Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The Justice Department announced Monday that it indicted four members of China's military in relation to the 2017 Equifax data breach that compromised the data of more than 147 million Americans.

Why it matters: The announcement comes at a fraught time for U.S.-China relations — just weeks after the signing of a critical "phase one" trade deal that ratcheted down economic tension between the two nations — and marks only the second time that the U.S. government has charged Chinese military hackers.

  • The hack, which also exposed some of the company's trade secrets, also brings the issue of Chinese government-backed intellectual property theft — a top Trump administration worry — back to the forefront.
  • It isn't the first massive China-backed corporate hack, as a Marriott data breach that affected as many as 500 million customers as far back as 2014 was tied to Chinese intelligence services in 2018.

The big picture: Attorney General William Barr called the breach, which utilized a security vulnerability in the software for the firm's online dispute portal, a "deliberate and sweeping intrusion into the private information of the American people."

  • The DOJ said that the hackers "ran approximately 9,000 queries on Equifax’s system, obtaining names, birth dates and Social Security numbers for nearly half of all American citizens."

Read the indictment:

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Barr: Review of Russia probe unlikely to lead to prosecution of Obama or Biden

Attorney General William Barr said at a press conference Monday that he does not expect the Justice Department's review of the origins of the Russia probe to lead to the criminal prosecution of former President Barack Obama or former Vice President Joe Biden.

Why it matters: President Trump has tweeted hundreds of times over the past week about "Obamagate" — an unsubstantiated conspiracy theory that the Russia investigation was a political hit job ordered by Obama. He has called it the "biggest political crime in American history, by far!"

Updated 23 hours ago - Health

World coronavirus updates

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Axios Visuals

Novel coronavirus cases in Africa surpassed 500,000 on Wednesday, according to the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization's Africa branch.

The big picture: The virus has already killed more people in Africa than the Ebola outbreak did in West Africa from 2014 to 2016, AP reports, citing the WHO. The majority of confirmed coronavirus cases and deaths in the continent are located in South Africa.

Scoop: Xi accepts, while Trump rejects, invite to address WHO

Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

President Trump declined an invitation to address a virtual gathering of the World Health Organization, which proceeded today with addresses from several world leaders but only a blistering rebuke from the U.S.

The big picture: A source familiar with Trump's thinking said he has no interest in doing anything with the WHO right now. Trump has excoriated the WHO, saying it's kowtowing to China, and he's frozen U.S. funding for the global health agency.

Behind the scenes: The WHO extended an invitation earlier this month for Trump to speak at Monday's virtual gathering of the World Health Assembly, according to two sources familiar with the situation.

Trump rejected the invitation. He delivered his rejection to the WHO leadership through the U.S. Mission in Geneva, according to these sources.

  • The WHO invited both China's President Xi Jinping and Trump to give speeches to the "high-level welcome session" of the annual global health meeting, according to one of the sources.
  • "The WHO wanted to bring these two leaders together, the biggest economies in the world, at a time when they are being cold to each other, and try to create some sense of solidarity," the source said.

Xi accepted the invitation. China's president delivered a virtual speech in which he pledged $2 billion in coronavirus aid to the worldwide response. Other world leaders who addressed today's gathering included Germany's Angela Merkel and France's Emmanuel Macron.

The U.S.' only contribution was a short and brutal one.

  • Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar gave a blistering speech attacking the WHO. Azar said the WHO failed to obtain the information the world needed about COVID-19, "and that failure cost many lives."
  • Azar added: "We saw that WHO failed at its core mission of information-sharing and transparency when member states do not act in good faith. This cannot ever happen again. The status quo is intolerable. WHO must change and it must become far more transparent and far more accountable."

Between the lines: China has faced persistent questions for its early cover-up of the virus' outbreak in Wuhan, including the arrest of doctors and censorship of references to the disease on Chinese social media.

  • But critics of America's position say the Trump administration — through its abandonment of the WHO — is retreating from global leadership during a time of crisis. And in so doing, ceding the opportunity to influence the global health security agenda during a once-in-a-century pandemic.
  • These critics also say that Trump is trying to use China and the WHO to deflect from his own early failures to respond to COVID-19.

What they're saying: A senior White House official responded to this reporting by saying:

  • "If the WHO had done its job, and not enabled China’s refusal to be transparent, the world would likely be in a very different place right now. Now is the time for answers and transparency, not a photo opportunity aimed at conveying a false sense of solidarity."