Posts tagged with "Axios"

Exclusive: Republicans to face pro-Ukraine deluge on return to DC

April 8, 2024

Republican lawmakers returning to DC next week will be hounded at every turn with reminders of the pressure they face to pass aid for Ukraine, reports Axios.

House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-Louisiana) has signaled that the coming weeks will be a make-or-break period on Ukraine and other foreign aid funding.

Pro-Ukraine conservative group,Republicans for Ukraine, is launching a six-figure billboard campaign, according to plans first shared with Axios.

The mobile billboards highlight pro-Ukraine Republican voters with the message: “We’re Republicans. We support Ukraine. Don’t let Putin win.”

The billboards will be stationed at Reagan National Airport as lawmakers fly into D.C. on April 7 and April 8, as well as at bus stops and circling the Capitol.

“Most House Republicans know that helping Ukraine is the right thing to do, but they’ve chosen to stay silent and ignore the problem,” said Republicans for Ukraine spokesperson Gunner Ramer.

“That means further loss of life in Ukraine and more leeway for Putin to act with impunity, which emboldens America’s adversaries like China, Iran, and North Korea.”

The group, which keeps a report card tracking House Republicans’ votes and statements on Ukraine, has run several ad campaigns pressing Republicans to support Ukraine aid.

In February, it ran ads in the districts of ten pro-Ukraine House Republicans—urging them to sign onto Democrats’ discharge petition to force a vote on the Senate’s $95 billion Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan aid package.

Johnson has said that he plans to have the House vote on both Ukraine and Israel aid in some form when the House returns.

He has floated several ideas aimed at making Ukraine aid more palatable to Republicans, such as structuring it as a loan and attaching legislation to reverse the Biden Administration’s pause on liquefied natural gas exports.

But Democrats have scoffed at those proposals, with some even pushing for additional humanitarian aid to be added to the package.

Any Ukraine aid package will almost certainly need the support of most House Democrats and a sizable chunk of Republicans.

A sign of withering GOP support for Ukraine: 104 House Republicans voted in September to quash $300 million in aid to Ukraine, with 117 voting to keep the funding.

Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Georgia) has gone so far as to threaten a vote to remove Johnson, should he hold a vote on Ukraine aid.

NBC polling last November found that 55% of voters support sending more aid to Ukraine, including 35% of Republicans—although an AP poll in February found that just 14% of Republicans believe the USA is sending too little aid to Ukraine.

Research contact: @axios

Judge dismisses Trump lawsuit against former U.K. spy Christopher Steele

February 5, 2024

Former President Donald Trump’s privacy lawsuit against former spy Christopher Steele and his consultancy firm was dismissed by a British High Court judge in London on Thursday, February 1, reports Axios.

Trump’s lawyers argued that the controversial 2017 “Steele dossier,” authored by a former MI6 agent—which included salacious but unverified claims about the 2024 Republican primary front-runner—violated data protection laws.

The FBI used the dossier in efforts to acquire warrants for its investigation into the 2016 Trump campaign’s alleged links to Russia’s government; and Trump’s lawyers told the U.K. court that its “shocking and scandalous claims” caused him to suffer “personal and reputational damage and distress.”

However, British High Court Judge Karen Steyn said in her judgment that there were “no compelling reasons” to allow the case Trump filed against Steele and his company, Orbis Business Intelligence, to proceed to trial.

Steyn wrote that she did not “consider or determine the accuracy or inaccuracy of the memoranda,” but noted Trump had “chosen to allow many years to elapse—without any attempt to vindicate his reputation in this jurisdiction—since he was first made aware of the dossier” in January 2017.

Steyn further noted, “The claim for compensation and/or damages … is bound to fail.”

Orbis Business Intelligence said in a statement that it was “delighted” by the ruling in the case; which, it said, should never have been filed.

“Mr. Trump has already been criticized by U.S. courts for pursuing vexatious litigation against us,” the statement added. “And we feel strongly that Mr. Trump also brought this claim in an attempt to exact revenge on Orbis and to chill free speech and legitimate investigations.”

“The High Court in London has found that there was not even an attempt by Christopher Steele, or his group, to justify or try to prove, which they absolutely cannot, their false and defamatory allegations in the fake ‘dossier’,” Trump campaign spokesperson Steven Cheung said in a statement to the media.

“The High Court also found that there was processing, utilization, of those false statements. President Trump will continue to fight for the truth and against falsehoods such as ones promulgated by Steele and his cohorts.”

Research contact: @axios

Apple suspends sales of Apple Watch 9 and Ultra 2 after blood-monitor dispute

December 19, 2023

Apple is pausing U.S. sales of its Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2 starting December 21, including from Apple retail locations—and Apple’s website from December 24 in response to a U.S. International Trade Commission ruling, reports Axios.

Stopping sales of new products in the middle of the holiday season is the latest in a series of blows to Apple’s revenue in 2023. Apple is facing a fifth consecutive quarter of shrinking revenue. The company announced in a November earnings call that it does not expect to achieve revenue growth this holiday season.

The sales pause follows accusations from Masimo, a medical device company that also produces fitness-tracking smart watches: Masimo says that Apple’s blood oxygen sensor infringed Masimo’s intellectual property—specifically, its pulse oximetry technology.

Apple strongly disagrees with the order,” an Apple spokesperson told Axios in a statement.

“A Presidential Review Period is in progress,” regarding the ITC order, Apple said, adding, “While the review period will not end until December 25, Apple is preemptively taking steps to comply, should the ruling stand. Should the order stand, Apple will continue to take all measures to return Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2 to customers in the United States  as soon as possible.”

The sales pause starts at 3p.m. (ET) on Thursday, December 21., in order to fully comply with a potential enforcement of a U.S. International Trade Commission ruling from Dec. 26.

The ruling would impact all watches from Apple Watch 6 onwards, although Apple, itself ,no longer sells earlier models. Sales outside of the United States are not affected. Apple will appeal the ruling.

Masimo first filed a case in U.S. district court in 2020 alleging 17 patent infringement and trade secrets violations against Apple. Frustrated with the slow pace of the federal court process, Masimo then filed a separate case with the U.S. International Trade Commission, which in October ruled that Apple infringed on some of Masimo’s patents.

This sent the case to the Biden Administration for a 60-day Presidential Review Period, which ends on December 25. It is ultimately up to the U.S. Trade Representative to make a final decision, and the president can weigh in with a veto, though that’s rare.

 While Apple is frustrated with the prospect of slowing sales, there could be a spike in orders during the 72-hour window to make Apple Watch purchases before they shut off.

Research contact: @axios

Jack Smith asks Supreme Court to weigh Trump’s immunity argument

December 12, 2023

The Supreme Court said on Monday, December 11, that it would consider Special Counsel Jack Smith‘s request to rule quickly on whether presidential immunity protects former President Trump from prosecution in the federal 2020 election interference case, reports Axios.

It would be the first time that the high court would have weighed in on part of the legal proceedings involving the former president. Trump’s lawyers argue that he has presidential immunity from the charges.

“This case presents a fundamental question at the heart of our democracy: whether a former President is absolutely immune from federal prosecution for crimes committed while in office,” Smith wrote in the Monday filing.

Smith added that it “is of imperative public importance” for the Court to rule on Trump’s claims of immunity “and that respondent’s trial proceed as promptly as possible, if his claim of immunity is rejected.”

The Supreme Court agreed on Monday to expedite consideration of Smith’s request to consider whether Trump is immune, and gave Trump’s legal team until December 20 to file a response.

Trump’s legal team last week requested a stay on all court proceedings in the 2020 election case, which is currently scheduled to go to trial on March 4.

The former president’s request for a stay came after U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan, who is overseeing the case, rejected Trump’s arguments that he has immunity from the indictment.

A Trump spokesperson accused Smith in a statement of trying for “a Hail Mary by racing to the Supreme Court and attempting to bypass the appellate process.”

The spokesperson added, “As President Trump has said over and over again, this prosecution is completely politically motivated … President Trump will continue to fight for Justice and oppose these authoritarian tactics.”

Prosecutors in their filing cite the 1974 U.S. v. Nixon case, when the Supreme Court ruled that former President Richard Nixon was required to turn over tape recordings during the Watergate scandal, and that he was not protected by “executive privilege.”

The special counsel, in a rare move, is seeking to bypass the federal appeals court and urge the high court to rule quickly on Trump’s claims.

“Respondent’s appeal of the ruling rejecting his immunity and related claims, however, suspends the trial of the charges against him, scheduled to begin on March 4, 2024,” per the filing.

Research contact: @axios

New York Democrats choose Tom Suozzi to run for George Santos’ seat

December 11, 2023

On Thursday, December 7, New York Democrats nominated former Representative Tom Suozzi (D-New York) to fill the seat vacated by former Representative George Santosexpulsion, reports Axios.

The seat in New York’s third congressional district is a top target for House Democrats, who believe Suozzi is a formidable candidate.

“Tom Suozzi has a proven record of fighting for his constituents, fighting to safeguard our suburban way of life here on Long Island and Queens and always advocating for sensible solutions to the real challenges affecting everyday average Americans,” chair of the state’s Democratic Party Jay Jacobs and Queens County Democratic chair Representative Gregory Meeks (D-New York) said in a joint statement.

The special election to fill the House seat will take place on February 13, 2024, New York Governor Kathy Hochul (D) announced last week.

Multiple candidates from both parties have announced bids for Santos’ seat in 2024. But nominees for the special election will be chosen by their respective local party committees. It’s not yet clear who Republicans will pick to challenge Suozzi.

Suozzi launched a comeback bid in October, announcing he would run to get his old seat back. Suozzi beat Santos by nearly 13 points in 2020 before retiring from Congress to unsuccessfully challenge Hochul in the 2022 governor’s race.

He represented New York’s third congressional district from 2017 to 2023.

Research contact: @axios

Move over, Max: Charlie is the top male dog name of 2023

November 16, 2023

Step aside, Max. There’s a new popular male dog name in town: Charlie.

After ten years, Max has been dethroned as the most popular male dog name, according to Rover‘s user-submitted pet name database, reports Axios.

Overall, the top five most popular male dog names are Charlie, Max, Cooper, Milo, and Buddy. Luna remains the top female dog name, followed by Bella, Daisy, Lucy, and Lily.

 However, right now, Kelce is the No. 1 top-trending dog name in the nation, Axios notes—paying homage to the NFL’s Travis and Jason Kelce. Its popularity has grown 135% since last year.

Other trending sports-related names include Celtic, Trae, and Nikola.

 And it’s no surprise that honorable mentions go to Taylor and Swift, which are are trending for cats, while the name Swiftie made the list for the first time for dogs.

Other popular 2024 dog and cat names include the following:

  • Inspired by the 1990s and early 2000s: Alanis (Morissette) followed by Drew Barrymore, Halle Berry, Cornell, Nirvana, and Ginger Spice;
  • Food- and drink-inspired: Prosecco, Beer, Green Bean, Cheerios, S’More, Quince, and Tiramisu;
  • Related to Meta and X: Twitter and AI are trending up for dogs; and
  • TV-inspired: The Bear, Wednesday Addams—and Zava from Ted Lasso—are also among the top trending names in the streaming category.

Research contact: @axios

Inside the pressure campaign to get Jim Jordan the House speaker gavel

October 18, 2023

GOP House Speaker nominee, Representative Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), is ramping up the pressure on his critics ahead of a House floor vote on Wednesday, October 18—but some Republicans are warning it could leave him exposed to backlash, reports Axios.

Jordan got significantly close to 217 votes on Tuesday, but there are too many public holdouts for him to coast to a victory on a first ballot.

Two GOP lawmakers said they are less likely to back Jordan on a second ballot, which could further hinder his odds of getting the gavel.

One House Republican said primary threats have emerged if they don’t back the Jordan, with the member arguing that “the bullying tactics need to stop.”

Jordan spokesperson Russell Dye argued that primary threats are “totally untrue.”

There’s been a massive push to get House Republicans to unify around Jordan, including calls to member offices, conservative TV hosts ramping up the pressure on skeptics, and MAGA influencers taking aim at hesitant members on social media.

But the push has led to some members to argue that backing Jordan would be “rewarding bad behavior,” with one member telling Axios “he’s playing nice guy personally but letting attack dogs do the rest.”

 Some members say they’re encouraged by the Ohio Republican’s openness to bringing up priorities not traditionally backed by conservative hardliners.

Multiple GOP lawmakers said that Jordan told them he would not block legislation linking Ukraine funding to Israel funding, which a Jordan spokesperson then denied.

Other members said that Jordan appeared open to bringing a farm bill to the floor. “Jim seeks my counsel when it comes to agriculture and in where we’re at with the Farm Bill,” House Agriculture Chairman GT Thompson (R-Pennsylvania.) told Axios.

A Jordan spokesperson told Axios that agriculture “is really important to a lot of members, including … Jordan’s own district, and we think conversations about agriculture and the farm bill should continue.”

GOP moderates say they’re concerned about Jordan’s links to former President Donald Trump, and others flagged his ability to fundraise as a weak point.

Centrists and frontliners also have voiced a reluctance to back Jordan after his offer to nominate House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-Louisiana) on the floor only on the first ballot, arguing that the move was disingenuous.

Centrists looking to withhold their votes from Jordan mentioned the 55 members of the conference who voted on Friday, October 13,  that they would not support him on the floor.

Jordan allies have argued that moderates will cave amid the pressure, with plans to vote despite Jordan voicing that no one should go to the floor without 217 votes during an appearance on Fox News just days ago.

Research contact: @axios

Microsoft closes $69 billion deal to buy Activision Blizzard

October 16, 2023

Microsoft finally is closing its $69 billion purchase of Activision Blizzard633 days after announcing its bid, reports Axios.

The deal is the biggest acquisition in Microsoft’s history, and the biggest ever in the games industry. It’s also the outcome of months of lobbying and deal-tweaking by the $2 trillion tech giant in the face of skepticism from regulators in the United States, United Kingdom, and European Union.

Axios notes that an altered version of the deal will involve French mega-publisher Ubisoft purchasing control of cloud gaming rights to Activision Blizzard’s current and upcoming console and PC games.

The companies announced the deal hours after getting the green light from U.K. regulators. Microsoft swiftly rolled out a video montage of its gaming characters and Activision’s Call of Duty cast, set to Rogers and Hammerstein’s classic song, “Oh What a Beautiful Morning.”

Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick said in a memo to employees that he would remain in his position—reporting to Microsoft gaming chief Phil Spencer, through the end of 2023.

The U.K.’s Competition and Markets Authority had blocked the deal in the spring over concerns that Microsoft could substantially reduce competition in the unproven cloud-gaming market, in which players access a game via a remote server as they would a Netflix movie that’s streamed from afar.

E.U. officials had approved the merger in the spring, while the U.S. Federal Trade Commission continues to challenge it in court—although without the power to block it from closing.

The purchase will bolster Microsoft’s already large 23-studio gaming division with control of Activision Blizzard’s three massive gaming divisions, which employ around 13,000 people.

Activision’s collection of studios primarily develop the popular first-person shooter military series, Call of Duty, which even in a recent off year, was the second-best-selling game in the United States.

Blizzard produces long-running massively multiplayer game World of Warcraft as well as the Diablo and Overwatch series.

King—acquired by Activision Blizzard in February 2016 for US$5.9 billion—operates Candy Crush Saga, one of the top mobile games of the last decade.

The deal should bolster Microsoft’s gaming operation, which is in distant third place in the game console market, behind Nintendo’s Switch and Sony’s PlayStation 5.

Microsoft has spent recent years presenting itself not just as a game-maker and console-seller, but as a service-provider through its all-you-can-play Xbox Game Pass subscription service. It is expected to add Activision Blizzard games to that service, although Activision has said that the next Call of Duty won’t go there right away.

Research contact: @axios

Inside Biden’s weekend responding to Hamas attack on Israel

October 11, 2023

U.S. President Joe Biden participated in more than two dozen calls, meetings, and briefings over the weekend as deadly chaos erupted in Israel and Gaza—triggering one of the most acute and dangerous foreign policy crises of his Administration, reports Axios.

Unlike Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Hamas‘ surprise assault on Israel came as a shock to the United States and its allies—testing Biden’s ability to coordinate an emergency response in real-time.

At least 11 Americans were killed in Israel in the Hamas attack, and several Americans are believed to be among the 100+ hostages taken into Gaza by the militant group, Biden confirmed Monday.

The president’s early response to the attack is likely to come under particular scrutiny given that GOP infighting has left Congress paralyzed and without a House Speaker for nearly a week.

Biden was on the phone with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu within hours of an initial briefing early Saturday morning, October 7, according to a White House official.

After vowing to provide Israel with whatever it needed, Biden spent the rest of the morning in constant communication with his national security team, including Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and CIA Director Bill Burns.

Biden also spoke with Jordan’s King Abdullah and checked in on two members of Congress who were in Israel at the time of the attack, before delivering public remarks from the White House just before 3pm ET.

Over the next 48 hoursBiden repeatedly reconvened his national security team as the scale of the atrocities—including American casualties and likely hostages —continued to emerge.

Biden called Netanyahu again on Sunday—shelving tensions over the prime minister’s controversial judicial overhaul as he reiterated the United States’ “rock solid” commitment to Israel.

Netanyahu told Biden in that phone call that Israel has no choice but to unleash a ground operation in Gaza. Biden did not try to press Netanyahu or convince him not to go through with the ground invasion, Axios’ Barak Ravid reports.

On Monday, October 9, Biden pledged to work with Israel “on every aspect of the hostage crisis,” including sharing of intelligence and U.S. expertise. In the afternoon,

The White House was illuminated in blue and white in solidarity with Israel on Monday night, joining the U.K.’s 10 Downing Street, Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate, the Sydney Opera House, and other global landmarks.

“In this moment of heartbreak, the American people stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Israelis. We remember the pain of being attacked by terrorists at home, and Americans across the country stand united against these evil acts that have once more claimed innocent American lives,” Biden said in his own statement Monday.

“It is an outrage. And we will continue to show the world that the American people are unwavering in our resolve to oppose terrorism in all forms.”

Research contact: @axios

Interim GOP speaker orders Pelosi and Hoyer out of Capitol offices

October  4, 2023

Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) and former Democratic Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Maryland) were ordered to move out of their hideaway offices in the Capitol on Tuesday, September 3, reports Axios.

Representative Patrick McHenry (R-North Carolina) gave the order after he became Speaker Pro Tempore on Tuesday. Pelosi blasted it as a “sharp departure from tradition.”

House Administration Committee GOP aides said McHenry “is going to re-assign” the offices, per an email sent about 90 minutes after now-former Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-California) was ousted  and McHenry became acting speaker.

The email asked Pelosi’s staff to “vacate the space tomorrow,” at which point the locks to the office will be changed, according to a copy viewed by Axios.

Pelosi was in San Francisco on Tuesday for the funeral of the late Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-California)—thus missing the vote on removing McCarthy.

Staffers from House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries’ (D-N.Y.) office volunteered to help make the move, according to Pelosi’s office.

Hoyer’s office confirmed to Axios that he was also ordered to vacate his Capitol office.

“With all of the important decisions that the new Republican Leadership must address, which we are all eagerly awaiting, one of the first actions taken by the new Speaker Pro Tempore was to order me to immediately vacate my office in the Capitol,” Pelosi said in a statement.

“This eviction is a sharp departure from tradition. As Speaker, I gave former Speaker Hastert a significantly larger suite of offices for as long as he wished.”

Representatives for McHenry and the House Administration Committee did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Research contact: @axios