Aug 27, 2017

Trump Island: Risk rising with Republican leaders

Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP

It started with Charlottesville. The pardon of Joe Arpaio sped it up.

Until now, most Republicans on the Hill have either backed Trump, or mostly stayed silent about their differences. Now, he's being openly defied.

Several of the best-known names in the Republican Party broke over the pardon, including Sen. John McCain, Jeb Bush and — most surprisingly and consequentially — Speaker Paul Ryan.

  • Republicans have come out against Trump, but they have tended not to be leadership figures. And the critiques have rarely been on matters of policy and decision-making — more on rash tweets.
  • Doug Andres, a Ryan spokesman, said in a statement on Arpaio: "The speaker does not agree with this decision. Law enforcement officials have a special responsibility to respect the rights of everyone in the United States. We should not allow anyone to believe that responsibility is diminished by this pardon."
  • McCain, who represents Arpaio, tweeted: "@POTUS's pardon of Joe Arpaio, who illegally profiled Latinos, undermines his claim for the respect of rule of law."

Even in the early days of his presidency, when his leverage was at its peak, Trump never had more than a handful of loyalists on Capitol Hill, Axios' Jonathan Swan points out:

  • Most Republicans kept quiet about their distaste for him, either out of fear that he'd go on a Twitter rampage against them, or that by attacking him they'd undermine a legislative agenda many have been waiting eight years to enact.
  • After the President has spent weeks seemingly divorcing himself from the GOP — openly blaming Mitch McConnell for healthcare's failure and pre-blaming McConnell and Ryan for debt-ceiling headaches — many feel liberated to speak their minds.

All that will hamper Trump's ability to help muscle tax reform through Congress. But the endgame is Special Counsel Bob Mueller:

  • Trump's attacks on McConnell are self-defeating for a lot of reasons. But if Mueller ever makes an impeachment referral (like the Watergate special counsel did), Trump needs McConnell more than anyone in the world.
  • Especially if it's 2019 and there's a Democratic House that could impeach through simple majority vote.

While praised by the establishment, Ryan could pay a grassroots price for the brushback on Arpaio:

  • A Republican lobbyist told me: "The base is gonna eat Ryan for breakfast."
  • Steve Bannon, already deeply engaged at Breitbart News, spent the past week in round-the-clock meetings with leaders of the conservative movement on how to pressure Ryan and McConnell to be more supportive of the president's agenda.
  • Breitbart has been gearing up to campaign to remove Ryan from the speakership. Bannon is activating.

Why it matters: The president is isolating himself on Trump Island, in the comfy warmth of his base. But if the island is bombed by Mueller, the base won't be able to save him. The president will need Congress, which'll be in no mood to rescue its tormentor.

Go deeper

World coronavirus updates: U.K. PM "stable, improving" in intensive care

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is "stable, improving, sat up and engaged with medical staff" in the intensive care unit of London's St. Thomas' Hospital, where he is being treated for the coronavirus, Culture Minister Oliver Dowden told the BBC Thursday.

Zoom in: The update comes as ministers meet to discuss whether to extend the United Kingdom's lockdown and after the country's health officials reported Wednesday the highest daily rise in COVID-19 deaths — 938, taking the total to over 7,300. London Mayor said Wednesday the U.K. is "nowhere near lifting the lockdown," with the virus not expected to peak there until next week.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 11 mins ago - Health

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 3 a.m. ET: 1,484,811 — Total deaths: 88,538 — Total recoveries: 329,876Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 3 a.m. ET: 432,132 — Total deaths: 14,817 — Total recoveries: 23,906Map.
  3. Federal government latest: Top Trump administration officials had been developing a plan to give cloth masks to huge numbers of Americans, but the idea lost traction amid heavy internal skepticism.
  4. States latest: New York has reported more cases than the most-affected countries in Europe. Chicago's Cook County jail is largest-known source of coronavirus in U.S.
  5. Business: One-third of U.S. jobs are at risk of disappearing, mostly affecting low-income workers.
  6. World: WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus urged countries to put politics aside "if you don’t want to have many more body bags.”
  7. Environment: COVID-19 is underscoring the connection between air pollution and dire outcomes from respiratory diseases.
  8. Tech: A new report recommends stimulus spending to help close the digital divide revealed by social distancing.
  9. What should I do? Pets, moving and personal healthAnswers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingQ&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk.
  10. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

Subscribe to Mike Allen's Axios AM to follow our coronavirus coverage each morning from your inbox.

New Zealand sets sights on coronavirus elimination after 2 weeks of lockdown

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern gives a coronavirus media update at the New Zealand Parliament. Photo: Mark Mitchell - Pool/Getty Images

New Zealand has flattened the curve of novel coronavirus cases after two weeks of lockdown and the next phase is to "squash it," professor Shaun Hendy, who heads a scientific body advising the government on COVID-19, told Axios.

Why it matters: Te Pūnaha Matatini, the Center of Research Excellence hosted by the University of Auckland of which Hendy is director, released research Thursday showing there could've been hundreds more Covid-19 cases were it not for the lockdown — and there's a good chance the strict measures will help stamp out the virus.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 2 hours ago - Health