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Damian Dovarganes / AP

Volkswagen pled guilty Wednesday to conspiracy to commit fraud against the U.S. and Volkswagen's American customers, customs fraud and violations of the Clean Air Act.

The automaker agreed to pay a $4.3 billion fine and to submit to the oversight of an independent monitor for at least three years.

The Justice Department also announced the indictment of six individual Volkswagen executives and engineers who were allegedly responsible for the fraudulent behavior.

What did they do? VW promised to deliver an affordable "clean diesel" engine that could pass American emission standards, which were raised in 2007. When engineers realized that they couldn't accomplish this feat at an attractive price point, they devised a way to cheat the emissions test.

Our take: This will be a PR coup for the Justice Department, which has been criticized for failing to convict felonious corporations or to go after individuals inside those companies responsible for offending behavior. This accomplishes both.

VW's response: They're shrugging it off. Chinese customers helped them boost car sales 3.8% last year.

Go deeper

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

  1. Health: Most vulnerable Americans aren't getting enough vaccine information — Fauci says Trump administration's lack of facts on COVID "very likely" cost lives.
  2. Politics: Biden unveils "wartime" COVID strategyBiden's COVID-19 bubble.
  3. Vaccine: Florida requiring proof of residency to get vaccine — CDC extends interval between vaccine doses for exceptional cases.
  4. World: Hong Kong to put tens of thousands on lockdown as cases surge.
  5. Sports: 2021 Tokyo Olympics hang in the balance.
  6. 🎧 Podcast: Carbon Health's CEO on unsticking the vaccine bottleneck.

Trump impeachment trial to start week of Feb. 8, Schumer says

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. Photo: The Washington Post via Getty

The Senate will begin former President Trump's impeachment trial the week of Feb. 8, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced Friday on the Senate floor.

The state of play: Schumer announced the schedule after reaching an agreement with Republicans. The House will transmit the article of impeachment against the former president late Monday.

3 hours ago - Health

CDC extends interval between COVID vaccine doses for exceptional cases

Photo: Joseph Prezioso/AFP via Getty

Patients can space out the two doses of the coronavirus vaccine by up to six weeks if it’s "not feasible" to follow the shorter recommended window, according to updated guidance from the Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention.

Driving the news: With the prospect of vaccine shortages and a low likelihood that supply will expand before April, the latest changes could provide a path to vaccinate more Americans — a top priority for President Biden.