Pompeo speaks at the Nixon Library. Photo: David McNew/Getty Images

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo aimed directly for Xi Jinping in a speech Thursday night, calling the Chinese leader "a true believer in a bankrupt totalitarian ideology" and a would-be global hegemon.

Background: Pompeo's was the last in a quartet of speeches from top Trump administration officials laying out what they portray as a battle for the survival of the free world against Beijing and its enablers — including more dovish allies and major U.S. companies.

Pompeo spoke at the Nixon Library, symbolically slamming the door on five decades of U.S. engagement with China that began with Nixon.

Excerpts:

  • “If we want to have a free 21st century — and not the Chinese century of which Xi Jinping dreams — the whole paradigm of blind engagement with China simply won’t get it done."
  • “We must induce China to change in more creative and assertive ways because Beijing’s actions threaten our people and our prosperity.”
  • "General Secretary Xi is not destined to tyrannize inside and outside China forever unless we allow it."
  • “We’re all still wearing masks and watching the body count rise because the [Chinese Communist Party] failed in its promises to the world."

My thought bubble: There's something discordant about this rhetorical onslaught from the administration, given we're months away from an election and the president's attention is elsewhere (as Pompeo was wrapping up, Trump canceled the Jacksonville convention).

  • Historians of the future tracing the breakdown of U.S.-China ties may ultimately pay the speeches more heed than many do today.

Go deeper: FBI says Chinese consulate sheltering fugitive researcher

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Updated Jul 22, 2020 - Politics & Policy

U.S. orders China's Houston consulate to close

China's Houston consulate. Photo: Mark Felix / AFP

The Trump administration told China to close its diplomatic consulate in Houston "in order to protect American intellectual property and Americans' private information," State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus confirmed to Axios on Wednesday morning.

The latest: Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun testified to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday that President Trump directed the State Department to withdraw its consent for China to operate its consulate in Houston due to a litany of abuses in the bilateral relationship.

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Axios-Ipsos poll: Fear of voting

Data: Axios/Ipsos poll; Note: ±3.0% margin of error for the total sample; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Democrats are twice as likely as Republicans to worry about in-person voting — with nearly two in three seeing it as a large or moderate risk to their health — according to this week's installment of the Axios-Ipsos Coronavirus Index.

Why it matters: This could pose a significant disadvantage for Joe Biden and other Democratic candidates in November if the pattern holds — especially in states where high infection rates persist, or where there are significant hurdles to mail-in, absentee or early voting.

Trump: Coronavirus is "under control"

President Trump said in an interview with “Axios on HBO” that he thinks the coronavirus is as well-controlled in the U.S. as it can be, despite dramatic surges in new infections over the course of the summer and more than 150,000 American deaths.

  • “They are dying, that's true. And you have — it is what it is. But that doesn't mean we aren't doing everything we can. It's under control as much as you can control it. This is a horrible plague,” he told Axios' Jonathan Swan.