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EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland said Wednesday in the opening statement to his impeachment testimony that he worked with Rudy Giuliani "at the express direction" of President Trump on matters involving Ukraine.

Driving the news: Sondland also confirmed that a quid pro quo preconditioning a White House meeting in exchange for an investigation into the Biden family's business dealings in Ukraine took place and "reflected President Trump's desires and requirements."

  • He also said that he believed that the resumption of military aid to the country came to be conditioned on a Biden-linked investigation as well.

Why it matters: Sondland has spoken with President Trump about the political investigations central to the impeachment inquiry. His testimony gives the House Intelligence Committee the chance to grill someone with firsthand knowledge of what Trump himself knew — and when he knew it.

What he said:

  • "We did not want to work with Mr. Giuliani. Simply put, we played the hand we were dealt. We all understood that if we refused to work with Mr. Giuliani, we would lose an important opportunity to cement relations between the United States and Ukraine. So we followed the President’s orders."
  • "[A]t all times, I was acting in good faith. As a presidential appointee, I followed the directions of the president. We worked with Mr. Giuliani because the President directed us to do so. We had no desire to set any conditions on the Ukrainians."
  • "I know that members of this Committee have frequently framed these complicated issues in the form of a simple question: Was there a 'quid pro quo?' As I testified previously, with regard to the requested White House call and White House meeting, the answer is yes."
  • "By the end of August, my belief was that if Ukraine did something to demonstrate a serious intention to fight corruption, specifically addressing Burisma and 2016 server, then the hold on military aid would be lifted."
  • "[A]t all times, our efforts were in good faith and fully transparent to those tasked with overseeing them. Our efforts were reported and approved. Not once do I recall encountering objection."

Read his full statement.

Go deeper: Live updates on Sondland's impeachment testimony

Go deeper

Inflation threatens Latinos' buying power

Expand chart
Data: Hispanic Index of Consumer Sentiment; Chart: Jacque Schrag/Axios

Latinos in the U.S. are less optimistic about the economy than they were a year ago as inflation threatens to cut into their buying power.

Why it matters: Latinos have been economic growth drivers for the past decade, opening new businesses at faster rates than other groups and increasing their homeownership rates. The group's overall output would make them the seventh-largest GDP in the world if they were a country.

16 mins ago - Politics & Policy

First look: Frontline Dems seek cover with bipartisan police bill

Rep. Josh Gottheimer. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Moderate Frontline Democrats facing tough reelection fights are teaming up with House Republicans on a bill that would effectively help fund the police, according to a copy of the bill text obtained by Axios.

Why it matters: One of Republicans' core and most effective campaign attacks to date is their messaging around progressive rhetoric to "defund the police." Moderate Democrats have long tried to dodge that narrative, acknowledging its political peril despite their support for broader police reform.

Omicron pushes COVID deaths toward 2,000 per day

Expand chart
Data: N.Y. Times; Cartogram: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

The U.S. Omicron wave may be peaking, but now COVID deaths are climbing as cases continue to soar in most of the country.

The big picture: Omicron's stranglehold in the U.S. started about a month ago. Its death toll — while almost certain to be smaller than previous waves of the pandemic — is only now starting to take hold, and deaths will likely continue to rise for several weeks.