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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

Ro Khanna accuses Biden of quitting Middle East

Rep. Ro Khanna. Photo: Cody Glenn/Sportsfile for Web Summit via Getty Images

An outspoken progressive Democrat is wary of President Biden’s approach to the Middle East, arguing it’s like “conceding defeat of the aspiration” to win a Nobel Peace Prize.

Why it matters: A number of members of Biden’s own party dislike his Middle East strategy, as his administration signals the region is no longer the priority it was for President Obama and his predecessors.

Democrats eye reconciliation for immigration

Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Comprehensive immigration reform is a pipe dream, but some Senate Democrats are hoping to tie key immigration provisions to the next big reconciliation push.

Why it matters: Immigration is one of the most controversial and partisan issues in U.S. politics, which is why the budget reconciliation process — which allows for bills to pass the Senate with a simple majority rather than the usual 60 votes — is so attractive.

3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Biden meeting Quad amid own pivot toward Asia

Artists paint portraits of President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris in Mumbai, India. Photo: Anshuman Poyrekar/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

President Biden plans to meet this month with the leaders of Japan, Australia and India in a virtual summit of the so-called Quad, according to people familiar with the matter.

Why it matters: By putting a Quad meeting on the president’s schedule, the White House is signaling the importance of partnerships and alliances to counter China’s growing influence in the Indo-Pacific region.