From left: national security adviser John Bolton, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, FBI Director Christopher Wray, Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen and Paul Nakasone, commander of the U.S. Cyber Command. Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Social media misinformation campaigns are now a permanent fight for candidates and officeholders, and will just get worse with the AI-driven deepfake technologies, which make it easy to phony up images, audio and video.

Why it matters: Check out the photo above. Rarely do you publicly see this many national-security officials in one place. And it's even rarer for it to be in the White House briefing room, where most of the daily jousting is over inches.

Between the lines:

  • An aide to Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) tells AP that every month for the last 18 months, her office has discovered an average of three to five fake Facebook profiles pretending to be hers.
  • Some of that could just be political opponents or profiteers, but Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) last week said Russian hackers tried unsuccessfully to attack her Senate computer network in 2017: "Putin is a thug and a bully.”
  • The takeaway, from AP: "[C]ampaigns are largely on their own in the increasingly challenging task of protecting sensitive information and countering false or misleading content on social media."

Partly because of rising questions from Capitol Hill, the administration is trying to show that it's paying attention, despite contradictory signs and seeming nonchalance by President Trump.

The officials came together yesterday to warn anew about a hidden war by Russia on U.S. campaigns and elections, and to say that they're on it:

  • Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats: "In regards to Russian involvement in the midterm elections, we continue to see a pervasive messaging campaign by Russia to try to weaken and divide the United States."
  • Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen: "Our democracy itself is in the crosshairs."
  • FBI Director Christopher Wray: "Just last week, ... we disseminated a list to our state and local law enforcement partners of various foreign influence indicators for them to be on the lookout for — things like malicious cyber activity, social abnormalities, and foreign propaganda activities."
  • National security adviser John Bolton: "We meet on this constantly, the senior staff here at the White House."

Russia isn't the only threat, Coats added: "We know there are others who have the capability and may be considering influence activities."

I asked a couple of Obama national-security alumni to read between the lines of this remarkable briefing:

  • Jeremy Bash, former chief of staff at the CIA and Pentagon: "The women and men who work in law enforcement, intelligence and the military expect their leadership to speak 'truth to power,' even if the President doesn’t want to hear it. That’s what happened today."
  • Matt Miller, former Justice Department spokesman: "It's pretty clear this press conference happened because the staff realized Trump did deep damage to his presidency in Helsinki and raised real doubts in people's minds about where his loyalties lie, and they convinced him they needed to signal to the American people that he is not actually in bed with the Russians."

Be smart, from Matt Miller: "You can't admit to Russian interference at the same time you are claiming the investigation that is holding Russians accountable is a witch hunt. ... So you will continue to see this dissonance."

Go deeper

Ben Geman, author of Generate
47 mins ago - Energy & Environment

Tallying Trump's climate changes

Reproduced from Rhodium Climate Service; Chart: Axios Visuals

The Trump administration's scuttling or weakening of key Obama-era climate policies could together add 1.8 gigatons of carbon dioxide equivalent to the atmosphere by 2035, a Rhodium Group analysis concludes.

Why it matters: The 1.8 gigatons is "more than the combined energy emissions of Germany, Britain and Canada in one year," per the New York Times, which first reported on the study.

Boeing's one-two punch

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The grounding of Boeing’s 737 MAX was the worst crisis in the plane-maker’s century-long history. At least until the global pandemic hit.

Why it matters: Wall Street expects it will be cleared to fly again before year-end. Orders for what was once the company’s biggest moneymaker were expected to rebound after the ungrounding, but now the unprecedented slump in travel will dash airlines’ appetite for the MAX and any other new planes, analysts say — putting more pressure on the hard-hit company.

New downloads of TikTok, WeChat to be blocked in U.S. on Sunday

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The Commerce Department issued Friday an order blocking new downloads of WeChat and TikTok in the U.S. as of Sept. 20.

The state of play: President Trump has been in a standoff with TikTok, threatening to ban the app if its Chinese owner, ByteDance, does not relinquish control to a U.S. company. A deal is in the works with the American tech company Oracle, but would need to go through before Sunday to prevent TikTok from being ousted from app stores.