Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Stay on top of the latest market trends

Subscribe to Axios Markets for the latest market trends and economic insights. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sports news worthy of your time

Binge on the stats and stories that drive the sports world with Axios Sports. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tech news worthy of your time

Get our smart take on technology from the Valley and D.C. with Axios Login. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Get the inside stories

Get an insider's guide to the new White House with Axios Sneak Peek. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Denver news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Des Moines news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Twin Cities news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Tampa Bay news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Charlotte news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Homeland Security secretary Kristjen Nielsen. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Secretary of Homeland Security Kristjen Nielsen faced a mini-firestorm after her interview at the Aspen Security Forum Thursday: Some listeners (and news coverage) understandably but inaccurately saw her as contesting that Russia's 2016 election-tampering was meant to help the Trump campaign.

Between the lines: Nielsen danced around providing a clear soundbite to that effect though she did say she agreed with the intelligence assessment saying exactly that. But much of the criticism she faced is based on misunderstandings of security jargon that the Aspen audience would know.

What she said, part one: “I haven’t seen any evidence that the attempt to interfere in our election infrastructure was to favor a particular political party,”

What that means: The key word here is "infrastructure."

  • The Department of Homeland Security uses "election infrastructure" to refer to the voter databases and machines controlled by states.
  • The DHS website specifically reads: "Election Infrastructure does not include: Political action committees[,] Campaigns[,] Or any other non-state or local government election related group."
  • What Nielsen is saying is that attacks on voter databases that happened in Arizona and Illinois were likely not meant to favor either party. There's no public evidence now that any attack on voter databases was meant to favor a political party.
  • The attacks on the Democratic National Committee and other political targets, social media campaigns and propaganda efforts are not included in that statement. And it's the propaganda and leaked emails that most clearly benefitted Trump.

What she said, part two: "What we’ve seen on the foreign influence side is they were attempting to intervene and cause chaos on both sides."

What that means: In context, "foreign influence" refers to social media campaigns.

  • Nielsen followed that line by citing the massive Russian bot efforts on the subjects of Charlottesville and Syria as examples of campaigns meant to "sow discord and get us all to fight against each other."
  • While there isn't public evidence showing Charlottesville campaigns targeting both sides of the debate (private researchers largely found evidence of a pro-right wing campaign), it's clear Nielsen is discussing the broader issue of social media.
  • Russian-sponsored Facebook ads did target both sides during the election to further divide Americans.

None of this means DHS doesn't see Russian activity. Law enforcement and intelligence agencies — including DHS — agree that Russian information attacks on social media are continuing. It's just that DHS isn't seeing an attack on the infrastructure that allows elections to move forward.

Go deeper

Ro Khanna wary of Biden approach on Middle East

Rep. Ro Khanna. Photo: Cody Glenn/Sportsfile for Web Summit via Getty Images

An outspoken progressive Democrat is wary of President Biden’s approach to the Middle East, arguing it’s like “conceding defeat of the aspiration” to win a Nobel Peace Prize.

Why it matters: A number of members of Biden’s own party dislike his Middle East strategy, as his administration signals the region is no longer the priority it was for President Obama and his predecessors.

Democrats eye reconciliation for immigration

Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Comprehensive immigration reform is a pipe dream, but some Senate Democrats are hoping to tie key immigration provisions to the next big reconciliation push.

Why it matters: Immigration is one of the most controversial and partisan issues in U.S. politics, which is why the budget reconciliation process — which allows for bills to pass the Senate with a simple majority rather than the usual 60 votes — is so attractive.

3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Biden meeting Quad amid own pivot toward Asia

Artists paint portraits of President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris in Mumbai, India. Photo: Anshuman Poyrekar/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

President Biden plans to meet this month with the leaders of Japan, Australia and India in a virtual summit of the so-called Quad, according to people familiar with the matter.

Why it matters: By putting a Quad meeting on the president’s schedule, the White House is signaling the importance of partnerships and alliances to counter China’s growing influence in the Indo-Pacific region.