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Photo: Andrew Harnik/AFP/Getty Images

Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) — who'll be out Tuesday with his second book, "Them: Why We Hate Each Other — and How to Heal" — tells Axios:

"I had a conversation last month with one of the most senior U.S. intelligence officials, who told me that many leaders in the [Intelligence Committee] worry that we’re on the verge of a deepfakes [artificial intelligence algorithms that create convincing fake images, audio and video] 'perfect storm.'"

  • "Americans are so divided right now, about who we are and what we hold in common, that there are dozens of scabs at which malevolent foreign actors can pick in their efforts to weaken us."

Key conclusions from "Them":

  • "I talk with the leaders of the U.S. intelligence community nearly every day, and most of them are deeply anxious about information operations that are currently being conducted by foreign powers, which see an unexpected opportunity to undermine Americans' own confidence in our system, in our institutions, and in our American idea."
  • "Put more bluntly: Vladimir Putin loves cable news, and the divides it helps to solidify in the American soul."
Subscribe to Axios AM/PM for a daily rundown of what's new and why it matters, directly from Mike Allen.
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Go deeper

Caitlin Owens, author of Vitals
4 hours ago - Health

Biden taps ex-FDA chief to lead Operation Warp Speed amid rollout of COVID plan

Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

President-elect Joe Biden has picked former FDA chief David Kessler to lead Operation Warp Speed, a day after unveiling a nearly $2 trillion pandemic relief plan that includes $400 billion for directly combatting the virus.

Why it matters: Biden's transition team said Kessler has been advising the president-elect since the beginning of the pandemic, and hopes his involvement will help accelerate vaccination, the New York Times reports. Operation Warp Speed's current director, Moncef Slaoui, will stay on as a consultant.

The case of the missing relief money

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

A chunk of stimulus payments is missing in action, thanks to a mix up that put as many as 13 million checks into invalid bank accounts.

Why it matters: The IRS (by law) was supposed to get all payments out by Friday. Now the onus could shift to Americans to claim the money on their tax refund — further delaying relief to struggling, lower-income Americans.

The post-Trump GOP, gutted

McConnell (L), McCarthy (R) and Trump. Photo: Erin Schaff-Pool/Getty Images

Republicans will emerge from the Trump era gutted financially, institutionally and structurally.

The big picture: The losses are stark and substantial.