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Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

In the coming weeks and months, Democrats plan to argue that President Trump "rolled over" for China as the coronavirus crisis worsened because "he sought a deal to begin undoing the damage caused by his trade policies," per a new memo reviewed by Axios.

Why it matters: Top Trump campaign officials said they'll paint Joe Biden as "soft" on China as a major line of attack during the 2020 race. The new memo by Democratic National Committee officials outlines a rebuttal as Biden prepares for the general election race against Trump.

  • This new memo is the sixth in a series called "In Focus: Trump’s Disastrous Coronavirus Response."

Trump's campaign this month released a controversial digital ad bashing Biden as overly friendly and deferential to Beijing.

  • The president's team has sought to turn a critical focus on the former vice president's past posture toward China to counter criticism of Trump's handling of the coronavirus or approaches to China.

What they're saying: The DNC's War Room writes in the memo that it's an understatement to call Trump weak on China and that he "rolled over in a way that has been catastrophic for our country" and "put himself and his political fortunes first."

  • The memo quotes a NYT article describing internal disputes in the administration over dealing with China, trade talks and the virus.
  • It also cites Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and economic adviser Larry Kudlow talking about how the coronavirus might interfere with trade negotiations.

The other side: "They are only doing this because Joe Biden has a big China problem," Trump campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh told Axios in an email.

  • "Democrats wailed endlessly about Trump's tough tactics on China, so it's a joke that they would now try to paint him as soft."
  • "Joe Biden called the President's travel restrictions on China 'xenophobic' and 'reactionary.' All this memo does is prove that Joe Biden and his Democrat allies are not serious people."

Go deeper

Scoop: Biden weighs retired general Lloyd Austin for Pentagon chief

Lloyd Austin testifying before Congress in 2015. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Joe Biden is considering retired four-star general Lloyd Austin as his nominee for Defense secretary, adding him to a shortlist that includes Jeh Johnson, Tammy Duckworth and Michele Flournoy, two sources with direct knowledge of the decision-making tell Axios.

Why it matters: A nominee for Pentagon chief was noticeably absent when the president-elect rolled out his national security team Tuesday. Flournoy had been widely seen as the likely pick, but Axios is told other factors — race, experience, Biden's comfort level — have come into play.

Updated 29 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: WHO: AstraZeneca vaccine must be evaluated on "more than a press release."
  2. Politics: Supreme Court backs religious groups on New York COVID restrictions.
  3. World: Thailand, Philippines sign deal with AstraZeneca for vaccine.
  4. Economy: Safety nets to disappear in December Black Friday shopping across the U.S., in photosAmazon hires 1,400 workers a day throughout pandemic.
  5. Education: National standardized tests delayed until 2022.
1 hour ago - Health

WHO: AstraZeneca vaccine must be evaluated on "more than a press release"

A medical syringe and vial with fake coronavirus vaccine in front of the World Health Organization (WHO) logo. Photo Illustration: Pavlo Gonchar/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Top scientists at the World Health Organization on Friday called for more detailed information on a coronavirus vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford.

Why it matters: Oxford and AstraZeneca have said the vaccine was 90% effective in people who got a half dose followed by a full dose, and 62% effective in people who got two full doses. AstraZeneca has since acknowledged that the smaller dose received by some participants was the result of an error by a contractor, per the New York Times.