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Yes, I zoomed in, it really says it. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

National security advisor John Bolton took the podium in the White House briefing room today with a notepad containing a striking sentence: “5,000 troops to Colombia.”

Between the lines: Bolton’s announcement had nothing to do with troops — it was about sanctions on Venezuela’s state-owned oil company, PDVSA. Asked hours later about the significance of the message, captured by AP photographer Evan Vucci, a White House spokesman said only: “As the President has said, all options are on the table.” Rhetoric like that has kept the possibility of U.S. military intervention looming over the power struggle in Caracas.

Catch up quick:

  • The new sanctions are an indication the Trump administration will use all economic and diplomatic levers at its disposal to undercut Nicolás Maduro's regime and boost his rival for power, National Assembly President Juan Guaidó, whom the U.S. and several other countries have recognized as interim president.
  • Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said proceeds from the sale of Venezuelan oil to U.S. companies will not be allowed to flow to Maduro’s government, unless and until PDVSA recognizes Guaidó.
  • Maduro denounced the move, saying Trump "will have blood on your hands,” and calling on PDVSA to seek legal recourse.
Expand chart
Adapted from a Bloomberg map; Map: Axios Visuals

What to watch:

  • "Venezuela is very reliant on the U.S. for its oil revenue. The country sends 41% of its oil exports to the U.S. Critically, U.S. refiners are among the few customers that pay cash to Venezuela for its oil ... because shipments to China and Russia are usually taken as repayment for billions of dollars in debts,” per AP.
  • The White House is hoping that if it deprives Maduro of cash, the Venezuelan military will have no reason to stay loyal to him, Axios’ Jonathan Swan reports.

The Trump administration had avoided oil sanctions in the past, out of concern they’d deepen the suffering of the Venezuelan people, raise oil prices and hurt U.S. companies.

  • The move could also strengthen the argument, made repeatedly by Maduro, that Venezuela is "the victim of a US conspiracy.” Maduro, who claimed Sunday that Trump “despises Latin America,” clings to his anti-U.S. credentials as one of his few remaining sources of support.

That brings us back to Bolton, who stated again today that the U.S. “will hold Venezuelan security forces responsible for the safety of all U.S. diplomatic personnel, the National Assembly and President Guaidó. Any violence against these groups would signify a grave assault on the rule of law and will be met with a significant response.”

  • Bolton refused to define what a “significant response” might look like saying only, yet again: "The president has made it very clear on this matter that all options are on the table.”

Go deeper

"Atmospheric river" swings Northern California from drought to flood

Satellite view of the bomb cyclone swirling off the coast of the Pacific Northwest and the atmospheric river affecting California on Oct. 24. Photo: CIRA/RAMMB

A series of powerful "atmospheric river" storms are delivering historic amounts of rainfall across parts of drought-stricken California and the Pacific Northwest — triggering widespread power outages and flooding.

Why it matters: The strong atmospheric river, packing large amounts of moisture, is causing Northern California to whiplash from drought to flood.

“You blew it”: GOP activist turns on corporations over vaccine mandates

The chairman of the American Conservative Union said on "Axios on HBO" he accepts "Joe Biden is my president, and I want him to succeed," but predicted Republicans retake the House and Senate in 2022 — with greater than 50% odds Donald Trump runs in 2024.

The big picture: In a joint interview with his wife, Mercedes, Matt Schlapp also refused to share their vaccination status. And he told corporate America "you blew it" by embracing vaccine mandates and liberal social stances that have alienated GOP voters and politicians.

2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Pelosi expects “billionaire’s tax” to pay for Biden social spending

Photo: Yasin Ozturk/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Sunday she expects the chamber to pass the bipartisan infrastructure plan by week’s end, and alternatives to corporate tax hikes and a “billionaires tax” will be used to finance President Biden’s promised expansion to the social safety net.

Why it matters: Pelosi’s comments come as House and Senate leaders try to wrap up a deal. What will get cut — and how the remainder will be paid — are linchpins to a final agreement.