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The chairs of the House Intelligence, Foreign Affairs, and Oversight and Reform Committees released a batch of explosive text messages Thursday night provided by former U.S. envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker.

The state of play: The released messages feature conversations between Volker and other officials, including Bill Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat to Ukraine, EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland, President Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giulani, and Andrey Yermak, a top aide to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

The big picture, via Axios' Orion Rummler: Volker and Sondland are both named in the whistleblower complaint that is now at the center of an impeachment inquiry into Trump. The revelations that have been reported out of Volker's testimony before the House committees, which lasted more than 9 hours and is the first of at least 5 depositions of current and former State Department officials, suggest there is much more to be learned.

One particularly explosive exchange was between Taylor and Sondland in September:

  • "I think it’s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign," Taylor texted.
  • That message came after he said that "the message to the Ukrainians (and Russians) we send with the decision on security assistance is key. With the hold, we have already shaken their faith in us. That's my nightmare scenario."
  • Sondland, a Trump political appointee and GOP donor, texted back: "Bill, I believe you are incorrect about President Trump's intentions. The President has been crystal clear no quid pro quo's of any kind." The New York Times reported that Sondland's response came after he spoke to the president.

Read the committee's letter and the texts:

Go deeper ... NYT: U.S. envoys drafted statement committing Ukraine president to Biden probe

Go deeper

D.C.'s building boom grinds to a halt

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

The decades-long building boom that remade Washington D.C. is screeching to a halt, undone by broader construction trends and the legacy of the post-pandemic workplace.

Why it matters: Dizzying construction has reshaped the city, reinvigorated downtown and created bustling new communities. 

Facebook fights for its image

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Facebook is ditching apologies and taking a more combative stance against its critics as it faces a new barrage of negative coverage and leaked internal reports.

Driving the news: As part of the new posture, Facebook started testing placing positive messages about itself in users' News Feeds last month, according to a New York Times story Tuesday.

3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Charter schools boomed during the pandemic

Expand chart
Data: National Alliance for Public Charter Schools; Map: Sara Wise/Axios

Charter schools picked off hundreds of thousands of public school students across the U.S. during the pandemic, according to a new analysis from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.

Why it matters: The pandemic has weakened America's public education system, as Zoom classes, teacher fatigue and student disengagement take their toll. And that hobbled system is shedding students to charter schools, private schools and homeschooling.