Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

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

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

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Denver news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Des Moines news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Minneapolis-St. Paul news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tampa Bay news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Charlotte news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The Trump campaign, borrowing tactics from dictators and demagogues abroad, is poised to spend $1 billion on "what could be the most extensive disinformation campaign in U.S. history" to sway the 2020 election, McKay Coppins writes in the Atlantic.

Why it matters: Coppins offers the prospect of an election "shaped by coordinated bot attacks, Potemkin local-news sites, micro-targeted fearmongering, and anonymous mass texting."

What they're saying: "Both parties will have these tools at their disposal. But in the hands of a president who lies constantly, who traffics in conspiracy theories, and who readily manipulates the levers of government for his own gain, their potential to wreak havoc is enormous."

Per the Atlantic, here are the key tactics of the coming information inferno, as piloted during the 2016 Trump campaign by its digital director, Brad Parscale, who is now leads the overall Trump reelection effort:

  • Tell brazen lies.
  • Undermine trust in the press.
  • Amass detailed data on supporters.
  • Flood Facebook with ads micro-targeted to them.
  • Use those ads to drive turnout and fundraising.
  • Use bots on Twitter to "simulate false consensus, derail sincere debate, and hound people out of the public square."
  • Inoculate supporters against facts.
  • Instill confusion and doubt in opponents.

Key takeaways:

  • In 2016, the political class viewed disinformation as an external threat, but now it's become a domestic problem.
  • Other countries, like Indonesia, have found some success in combatting agents of disinformation — but in the U.S., First Amendment protections will shield them.
  • Democrats will have to decide whether to denounce the GOP tactics or embrace them.

The other side: “This story itself is disinformation," Trump campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh told Axios in response to the piece. "They wrote 8,000 words trying to paint a scary picture but couldn’t come up with one specific example to back up their premise."

  • "It’s nothing more than a stream-of-consciousness fever dream from liberals already making excuses for an election loss they see coming nine months away.”

Between the lines: One thing Coppins barely mentions is the role Fox News commentators have played in helping Trumpworld muddy the waters. The Daily Beast reports that an internal Fox News research briefing book highlighted that problem, warning colleagues that some of the network's commentators have been spreading disinformation about Ukraine.

Worst-case scenario: On election night in November, Trump gets numbers he doesn't like, and directs his disinformation machine to discredit the results.

Editor's note: This story has been updated with the Trump campaign's response.

Go deeper

Scoop: Gina Haspel threatened to resign over plan to install Kash Patel as CIA deputy

CIA Director Gina Haspel. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

CIA Director Gina Haspel threatened to resign in early December after President Trump cooked up a hasty plan to install loyalist Kash Patel, a former aide to Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), as her deputy, according to three senior administration officials with direct knowledge of the matter.

Why it matters: The revelation stunned national security officials and almost blew up the leadership of the world's most powerful spy agency. Only a series of coincidences — and last minute interventions from Vice President Mike Pence and White House counsel Pat Cipollone — stopped it.

Updated 10 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: Coronavirus deaths reach 4,000 per day as hospitals remain in crisis mode — CDC warns highly transmissible coronavirus variant could become dominant in U.S. in March.
  2. Politics: Biden says, "We will manage the hell out of" vaccine distribution — Biden taps ex-FDA chief to lead Operation Warp Speed amid rollout of COVID plan — Widow of GOP congressman-elect who died of COVID-19 will run to fill his seat.
  3. Vaccine: Battling Black mistrust of the vaccines"Pharmacy deserts" could become vaccine deserts — Instacart to give $25 to shoppers who get vaccine.
  4. Economy: Unemployment filings explode againFed chair: No interest rate hike coming any time soon —  Inflation rose more than expected in December.
  5. World: WHO team arrives in China to investigate pandemic origins.

John Weaver, Lincoln Project co-founder, acknowledges “inappropriate” messages

John Weaver aboard John McCain's campaign plane in February 2000. Photo: Robert Schmidt/AFP via Getty Images)

John Weaver, a veteran Republican operative who co-founded the Lincoln Project, declared in a statement to Axios on Friday that he sent “inappropriate,” sexually charged messages to multiple men.

  • “To the men I made uncomfortable through my messages that I viewed as consensual mutual conversations at the time: I am truly sorry. They were inappropriate and it was because of my failings that this discomfort was brought on you,” Weaver said.
  • “The truth is that I'm gay,” he added. “And that I have a wife and two kids who I love. My inability to reconcile those two truths has led to this agonizing place.”