Tuesday’s top stories

Newly declassified report lays out U.S. strategy in Asia

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The Trump administration has declassified a report which lays out its Indo-Pacific strategy, including “accelerating India’s rise,” blocking China from establishing “illiberal spheres of influence,” and maintaining “U.S. strategic primacy” in the region, according to a copy viewed by Axios.

Why it matters: The strategy laid out in the ten-page report, written in early 2018, has guided the U.S. approach to China, India, North Korea and other nations in the Indo-Pacific region for the past three years. Its release sheds light on the geopolitical and security challenges soon to be inherited by the Biden administration.

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Visa and Plaid terminate merger agreement

A Visa card. Photo: Igor Golovniov/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Visa has terminated its proposed $5.3 billion purchase of Plaid, a San Francisco-based provider of analytics software that connects fintech startups to users' bank accounts, the Justice Department said in a statement.

Why it matters: The DOJ alleged in its civil antitrust lawsuit filed in November to block the merger that Visa is a "monopolist in online debit" and would eliminate Plaid's potential ability to compete in the online debit market.

FBI seeking felony cases "tied to sedition" in far-reaching probe of Capitol siege

A pro-Trump mob at the Capitol building on Jan. 6. Photo: Lev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images

The FBI has opened files into over 170 people and made charges in over 70 cases as it investigates the fatal siege on the Capitol, acting U.S. attorney Michael Sherwin told reporters on Tuesday.

Why it matters: The myriad of investigations facing the agency include felony cases "tied to sedition and conspiracy," assault on local and federal officers, theft of mail, potential theft of national security information, felony murder, and at least one civil rights excessive force investigation, Sherwin said.

Updated Jan 12, 2021 - Technology

What's happened so far at CES 2021

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Having moved entirely online, this year's CES is unlike any other. However, there's still a ton of tech news to watch out for, and Axios has you covered with all the big news in one place.

The big picture: We are in the midst of both a pandemic and political upheaval, but that isn't stopping the biggest tech companies in the world from sharing their latest consumer gear. Here's the latest — check back all week for more from the Axios tech team.

Scoop: Boxer to drop representation of Chinese surveillance firm

Photo: Michael Kovac/Getty Images for CORE Gala

Former Sen. Barbara Boxer tells Axios she will deregister as a foreign agent for Hikvision, a Chinese surveillance firm accused of abetting the country’s mass internment of Uighur Muslims, after President-elect Joe Biden’s inaugural committee said it's refunding a donation from the California Democrat.

Driving the news: "My intent in agreeing to provide strategic advice to the company was based on my desire to help make them better in every way and preserve American jobs," Boxer said in a statement to Axios. "However, due to the intense response to my registration, I have determined that my continued involvement has become a negative distraction for the effort so I will be deregistering."

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Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
Jan 12, 2021 - Podcasts

The fall of Parler

Parler, the social media platform for conservatives and far-right extremists, is currently offline after being booted from Amazon's cloud hosting service. The move came just days after Parler was also removed from the Apple and Android app stores, for allegedly violating terms of service related to violent threats its platform.

Axios Re:Cap digs into what happened at Parler, including how most of its public posts and metadata were scraped and archived, with New York Times cybersecurity reporter Nicole Perlroth.

Scoop: Biden inaugural returns cash from ex-senator-turned-foreign agent

Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

President-elect Joe Biden’s inaugural committee will refund a donation from former Sen. Barbara Boxer after the California Democrat registered as a foreign agent for a Chinese surveillance firm accused of abetting the country’s mass internment of Uighur Muslims, officials tell Axios.

Why it matters: Boxer’s contribution was just $500, but the Biden team’s decision to return the money shows how the incoming administration will try to balance its sweeping ethics commitments with K Street efforts to enlist high-profile Democrats with an eye toward advancing clients' interests in Biden's Washington.

Updated Jan 12, 2021 - Technology

A tale of two Jacks

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photos: Costfoto (Barcroft Media), Phillip Faraone/Getty Images

In China, President Xi Jinping has silenced Alibaba founder Jack Ma and launched an antitrust investigation into his company after the e-commerce tycoon publicly criticized state regulators. In the U.S., Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey has suspended President Donald Trump's accounts after the president used the platform to incite violence.

The big picture: The juxtaposition of two almost perfectly inverse situations reveals how differently China and the U.S. have approached the management of tech giants and digital information.

Jan 12, 2021 - Economy & Business

Scoop: Univision enters the streaming wars with "PrendeTV"

Photo: Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images

Univision, the largest Spanish-language broadcaster in the U.S., will announce today the launch of "PrendeTV," a free, ad-supported streaming service, sources tell Axios.

The big picture: Univision becomes the latest major broadcaster to jump into the streaming wars.

General Motors joins the race to electrify package delivery

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

General Motors is launching a new business unit devoted to electrifying the goods delivery market and says package giant FedEx will be the first customer.

Why it matters: Big automakers and startups alike see a huge opportunity.

Dion Rabouin, author of Markets
Jan 12, 2021 - Economy & Business

The big hedge

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Warnings that the U.S. equity market looks to be in a bubble are coming from a slew of Wall Street asset managers and strategists as stocks continue to reach new record highs and markets display abnormal behavior. But data show that while investors are hedging their bets, there is hardly a mad dash to sell out of equity positions.

What's happening: As the 10-year Treasury yield rises solidly above 1% — its highest level in nearly a year — a growing contingent of investors fear that a crash is imminent without the ballast of rock-bottom interest rates.

The science of mob thinking

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

The Capitol siege last week came as a shock to many Americans who had no idea how intense election denialism, and to an extent white supremacy, has been brewing in American society.

Why it matters: Research shows that this type of mob thinking has become stronger and more frequent as more news and information has moved online. Experts also suggest President Trump played a key role in weaponizing human tendencies to distrust people who look or act different.

Felix Salmon, author of Capital
Jan 12, 2021 - Economy & Business

How CEOs became the 4th branch of government

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

America needs law and order — but emphatically not the kind that President Trump has in mind when he uses the phrase. That's the message being sent by a broad coalition of CEOs who are silencing Trump and punishing his acolytes in Congress.

Why it matters: Private-sector CEOs managed to act as a faster and more effective check on the power of the president than Congress could. They have money, they have power, and they have more of the public's trust than politicians do. And they're using all of it in an attempt to preserve America's system of governance.

The online far right is moving underground

Data: Apptopia; Chart: Axios Visuals

The online purge of far-right figures and platforms that followed last week's Capitol insurrection looks to be driving radicalized users into darker corners of the internet.

What's happening: Downloads have surged for messaging apps that are securely encrypted or designed to cater specifically to the ultra-conservative user.

Jan 12, 2021 - Economy & Business

The right-wing media decoupling

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Following the Capitol siege, the right-wing media landscape is beginning to split between entities that want to double down on pro-Trump rhetoric and those that want to stick with the establishment.

Why it matters: The future of the Republican Party, in part, hangs on whether fringe conservative media or traditional conservative commentary will dominate with audiences.

Jan 12, 2021 - Health

Axios-Ipsos poll: More Americans want the vaccine

Expand chart
Data: Axios/Ipsos survey; Chart: Axios Visuals

Americans are more eager to get a coronavirus vaccine now that the process is underway, according to the latest installment of the Axios-Ipsos Coronavirus Index.

Why it matters: This is an encouraging sign, and an indication that at least some vaccine hesitancy was simple wait-and-see caution — not dug-in opposition.

Miriam Kramer, author of Space
Jan 12, 2021 - Science

The next big NASA rocket's time has come

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

It’s a make-or-break moment for NASA’s next mega-rocket: the Space Launch System.

Why it matters: The rocket — about 10 years in development and billions of dollars over budget — is expected to launch for the first time this year. Its success is key for NASA’s plans to bring people and payloads to deep space destinations like the Moon.

Jan 12, 2021 - Health

Scoop: The Trump administration's plan to speed up vaccinations

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The Trump administration is set to deliver new guidelines today that will get coronavirus vaccinations moving much faster.

Driving the news: New federal guidelines will recommend opening up the process to everyone older than 65, and will also aim to move doses out the door rather than holding some back.

Updated Jan 12, 2021 - Health

Third lawmaker tests positive for COVID-19 after Capitol Hill siege

Schneider. Photo: Samuel Corum/Getty Images

Three Democratic lawmakers have announced they've tested positive for COVID-19 after sheltering with maskless colleagues during last week's siege at the U.S. Capitol.

Driving the news: Rep. Brad Schneider (D-Ill.) said wrote in a statement Tuesday that he has tested positive for the virus after the attack last week, during which he had to shelter in a crowded space with other lawmakers.

Scoop: Trump falsely blames Antifa for Capitol insurrection

President Trump walks to the Oval Office. Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

President Trump on Monday privately — and falsely — blamed "Antifa people" for storming the Capitol, even though clear video and documentary evidence exists showing the rioters were overwhelmingly Trump supporters.

Why it matters: Despite facing an impeachment vote for an assault he helped incite, the outgoing president is still sticking with his tried-and-true playbook of deflecting and reaching for conspiracies.

Epoch Times revenue soared on Trump conspiracies

A vendor distributes copies of The Epoch Times at a pro-Trump rally in December. Photo: Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images

The publisher of The Epoch Times, a stridently pro-Trump publication with a flair for conspiracy theories and links to Chinese dissidents, nearly quadrupled its revenue during the first three years of the administration.

Why it matters: The nonprofit Epoch Times Association’s 2019 revenue of $15.5 million, up from $3.9 million in 2016, shows how lucrative news coverage catering to the president's most fervent supporters could be — and will likely remain even after he leaves office.

Jan 12, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Kevin McCarthy's fight for survival

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy is under siege, raising challenges to his best-laid plans for becoming House speaker.

Why it matters: The California Republican had been ready to vault out of the minority at the 2022 midterms. But now he finds his fundraising challenged, his links to President Trump toxic and a tricky impeachment environment to navigate.

New England coach Bill Belichick turns down Trump's presidential medal offer

New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick. Photo: Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said Monday he will not accept the presidential medal of freedom that President Trump was set to award him following last week's Capitol siege.

Driving the news: Belichick said while he was initially flattered to be offered the award, "the tragic events of last week occurred," and he has decided not to move forward.

Dave Lawler, author of World
Jan 12, 2021 - World

Trump administration launches foreign policy blitz in final days

Pompeo leaves the stage. Photo: Jacquelyn Martin/AFP via Getty

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declared Yemen's Houthi rebels a terror group, labeled Cuba a state sponsor of terrorism and risked provoking China by lifting restrictions on interactions between U.S. and Taiwanese officials — all within 48 hours, and with less than two weeks left in President Trump's term.

Why it matters: The administration, and in particular Pompeo, has made little secret of the fact that it's trying to tie President-elect Biden's hands, in particular when it comes to Trump's hardline policies on Iran and China.