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President Trump denied a report from the New York Times that his top national security aides discussed a plan to send up to 120,000 troops to the Middle East in case of a fallout with Iran, adding that if they were planning to, "we'd send a hell of a lot more troops than that."

"I think it's fake news, okay? Would I do that? Absolutely. But we have not planned for that. Hopefully we're not going to have to plan for that. If we did that, we'd send a hell of a lot more troops than that. I think -- where was that story in the "New York Times"? Well, "The New York Times" is fake news."

The backdrop: The plan was reportedly drawn up by acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan and presented during a meeting about the Trump administration's broader Iran policy, attended — among others — by national security adviser John Bolton, CIA director Gina Haspel, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats.

  • It's unclear if President Trump was briefed on the details of the plan, which did not call for a land invasion of Iran, but requested a similar number of troops involved the U.S.' 2003 invasion of Iraq, per the Times.

The big picture: Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have been warning of an unspecified "escalating threat" from Iran in recent weeks, after receiving intelligence from Israel about a possible Iranian plot to attack U.S. interests in the region. Trump told reporters Monday that he’d been “hearing little stories about Iran,” adding: “If they do anything, they will suffer greatly.”

Go deeper: Pentagon presented plan to deploy 120,000 troops in case of Iran escalation

Go deeper

Scoop: Trump tells confidants he plans to pardon Michael Flynn

Photo: Alex Wroblewski/Getty Images

President Trump has told confidants he plans to pardon his former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who pleaded guilty in December 2017 to lying to the FBI about his Russian contacts, two sources with direct knowledge of the discussions tell Axios.

Behind the scenes: Sources with direct knowledge of the discussions said Flynn will be part of a series of pardons that Trump issues between now and when he leaves office.

Erica Pandey, author of @Work
4 hours ago - World

Remote work shakes up geopolitics

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The global adoption of remote work may leave the rising powers in the East behind.

The big picture: Despite India's and China's economic might, these countries have far fewer remote jobs than the U.S. or Europe. That's affecting the emerging economies' resilience amid the pandemic.

Trump gives Biden access to presidential intelligence briefings

Photo: Mark Makela/Getty Images

The Trump White House on Tuesday gave President-elect Biden access to daily presidential intelligence briefings, a source familiar with the matter tells Axios.

Why it matters: Trump has refused to share the briefs until now, as he continues to challenge the result of the election and declines to concede. The president's acquiescence comes as another sign that the transition to a Biden administration is taking place.

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