Posts tagged with "Axios"

Trump parries with press on CIA report that MBS ordered Khashoggi murder

November 26, 2018

On Thanksgiving, President Donald Trump took time out from thanking himself for doing a wonderful job to say that the CIA did not reach a conclusion about Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s involvement in the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi—adding during a teleconference with U.S. military troops that Salman “regretted the death more than I do,” Politico reported.

The president previously had declined to listen to Turkey’s tape of the actual murder—or to confirm or deny reports that the CIA had concluded that the crown prince ordered Khashoggi’s assassination.

When asked who should be blamed instead, Trump said on the conference call from his residence and private club Mar-a-Lago, “maybe the world” because it’s a “vicious, vicious place,” and referenced oil prices as a reason not to punish Saudi Arabia further, according to pool reports.

Asked by a reporter if the CIA had a recording implicating Salman, Politico noted that the president responded: “I don’t want to talk about it. You’ll have to ask them.”

Later, he answered a question on the crown prince’s possible involvement by saying: “Whether he did or whether he didn’t, he denies it vehemently. His father denies, the king, vehemently. The CIA doesn’t say they did it. They do point out certain things, and in pointing out those things, you can conclude that maybe he did or maybe he didn’t.”

Comments from both the press and the public were, on the whole, critical of Trump’s refusal to denounce the Saudis during the holiday and the preceding week.

“He’s actually publicly lying about whether or not the US government and its intelligence agencies have concluded … that Khashoggi was murdered and by whom, MSNBC anchor Rachel Maddow tweeted on 1 p.m. on November 23.

According to a November 23 report by The Hill, Turkey’s top ranking diplomat scorched President Trump on Friday, accusing him of turning a ‘blind eye’ to the killing of Washington Post journalist and Saudi national Jamal Khashoggi.

“Trump’s statements amount to him saying ‘I’ll turn a blind eye no matter what,'” Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, Turkey’s foreign minister, said in an interview.

“Money isn’t everything. We must not move away from human values,” Çavuşoğlu added.

David Axelrod, director of the University of Chicago’s Institute of Politics, tweeted, “For all his bravado @real Donald Trump has proven himself pathetically weak in the eyes of the world, heeling like a Chihuahua on the end of a gilded Saudi leash,” at 8:42 a.m. on November 22.

Senator Mark Warner (D-Virginia), vice chairman of the Intelligence Committee, commented, “The president’s failure to hold Saudi Arabia responsible in any meaningful way for the death of Jamal Khashoggi is just one more example of this White Houe’s retreat from American leadership on issues like human rights and protecting the free press.”

Finally, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) tweeted, “ … [It] is not in our national security interests to look the other way when it comes to the brutal murder of Mr. Jamal #Khashoggi.”

A poll conducted at the end of October by Axios/SurveyMonkey found that most Americans think President Trump hasn’t been tough enough on Saudi Arabia in response to the  Khashoggi by Saudi agents—with just one-third saying his response had been “about right” and only 5% thinking he had been too tough.

Research contact: @LilyStephens13

In a gift to his base, Trump says he will nullify ‘birthright citizenship’

October 31, 2018

In a direct gift to his political base just a week before the midterm elections, President Donald Trump says he is preparing an executive order to end birthright citizenship in the United States, according to an October 30 report by The New York Times.

According to a same-day story by Axios, “This would be the most dramatic move yet in Trump’s hardline immigration campaign, this time targetinganchor babies’ and ‘chain migration.’ And it will set off another stand-off with the courts, as Trump’s power to do this through executive action is debatable to say the least.”

Playing fast and loose with the truth, the president told Axios, “We’re the only country in the world where a person comes in and has a baby, and the baby is essentially a citizen of the United States for 85 years, with all of those benefits. It’s ridiculous. It’s ridiculous. And it has to end.”

In fact, dozens of other countries, including Canada, Mexico, and many others in the Western Hemisphere, grant automatic birthright citizenship, according to a report by the Center for Immigration Studies, an organization that supports restricting immigration.

Doing away with birthright citizenship for the children of undocumented immigrants was an idea that Trump pitched as a presidential candidate, the Times reported—but there is no clear indication that he would be able to do so unilaterally, and attempting to would be certain to prompt legal challenges.

Indeed, to outlaw birthright citizenship, the POTUS would have to find a way around the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, which states, “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.”

Amendments to the Constitution cannot be overridden by presidential action, the Times noted— and can be changed or undone only by overwhelming majorities in Congress or the states, with a two-thirds vote of both houses of Congress or through a constitutional convention called for by two-thirds of state legislatures.

But some conservatives argue that the 14th Amendment was meant to apply only to citizens and legal permanent residents—not immigrants who are present in the country without authorization.

Whether or not the idea is legal or actionable the president is accomplishing what he thinks needs to be done in the next seven days—appealing to a base of voters who are key to Republican domination in the U.S. Congress.

Research contact: @juliehirschfelddavis

Scores of companies back away from Saudi business over Khashoggi

October 25, 2018

A number of businesses and investors are backing away from doing business with Saudi Arabia until more answers are provided on the disappearance of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, whom Turkish officials believe was murdered inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on October 2.

According to an October 23 report by Axios, many of the world’s largest prospective financial deals involve Saudi Arabia and are predicated on trust in Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) as a reformer. Meanwhile, there is speculation that MBS was personally involved in Khashoggi’s disappearance.

In the three weeks since Khashoggi’s disappearance, several companies and individuals have pulled out of Saudi Arabia’s Future Investment Initiative (FII), a massive conference nicknamed “Davos in the Desert.” The meeting is being hosted by MBS and the kingdom’s sovereign wealth fund from October 23-25 at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Riyadh.

The conference is described by The New York Times as “an extravagant embodiment of Crown Prince Mohammed’s dream to modernize Saudi Arabia and wean it off its reliance on oil by 2030.

Indeed, the Times reported, on the first day of the meeting, MBS presented a blueprint for Neom, a $500 billion planned city that would rise from the desert as a futuristic Zanadu of high-tech jobs and robot workers.

Unfortunately, fewer investors than planned will be on hand to support that vision. According to Axios, the following business, financial, and government invitees have pulled out (in chronological order):

And the list goes on, including about three dozen more high-profile names—among them, J.P. Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, BlackRock CEO Larry Fink, Blackstone CEO Stephen Schwarzman, Ford Chairman Bill Ford, MasterCard CEO Ajay Banga, Sotheby CEO Tad Smith, HSBC CEO John Flint, Credit Suisse CEO Tidjane Thiam, Standard Chartered CEO Bill Winters, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund Christine Lagarde, President of the New York Stock Exchange Stacey Cunningham, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, U.K. Trade Secretary Liam Fox, French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire, and Dutch Finance Minister Wopke Hoekstra.

In addition, several major Saudi supporters who are based in the United States and Europe have cut ties with the Kingdom:

  • Richard Branson, billionaire entrepreneur and founder of Virgin Group, announced on October 18 that he would suspend his directorships of two Saudi tourism projects and is suspending talks of a $1 billion investmentwith the country, saying: “What has reportedly happened in Turkey around the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, if proved true, would clearly change the ability of any of us in the West to do business with the Saudi Government.”
  • Ernest Moniz, former energy secretary under President Obama, is suspending his involvement advising Saudi Arabia on its $500 billion smart city project.
  • Neelie Kroes, a Neom board member and former vice president of the European Commission, said she would suspend her role in the project until more is known.

The conference already has started, with fewer speakers scheduled to be heard.

Research contact: zach.basu@axios.com

With Trump ready to topple Rosenstein, Sen. Kamala Harris calls for bill to protect Russia probe

September 25, 2018

On September 24, Senator Kamala Harris (D-California) urgently called for the Senate to pass legislation that would protect Special Counsel Robert Mueller‘s Russia investigation—a move that came amidst scuttlebutt that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein expects to be fired this week by the White House, The Hill revealed.

Even as Senator Harris was appealing to her colleagues to save the probe—which Rosenstein oversees at the Department of Justice—the Deputy AG was meeting with White House Chief of Staff John Kelly with full expectations that Kelly would give him the axe. However, that did not happen—and Rosenstein did not resign—as the news outlet Axios had predicted that he would.

Instead, the Deputy AG now has been scheduled to meet with President Donald Trump on Thursday, when the POTUS returns from the United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York City. (However, Trump had previously said that he would not sack either Attorney General Jeff Sessions or Rosenstein before the midterm elections. Also, it is not the president’s style to dismiss an employee personally; Trump would be expected to delegate that task, as usual.)

The reports of “a Saturday night-type massacre at the DOJ”—shades of the Nixon administration—came just days after The New York Times published an article claiming that in 2017 Rosenstein proposed surreptitiously taping President Trump, and that he discussed with DOJ colleagues the possibility of invoking the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office.

Senator Harris appealed to her colleagues to protect the ongoing Russia inquiry, which, based on findings of a September 12 CNN poll, is supported by American voters by a 20-percentage-point margin. Respondents nationwide said they approve of Mueller (50%) over Trump (30%) when it comes to the handling of the Russia investigation.

“Republican leaders must allow [the investigation] to be voted on. We can no longer afford to wait. This is a matter of preserving the rule of law,” she said.

Harris’s call for legislative action was echoed by other Democratic senators, including  Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (New York) and Senator Patrick Leahy (Vermont).

“It is more urgent than ever that the Senate pass S.2644, the bipartisan bill to protect the independence of the Special Counsel,” Leahy said on Twitter. “If we do not defend the rule of law in these moments, we risk losing it.”

Leahy also noted in a later tweet, “Saturday Night Massacres don’t need to happen on a Saturday. If President Trump fires DAG Rod Rosenstein or forces his resignation, he will come one giant leap closer to directly meddling with the Special Counsel’s Russia investigation.

Senator Gillibrand said, “The Senate must step up to protect the Special Counsel immediately. We must pass the bipartisan bill to protect the Mueller investigation. The American people deserve answers about Russian interference in our democracy.”

Research contact: @JustinFWise

Out of the blue: Republicans look toward a litigious future

August 28, 2018

The end is near–or at least that’s what Congressional Republicans are expecting, as the midterm “Blue Wave” approaches. Axios’s National Political Reporter Jonathan Swan has obtained a spreadsheet that, he says, has “circulated through Republican circles on and off Capitol Hill” and that scrupulously previews the investigations Democrats will likely launch if they flip the House.

Publicly, Axios reports, House Republicans are “putting on a brave face” about the midterms. But behind closed doors, they are preparing for the worst. The document, which catalogs the requests that Democrats already have made, is part of that effort.

According to Swan, the following list enumerates some of the probes that the GOP predicts will be launched by mid-November:

  • President Trump’s tax returns;
  • Trump’s family businesses — and whether they comply with the Constitution’s emoluments clause, including the Chinese trademark grant to the Trump Organization;
  • Trump’s dealings with Russia, including the president’s preparation for his meeting with Vladimir Putin;
  • The hush money paid to Stephanie Clifford — a.k.a. Stormy Daniels;
  • Former FBI Director James Comey’s firing;
  • Trump’s firing of U.S. attorneys;
  • Trump’s proposed transgender ban for the military;
  • Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s business dealings;
  • White House staff’s personal email use;
  • Cabinet secretary travel, office expenses, and other misused perks;
  • Discussion of classified information at Mar-a-Lago;
  • Jared Kushner’s ethics law compliance
  • Dismissal of members of the EPA board of scientific counselors;
  • The travel ban;
  • Family separation policy;
  • Hurricane response (or lack therof) in Puerto Rico;
  • Election security and hacking attempts; and
  • White House security clearances.

The spreadsheet in question, says Swan, originated in a senior House Republican office —and catalogs more than 100 formal requests from House Democrats this Congress, spanning nearly every committee.

The bottom line, the Axios political pundit reports: Thanks to their control of Congress, Republicans have blocked most of the Democrats’ investigative requests. But if the House flips, the GOP loses that advantage.

Swan says that lawyers close to the White House have told him that the Trump administration “is nowhere near prepared for the investigatory onslaught that awaits them, and they consider it among the greatest threats to his presidency.”

Research contact: @jonathanvswan

White House unveils $12 billion aid plan for farmers impacted by trade war

July 26, 2018

On July 24, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue revealed details of an emergency plan that would extend $12 billion in aid to farmers in ten states hit by retaliatory tariffs caused by the Trump administration’s escalating trade war with China, Axios reported.

However, word has come back from the sector that the farmers “want trade, not aid,” according to a report by Newser.

The funding for the expensive program would come partially from a USDA branch called the Commodity Credit Corporation, which was founded during the Depression to help farmers, according to a July 25 story by The Washington Post. Because this is an existing program, approval by Congress would not be necessary.

Farm groups–including producers of soybeans, corn, and hogs—would begin seeing payments by September. Perdue said the “one-time” program, which would be “short-term,” would help farmers dealing with “illegal retaliation” to U.S. tariffs, The Wall Street Journal noted. The Ag Secretary said that the program would give the administration time to work on a longer-term trade solution.

According to Axios, China recently retaliated against Trump’s tariffs with duties on soybeans and pork—affecting 10 farming states, nine of which voted for Trump in 2016.

According to a poll conducted by NBC News and The Wall Street Journal—and posted by  CNBC on July 22—voters do not approve of President Donald Trump’s handling of foreign trade policy. Roughly half say Trump’s tariffs will raise consumer prices and hurt the average American, while only one-quarter say they will protect jobs and help the average person.

Research contact: @mmurraypolitics

Trump leaves ‘special relationship’ with NATO allies in doubt

July 12, 2018

Leading up to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) summit in Brussels this week (July 1-12), U.S. President Donald has left America’s “special relationship” with its European allies in doubt.

In June, the POTUS wrote harsh letters to the leaders of several NATO allies—among them, Belgium, Canada, Germany, and Norway— taking them to task for spending too little on their own defense and warning that the United States is losing patience with what he said was their failure to meet security obligations shared by the alliance, Axios reported.

“Trump still seems to think that NATO is like a club that you owe dues to, or some sort of protection racket where the U.S. is doing all the work protecting all these deadbeat Europeans while they’re sitting around on vacation, and now he is suggesting there are consequences,” Derek Chollet, a former U.S. Defense Department official who is the EVP for Security and Defense Policy at the German Marshall Fund of the United States told The New York Times.

Europeans have been watching Donald Trump begin to implement his rhetoric on trade in ways that are very combative,” he said, “and they’re starting to contemplate whether he would do this regarding security issues, as well.”

According to poll findings by Pew Research Center, the American public does not necessarily agree with its president. About six-in-ten Americans (62%) had a favorable opinion of NATO in a 2017 Pew Research survey of the United States. and 11 other member countries.

Across all 12 NATO member countries included in the 2017 survey, a median of 61% approved of the alliance, including a majority of respondents in every country except Spain, Greece and Turkey. In the Netherlands and Poland, roughly eight-in-ten (79%) said they have a positive view of NATO.

According to Axios, European Council President Donald Tusk directly addressed President Trump on the eve of Wednesday’s NATO summit, warning the United States to “appreciate your allies; after all you don’t have that many.”

Dear Mr. President: Please remember about this tomorrow, when we meet at the NATO summit, but above all, when you meet President Putin in Helsinki,” Tusk said. “ It is always worth knowing: who is your strategic friend? And who is your strategic problem?”

Senior European officials told Axios’ National Political Reporter Jonathan Swan that they’re worried Trump will spend the NATO summit beating up on European allies for not spending enough on defense. In his remarks, Tusk acknowledged that Europe should spend more, but emphasized that “genuine solidarity” is most important.

Research contact: info@pewresearch.org

Pope convenes Big Oil producers and investors to talk climate change

June 4, 2018

Pope Francis is hosting a gathering this week at the Vatican with executives of major oil producers and investment firms to discuss how their organizations can address climate change, Axios reported exclusively on June 1.

Three years ago, Pope Francis wrote his encyclical — a papal letter sent to all bishops of the Roman Catholic Church — on the importance of addressing climate change, a first in the church’s history.

Following U.S. President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Agreement in June 2017, the meeting convened by the Pope promises to send a significant signal that the industry still intends to work with world leaders on global warming.

Among those who already have promised to attend are the following:

  • Larry Fink, CEO of BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager;
  • Bob Dudley, CEO of BP;
  • Multiple sources said ExxonMobil would be represented, although a company spokesman was unable to confirm that to Axios;
  • Eldar Sætre, CEO of Equinor, an oil and energy producer partially owned by the Norwegian government (formerly Statoil);
  • Ernest Moniz, former U.S. Energy Secretary under then-President Barack Obama; and
  • Lord John Browne, former CEO of BP and current executive chairman of L1 Energy, an oil and gas investment firm.

The focus of the gathering, according to Axios, will be similar to that of the encyclical (“On Care For Our Common Home”)—with an emphasis on the energy transition of a “shared home.”

The news outlet notes that, while it surely will be a momentous and symbolic meeting, “it’s still just a meeting.” To what degree the Vatican gathering will prompt change and new developments remains a big question mark.

A 2018 poll by Gallup found that, although the POTUS is “all out” on climate change, the American public is “all in.” Fully 62% of U.S. adults contacted said that the government is doing too little about the environment—representing the highest percentage since 2006. The pollsters noted that the majority of Americans have prioritized the environment, even if it limits economic growth.

Research contact: datainquiry@gallup.com

Healthcare CEOs are not ‘bleeding money’

May 4, 2018

The Axios new site revealed the annual compensation of five chief executives in the healthcare industry on May 3—and their bank accounts are extremely robust.

In fact, Axios reports, some of these pay packages for pharmaceutical leaders represent “hundreds of times more than the median employee at their companies” is making.

The CEO numbers are calculated using actual realized stock gains, instead of the estimates that are displayed in company filings. (Employee figures are the only numbers listed in filings and may only include estimated stock.)

Biogen (Therapies for neurological and neurodegenerative diseases)

  • CEO Michel Vounatsos: $4.9 million
  • Pay ratio: 33:1 (median employee made $148,904)

Celgene (Medicines for inflammatory disorders and cancers)

  • CEO Mark Alles: $4.5 million
  • Pay ratio: 21:1 (median employee made $213,089)
  • Retired CEO Bob Hugin, who is running for U.S. Senate (R-New Jersey), made $40.5 million.

DaVita (Dialysis treatments)

  • CEO Kent Thiry: $15.6 million
  • Pay ratio: 258:1 (median employee made $60,332)

Exact Sciences (Early detection of colorectal cancer)

  • CEO Kevin Conroy: $32.3 million
  • Pay ratio: 328:1 (median employee made $98,724)

Sage Therapeutics (Medicines for central nervous system disorders)

  • CEO Jeff Jonas: $28.2 million
  • Pay ratio: 73:1 (median employee made $383,682)

These compensation packages have drawn attention from the American public and legislators. At a press conference in January 2017, U.S. President Donald Trump accused the pharmaceutical industry of “getting away with murder” and said that he would change the way the country bids on drugs to bring prices and spending down, according to a report by The Washington Post.

“Pharma has a lot of lobbies, a lot of lobbyists and a lot of power. And there’s very little bidding on drugs,” Trump said during the event at Trump Tower in New York. “We’re the largest buyer of drugs in the world, and yet we don’t bid properly.”

To date, the federal government has not been allowed to negotiate with drug companies to bring down the price of medicines for seniors using Medicare.

Even if legislation were passed to enable such deals, these high pay packages likely would make the process more difficult.

Research contact: bob@axios.com

Digital publishers see the future—and it is streaming video

May 2, 2018

Digital publishers are doubling down on new TV-like video programming— specifically with streaming services, like Netflix, as well as with linear TV networks—Axios reported on May 1.

Indeed, a Nielsen Total Audience Report found that, as of June 2017, 69.5 million U.S. TV households owned at least one Internet-enabled device capable of streaming content to the television set.

And, as streaming video becomes an increasingly integral part of home entertainment, publishers are seeing a new way to reach their target audiences. The latest developments, according to Axios, include the following:

  • The New York Times announced on April 30 that it will turn its medical column, “Diagnosis,”’ into a Netflix series.
  • It joins Buzzfeed, Vox and Fusion Media Group, which all have inked deals with Netflix this year, for programs varying in length. (Buzzfeed shows will run roughly 15 minutes per episode.)
  • Conde Nast has distributed its original content series, “The Fashion Fund,” on Amazon since 2016.

The social media sites also are turning their attention to show-like content, pushing publishers to create content partnerships on their video channels, like Facebook Watch and Snapchat Discover.

While monetization opportunities vary by platform, advertisers see premium on-demand video as a solid branding opportunity. It has “the potential to create deeper context while building communities for brands who go all in with this approach,” Laura Correnti, EVP of marketing and communications strategy agency Giant Spoon, told Axios.

Research contact: news@axios.com