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Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

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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 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

  1. Health: Fall and winter COVID surge "unlikely" if people get vaccinated.
  2. Politics: School boards are the next political battleground.
  3. Vaccines: Pfizer begins application for full FDA vaccine approval — Moderna says its COVID booster shot shows promise against variants.
  4. Economy: U.S. adds just 266,000 jobs in April, far below expectations.
  5. World: Asia faces massive new COVID surgeIndia records its deadliest day of the pandemic.
  6. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.

Kevin McCarthy officially endorses Elise Stefanik to replace Liz Cheney

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) officially endorsed Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) to become the GOP's next House Republican conference chair during a Fox News appearance Sunday.

Why it matters: The GOP has been feuding internally over the fate of the current chair, Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), because of her criticisms of former President Donald Trump, and her vote to impeach him for his role in the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.

Fauci: Vaccines could turn COVID-19 "surges" into "blips"

NIAID director Anthony Fauci told "Meet the Press" Sunday that if more Americans get vaccinated in accordance with the Biden administration's goals, COVID-19 surges may be replaced by "blips."

State of play: Last week President Joe Biden announced his goal to get 160 million Americans fully vaccinated by July 4, with at least 70% of Americans having at least one shot.

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