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Trump's spy chief plans dire China warning as administration enters final days

Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe on Thursday will publicly warn that China's threat to the U.S. is a defining issue of our time, a senior administration official tells Axios.

Why it matters: It's exceedingly rare for the head of the U.S. intelligence community to make public accusations about a rival power.


I'm told the DNI will make a series of public statements and appearances outlining intelligence that argues China is the greatest national security threat that America faces.

Between the lines: The P.R. blitz is one of the first major components of a broader, administration-wide effort to raise the alarm about China and to build consensus and awareness about China's intent to supplant the United States as the world's dominant power.

  • The role of the intelligence community is to warn the president and senior policymakers of threats. But typically such intelligence isn't discussed publicly — especially on the record, the administration official points out.
  • So, this is the person who sees more intelligence than anyone else in the U.S. government, who spends every waking hour prioritizing and categorizing threats. And he'll say that this one — China — rises far above the others.

Thought bubble from Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian, author of Axios China:

  • This shows that senior intelligence officials are worried that the Biden administration may pull in the reins on the Trump era's harder line against China.
  • This is a last big effort to try to persuade the American public that, regardless of your political leanings, China is a profound danger to U.S. interests and Western democracy.

Flashback: Axios reported shortly after the election that the Trump administration would enact a series of hardline policies during its final weeks, in an effort to cement Trump's legacy on China.

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Why it matters: Biden, who made the remarks after touring a vaccination site in Houston, echoed CDC director Rochelle Walensky, who said earlier on Friday that while the U.S. has seen a recent drop in cases and hospitalizations, "these declines follow the highest peak we have experienced in the pandemic."

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Biden after U.S. airstrike: Iran "can't act with impunity. Be careful"

President Biden said Friday that Thursday night's airstrike against facilities tied to an Iranian-backed militia group in Syria was meant to warn Iran that it "can't act with impunity."

Driving the news: The Pentagon said the airstrike, which was authorized by Biden, was carried out "in response to recent attacks against American and Coalition personnel in Iraq" and was intended to "de-escalate the overall situation in both eastern Syria and Iraq."

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What he’s saying: Schiff, the chairman of the House intelligence committee, says that while some intelligence couldn’t be published because of the need to protect sources and methods, “we rarely see something published that is this definitive and I think that's an important accomplishment for the administration.”

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FDA advisory panel endorses Johnson & Johnson one-shot COVID vaccine for emergency use

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Why it matters: The FDA is expected to make a final decision within days on the J&J vaccine, which was found to be 66% effective against moderate to severe COVID. An emergency use authorization would allow distribution to immediately begin, helping streamline and speed up the vaccine rollout across the U.S.

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The big picture: The Biden administration has previously said it has secured enough doses to vaccinate most of the American population by the end of July.

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