News & Politics

There’s Already Some Twitter Drama Between Politico and Axios

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Axios, the new media company led by Politico co-founder Jim VandeHei, has only sent out four installments of its flagship newsletter by Mike Allen. And already, some of VandeHei and Allen’s former colleagues in Rosslyn are getting chippy with the startup.

In Wednesday’s “Axios AM” email, Allen tweeted that he had an exclusive story on the news that Ivanka Trump intended to hire Goldman Sachs executive Dina Powell as her top aide in her to-be-specified White House role. Powell’s expected appointment was reported later by other publications. But Jake Sherman, one of Allen’s successors on the Politico Playbook, was miffed at Allen’s claim.

Why? Because, Sherman quickly reminded his Twitter followers—without tagging Allen—that his Politico colleague Annie Karni had it first:

Politico Magazine editor Blake Hounshell and top Politico editor Carrie Budoff Brown also chimed in:

The sniping from Wilson Boulevard at their former colleague appears to go a bit further back than Wednesday morning. On January 3, Allen—whose newsletter was still six days from launching—tweeted that Donald Trump would be appointing Rick Dearborn, Katie Walsh, and Joseph Hagin as his deputy chiefs of staff.

A few hours later, though, Sherman and his Playbook partner, Anna Palmer, fired off tweets pointing out that the New York Times‘s Maggie Haberman (a former Politico reporter) and Michael Shear had reported as much on December 21.

Sure enough, on January 4, Trump’s transition team announced Dearborn, Walsh, and Hagin as deputy chiefs of staff. Still, do Politico’s current leaders have a legitimate beef with Axios for falsely claiming scoops, or are these just lingering feelings from the messy breakup last year that saw VandeHei, Allen, and others leave to launch a new competitor? Hard to say, but in the case of the Ivanka Trump-Dina Powell association, it seems like Politico had it first.

Karni’s January 5 story doesn’t go so far as to lay out a specific White House role for Powell, but it does more than just intimate that:

“Powell, multiple sources said, has become an invaluable resource to Ivanka Trump, who wants to position herself as a national leader on women’s economic empowerment, an issue that allows her to serve as a potential bridge to some liberals and moderates troubled by her father’s election as president. In Powell, she has also found an adviser who knows her way around the White House, and who knows about staffing, which Ivanka Trump will also need help with if she fills the expected role of functional first lady.”

And here’s how Allen framed his information on Powell:

“Behind the scenes, Ivanka is moving to put a high-powered, high-level staffer inside the White House to help her cause. My sources tell me her first and likely choice is Goldman Sachs exec Dina Powell, who runs the firm’s 10,000 Women and 10,000 Small Businesses, and was in charge of presidential personnel for George W. Bush.”

Where Allen adds some value is in describing Ivanka Trump’s apparent “plans to stay out of the spotlight for a few months as her family moves to D.C., hoping the temperature goes down on nepotism questions involving her husband, Jared Kushner.” (Kushner will be a senior adviser to Trump.) But, as Allen notes, that’s in response to Trump’s previously reported decision to forgo a formal White House role while she and and her children settle into their new house in Kalorama.

Is packaging that all together enough to stamp the “SCOOP” and “exclusive” labels on a tweet? It appears Allen was closer on Wednesday morning to Powell’s appointment than others, but he still had to frame it conditionally. Yet Allen billed his “exclusive” as being “on @IvankaTrump plans for D.C.” Moving the ball on existing knowledge a couple yards down the field feels like a bit of a stretch. At least no one claimed on January 3 to have the exclusive on Trump’s deputy chiefs.

Reached for comment, Allen says he’s avoiding any drama: “Apologies, but too busy starting Axios to obsess about Twitter. So, not aware of this banter but assume it simply reflects the competitive spirit I always cherished about the place.”

Politico’s also playing it down, but not without claiming some credit first. “As Joe Friday used to say, just the facts ma’am!” says Brad Dayspring, the publication’s vice president of communications. “Look, Annie Karni had a great scoop with this story last week, so it’s no surprise that Axios is on it. Much ado about little, just another day in media Twitter.”

Staff Writer

Benjamin Freed joined Washingtonian in August 2013 and covers politics, business, and media. He was previously the editor of DCist and has also written for Washington City Paper, the New York Times, the New Republic, Slate, and BuzzFeed. He lives in Adams Morgan.

Senior Writer

Luke Mullins is a senior writer at Washingtonian magazine focusing on the people and institutions that control the city’s levers of power. He has written about the Koch Brothers’ attempt to take over The Cato Institute, David Gregory’s ouster as moderator of NBC’s Meet the Press, the collapse of Washington’s Metro system, and the conflict that split apart the founders of Politico.