Tuesday’s top stories

Mike Allen, author of AM
Jan 5, 2021 - Economy & Business

Goldman Sachs CEO forecasts small business survival in the storm

David Solomon outside the Capitol today. Photo: Goldman Sachs

In Washington on Tuesday to meet with small businesses, Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon told Axios that some of the survival pivots entrepreneurs have made in the past year will last past the pandemic.

What he's saying: "A lot of small businesses have had to make some investment in digitization and technology to connect to their customers more digitally than directly," Solomon said. "Some of that will last and will help their businesses."

Police officer who shot Jacob Blake won’t face charges

Demonstrators march during a protest in New York City over the shooting of Jacob Blake by police in Kenosha, Wis., Aug. 24, 2020. Photo: Timothy A. Clary/AFP via Getty

Police officers involved in the shooting of Jacob Blake will not face criminal charges, Kenosha County District Attorney Michael Gravely announced Tuesday.

The big picture: Kenosha was the center of protests, some violent, after officer Rusten Sheskey shot and wounded Blake, a Black man, on Aug. 23. The U.S. saw mass protests over police brutality and racism throughout the summer, set off by George Floyd's killing in Minneapolis.

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Jan 5, 2021 - Podcasts

Sen. Amy Klobuchar on the presidential certification circus

Congress on Wednesday will be asked to certify state electors, setting the stage for Joe Biden's inauguration as the country's 46th president on Jan. 20. But, like so many things in the Trump era, it won't be business as usual, as groups of House and Senate Republicans say they will object to electors from at least four states.

Axios Re:Cap digs into the process and the precedent with Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), the ranking Democrat on the Senate Rules Committee, who will lead her party's response to objections on the Senate floor. Plus, Atlanta Journal-Constitution political reporter Greg Bluestein joins to discuss Georgia's senate runoffs.

National Security Council names Russia as "likely" origin of U.S. agency breach

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

A U.S. task force responsible for investigating the massive cyberattack that breached the departments of Defense, State and Homeland Security — among others — identified the hack as "likely Russian in origin," per a joint statement on Tuesday.

Why it matters: This is the first time the federal government has formally named Russia as the likely origin of the attack.

Jan 5, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Sen. Tim Scott will vote to certify Biden’s Electoral College win

Sen. Tim Scott addresses the Republican National Convention. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Senator Tim Scott (R-S.C.) will certify Joe Biden's Electoral College win, refusing to join the growing number of Republicans planning to object to the process, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: Scott, who joins several veteran Republican senators standing firm against President Trump's efforts to overturn his legitimate election defeat, sparked buzz about a 2024 presidential run after getting the red carpet treatment at the Republican National Convention in August.

Jan 5, 2021 - World

The scope of forced labor in Xinjiang is bigger than we knew

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

China has constructed a vast string of factories inside the walls of Xinjiang mass internment camps, and Chinese authorities are forcing thousands of Muslim minorities to work in cotton fields, according to two recent investigations.

Why it matters: Xinjiang products are deeply integrated into lucrative supply chains around the world. The Chinese Communist Party's official embrace of coerced labor will force Western governments and institutions to choose between pleasing business leaders or enforcing universal human rights values.

Cruz to object to certification of Arizona's Electoral College votes

Photo: David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) will object to the certification of Arizona's Electoral College votes on Wednesday, two sources familiar with his plans confirmed to Axios.

Why it matters: Cruz is one of 13 senators who have threatened to object to President-elect Biden's Electoral College victory. Arizona is at least the third state whose certification Republican lawmakers plan to challenge.

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
Jan 5, 2021 - Economy & Business

PPP loans return with a lot of unanswered questions

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The stimulus bill begrudgingly signed by President Trump on the Sunday after Christmas includes $284 billion for a revived Paycheck Protection Program, which would be available to small businesses whether they received loans the first time around or not.

How it will work: We don't know. And that's a problem.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Jan 5, 2021 - Energy & Environment

The bear case for big energy and climate deals

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Anyone thinking that the immediate past is a prologue for Capitol Hill dealmaking could be in for rough years ahead.

Catch up fast: In late December, Congress passed and President Trump signed legislation to cut a major greenhouse gas, extend clean energy tax incentives and bolster Energy Department tech deployment programs.

Jan 5, 2021 - Technology

Former Trump economic adviser Gary Cohn joins IBM as vice chairman

Gary Cohn (R) with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Gary Cohn, the former top economic adviser to President Trump and former president of Goldman Sachs, tweeted Tuesday that he is joining IBM as vice chairman.

The big picture: Cohn, a Democrat, was considered one of the most powerful "globalists" in Trump's West Wing. He disagreed with Trump on just about every issue besides tax cuts and resigned in 2018 after a struggle inside the White House over tariffs on steel and aluminum imports.

Mike Allen, author of AM
Jan 5, 2021 - Politics & Policy

A tense, tectonic 48 hours

A stage goes up on the Ellipse yesterday ahead of tomorrow's pro-Trump rally. Photo: Susan Walsh/AP

The next two days look to be the most tumultuous and telling of the wild, never-ending 2020 election.

Driving the news: Twin runoffs in Georgia today determine control of the U.S. Senate. And perhaps half or more of the Republicans in Congress will cast an unprecedented number of votes to invalidate President-elect Biden’s clear win, as the House and Senate meet to certify the Electoral College votes.

Vaccine distribution's information mess

 Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Local health officials are turning to online services like Eventbrite to improvise distribution schemes for the COVID-19 vaccine in the absence of federal support or a national plan.

Why it matters: Millions of lives, along with the country's economic recovery, depend on a speedy and successful rollout of the vaccine. But as people hunt for scarce information about vaccine availability and delivery processes, the lack of coordinated communication risks opening an information vacuum — into which misinformation could easily pour.

Ina Fried, author of Login
Jan 5, 2021 - Technology

Google workers test a different kind of union

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

With Monday's announcement that some Google employees have formed the Alphabet Workers Union, the tech industry is getting its own innovative take on labor organizing.

What's happening: On the one hand, this isn't a traditional union — it won't be able to collectively bargain or formally represent the workforce. At the same time, the new "minority union" offers a fresh approach to solidarity: It's open to some managers and can represent temporary and contract workers.

Nearly $500 million spent on ads for Georgia Senate races

The Georgia Senate runoff races are among the most expensive Senate races in history, according to advertising spend figures from Ad Impact.

The big picture: Collectively, nearly $500 million worth of ads targeting Georgia voters has been spent in two months.

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
Jan 5, 2021 - Health

Debating the origins of COVID-19

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

A World Health Organization team is beginning a long-delayed investigation in China into how SARS-CoV-2 emerged, as a theory about a possible lab accident is raised in a major magazine.

Why it matters: Understanding the origins of COVID-19 is vital if we're going to prevent the next pandemic.

New woes for the unemployed in 2021

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

People who collected unemployment will receive smaller — or nonexistent — tax refunds this coming year because of a tax law quirk that counts unemployment as taxable income.

Why it matters: Tens of millions of Americans who arguably need the refund the most will wind up financially short for yet another year.

Miriam Kramer, author of Space
Jan 5, 2021 - Science

The hunt for alien life heats up in 2021

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The decades-long search for life elsewhere in the universe is building to a crescendo in 2021.

Driving the news: Three new Mars missions are slated to arrive at the Red Planet in February and a powerful space telescope is expected to finally launch this year.

The vast majority of nursing home residents remain unvaccinated

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Only about 14% of the roughly 2.5 million COVID-19 vaccine doses distributed to nursing home residents and staff have been administered, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Why it matters: The slower-than-ideal rollout illustrates the complexity of vaccinating what should be one of the easiest populations to reach — and one that remains extremely vulnerable to the virus.

Updated Jan 5, 2021 - Politics & Policy

In photos: Trump and Biden hold dueling Georgia rallies on eve of crucial runoffs

Combination images of President Trump, Sen. Kelly Loeffler, President-elect Joe Biden and and Rev. Raphael Warnock at their respective Georgia events. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images/Alex Wong/Getty Images

President Trump and President-elect Joe Biden were both campaigning at events in Georgia Monday night on the eve of the pivotal twin runoffs in the state that'll determine which party controls the Senate.

The big picture: Trump at his rally in north Georgia made baseless claims about the 2020 election and warned the state's Democratic candidates would force a sharp swing to the left. Biden said at his Atlanta event a vote for those candidates, Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, would lead to the Senate granting Americans $2,000 in stimulus checks.

NYSE no longer intends to delist Chinese firms despite U.S. executive order

Photo: Johannes Eisele/AFP via Getty Images

The New York Stock Exchange announced late Monday it no longer plans to delist three Chinese companies.

Why it matters: The NYSE said last Thursday it would suspend trading action from Jan. 7 for China Mobile, China Telecom, and China Unicom Hong Kong following a Trump executive order that imposed restrictions on firms the U.S. identified as being affiliated with the Chinese military.

Mike Allen, author of AM
Jan 5, 2021 - Politics & Policy

The Cheney power play

Former Vice President Dick Cheney looks on as his daughter Rep. Liz Cheney takes the oath of office, Jan. 3, 2017. Photo: Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call

Former Vice President Dick Cheney and House GOP Conference Chair Liz Cheney have pulled a power play against President Trump’s attempt to overthrow the election.

Driving the news: The elder Cheney helped pull together an op-ed from all 10 living former defense secretaries to warn against military intervention to thwart a transfer of power. Liz Cheney pounded out a 21-page argument against plans to try to stall certification of Biden's win.

Progressives plot 11th-hour Trump impeachment over Georgia call

President Trump heading to campaign in Georgia for the two U.S. Senate runoffs. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

President Trump may have little more than two weeks left in office, but House Democrats are talking about impeaching him — again.

Why it matters: The party is split over how to respond to his phone call asking the Georgia secretary of state to change his state’s vote totals. Progressives including Ilhan Omar are talking another impeachment, while others such as Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) favor a lesser move like censure. The ticking clock factors into both approaches.

Jan 5, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Vote on 2020 shapes 2024

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Republican lawmakers planning to run for president in 2024 have spent weeks in urgent conversations with advisers as they made the high-stakes call on whether to support objections to this week’s congressional certification of President-elect Joe Biden’s victory.

Why it matters: Republican sources tell Axios these lawmakers view Wednesday's vote as potentially decisive for their political viability, much like would-be 2004 Democratic candidates fixated over the 2002 Iraq War vote.

Jan 5, 2021 - Science

EPA finalizes rule limiting research used for public health, environmental policy

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler. Photo: Al Drago-Pool/Getty Images

The Environmental Protection Agency has finalized a rule that limits scientific research used in the crafting of public health and environmental policy.

Why it matters: Researchers argue the rule that prioritizes studies with all data available publicly "essentially blocks" research that uses personal information and confidential medical records that can't be released because of privacy conditions, per the New York Times, which first reported the news Monday.

Dave Lawler, author of World
Jan 5, 2021 - World

Biden's nuclear dilemma: Iran's move on enrichment raises the stakes

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

President-elect Joe Biden hopes to revive the Iran nuclear deal after taking office, but that task is only growing more daunting.

Driving the news: Iran announced today that it would begin to enrich uranium to 20% — within striking distance of weapons-grade levels — at its underground Fordow facility.