What surprised Trump-watchers most in his first 6 months - Axios
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What surprised Trump-watchers most in his first 6 months

Carolyn Kaster / AP

In our 100 days report card back in April, Jim VandeHei and I noted that one of Trump's "misses" was: "Little personal growth in office" — a loose style and resistance to structure that leaves White House aides insecure, and created internal inefficiencies and blind spots.

As Trump approaches the six-month mark on Thursday (Day 182, with 1,280 till the next Inauguration Day), that factor is still hampering his presidency, one-eighth of the way into this term.

We asked several top Trump-watchers what has surprised them most about the first six months.

Chris Wallace, anchor of "Fox News Sunday," writes: "What's been most surprising to me is how little Trump has changed as President. He has the same strengths and the same weaknesses he's always had. Washington certainly hasn't bent to his will. And he hasn't bent to the ways of Washington."

Other surprises:

  • Maureen Dowd: "I marvel at Donald Trump's talent for cliffhangers. It rivals that of Dickens. Except that Trump's daily dramas are invariably self-destructive — legislatively, politically, legally and grammatically. It's not that easy to be in the center of a special counsel probe within six months of taking office. It took Nixon until his second term. (And this is the only time you will ever hear Trump compared to Dickens. After all, it is the worst of times and ... it is the worst of times.)"
  • Michael Wolff, author and columnist: "That, in the face of the onslaught, he seems to be enjoying himself as much as he is."
  • Maggie Haberman: "I'm most surprised he hasn't set foot in NYC since mid-January."
  • NBC's Chuck Todd: "I guess I'm surprised he didn't make more of an effort to develop a personal relationship with Schumer and Pelosi. Culturally, he's more familiar with them and knew the two of them more superficially than any of the GOP leaders. I didn't expect much of a Democratic outreach, but I thought he'd attempt a little wining and dining of those two, simply because he had that earlier connection back when he was a donor."
  • ABC's Jon Karl, who covered Trump in New York: "That he has held only one real press conference, and has never set foot in the White House briefing room. ... And that he has done so few interviews outside of Fox News. ... This is the candidate who loved engaging the press so much that he turned his primary victory nights into press conferences, which we've never seen before."
  • Josh Green of Bloomberg Businessweek, author of "Devil's Bargain: Steve Bannon, Donald Trump, and the Storming of the Presidency" (out tomorrow): "What's surprised me most is how quickly Trump abandoned the working-class coalition that won him the GOP nomination. ... Had he pursued something like infrastructure instead [of health], he might've built a bipartisan populist coalition and tied pro-labor Democrats in knots."
  • Ben Smith, BuzzFeed Editor-in-Chief: "That he's been so bad at the game of buying reporters' favor with access."
  • Chris Ruddy, CEO of Newsmax: "Someday historians will join me in looking back in awe at how Donald Trump wielded the power of the 'bully pulpit' like no other president ... [f]rom unscripted press avails to thunderous tweets."
  • Noah Shachtman, executive editor of The Daily Beast: "I guess I'm most surprised that people thought a 70-year-old, self-employed man would remake himself once he got to Washington."

What has surprised you? Drop me a note: mike@axios.com. If your answer surprises me, I'll share it with the AM family.

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Collins will oppose Senate health care bill

Sen. Susan Collins said she opposes the Senate's health care plan. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty, File)

Sen. Susan Collins officially said she will oppose the Senate's latest bill to repeal parts of the Affordable Care Act — yet another nail in the coffin for a bill that's moving further away from the 50 votes it would need to pass.

Why it matters: It would only take three "no" votes to kill the bill. And Collins' opposition makes it a total of four Republicans who say they won't vote for the bill — two moderates (Collins and Sen. John McCain) and two conservatives (Sens. Rand Paul and Ted Cruz).

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Report: 'Iranian missile test' Trump tweeted about never happened

Missiles are on display in Tehran on Sunday during the country's annual Defense Week. Photo: Vahid Salemi / AP

On Friday, Iran claimed to have tested a new medium-range ballistic missile capable of striking Israel with multiple warheads — but, according to Fox News, that missile launch never actually took place. Video footage purporting to show the launch was actually from a failed test back in January.

Why it matters: The world is waiting to hear President Trump's decision — he claimed to have made up his mind last week — on whether or not to stay in the Iran nuclear deal. It's significant that Trump used the "launch" to again decry the deal, tweeting on Saturday: "Not much of an agreement we have!"

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Irma captured America's attention more than other storms

It's been a busy hurricane season, with three powerful hurricanes hitting and one just missing U.S. territories. Here's when and how often Americans' searched Google each of them.

Data: Google Trends; Chart: Lazaro Gamio / Axios

Why it matters: Irma received the most attention, according to Google, likely due to reports it'd be the most powerful hurricane ever to hit the U.S. Meanwhile, Puerto Rico has been devastated by Hurricane Maria, but interest from the U.S. is substantially less than during both Harvey and Irma.

Note: This search data does not include Puerto Rico. Puerto Ricans were highly interested in both Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria, with the least interest in Harvey.

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Target to raise minimum wage to $11 per hour, $15 by 2020

Elise Amendola / AP

Target has announced it will raise its minimum wage from $10 per hour to $11 across all U.S. stores, CNBC reports. The changes will begin in October and are part of Target's $7 billion re-investment in the company. Target has promised an hourly minimum wage of $15 by 2020.

The context: Target has been in a wage war with Wal-mart, which raised base hourly pay to $10 in 2016. The federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour, and it has not increased since 2009.

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White House: "We've not declared war on North Korea"

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders delivers a news briefing at the White House. Photo: Carolyn Kaster / AP

Sarah Sanders said Monday that the White House has "not declared war on North Korea," as the country's foreign minister claimed this morning. Sanders added that "frankly, the suggestion of that is absurd."

  • On criticism of Trump's NFL comments: "This isn't about the president being against anyone, but about millions of Americans being for something." Later Sanders said that if NFL players are protesting police brutality, then "they should protest the officers on the field," not the flag.
  • Did Trump go too far in calling some players SOB's that should be fired? "It's always appropriate for the president to defend our flag, defend our national anthem."
  • On Trump tweeting about NFL but not Puerto Rico: "He's emphasizing something that should be unifying... Celebrating and promoting patriotism in our country is something that should bring everyone together."
  • Puerto Rico recovery efforts: Federal response to Hurricane Maria is "anything but slow," said Sanders. Trump sent FEMA Administrator Brock Long, Homeland Security Advisor Tom Bossert to Puerto Rico today.
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NFL won't punish players who didn't take field for national anthem

At a Sunday game, the Seattle Seahawks and Tennessee Titans are absent from the sidelines during the national anthem. Photo: Mark Zaleski / AP

Despite a rule in the NFL game operations manual that requires players to be on the sidelines when the anthem is played, league spokesman Joe Lockhart said, "There will be no discipline handed down this week for anyone who was not there [during the playing of the national anthem]."

Why it matters: President Trump used Twitter to urge the NFL to discipline its players, but the league, along with several franchise owners and coaches, is standing behind the players who chose to protest the anthem.

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Supreme Court cancels hearing on Trump's travel ban

Justice Neil Gorsuch shakes hands with Chief Justice John Roberts outside the U.S. Supreme Court. Photo: J. Scott Applewhite / AP

The Supreme Court will no longer hold a hearing on October 10 on the constitutionality of President Trump's travel ban, now that the ban has been replaced by an updated order barring or restricting travel from 8 countries.
Where things stand: The court has not cancelled the case altogether, but will allow both sides to file fresh briefs on Trump's new order by October 5. But, per the NYT's Adam Liptak, "by canceling the arguments for now, the court signaled that it may never decide the case."
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Huffington: Brands like Uber can no longer "hide behind" ad campaigns

Arianna Huffington sits on Uber's board of directors. Photo: Charles Sykes / Invision via AP

Arianna Huffington, who co-founded the Huffington Post and is an Uber board member, reflected on Uber's culture crisis at Fortune and TIME's CEO Initiative, saying "the days when brands could hide behind expensive advertising campaigns are gone." Today, private company memos and comments at board meetings quickly become public — a trend that contributed to the development of the Uber crisis over the summer, Huffington said.

The gritty details: Uber's hyper-growth came at the cost of "worshipping top performers," Huffington said. "If you were a top performer, a lot was forgiven ... I named them 'brilliant jerks.'"

More from Huffington's interview:

  • On private company matters going public: "The consumer needs to love all of the company ... The world has changed. You can't just have a great product. You also need to be a great company."
  • On diversity at Uber: "If you have a workplace that has a couple of ping-pong tables but not a corner for young mothers to pump milk, that's not hospitable to women."
  • On the importance of sleep: Sleep deprivation "costs businesses." Huffington's company Thrive Global recently published a piece by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos on why shareholders benefit when he gets 8 hours of sleep.
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GOP senators propose conservative alternative to Dream Act

From L-R, Tillis, Lankford, Hatch. Photo: Screengrab via CSPAN

GOP Sens. Thom Tillis and James Lankford, joined by Sen. Orrin Hatch, announced the Succeed Act, a conservative alternative to the Dream Act that would give Dreamers a pathway to citizenship with a host of Republican-friendly restrictions.

Why it matters: President Trump has expressed a desire to allow Dreamers to stay in the United States, indicating to Democratic leaders Sen. Chuck Schumer and Rep. Nancy Pelosi that he'd support the Dream Act — provided that it came packaged with increased border security measures. The Tilis-Lankford plan might give Republicans another path forward on immigration.

Lankford said Trump called him late at night to discuss his ideas on the issues, while Tillis said the "far-right and the far-left" don't seem interested in reaching a permanent solution. Hatch said he wanted to pass something that would recognize the "positive contributions" Dreamers were making in U.S. society.

The model:

  • Eligibility would be extended to undocumented immigrants who entered the U.S. under the age of 16 and have been in the country since DACA's inception in June 2012.
  • Young immigrants need to pass a criminal background check and receive a high school diploma, and pay off any back taxes in order to gain "conditional permanent residence," a status they'll have to maintain for 10 years via a college education, steady employment, or military service before they can obtain a green card.
  • Once the young immigrants get a green card, they can apply for citizenship after 5 years.

The big restriction: Young immigrants wouldn't be able to sponsor their parents or family members for permanent residency until they became citizens, essentially creating a 15-year window to prevent "chain migration."

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Report: Hill aide stock trades pose conflicts of interest

An aide whispers to Sen. Dick Durbin as the Senate Judiciary Committee questions top Obama administration officials about the National Security Agency's surveillance programs. Photo: J. Scott Applewhite / AP

Some senior Congressional aides buy and sell stocks that could have a conflict of interest with their work, according to reporting by Politico. Since May 2015, around 450 aides have bought or sold stock of more than $1K value. There are probably more instances, as aides who make less than $124,406 are not required to report their stock purchases.

Why it matters: It's the aides who often have the more hands-on role in writing the details of legislation that impacts these companies, not the members. While the executive branch is far more strict about violating federal conflict-of-interest laws, and actual members of Congress might face much tougher scrutiny, Congress refuses to crack down on rules about stock trading.

Example: In the nine days between the drug company Mylan being accused by Senate Judiciary Committee leaders of violating Medicaid laws and reaching a multi-million dollar settlement, a Senate Judiciary Committee aide sold $4,004-$60,000 worth of stock in the company, according to Politico.

Throwback: Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price faced criticism during his Senate hearing for buying stocks in a small biotech company after sitting in health care committees with influence on legislation that would effect the company. Shortly after Price's harsh questioning, several Congressman also invested in the same biotech company.

See Politico's piece for other aides who are known to have traded stocks.