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Maduro with loot seized from the attackers. Photo: Presidential Palace/Anadolu Agency via Getty

The invasion force planned to slip into Venezuela in teams, make contact with paramilitaries and potential turncoats, and eventually take Nicolás Maduro by force.

Driving the news: That plan collided with reality before they even reached the shore. Now, two U.S. special forces veterans are in Venezuelan custody.

How it happened: Sunday’s botched invasion was organized by Jordan Goudreau, a former Green Beret who runs a Florida-based security firm. He has claimed the mission was backed by Juan Guaidó, the Venezuelan opposition leader.

  • Guaidó denied that, but the Washington Post reports that members of the opposition did sign a deal with Goudreau last October “to capture/detain/remove Nicolás Maduro … and install the recognized Venezuelan President Juan Guaidó.”
  • The Post reports that the relationship broke down months ago, and Guaidó’s allies “considered the operation dead.”

The operation was as leaky as it was amateurish.

  • The AP reported on the plot days before it was put into action, and Maduro has claimed to have known everything about it — down to "what they ate and drank."

Fernando Cutz, a former South America director on the National Security Council, says this all sounds like something you’d hear in South Florida’s growing “anti-Maduro bubble.”

  • “It seems to me that this is what happens when the bubble goes wrong. When you start to believe too many of these stories you hear while you’re drinking an espresso at the bakery in Doral.”
  • “That Maduro is already on his way out, and 100% of Venezuelans are against him, and the moment one American savior shows up with a gun the people will rally in the streets and remove him by force.”

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Biden plans to ask public to wear masks for first 100 days in office

Joe Biden. Photo: Mark Makela/Gettu Images

President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris sat down with CNN on Thursday for their first joint interview since the election.

The big picture: In the hour-long segment, the twosome laid out plans for responding to the pandemic, jump-starting the economy and managing the transition of power, among other priorities.

Caitlin Owens, author of Vitals
50 mins ago - Health

Coronavirus death rates rising across the country

Expand chart
Data: The COVID Tracking Project, Census Bureau; Cartogram: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Daily coronavirus-related deaths in the U.S. hit a new record on Wednesday, when roughly 2,800 people died from the virus.

The big picture: Caseloads and hospitalizations continue to rise, and deaths are spiking in states all across the country.

50 mins ago - World

Ratcliffe's long-term China play

Ratcliffe testifies before the Senate Intelligence Committee in May. Photo: Andrew Harnik-Pool/Getty Images

Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe told Axios in an interview Thursday that "China and China alone is the only country that has the ability to compete with the U.S." — and hopes the intelligence community will adopt his view even under "the next administration."

Why it matters: Ratcliffe's comments suggested that he's trying to lock in the Trump era's harder line on China for the long term.