Power Grid: Vladimir Putin, The Trump Organization, Facebook, China and More

Who's up and who's down in politics, money, global affairs and culture this week.
By Allen McDuffee
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Several stories dominated this week’s Power Grid, including President Donald Trump decision to oust several key members of his administration, Amazon getting increasingly close to entering the banking industry and Snapchat’s major facepalm poll.

Here’s who won and lost the week in power…


Up: Donald Trump
Even if President Donald Trump insisted on Twitter that “There is no Chaos, only great Energy!” enough of those in the administration’s remaining senior ranks are looking at each other wondering who’s next after several departures, including Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Gary Cohn, director of the National Economic Council. Trump emphasized that it was just business, saying, “I’m really at a point where we’re getting very close to having the cabinet and other things that I want.” That came after firing Tillerson via Twitter.

Down: Facebook
On Friday, Facebook published an unusual blog post noting that they were “suspending Strategic Communication Laboratories (SCL), including their political data analytics firm, Cambridge Analytica.” The post came at that hour because the Silicon Valley giant was trying to get ahead of damaging stories from The New York Times and the Observer—both of which outlined how Facebook had lost control of their data and how Cambridge Analytica manipulate Facebook users with that data in the 2016 election cycle in favor of Donald Trump. One headline from Fortune perhaps spelled it out best: “Facebook’s Biggest Problem? Its Arrogance.”


Up: Amazon
The banking sector isn’t exactly known for shaking in their boots, but with reports that Amazon could be entering the market with a “checking-account-like product,” the Seattle-based giant may be the one actor that can cause the C-Suite at virtually every bank to take notice (it sure ain’t the government). Why? This is a company that has taken multibillion-dollar bites out of a half-dozen major industries in the last year, while downplaying their announcements. With a seemingly endless cashflow and a constantly expanding customer base, Amazon is poised to do well with nearly any sector it enters.

Down: The Trump Organization
With news that special counsel Robert Mueller subpoenaed the Trump Organization for business documents related to Russia, it marks the first publicly known time that Mueller has demanded documents related to President Donald Trump’s business dealings. The subpoena is an indication that the Mueller investigation continues to expand its inquiry rather than coming to its conclusion as Trump and those in his immediate orbit have insisted it is. Although the Trump camp has reportedly provided documents on previous occasions, the subpoena gives the public impression that they had not. It also may well ward off any potential business partners for the Trump Organization in the near future.

Global Affairs

Up: Vladimir Putin
Shocker: Authoritarians win “elections.” And that’s why Vladimir Putin will remain Russia’s president with 76.7 of Sunday’s vote. Yet, Russian officials used the opportunity to take a dig at Western leaders. “Our people always unite when the chips are down,” said Ella A. Pamfilova, chairman of the Central Election Commission, on live television—an apparent reference to what Britain has said was a Russian nerve agent attack on one of its former spies, Sergei V. Skripal, and his daughter in Salisbury, England. Putin campaign spokesman, Andrei Kondrashov, was more explicit: “Thanks to Britain, they’ve ensured a level of turnout we weren’t hoping to achieve by ourselves.”

Down: China
In a matter of days, the Trump administration is expected to unveil up to $60 billion in new tariffs on Chinese imports, targeting technology, telecommunications and intellectual property, according to a report from Reuters. The news comes on the heels of a top Treasury Department official saying he was incorrect in stating that the U.S. had ended formal economic dialogue with Beijing. “I misspoke,” David Malpass, Treasury’s undersecretary for international affairs, adding, “Secretary Mnuchin has high-level talks with China.” Although the White House has declined to comment on the anticipated tariffs or the apparent confusion in the Treasury Department, China has vowed to take retaliatory measures in response. In the short-term, the chaos could spell trouble for markets in China.


Up: National Geographic
When National Geographic magazine editors brought on a preeminent historian to investigate their 130-year coverage of people of color in the U.S. and abroad, it was a powerful first step in self-reckoning. The professor, John Edwin Mason, found that the magazine “all but ignored people of color who lived in the United States, rarely acknowledging them beyond laborers or domestic works.” And: “Meanwhile it pictured ‘natives’ elsewhere as exotics, famously and frequently unclothed, happy hunters, noble savages — every type of cliché,” Mason found. In an interview with the Rev. Al Sharpton, host of MSNBC’s “PoliticsNation,” Editor in Chief Susan Goldberg said, “I hear from readers all the time that National Geographic was the first time that they ever were exposed to communities beyond their own,” adding, “So how we have presented race and people from other cultures really does matter.” Indeed.

Down: Snapchat
Less than a month after Kylie Jenner sent Snapchat stock into a downward spiral, stock prices of Snap Inc. fell approximately 4 percent on Thursday. The dip came after Rihanna responded to the social media app running an ad for a game called “Would You Rather” asking users if they would rather slap Rihanna or punch her ex Chris Brown, alluding to their 2009 domestic violence case. The market value of the app’s parent company dropped almost $800 million and Rihanna was successful in getting an avalanche of users to condemn the company and delete the app off their phones.

The Rundown

1. Mitch McConnell’s Trump Calculation 

Jane Mayer at The New Yorker takes a deep dive on the risk of McConnell’s refusal to restrain the chief executive of the United States. 

2. 500,000+ Zoom Accounts Are For Sale on the Dark Web

Credentials of individuals and high-profile companies like Chase have been swept up, marking a new headache for the videoconferencing giant.

3. Bernie Sanders Endorses Joe Biden

Sanders told Biden, “We need you in the White House,” during a teleconference. But how many of his supporters heard him?

4. Paul Manafort Is Seeking Prison Release Due to COVID-19 Pandemic

Trump’s former campaign manager claims he is “high risk.” 

5. Joe Biden Could Get a Critical Boost From a Black VP Pick

New polling suggests Biden could garner more enthusiasm among black voters in battleground states by picking a black woman.

6. Sanofi and GSK Partner on COVID-19 Vaccine

The Sanofi-GlaxoSmithKline vaccine will enter clinical trials later in 2020, but still won’t be available until late 2021.