Oct 13, 2019

McMaster wasn't aware of White House's foreign call "lockdowns"

H.R. McMaster. Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Three former administration officials tell Axios that former national security adviser H.R. McMaster did not authorize and was not aware of the "locking down" of transcripts of conversations between President Trump and foreign leaders that were politically damaging but didn't pose national security risks.

Why it matters: Congressional investigators want to learn how, when and at whose direction transcripts were moved out of the typical computer system and into a classified system meant for highly sensitive security matters.

  • That process was described in the whistleblower's complaint about the July 25 call between President Trump and Ukraine's President Zelensky.

Details: Early reports suggested the practice might date to McMaster's tenure (February 2017–April 2018).

  • After calls between Trump and leaders of Mexico and Australia were leaked in 2017, the National Security Council did tighten a once-larger circle of staff and interagency officials who got access to foreign leader call transcripts by default, two of the former officials said. But that's not the same as whisking transcripts away to a classified system.
  • It's also true that another document — memorializing a conversation in 2017 in which Trump disclosed classified information to the Russians about ISIS and intelligence from another country — was later deemed highly sensitive and the details restricted.
    • One person familiar with the matter said that move wasn't about trying to protect Trump politically — the concern was protecting intelligence and a U.S. ally. Because the information was classified at one of the higher levels, it necessitated the move to the special system.

The bottom line: If McMaster was not involved in the practice, it raises questions about whether it began under his successor John Bolton or was happening for a longer duration at the direction of officials working around the national security adviser.

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Caring for older adults was already expensive, emotionally taxing and logistically difficult — and the coronavirus is only making it worse.

Why it matters: People older than 65 have the highest risk of dying from the virus, and outbreaks have been rampant in long-term care facilities. That is creating anxiety for seniors and their families.

World coronavirus updates

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

Countries where novel coronavirus cases are falling may be hit with a "second peak" if they relax restrictions too soon, World Health Organization emergencies chief Mike Ryan warned during a briefing Monday. "We're still very much in a phase where the disease is actually on the way up," he added.

By the numbers: Almost 5.5 million people have tested positive for the virus as of Monday, and more than 2.2 million have recovered. The U.S. has reported the most cases in the world (over 1.6 million from 14.6 million tests). The U.K. is reporting over 36,900 deaths from the coronavirus — the most fatalities outside the U.S.

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 3 a.m. ET: 5,498,849 — Total deaths: 346,306 — Total recoveries — 2,233,180Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 3 a.m. ET: 1,662,768 — Total deaths: 98,223 — Total recoveries: 379,157 — Total tested: 14,604,942Map.
  3. World: Italy reports lowest number of new cases since February — Ireland reports no new coronavirus deaths on Monday for the first time since March 21 — WHO suspends trial of hydroxychloroquine over safety concerns.
  4. 2020: Trump threatens to move Republican convention from North Carolina — Joe Biden makes first public appearance in two months.
  5. Public health: Officials are urging Americans to wear masks over Memorial Day.
  6. Economy: New York stock exchange to reopen its floor on Tuesday — White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett says it's possible the unemployment rate could still be in double digits by November's election — Charities refocus their efforts to fill gaps left by government.
  7. What should I do? Hydroxychloroquine questions answeredTraveling, asthma, dishes, disinfectants and being contagiousMasks, lending books and self-isolatingExercise, laundry, what counts as soap — Pets, moving and personal healthAnswers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingHow to minimize your risk.
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it, the right mask to wear.

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Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy