Trump at Davos, Dollar Slide, Mueller Report: CEO Daily for January 26, 2018
Team Trump took over Davos yesterday with a thoroughness that was breathtaking. The President’s brief swing through the conference center was described by one World Economic Forum veteran as generating more attention than any visit since Brad and Angelina—eclipsing Modi, Merkel, Macron, and May, who also attended the Forum this year. Meanwhile, his cabinet covered every corner of the village.
Among those participating were the secretaries of Treasury, Transportation, Labor, and Commerce; economic adviser Gary Cohn; trade representative Lighthizer; NSC head McMaster; and first son-in-law Jared Kushner. A number of them were spotted partying past midnight at Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff’s “Aloha Nightcap,” which seems to have surpassed the McKinsey dance fest as the forum’s hot party. The consistent message of the Trump team: America is great again. (And the dollar, despite Secretary Mnuchin’s earlier comments, will get stronger.)
At Fortune, we took a quieter tack, assembling 40 CEOs for an off-the-record dinner discussion of what companies can do to meet the challenge of educating and training the work force for the tsunami of change that artificial intelligence and other technologies are bringing. That’s a topic we will continue to explore at the Fortune CEO Initiative members meeting in San Francisco June 25-26.
More Davos coverage here. News below.
The dollar fell 0.5% in early morning trading on Friday, following mixed messaging from the Trump administration about the desirability of a strong dollar (Mnuchin: weak is good; Trump: strong is better.) Much now rests on what the president says in his eagerly-anticipated Davos speech on Friday afternoon. Wall Street Journal
Trump Denies Mueller Firing Attempt
The New York Times reported that President Donald Trump tried to have special counsel Robert Mueller fired from his position atop the Russia investigation, but had to back down after White House counsel Donald McGahn said he would rather quit than take Trump's demand to the Justice Department. Trump reportedly thought Mueller had conflicts of interest. Asked about the story at Davos, Trump told Reuters: "Fake news, folks, fake news." Fortune
DNC Hack Evidence
The Dutch intelligence agency AIVD watched Russian intelligence hack into the systems of the Democratic Party and steal the infamous Democratic National Committee emails that may have swayed the 2016 elections when leaked, according to new reports from the Netherlands. The reports suggest that the AIVD's evidence, gleaned from its own hacking operations, convinced U.S. intelligence that the Russians were interfering in the elections. The Dutch spies were reportedly angered by subsequent leaks from their American counterparts to the media. De Volkskrant
Saudi Corruption Sweep
The anti-corruption drive of Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman has taken a new twist, after officials told the founder of the Middle East Broadcasting Center (MBC) to give the authorities his controlling stake in the Middle East's largest media company in order to ensure his release. The move suggests the corruption crackdown is also part-shakedown, and that Prince Mohammed wants more control over the media. Financial Times
Around the Water Cooler
China Smartphone Growth
The growth in the Chinese smartphone market appears to have stalled, according to new figures from the analyst firm Canalys. The data, which points to a 4% year-on-year decline in quarterly shipments, marks the "first time a drop has been sustained over a twelve-month period" in the Chinese smartphone market. Huawei is doing well, though. TechCrunch
Intriguing Fossil Find
The oldest human fossil outside Africa has been found in an Israeli cave, leading to a reappraisal of humanity's prehistoric trajectory. The Homo sapiens jawbone, replete with teeth, is accompanied by stone tools, and archaeologists reckon they all date back to somewhere between 177,000 and 194,000 years ago. Previously, the earliest evidence for modern humans venturing outside Africa was 120,000 years old at most. Modern humans evolved in Africa some 300,000 years ago. Science
Casey Affleck, who picked up last year's best-actor Oscar, has pulled out of presenting the best-actress gong at this year's ceremony. Affleck was sued for alleged sexual harassment during the making of the mockumentary I'm Still Here in 2010. "We appreciate the decision to keep the focus on the show and on the great work of this year," an Oscars spokeswoman said. BBC
Trump Toilet Offer
When the White House asked the Guggenheim for the loan of a van Gogh painting, in order to decorate President Trump's living quarters, the museum's curator declined. Instead, she offered an "interactive" alternative: Maurizio Cattelan's provocative "America," which happens to be an 18-karat solid gold toilet. That had been installed in a Guggenheim public restroom for patrons to use. Washington Post