Justin Trudeau's Liberals to form minority government after close Canada election win

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's Liberal Party was set to form a minority government after being re-elected Monday in a close election race in Canada, CBC and CTV News projections show.

In his victory speech, Justin Trudeau told Canadians that even if they didn't vote for him, the Liberal Party works for all people of Canada pic.twitter.com/zh2zuq85HV

— NEWSTALK1010 (@NEWSTALK1010) October 22, 2019

By the numbers: The Liberals had won or were leading in 157 of the 338 available seats, according to results early Tuesday. Nearest rival the Conservative Party has secured 121 seats, per CBC.

What they're saying: President Trump tweeted a congratulatory message to Trudeau Monday night on what he called "a wonderful and hard fought victory."

"Canada is well served. I look forward to working with you toward the betterment of both of our countries!"
Trump's tweet to Trudeau

The big picture: After seeing his popularity plummet, Trudeau received a welcome boost last Wednesday from former President Barack Obama, who made a rare endorsement of a foreign leader in a tweet stating that "the world needs" the Canadian PM's "progressive leadership."

Go deeper: Trudeau’s pivot: Vows to ban military-style assault rifles, including AR-15

Editor's note: This is a developing news story. Please check back for updates.

Tue, 22 Oct 2019 05:48:25 +0000

WashPost: Putin and Hungary PM Orban denigrated Ukraine to Trump

Russian President Vladi­mir Putin and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban denigrated Ukraine during conversations with President Trump, the Washington Post first reported Monday. The New York Times reports Trump met with Orban 10 days before a key Ukraine meeting, despite objections from then-National Security Adviser John Bolton.

Why it matters: Per the NYT, Trump’s concerns on U.S. ally Ukraine "set the stage for events that led to the impeachment inquiry against him." The May 13 meeting with fierce Ukraine critic Orban and a May 3 phone call between Trump and Putin "are of intense interest to House investigators seeking to piece together the back story that led to the president’s pressure on Ukraine to investigate Democrats," the Times said.

The big picture: AP reports that George Kent, a deputy assistant secretary of state, told House impeachment investigators during closed-door testimony that "Putin and Orban had soured Trump’s attitude toward Ukraine.

What they're saying: A former U.S. official familiar with the conversation details told WashPost that during a May call to Trump, Putin "did what he always does" — he cast aspersions on Ukraine. "He has always said Ukraine is just a den of corruption," the source said.

Yes, but: Officials told WashPost neither Putin nor Orban encouraged Trump "to see Ukraine as a potential source of damaging information" on former Vice President Joe Biden or over unsubstantiated allegations that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 U.S. election.

Go deeper: Trump-Ukraine scandal: All the key players, dates and documents

Editor's note: This article has been updated with new details throughout.

Tue, 22 Oct 2019 04:49:24 +0000

Trump's Syria strategy: Get out, but "keep the oil"

A U.S. military convoy withdrawing from Syria for Iraq today was pelted with fruit and stones by Kurdish civilians who accuse the superpower they once saw as their protector of leaving them in peril.

Driving the news: “We never agreed to protect the Kurds for the rest of their lives,” President Trump responded back in Washington. He said the U.S. would keep small detachments in Syria at the request of Israel and Jordan and to “protect the oil," but there was otherwise "no reason" to remain.

What to watch: The deal expires tomorrow night and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has vowed to resume his offensive if the so-called “safe zone” he’s demanded isn’t cleared of Kurdish fighters. Erdogan will be meeting tomorrow with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Behind the scenes: I asked McGurk today whether he'd ever heard Trump express interest in what would become of Syria after the ISIS caliphate was defeated.

Trump did express interest in what would happen to Syria's oil. McGurk said he explored the issue with Rex Tillerson, who was then secretary of state and previously ExxonMobil CEO.

Reality check: "I think [Tillerson's] phrase was, 'That's not how oil works,' McGurk said, noting that the oil legally belongs to the Syrian state.

The bottom line: "We don’t want these resources to get in the hands of terrorists or others, but maybe Trump should have thought about this before he basically made a decision that unraveled the tapestry that had been working relatively well," McGurk said.

Go deeper ... Expert Voices: Years of muddled U.S. strategy deepened Syria crisis

Mon, 21 Oct 2019 23:22:46 +0000

House Republicans' effort to censure Adam Schiff fails

An effort by House Republicans to censure House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) for his actions in the impeachment inquiry into President Trump failed with a 218-185 party-line vote on Monday.

The backdrop: The resolution, crafted by Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) centered on Schiff's mocking interpretation of Trump's July phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky during a committee hearing last month, which it called "a false retelling" that "misled the American people." The incident prompted Trump to brand Schiff "a sick man" at the time.

Read the failed resolution:

Go deeper ... Trump-Ukraine scandal: The key players, dates and documents

Mon, 21 Oct 2019 23:03:27 +0000

Scoop: Adam Neumann will determine WeWork's fate

Japanese investment firm SoftBank will pay former WeWork CEO and current non-executive chairman Adam Neumann around $200 million to leave the board of directors, give up his voting shares and support SoftBank's takeover, according to multiple sources familiar with the situation.

Why it matters: It's a dramatic — and legally dubious — development in a saga that has seen the embattled company plunge from a $47 billion valuation to below $8 billion. SoftBank's board will vote on Tuesday, but that's irrelevant, since Neumann's 10 votes per share are the only ones that matter. It's unclear if Neumann's successors Sebastian Gunningham and Artie Minson will stay on as co-CEOs.

Details: The deal from SoftBank will come from SoftBank Corp., not the SoftBank Vision Fund. It will include a $3 billion tender offer to employees at $20 a share, plus additional equity.

Go deeper: WeWork is running out of money

Mon, 21 Oct 2019 22:56:30 +0000

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Mon, 21 Oct 2019 21:48:29 +0000

"You people with this phony emoluments clause": Trump reacts to G7 criticism

In lengthy public comments at a Cabinet meeting on Monday, President Trump railed against media criticism of his decision — which he has since walked back — to hold next year's G7 summit at his Doral resort in Miami.

"I don't know if you know it — George Washington, he ran his business simultaneously while he was president. There weren't too many really rich presidents, but there were a few. They ran their business. Hey, Obama made a deal for a book. Is that running a business? I'm sure he didn't even discuss it while he was president. Yeah, yeah. He has a deal with Netflix. When did they start talking about that? That's only a couple of examples. ... I don't think you people with this phony emoluments clause — and by the way, I would say that it's cost me anywhere from $2 billion to $5 billion to be president. And that's OK.

Why it matters: Throughout his presidency, Trump has faced allegations that he and his family have abused the office of the presidency to enrich themselves. His G7 decision drew bipartisan scrutiny at a time when Trump needs Republicans in Congress to remain loyal as he weathers an impeachment inquiry.

Reality check: The emoluments clause of the Constitution is not "phony."

Go deeper: Mulvaney says Trump was "honestly surprised" at level of backlash over G7 decision

Mon, 21 Oct 2019 17:55:16 +0000

Israel's Netanyahu fails to form government for 2nd time in 6 months

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu returned the mandate for forming a government to President Reuven Rivlin on Monday after failing to cobble together enough support for a coalition within the 28-day timeframe that Rivlin had granted.

Why it matters: This is the second time in six months that Netanyahu has failed to form a government after an election. Benny Gantz, leader of the center-left Blue and White party, will now get an opportunity to form a coalition, but he's also unlikely to succeed. The chances are growing that Israel will be forced to hold a third election this year.

Context: After Israel's Sept. 27 election ended in a near tie, both Netanyahu and Gantz were pushed to the negotiating table by Rivlin, who proposed a unity government in which the job of prime minister would rotate.

What they're saying: In a statement he published after returning the mandate to Rivlin, Netanyahu blamed Gantz for not agreeing to form a unity government. Netanyahu stressed that if Gantz tries to form a minority government with the support of the Arab-Israeli parties, he will fight against him as leader of the opposition.

The big picture: This is the first time this has happened since October 2008, when Tzipi Livni, then the chairman of the Kadima party, failed to form a coalition and had to return the mandate to then-President Shimon Peres. Since then, Netanyahu has been the only politician to receive the mandate.

Yes, but: Gantz doesn’t have a 61-member majority in the Knesset yet and will have difficulties forming a coalition. It's likely that in 28 days, Gantz will give the mandate back to Rivlin, who will then have another 21 days to consult with the different factions to try to find a solution. If no solution is reached, Israel will have its third election of the year.

This is breaking news. Please check back for updates.

Mon, 21 Oct 2019 17:08:33 +0000

Inside the esports investment boom

Ever been at a party where you just felt you didn't belong? Now imagine that there are over 13,000 people at the party. That was me recently at Philadelphia's Wells Fargo Center while filming an "Axios on HBO" segment about professional esports.

The big picture: It was the final match of Overwatch League, which mimics traditional pro sports leagues by having geographically based teams. Over its first two seasons those teams have all played out of an Activision Blizzard-owned arena in LA, but next year, they'll move to home venues.

Bobby Kotick, CEO of Activision Blizzard, said that he doesn't view Overwatch League as a marketing cost for the game itself, but instead believes it could eventually rival or top traditional U.S. sports leagues.

Angela Ruggiero, a four-time Olympic ice hockey player and current head of Sports Innovation Lab, said that esports players exhibit many of the same traits as traditional athletes, including performance deterioration with age.

Andy Miller, owner of the San Francisco Shock and other esports teams, says he paid a $20 million franchise fee for Overwatch and that his esports org expects to be "very close to profitable if not profitable" next year.

The bottom line: The big difference between pro esports and traditional sports is who's in charge. In esports, the publisher is king. The commissioner works for the CEO, not for the franchise owners.

Go deeper: Read Axios' deep dive on the business of sports

Mon, 21 Oct 2019 16:56:21 +0000

Trump is maintaining his digital lead in the 2020 campaign

As the 2020 election inches closer, Republicans continue to enjoy the digital edge they seized in 2016.

Why it matters: Online ad spending offers President Trump an efficient way to target sympathetic voters with fundraising pitches and barrage them with inflammatory messages on issues ranging from immigration to impeachment.

The big picture: This conflict, as we've been reporting, is unfolding on platforms that have given politicians a nearly unlimited free pass to tell lies.

Driving the news: The New York Times reported on Sunday that Trump is using ads on digital platforms more aggressively and creatively than Democrats.

By the numbers: Trump's campaign was massively outspending Democrats online earlier this year, but many Democrats have recently opened the floodgates, too.

Between the lines: What differentiates the parties is less dollar totals than tactics.

Yes, but: Democrats have the advantage in small-dollar online donations.

Our thought bubble: It's hard to envision any candidate winning the 2020 race without a top-notch strategy for digital and social media.

What's next: CEO Mark Zuckerberg will talk about Facebook's role in the 2016 and 2020 elections on an interview with NBC News' Lester Holt this evening.

Mon, 21 Oct 2019 14:37:31 +0000

Professional sports leagues get creative with ownership options

In an effort to expand the pool of potential team buyers, the NFL, NBA and MLB are considering drastic changes to how business is done.

Why it matters: Team valuations have skyrocketed in recent years, creating a dearth of individuals wealthy enough to buy the next teams put up for sale.

1. The NFL is considering increasing the amount of money that prospective owners can borrow from $350 million to $1 billion.

2. The NBA is mulling the creation of an investment vehicle that would buy minority ownership stakes across multiple teams.

3. MLB has altered its rules to allow investment funds to buy limited stakes in multiple franchises.

Go deeper: NBA mulling an investment fund for team equity

Mon, 21 Oct 2019 13:03:49 +0000

Mitt Romney and Lindsey Graham are the 2 GOP senators to watch as Trump's impeachment looms

As President Trump's standing with Republican lawmakers grows more precarious, the two senators to watch — for totally different reasons — are Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah and Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, and we talked to both of them last night on "Axios on HBO."

Why they matter: With Trump's impeachment by the House growing ever more likely, he has to keep his red wall of Republican Senate support so that, like President Clinton, he'll be acquitted rather than removed after a Senate trial.

Romney has never liked Trump, and friends who have talked privately with the senator tell me he could be one of the first votes to convict. 

Graham, a former Trump critic who's now one of his most vital allies on Capitol Hill, sounds exasperated by Trump but is sticking by him.

🎬 Top bites from the senators' interviews on last night's "Axios on HBO":

Go deeper:

Mon, 21 Oct 2019 10:03:19 +0000

The missing housing boom

The real estate market should be experiencing a boom — but it's not. In fact, the U.S. housing market has been stagnant for the last 3 years and is beginning to turn lower, data shows.

Why it matters: Anyone who bought residential property in the last 40 years, even at the height of a bubble, has been able to count on rising home values. But those days may be over: Real estate prices have far outpaced incomes and lost their correlation to them.

Why there should be a boom: The generation that's reaching prime home-buying age is large by historic measures; mortgage rates are near historic lows; housing price growth has slowed to a standstill; the unemployment rate is the lowest it has been in 50 years; and wages are rising at the fastest pace in a decade.

What's happening instead: There is a serious lack of qualified and/or interested buyers. And even with ultra-low mortgage rates, prices are not falling enough to bring in new customers.

And there's an inventory problem. Not enough affordable single-family homes are being constructed, and builders are focusing their efforts on large, expensive projects, Robert Dietz, chief economist for the National Association of Home Builders, argues.

The combination of inflated prices and overburdened Americans has translated to fewer home sales today than in the year 2000, Lawrence Yun, chief economist at the National Association of Realtors, notes.

The bottom line: The world is changing. It's "the end of the boom," Skoczek says.

Mon, 21 Oct 2019 09:30:34 +0000

Employers aren't changing their health benefits

Companies rarely switch the health plans they offer to their workers, and seem to be especially cautious in the 2020 election year.

The big picture: Medical and drug costs are crushing employers and workers alike. But altering benefits — which could require employees to change their doctors — could provoke even more anger.

By the numbers: Roughly half of employers offering health benefits did not shop around for new plans or insurance companies for 2019, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation's latest employer benefit survey.

"Disruption is the enemy," Mike Turpin, an employer health care consultant at the brokerage USI Insurance Services, said on a call with Wall Street investors last week.

Between the lines: More companies have moved workers into less comprehensive plans since the Affordable Care Act was passed, but those changes often have been met with either immediate condemnation (like Harvard in 2015) or delayed outrage as workers shoulder more costs.

Yes, but: Millions of people still switch health plans every year when they buy it on their own, change jobs, get laid off or retire.

Go deeper: If there's a turning point on health costs, it'll come from employers

Mon, 21 Oct 2019 09:00:41 +0000

Not a hoax or an emergency: What swing voters think of climate change

Swing voters in three of America’s top battleground states say climate change is a concern, but not an urgent crisis.

The big picture: The results of focus groups in Ohio, Minnesota and Wisconsin suggest that some of America’s swing voters have views on climate change that are in between Democratic presidential candidates, who think it’s a crisis, and President Trump, who dismisses it altogether.

Why it matters: It’s voters living in states like these who fill pivotal roles electing America’s presidents because of how our electoral system works, so it’s worth listening to them. Groups of between 9 and 11 swing voters in those 3 states answered questions about a range of topics, including climate change. (Check out my colleague Alexi McCammond’s broader coverage.)

What they’re saying: The participants were asked the following fill-in-the-blank exercise: Climate change is a ____. Of the more than 2 dozen responses, most (14) chose words that somehow described climate change as a problem, with “concern” being the most common word.

Their stated degree of urgency is a key factor in whether climate change becomes a big enough priority to help determine their vote. Although this topic is getting more attention this election than it has perhaps ever before, these lukewarm reactions suggest it’s still not breaking through.

“There are lots of other issues competing for voters’ attention, so if they perceive it’s not urgent, there’s a tendency to put it on the back burner,” said Anthony Leiserowitz, senior research scientist and director of Yale University’s Program on Climate Change Communication.

Between the lines: Climate change is unlike any other problem facing the world given its centuries-long time horizon and uneven impact (as I detailed in these two recent columns).

Driving the news: In the political arena, the rhetoric is intensifying. Activists and many progressive politicians are increasingly calling climate change an emergency, while most Democrats say it’s a crisis. Certain media outlets are revamping their coverage and, in some cases, changing their style books.

What I’m watching: When asked if climate change is an emergency, one of the Obama-Trump voters in Minnesota said her daughter would describe it that way. I'm watching to what degree younger voters — who polling suggests are more worried about climate than older generations — retain that sense of urgency as they get older. This could determine whether climate change will be a more decisive issue in future elections.

Go deeper:

Mon, 21 Oct 2019 09:00:35 +0000

As Pentagon chief makes surprise visit to Afghanistan, so does Pelosi

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and other top U.S. lawmakers met with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani during an unannounced visit to Afghanistan, her office confirmed Sunday night. Defense Secretary Mark Esper was also in Kabul in an effort to restart stalled peace talks with the Taliban.

Details: President Trump had previously declared the peace talks "dead" after a Taliban bombing killed an American soldier in September. The issue of the Taliban was high on the agenda for the congressional delegation.

What she's saying: Pelosi said in a statement that the nine-person delegation was briefed by diplomats including U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan John Bass on issues such as "reconciliation efforts with the Taliban," women's rights and the still-pending September election results.

“Meeting with and hearing directly from our troops and diplomats on the ground is essential for Congress to conduct effective oversight of our mission in Afghanistan.  We will return to Washington strengthened with the facts and the first-hand knowledge we have gathered at this critical time for our nation’s Afghanistan policy and inspired by the courage of our servicemembers and diplomats on the front lines."
Pelosi statement

The big picture: Pelosi also paid tribute to her 90-year-old brother, former Baltimore Mayor Thomas D’Alesandro III, who died on Sunday, remembering him in a separate statement as "the finest public servant I have ever known."

Go deeper: Trump ordered stepped-up military operations in Afghanistan

Mon, 21 Oct 2019 07:26:01 +0000

The Justice Department distances itself from Rudy Giuliani

Department of Justice officials wouldn't have met with Rudy Giuliani about a fraud case had they known that federal prosecutors were investigating two of his business associates, a DOJ official told the New York Times Sunday.

Why it matters: The highly unusual statement by DOJ spokesperson Peter Carr to the NYT clearly distances the department from President Trump's personal lawyer, whose associates Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman have been indicted in New York on campaign finance charges.

What they're saying: Brian Benczkowski, the head of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, and other top Justice Department officials met with Giuliani before the pair was charged to discuss a fraud case "in which he and other attorneys were representing the defendants," per the Times.

"When Mr. Benczkowski and fraud section lawyers met with Mr. Giuliani, they were not aware of any investigation of Mr. Giuliani’s associates in the Southern District of New York and would not have met with him had they known."
Carr's statement to the NYT

Go deeper: Trump's Rudy problem

Mon, 21 Oct 2019 03:04:42 +0000

Exclusive: Mitt Romney’s Trump indictment

Sen. Mitt Romney, in an interview with “Axios on HBO," outlined a broad indictment of President Trump, criticizing his rhetoric, his abandonment of the Kurds, his plea to Ukraine and China to undermine a political opponent, his character and past personal life.

Why it matters: Romney, who has emerged as the party's most prominent Trump critic, is getting overtures to run against the president (he won’t) or lead the charge to get senators to convict Trump if the House impeaches him.

Romney, who wrote in his wife, Ann, when he voted in 2016, has only soured on Trump since then:

Talking to me at his home outside Salt Lake City, Romney made it clear that he's open to voting to remove Trump.

Go deeper:

Sun, 20 Oct 2019 22:29:59 +0000

Amid Ukraine scandal, Trump officials worry about Rudy Giuliani's financial motives

Amid near-daily revelations of Rudy Giuliani’s “shadow” foreign policy, senior administration officials are worried that more information could surface connecting official Trump administration policy to Giuliani's personal financial gain.

The big picture: Several people close to the president are infuriated that Giuliani exerts what they see as unwarranted influence over Trump and U.S. foreign policy, with some going so far as to blame him outright for the Ukraine mess.

On Capitol Hill, those investigating Trump tell me they are still committed to keeping their investigation tightly focused on Ukraine in order to wrap up their impeachment inquiry as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Meanwhile, some Trump officials say the only person who can rein in Giuliani is the president himself.

This morning on "ABC This Week," George Stephanopoulos asked Pompeo whether he gave Giuliani his blessing to act on behalf of the State Department.

Trump transition flagged Rudy concerns in 2016

These concerns with Giuliani aren't new:

In June, Axios broke a story about leaked vetting documents that the Trump transition team and the Republican National Committee compiled in the fall of 2016. While vetting Giuliani, they found so many red flags that he was ultimately prevented from serving at the State Department.

Sun, 20 Oct 2019 22:25:27 +0000

Lindsey Graham calls Trump an "equal opportunity abuser"

In an interview with Axios' Jonathan Swan for "Axios on HBO," Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham called President Trump an "equal opportunity abuser" and said that he's trying to help the president be successful.

The big picture: Graham and Trump have a complicated relationship. Graham openly admitting to voting for another candidate in 2016, but Graham has actively worked with the president to advance his legislative priorities, and has been one of Trump's top defenders against impeachment in the Senate.

What they're saying: Confronted about his relationship with the president, Graham said he is trying to be "reflective" about the reason Americans elected Trump.

Graham also went back and forth on his previous remarks calling Trump a "bigot," insisting that he was speaking on Trump's campaign as a whole and not Trump individually.

The bottom line: Asked if he's sincerely changed his beliefs on Trump's character, Graham said yes, stating: "I've got to know him. And I find him to be a handful... But at the end of the day, he can be very charming and be very gracious. And I'm judging him by his conduct."

Go deeper: Graham broke South Carolina's fundraising record in Q3, campaign says

Sun, 20 Oct 2019 22:23:59 +0000

Page created: Tue, Oct 22, 2019 - 09:05 AM GMT