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Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) will introduce a bill Tuesday that would sanction foreign hackers attempting to steal U.S. coronavirus vaccine research, according to a copy of the bill obtained by Axios.

Why it matters: The Defend COVID Research from Hackers Act comes after China, Iran and Russia have been accused of deploying military and intelligence hackers to steal information about other countries' vaccine research and development.

  • It also comes as the global race to develop a coronavirus vaccine is escalating, with the U.K. announcing today that a vaccine from Oxford University and AstraZeneca is showing promising results.
  • House Republicans, led by McCarthy, plan to push for this bill's approval in upcoming negotiations over the next round of coronavirus relief funding.

Details: The bill authorizes the president to impose sanctions on any foreign person that engages in cyber-related activity that threatens the United States' national security or economic health, according to McCarthy's office.

  • It also gives the president the power to block the property of such foreign actors and ban them from traveling to the U.S.
  • The legislation would require the secretary of state, in consultation with the director of national intelligence, to submit a report to Congress — no later than 180 days after the date of the enactment of the bill — detailing the extent of known foreign cyber activities related to the coronavirus, and whether such activities qualify for new sanctions.
  • It also gives federal law enforcement more authority to take action against bots, per a recommendation from the Cyberspace Solarium Commission, which estimated that "as much as 30 percent of all internet traffic could be attributable to botnets, and most of that traffic is from DDoS attacks," McCarthy' office said.

What he's saying: “We have seen that other nations — like China — use this virus to exploit other countries for political advantages. We refuse to allow our innovation to be exploited by China, Russia or any other hackers."

  • "We are going to protect the cure from falling into the wrong hands so that no one can use it as leverage for their own malicious ends. The stakes are too high for these significant cyber crimes to go unpunished," McCarthy said in a statement to Axios.

Read the bill via DocumentCloud.

Go deeper

The election security nightmare that wasn't

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

As the dust settles on the 2020 presidential election, it's becoming clear that the process proved sturdy, with no known attacks on voting infrastructure and no 2016-style vast foreign meddling campaigns to disrupt American democracy.

Yes, but: The ongoing disinformation campaign from President Trump and his allies, as they refuse to accept his loss, illustrates that the country does not need outside intrusions to undermine the integrity of our elections.

House GOP leader defends newly elected members who have supported QAnon

Kevin McCarthy. Photo: Samuel Corum/Getty Images

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) on Thursday defended newly elected members of Congress who have previously supported the far-right conspiracy theory QAnon, telling reporters: "Give them an opportunity before you claim what you believe they have done, and what they will do."

The big picture: QAnon's rising role in Republican politics was highlighted this election, with individuals including Reps.-elect Marjorie Taylor Greene (Ga.) and Lauren Boebert (Colo.) winning public office. Both Greene and Boebert have sought to distance themselves from QAnon since entering the national spotlight.

2 hours ago - World

Special report: Trump's U.S.-China transformation

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President Trump began his term by launching the trade war with China he had promised on the campaign trail. By mid-2020, however, Trump was no longer the public face of China policy-making as he became increasingly consumed with domestic troubles, giving his top aides carte blanche to pursue a cascade of tough-on-China policies.

Why it matters: Trump alone did not reshape the China relationship. But his trade war shattered global norms, paving the way for administration officials to pursue policies that just a few years earlier would have been unthinkable.