Photo: Mikhail Svetlov / Getty Images

The Intercept reports that the U.S. intelligence community has been "conducting a top-secret operation" to get back classified U.S. documents stolen by Russian operatives.

Why it matters: To retrieve the documents, the U.S. opened an "off-the-books communications channel" with Russia early last year. Per the Intercept, it's been "highly controversial" among the U.S. officials that knew about it, and "many involved...are said to be uncertain about what is really going on."

  • Through the channel, Russians have been looking to give U.S. officials documents they say regard Russian meddling in the election.
  • It's unknown if they are working on behalf of the Russian government, the Intercept reports.

But, but, but: The primary goal of the channel was "to recover stolen NSA documents" not to get information regarding the election hacking. A Russian group known as the Shadow Brokers stole "highly secret NSA hacking tools and began releasing them on the internet." It was after the channel was opened that the Russians began offering information about the election, and President Trump.

  • Some intelligence officials "are reluctant" to be involved with anything regarding the election meddling out of fear of retaliation from Trump, per the Intercept.

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Updated 1 hour ago - Health

World coronavirus updates

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Axios Visuals

New Zealand confirmed Thursday there are now 13 local cases linked to the four who tested positive for COVID-19, ending 102 days with no community spread. Auckland locked down Wednesday for 72 hours and the rest of NZ is under lesser restrictions.

By the numbers: Over 749,400 people have died of the novel coronavirus globally and over 20.6 million have tested positive, per Johns Hopkins. More than 12.8 million have recovered from the virus.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 3 a.m. ET: 20,624,316 — Total deaths: 749,421— Total recoveries: 12,831,800Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 3 a.m. ET: 5,197,147 — Total deaths: 166,027 — Total recoveries: 1,714,960 — Total tests: 63,252,257Map.
  3. Politics: Pelosi says Mnuchin told her White House is "not budging" on stimulus position.
  4. Business: U.S. already feeling effects of ending unemployment benefits.
  5. Public health: U.S. records deadliest coronavirus day of the summer — America's two-sided COVID-19 response
  6. Education: New Jersey governor allows schools to reopenGallup: America's confidence in public school system jumps to highest level since 2004.

Bob Woodward's new book details letters between Trump and Kim Jong-un

Bob Woodward during a 2019 event in Los Angele. Photo: Michael Kovac/Getty Images

Journalist Bob Woodward has obtained "25 personal letters exchanged" between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un for his new book, "Rage," publisher Simon & Schuster revealed on Wednesday.

Details: In the letters, "Kim describes the bond between the two leaders as out of a 'fantasy film,' as the two leaders engage in an extraordinary diplomatic minuet," according to a description of the book posted on Amazon.