Monday’s top stories

Jan 4, 2021 - World

England to enter 3rd national lockdown as cases surge at record pace

Johnson getting his temperature taken. Photo: Stefan Rousseau/WPA Pool/Getty Images

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on Monday that England will enter a six-week lockdown, as the spread of a highly contagious new coronavirus variant threatens to overwhelm the National Health Service.

Why it matters: It's England's third national lockdown, following the initial March restrictions during the start of the pandemic and a four-week "circuit-breaker" in November.

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
Jan 4, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Dominion plans to sue Sidney Powell, doesn't rule out Trump

Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell conduct a news conference on Nov. 19, 2020. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Dominion Voting Systems plans to sue attorney Sidney Powell "imminently" for defamation, and it's continuing to explore similar suits against President Trump and others, company founder and CEO John Poulos told the Axios Re:Cap podcast on Monday.

Between the lines: Dominion, which makes the voting machines used in Georgia and elsewhere, has been the subject of baseless accusations of malfeasance during last November's elections.

Axios HQ
A better way to communicate with your team. Learn more.
Jan 4, 2021 - World

Saudi Arabia, Qatar to sign U.S.-brokered deal to ease Gulf crisis

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (L) and Qatar Emir Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani. Photo: Fayez Nureldine/AFP via Getty Images

Saudi Arabia, Qatar and other Gulf countries are expected to sign an agreement on Tuesday toward ending a diplomatic crisis in the Gulf after 3½ years.

The big picture: A Saudi-led coalition severed ties with Qatar in 2017 and closed their airspace and sea routes to Qatari planes and vessels, citing Qatar's alleged support for terror groups and relations with Iran. In recent weeks, Saudi Arabia and Qatar have been under pressure from the Trump administration to end the dispute.

Updated Jan 4, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Georgia secretary of state says Trump could face probe over taped election call

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger told ABC’s “Good Morning America” that an Atlanta-area district attorney's office could investigate a phone call Saturday during which President Trump asked Raffensperger to "find 11,780 votes" to overturn President-elect Biden's victory in the state.

The big picture: Raffensperger said his own office is not likely to investigate the matter because Trump has also recently spoken with the office’s chief investigator, which may present a conflict of interest.

Jan 4, 2021 - Economy & Business

Shareholders approve Fiat Chrysler-Peugeot merger

Carlos Tavares will be CEO of the newly created Stellantis. Photo: Chesnot/Getty Images

Shareholders of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and Peugeot parent Groupe PSA voted overwhelmingly Monday to merge their companies, creating the world’s fourth-largest automaker.

Why it matters: The shift toward electric, self-driving technology has left legacy carmakers scrambling to pool resources — or in this case, merge completely — in order to help shoulder the capital burden of the transformation.

Jan 4, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Rhode Island governor emerges as leading candidate for Commerce Department

Gov. Gina Raimondo. Photo: Paul Morigi/Getty Images for Fortune/Time Inc.

Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo has emerged as a leading candidate to be President-elect Joe Biden's commerce secretary, according to people familiar with the matter.

Why it matters: Raimondo, a Rhodes scholar who co-founded a venture capital firm in Rhode Island earlier in her career, has prioritized good relationships with the business community, the target audience of commerce.

Ina Fried, author of Login
Jan 4, 2021 - Technology

2021 will demand new kinds of video conferencing

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: GraphicaArtis/Getty Images

Last year entrenched videoconferencing at the center of our work and private lives — but also showed us the limits and drawbacks of the tools we now depend on.

What's happening: Services like Zoom, Microsoft Teams and WebEx were a lifeline in 2020, channeling everything from work and school to parties and doctor's appointments into our homebound lives.

Updated Jan 4, 2021 - World

Iran resumes 20% uranium enrichment, seizes South Korean tanker

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. Photo: Iranian Presidency/Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Iran has resumed the production of 20% enriched uranium at its underground nuclear facility in Fordow, an Iranian government spokesman said Monday. Iranian state media later reported that authorities had seized a South Korean-flagged tanker and arrested its crew, alleging "oil pollution" in the Persian Gulf.

The big picture: The news comes amid heightened U.S. fears of a possible Iranian attack, one year after the assassination of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani. 20% enriched uranium — which is banned under the 2015 nuclear deal — can’t be used for military purposes, but is a step closer to the 90% enrichment needed to build a nuclear bomb.

Dion Rabouin, author of Markets
Jan 4, 2021 - Economy & Business

What's driving the bitcoin mania

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Skeptics have dismissed the massive runup in Bitcoin over the past two months as another example of rampant retail trader speculation that is bound to end in tears.

Driving the news: The cryptocurrency jumped from around $14,000 per coin on Nov. 3 ($10,500 as recently as Oct. 3) to more than $34,000 on Sunday, then dipped by $5,000 overnight. But this time really is different.

Alphabet workers announce a union

Photo: Mason Trinca/Getty Images

A group of more than 200 employees at Google's parent company announced on Monday that they've signed union cards with the Communications Workers of America, forming the Alphabet Workers Union.

Why it matters: This is the largest and most high-profile unionization effort among tech workers to date. The tech industry has historically eschewed unions, unlike other sectors like the auto industry.

America's vaccine rollout: What went wrong

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The vaccine rollout is not going as planned so far, and has run headfirst into resource shortages and staffing issues caused by the raging pandemic.

Why it matters: The Trump administration's goal of vaccinating 20 million people by the end of year fell drastically short, raising concerns about how long it may be until enough people are vaccinated in the U.S. for life to return to normal.

Jan 4, 2021 - World

U.K. judge rules Julian Assange should not be extradited to the U.S.

Julian Assange in a police vehicle outside Westminster Magistrates court in London in 2019. Photo: Jack Taylor/Getty Images

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange must not be extradited to the U.S., where he's wanted on charges of violating the Espionage Act and hacking government computers, because of the high risk of suicide in U.S. custody, a British judge in London ruled Monday.

Why it matters: The ruling, which will be appealed by the U.S., is a huge win for Assange after a years-long battle. The case has raised significant questions about First Amendment protections for publishers of classified information, as Assange argues he was acting as a journalist when he published leaked documents on Iraq and Afghanistan.

Mike Allen, author of AM
Jan 4, 2021 - Politics & Policy

McConnell Party vs. Trump Party

Photo: Samuel Corum-Pool/Getty Images

The Republican battle lines being formed in President Trump's final days — his loyalists vs. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's establishment — will shape American politics for the next four years. 

Why it matters: This power struggle will help define everything from the future of conservatism and right-wing media to President-elect Biden’s ability to win Republican cooperation in office. More broadly and more importantly, the outcome will determine if Trumpism — and its norm-smashing tactics — come to permanently define one of America's two major political parties.

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
Jan 4, 2021 - Economy & Business

2020 changed America's startup landscape

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Venture capitalists have been historically reluctant to invest in startups based too far from home, thus making it it easier for "good ideas" to get funded in the Bay Area or the Acela corridor than anywhere else. 2020 may have finally changed that dynamic.

Why it matters: This could create a virtuous cycle of economic opportunity in cities and regions that have been largely left out of America's tech boom.

Caitlin Owens, author of Vitals
Jan 4, 2021 - Health

Poor vaccine planning could increase the pandemic's racial divide

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Failing to put the most vulnerable Americans at the front of the line for coronavirus vaccines will exacerbate the gaping racial and ethnic disparities that have characterized the pandemic, experts say.

Why it matters: The Americans most vulnerable to the virus are disproportionately people of color. And there are a lot of reasons to doubt that vulnerable people will actually end up getting their shots first, despite some efforts to make that happen.

SPAC avalanche does some good

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

An avalanche of special purpose acquisition companies — better known as SPACs — raised capital this year to help startups bypass the lengthy and difficult IPO process.

Why it matters: Having more public companies is widely viewed as healthy for the markets and for the American economy, even if the SPAC path elicited skepticism and accusations of froth.

Amy Harder, author of Generate
Jan 4, 2021 - Energy & Environment
Column / Harder Line

10 energy and climate issues to watch in 2021

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

From presidential aspirations to oil to corporate positioning, here’s what I’m watching this year.

The big picture: After the year that wasn’t, well, everything we thought it would be, 2021 will be a messy mix of the pandemic (still) and reviving all that it sidelined on all things, including energy and climate change.

Updated Jan 4, 2021 - Politics & Policy

More Republicans denounce GOP plans to challenge election results

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) speaks with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) on October 15 in D.C. Photo: Bill O'Leary-Pool/Getty Images

More than a dozen House and Senate Republicans over the weekend attacked plans by colleagues to object to certifying 2020 election results, calling the effort ineffective, dangerous or lacking in evidence.

Why it matters: Although nearly all lawsuits brought by President Trump, his allies and his legal team to challenge election results have been dismissed, a group of Republican senators led by Ted Cruz says they will oppose certifying Joe Biden's win.

"Impeachable offense": Democrats react to Trump's Georgia call

Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

Leading Democrats accused President Trump Sunday of corruption, "abuse of power" and committing an "impeachable offense" for urging Georgia's Republican Secretary of State in a phone call to overturn Joe Biden's election win.

Why it matters: Trump was impeached by House Democrats in December 2019 for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress for pressing Ukraine to investigate Biden and his son Hunter Biden, before being acquitted in the GOP-controlled Senate.

Trump to give Reps. Jim Jordan and Devin Nunes Presidential Medal of Freedom

Republican Reps. Jim Jordan (L) and Devin Nunes at Congress. Photo: Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post via Getty Images

President Trump is expected to give Reps. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) the Presidential Medal of Freedom, three sources familiar with the plans tell Axios.

Why it matters: These key Trump allies both played crucial roles during Trump's impeachment hearings. Nunes, who's expected to get his medal Monday, launched a fierce attack on Democrats at Trump's impeachment hearing that helped set the stage for the GOP argument that it was partisan and unfair and an extension of the 2016 Russia investigation.