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Responding to President Trump's dubious claims that he tried to stop a racist chant directed at Rep. Ilhan Omar at his rally Wednesday night, 2020 candidate Sen. Kamala Harris condemned the president's "empty words" and argued that he is nothing compared to a "real American leader like John McCain."

"I just think they're empty words, Jake. The chant was created not by the crowd, but by the president's tweets, and it's obvious, it's really not a debatable point. And I think it is clearly not a sign of real leadership. I think you have mentioned it. Contrast it with a real American leader like John McCain, who during the campaign in 2008, he stood up, he spoke up. He was -- you know, he understood as an American hero, that the voice of someone who wants to be, much less is the president of the United States, must be about elevating discourse, that is about speaking to our better selves. This president keeps finding new lows. I would like to say it's shocking, but at some point it's sadly predictable."

Flashback: In 2008, McCain — a sworn enemy of Trump's even after his death — shot down claims by a supporter that President Obama couldn't be trusted as president because he was "an Arab."

  • "No ma'am," McCain told the supporter. "No ma'am. He's a decent family man, citizen, that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues, and that's what this campaign is all about."

The big picture: A number of Republicans have criticized Trump for his recent racist tweets about 4 Democratic women of color, urging him to attack their policies instead. The chant about Omar, a Muslim woman who came to the U.S. as a teenage refugee, has prompted a new wave of outcry. Even Trump on Thursday attempted to distance himself from the crowd's ugly words, claiming that he "wasn't happy with that message they gave last night" — despite using similar language in his tweets.

Go deeper: Trump says he disagrees with "send her back" chants about Ilhan Omar

Go deeper

Biden extends mask mandates for travelers into 2022

President Biden delivers remarks at the White House on Dec. 1. Photo: Anna Moneymaker via Getty Images

President Biden will announce new testing protocols for international travelers on Thursday and extend masking requirements through March as the U.S. prepares to fight the Omicron variant this winter, according to senior administration officials.

Driving the news: The U.S. will tighten pre-departure testing protocols starting early next week by requiring all inbound international travelers to take COVID-19 tests within one day of their departure rather than three.

46 mins ago - Health

America probably won't lead the effort to understand Omicron

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The race to figure out just how dangerous the Omicron variant is will likely be a global effort, but some experts are skeptical that the U.S. will play a dominant role.

Why it matters: The CDC has repeatedly come under fire for inadequate data collection throughout the pandemic — and figuring out how to respond to Omicron requires a lot of data that doesn't currently exist.

U.S. faces urgent anti-hacker crisis

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

The Biden administration is accelerating efforts to fill nearly 600,000 vacant cybersecurity positions in the public and private sectors bogging down efforts to protect digital infrastructure.

Why it matters: Following a deluge of ransomware attacks targeting critical government and corporate infrastructure this year, clogs in the talent pipeline are leaving federal, cash-strapped local governments and Big Business even more susceptible to hacking.