Saturday’s top stories

Scoop: Biden eyes Russia adviser criticized as soft on Kremlin

Photo: Alexander Shcherbak\TASS via Getty Images

President Biden is considering appointing Matthew Rojansky, head of the Wilson Center's Kennan Institute, as Russia director on the National Security Council, according to a source familiar with the situation.

Why it matters: Rojansky has been praised for his scholarship on Russia and is frequently cited in U.S. media for his expert commentary. But his work has drawn criticism — including in a 2018 open letter from Ukrainian alumni of Kennan that blasted the think tank he runs as an "unwitting tool of Russia’s political interference."

Apr 10, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Maryland lawmakers override Hogan vetoes of police accountability legislation

Marion Gray Hopkins with Coalition of Concerned Mothers speaks during a rally promoting police reform on March 4 in Annapolis, Maryland. Photo: Bonnie Jo Mount/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Maryland's Democratic-controlled legislature on Saturday voted to override Republican Gov. Larry Hogan's vetoes of police accountability legislation.

Why it matters: Maryland is the first state to repeal its Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights, the Washington Post notes.

Listen to “Axios Re:Cap”
Chipotle CEO Brian Niccol discusses wages, worker shortages, and what he'll do about indoor masks.
Miriam Kramer, author of Space
Updated Apr 10, 2021 - Science

NASA's delays Mars helicopter test flight

Ingenuity (left) with Perseverance on Mars. Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

NASA announced Saturday it rescheduled its Ingenuity Mars helicopter's first experimental flight, originally planned for Sunday.

The latest: "During a high-speed spin test of the rotors on Friday, the command sequence controlling the test ended early due to a 'watchdog' timer expiration," NASA said in a statement. "This occurred as it was trying to transition the flight computer from ‘Pre-Flight’ to ‘Flight’ mode."

Apr 10, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Ohio Senate candidate Josh Mandel escorted out of RNC retreat

Ohio Republican Senate candidate Josh Mandel. Photo: Chris Maddaloni / Getty Images

During this weekend’s highly anticipated donor retreat hosted by the Republican National Committee in Palm Beach, Ohio Senate candidate Josh Mandel was escorted off the premises while his primary opponent, Jane Timken, was allowed to stay, two sources with direct knowledge of the situation tell Axios.

What we’re hearing: The invitation-only event is taking place at the Four Seasons Resort, and the RNC reserved the entire hotel. While Timken, former Ohio GOP chair, was invited to the event “because she is a major donor” — Mandel was not, so he was asked to leave, according to one of the sources.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Apr 10, 2021 - Energy & Environment

Report: John Kerry plans to visit China ahead of Biden's climate summit

John Kerry. Photo: Zach Gibson / Stringer

John Kerry, President Biden's special climate envoy, is expected to travel to China next week for meetings with officials aimed at boosting collaboration, the Washington Post reported Saturday.

Why it matters: China is the world's largest carbon dioxide emitter and the U.S. is second-largest.

Second senior Matt Gaetz aide resigns amid federal investigation

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) walking out of the Capitol in January 2021. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Devin Murphy, Rep. Matt Gaetz's legislative director, has stepped down amid a federal investigation into sex trafficking allegations against the Florida Republican congressman, the New York Times first reported and Axios has confirmed.

The latest: "It's been real," Murphy wrote in an email, obtained by Axios, to Republican legislative directors on Saturday morning, with the subject line: "Well...bye."

Rep. Dan Crenshaw says he'll be blind for a month after eye surgery

Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas) in Washington, D.C., in December 2020. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas) said in a statement Saturday he will be blind for roughly a month after getting surgery to reattach the retina in left eye.

Why it matters: Crenshaw, who lost his right eye and sustained severe damage to his left eye during his third deployment to Afghanistan in 2012, said he will be "pretty much off the grid for the next few weeks."

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
Apr 10, 2021 - Politics & Policy

The global future is looking dark and stormy

Illustration: Rae Cook/Axios

A new 20-year-forecast for the world: increasingly fragmented and turbulent.

The big picture: A major report put out this week by the National Intelligence Council reflects a present rocked by the COVID-19 pandemic. How the next two decades will unfold depends largely on whether new technologies will ultimately unite us — or continue to divide us.

Apr 10, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Rep. Gaetz declares he's "not going anywhere" amid sex trafficking probe

Rep. Matt Gaetz. Photo: Eva Marie Uzcategui/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) doubled down Friday night, saying he's not "going anywhere," and vowing, "I have not yet begun to fight," amid a federal investigation into sex trafficking allegations.

What he's saying: “I’m built for the battle, and I’m not going anywhere,” Gaetz, who denies the allegations, said during a Women for America First event at the Trump National Doral Miami resort.

Medical examiner: Police restraint was "just more than Floyd could take"

The medical examiner who performed George Floyd's autopsy testified Friday that law enforcement's restraint and compression of Floyd's neck was "just more than [he] could take," given his heart's condition.

Why it matters: Andrew Baker, the Hennepin County medical examiner, is a key witness "for prosecutors who hope to convince jurors that Derek Chauvin killed Mr. Floyd when he knelt on him for more than nine minutes last May," the New York Times writes.

Dave Lawler, author of World
Apr 9, 2021 - World

U.S. unsure of Iran's "seriousness of purpose" after Vienna nuclear talks

The setting for the talks, in Vienna's Grand Hotel. Photo: EU Delegation in Vienna via Getty

This week's nuclear talks in Vienna "met expectations" but did not assuage U.S. doubts about Iran's willingness to negotiate in good faith over the 2015 nuclear deal, a senior State Department official told reporters on Friday.

The state of play: Iran refused to meet directly with the U.S. but held three days of talks with the nuclear deal's other signatories, while the U.S. — represented in Vienna by Iran envoy Rob Malley — communicated indirectly through envoys, primarily from the European Union.

House Ethics panel opens investigation into Gaetz

Rep. Matt Gaetz speaks during panel at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Orlando, Florida, in February 2021. Photo: Elijah Nouvelage/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The House Ethics Committee announced Friday it has launched an investigation into Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), who is facing a federal probe into sex trafficking allegations.

Driving the news: The panel said it is aware of allegations that Gaetz "may have engaged in sexual misconduct and/or illicit drug use, shared inappropriate images or videos on the House floor, misused state identification records, converted campaign funds to personal use, and/or accepted a bribe, improper gratuity, or impermissible gift."

Biden’s southern border czar Roberta Jacobson to step down at the end of April

Special assistant to the president and coordinator for the Southern Border Ambassador Roberta Jacobson speaks as White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki listens during a daily press briefing at the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House March 10 in Washington, D.C. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Southern border coordinator Roberta Jacobson’s last day in the Biden White House will be at the end of April before she retires, she announced on Friday.

Why it matters: The former ambassador to Mexico has been at the forefront of the administration’s efforts to handle the surge of migrants at the border — which shows no sign of stopping.

New York will impact global cannabis market like no other region

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Despite being half the size of the legal cannabis market in California, New York is poised to impact the larger industry and culture beyond its state lines and U.S. borders.

Why it matters: Even as cannabis is still simultaneously illegal at a federal level and only somewhat legal in 42 states, New York’s unique global identity and mix of industries will enable changes in perception and business operations, experts say.

Rep. Katie Porter on the debate over what is and isn’t infrastructure

President Biden’s $2 trillion infrastructure plan includes spending on child care facilities and senior care — and now members of his administration and allies on Capitol Hill are arguing to expand the definition of infrastructure so it encompasses more than roads and bridges.

Axios Re:Cap speaks with Rep. Katie Porter (D-Calif.), who supports Biden’s plans, but calls the decision to split up family policies and jobs “a big mistake.”

What Amazon's win over union organizers means for tech

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Amazon's success at stopping a union organizing drive at a warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama, shows just how far the labor movement's effort to take on Big Tech still has to go.

Driving the news: The official National Labor Relations Board vote count announced Friday showed more than twice as many "no" votes as "yes."

Apr 9, 2021 - Health

Pfizer asks FDA to expand COVID vaccine authorization to adolescents

Photo: Matthew Hatcher via Getty Images

Pfizer and BioNTech asked the Food and Drug Administration Friday to expand the emergency use authorization of its COVID vaccine to cover adolescents ages 12–15.

Why it matters: The authorization would broaden vaccination efforts and speed up the country's race to herd immunity, a goal that will ultimately require teenagers and children to be vaccinated as well.

Dave Lawler, author of World
Apr 9, 2021 - World

The one place where almost everyone is vaccinated

No mask, no problem. Photo: Cristina Quicler/AFP via Getty

A tiny British territory on the southern tip of Spain may now be the most protected place on Earth, with all but a sliver of the population vaccinated against COVID-19.

Why it matters: Gibraltar offers the rest of Europe a glimpse of what life might soon be like, if supply shortfalls and vaccine hesitancy can be overcome.

Pro-Trump scam PAC operator hit with wire fraud charge

Then-President Trump speaks to a crowd of supporters during a rally at the International Air Response facility on Oct. 19, 2018, in Mesa, Arizona. Photo: Ralph Freso/Getty Images

A man behind a pro-Trump scam PAC has been hit with federal wire fraud charges alleging he bilked hundreds of thousands of dollars from donors with false promises that the money would help support the former president's re-election efforts.

Why it matters: The charge handed down this week against James Kyle Bell shows how brazen some efforts to monetize grassroots political enthusiasm can be.

Forensic pathologist: George Floyd died from neck restraint

A veteran forensic pathologist testified Friday that the position of George Floyd's body appeared to show he could not get enough oxygen before he died, and that "there's no evidence to suggest that he would have died that night except for the interactions with law enforcement."

Why it matters: Her testimony confirms autopsies that show Floyd died from "asphyxia due to neck and back compression that led to a lack of blood flow to the brain," after former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin kneeled on Floyd's neck for over nine minutes.

Biden announces commission to study expanding the Supreme Court

Supreme Court Justices at Biden's inauguration in January 2021. Photo: Patrick Semansky/AP Photo/Bloomberg via Getty Images

President Biden will sign an executive order Friday that creates a bipartisan commission to study a number of Supreme Court reforms, including expanding the number of seats on the court, the White House said.

Why it matters: The six-month commission, promised by Biden throughout the 2020 election, will provide an analysis of the principal arguments surrounding the divisive subject. Progressives are pushing for more seats after former President Trump appointed three justices to the court.

Ina Fried, author of Login
Apr 9, 2021 - Technology

Amazon defeats union effort at Alabama plant

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

In a major win for Amazon, a majority of workers involved in an organizing effort at its distribution center in Bessemer, Alabama, has voted not to unionize.

Why it matters: The vast majority of large tech companies have been composed of non-union workers, and tech companies, including Amazon, have fought hard to keep it that way. The "no" vote in Alabama could chill or delay other unionization efforts in the industry.

Biden unveils $1.52 trillion budget proposal

Biden speaking in the Rose Garden of the White House on April 8. Photo: Yuri Gripas/Abaca/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Biden administration unveiled its first budget proposal to Congress on Friday, offering a glimpse into President Biden's policy agenda for the 2022 fiscal year.

The big picture: The $1.52 trillion budget proposal outlines top-line figures for Biden's major priorities, though it will ultimately be up to Congress to begin the lengthy appropriations process and allocate funding to federal agencies.

Apr 9, 2021 - Health

CDC says Johnson & Johnson vaccine supply will drop 80% next week

Photo: Niels Wenstedt/BSR Agency via Getty Images

Allocations of Johnson & Johnson's coronavirus vaccine will plummet by 80% next week, according to data released by the Centers for Disease and Control Prevention.

Why it matters: J&J's single-dose shot is viewed as key to U.S. efforts to vaccinate enough Americans to reach herd immunity as soon as possible. A spokesperson told the Wall Street Journal that J&J is still aiming to meet its goal of delivering 100 million doses by June.

Updated Apr 9, 2021 - World

Prince Philip, husband of Queen Elizabeth II, dies at 99

Photo: Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images

The United Kingdom's Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, has died at 99, Buckingham Palace announced Friday.

The big picture: The Duke of Edinburgh, who spent 28 days in the hospital earlier this year, was married to the queen for more than 70 years.

The CEO job now includes political activism

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

America's CEOs need policies on the coming verdict in the Minneapolis police trial; the human rights dimensions of next year's World Cup in Qatar and Winter Olympics in Beijing; and voting-access bills — all different — moving through statehouses around the country.

Why it matters: As part of a generational change that has left many corporations on the defensive, CEOs are being pressured by younger workers and potential recruits — plus shareholders and customers — to take stands on issues they had always avoided. This includes the divisive issues of race, guns, climate change and LGBTQ rights.

Mike Allen, author of AM
Apr 9, 2021 - Politics & Policy

A once-in-a-lifetime realignment

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

We're about to be hit with a flood of coverage about the close of President Biden's first 100 days, coming up at the end of April. But we should be paying a lot more attention to the 100-year trends that are unfolding in this age of volatility and polarization.

The big picture: Doug Sosnik — senior adviser to the Brunswick Group, and political director for President Bill Clinton — tells me the digital disruption is a hinge moment in American history that's unlike any since the transition from the Agrarian Age to the Industrial Age in the late 1800s.

Caitlin Owens, author of Vitals
Apr 9, 2021 - Health

America may be close to hitting a vaccine wall

Data: CDC; Cartogram: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

There are growing signs that parts of the country may be close to meeting demand for the coronavirus vaccine — well before the U.S. has reached herd immunity.

Why it matters: For the last few months, the primary focus of the U.S. has been getting shots to everyone who wants them, as quickly as possible. Soon, that focus will abruptly shift to convincing holdouts to get vaccinated.

Ina Fried, author of Login
Apr 9, 2021 - Technology

Why threats to Taiwan are a nightmare for tech

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Threats to Taiwan, the self-governing island only slightly bigger than Maryland, are sending shivers through the global tech industry.

Why it matters: Taiwan is home to 92% of the world's leading-edge chip manufacturing operations and a vital center for producing other tech components, including laptops and PC motherboards.

America's biggest boom since 1946

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

America’s financial titans are coming to a consensus: We are on the early edge of the biggest economic boom since World War II, with the promise of years of growth after the privation of the pandemic. 

Why it matters: They might be wrong, but all point to the same data — this expansion will be kickstarted by trillions in spending from presidents Trump and Biden, the Fed's easy money, and piles of cash that consumers and companies accumulated during the COVID shutdown.

Climate spending is a story of the century

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

A successful global effort to slash carbon emissions demands huge investments to finance the unprecedented transformation of energy systems and related infrastructure — and it's a capital shift that's already well underway.

Why it matters: Private investment is already ramping up, and President Biden wants to spend hundreds of billions of dollars. Independent experts say the spending that will be needed to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 — a goal now embraced by the U.S. and many other countries — would be on the scale of the Industrial Revolution.

GOP Rep. Adam Kinzinger calls for Rep. Matt Gaetz to resign

Rep. Matt Gaetz. Photo: Elijah Nouvelage/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) late Thursday called for Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) to resign amid a federal investigation into sex trafficking allegations.

Why it matters: Kinzinger is the first congressional Republican to publicly demand Gaetz step down. Gaetz has denied allegations of being sexually involved with a 17-year-old, telling Axios in an interview last month that the investigation is "rooted in an extortion effort against my family for $25 million."

Apr 9, 2021 - Economy & Business

World travel isn't simple, even for the vaccinated

Data: Sherpa; Chart: Will Chase/Axios

You've got your COVID vaccine, and the CDC says it's OK to travel this summer, even internationally. But you're likely to find that your overseas options are limited by border restrictions in many countries.

Why it matters: If you don't do your homework before traveling, you could wind up stranded in a foreign airport or quarantined in your hotel room for two weeks.

Updated Apr 9, 2021 - Health

CDC declares racism "a serious public health threat"

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky. Photo: Susan Walsh/AP/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, on Thursday declared racism "a serious public health threat."

Driving the news: Walensky highlighted the disproportionate impact of the coronavirus pandemic on communities of color, pointing to case and death counts, as well as economic and social effects.

Esports scene grapples with anti-Asian hate in U.S.

Image: Overwatch League logo (Activision Blizzard)

Comments from a Korean pro gamer based in Dallas have stirred discussion in the esports world about discrimination against Asian and Asian American players.

Driving the news: “Being Asian here is terrifying,” said Lee “Fearless” Eui-Seok, a player for the Dallas Fuel “Overwatch” team, during a livestream on Monday that was later translated by another team’s manager and has since gone viral.