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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

U.S: Nord Stream 2 "will not move forward" if Russia invades Ukraine

U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price during a press briefing at the State Department in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday. Photo: Kevin Lamarque/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

The U.S. will make sure the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project between Russia and Germany won't go ahead if Russian troops invade Ukraine, State Department spokesperson Ned Price told NPR on Wednesday.

Why it matters: Germany's ambassador to the U.S. appeared to support Price's strong rhetoric on the strategically significant pipeline that would circumvent Ukrainian transit infrastructure and deliver Russian gas directly to Germany, eliminating one of the last deterrents Ukraine has against an invasion, per Axios' Zachary Basu.

Scoop: Stephanie Ruhle to replace Brian Williams on MSNBC

Photo: Nathan Congleton/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images via Getty Images

MSNBC will soon announce plans to move morning anchor Stephanie Ruhle to the 11 pm ET hour that Brian Williams turned into an elite destination, two sources familiar with the move tell Axios.

Details: The 9 am ET hour, currently hosted by Ruhle, will become part of MSNBC's flagship morning show, "Morning Joe," which currently runs from 6 am to 9 am ET.

Oath Keepers leader denied bail on Capitol riot sedition charge

Oath Keepers co-founder Elmer Stewart Rhodes. Photo: Susan Walsh/AP

A federal judge ordered Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes to remain jailed Wednesday until trial on charges stemming from the Capitol riot.

Why it matters: The judge said the most prominent far-right figure charged in the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection had access to weapons and his alleged "continued advocacy for violence against the federal government" gave credence to prosecutors' view that, if released, Rhodes could endanger others.