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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

2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Bipartisan group of senators seeks coronavirus stimulus deal

Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine). Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

At least eight Republican and Democratic senators have formed an informal working group aimed at securing new coronavirus spending during the lame-duck session, a move favored by President-elect Biden, two sources familiar with the group tell Axios.

Why it matters: It may be the most significant bipartisan step toward COVID relief in months.

FCC chairman to depart in January

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Ajit Pai will leave his post as chairman of the Federal Communications Commission on Jan. 20, the agency said today.

Why it matters: Pai's Inauguration Day departure is in keeping with agency tradition, and could set up the Biden administration with a 2-1 Democratic majority at the FCC if the Senate fails to confirm another Trump nominee during the lame-duck period.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
3 hours ago - Economy & Business

GM's shrinking deal with Nikola

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

General Motors will no longer take an equity stake in Nikola Corp. or build its pickup truck, under a revised deal that still envisions GM as a key tech supplier for Nikola's planned line of electric and fuel cell heavy trucks.

Driving the news: The revised agreement Monday is smaller in scope than a draft partnership rolled out in September that had included a $2 billion stake in the startup and an agreement to build its Badger pickup.