush was endorsed by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.).

Editor's note: This article has been updated with new details throughout.

Updated Aug 5, 2020 - Science

In photos: Storm Isaias lashes the East Coast

Floodwaters in Muhlenberg Township, Pa., a result of Isaias moving along the East Coast on Tuesday. Photo: Ben Hasty/MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images

Isaias became a post-tropical cyclone as it moved into southeast Canada late Tuesday after pummeling the East Coast for much of the day with heavy rains and wind —trigging tornadoes, floods and leaving millions without power. At least six people have lost their lives in the storm.

The big picture: Isaias made landfall as a Category 1 hurricane in North Carolina late Monday before being downgraded. It dumped heavy rain across Florida as a tropical storm over the weekend. On July 31, it lashed the Bahamas and parts of Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic as a Category 1 hurricane.

Updated Aug 5, 2020 - Science

Isaias becomes post-tropical cyclone after deadly day on East Coast

A downed tree in a Brooklyn neighborhood on Aug. 4 in New York City. Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Isaias became a post-tropical cyclone as it moved into southeast Canada late Tuesday, after spending much of the day lashing the East Coast with heavy rain and spawning tornadoes, per a National Hurricane Center (NHC) update at 11 p.m.

The latest: The NHC warned tropical storm conditions were expected "for a few more hours" along portions of the New England coast. The storm that's killed at least six people and left over 3 million customers without power in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Delaware, Virginia and Maryland, per Poweroutage.us.

Roger Marshall wins Republican Senate nomination in Kansas primary

Rep. Roger Marshall. Photo: Mark Reinstein/Corbis via Getty Images

Rep. Roger Marshall won the Kansas Republican Senate primary on Tuesday evening, beating former Secretary of State Kris Kobach and a slew of other candidates, AP reports.

Why it matters: Following GOP Sen. Pat Roberts' retirement announcement, some Republicans worry that if Kobach won the primary it would endanger the party's chances of keeping the seat and maintaining a majority in the Senate.

Updated Aug 5, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Primary races to watch in Arizona, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, Washington

Photo: Michael B. Thomas/Getty Images

Primary elections on Tuesday in fives states see crowded fields of both Republicans and Democrats hoping to make the ballot in 2020.

What to watch: Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) is "fighting for her political life" in a tight primary race against Detroit City Council President Brenda Jones, who Tlaib beat by 900 votes in 2018, The New York Times writes. Senate Republicans are also watching the primary race in Kansas to see who could replace retiring Republican Sen. Pat Roberts.