CNN host Fareed Zakaria responded Sunday to a report from the New York Times that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was set to announce investigations into the 2016 election and the Bidens on his CNN show, prior to the Trump-Ukraine scandal and subsequent impeachment inquiry bursting into public view.

"Ever since Zelensky was elected president in April, my team and I have been interested in having him appear on the show. .... As we now know, for months the Trump White House had been mounting an intense campaign to force him to publicly announce ... investigations.
He had tried to resist and put them off in various ways, but ultimately decided he would have to give in, according to the Times. His team apparently concluded that since he was planning an interview with me anyway, that would be the form in which he would make the announcement. Though neither he nor any member of his team ever gave us any inkling of that."
— Fareed Zakaria

Context: The Times reports that Zelensky had been prepared to announce the probes on Zakaria's show on Sept. 13, succumbing to a months-long pressure campaign led by Trump's lawyer Rudy Giuliani. When the Trump administration released nearly $400 million in military aid amid outcry from senators and the initiation of an investigation by House Democrats, Zelensky's office reportedly canceled the interview.

Why it matters: The question of whether the aid was used as leverage to pressure Zelensky into announcing the investigations is at the heart of the impeachment inquiry.

  • Top Ukraine diplomat Bill Taylor testified last week that Trump wanted Zelensky in a "public box," telling the House Intelligence Committee: "Trump through Ambassador Sondland was asking for Zelensky to very publicly commit to these investigations. It was not sufficient to do this in private, that this needed to be a very public statement."
  • Taylor also testified that Zelensky and his aides believed it was a bad idea to interfere in U.S. elections, but that the Ukrainian president was still planning to go on CNN to announce the investigations Trump wanted.

What to watch: Zakaria noted that he is still hoping to do an interview with Zelensky, whom he described as "smart, energetic and with a much sharper feel for politics" than one may have expected.

Go deeper: Sen. Chris Murphy says Ukraine won't admit pressure because of reliance on U.S.

Go deeper

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Texas governor mandates face masks in public spaces

Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) issued an executive order Thursday requiring all Texans to wear a face covering in public in counties with 20 or more positive coronavirus cases.

Why it matters: It's a stark reversal for the Republican governor that underscores the seriousness of the outbreak in Texas, which set a daily record on Wednesday with more than 5,000 confirmed new cases. On June 3, Abbott issued an executive order banning local governments from imposing fines on people who don't wear masks in public.

This story is developing. Please check back for updates.

17 mins ago - Health

Top business leaders urge White House to develop mandatory mask guidelines

A man walks past a Ramen restaurant in Los Angeles, California on July 1. Photo: Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images

The heads of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Business Roundtable, National Retail Federation and other top business organizations wrote an open letter on Thursday urging the White House coronavirus task force to work with governors to make face coverings mandatory in all public spaces.

Driving the news: An analysis led by Goldman Sachs' chief economist found that a national mandate requiring face coverings would "could potentially substitute for lockdowns that would otherwise subtract nearly 5% from GDP," the Washington Post reports.

Updated 47 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 3:30 p.m. ET: 10,763,604 — Total deaths: 517,667 — Total recoveries — 5,522,094Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 3:30 p.m. ET: 2,715,124 — Total deaths: 128,439 — Total recoveries: 729,994 — Total tested: 32,827,359Map.
  3. Public health: What we know about the immune response to coronavirus and what it means for a vaccine.
  4. Politics: Herman Cain hospitalized for COVID-19 after attending Trump Tulsa rally — Biden downplays jobs number, rebukes Trump for ignoring health crisis.
  5. States: Florida reports more than 10,000 new coronavirus cases — 5 states saw 27% spike in heart-related deaths in first 3 months of coronavirus pandemic.