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Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Former White House national security adviser John Bolton met privately with President Trump in August in an effort to convince him to release nearly $400 million in frozen military aid to Ukraine, former National Security Council official Tim Morrison told impeachment investigators last month.

Why it matters: The episode underscores how important Bolton's testimony could ultimately be to determining why Trump withheld security assistance to Ukraine at a time when he was pushing its government to investigate his political rivals — a question at the heart of the impeachment inquiry.

  • Morrison testified that Bolton emerged from the meeting and simply said that Trump was "not yet ready" to release the money.
  • Bolton also warned Morrison not to get involved with EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland — who communicated to Ukrainian officials that the aid would be released if they announced investigations into Joe Biden and the 2016 election — and to "make sure the lawyers are tracking."

The big picture: Bolton failed to appear for his closed-door deposition earlier this month and told the House committees conducting the impeachment inquiry that he would challenge a potential subpoena for his testimony in court.

  • A House Intelligence Committee official responded that Democrats have "no interest in allowing the administration to play a rope-a-dope with us in the courts for months," and that the White House's decision to block Bolton from testifying will be used as further evidence of obstruction for a potential article of impeachment.

What to watch: While Democrats likely believe they have enough evidence from existing testimonies to vote on impeachment, Bolton remains the inquiry's biggest wildcard. Sources told Axios' Jonathan Swan that Bolton was the most prolific note-taker at the top level of the White House and probably has more details than any witness about Trump's machinations on Ukraine.

Go deeper: Trump aides fear Bolton's secret notes

Go deeper

Updated 3 mins ago - Energy & Environment

Thousands without power as "hazardous" winter storm lashes East Coast

Satellite imagery of the Northeastern U.S. taken by NOAA on Jan. 17. Photo: NOAA

A major winter storm lashed much of the East Coast Sunday and Monday, causing widespread power outages and disrupting travel over the holiday weekend.

The latest: Authorities in North Carolina confirmed that two people died in a car crash and that they responded 600 vehicle accidents during the storm on Sunday, per the Washington Post.

2 hours ago - Health

CDC director says COVID-19 messaging should have been clearer

Rochelle Walensky. Photo: Stefani Reynolds-Pool/Getty Images

Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal that the messaging around the COVID-19 pandemic and changing guidance should have been clearer.

State of play: Walensky is being coached by media experts and is planning to have more press briefings by herself in order to ensure that CDC is seen as an independent, scientific entity, rather than as a political one, the Journal reports.

3 hours ago - World

UAE asks U.S. to reinstate Houthi terrorist designation after attack

Secretary of State Tony Blinken (left) listens to United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan during a joint news conference at the State Department iin October. Photo: Andrew Harnik/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

Emirati Foreign Minister Abdullah Bin Zayed asked Secretary of State Tony Blinken in a phone call Monday to re-designate the Houthi rebels in Yemen as a terrorist organization, a senior Emirati official told Axios.

Why it matters: Less than a month after he assumed office, President Biden rolled back the Trump administration’s decision to make the designation. He said it hampered humanitarian assistance to the Yemeni people. Since then, the Houthis have escalated their attacks against Saudi Arabia and other countries in the region — including an attack Monday in Abu Dhabi.