Boeing 737 MAX 8 passenger planes at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport on March 13. Photo: Ralph Freso/Getty Images

Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao requested that the department's inspector general investigate the certification process the department followed that allowed the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft into the skies. Two Boeing 737 MAXs have crashed since October, leading to a worldwide grounding of the popular jetliner.

Why it matters: The investigation adds to the probes that Boeing is facing over the crash of a Lion Air 737 MAX 8 in October and the loss of an Ethiopian Airlines 737 MAX 8 on March 10. In the wake of the latter crash, the FAA, which is housed within the Transportation Department, ordered all 737 MAX aircraft grounded, after nearly every affected major country in the world had already done the same.

Details: In her letter to the inspector general, Chao wrote that she is seeking an "audit to compile an objective and detailed factual history of the activities that resulted in the certification of the Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft." In a Tweet Tuesday afternoon, Boeing said it will "fully cooperate in the Department of Transportation's audit announced by Secretary Chao."

Context: The main focus of the investigations into both crashes concern a software system known as MCAS that intervenes when it senses that a rare flight condition, known as a high speed stall, is taking place. In both crashes, it appears that the MCAS system repeatedly activated, forcing the plane's nose down and leading to a fatal crash.

A Seattle Times investigation, as well as other reporting, shows that the FAA may have been too deferential to Boeing in certifying that the MCAS system in particular, and the aircraft type in general, was safe to fly.

The big picture: Other investigations underway include two crash probes, one in Indonesia and another in Ethiopia, a reported grand jury criminal investigation into the aircraft's certification, and a mounting congressional probe.

Go deeper: What we've learned from the 737 MAX crashes

Go deeper

Updated 39 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Voters in Wisconsin, Michigan urged to return absentee ballots to drop boxes

Signs for Joe Biden are seen outside a home in Coon Valle, Wisconsin, on Oct. 3. Photo by KEREM YUCEL via Getty

Wisconsin Democrats and the Democratic attorney general of Michigan are urging voters to return absentee ballots to election clerks’ offices or drop boxes, warning that the USPS may not be able to deliver ballots by the Election Day deadline.

Driving the news: The Supreme Court rejected an effort by Wisconsin Democrats and civil rights groups to extend the state's deadline for counting absentee ballots to six days after Election Day, as long as they were postmarked by Nov. 3. In Michigan, absentee ballots must also be received by 8 p.m. on Election Day in order to be counted.

47 mins ago - Technology

Facebook warns of "perception hacks" undermining trust in democracy

Photo Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Facebook warned Tuesday that bad actors are increasingly taking to social media to create the false perception that they’ve pulled off major hacks of electoral systems or have otherwise seriously disrupted elections.

Why it matters: "Perception hacking," as Facebook calls it, can have dire consequences on people's faith in democracy, sowing distrust, division and confusion among the voters it targets.

Obama: Trump is "jealous of COVID's media coverage"

Former President Barack Obama launched a blistering attack on President Trump while campaigning for Joe Biden in Orlando on Tuesday, criticizing Trump for complaining about the pandemic as cases soar and joking that he's "jealous of COVID's media coverage."

Driving the news: Trump has baselessly accused the news media of only focusing on covering the coronavirus pandemic — which has killed over 226,000 Americans so far and is surging across the country once again — as a way to deter people from voting on Election Day and distract from other issues.

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