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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.

Go deeper

Mind the emissions gap

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The sprint to secure more stringent emissions reduction commitments ahead of the COP26 summit has petered out well short of the finish line, a new United Nations report out this morning concludes.

Driving the news: The "Emissions Gap" report offers a clear comparison between where emissions need to be to reach the Paris Agreement's goals, and where they actually are. It takes new and preexisting emissions pledges, called Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), into consideration.

Exclusive: Billionaires back new media firm to combat disinformation

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

A new public benefit corporation backed by billionaires Reid Hoffman, George Soros, and others is launching Tuesday to fund new media companies and efforts that tackle disinformation.

Why it matters: Good Information Inc. aims to fund and scale businesses that cut through echo chambers with fact-based information. As part of its mission, it plans to invest in local news companies.

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
17 mins ago - Economy & Business

Scoop: Sequoia Capital just blew up the VC fund model

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Sequoia Capital, one of the world's oldest and most successful venture capital firms, is forming a single fund to hold all of its U.S. and European investments, including stakes in publicly-traded companies, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: Venture capital is the money of innovation, but the industry itself rarely innovates. This is a radical exception.