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Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan, President Trump's nominee to become the next U.S. ambassador to Russia, testified during his Senate confirmation hearing on Wednesday that Rudy Giuliani was involved in the effort to oust former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch.

  • During an exchange with Sen. Robert Menendez, the Senate Foreign Relation Committee's ranking Democrat, Sullivan confirmed he told Yovanovitch that she was being pulled out early from her position as ambassador.
  • Yovanovitch told the House committees involved in the Trump impeachment inquiry earlier this month that she was accused by Giuliani of disparaging the president and trying to protect the interests of Joe Biden and his son, Hunter.
  • Yovanovitch called those allegations "fictitious."

The exchanges:

MENENDEZ: What did you know about a shadow Ukraine policy being carried out by Rudy Giuliani?
SULLIVAN: My knowledge in the spring and summer of this year about any involvement of Mr. Giuliani was in connection with a campaign against our ambassador to Ukraine.
...
MENENDEZ: You were aware that there were individuals and forces outside the State Department seeking to smear Ambassador Yovanovitch?
SULLIVAN: I was.
MENENDEZ: And seeking to remove her?
SULLIVAN: I was.
MENENDEZ: And that Mr. Giuliani was one of those people?
SULLIVAN: I believe he was. Yes.

Go deeper: Giuliani: Recalled Ukraine ambassador was viewed as obstacle to Biden probe

Go deeper

Federal judge blocks Biden's vaccine mandate for federal workers

President Biden speaking from Eisenhower Executive Office Building on Jan. 21. Photo: Yuri Gripas/Abaca/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A federal judge in Texas blocked the Biden administration from enforcing its coronavirus vaccine mandate for federal workers on Friday, citing the outcome of last week's Supreme Court ruling that nullified the administration's vaccine-or-test requirement for large employers.

Why it matters: It's a blow to President Biden's efforts to increase the U.S.' vaccination rates, though much of the federal workforce has already been vaccinated against the virus.

Updated 5 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

  1. Health: Pfizer and Moderna boosters overwhelmingly prevent Omicron hospitalizations, CDC finds — Omicron pushes COVID deaths toward 2,000 per day — The pandemic-proof health care giant.
  2. Vaccines: The case for Operation Warp Speed 2.0 — Starbucks drops worker vaccine or test requirement after SCOTUS ruling — Kids' COVID vaccination rates are particularly low in rural America.
  3. Politics: Biden concedes U.S. should have done more testing — Arizona says it "will not be intimidated" by Biden on anti-mask school policies.
  4. World: American Airlines flight to London forced to turn around over mask dispute — WHO: COVID health emergency could end this year — Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older — Austria approves COVID vaccine mandate for adults.
  5. Variant tracker
Updated 6 hours ago - Economy & Business

Janet Yellen co-opts Reaganomics phrase for new Davos speech

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen at a speech this week. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

The U.S. needs to focus on increasing its productive potential, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen told world leaders Friday, calling for what she terms "modern supply side economics."

Why it matters: She co-opted a phrase traditionally used by political conservatives to describe low-tax and deregulatory policies — and framed the Biden administration's initiatives as the best path forward to achieve greater national prosperity.