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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

Updated 47 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: Coronavirus deaths reach 4,000 per day as hospitals remain in crisis mode — CDC warns highly transmissible coronavirus variant could become dominant in U.S. in March.
  2. Politics: Biden says, "We will manage the hell out of" vaccine distribution — Biden taps ex-FDA chief to lead Operation Warp Speed amid rollout of COVID plan — Widow of GOP congressman-elect who died of COVID-19 will run to fill his seat.
  3. Vaccine: Battling Black mistrust of the vaccines"Pharmacy deserts" could become vaccine deserts — Instacart to give $25 to shoppers who get vaccine.
  4. Economy: Unemployment filings explode againFed chair: No interest rate hike coming any time soon —  Inflation rose more than expected in December.
  5. World: WHO team arrives in China to investigate pandemic origins.

NRA declares bankruptcy, says it will reincorporate in Texas

Wayne LaPierre of the National Rifle Association (NRA) speaks during CPAC in 2016. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

The National Rifle Association said Friday it has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and will seek to reincorporate in Texas, calling New York, where it is currently registered, a "toxic political environment."

The big picture: The move comes just months after New York Attorney General Letitia James filed a lawsuit to dissolve the NRA, alleging the group committed fraud by diverting roughly $64 million in charitable donations over three years to support reckless spending by its executives.

3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Biden: "We will manage the hell out of" vaccine distribution

Joe Biden. Photo: Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

President-elect Joe Biden promised to invoke the Defense Production Act to increase vaccine manufacturing, as he outlined a five-point plan to administer 100 million COVID-19 vaccinations in the first months of his presidency.

Why it matters: With the Center for Disease Control and Prevention warning of a more contagious variant of the coronavirus, Biden is trying to establish how he’ll approach the pandemic differently than President Trump.